All posts by Tony Kadavil

O. T. V (A) Feb 5 Sunday homily

V (A) Sunday (Feb 5) Eight-minute homily in one page (L-23)

Introduction: The common theme of today’s three readings is our two-fold mission to the world, to be salt and to be the light of a city built on a hilltop. (You may add one anecdote)
Scripture lessons summarized: In our first reading, the Lord God through His prophet Isaiah gives us examples of how we are to allow the light of God to shine through us. “Share your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own. Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday” (58:7, 10). The refrain for today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps.112), reminds us, “The just man is a light in the darkness to the upright.” St. Paul, in the second reading, tells us that our proclamation of Faith will carry the Spirit and His power when we rely on the power and wisdom of God. Using two simple metaphors of salt and the light of a city on a mountaintop in today’s Gospel, Jesus outlines the role of Christians in this world. As a symbol of purity, salt was the common ingredient in sacrifices offered to God by Jews and pagans. In the ancient world, salt was the commonest of all preservatives, used to prevent the putrefaction of meat, fish, and fruits in pickles. Salt lends flavor to food items and was used to season and preserve food. A light is something which is meant to be seen. A lamp or light is a guide to make clear the way. A light serves also as a warning (e.g., red traffic lights which tell us to halt when there is danger ahead. Finally, light, particularly the sun’s, gives warmth and heat. (Check exegesis for details)
Life messages:1) We need to be the salt of the earth: a) As salt is a symbol of purity, used in sacrifices, the Christian must be an example of purity in speech, in conduct, and even in thought. b) As salt is an antiseptic and healing agent, the Christian must have a certain antiseptic influence on life and society, defeating corruption, fighting against injustice and making it easier for others to avoid sin. c) As salt preserves foods, we need to preserve the religious Faith, Christian cultural values, and moral principles which Jesus has given us, and to work at reconciling quarreling factions in families and communities. d) As salt is a food-flavoring agent, we need to add flavor to the lives of desperate people through outreach programs, which give meaning to their lives, boost their morale, offer them occasions to help others, and provide hope where there is none.
2) We need to be the light of the world: The second role of Christians is to receive the light of Christ and radiate it to everyone as love, kindness, mercy, forgiveness, humble service, and respect for those with different ethnic backgrounds, different lifestyles, other faiths, or with no faith at all. As guiding light in darkness, our duty is to show the correct and safe way and to illuminate it with Christ’s Light, thus removing the darkness caused by hatred, prejudice, spite, and jealousy. As a warning light, it is the Christian’s duty to give timely and loving warning of physical and moral danger to fellow Christians. As a warming light, our duty is to warm the cold hearts of others with warm, and affectionate words and deeds.

OT V [A] (Feb 5): Is 58:7-10; I Cor 2:1-5; Mt 5: 13-16

Homily starter anecdotes: # 1: Salt of the earth and the light of the world: The story of EWTN is the story of a brave woman who had the courage of her conviction that she should be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Mother Angelica(who died in 2016), started broadcasting Catholic TV for just a few hours a day in 1981 from the garage of her Poor Clare Monastery in the US. The project grew and grew, and now, after forty-two years, the Eternal Word Television Network is available twenty-four hours a day all over the world by cable and satellite. Mother Teresa (Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu (AG-nes GOHN-jah BOY-yah-jee-oo) born to Albanian parents in Yugoslavia, joined the Loreto Order of nuns, studied English in their Mother House in Dublin, Ireland and went to India in 1929 as missionary teacher. After 17 years, she received her ‘call within a call’ to work with the poorest of the poor, received permission to leave the Loreto order, started caring for the sick and dying in a small house, and founded the Missionaries of Charity. From this simple beginning, the Missionaries of Charity have grown to include 4,500 Sisters and Brothers, 755 homes for the children, the sick, the destitute and the dying and 1,369 medical clinics that serve 120,000 worldwide.” St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the founder of the Sisters of Charity, began the American system of Catholic education, which today (2011) includes over 7,000 elementary and secondary schools throughout the United States. St. Jeanne Jugan (Sr. Mary of the Cross), the foundress if the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Poor became the salt & light by taking a blind, old woman and a 17-year old orphan teenager to her cottage in France, and beginning a prayer-community of care giving. Today, over 2,500 Little Sisters serve 13,000 elderly residents in 195 homes worldwide. • Thirty of these homes are in the United States. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

#2: Salt and light: The story of EWTN is the story of a brave woman who had the courage of her conviction that she should be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Mother Angelica (who died in 2016), started broadcasting Catholic TV for just a few hours a day in 1981 from the garage of her Poor Clare Monastery in the US. The project grew and grew, and now, after forty-two years, the Eternal Word Television Network is available twenty-four hours a day all over the world by cable and satellite. Mother Angelica is an example of a true Christian living out her Faith as salt to preserve Christian values and to provide the modern world with a purifying mass-medium. She kept putting her lamp on the lampstand so that Christ’s Light would shine for everyone in the modern global village. With the death of Mother Angelica on Easter Sunday, 2016, the Church lost the most charismatic American Catholic media personality of her time, as well as someone who proved beyond any doubt that a determined, grace-filled, savvy woman can, after all, wield real power. For much of the 1980s and 1990s, she was simply the most riveting Catholic figure on the airwaves. She was a simple nun, with a profound Faith, and one courageously dependent upon God’s grace to supply what was needed. Her life and deeds were miraculous. — Mother Angelica regularly attributed the success of EWTN to God’s providence, but the history of the operation reveals savvy business decisions that helped “this miracle of God” to become the multi-million-dollar global media conglomerate it is today. That those decisions were made by a woman without much previous power in the Church or elsewhere is notable. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

# 3: St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) — salt and light:David Porter writes of Mother Teresa: “She was born as Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu (AG-nes GOHN-jah BOY-yah-jee-oo), to Albanian parents in Yugoslavia. . She went to India in 1929 as a member of the Loreto Order of nuns, after learning English in their Motherhouse in Dublin Ireland. She taught in India for many years and became principal of the school. In 1946, she received her ‘call within a call’ to work with the poorest of the poor. By 1948, she had received permission to leave the Loreto order and had trained in the nursing skills she would need to carry out her calling. She prayed, “Oh God, if I cannot help these people in their poverty and their suffering, let me at least die with them, close to them, so that I can show them your love” [Mother Teresa: The Early Years, 67;
cited by Caroline J. Simon, “The Media and Mother Teresa,” Perspectives, 12 (March, 1997),
3.] Simon notes: “From this simple beginning, the Missionaries of Charity have grown to include 4,500 Sisters and Brothers, 755 homes for the children, the sick, the destitute and the dying and 1,369 medical clinics that serve 120,000 worldwide.” — We too can become the salt of the earth and the light of the world as Mother Teresa did. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

#4: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton: Getting Closer to God Means Serving Others: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, had a long and difficult journey into the Catholic faith. She lived around 1800 and was part of New York high society both by birth and also by marriage. As a young wife and mother, she felt a profound spiritual restlessness. A non-Catholic Christian, she longed for a deeper relationship with Christ, but didn’t know where to find it. A series of Crosses, including her husband’s death, led her to the Catholic Church, where she found what she was looking for in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Converting to Catholicism led her to be criticized and ostracized by friends, social circles, and even family members. But her deeper intimacy with Christ made the suffering worthwhile. Instead of falling into discouragement or self-pity, in fact, she found herself moved to start a new religious order dedicated to educating the young. Thus was born the Sisters of Charity, which now has five major divisions in the United States and Canada. And thus began the American system of Catholic education, which in 2011 included over 7,000 elementary and secondary schools throughout the United States. — God wants to bring flavor and light to the world, and the closer we get to his Sacred Heart, the more our hearts will burn with that same desire. [Information for this Illustration was garnered
from Fr. Charles P. Connor’s “Classic Catholic Converts.”]
(E- Priest). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

# 5: Is your salt salty and your light shining? If you doubt your light matters, take this little quiz: 1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world. 2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners. 3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America Pageant. Do you know all these answers? Probably not. Ask yourself some additional questions: 1. Who fed and clothed you when you were helpless? 2. What was the name of your 1st grade teacher? 3. Who is the first friend you would call in an emergency? You do know the answers to these questions. They are the salt and light of the world. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

Introduction: The common theme of the readings today is our mission to the world as salt and light.

Scripture lessons summarized:  In our first reading, the prophet Isaiah gives examples of how we are to allow the light of God to shine through us: Share your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.   Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday” (58:7, 10).  The refrain for today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 112), reminds us, “The just man is a light in the darkness to the upright.”  The verses explain that “light” as graciousness, mercy,  and justice in dealing with other people.  St. Paul, in the second reading, tells us that our proclamation of Faith will carry the Spirit and His power when we rely on the power and wisdom of God.  Using two simple metaphors in today’s Gospel, Jesus outlines the role of Christians in this world. The Christian’s task is to be the salt of society, preserving, reconciling, adding flavor, giving meaning where there is no meaning and giving hope where there is no hope.  Every Christian needs to reflect the light borrowed from Christ and radiate that light in the form of love, kindness, mercy, forgiveness, and humble service.

The first reading explained (Is 58:7-10): The exiles who returned from Babylon had hoped for a quick restoration of their beloved capital Jerusalem, but completion of that project was frustratingly slow. The people wondered why their suffering was so prolonged, and the prophet Isaiah told them that the main problem was their unwillingness to share God’s blessings with others.  Hence, the prophet gives examples of how they were to allow the light of God to shine through them:  Share your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.   Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday” (58:7, 10).  The Prophet Isaiah speaks in terms of justice and compassionate care for the weak, needy, and vulnerable because it is through them that the very goodness of God is revealed, and the disciple’s light will shine like the dawn. Alleviating the suffering of the oppressed and tending to the needs of others are the activities which produce light. It is by avoiding malice and by comforting the afflicted, that we enable others to see and experience the light of the Lord’s favor. Today’s Gospel also reminds us of our duty to become salt and light and tells us that the best means to do so is by sharing our blessings sacrificially with others. The Responsorial Psalm corroborates this, saying “The just person is a light in darkness to the upright.” The psalmist’s assertion, “The Lord is my light,” is echoed in Jesus’ words “I am the Light of the world; the man who follows me will have the Light of Life.”

The second reading explained (I Cor 2:1-5): St. Paul learned the lesson from his experience in Athens that his human eloquence did not help his missionary work. Hence, in Corinth Paul says that he chose not to rely on human eloquence, “so that your Faith might rest, not on human wisdom, but on the power of God.” So, Paul started preaching only on Christ crucified in Corinth and instructed the intellectuals in Corinth to learn the lesson of self-sacrifice from the crucified Christ. When Paul persisted in preaching Jesus as the suffering Savior, the unexpected happened. Pagans, as well as Jews and God-fearers believed the message and found their lives transformed by a new, liberating power, which broke the stranglehold of selfishness and vice and purified them from within. St. Paul’s experience teaches us that when we start doing good to others, even if it costs us suffering and death, it will demonstrate God’s Spirit and power, and we will become the salt of the earth and the light of the world that Jesus challenges us to become in today’s Gospel.

Gospel exegesis:

The salt of the earth: In the ancient world salt was highly valued.  The Greeks called salt divine, and the Romans said, “There is nothing more useful than sun and salt.”  The English word “salary” literally means “salt money.”  In the time of Jesus, salt was connected in people’s minds with three special qualities. (i) Salt was connected with purity because it was white and it came from the purest of all things, the sun and the sea.  Salt was the most primitive of all offerings to the gods.  Jewish sacrifices were offered with salt.  The Orientals made their oaths with salt to ratify them.  They believed that it was the salt that kept the seas pure.  As the “salt of the earth,” the Christian must be an example of purity, exercising absolute purity in speech, in conduct, and even in thought.  God calls His children to preserve and purify.  The Church is to preserve modesty (1 Tm 2:9), morality (Eph 5:3-12), honesty, and integrity (Jn 8:44-47).

(ii) Salt was the commonest of all preservatives in the ancient world when people did not have fridges and freezers.  It was used to prevent the putrefaction of meat, fish, fruits, and pickles.  As the salt of the earth, the Christian must have a certain antiseptic influence on life and society, defeating corruption and making it easier for others to be good.  Christians are to be a preserving influence to retard moral and spiritual spoilage in the world.  “As the salt of the earth, you are called to preserve the Faith which you have received and to pass it on intact to others.  Your generation is being challenged in a special way to keep safe the deposit of Faith.”(Youth Day- 2002 Message by Pope St. John Paul II).

(iii) Salt lends flavor to food items. Job declares, “food without salt is a sadly insipid and even a sickening thing” (Job 6:6-7).  One of the main functions of salt is to season food, to give it taste and flavor.  This image reminds us that, through Baptism, our whole being has been profoundly changed, because it has been “seasoned” with the new Life which comes from Christ (cf. Rom 6:4).  ‘The salt which keeps our Christian identity intact even in a very secularized world is the grace of Baptism” (Youth Day- 2002 Message by Pope St. John Paul II). Christianity lends flavor to life, although people think the opposite about us.  In a worried and depressed world, the Christian should be the one man who remains full of the joy of life, conveying it to others.  It is our duty to make the world palatable (bearable), not just to others but also to God so that He can, so to speak, continue to bear with it, in spite of its “distasteful” wickedness.  To be the salt of society also means that we are deeply concerned with its well-being.  We have to preserve the cultural values and moral principles Jesus has given us, and in this way to make a contribution to the development of cultural and social life.  Thus, we will be adding flavor to the common life.  As salt seasoned and preserved food, and as it kept a fire burning uniformly in an oven for a longer time, the disciples were to improve the tone of society (“season” it), preserve the Faith, and extend the fire of the Spirit through their evangelization efforts.

Are we insipid salt?  Jesus went on to say that, if salt became insipid, it was fit only to be thrown out and trodden on by men.  Usually salt does not lose its flavor and its saltiness.  But when mixed with impurities, salt can lose its ability to enhance flavor.  We, too, might lose our ability to be a “flavoring agent” for the world if we allow “impurities” into our lives (1 Cor 15:33). Therefore, we need to keep ourselves free from sin (Eph 5:3-7). Blocks of cow dung, mixed with salt and other animal manure and dried in the sun, served as fuel for outdoor ovens in the time of Jesus. When the fuel paddies were lit in an oven, the mixed-in salt would help the paddies burn longer, with a more even heat.  When the family spent the salt-dung block, they would throw it out onto the road to harden a muddy surface.  As the salt of the earth, the Christians keep the fire of Faith alive even under stress. If Christian “salt” loses its “flavor,” its “uselessness” invites disaster. As a Christian, one is not fulfilling one’s purpose if one does not bring to life the purity, the antiseptic power, and the flavor of salt,  for then one invites disaster.  In former times, if one, Jewish or Christian, did fail, then repented, one suffered the fate of the repentant and returned apostate Jew in the Jewish community, or the repentant apostate in the early Church. As penance for this sin, one had to lie across the door of the synagogue or Church and invite people to trample upon one as they entered. Today, there is a new, non-irritating, brand of Christianity around. It is without offense and without effect. Ah, but dear friends, Jesus didn’t call us to be the “sugar of the world.” He called us to be the “salt of the earth.”

The light of the world: The metaphor of light is often used in the Bible.  The Jews spoke of Jerusalem as “a light to the Gentiles.”  But Jerusalem does not produce its own light.  It is God who lights the lamp of Israel.  Moreover, Jerusalem, a city on a mountain top,  cannot hide its light. At the start of his ministry, St. Matthew portrays Jesus as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, namely, that he is ‘the great light’ that will disperse the shadow of death and the darkness of sin, that have enveloped the world. When Jesus commanded his followers to be the light of the world, he demanded nothing less than that they should be like him, the One who is the Light of the world.  “As long as I am in the world, I am the Light of the world” (Jn 9:5).  Christ is the “true” or “original” Light (Jn 8:12).  Citizens of the kingdom are simply “luminaries” reflecting the One True Light, just as the moon reflects the light of the sun (2 Cor 4:6).  The radiance which shines from the Christian comes from the presence of Christ within the Christian’s heart as the radiance of a ‘radiant bride’ comes from the love in her heart.  Christians are to be torchbearers in a dark world.  We should not try to hide the light which God has lit in our lives.  Rather, we should let it shine so that others may see our Grace-born good deeds and praise God for them.  St. Paul exhorts the Christians in Philippi “to be blameless and innocent in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world” (Phil 2: 15).

The role of Christians as Christ’s light of the world. (i) A light is something which is meant to be seen.  (The lamp in Palestine was like a sauce-boat full of oil with a wick floating in it.  When people went out, for safety’s sake, they took the lamp from its stand and put it under an earthen bushel measure, so that it might burn without risk until they came back).  Christians must be visible like a “city” on a hilltop and a lamp on a “lamp stand.”  Jesus therefore expects His followers to be seen by the world (Jn 13:35; 17:21). In addition, they must radiate and give light.  “Let your light shine before men” (Mt 5:16).  By this metaphor Jesus means that our Christianity should be visible in the ordinary activities of the world, for example, in the way we treat a shop assistant across the counter, in the way we order a meal in a restaurant, in the way we treat our employees or serve our employer, in the way we play a game or drive or park a motor car, in the daily language we use, in the daily literature we read.

(ii) A lamp or light is a guide to make clear the way.  So then, a Christian must make the way clear to others.  That is to say, a Christian must of necessity be an example.  “The light which Jesus speaks of in the Gospel is the light of Faith, God’s free gift, which enlightens the heart and clarifies the mind.  It is the God who said, ‘Let Light shine out of darkness,’ Who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Christ’ (2 Cor 4:6).  Our personal encounter with Christ bathes life in new Light, sets us on the right path, and sends us out to be his witnesses.” (Youth Day message by Pope St. John Paul II).  It is the Christian’s duty to take a stand which the weaker brother will support, to give the lead which those with less courage will follow.  The world needs its guiding lights.  There are people waiting and longing for a leader to take a stand and to do the thing which they do not dare by themselves.

iii) A light can often be a warning light.  A light is often the warning which tells us to halt when there is danger ahead.  It is sometimes the Christian’s duty to bring to his fellowmen a necessary warning.  If our warnings are given, not in anger, not in irritation, not in criticism, not in condemnation, but in love, they may be effective.

  1. iv) Light exposes everything hidden by darkness. (Note Jn 3:19; 1 Cor 4:5; Eph 5:8–11).  When our teens, baptized and confirmed, get pregnant and do drugs at the same rate as the general teenage population; when our marriages end in divorce at the same rate as the rest of society; when we cheat in business, or lie, steal, and cheat on our spouses at the same statistical level as those who say they are not Christians — something is wrong.  Let us pause for a moment and ask ourselves whether we are carrying the Light which can be seen, the Light which warns, the Light which guides. These are the Lights which God shines through our Christian living.

Life messages:

1) We need to act as salt and light by sharing in Christ’s ministry as priest, prophet, and king.  As priest, Christ offered a sacrifice of love to the Father.  What sacrifices of love do we offer to the Father? We can offer our married, single, or family life, work, outreach to others, and even relaxation, along with our prayers and sufferings, to God.  We can offer them at any time, but the best time is at Mass when we offer ourselves with Christ to the Father.  As prophet, Christ proclaimed the Good News of salvation.  He also calls us to evangelize others (both fellow-Catholics and non-Catholics), by word and example, at home and at work.  We bear witness most effectively when others see the difference Christ has made in our lives, shining through us as the Light which can be seen, the Light which warns, and the Light which guides.  Finally, as King, Christ became servant to all through His Self-giving.  He also calls us to give of ourselves so the workplace and the home may become more humane. He calls us to serve in our parishes so they can grow and become more alive.  He calls us to integrate our Christian Faith into our daily lives so that our service may be His service to others. Doing all this, we make a difference as Christians when we offer ourselves to God, when we proclaim the Good News in word and example, and when we serve others.  God calls us to worship, to witness, and to give of ourselves.

2) We need to live our short lives as traces of salt and candles of light: It only takes a sprinkling of salt to transform a dull and tasteless piece of meat.  Just a little salt transforms everything.  Just a pinch of soul-salt will add flavor to the lives of hundreds, or even thousands.  Just as salt acts as a preservative and adds flavor to food, so the exemplary lives of Christians lend flavor to life by helping people to live correctly and by keeping society wholesome. Just a little light empties the world of darkness.  With a little Faith and love we can light up a big social area.  Does that encourage us?  It should. We may think we’re insignificant – and in a way we are – but with a little bit of Christ’s Light, we become a veritable lighthouse, illuminating the way for many.  This Christ-light removes the darkness caused by hatred, spite, fear, and jealousy. Our good deeds and actions reflect the image of Jesus, the light of the world. We can speak with kindness and respect, we can value ourselves, we can tell the truth, and we can use our talents. We can listen and talk, we can engage in dialogue, and we can come to know people of different ethnic backgrounds, people with different lifestyles and sexual preferences, people of other Faiths and people of no Faith – and this will bring the light of Christ to illumine and change the world.  Salt is a hidden but powerful influence.  Light is a visible and revealing influence.  Jesus tells us that we are not only to be the salt of the earth but also the light of the world.  We are called to make a visible, tangible impact on the world around us.  Does our life make a difference?  It should.  Jesus said we are to be salt and light.  Does our life make a difference?  It can, if we surrender ourselves to Christ.  Does our life make a difference?  If we live for Him, it will!

JOKE OF THE WEEK

Business is business:   Angela was nearing 60 and was in her final year of teaching in the public school. She was a devout Christian who missed teaching from the Bible. Because she was worried about how little her class knew about religion, Angela decided she was going to disregard the new regulations and teach some religion. She told her class that she would run a contest. She would give £50 to whoever could tell her who the greatest man was who ever lived. Immediately Isaac a Jewish boy began to wave his hand, but Angela ignored him in favor of those in her Sunday school class. As she went around the room, Angela was disappointed with the answers she got. Jane, her best scholar, picked Noah because he saved all the animals. Others said, “I think the greatest man who ever lived was Alexander the Great because he conquered the whole world.” and “I think it was Thomas Edison, because he invented the light                bulb.” Finally, she called on Isaac who still had his hand in the air. “I think the greatest man who ever lived was Jesus Christ.” said Isaac. Angela was shocked but still gave him the £50 reward. As she did so, she said, “Well, Isaac, I’m very surprised that you should be the only one with the right answer. How come?” “Well, to tell you the truth,” Isaac replied as he pocketed the money, “I think it was Moses, but business is business.” L/23

 USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK (For homilies & Bible study groups)

 (The easiest method  to visit these websites is to copy and paste the web address or URL on the Address bar of any Internet website like Google or MSN and press the Enter button of your Keyboard).

  34- Additional anecdotes:

1) Your Faith rests not on the wisdom of men: During the Nazi era in Germany, one of the strongest Catholic leaders in the German Reich was Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber (1869-1952). An able Bible professor, he long taught courses on the Old Testament in the University of Strassburg. Then in 1911 he was named bishop of Speyer, and in 1917, Archbishop of Munich. Pope Benedict XV raised him to the rank of Cardinal in 1921. A few years after Faulhaber received the “red hat,” Adolf Hitler began to rise into power. The Cardinal held Hitler in little esteem. As a nobleman, he disdained this Austrian upstart; as a churchman he disapproved of his ideology. In the early 1930’s when Hitler’s Nazis began to peddle their deadly philosophy, the Cardinal boldly condemned racism, neo-paganism, and totalitarianism from his cathedral pulpit, basing his sermons on the Scriptures with which he was so familiar. Particularly notable were his Advent sermons of 1933, in which he emphasized that Christianity had its roots in Judaism. As an intellectual, Cardinal Faulhaber was also not at all uncomfortable in conversing, and even sparring, with other savants. There is a famous story of his chat with the great Nobel physicist – Jewish but agnostic -Albert Einstein (1879-1955). Einstein and the Cardinal met on one occasion, and during their conversation the scientist said: “I respect religion, but I believe in mathematics. Probably it is the other way round with your Eminence, isn’t it?” “No,” Faulhaber quietly replied, “to me both are merely different expressions of the same Divine truth.” But Einstein responded, “If mathematical science should prove one day that some of its findings are in direct conflict with religious beliefs what would you say then?” “Oh,” said the Cardinal with a smile, “I share the highest regard for mathematicians and I am certain that in such a case you people would never rest until you found out where your mistake was!”–  St. Paul says much the same to us in today’s second reading. “Your Faith rests not on the wisdom of men but on the power of God.”(Fr. Robert F. McNamara). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

2)  The salt and the light are still at work when we…  “do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”(John Wesley’s advice). We taste salt and see light when we receive the following Franciscan blessing: “May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half- truths, and superficial relationships so that you may live deep within your heart. May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and the exploitation of people, so that you may wish for justice, freedom, and peace. May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.” (Christianity Today, Vol. 36, no. 14). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

3) Korean, American and Chinese Christians: As you know, the majority religion in America is still Christianity, and yet we are dominated today not by the values of Christianity, but by the values of humanism and secularism. Yet, in Korea, even though there are 35 million Buddhists, and only two million evangelical Christians, Christian values dominate that culture. Why is that? It is because Korean Christians understand they are to be the salt of the earth. A Chinese Christian came to a missionary one time and said, “I have learned to quote the entire Sermon on the Mount by memory.” He stood before the missionary and perfectly quoted the sermon word-for-word. The missionary said, “That is wonderful. How did you practice it in your life?” The Chinese Christian said, “I spent the last year trying to live it.” Dr. James Stewart, a great British preacher, once said: “The greatest threat to Christianity is not Communism, atheism, materialism, or humanism. It is Christians trying to sneak into Heaven incognito without ever sharing their Faith, without ever living out the Christian life as salt of the earth and light of the world.” This is exactly the problem Jesus was trying to remedy with the part of the Sermon on the Mount on the Beatitudes. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

4) Saints are people who let the light shine through: A little boy was taken by his mother to see a famous cathedral. On the windows were the pictures of various Christians. As he was watching the sunbeams shining through the stained-glass windows, he asked his mother, “Who are those people on the windows?” She said, “They’re saints.” The little boy looked at the windows and said, “Well, now I know what saints are. They are people who let the light shine through.” — That little boy got it right. That’s what a saint is-someone who lets the light of Jesus shine through his life. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

5) Be eagles soaring through the clouds of holiness:  There is a story about a wild duck that broke his wing during the flight home for the winter. A sympathetic farmer retrieved the fallen duck and took him home. The farmer’s children adopted the duck as their pet and began to feed him from the table and take him along as they performed their daily chores. By the next fall, the children were heartbroken as they watched the duck look at the other ducks who were flying south for the winter, but his wing still wasn’t strong enough for the flight. Every time a flock flew south, the duck would look longingly into the sky and then return to play with the children. Well, the second year the duck’s wing had grown much stronger, but the children had fed the duck so well that when he attempted to take off he was too fat to get off the ground. After one or two attempts he gave up and returned to play with the children. The third year the duck was completely healed. But as the other ducks quacked their call to go south, the duck never even looked up as they flew over. He had become so accustomed to the comfort of his new existence he had lost his focus on the true calling and meaning of his life. — God has not called us to be fat ducks, satisfied with a world that is going to go up in smoke. God has called us to be eagles soaring through the clouds of holiness; shaking out the salt of a godly life; shining out the light of the truth of Jesus Christ, and bringing as many men as we can to glorify our Father in Heaven. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

6) “I love Jesus and Gospel tapes”: After the Los Angeles riots, Steve Futterman of CBC Radio broadcast an interview he had had with one of the many looters in the riot. The man had been one of many people who had looted a record store. When asked what he had stolen, the man replied, “Gospel tapes. I love Jesus.” (“Quotes & Comments,” The United Church Observer, Sept. 1992, p. 48.) — Our text for the day is about people who love Jesus, but hopefully in a more positive way than did this looter. Jesus defined his followers as the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

7) It made a difference for that one.” While walking along a beach, an elderly gentleman saw someone in the distance leaning down, picking something up and throwing it into the ocean. As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a little boy. When he got closer still, he discovered what the boy was doing. The kid was picking up starfish off the beach and throwing them back into the ocean. The man walked up to the kid and said, “What are you doing?” The boy said, “I am saving starfish.” “But,” said the man, “the beach goes on for miles and miles, and there are millions and millions of starfish. What difference does what you are doing make?” The little kid reached down, picked up one more starfish, tossed it into the ocean and simply said, “Well, it makes a difference to that one.” — No one of us in this Church can do everything, but all of us in this place can do something in our homes and communities that the light of Christ may shine in the world. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

8) Christmas lights of Wauconda, Illinois: Wauconda, Illinois is a small town with a population of 6500. For the past 45 years the town had placed two large illuminated crosses on the city water towers during the Christmas season. Then, last year, the town council received a threat of legal suit if the crosses were continued, based on the separation of church and state. The town council grudgingly took them down. But that’s when the citizens of Wauconda took matters into their own hands. They decided to place lighted reminders of Christ on their own property. So, all over the community, up went crosses and nativity stars and lighted manger scenes and trees. You could see Wauconda from the interstate freeway! You could see Wauconda a hundred miles away. All night it was as bright as day because the people decided to turn on the lights. — In our Scriptural text for this morning, Jesus is urging us to turn on the lights. Each of us is supposed to shine for Christ’s sake. Our light is not like that of the sun. Our light resembles that of the moon; it is a reflected light, from Christ who lives within us. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

9) Sanders was a tither radiating the light of Christ. Football player, Barry Sanders, was signed by the Detroit Lions in 1989. He was right out of college. Many eyebrows were raised when his contract was announced at $6.1 million for five years. But the real objection came when Sanders was also given an immediate signing bonus of $2.1. million. Critics said that Sanders was greedy. Objections were somewhat silenced, however, when word leaked out that Sanders had sent a check for $210,000 to his little Baptist church in Wichita, Kansas. Sanders was a tither. Both the size of that check and the fact that it was the first one he wrote turned on some lights for the Kingdom. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

10) A wartime story. One of the boldest and most dramatic decisions of World War II was made by Admiral Marc Mitscher in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Late in the afternoon of June 20, 1944, Mitscher had dispatched a bombing mission against the fleeing Japanese fleet. It was pitch dark when the first of the flyers began returning to their carriers. But with the fleet under strict wartime blackout regulations and the pilots’ fuel supplies running dangerously low, many of the flyers would never be able to find their way back to their carriers. Admiral Mitscher took a calculated risk. He turned on the lights. One returning flyer described the scene as a “Hollywood premier, Chinese New Year’s, and Fourth of July all rolled into one.” For two hours the planes landed. Some eighty pilots, out of gas, ditched in the sea but close enough to the carriers that few were lost. — When we are bold enough to turn on the lights for Christ, despite the costs and the risks, lost souls are won for our Lord and our city is electrified with His power. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

 11) This little light of mine, am I going to let it shine? A university professor was invited to speak at a military base in December. He was met at an airport by an unforgettable soldier named Ralph. This is the professor’s story: “After we introduced ourselves to each other, we headed toward the baggage claim area. But Ralph kept disappearing. Once he stopped to help an older woman with her baggage. Once he stopped to lift two toddlers up to see Santa Claus, and again, he paused to give directions to someone who was lost.” Finally, I said, “Where did you learn that?” “What?” asked Ralph. “Where did you learn to live like that?” Ralph replied, “During the war I was in Vietnam. My job was to clear the mine fields. You never knew which step might be your last, so I learned to live between the steps. I guess I just keep living that way.” — This little light of mine, am I going to let it shine? (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

12) Jesus Christ, the Light of the world. “Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. After a brief sojourn in a foreign land,  he grew up in another village and never traveled 200 miles from there.  He worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty, and then for three years he was an itinerant preacher.  He never owned a home.  He never wrote a book.  He never held an office.  He never had a family.  He never went to college. He never went to Rome or saw the Emperor.  He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness.  He had no credential but himself.  While he was still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him.  His friends ran away; one of them denied him.  He was turned over to his enemies.  He went through the mockery of a trial.  He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves.  While he was dying his executioners gambled for the only piece of property he had on earth – his coat.  When he was dead, he was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.  Twenty long centuries have come and gone, and today he is the centerpiece of the human race and the leader of the column of progress. —  I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever were built, all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.” (Author unknown) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

13) Lighting a light rather than cursing the darkness: Terry Fox was a 22-year-old student at Simon Fraser University in Canada. In 1977, he developed bone cancer and had to have his right leg amputated. When his old high school basketball coach heard about the tragedy, he sent Terry a newspaper article about an amputee who ran in the New York Marathon. The article triggered Terry’s imagination. He knew he had only a few years to live, and he wanted to do something significant with them. He decided he would try to run across Canada from Newfoundland to British Columbia, a distance of 5,000 miles. He would ask people to sponsor him and give the proceeds to cancer research. For 18 months, Terry practiced running on the artificial leg. Finally, on April 12, 1980, he began his run. He dipped his artificial leg into the Atlantic and set out across Canada. In his pocket he had pledges totaling over a million dollars. Then 114 days and 3,000 miles into the run, Terry suddenly collapsed. The cancer had spread to his lungs. He would be unable to complete the run. When news of Terry’s collapse broke, people from all over Canada began sending pledges to him in the Hospital. In hours, over $24 million was pledged. A few days later, Terry died.– If anyone had a right to curse the darkness, it was Terry. But he was too big for that. He decided to light a candle. And that light has been shining ever since. A movie has been made of his life. A stamp has been issued in his honor. And he is the youngest person ever to receive his nation’s highest honor, the Order of Canada. To this day, Terry still excites the imagination of people (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

14) Keeping the lights on: A mother and her small child once drove past the restored home of Abraham Lincoln in Springfield. It was night and the national shrine of the United States was brightly lit. “Look, mama,” the child said excitedly, “Mr. Lincoln has left his lights on.”  The mother smiled. “Yes” she replied; “he left them on for the whole world to see.” —  Although Lincoln has been dead since 1865, he is still a tremendous inspiration to all people. — But in a much truer sense, Christ, “God from God, Light from Light” remains, and will remain to the end, the Shining Beacon for all peoples of all times. Christ has shared his Light with us, his disciples, and he asks us to be what we are: the light of the world. (Vima Dasan; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

 15) Salt (NaCl): Sodium is an extremely active element found naturally only in combined form; it always links itself to another element. Chlorine, on the other hand, is the poisonous gas that gives bleach its offensive odor. When sodium and chlorine are combined, the result is sodium chloride–common table salt–the substance we use to preserve meat and bring out its flavor. — Love and truth can be like sodium and chlorine. Love without truth is flighty, sometimes blind, willing to combine with various doctrines. On the other hand, truth by itself can be offensive, sometimes even poisonous. Spoken without love, it can turn people away from the Gospel. When truth and love are combined in an individual or a Church, however, then we have what Jesus called “the salt of the earth,” and we’re able to preserve and bring out the beauty of our Faith. (David H. Johnson). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

 16) Be not simply goodAlexander Solzhenitsyn recalls, as he says, “with shame,” an incident he witnessed when he was captain in the Russian army. “One day I saw a sergeant of the secret police, on horseback, using a whip on a Russian soldier who had been captured serving in a German unit. The man, naked from the waist up, was staggering under the blows, his body covered in blood. Suddenly he looked at me and cried out: “Mister Captain, save me!” “Any officer in any army in the world should have put a stop to this torture, but I was a coward. I said nothing, I did nothing. This picture has remained in my mind ever since.” — He could have brought light into a dark situation, but he didn’t. “Be not simply good”, says Thoreau, “be good for something.”
(Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

 17) Love brings trouble: It’s been said that when we love people and go out to help them, we become vulnerable. That’s what the wealthy industrialist Charles M. Schwab declared after going to court and winning a suit at age seventy. Given permission by the judge to speak to the spectators, Schwab made the following statement: “I’d like to say here in a court of law, and speaking as an old man, that nine-tenths of my troubles are traceable to my being kind to others. Look, you young people, if you want to steer away from trouble, be hard-boiled. Be quick with a good loud ‘no’ to anyone and everyone. If you follow this rule, you will seldom be bothered as you tread life’s pathways. Except you’ll have no friends, you’ll be lonely, and you won’t have fun!”–  Schwab made his point –- love may bring headaches, but it’s worth it because we are the light of the world. (Anonymous; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

 18) Copper Kettle Christian: A woman in Bible study related that when she recently went into her basement, she made an interesting discovery. Some potatoes had sprouted in the darkest corner of the room. At first, she couldn’t figure out how they had received enough light to grow. Then she noticed that she had hung a copper kettle from a rafter near a cellar window. She kept it so brightly polished that it reflected the rays of the sun onto the potatoes. — She exclaimed, “When I saw that reflection, I thought, ‘I may not be a preacher or a teacher with the ability to expound upon Scripture, but at least I can be a copper-kettle Christian, catching the rays of the Son and reflecting His light to someone in a dark corner!’” (Brian Cavanaugh in Sower’s Seeds of Encouragement; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

 19) Choosing Life: Dr. Victor E. Frankl, survivor of three grim years at Auschwitz and other Nazi prisons, has recorded his observations on life in Hitler’s camps. “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken away from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” (Victor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

 20)”Now I believe!” One day a man visited St. Teresa of Calcutta’s (Mother Teresa) home for the poor and the dying in Calcutta. He arrived just as the Sisters were bringing in some of the dying off the streets. They had picked up a man off the gutter, and he was covered with dirt and sores. Without knowing that she was being watched, one of the Sisters began to care for the dying man. The visitor kept watching the Sister as she worked. He saw how tenderly she cared for her patient. He noticed how, as she washed the man, she smiled at him. She did not miss a detail in her attentive care of that dying man. After carefully watching the Sister the visitor turned to Mother Teresa and said, “When I came here today, I didn’t believe in God, and my heart was full of hatred. But now I am leaving here believing in God. I have seen the love of God in action. Through the hands of that Sister, through her tenderness, through her gestures which were so full of love for that wretched man, I have seen God’s love descend upon him. Now I believe.” — We make God present to others by being the salt of the earth and light of the world. (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

 21) As Dear as Salt: An aged king who had three sons decided to choose his successor. To test his heir, he inquired how much they loved him. “More than the world’s wealth!” exclaimed the first. The second declared. “Greater than all the wisdom the world holds!” The youngest said, “As dear as salt.” Infuriated, the king exiled him and bequeathed the kingdom to his eldest son. Later, fortune favored the banished son, and he became king in another faraway kingdom. But he missed his father and longed to meet him. Years later, he invited his father –very old by then – for a banquet and ordered that sumptuous dishes be prepared, but without any salt. When the old king came to the palace, his son pretended to be away, and the courtiers requested the king to begin feasting. The aroma of the food pleased the king, but, when he tasted it, he was aghast- it was tasteless, saltless! Angry, he demanded an explanation for the insult. His son-king appeared in his regalia, and the old king recognized him, realizing his indiscretion. –- Jesus tells you, today, that you are not only ‘as dear as salt’ but “You are salt! You are light!”
(Francis Gonsalves in Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds; q
uoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

 22) Let your light shine: A poor Scottish farmer named Fleming heard a cry for help coming from a nearby bog and found a terrified boy, mired up to his waste in black muck. Fleming saved the child from what could have been a slow horrible death. The next day a fancy carriage pulled up at his home and an elegantly dressed nobleman stepped out and introduced himself as the father of the boy Fleming saved. “I want to repay you” said the nobleman for saving my son’s life.” “No, I can’t accept payment for what I did.” said the Scottish farmer. At that moment, the farmer’s son came to the door of the family hovel. “Is that your son?” the nobleman asked. “Yes,” the farmer replied proudly. “I will make you a deal. Let me provide him with the level of education that my son will enjoy. If the lad is anything like his father, he will no doubt grow to be a man we both will be proud of.” And he did. Farmer Fleming’s son attended the very best schools and in time graduated from St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School, London University, and went on to become known throughout the world as the noted Sir Alexander Fleming, the man who discovered Penicillin. Years afterward, the same nobleman’s son who was saved from the bog was stricken with pneumonia. What saved his life this time? Penicillin. The name of the nobleman? Lord Randolph Churchill. His son’s name? Sir Winston Churchill. — Let us be the salt of the earth; and let our light shine before others. (John Pichappilly in The Table of the Word; quoted by Fr. Botelho).  (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

23) St. Teresa’s invitation to come be His light:  Saint Teresa of Calcutta received an inspiration from Our Lord to found the Missionaries of Charity and bring his Light to the poor and ailing of Calcutta. In her spiritual diaries, Saint Teresa described this invitation by Our Lord as an invitation to come be His light (see Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta, by Mother Teresa and Brian Kolodiejchuk). When she saw the squalor in which the poor of India lived, she felt Our Lord asking her to bring His Light into the darkness of those holes (Ibid). She once said, “Words which do not give the Light of Christ increase the darkness.” Even though her spiritual diaries show she experienced an intense spiritual darkness for much of her life, no one who knew her could see it in the way she treated others. She was always a shining beacon of joy, love, and peace.  (Source: http://www.catholic.org/clife/teresa/quotes.php). (E- Priest) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

24) Digital Humanity” One Catholic layman recently showed that he understands this truth deeply. Reflecting on the Vatican’s insistent call to Catholics to use new media for good and not for ill, he got an idea. He envisioned a social-networking community that would be built around the Golden Rule: Do unto others what you have them do unto you. This is a moral principle present, in some form or other, in all cultures and almost all religions. But even though almost everybody agrees with it, almost nobody makes a concerted effort to follow it. So this Catholic businessman started a social networking web site called “Digital Humanity” or “DigHu” [dih-joo]  [http://www.dighu.com/home.php]. The site is built around members who record their “daily dighus” – daily good deeds done to better the world one step at a time. Here are some examples of recent posts: [You may want to go to the site to see more recent posts or to look for ones that would be interesting for your parishioners.] Paulie posted: “Stopped to check on the inhabitants of a car that spun out.” PACMAN posted: “Covering the shift of a fellow employee on my off day.” Nicole S posted: “Washed the dishes without complaining.” The theory behind the site is simple: people need encouragement to do what they know they should be doing, and social network sharing of daily dighus may be able to help provide that kind of encouragement. It’s a new web site, and still small. But imagine how pleased our Lord must be with that Catholic layman, who had the courage and creativity to come up with a new way to try and obey Christ’s admonition in today’s Gospel: “Your Light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”  — He is someone who has decided to live his God-given mission actively, without delay. (E- Priest) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

25) “I give them Jesus.” St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) was speaking to persons who had come to meet her from all over the world. Among those to whom she spoke was a group of religious sisters from many North American orders. After her talk she asked if there were any questions. “Yes, I have one,” a Sister sitting near the front said. “As you know, most of the orders represented here have been losing members. It seems that more and more women are leaving all the time. And yet your order is attracting thousands upon thousands. What do you do?” Without hesitating Mother Teresa answered, “I give them Jesus.” “Yes I know,” said the woman, “but take habits, for example. Do your women object to wearing habits? And the rules of the order, how do you do it?” “I give them Jesus,” Mother Teresa replied. “Yes, I know Mother,” said the woman, “but can you be more specific?” “I give them Jesus,” Mother Teresa repeated again. “Mother,” said the woman, “we are all of us aware of your fine work. I want to know about something else.” Mother Teresa said quietly, “I give them Jesus. There is nothing else.” (Margaret Davidson, Scholastic, 1971. Cited in BTBC, pp. 250-251.) — We Christians have something the world cannot find anywhere else. It is Jesus, the salt of the earth and the light of the world. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

26) Rose Hawthorne Makes a Splash: The story of Rose Hawthorne, daughter of the famous nineteenth century American author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, illustrates the influence of example. Rose’s family of origin was not even Christian, but Unitarian. The family traveled to Italy when Rose was just a girl, and the beauty of the art, architecture, and Catholic culture there impressed them. But at the same time, the mediocre lives of the Catholic Christians they met there turned them off. Nathaniel Hawthorne actually wrote about this, commenting on how little effect this beauty seemed to have on the people: “I really wonder that Catholics are not better men and women.” But if the bad example of some Catholics turned off Nathaniel Hawthorne, it was the good example of some other Catholics that led his daughter Rose to discover her calling. She and her husband became Catholic soon after their marriage, and Rose found herself deeply impressed by the visible presence of women consecrated entirely to God and the Church: Catholic nuns. After her husband passed away, she became a nun herself, actually founding the Hawthorne Dominicans for the Care of Incurable Cancer Sufferers – a congregation still going strong today. One rule of this congregation is that they do not accept any money from a patient’s family, as that could end up prejudicing them towards wealthier patients. That example of totally unselfish service made an impression on another famous American writer from the nineteenth century – Mark Twain. He was so impressed by Rose’s work, in fact, that even though he was not a Catholic himself and had inherited a strong prejudice against Catholicism, he became one of Rose’s first and steadiest benefactors.  — As Catholics, the example of what we do and how we do it can either draw people closer to God or push them further away. ( Fr. Charles P. Connor’s “Classic Catholic Converts.”] E- Priest. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

27) Dodgers are going to win with Don Sutton pitching. Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Don Sutton hadn’t won a game in eight weeks. A critical press was suggesting that he be dropped from the starting lineup. The future looked bleak, and Sutton felt terrible. Then, before a game, Dodgers manager Walter Alston tapped him on the shoulder. “I’d like to speak with you, Don,” he said. Sutton prepared himself for the worst.  “Don,” said Alston, “I know how the past couple of months have been for you. Everyone’s wondering whether we can make it to the play-offs . . . You know there’s a lot of pressure . . . I’ve had to make a decision.” Sutton had visions of being taken off the mound. Then Alston continued. “If the Dodgers are going to win this year,” he said, looking Sutton in the eye, “they’re going to win with Don Sutton pitching. Come what may, you’re staying in the starting job. That’s all I wanted to say.” Sutton’s losing streak lasted two more weeks, but because of his manager’s encouragement he felt different about it. Something in him was turning around. He found himself pitching the best ball of his career. In the National League pennant drive, he won 13 games out of 14.  There are all kinds of theories about how to motivate people. — We can do it through guilt, through fear, through shame. But these were not Jesus’ methods. Jesus motivated through positive messages of hope and encouragement.  Consider our lesson for today. Jesus says to his followers, “You are the light of the world. . . .” (Sermons.com). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

28) They have changed the skyline of a city like New York!” It was during the early days of television. A workman was placing television transmitters at the very top of the Empire State building in New York City. Seeing him at work up there, so far off the ground, a reporter thought this would make a fascinating human interest story. So, when the workman had completed his task and had returned to the ground, the reporter approached him and asked, “Aren’t you frightened to work under conditions like that that? Isn’t it dangerous to work so high off the ground?” The workman replied, “Yes sir, it is dangerous.” Then he added…“But then, how many people can say that they have changed the skyline of a city like New York!” —  After relating that story, James McCormick comments: God offers us the privilege of changing the skyline not of a city, but of the world by becoming the Light of the world. We can help make this world healthier, more humane, more harmonious, and more blessed. (Fr. Kayala). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

29) What’s your favorite color? 450? 600? Or 700? In case those numbers don’t immediately mean anything to you, on the visible spectrum scale for light 450 nanometers means “blue,” 600 is yellow, and at 700 nanometers you are seeing red. But we don’t “see” numbers, do we? We see the beautiful, variable, illuminating colors that light takes on as it is refracted and reflected before our eyes. We don’t experience nanometers — we bask under a blue sky! Or we bathe in wonder at the beauty of a sunset that melts from orange to red to crimson and purple. Whether we catalogue light as 550 nanometers or perceive it as “green” is all a matter of perspective. Are we dissecting the idea of “light” into its most basic components (measured nanometers)? Or are we responding to the expression of that light as we experience it in the world (colors)? — In Matthew’s account of the “Sermon on the Mount,” immediately after Jesus lays out his “blessed be” Beatitudes, he lifts up two metaphors of how disciples of the kingdom will be known to this world. They will be the “salt of the earth,” and they will be the “light of the world,” a light that will “shine before others.” — Salt sharpens flavors. Light sharpens both sight and insight. Jesus is calling would-be followers of the kingdom to sharpen lives by living on the sharp, the cutting edges, the places where new perspectives, new tastes, and new visions are embraced. Light does not just banish darkness and illuminate corners and crevices. It makes everything new.  Fr. Kayla).  (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

30) “Sometimes it’s good to know a second language!” There was a mother mouse who decided to teach her children about the world. So, she gathered all of her little mice and set out for a walk. They walked down the hall and turned to the right. Then they went down the hall and took another right. And suddenly they found themselves in front of the family cat dozing in the sunlight. The mother mouse was scared. But she didn’t want to give in to her fright. So, she signaled to the children to be very quiet and to follow as she began to tip toe quietly and slowly past the sleeping cat. Just as she was about to get past the cat, the cat’s eyes popped open and raised its paw. The little mice were petrified. What would their mother do? Well, just as the cat’s paw started to come down, that mother mouse looked the cat right in the eye and started barking like a dog. And do you know what? The cat was so startled and frightened that it jumped up and ran away! The mother mouse, wiped her brow, shook a little and then turned to her little mice and said, “Children, I hope you learned a valuable lesson. Sometimes it’s good to know a second language!” —  It’s the same way with us. It’s good to know a second language. Salt and Light are the language of God; the language of Grace; the language of hope and love. And when this language is translated into action it becomes the most beautiful language ever spoken. We’re called to be Salt and Sight and to speak the language of God as we live our Faith. We’re called to live the Word. ( Billy D. Strayhorn, The Salt and Light Brigade). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

31) Salt of the earth Mike Ilitch helping Rosa Park: Those who knew Mike Ilitch, the Little Caesars founder and Detroit Tigers owner who died  Friday, February 10, 2017, spent some time fondly remembering his impact on friends, on Detroit residents, and on the sports community. Ilitch also had an impact on the daily life of one of the most iconic figures from the civil rights movement. For more than a decade, Ilitch had quietly paid for Rosa Parks’ apartment in downtown Detroit, according to CNN affiliate WXYZ. That story came to light thanks to Damon Keith, a Detroit native and federal judge.  Shortly after her famed defiance of segregation sparked the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott, Parks moved to Detroit and became an important presence in the city for years afterward. But in 1994, Parks was robbed and assaulted in her home at the age of 81. Keith, himself an important legal figure in the civil rights movement, worked to find Parks a new, safer apartment at the Riverfront Apartments in Detroit, according to the Sports Business Daily. — Ilitch read the story in the newspaper and called Keith, offering to pay for Parks’ housing indefinitely. With no fanfare, Ilitch continued paying for the apartment until Parks died in 2005, Keith said. (http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/15/us/mike-ilitch-rosa-parks-trnd/)  (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

32) “You are my sunshine”: Like all good parents, when Karen and her husband found that another baby was on the way, they did what they could to help their three-year old son, Michael, prepare for a new sibling. When they found the baby was going to be a girl, they would gather Michael in their arms and he would sing to his sister in Mummy’s tummy the only song he knew, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.” The pregnancy progressed normally, then the labour pains, but complications arise during delivery. Finally, Michael’s sister was born but she was in serious conditions. The days inched by but the little girl got worse. The pediatric specialist told the parents, “There is very little hope. Be prepared for the worst.” Michael kept begging to see his sister. “I want to sing to her,” he pleads. But children were not allowed in the ICU. Finally, Karen made up her mind. She would take Michael to the hospital whether they liked it or not, figuring that if he didn’t see his sister now, he might never see her alive. She dressed him and marched him to the ICU, but the head nurse bellowed, “Get that kid out of here now!” Karen glared into the nurse’s face, her lips a firm line, “He is not leaving until he sings to his sister!” she declared. Michael gazed at the tiny infant losing the battle to live, and begins to sing in the pure-hearted voice of a three-year-old: “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy, when skies are grey…” Instantly, the baby responded. Her pulse rate became calm and steady. Keep on singing Michael! “You never know dear how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away.” The baby’s ragged, strained breathing became as smooth as a kitten’s purr. Michael’s little sister relaxed at rest, -healing rest seems to sweep over her. Keep on singing Michael! Tears ran down the face of the bossy head nurse. Karen glowed. Funeral plans were scrapped. The next day -the very next day- the little girl was well enough to go home!  — In an article about the incident, Woman’s Day magazine called it “the miracle of a brother’s song.” Karen called it a miracle of God’s love. The medical staff simply called it a miracle. We call it the Lazarus story all over again. Love is stronger than death.
(William Bausch in The Word In and Out of Season; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

33) ‘Keeper of the Flame.” Sometime ago the Los Angeles Times carried a moving story by reporter Dave Smith. It was about a modern Christian who put God first in his life, other people second, and himself third. His name is Charlie DeLeo. After returning from Vietnam, he got a job as maintenance man at the Statue of Liberty. Charlie told the reporter that part of his job is to take care of the torch in the statue’s hand and the crown on the statue’s head. He has to make sure that the sodium vapor lights are always working and that the 200 glass windows in the torch and the crown are always clean. Pointing to the torch, Charlie said proudly, “That’s my chapel. I dedicated it to the Lord, and I go up there and meditate on my breaks.” But Charlie does other things for the Lord, as well. He received a commendation from the Red Cross after donating his 65th pint of blood. And since hearing of the work of Mother Teresa in India, he has given over $12,000 to her and to people like her. Charlie told the Los Angeles Times reporter: “I don’t socialize much; don’t have enough money to get married. I don’t keep any of my money. After I got my job, I sponsored six orphans through those children’s organizations.” Charlie ended by telling the reporter that he calls himself the “Keeper of the Flame” of the Statue of Liberty. Later a park guide told the reporter: “Everybody knows Charlie is special. When he first gave himself that title, people smiled. But we all take it seriously now. To us, he’s exactly what he says: ‘Keeper of the Flame’.” —  Jesus in today’s Gospel passage, challenges us to be the keeper of his flame. (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

34) An encounter with true Christian light:  President Woodrow Wilson once told the story of his encounter with true Christian Light. He said: “I was in a very common place.  I was sitting in a barber chair, when I became aware that a powerful personality had entered the room.  A man had come quietly in upon the same errand as myself, to have his hair cut, and sat in the chair next to me.  Every word the man uttered, though it was not in the least didactic, showed a personal interest in the man who was serving him.  And before I got through with what was being done to me, I was aware that I had attended an evangelistic service, because pastor Dwight L. Moody was in that chair. — I purposely lingered in the room after he had left and noted the singular effect that his visit had brought upon the barber shop.  They talked in undertones.  They didn’t know his name, but they knew something had elevated their thoughts, and I felt that I left that place as I should have left a place of worship.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).L/23

 “Scriptural Homilies” Cycle A (No. 14) by Fr. Tony: akadavil@gmail.com

Visit my website by clicking on https://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle C  & A homilies, 141 Year of FaithAdult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at akadavil@gmail.com. Visit https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies  of Fr. Nick’s collection of homilies or Resources in the CBCI website:  https://www.cbci.in.  (Special thanks to Vatican Radio website http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html -which completed uploading my Cycle A, B and C homilies in May 2020)  Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604How to be salt of the earth and light of the world – Pope Francis’ Homily at Daily Mass (https://saltandlighttv.org/blogfeed/getpost.php?id=70453)

Salt and Light Media: Pope Francis

June 8, 2016–Pope Francis has urged believers to be true Christians and give flavor to the life of others, not to be tempted to shine light upon themselves but to bring the light of faith to their neighbors and to mankind. The Pope was speaking on Tuesday morning during Mass at the Casa Santa Marta.

Drawing inspiration from the Gospel reading of the day, Pope Francis spoke of when Jesus told his disciples,“ You are the salt of the earth”, “You are the light of the world”,” Christians, he said, must be salt and light, but never self-serving: salt must add flavor and light must illuminate the other.

The Pope continued his homily with the question: “What must a Christian do in order for the salt not to run out, so that the oil to light the lamp does not come to an end?” The “battery” a Christian uses to generate light, the Pope explained, is simply prayer.

“There are many things one can do, many works of charity, many great things for the Church – a Catholic University, a college, a hospital – you may even be rewarded as a benefactor of the Church with a monument, but if you do not pray, it will be dark and dimly lit,” he said.

Prayer, the Pope said, is what lights up Christian life, and he highlighted the fact that prayer is a “serious” matter: “a prayer of adoration to God the Father, a prayer of praise to the Holy Trinity, a prayer of thanksgiving, a prayer to request to God… prayer must come from the heart”.

As regards the salt that Christians are called to be: it becomes salt when it is given to others. This, Pope Francis explained, is another Christian attitude: “to give of oneself, to give flavor to the lives of others, to give flavor to many things with the message of the Gospel”.

Salt is something to be used, not to keep for oneself – Francis elaborated – but to give to others. “It’s curious,” he continued, “both salt and light are for others, not for oneself: salt does not give flavor to itself; light does not illuminate itself.”

“Of course,” he noted, “you may be wondering how long salt and light can last without running out if we continue to give of ourselves relentlessly. That’s where the power of God comes in,” the Pope explained, “because the Christian is salt given to us by God during Baptism, it’s a gift that never ends”.

And reflecting on the reading from Kings in which Zarephath’s widow trusts the prophet Elijah and thus, her flour and her oil never run out, Pope Francis urged Christians to shine brightly and always overcome the temptation to shine light upon themselves. Calling it “mirror spirituality,” he said, “it is a bad thing” to want to shine light onto oneself: “Be light to illuminate, be salt to give flavor and to preserve”.

“May your light shine before men,” the Pope quoting Jesus, said,  “so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven.”

Jan 30- Feb 4 weekday Homilies

Jan 30- Feb 4: Click on http://frtonyshomilies.comfor missed homilies:

Jan 30 Monday: Mk 5:1-20: 1 They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of Gerasenes. 2 And when he had come out of the boat, there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, 3 who lived among the tombs; and no one could bind him anymore, even with a chain; 4 for he had often been bound with fetters and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the fetters he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains, he was always crying out, and bruising himself with stones. 6 And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped him; 7 and crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” 8 For he had said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” 10 And he begged him eagerly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now a great herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside; 12 and they begged him, “Send us to the swine, let us enter them.” 13 So he gave them leave. And the unclean spirits came out, and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and were drowned in the sea. 14 The herdsmen fled, and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 And they came to Jesus, and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the man who had the legion; and they were afraid. 16 …20.

The context: Today’s Gospel episode demonstrates Jesus’ power over the devil in a Gentile town of the Decapolis, east of the Jordan, called Gadara (Matthew), or Gerasa (Mark and Luke). A demon-possessed man (two men in Matthew), came out of a tomb-filled desolate place. The demons, recognizing Jesus as the Son of God, begged Him to send them into a herd of swine. The possessed man’s demons named themselves Legion (ca 5000 men), indicating their number. Jesus did as the evil spirits requested, and the now-possessed swine ran down the slope and drowned in the sea. The frightened people of the city asked Jesus to leave their city. The people considered their swine more precious than the liberation given to the possessed man. If we have a selfish or materialistic outlook, we fail to appreciate the value of Divine things, and we push God out of our lives, begging Him to go away, as these people did.

Life messages: 1) We need to come out of our tombs: Jesus is calling us to come out of the tombs. Our tombs are the closed-in, sealed-off areas of our hearts where Life in the Spirit of God has died because we haven’t let Jesus minister to us through others. Such godless persons are lonely. They try to fill their inner emptiness by packing their lives with money, promiscuity, addictions or workaholism, but nothing works.

2) Jesus the Liberator is ready to free us from the tombs of our evil addictions and habits If we will only let go of everything and give Jesus a chance, He can, and will, help us to experience the joy and freedom of the children of God. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/23

For additional reflections, click on: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

Jan 31 Tuesday: (Saint John Bosco, Priest):For a short biography, click on https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-john-bosco Mk 5:21-43: about him; and he was beside the sea. 22 Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and seeing him, he fell at his feet, 23 and besought him, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” 24 And he went with him. And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. 25 And there was a woman who had had a flow of blood for twelve years, 26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I shall be made well.”29 And immediately the hemorrhage ceased; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone forth from him, immediately turned about in the crowd, and said, “Who touched my garments?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, `Who touched me?'” 32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had been done to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” 35 While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” 36 But ignoring what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, he saw a tumult, and people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a tumult and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi”; which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.”42 And immediately the girl got up and walked (she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. 43 And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

The context: Today’s Gospel is a beautiful presentation of two miracles, a healing, and a revival and restoration of life. These miracles were worked by Jesus as rewards for the trusting Faith of a synagogue ruler and of a woman with a hemorrhage. Though the ruler trusted Jesus out of desperation, and the woman’s Faith was a bit superstitious, even their defective Faith was amply rewarded.

The ruler and the woman: The ruler of the synagogue supported Jewish orthodoxy. He could have despised Jesus who befriended sinners. But he bravely approached Jesus as a last resort when all the doctors had failed, and his daughter was dying. Since the Jews believed that one was not actually dead until three days had passed after he stopped breathing, when word came that the child had died, the ruler showed courage and Faith in staying with Jesus, ignoring the ridicule of fellow-Jews. In the same way, the woman with the bleeding disease was ritually unclean, and she was not supposed to appear in public. She had the courage and Faith to ignore a social and religious taboo in order to approach and touch the garment of Jesus from behind. Both the ruler’s child and the sick woman were brought back to life and to the community.

Life message: 1) Jesus accepts us as we are. Hence, we need not wait until we have the correct motive and strong Faith to bring our problems before Jesus. Let us bring before him our bodily and mental wounds and ask for his healing touch today. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/23

For additional reflections, click on: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

Feb 1 Wednesday: Mk 6: 1-6: (Mt 13:54-58): The context: Today’s Gospel passage describes the painful indifference Jesus met in his audience and the jealous, hurtful comments Jesus heard when, as a carpenter-turned-Rabbi with a band of his own disciples, he started preaching in the synagogue of his hometown, Nazareth.

A prophet without honor: The people of Nazareth literally jammed the synagogue, eager to see their familiar carpenter-turned-miracle-working preacher, Jesus, working miracles as he had done in neighboring towns and villages. But they were jealous, incredulous, and critical, rather than believing, which prevented Jesus from doing miraculous healings. They were jealous of the extraordinary ability of a former carpenter without formal education in Mosaic Law to give a powerful and authoritative interpretation of their Holy Scriptures. A carpenter’s profession was considered low in social ranking. Besides, they could not accept a prophet coming from so low a family background as Jesus’ was, nor could they accept his “blasphemous” claim to be the promised Messiah. Jesus’ relatives, known to them, were equally unimportant people. But the most offensive thing he did, in their judgment, was to point out to them their own unbelief, citing examples of the famous prophets Elijah and Elisha favoring Faith-filled Gentiles over unbelieving Jews.

Brothers and sisters of Jesus: “Ancient Hebrew, Aramaic and other languages had no special words for different degrees of relationship, such as are found in more modern languages. In general, all those belonging to the same family, clan, and even tribe, were brethren. Jesus had different kinds of relatives, in two groups — some on his mother’s side, others on St. Joseph’s. Mt13:55-56 mentions as living in Nazareth, “His brethren, ”James, Joses, Simon, and Judas,” and elsewhere there is reference to Jesus’ sisters (cf. Mt 6:3). But in Matthew 27:56 we are told that James and Joses were sons of a Mary distinct from the Blessed Virgin, and that Simon and Judas were not brothers of James, or St. Joseph’s children from a previous marriage. Jesus, on the other hand, was known to everyone as the son of Mary (Mk 6:3) or the carpenter’s son (Mt 13:55). The Church has always maintained as absolutely certain that Jesus had no brothers or sisters in the full meaning of the term: it is a dogma that Mary was ever-Virgin” (Navarre Bible Commentary)

Life messages:

1) Perhaps we have experienced the pain of rejection, betrayal, abandonment, violated trust, neglect, or abuse from our own friends and relatives. On such occasions, let us face rejection with prophetic courage and optimism. 2) Let us not, like the people in Jesus’ hometown, reject God in our personal lives. 3) Our country needs to hear God’s Truth from Spirit-filled Christians with the prophetic courage of their convictions. 4) Trusting Faith in the Divinity and goodness of Christ is essential, if Jesus is to work miracles in our personal lives. In addition, we need to be docile to the Holy Spirit living within us, so that He may work miracles in our lives. 5) When we are challenged by the Gospel and by the Church, we should be thankful and should not allow the prophetic voice of the Church die in our hearts. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/23

For additional reflections, click on: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

Feb 2: Thursday: (The Presentation of the Lord): Lk 2:22-40 or 2:22-32: ((https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/presentation-of-the-lord) The context: Today’s Gospel presents the head of the Holy Family, Joseph, faithfully obeying God’s law given through Moses concerning the purification of the mother and the redeeming of the child, by presenting Mary and the Baby Jesus in the Temple. The events recounted appear elsewhere in the liturgical year but are those we traditionally celebrate today, February 2nd, with the Feast of Presentation of Jesus. This is a combined feast, commemorating the Jewish practice of the purification of the mother after childbirth and the presentation of the child in the Temple. It is known as the Hypanthe feast or Feast of the Purification of Mary (by the offering two pigeons in the Temple), the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (by prayers and the payment of “five shekels to a member of the priestly family” (Nm 3:47-48; NAB Note on Lk 2:22), to redeem or buy the firstborn male child back from the Lord’s service), and the Feast of Encounter (because the New Testament, represented by the Baby Jesus, encountered the Old Testament, represented by Simeon and Anna). On February 2nd, we celebrate these events as a formal ending of the Christmas season. The same day, we also celebrate the Feast of Candlemas(because candles are blessed then for liturgical and personal use). Purification and redemption ceremonies: The Mosaic Law taught that, since every Jewish male child belonged to Yahweh, the parents had to “buy back” the child (“redeem” him), (The “Pidyon haBen” Service) )with the payment of “five shekels (=15 Denarius= wage for 15 days of work) to a member of the priestly family” (Nm 3:47-48; NAB Note on Lk 2:22). In addition, (Nm 18:15) every mother had to be purified after childbirth by prayers and the sacrifice of a lamb (or two turtledoves for the poor) in the Temple. Joseph kept these laws as an act of obedience to God.

The encounter with Simeon and Anna: By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the old, pious, Spirit-filled Simeon and the very old widow, Anna, both of whom who had been waiting for the revelation of God’s salvation, were present in the Temple the day Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to Present Him to the Father. Simeon recognized Jesus as the Lord’s Anointed One, and in his prayer of blessing, he prophesied that Jesus was meant to be the glory of Israel and a Light of revelation to the Gentiles. While he blessed Mary, Simeon warned that her child would be “set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign of contradiction” and that “a sword will pierce through your own soul. Simeon was prophesying both the universal salvation that would be proclaimed by Jesus and the necessity of suffering in the mission of the Messiah.

Life message:Every Holy Mass in which we participate is our presentation. Although we were officially presented to God on the day of our Baptism, we present ourselves and our dear ones on the altar before God our Father through our Savior Jesus Christ at every Holy Mass. Hence, we need to live our daily lives with the awareness both that we are dedicated people consecrated to God and that we are obliged to lead holy lives. Let us also remember and pray for our godparents who presented us to the Lord on the day of our Baptism Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/23

For additional reflections, click on: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

Feb 3 Friday:(Saint Blaise, Bishop and Martyr) ; Saint Ansgar, Bishop]: Feb 4 Saturday: Mk 6:30-34 : (In the U. S.St. Blaise, Bishop & Martyr and the blessing of throats): https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-blaise/ & St. Blasé in Croatia story: https://www.ncregister.com/blog/how-st-blaise-saved-a-city-and-more-fascinating-facts-about-himVideo of his festal celebration in Croatia: Watch this video: https://youtu.be/gZKCw1OWe5gHomily 1:https://youtu.be/fp-yr-XanWA; Homily 2:https://youtu.be/0gs6aYwGb70

Legends: We have only a few legends and no historical documents about St. Blaise and his martyrdom. But some Eastern Churches observe his feast day as a day of obligation. The British, German and Slavic people honor his memory. The U.S. Catholics seek his intercession for the healing of throat diseases by the ritual of blessing of throats. According to the Acts of St. Blaise written in the eighth century, Bishop Blaise was martyred in his episcopal city of Sebastea, Armenia, (Turkey) in 316. Stories tell how, when the Christian persecutions began, he withdraw to a cave in the woods when inspired to do so by the Lord. Since he was a physician before he became a bishop, Blaise soon became the friend of wild animals that were ill or wounded. They sought him out. One day the governor’s hunters searching for animals to bring to the city’s amphitheater were shocked when they happened upon Blaise. There he was, kneeling and praying — surrounded by totally docile wolves, lions and bears, tame in his presence. When they took him prisoner, on the way to the jail he got more chances to perform miracles besides healing the boy with the fishbone caught in his throat. He met a poor woman in great distress because a wolf had snatched her small, young pig. She asked his help. Blaise commanded the wolf to return the pig. Immediately, the wolf heard and brought back the pig which was not harmed. The woman continued to visit him in prison, bringing him food and candles to bring him light in his dark cell.

His cult spread throughout the entire Church in the Middle Ages because of the healing of a boy. Details regarding the miraculous healing of the boy vary. One account relates that the miracle occurred during his journey to prison when he placed his hand on the boy’s head and prayed. In another version of the story, the miracle happened while Blaise was in prison, and he picked up two candles provided to him and formed a cross around the boy’s throat. The use of candles for the blessing of throats stems from the candles supplied by a woman that Blaise used while in prison.

Martyrdom and miracles: When the governor of Cappadocia (in Modern Turkey) began to persecute the Christians, St. Blaise was arrested. The governor of Cappadocia tried in vain to persuade Blaise to sacrifice to pagan idols. The first time Blaise refused; he was beaten. The next time he was suspended from a tree and his flesh torn with iron combs or rakes. Finally, he condemned to be beheaded. As he was led to the place of execution a poor mother rushed up to him, begging him to save her child who was choking to death on a fishbone. The bishop gave him a blessing which enabled the child to cough up the bone. Then, Bishop Blaise was cruelly tortured and beheaded. The blessing of throats may be given by a priest, deacon, or a lay minister who follows the rites and prayers designated for a lay minister. (Since these are Covid-pandemic days, the minister should take care that the candles do not touch the throat of any person). The priest or deacon makes the sign of the cross over the recipient as the blessing is said. If necessary, laypersons are permitted to give the blessing of the throats but are instructed not to make the sign of the cross.

Life message: We all need some type of healing in some parts of our body, mind, or soul. Let us ask the intercession of St. Blaise with repentant hearts, so that Jesus the healer may place his healing touch on us as we present ourselves for the ritual of the blessing of the throats. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/23

For additional reflections, click on: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

Feb 4 Saturday: Mk 6: 30-34: 30 The apostles returned to Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a lonely place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going, and knew them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns, and got there ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore he saw a great throng, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

The context: Today’s Gospel passage presents the sympathetic and merciful heart of Jesus who lovingly invites his Apostles to a desolate place for some rest. Jesus realized that the Apostles he had sent on a preaching and healing mission to be neighboring towns and villages needed some rest on their return. He was eager to hear about their missionary adventures and they proudly shared their experiences. In no time, however, they were surrounded by the crowd, and Jesus resumed his preaching and teaching because he saw the crowd as sheep without shepherd.

Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus became a Good Shepherd. The Old Testament describes God as Shepherd of His people, Israel. The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want (Psalm 23:1). The prophet Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would feed his flock like a shepherd, he would gather the lambs in his arms (Isaiah 40:11). Jesus told his disciples that he was the Good Shepherd who was willing to lay down his life for his sheep. In his epistle, Peter calls Jesus the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls (1 Peter 2:25).

Life messages: 1) Let us find time to be with Jesus at the end of every day to share with him how, by his grace, we shared his love to those entrusted to our care. 2) Let us show the mercy, compassion, care and concern of Jesus the Good Shepherd to those entrusted to our care. 3) Let us become good sheep of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, by leading pure, innocent, humble, selfless lives, obeying Christ’s commandment of love and gaining daily spiritual strength from the word of God and from the Body and Blood of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, in Holy Communion. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/23

For additional reflections, click on: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

O. T. IV (A) Jan 29th Sunday Homily

OT IV [A] Sunday (Jan 29) 8-minute homily in one page (L-23)

Introduction: Today’s readings define our Christian goal of eternal happiness and explain the attitudes and actions necessary to reach it. They form the outline for Christ-like living, noting the personal qualities expected of a disciple of Jesus and pointing out the way of life to be lived by a disciple. They show us the values that Christ cares about. In essence, the Beatitudes both fulfill and complete the Ten Commandments which stress the “Thou shalt nots.” But Jesus presents the Beatitudes in a positive sense, as the virtues in life which will ultimately lead to the rewards of salvation – not in this world, but in the next.

Scripture lessons: Zephaniah, in the first reading, calls the “moral minority” of the Jews of his time “blessed” because they seek justice, humility, truth, and righteousness, thus making a declaration of dependence on God. In the second reading, Paul advises his Corinthian Christians to use their gifts and Heaven-sent blessings for the good of the community because God has chosen to give them life in Jesus, by whom He justified, sanctified and redeemed them.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus instructs his disciples in the paradoxical blessedness of poverty, hunger, sorrow, and persecution. In poverty, we recognize God’s reign; in hunger, His providence; in sorrow, true happiness; and in persecution, true joy. In other words, the blessed in Jesus’ list are poor in spirit, compassionate, meek, merciful, clean of heart, peace-makers and those who are willing even to be insulted and persecuted for their lived Faith in him Each of the inspired authors of today’s readings, Zephaniah, Paul, and Matthew, “makes a motion,” that each of us should consider making a personal Declaration of Dependence on God and then work with His grace to lead a holier and happier life.

Life messages: 1) We need to respond to the challenge of the Beatitudes in daily life. The Beatitudes propose to us a way of life, inviting us to identify with the poor, those who mourn, the meek, and those who hunger and thirst after justice. They challenge us to be compassionate people, to be men and women who are pure in heart, and to become the peacemakers in our dealings with one another, in our families, and in the society at large, even when this approach to things exposes us to ridicule and persecution. Let us remember that each time we reach out to help the needy, the sick, and the oppressed, we share with them a foretaste of the promises of the Beatitudes here and now.

2) We need to choose the way wisely. “There are two Ways, one of Life and one of Death, and there is a great difference between the two Ways.” These are the opening lines of the “Didache,” a first century Christian catechism used to teach new Christians the essence of the Christian faith. The way of life is the way of Jesus that leads to eternal life. The challenge of the beatitudes is: “Are you going to be happy in the world’s way or in Christ’s way?” God wants us to live as brothers and sisters who care for one another.

OT IV [A] SUNDAY (Jan  29): Zep 2:3, 3:12-13; I Cor 1:26-31; Mt 5:1-12a

Homily starter anecdotes: # 1: Beatitude of a scholar kitty: C. L. James in his delightful book, To See a World in a Grain of Sand, tells the fable of a wise old cat who notices a kitten chasing its tail. “Why are you chasing your tail?” said the wise old cat. The kitten replied, “I have learned that the best thing for a cat is happiness, and happiness is my tail. Therefore, I am chasing it, and when I catch it, I shall have happiness.” The wise old cat responded, “My son, I, too, have paid attention to the problems of the universe. I too have judged that happiness is my tail. But, I noticed that whenever I chase after it, it keeps running away from me, but when I go about my business, it just seems to come after me wherever I go.” — We do not find happiness in material things, in a pill, in a bottle, or by having love affairs. Happiness is something that comes from within us. The only truly happy life is a life lived with God as our life’s Source and our true center. Today’s Gospel asserts that those who have recognized and acknowledged their dependence on God are the truly blessed and that these are the poor in spirit, the sorrowing, the lowly, those who hunger and thirst for holiness, the merciful, the single-hearted, the peace-makers and those persecuted for their right convictions. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

#2:Aristotle versus Galileo: “Aristotle maintained that women have fewer teeth than men. Although he was twice married, it never occurred to him to verify this statement by examining his wives’ mouths” (Bertrand Russell, British mathematician, & philosopher). About 400 hundred years ago Galileo argued that Aristotle’s theory on gravity was incorrect. According to Aristotle if you dropped one object weighing ten pounds and another weighing one pound from the same height, the ten-pound object would fall ten times faster than the other. Questioning the greatest ancient authority in science and philosophy, Galileo claimed that both objects would fall at the same speed. But people thought that Galileo was a little crazy. So Galileo climbed up the leaning tower of Pisa and dropped two objects, one heavier than the other, over the edge. To the amazement of the crowd, the heavier object did not fall faster than the lighter one. — You too may have dismissed as wrong, maybe naive, misguided, or possibly even stupid, something you were told, and then may have come to find out afterwards that it was actually true. Well, the Beatitudes announced by Jesus in today’s Gospel might not seem right to us because we equate happiness with power, influence, wealth, health, and beauty. In fact, if anybody other than Jesus had proposed them, we might just have considered them as too extreme. But Jesus meant what he said and practiced what he taught. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

# 3: Is there anybody who is really happy? In the United States seventy people commit suicide every day and another 1,000 try it. That is 365,000 people every year are unhappy enough to try to snuff out their own existence. Put another way, in your lifetime of 80 years, 29 million people in this country will attempt to end their lives. And the suicide rate is increasing the fastest among young people, rising to nearly 300 percent among those 15 to 24 in the last twenty years. Is there anybody who is really happy? — In today’s Gospel Jesus revels the secret of the true and lasting happiness which makes life worth living. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

Introduction: Today’s readings define our Christian goal of eternal happiness and explain the attitudes and actions necessary to reach it. In the Beatitudes, Jesus outlines the values and attitudes needed to enter and enjoy God’s kingdom: poverty of spirit, hunger and thirst for justice, compassion, meekness, mercy, integrity, peace-making, and the willingness to suffer persecution for the sake of justice. The Beatitudes contain the most essential aspects of Christian behavior that we need to make habitual if we are to live the truly Christ-like lives of loving obedience and compassion that He asks of all of us who believe. The Beatitudes spell out the personal qualities expected of a disciple of Jesus and the way of life to be lived by Jesus’ disciples. They show us the values that Christ cares about. In essence, the Beatitudes both fulfill and complete the Ten Commandments. While the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai, as recorded in the Old Testament Book of Exodus, provide a series of “Thou shalt nots,” Jesus presents the Beatitudes in a positive sense, as the virtues in life which will ultimately lead us to the rewards of salvation – not in this world, but in the next. Zephaniah, in the first reading, calls the “moral minority” of the Jews of his time “blessed” because they seek justice, humility, truth, and righteousness, thus making a declaration of dependence on God. In the second reading, Paul advises his Corinthian Christians to use their gifts and Heaven-sent blessings for the good of the community because God has chosen to give them life in Jesus, by whom He justified, sanctified, and redeemed them. In today’s Gospel, Jesus instructs his disciples in the paradoxical blessedness of poverty, hunger, sorrow, and persecution. In poverty, we recognize God’s reign; in hunger, His providence; in sorrow, true happiness; and in persecution, true joy. In other words, the “blessed” on Jesus’ list are poor in spirit, compassionate, meek, merciful, clean of heart, peace-makers, and those who are willing even to be insulted and persecuted for their lived Faith in Him. Each of the inspired authors of today’s readings, Zephaniah, Paul, and Matthew, “makes a motion,” that each of us should consider making a personal Declaration of Dependence on God, and then work (with His grace) to lead holier, happier lives.

The first reading (Zep 2:3, 3:12-13) explained: Zephaniah prophesied in Jerusalem during a time when many in that city were faithless and corrupt. Most of the book of the prophet Zephaniah is about the terrible Day (“The Day of the Lord”) when the Lord will wreak vengeance upon idolaters and the unfaithful. But this passage describes a “remnant,” a humble and just minority, who will receive, not vengeance, but security. Both Jesus and Zephaniah address this remnant, or “moral minority.” They want their listeners not to choose the path of arrogance, not even to pine for power, but to “seek justice … seek humility, do no wrong, speak no lies (Zephaniah), and to “thirst for righteousness, be merciful, be peace-makers” (Jesus).

The second reading (I Cor 1:26-31) explained: Two things about the situation in Corinth made it necessary for Paul to remind the Christians there of their humble station and of his own humble apostolic status: 1) Corinth was a Greek metropolis with philosophers placing a high premium on knowledge and sophistication; and 2) the Christians there enjoyed an abundance of what are called charisms, or spiritual gifts including some extraordinary powers like healing, prophecy, and speaking in tongues. Paul advised these Christians to use their gifts and heaven-sent blessings for the good of the community, not just for their own aggrandizement, and he reminded them of the contrast between Christ’s values and the world’s values.

Gospel exegesis: Source of real happiness: Today’s readings tell us that real happiness lies in what are known as “the Beatitudes.”  “Beatitudes” are technically known as “macarisms,” (blessings – from the Greek makarios, meaning “blessed” or “happy”).  These beatitudes echo Isaiah 61:1-2.  Other examples of macarisms can be found in the Book of Proverbs, the Psalms, and even in the book of Revelation.  There are thirty-seven beatitudes in the New Testament, seventeen of which are sayings of Jesus.  Matthew presents Jesus as the new Moses who teaches us from the mountain that Christianity is more than obeying the Ten Commandments.   The Sermon on the Mount is almost surely a collection of Jesus’ teachings rather than a sermon delivered in one sitting.  The beatitudes of Jesus  were taught in Aramaic.  They are not simple statements; rather they are exclamations, i.e., ”O! The blessedness of the poor in spirit!”  (Compare Psalm 1 for a similar Hebrew version.)  Matthew presents the Beatitudes as coming at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount.  He gives eight Beatitudes (the ninth being explanation of the eighth).

Bombshells: In both Matthew and Luke, the Beatitudes are a “series of bombshells” or “flashes of lightning followed by thunder of surprise and shock” because Jesus reverses our “natural” assumption that happiness lies in riches, power, pleasure, and comfort.  We believe in personal pride; Jesus blesses poverty of spirit.  We seek pleasure; Jesus blesses those who mourn.  We see the prosperity of aggressive people; Jesus blesses the meek.  We love good food and drink; Jesus blesses those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.  He challenges his listeners to find fulfillment of their needs in God, in their particular socio-economic context.  The peasants, the farm workers, and the artisans of the villages in Palestine were the oppressed class.  The majority of them had no political power or rights.  In contrast to them were the rich and powerful, who owned most of the land, collaborated with the hated Romans, controlled the Temple cult, and interpreted the laws of God.  Jesus addresses this situation in his Beatitudes.

Christ is the center of the beatitudes: Each beatitude looks at the Christian life from a different perspective. Matthew’s first beatitude with its “the poor in spirit” ( 5:3 ) is the best known and perhaps the most difficult to interpret. Matthew’s “in spirit” indicates that these “poor” make no claim on God. Matthew’s eight beatitudes expand on the first. The mourners will experience God’s comfort (v. 4). The meek demonstrate a Christ-like attitude that demands nothing for itself. Thus the meek with Jesus shall inherit the earth (v. 5). Those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (v. 6) desire God’s saving righteousness in Christ. The mercy Christians show to others (v. 7) must be that of Christ, who showed mercy to his tormentors ( Luke 23:34 ). In the fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer Christians pray that God will forgive them, just as they forgive others ( Matt 6:12 ). “Seeing God” is reserved to Christ ( John 1:18 ), but now the pure in heart will see God with him (v. 8). The Gospels reserve the phrase “Son of God” to Jesus alone, but the peace-makers show themselves to be reconciled to God, and all people are now entitled to a like honor in being called the sons of God (v. 9). The eighth beatitude follows the first with its promise of the kingdom of heaven, Christ’s pledge that they will participate in his suffering and glory. (https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/beatitudes/)

The first set of four beatitudes: Happiness of the poor in spirit, the gentle, the mourners and the righteous.  Being poor in spirit is the fundamental condition for becoming blessed and happy. Jesus is not extolling the virtue of poverty but the virtues of Faith and trust in God because He is our ultimate Source of security.  We are blessed when we know our need for God and do His will every day.  We are poor in spirit when we surrender our plans to God and ask for His help. We are poor in spirit when we admit our sins, mourn for them repenting, ask His grace and forgiveness for them, and promise to “sin no more and avoid the near occasions of sin.”  The poor in spirit also hunger and thirst for righteousness.  Jesus’ blessing of the poor would have been Good News to the first disciples, who had “left everything and followed him” (Lk 5:11).

Jesus also tells us that if we are to be happy we need to be meek – gentle, self-controlled and God-controlled.  The meek are those who have made a complete surrender of self to God,  instead of becoming aggressive, demanding, and assertive.  Meekness or gentleness is the ability to be angry with the right people about the right things at the right time to the right degree, e.g., Moses.  True meekness allows us to fight for justice using peaceful means, as did Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.  Lenin is reported to have said on his death bed: “If I had ten young men like Francis of Assisi I could have averted the Bolshevik Revolution.”  Jesus says that we will be blessed when we hunger and thirst for what is right.  To be righteous means to do the will of God.  We are hungering and thirsting for righteousness when we have a profound respect for others and want to treat them with dignity.  So, when we see other people abused in one way or another, we hunger and thirst to see their dignity respected.

The second set of beatitudes: The happiness of the merciful, pure of heart, peace-makers and the persecuted.  The second set of four beatitudes in Matthew 5:7-10 promise rewards in life after death to people who practice virtuous behavior.  Giving unconditional forgiveness and showing the honesty and humility to ask pardon for our offenses against others are signs of a merciful heart and are essential for peace and joy of spirit. Mercy is love extended, not out of necessity, but given through the desire to help.  Jesus gave the example of the forgiving love of a merciful heart from the cross by praying for his executioners.  As long as we hold something in our hearts against somebody we are neither free nor happy.  Hence, let us forgive and forget and be merciful.  Mercy is also the ability to identify with others, to be willing to suffer with them and to walk in their shoes.  What Jesus meant about being pure in heart is that we cannot be happy if we are hypocrites.  The pure in heart are morally pure, honest, and sincere.  The real accent in Matthew’s sixth beatitude is on integrity.  We should be people of integrity and character.  The pure of heart will see God in their here-and-now ability to discern His presence in others and in the small and ordinary events of their lives.

Instead of merely longing for peace in the world we must be peace-makers in the little world around us.  Peace-making demands positive actions for reconciliation. Making peace involves proclamation, diplomacy, self-control, and a willingness to forgive, to forget,  and to promote the work of forgiveness among others. Peace-makers work for “shalom”– the wholeness and well-being that God wills for a broken world. Shalom means “May you be blessed by the presence of all good things!” Finally,  Jesus said we will be happy if people and systems persecute us for our Faith and loving, Christian conduct, because Jesus’ enemies persecuted him for the same reasons. Early Christians were persecuted for a variety of reasons.  The Jews persecuted them as heretics.  The Jews and the Romans falsely accused the Christians of immoral practices.  The words of the Last Supper, “This is my Body….  This is my Blood,” led to charges of cannibalism.  The Agape (Love Feast) and the kiss of peace led to charges of sexual immorality.  Apocalyptic literature, like the book of Revelation, led to charges of sedition.  Today, Christians face persecution in different forms all around the world.  Internally, adherence to Christ’s values means persecution by our own rebellious, selfish desires.

The Beatitudes versus Liberation theology:  If the poor, the hungry, the sorrowful and the hated are all blessed, then why should anyone attempt to help them improve their lot?  Indeed, that was the argument often used by previous generations who had not been exposed to the “Theology of Liberation.”  God, so runs this argument, has ordained that the poor should be content with their lot.   They claim that a person who has absolutely no possessions is free to seek God alone.  But they ignore the difference between choosing poverty and being plunged into it without one’s choice, due to the unjust socio-political situation.  Only a few saints, such as Francis of Assisi, chose the sufferings and hardships that poverty brings.  Perhaps what Christ is really telling us is that we should work to improve the conditions of the poor in order for the poor to have a choice.  They have the right to choose whether or not to embrace poverty, rather than having it thrust upon them by greedy exploiters.

The heart of Christ’s teaching:” The Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes the importance of the Beatitudes as “the heart of Christ’s teaching.”  “The Beatitudes describe our relationship to the Kingdom in three ways.  First, these simple promises address our highest desire: happiness with God.  For, only God can satisfy the heart.  Second, they describe the path to God for us as individuals and together as a Church.  Through the Beatitudes, we share God’s very life (sanctifying grace) because we enter into His Kingdom.  Finally, they challenge us to live moral lives by putting God first.  If we want to know what it truly means to be a Christian, we should read the Beatitudes in Matthew” (CCC  #1716-#1724).

Life messages: 1) We need to respond to the challenge of the Beatitudes in daily life.  Millions of starving, persecuted, homeless people lead hopeless lives.  The Beatitudes propose to us a way of life, inviting us to identify with the poor, those who mourn, the meek, and those who hunger and thirst after justice.  They challenge us to be compassionate people, to be men and women who are pure in heart, and to people who become the peace-makers in their dealings with one another, in their families and in the society at large, even when this approach to things exposes them to ridicule and persecution.  “As long as you did it to/for one of these, my least brethren, you did it to/for me” is the criterion for our Last Judgment.  St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) and her Sisters, Brothers and Priests, accepted this challenge and demonstrate that one can “live the Beatitudes” in the modern world.  Hence, let us remember that each time we reach out to help the needy, the sick, and the oppressed, we share with them a foretaste of the promises of the Beatitudes here and now.  This is why, down through the centuries, individuals, congregations, and Church bodies have practiced charity in creative, faithful ways.  They have operated soup kitchens, food banks, clothing centers, homeless shelters, and housing programs.  Such enterprises represent a wonderful outpouring of good will and Christian faithfulness in response  to the challenge of the beatitudes.  Let us have the good will to participate in such activities in our parish and in our community. 2) We need to choose the way wisely.  There are two Ways, one of Life and one of Death, and there is a great difference between the two Ways.” These are the opening lines of the “Didache,” a first century Christian catechism used to teach new Christians the essence of the Christian Faith.  The way of life is the way of Jesus that leads to eternal life.  The challenge of the Beatitudes is: “Are you going to be happy in the world’s way or in Christ’s way?”  If we choose the world’s way, we are seeking our blessings in the wrong place.  Sometimes we think that good health, long life, happy relationships, and a good job are blessings we “deserve” for being honest, not cheating on our taxes, coming to Church, and giving a little to charity.  This is the easy way of the world. But the hard way of Jesus requires of us toil and suffering in working for the poor, the sick, and the hungry.  God wants us to live as brothers and sisters who care for each another.  Doing so yields an “eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (II Cor. 4:17).  In the final analysis, the blessing of the Beatitudes is the possession of “the Kingdom of God.”

JOKES OF THE WEEK: 1) Beatitude in Heaven:   Fr.  Charlie was teaching his Sunday school class.  He asked the class, “If I were to sell my house and my car, have a big garage sale and give all my money to the Church, would that get me into Heaven?”  “NO!” the children all answered.  “If I were to do all my priestly duties well, and practice the Beatitudes in my life, would that get me into Heaven?” the Pastor asked.  Again, the answer was, “NO!”  “Well, then, if I were to be kind to animals, give candy to all the children, and love and serve my parish, would that get me into Heaven?”  Again, the answer was, “NO!” “Well”, he continued, “then how can I get into Heaven?”  Five-year-old little Johnny shouted out, “First you have to die.”

3) Beatitude in marriage: In his book, On This Day, Carl D. Windsor includes this anecdote:  Even the most devoted couple will experience a “stormy” bout once in a while.  A grandmother, celebrating her golden wedding anniversary, once told the secret of her long and happy marriage.  “On my wedding day, I decided to make a list of ten of my husband’s faults which, for the sake of our marriage, I would overlook,” she said.  A guest asked the woman what some of the faults she had chosen to overlook were.  The grandmother replied, “To tell you the truth, my dear, I never did get around to listing them.  But whenever my husband did something that made me hopping mad, I would say to myself, ‘Lucky for him that’s one of the ten!’”–  Today, the words of the Beatitudes invite us to consider anew our dependence on God, to acknowledge Him as the Supreme Authority in our lives, and to recognize in Him the Source of our identity and happiness.

4) A famous preacher once told his congregation, “Every blade of grass is a sermon.” — A few days later, a parishioner saw him mowing his lawn. ‘That’s right, Father,’ the man said, ‘cut your sermons short.’ (Catholic homilies).

USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK (For homilies & Bible study groups) (The easiest method  to visit these websites is to copy and paste the web address or URL on the Address bar of any Internet website like Google or MSN and press the Enter button of your Keyboard).

1) Fr. Nick’s collection of Sunday homilies from 65 priests & weekday homilies: https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies

2) Fr. Don’ collection of video homilies & blogs: https://sundayprep.org/featured-homilies/ (Copy it on the Address bar and press the Enter button)

 3) Fr. Geoffrey Plant’s beautiful & scholarly video classes on Sunday gospel, Bible & RCIA topics https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant20663)

4) Dr. Brant Pitre’s commentary on Cycle A Sunday Scripture for Bible Class: https://catholicproductions.com/blogs/mass-readings-explained-year-Biblical basis of Catholic doctrines: http://scripturecatholic.com/

5) Agape Catholic Bible Lessons: http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/

6) Catholic answers: http://www.catholic.com/

7) For articles on various theological topics: http://www.shc.edu/theolibrary/

8) Online Christian classical books:  http://www.ccel.org/index/classics.html

9) www.mcgill.pvt.k12.al.us/jerryd/cathmob.htm: (This site is a veritable theological library with links from Catholic teaching to Catholic art.)

” Scriptural Homilies” no. 11 (A) by Fr. Tony akadavil@gmail.com

20 Additional anecdotes:

1) Happiness & unhappiness: The “Dear Abby” Column once received a letter from a 15-year-old girl which read as follows: “Dear Abby: Happiness is: not having your parents scold you if you come home late, having your own bedroom, and getting the telephone call you’ve been hoping for. Happiness is belonging to a popular group, being dressed as well as anybody, and having a lot of spending money. Happiness is something I don’t have. 15 and Unhappy.” Shortly after the letter was published, “Dear Abby” received a reply from 13-year-old girl who wrote: Dear Abby: “Happiness is being able to walk and talk, to see and hear. Unhappiness is reading a letter from a 15-year-old girl who can do all four things and still says she isn’t happy. I can talk, I can see, I can hear. But I can’t walk. 13, crippled and Happy.” — These letters reflect two different points of view on happiness. Today’s gospel on the Beatitudes does the same. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

2)Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you.”  On the morning before Bill Clinton took the presidential oath of office, he went to a nearby Church for a prayer service. Someone read the Beatitudes during the service. When the reader came to the last two verses, someone observed Mr. Clinton repeating the words of Jesus: 11 “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.” —  They were good words for a politician to say, particularly on the opening day of what turned out to be a rocky term of office. Any politician who tries to take an occasional stand for what is holy, just, and true can expect persecution, slander, and false accounts. The only reward may be a Heavenly one. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

3) “Happiness on easy monthly terms.” An ad appeared recently in USA Today for the BMW automobile. The ad begins like this: “Needless to say, you can’t buy happiness. But for a mere $299 a month, you can lease exhilaration. Simply visit your authorized BMW dealer before September 30 and lease a new BMW 325…” After extolling the virtues of the BMW, the ad concludes like this: “For a program of spiritual uplift on easy monthly terms, we recommend you visit a participating BMW dealer.” — I like that: “a program of spiritual uplift on easy monthly terms.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

4) Eight laws of public health:  Some years ago a panel of doctors was appointed by the Federal government to meet together and draw up eight laws of public health that could be printed in pamphlet form and distributed to the public. After twelve days of exhausting meetings, the doctors were unable to come to a consensus. It seems that their areas of concern were too diverse. Among the group were a cancer specialist, a cardiologist, a pulmonologist and a psychiatrist, and each approached the problem from the perspective of his own discipline. The chest expert was concerned about coal dust from the mines and lint produced by textile mills, while the psychiatrist was concerned about the effects off urban stress. — Finally, Dr. Harold Sladen of a famous hospital in Detroit came up with an appropriate idea. He said: “Let’s just republish the eight Beatitudes of Jesus and simply replace the word ‘Blessed’ with the word ‘Healthy.’”(https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

5) Living the Beatitudes: In the last century, a Belgian priest named Father Damien went to live on a remote island colony among people with leprosy. Father Damien tried to live the values of the Beatitudes. He was pure in heart, merciful, hungry and thirsty for righteousness. He was publicly persecuted for doing what he believed was right. His biographers also say he was often lonely, depressed, and stubborn. His immediate superiors branded him a troublemaker. (Gavan Daws, Holy Man (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 19845) —  The Catholic Church had to wait for years, only naming him as a saint in 2010. But people who knew Father Damien called him “happy” or “blessed.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

6) Happiness is found in purposeful living:  In his book, Anatomy of an Illness, Norman Cousins tells a revealing story about Pablo Casals, the great cellist. Cousins describes meeting Casals shortly before his ninetieth birthday. It was almost painful for Cousins to watch the old man dress. Arthritis, emphysema, the frailty of advanced years — all had taken their toll. The hands swollen, the fingers clenched — how could a man in such condition ever hope to play his beloved music again? And yet, even before eating Casals made his way slowly and with much difficulty to his piano. There a miracle took place right before Norman Cousins’ eyes. As he describes it, “The fingers slowly unlocked and reached toward the keys like the buds of a plant toward sunlight. [Casals’] back straightened. He seemed to breathe more freely.” He began with a number by Bach which he played with a sensitivity and control that would have been the envy of a young and agile pianist. He then launched into a Brahms concerto, and his fingers seemed to race above the keyboard. “His entire body seemed fused with music,” Cousins wrote. “It was no longer stiff and shrunken but supple and graceful and completely freed from its arthritic coils.” By the time he walked away from the piano he seemed to be an entirely different person from the tired old man who struggled out of bed and into his clothes. He stood straighter and taller. He immediately walked to the breakfast table, ate heartily, and then went out for a stroll on the beach. — “The sense of uselessness,” said Thomas Huxley, “is the severest shock which our system can sustain.” Conversely, when we have a great purpose to live for, a purpose that is high and noble, our whole being is enhanced. That is the first conclusion about happiness which we can derive from these teachings of our Lord. Happiness is found in giving ourselves to a high and noble purpose. (Rev. King Duncan)  (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

7) Is anyone in this world truly happy? Samuel Johnson once wrote a story entitled “Rasselas” in which the main character, an Abyssinian prince, lived on a mountaintop in peace and luxury but became dissatisfied with his walled-in existence and finally ventured out into the world to search for those persons who were altogether happy. To his surprise he discovered that no such person existed in the world. He returned, disillusioned, to his home in Abyssinia — Is anyone in this world truly happy? (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

8) “Really happy and was still in their right mind?” There was a Peanuts cartoon years ago in which Lucy asked Charlie Brown if he had ever known anybody who was really happy. Before she could finish her sentence, however, Snoopy came dancing on tiptoe into the frame, his nose high in the air. He danced and bounced his way across two frames of the cartoon strip. — Finally, in the last frame, Lucy finished her sentence, “Have you ever known anybody who was really happy,  and was still in their right mind?” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

9) Declaration of Independence: On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, approved Richard Henry Lee’s motion that the thirteen colonies in North America declare their independence from Great Britain and from the rule of King George III.  On that July 4, celebrated now as Independence Day, the Congress approved the Declaration. Since then, human history has been punctuated with many such declarations of independence.  Over 40 countries on the continent of Africa, more than a dozen newly independent republics in the former Soviet Union, several areas in Eastern Europe and conflicting ethnic groups with differing ideologies in many countries have engaged in civil wars and declared their political independence from those who had controlled them.  The clamor for independence can be heard everywhere, from Hong Kong in the east to the Basque country in the west. — Independence, self-rule, and the prerogative of determining one’s own direction, goals and priorities have perennial appeal for most human beings.  But, as is often the case, the readings for today’s liturgy invite us to consider a different perspective.  The inspired authors of today’s readings, Zephaniah, Paul, and Matthew, make a motion, as it were, a motion that each of us should consider making a personal  Declaration of Dependence on God, to receive our true blessing. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

10) Battle of Gettysburg: Frederick Buechner tells about watching a scene in the Ken Burns film series on the Civil War. It was the fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, and veterans from North and South gathered at the battleground to reminisce. At one point, the veterans decided to reenact Pickett’s Charge. All the participants took their positions, and then one side began to charge the other. Instead of swords and rifles, this time the vets carried canes and crutches. As both sides converged, the old men did not fight. Instead they embraced and began to weep. Buechner muses, “If only those doddering old veterans had seen in 1863 what they now saw so clearly fifty years later.” — Then he adds: “Half a century later, they saw that the great battle had been a great madness. The men who were advancing toward them across the field of Gettysburg were not enemies. They were human beings like themselves, with the same dreams, needs, hopes, the same wives and children waiting for them to come home … What they saw was that we were, all of us, created not to do battle with each other but to love each other, and it was not just a truth they saw. For a few minutes, it was a truth they lived. It was a truth they became. [Frederick Buechner, “Journey Toward Wholeness,” Theology Today 49/4 (January 1993), pp. 454-464).] (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

11) “If only I had that, I would be happy.”  Father Louis Everly, a noted Belgian theologian, priest and writer says that so many people never find happiness because they do not know where to look for it. Too many people make the mistake of seeking one more material thing, one more pay raise, one more promotion, one more problem solved, one more handicap overcome. “If only I had that,” they often say, “I would be happy.” Too late they learn that happiness does not come from the outside but from within. Howard Hughes was one of the wealthiest men who ever lived but he could not buy contentment or peace of mind. — That is the first thing that is evident as we view the Beatitudes. Happiness is not synonymous with the pursuit of pleasure.  (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

12) Satan’s Beatitudes: Blessed are those who are too tired, too busy, too distracted to spend an hour once a week with their fellow Christians in Church – they are my best workers.
Blessed are those who wait to be asked and expect to be thanked – I can use them in my business.
Blessed are those who are touchy.  Soon they will stop going to Church – verily, they shall be my missionaries.
Blessed are those who sow gossip and trouble – they are my beloved children.
Blessed are those who have no time to pray – for they are MY prey.
Blessed are those who gossip – for they are my secret agents.
Blessed are you when you read this and think it has everything to do with other people, and nothing to do with you – I’ve got room for YOU at my inn. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

13) Eight principles for the measure of a person.  Some years ago the Raleigh, North Carolina News & Observer published an article entitled: “How Do You Measure Up as a Man?” The article stated that some extensive research had been conducted on the 20th century standards for measuring a man. 1) His ability to make and conserve money. 2) The cost, style and age of his car. 3) How much hair he has. 4) His strength and size. 5) The job he holds and how successful he is at it. 6) What sports he likes. 7) How many clubs he belongs to. 8) His aggressiveness and reliability. — Jesus Christ also once set down eight principles for the measure of a person. His standards stand in stark contrast to the aforementioned. There would appear to be a wide gulf between the popular image of the successful person and what God sees as the successful person. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

14) Final happiness: I like the story of the preacher who met two little boys. After greeting them, he said, “Boys, would you like to go to Heaven?” “Yes, sir!” one responded immediately. “No, sir,” the other boy said honestly. Surprised by such honesty, the preacher asked, “Son, do you mean that eventually you don’t want to go to Heaven?” “I’d like to go eventually, “replied the boy, “but I thought you were getting up a load to go today.” — For many people, happiness, like Heaven, is something that is going to come eventually, but it never quite arrives. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

15) Secret of happiness: Barbara L. Frederickson, Ph.D., has spent fifteen years studying happiness, and she has reached the conclusion that happiness comes from finding positive meaning in the things that happen to us. You get a flat tire on the way to work. Bad experience. You have a great conversation with the mechanic who comes to fix your flat. Good experience. Your presentation at work didn’t wow your colleagues as much as you had hoped it would. Bad experience. You learn valuable lessons from your failure that you can use in making your next presentation. Good experience. — People who find positive meaning, even in bad experiences, are happier and more resilient than are people who only focus on their bad experiences. (Rev. Frank Lyman.) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

16) City of Joy: City of Joy is the title of a novel (and a movie based on it), written by a European Doctor who came to live in the Calcutta slum, Anand Nagar (City of Joy).  Describing the naked or half-naked slum children playing in the rain and mud, he says that the rich children living in the city mansions can never be happy like these poor kids. — “Happy are the poor, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.” (Joe Vempeny). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

17) I’d give it to the poor.” During the Great Depression in America, a government agency had the task of travelling through  isolated  mountain areas, in search of poor farmers, to whom they would give some grant of money for the purchase of seed, or repairing their homes. One agent came upon an old woman living in a shack. It had no floor. Several windows were broken and covered over with tar paper. The old woman had but the basic essentials, and was just barely scratching out a living on a miserable plot of land. The agent said to her, “If the government gave you $200, what would you do with it?” Her instant answer was: “I’d give it to the poor.” — It is a mistake for a religious to think of money as riches. In spite of the lack of it,  this good woman does not consider herself poor. Millions of good people are really rich, while having little money. On the other hand, one could have plenty of money, and be really poor.(Indian Thoughts Archives) (Joe Vempeny). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

18) Happiness Myths: Dr. Harold Treffert is the director of the Winnebago Mental Health Institute in Wisconsin. In an article entitled “The American Fairy Tale,” he discusses five dangerous ideas we have about the meaning of happiness. First, happiness is things. The more you accumulate and have, the happier you will be. Second, happiness is what you do. The more you produce and earn, the happier you will be. Third, happiness is being the same as others. The more you are fashionable and conform with the times, the happier you will be. Fourth, happiness is mental health. The fewer problems you have and the more carefree you are, the happier you will be. Fifth, happiness is communicating with electronic gadgets. The more you can communicate with a television set, a satellite, or a computer,  the happier you will be. According to Dr. Treffert, these five myths about happiness are the cause of many mental health problems today. — If happiness cannot be found through these five myths of “The American Fairy Tale,” then where do we find it? Jesus gives us the answer when he outlines the beatitudes in today’s reading from Luke. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

19) The attitude that beatifies: There was a farmer. He lived a happy life spending most of the time taking care of his farm with the aid of his horse. One day he lost his horse. Neighbors came to sympathize with him. “What a shame!” they said. “Who knows? God Knows!” He replied. A week later this horse returned with another horse. The neighbors came to share his joy. “What a blessing! they said. “Who knows? God knows!” he replied. One day while riding the horse,  his son fell down from the horse and broke his leg. Again neighbors came to offer their sympathy. “What a shame!” they said. “Who knows? God knows!” he replied. A week late a war broke out in their country. The king ordered all men over 18 years of age to join the military. They spared his son because of his broken leg. Once again neighbors rushed to his house. “What a blessing!” they said. — “Who knows? God Knows!” the farmer replied. (SV) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

20) Is there anybody who is really happy? According to the Center for Disease Control, in the United States “in 2016, nearly 45,000 Americans age 10 and older died by suicide. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death, and is one of just three leading causes that are on the rise.” Three years ago, 45,000 American people were unhappy enough to snuff out their own lives. Statistics suggest that your lifetime 15 million people in this country will attempt to end their lives. And the suicide rate is increasing the fastest among young people nearly 300 percent among those 15 to 24 in the last twenty years. — Is there anybody who is really happy? (https://frtonyshomilies.com/). L/23

 “Scriptural Homilies” Cycle A (No. 13) by Fr. Tony: akadavil@gmail.com

Visit my website by clicking on https://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle C  & A homilies, 141 Year of FaithAdult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at akadavil@gmail.com. Visit https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies  of Fr. Nick’s collection of homilies or Resources in the CBCI website:  https://www.cbci.in.  (Special thanks to Vatican Radio website http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html -which completed uploading my Cycle A, B and C homilies in May 2020)  Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604

January 23-28 weekday homilies

Jan 23-28:Click on http://frtonyshomilies.com for missed homilies:

23 Monday (Saint Vincent, Deacon and Martyr; USA)

For a short biography click on https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-vincent-of-zaragossa) Saint Marianne Cope, VirginUSA): https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-marianne-cope Day of Prayer for the Legal white or violet Protection of Unborn Children [USA): Mk 3: 22-30: 22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said,
“He is possessed by Beelzebul, and by the prince of demons he casts out
the demons.” 23 And he called them to him, and said to them in parables,
“How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself,
that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that
house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself
and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27 But no one can
enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods unless he first binds the
strong man; then indeed he may plunder his house. 28 “Truly, I say to you,
all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter;
29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is
guilty of an eternal sin” — 30 for they had said, “He has an unclean
spirit.”(
Feast Day gospel: Jn 15: 9-17)

 The context:
Today’s Gospel passage gives Jesus’ crushing reply to the slander propagated by
the observers from the Sanhedrin, that Jesus expelled devils using the
assistance of the leader of devils.

Jesus refutes the false allegation raised against him by
the Sanhedrin scribes with three counterarguments and a warning: 1) A house
divided against itself will perish and a country engaged in civil war will be
ruined. Hence, Satan will not fight against Satan by helping Jesus to expel his
co-workers. 2) If Jesus is collaborating with Satan to exorcise minor demons,
then the Jewish exorcists are doing the same. 3) Jesus claims that he is using
the power of his Heavenly Father to evict devils, just as a stronger man can
tie up the strong man who has guarded all his possessions,  and take all the strong man  has acquired. The evil one, the strong man,
has muh of the world as a guarded possession, but Jesus is stronger that the
evil one and will destroy the captor and free the captives. – by dying on the
cross in willing sacrifice to save all of us, 4) Finally, Jesus gives a
crushing blow to his accusers, warning them that by telling blatant lies they
are blaspheming against the Holy Spirit and, hence, that their sins are
unforgivable (unless, of course,  they
repent).

 Life message: 1)
Jesus teaches that we can be influenced by the evil spirit if we listen to him
and follow him. Hence, we have to keep our souls daily cleansed and filled with
the Spirit of God, leaving no space for the evil spirit to enter our souls. Fr.
Tony
(https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/23

For additional reflections, click on: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

24 Tuesday: (Saint Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church)

For a short biography click on https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-francis-de-sales  Mk 3:31-35:: 31
And his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside they sent to him and
called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting about him; and they said to him,
“Your mother and your brothers are outside, asking for you.” 33 And
he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking
around on those who sat about him, he said, “Here are my mother and my
brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and
mother.”

The context: As
Jesus became a strong critic of the Jewish religious authorities, his cousins,
taking Mary His mother with them (though she supported him and all he was  doing) to get a hearing by Jesus and take him
to Nazareth by force, perhaps because they feared that he would be arrested and
put to death, and that they might be next

 Jesus’ plain statement: Today’s Gospel episode
seems to suggest that Jesus ignored the request of his mother and close
relatives who had traveled a long distance of 20 miles to talk to him. But
everyone in the audience knew that Jesus loved his mother and had taken care
of her
for years before he started his public ministry. Besides, Jesus’
plain answer, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and
mother”
was actually a compliment to his mother who had always listened
to the word of God
and obeyed it. Jesus was declaring, “Blessed are those
who hear and keep the word of God as she is faithfully doing” (Vatican II,
Lumen Gentium, 58).   Jesus was also using the occasion to
teach the congregation a new lesson about their relationship with God.
Being a disciple of Jesus, or a Christian, is first and foremost a relationship of mutual love, service,  and unity with God the Father, Son, and Holy
Spirit,  and so with all who belong to
God as His children.  Jesus has changed the order of relationships and
shows us here that true kinship is not just a matter of flesh and blood.
God’s gracious gift to us is His adoption of us as His sons and
daughters.  This gift enables us to recognize all those who belong to
Christ as our brothers and sisters.
  Our adoption as sons and
daughters of God transforms all our relationships and requires a new order
of loyalty to God and His kingdom. 
Everyone who does the will of
the Father
,” that is to say, who obeys Him, is a brother or sister of
Christ, because he is like Jesus who fulfilled the will of his Father.
But he who not only obeys but converts others, begets Christ in them, and thus
becomes like the Mother of Christ” (“Commentary on St. Matthew”,
12:49-50.)

Life message:
1) Let us remember that by Baptism we become the children of God, brothers and
sisters of Jesus, and members of the Heavenly family of the Triune God. Hence,
let us observe our obligations of treating others with love and respect and
of sharing our love with them in corporal and spiritual works of mercy
. We
are also His disciples, and so are obliged to be hearers as well as doers of
the word of God
. Fr. Tony
(https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/23

For additional reflections, click on: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

Jan 25 Wednesday: (The Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/conversion-of-saint-paul 

Mk 16:15-18:  Paul, the “Apostle to the Gentiles” and the greatest missionary of the Apostolic age, was
a Roman citizen by his birth in Tarsus (in Cilicia), and a Jew born to the
tribe of Benjamin. His Hebrew name was Saul. Since he was a Pharisee, Saul was
sent to Jerusalem by his parents to study the Mosaic
Law under the great rabbi Gamaliel. As a student, he
also learned the trade of tent-making. He was present as a consenting observer
at the stoning of Stephen. But Saul was miraculously converted on his way to
Damascus to arrest the Christians. After that, Saul, now called Paul, made
several missionary journeys, converted hundreds of Jews and Gentiles and
established Church communities. He wrote 14 epistles. He was arrested and kept
in prison for two years in Caesarea and spent two more years under house arrest
in Rome. Finally, he was martyred by beheading at Tre
Fontane in Rome). Paul’s spiritual journey was a
spiritual experience (Mysica), that produced a
transformation (Metanoia) and impelled him to assume a mission of evangelization
(Missio).

Today we celebrate the feast of the conversion St. Paul
(described thrice in the New Testament: Acts
chapters 9, 22, and 26)
an event which revolutionized the history and
theology of the early Church. Saul of Tarsus, because of his zeal for the
Jewish law and Jewish traditions, became the most outrageous enemy of Christ
and his teaching, as the apostles started preaching the Gospel. Saul consented
to the martyrdom of Stephen, watching the cloaks of the stoners. After the
martyrdom of the holy deacon, the priests and magistrates of the Jews raised a
violent persecution against the Christian communities at Jerusalem, and Saul
was their fanatical young leader. By virtue of the authority he had received
from the high priest, he dragged the Christians out of their houses, chained
them and thrust them into prison. In the fury of his zeal, he applied to the
high priest and Sanhedrin for a commission to take up all Jews at Damascus who
confessed Jesus Christ and bring them bound to Jerusalem to be properly
punished. He was almost at the end of his journey to Damascus, when, at about
noon, he and his company were suddenly surrounded by a great light. As Saul
fell to the ground, he heard a voice say, “Saul, Saul, why are you
persecuting Me?” Saul answered, “Who are you, Sir?” And the
voice said, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. Now, get up and go
into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Saul rose and,
blind, was led by his companions into Damascus. The Lord sent a Damascus
disciple named Ananias to heal and instruct Saul. Ananias entered the house
and, obeying Jesus’ orders, laid his hands on Saul and prayed over him so that
he might regain his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. And immediately
something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes. He regained his sight, got up, was
baptized and, having eaten, recovered his strength.  Saul had realized the truth that Jesus was
the mysterious fulfillment of all he had been blindly pursuing. He could easily
identify Jesus with Jesus’ followers. He stayed several days in Damascus with
Christian disciples and started teaching in the synagogues that Jesus was the
promised Messiah and the Son of God. Life message: Saul’s
conversion into Paul teaches us that we, too, need conversion and the
renewal of our lives
by a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit, which will enable
us to bear witness to Christ, as St. Paul did,
by exemplary lives.(Feast Day gospel: Lk 10:1-9)   Fr. Tony
(
https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/23

For additional reflections, click on:
https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

26: Thursday: (Saints Timothy and Titus, Bishops) For a short biography click on https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saints-timothy-and-titus  

Mk 4: 21-25: 21 And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a bushel, or
under a bed, and not on a stand? 22 For there is nothing hid, except to be made
manifest; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. 23 If any man has
ears to hear, let him hear.” 24 And he said to them, “Take heed what
you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will
be given you. 25 For to him who has will more be given; and from him who has
not, even what he has will be taken away.”

 The context:
Today’s Gospel passage is taken from Mark’s version of Jesus’ teaching after he
had told the parable of the sower.  Jesus reminds us that we are the light
of the world and that our duty is to receive and radiate around us Christ’s
light of love, mercy, compassion and forgiveness.

 The image of light and lamp:
Lamps help people to see and work in the dark, and their light prevents our
stumbling and falling down. For the Jews, Light represented the inner beauty,
truth, and goodness of God. God’s Light illumines our lives with Light,
celestial joy, and everlasting peace. The glory of the Lord shone around
the shepherds at Bethlehem (Lk 2:9). Paul recognized the presence of God in a blinding
Light
(Acts 9:3; 22:6); God “dwells in inaccessible Light” (1 Tim 6:16).
That is why Jesus claims that he is the Light of the world. When the Light
of Christ
shines in our hearts, we are able to recognize who we are, who
our neighbors are and Who God is and to see clearly how we are related to God
and our neighbors. When we live in Christ’s Light, we do not foolishly try to
hide truths about ourselves from ourselves, from our neighbors, or from God.
Christ’s Light will also remind us of the consequences of our sinful ways and
bad habits.  

 The paradox of the rich getting
richer
: In
today’s Gospel, Jesus makes the comment “for to him who has, more will be
given,
” following the warning “Take heed how you hear….”
Jesus
is telling us that if we listen to him
with open minds and open hearts and walk in his Light, the tiny bit of wisdom
and understanding that we’ve already gained will grow and grow with his help.
If, on the other hand, our hearts are closed to him, even the little bit of
wisdom that we think we’ve got will be lost. Jesus is not talking about money
or wealth in any form. He is talking about the extent and depth of our
connectedness to God. If we are already deeply rooted in God, our spirits will
grow larger, richer, and fuller by the day. But if our connection to the Lord
is only superficial, our spirits certainly won’t grow, and our connection to
Him may well not last at all.

 Life message: As “light
of the world
” it is our duty to remove the darkness from around us and to
show others the true Light of Jesus, his ideas and ideals from our model
Christian life.  Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/23 For additional reflections, click on: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/;
https://www.epriest.com/reflections

27: Friday: [Saint Angela Merici, Virgin] For a short biography click on https://ajmerdiocese.org/saint-angela-merici-franciscan-media/

Mk 4:26-34: 26 Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the Kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed upon the ground, 27 and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” 30 And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” 33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34 he did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything. (Feast Day gospel: MT 23: 8-12)

The context: Using the mini-parables of the growth of wheat seeds and mustard seeds in the field, Jesus explains the nature of the growth of the Kingdom of God or rule of God in human beings and human societies. In the case of both wheat and mustard seeds, the initial growth is slow and unnoticeable. But within days a leafy shoot will emerge, and within months a mature plant with numerous branches and leaves, flowers and fruits will be produced. The growth is silent and slow but steady, using power from the seed in the beginning and transforming absorbed water and minerals for energy in the later stages. Jesus explains that the Kingdom of God grows this way in human souls. The Kingdom of God is the growth of God’s rule in human hearts that occurs when man does the will of God and surrenders his life to God. It is slow and microscopic in the beginning. But it grows by using the power of the Holy Spirit, given to us through the Word of God, the Sacraments, and our prayers. Finally, God’s rule in the human heart transforms individuals and communities into God’s people, doing His will in His kingdom.

Life message 1) As we learn God’s will from His words and try to put these words into practice, we participate in the growth of God’s Kingdom on earth, a growth which will be completed in our Heavenly life. But we need the special anointing of the Holy Spirit to be doers of the word of God, so let us offer our lives before God every day, asking for this special anointing. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/23

For additional reflections, click on: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

28 Saturday: (Saint Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church) For a short biography click on https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-thomas-aquinas

Mk 4:35-41: 35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great storm of wind arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” 41 And they were filled with awe, and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?”

The context: Mark’s emphasis on Jesus’ wondrous works helps him to reveal Jesus’ true Messianic identity. The role of God in calming the storms of life is the central theme of today’s Gospel. By describing the miracle, Mark also gives the assurance to his first-century believers that nothing can harm the Church as long as the risen Lord is with them. The incident reminds us today to keep Jesus in our life’s boat and to seek God’s help in the storms of life.

The storm: The Sea of Galilee is lake thirteen miles long from north to south and eight miles broad from east to west at its widest. It is notorious for its sudden storms. When a cold wind blows from the west, the valleys and gullies and hills act like gigantic funnels, compressing the winds and letting them rush down to the lake to create storms with violent waves. Unable to control their fears in just such a storm, the disciples awaken Jesus, accusing him of disregarding their safety. Jesus' response is immediate. First, Jesus rebukes the winds and the sea, producing perfect calm, to the great astonishment of his disciples. Then only does he reproach them for their lack of Faith.
Life messages: 1) We need to welcome Jesus into the boat of our life. All of us are making a journey across the sea of time to the shore of eternity, and it is natural that, occasionally in our lives, we all experience different types of violent storms: physical storms, emotional storms, and spiritual storms. We face storms of sorrow, doubts, anxiety, worries, temptations, and passion. Only Jesus can give us real peace in the storm of sorrow or console us at the loss of our dear ones.

2) When the storm of doubts seeks to uproot the very foundations of our Faith, Jesus is there to still that storm, revealing to us His Divinity and the authority behind the words of Holy Scripture. He gives us peace in the storms of anxiety and worries about ourselves, about the unknown future, and about those we love. Jesus calms the storms of passion in people who have hot hearts and blazing tempers. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/23

For additional reflections, click on: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

O. T. III (A) Sunday Homily

OT III [A] Sunday (Jan 22) Eight-minutes homily in one page (L-23)

Introduction: Today’s readings show that the early Christians understood how Jesus had fulfilled the expectations of ancient Israel. Describing the humble beginning of the public ministry of Jesus, today’s Scripture readings teach us that Christ has brought us from the darkness of sin into the Light of God (4:16) by calling us to repentance (4:17) and the acceptance of God’s rule over us. (You may add a homily starter anecdote)

Scripture lessons summarized: The first reading contains the prophetic reference to Christ as the Light that dispels darkness. Matthew wanted his readers to recognize that the Light of which Isaiah spoke had finally appeared with the coming of Jesus. The refrain for today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 27) reminds us, The Lord is my Light and my Salvation. The second reading advises the Corinthians to live as children of the Light, avoiding divisions and rivalries, because several factions had arisen among the Corinthian Christians, each claiming allegiance to its first Christian teacher or to a particular Apostle. In today’s Gospel passage (Mt 4:12-23), Matthew explains that what Isaiah prophesied has been fulfilled through the preaching and healing ministry of Jesus.By his ministry of inviting people to the Kingdom of God through repentance, Jesus has brought Light to peoples living in darkness, thus fulfilling God’s original promise. In addition, the Gospel describes the call of the first disciples (4:18-22), and Jesus’ own preaching, teaching, and healing ministry which has led people to repent of their sins and accept the Good News of God’s rule (the Kingdom of God). He has also chosen ordinary fishermen with no formal training in Mosaic Law to preach the Good News, and they have been very effective instruments in the hands of the Holy Spirit, continuing Jesus’ mission to the world.

Life messages:1) We need to appreciate our call to be Christ’s disciples: Every one of us is called by God, both individually and as Church members, to be His disciple. The call is both a privilege and responsibility. The mission of preaching, teaching and healing which Jesus began in Galilee is now the responsibility of the Church and of each individual Christian. Our response to the call begins with our reception of Baptism and Confirmation, the Sacraments of Initiation. That response is meant to be strengthened through the years by the Eucharist and Reconciliation and to be made manifest in Matrimony or Holy Orders. We are healed and consoled in the Anointing which also prepares us for death. As we respond to Christ’s call, we gain spiritual strength through our personal and family prayers, our Sacramental life and our faithful study of the Bible and the Church’s teachings. 2) We need to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom: When we receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, we are sent forth to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom and to defend the Catholic Faith. Each of us Christians has received a unique call to preach the Good News of God’s love, mercy, forgiveness, and salvation through our daily life. This call challenges us to rebuild our lives, homes, and communities in the justice and peace that Jesus proclaims. As we continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us ask the Lord Jesus to give us the strength and perseverance to answer his calling, so that we may faithfully serve the Lord, doing His Divine will as best as we can by cooperating with His grace.

OT III [A] (Jan 22) Is 8:23—9:3, 1 Cor 1:10-13, 17, Mt 4:12-23

Homily starter anecdotes: # 1: Light and darkness: Terry Anderson, a journalist for the Associated Press, was seized and held hostage in Lebanon for seven years; blindfolded almost all of that time, Anderson described his experience in this way, “Deepest darkness, fumbling, uncertainties are frightening. More frightening is the darkness of the mind, when outside light makes no impression and inner lights go dim. . .” [Den of Lions, Crown Publishers, Inc. (New York: 1993).] In November of 1965, a power failure plunged seven northeastern U.S. states and Ontario, Canada, into a darkness which lasted for more than thirteen hours. About thirty million people living in eighty thousand square miles of territory were affected. In 1977, another, less severe, power failure darkened New York City for fifty-two minutes. Losses due to accidents and looting were in excess of one billion dollars. — In the Holy Scriptures, light and darkness serve as symbols for good and evil. In today’s first reading and in the Gospel, Jesus is presented as the One sent to remove the darkness of sin from the world. Through Isaiah, God promises that His people will see an end to the darkness of oppression and separation. Today’s Gospel shows us how the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled in Jesus. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

# 2: Remain in politics and exert a Christian influence there: Those of you who saw the remarkable film Amazing Grace (https://youtu.be/lqlcjI85gaY?list=PLHKcjlIaFmTQHWaOU6j4fwNo-0PHUDr4f) remember the story of William Wilberforce, a British politician who, after his conversion to Christianity, became England’s greatest anti-slavery advocate. It was through his tireless efforts that England eventually outlawed slavery, paving the way for the end of the slave-trade in the Western world. But William Wilberforce almost missed his calling. After his conversion, Wilberforce considered leaving politics for the ministry. He wasn’t sure how a Christian could live out his Faith in “the world.” Fortunately, Wilberforce turned to an Anglican clergyman, John Newton, for guidance. Newton was a former slave trader who had renounced the trade and entered the ministry, writing the the much-loved hymn, “Amazing Grace” as as a result of his conversion. Newton convinced Wilberforce that God had called him to remain in politics to exert a Christian influence there. — It was John Newton who gave William Wilberforce the wake-up call that kept him championing the cause of freedom for Britain’s slaves. Four men, fishermen by trade, were toiling at the nets beside the Sea of Galilee when they received a wake-up call from Jesus. And their whole world was turned upside down. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

#3: Light in darkness in the life of a football legend: Darryl Floyd Stingley (September 18, 1951 – April 5, 2007) was an American professional football player, a wide receiver whose career was ended at age 26 by an on-field spinal cord injury. Stingley had 110 receptions for 1,883 yards and 14 touchdowns in 60 regular season games for the Patriots. He also had 28 carries for 244 yards and two touchdowns, 19 punt returns for 136 yards and eight kickoff returns for 187 yards. He had over 500 combined yards rushing, receiving and returning both punt and kickoffs in 1973 and 1975. He finished his career with 2,450 combined yards rushing, receiving, and returning both punts and kickoffs. In a 1978 preseason game against the Oakland Raiders at Oakland Coliseum on August 12, Stingley was hit by Raiders defensive back Jack Tatum. As Stingley stretched for an errant pass, he and Tatum collided. Stingley’s helmet made contact with Tatum’s shoulder pad, compressing his spinal cord and breaking his fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae.[5] He eventually regained limited movement in his right arm, but spent the rest of his life, 30 years, as a quadriplegic in a wheel chair. The injury came just after Stingley had finished negotiating a contract extension that would have made him one of the highest paid receivers in the NFL. The new contract was to be announced when the Patriots returned from the West Coast. Instead, it was never signed.But Daryl never gave up; he trusted that God would show him His light in darkness. In an interview with Newsweek magazine, he insisted that his life was better after the accident. He told Chicago Tribune that the tragedy gave him a spiritual rebirth, enabling him to show some light to those in the darkness of despair.

— In today’s Gospel, Matthew describes Jesus’ public ministry in the Galilee of the Gentiles as the light prophesied by the prophet Isaiah. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darryl_Stingley). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

# 4:  St. John Henry Newman, (Cardinal Newman’s prayer for light in the darkness of life: 

Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom,
Lead thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home,–
Lead thou me on!
Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene,–one step enough for me. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

Introduction:   Today’s Scripture readings tell us that Christ has brought us into the Light (4:16), by calling us to repentance (4:17).

Scripture lessons summarized: The first reading contains the prophetic reference to Christ as the Light that dispels darkness. Matthew wanted his readers to recognize that the Light Isaiah spoke of had finally appeared with the coming of Jesus.  The refrain for today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 27) has us sing, The Lord is my Light and my Salvation, and the Psalm itself reminds us that with Him as our “life’s refuge,” we need fear no earthly power or threat. In the second reading, Paul advises the Corinthians to live as children of the Light, avoiding divisions and rivalries, because several factions had arisen among the Corinthians, each claiming allegiance to its first Christian teacher or to a particular Apostle,  which threatened to splinter the Community.  Today’s Gospel reading (Mt. 4:12-23) makes us realize that what had been prophesied by Isaiah was fulfilled through Jesus. In his ministry of calling  disciples and reforming lives, Jesus also brought Light to peoples in darkness, restoring and fulfilling God’s original promise.  His presence made a great difference in the life of the people of Capernaum as well as those of neighboring towns of Zebulon and Naphtali. His light was strongly felt because it brought healing and deliverance. In addition, the Gospel describes the call of the first disciples (4:18-22) and Jesus’ teaching and healing ministry, which invited people to repent of their sins and accept the Good News of God’s Kingdom, changing their lives to match their Faith.  Thus, the Gospel describes the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.

First Reading (Is 8: 23- 9:3) explained:  At the time of Isaiah the prophet, Israel was split into a northern kingdom called Israel, with the city of Samaria as its capital, and a southern kingdom known as Judah with Jerusalem as its capital.  Assyrian, Babylonian, and Roman invaders always came from “the north” – meaning they followed the trade routes and river routes. Two of Jacob’s sons, Zebulun and Naphtali, were apportioned territory west and north of the Sea of Galilee. Therefore, they would be the first to feel the brunt of an attack from an invading force. In fact, when Assyria destroyed the kingdom of Northern Israel around 720 BC, Zebulun and Naphtali were the first tribal lands to fall into the hands of the enemy. Later the Roman army would occupy the territory. Note that this area would include the towns of Nazareth and Capernaum. The people in the region around Galilee were overcome by gloom when their enemy, Assyria, conquered them and began among them the process of enculturation and paganization. The Assyrians forced intermarriage in the northern tribes of Zebulon and Naphtali. The descendants of these intermarriages became the despised Samaritans of Jesus’ day.  But Isaiah declares that God’s power is greater than the powers of darkness and assures them that “a great light” will lead them into “abundant joy.”  Jesus is “the great light” who leads us all out of the land of gloom.  By His death and Resurrection, He has assured us that darkness can never have the last word.  In his prophetic mind, Isaiah sees this as if it has already happened: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great Light…”  The Light he is talking about is the Light of God, which scatters the darkness of ignorance and sin.  No wonder Matthew quoted this very passage from the great prophet when he described the time Jesus went to the area around the Sea of Galilee and “began to preach”! Matthew wanted his readers to recognize that the Light Isaiah spoke of had finally appeared with the coming of Jesus.  Although the Judean Jews considered the Samaritan women unclean from the womb and their men godless blasphemers, Jesus came to them as the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah, bringing them light and salvation. Jesus shows that he is the “light” of hope, evident to all through his deeds of power (healing), preaching the Good News (about the arrival of the Kingdom of Heaven), and calling his first disciples (the apostles). His message is very clear and has two main elements: Repent, because the kingdom is at hand, and Follow Me, to learn how to spread the Good News and live this new life of love and service. The message is the same for us today, a timeless message that calls for immediate action from each of us.

Second Reading (I Cor 1:10-13, 17) explained:  Since Corinth was a wild and woolly place, Saint Paul needed to wield his authority there quite severely.  Throughout this letter, he is very concerned with preserving the unity of the Christian community. Several factions have arisen among his Corinthians, each claiming allegiance to its first Christian teacher or to a particular Apostle.  Paul wants the Christians to rise above these immature rivalries and to follow the humility and obedience of Jesus who emptied himself for them all.  Paul argues that people who live in the Light must avoid divisions and rivalries. The quarrel and division among them is a sign that they are not living in the light of Christ, for  Christ cannot be divided, nor can his message be changed to suit its hearers.  So, Paul urges his readers to heal all divisions in their community so they will be able to bear united witness to the Lord.  They need to keep their focus on Jesus Christ.

Gospel exegesis (Mt 4:12-23):

The center of Jesus’ public life.  After John was arrested, Jesus chose Galilee as the base for his teaching, preaching, and healing mission. That choice fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah (9:1-2).  Nazareth and Capernaum of Galilee were in the territory of Zebulon and Naphtali. It would seem that Jesus’ trip to Capernaum was made, not just as a missionary trip, but to establish Capernaum as his home base.  Capernaum by the sea was a small agricultural and fishing village of Galilee on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee.  Galilee was a small region with a large, mixed Jewish and Gentile population. Major trade routes passed through it. Hence, the Galileans were more open than the residents of Judea to new ideas. In addition, the western shore of the sea was occupied by many small but prosperous cities and towns. This provided Jesus with the chance to minister to many people within a reasonable walking distance.

Light in darkness: Matthew tells us that the people to whom Jesus brought his ministry had been sitting in darkness, but that Jesus’ coming had brought them a great Light.  The area was called the “Galilee of the Gentiles” because there was a large population of Hellenistic pagans mixed in with the Jews who had only recently begun to resettle a land devastated by earlier wars.  As a Jew in Roman-controlled territory, Jesus had located himself among the marginalized, with the poor not the wealthy, with the rural peasants not the urban elite, with the ruled not the rulers, with the powerless and exploited not the powerful, and with those who resisted Imperial demands rather than with those who enforced them. Thus, he began his ministry among the apparently small and insignificant places and people who, nevertheless, were central for God’s purposes. We, too, need to introduce Christ’s Light into the darkness of prejudice, war, abuse, social injustice, hunger, poverty, ignorance, greed, anger, vengeance, and apathy. We should seek and walk in the light of God, the good news. God’s light breaks our yoke. It shows us the way. It clears our doubts and fears and increases our confidence in God and in ourselves too.

Invitation to repentance:  Jesus used exactly the same words John the Baptist had used:  “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.” ‘Repent ’usually means to be sorry for or to regret some wrong actions we have done in the past. Jesus, however, is asking for much more than that. The call is not just to be sorry for past sins and to avoid them in the future. It is a call for a change of direction from now on and into the future, a right-about-turn from sin to God. The Greek word for repent is ‘metanoia, which implies a radical change in one’s thinking. It means looking at life in a completely new way. It is only when we begin to make this radical change that we begin to become part of that Kingdom and God starts ruling our lives.  When we come before God confessing, “I can’t do better,” then we are dying to self.  We are giving up control of our lives.  We are throwing our sinful lives on the mercy of God.  We are inviting God to do for us what we can’t do for ourselves — namely to raise the dead — to change and re-create us.  “Repent” is in the present tense — “Keep on repenting!”  “Continually be repentant!”  Repentance is the ongoing lifestyle of the people in the kingdom. We may not neglect the first step into the net of Jesus, the step of “repentance” – which is also the first teaching of Jesus (CCC#1989).

The Kingdom of Heaven is the theme of Jesus’ preaching. Matthew consistently uses the phrase “Kingdom of Heaven” instead of “Kingdom of God.”  Though the terms are synonymous, many Jews in those days preferred the use of “Kingdom of Heaven,” because of scruples about using God’s Name. The kingdom of God occurs when the will of God is established on earth, when the world becomes the way God wants it to be. (In Our Father prayer we pray: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.)”  That day will be good news for all of us because when we do God’s will, His kingdom is established, evil is destroyed, poverty, war, hatred, injustice, corruption, and violence will disappear. There will be abundance and peace, love and kindness, harmony and justice.  Hence, to be in God’s Kingdom or the Kingdom of Heaven, is not to be in a particular place, either in this life or the next. Rather it is to be living one’s life – wherever we are – under the loving Kingly and Fatherly power of God. It is to be in a relationship of loving surrender to one’s God and Lord and consequently to be in an environment where values like truth, love, compassion, justice, freedom, and peace prevail. In telling us that the Kingdom has come near, Jesus is telling us that we can dwell in this Kingdom right now, provided we repent or turn away from the idols that crowd our lives in order to let God reign in our lives.

The call of the Apostles: While the Evangelists Luke and John allowed time for the disciples to find out more about Jesus before they were called, Matthew did no such thing. He immediately shows Jesus calling two sets of fishermen brothers — Simon (later renamed Peter) & Andrew and James & John. And except for telling them “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men,” He gives no indication about what following him will entail — where they are going and what they will do. (Some Scripture scholars point out that Jesus moved permanently to Capernaum because he was rejected by his home-town people of Nazareth and was welcomed at the house of Peter. Andrew and Peter were his first disciples and John and James who were called next, were probably Jesus’ cousins). Matthew is not concerned with those details. His concern is that Jesus, about to begin his public ministry recognizes that he needs human assistance so that he can become the ‘great light,’ and shine on the people. Jesus invites these four to become his disciples, and they respond immediately, leaving their nets, their boats, and James and John their father, Zebedee, as well, to follow Jesus.   Usually rabbinical students sought out their teachers and attached themselves to the rabbi they had chosen.  However, Jesus, as rabbi, takes the initiative and calls what are apparently less-than-ideal candidates to be his students. The disciples are simple working people with no great background.  In Cicero’s ranking of occupations (De Off 1.150-51), owners of cultivated land appear first and fishermen last.  What Jesus needed, then, were ordinary folk who would give him themselves.  What Christ needs today is not our ability, but our availability.  What Jesus taught his first disciples was not a course of study, but a way of life to follow. Hence, he offered these men the opportunity to observe him close at hand on a daily basis.   How did the first four disciples respond to Jesus’ call? In St. Matthew’s words, “At once they left their nets and followed him.” They put their total trust in him, leaving behind everything — their fishing nets, their parents and families–not knowing where it would all lead. Given the relatively small size of Lower Galilee and close proximity of the Galilean places named in the Gospel, there is no need to assume that those who followed Jesus never returned home again. The Church responds to Jesus by reminding us that the call from Jesus is “personal” for each one of us. It is then our responsibility to be a personal witness within the common mission of spreading the good news (CCC#878).

Fishers of men: In the ancient world, fishing was a metaphor for two distinct activities: judgment and teaching.  Fishing for people meant bringing them to justice by dragging them out of their hiding places and setting them before the judge.  Fishing as teaching people meant leading them from ignorance to wisdom. Both cases involved a radical change of environment, a break with a former way of life and an entrance upon a new way of life.  We are the fish dragged out of the water in the nets to die so that God may give us  a resurrection, a new life, a new family, a new future, all under God’s control, all within the Kingdom of Heaven which has come near in Jesus.  We have very little control over our own lives, but as fish caught in the net of God’s love, we can trust that we are under God’s control.  We have to believe that being captured by God’s love, being commanded by Him to repent, die to self, and to obey Him, and that being raised to a new life by God is not only right for us, but is a message we need to share with the entire world.  For the moment, ‘Jesus is the Light’ which the people in darkness are rejoicing to see; but he will soon say to his followers, ‘You are the light of the world,’ and that is his purpose in choosing his followers.

Jesus’ teaching ministry: “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.” For Matthew, Jesus’ teaching was of much greater significance than his miracles.  Indeed, his teaching took precedence even over preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom.  Jesus taught in their synagogues.  There was only one Temple, located in Jerusalem, but every village of any size had a synagogue where people gathered to worship and to learn.  Teaching was at the heart of synagogue life.  The service consisted of prayers, readings from the Scriptures, and an address.  The ruler of the synagogue could invite any qualified man to give the address.  The synagogue, then, was the natural place for Jesus to begin His teaching ministry.  The last two verses (24-25), of this chapter, not included in this lesson, emphasize Jesus’ healing ministry and the effect it had on people.  Great crowds came from near and far to follow Jesus.  The activities of Jesus are summarized in the last verse of our text: teaching, preaching, and healing — perhaps in simpler terms: words and deeds.  Our words and deeds need to be addressed, not just to Church people or to our parishioners, but to all with whom we have contact.

Life messages: 1) We need to appreciate our call to be Christ’s disciples: Every one of us is called by God, both individually and as Church members. The mission of preaching, teaching, and healing which Jesus began in Galilee is now the responsibility of the Church.  Our own unique vocation and relationship with the risen Lord is never separated from the Body of the universal Church.  Be we monk, priest, married, or single lay persons, male or female, we are all called, and in this call we become what God wants us to be.   Our response to the call begins with our Baptism and Confirmation, the Sacraments of Initiation. That response is strengthened through the years by the Eucharist and Reconciliation, and is made manifest in Matrimony or Holy Orders. We are healed and consoled in the Anointing which also prepares us for death.  In addition, God is relentless in calling us back to Himself when we stray from Him.  Let us make personal efforts, then, to see the Light of Christ and to grow in holiness by learning the truths that are revealed through the Holy Catholic Church and its Sacraments.  Let us be shining lights in the world as Christ was, and let us and make a personal effort to bring others to the Truth and the Light, so that they may rejoice with us in the Church, the mystical Body of Christ, the present, developing form of the Kingdom of God.

2) God sends us to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom:Jesus traveled throughout Galilee, teaching in the synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness among the people” (Mt. 4:23). Equally today, the Word of God, the promoting of the Good News of the Kingdom of Heaven, heals all kinds of ills. The Word of God transforms hearts so that victims may forgive those who have harmed them, those who have physically sexually, or psychologically abused them. When we receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, we are sent forth to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom and to defend the Catholic Faith. Like Peter, James, and John, we are asked by Jesus to take on the work of discipleship; we are asked to leave our “fishing nets” — our own needs and wants — to follow the example of love and servanthood given to us by Jesus; we are asked to rebuild our lives, homes, and cities in the justice and peace that Jesus proclaims. As we continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us ask the Lord Jesus to give us the strength and perseverance to answer His calling so that we may faithfully serve the Lord according to His Divine Will.

3) We need to become the light of the world as Jesus was the Light in darkness: The mission and  role of Christians is to receive the light of Christ and radiate it to everyone as love, kindness, mercy, forgiveness, humble service, and respect for those with different ethnic backgrounds, different lifestyles, other faiths, or no faith at all.  With a little bit of Christ’s Light, we become a veritable lighthouse, illuminating the way for many and removing the darkness caused by hatred, spite and jealousy.

JOKE SOF THE WEEK

1) Teaching ministry: A pastor told his congregation, “Next week I plan to preach about the sin of lying.  To help you understand my sermon, I want you all to read Mark 17.” The following Sunday, as he prepared to deliver his sermon, the minister asked for a show of hands.  He wanted to know how many had read Mark 17.  Every hand went up.  The minister smiled and said, “Mark has only 16 chapters. I will now proceed with my sermon on the sin of lying.”

2) God’s Chosen People absent in China? Two Jews Sid and Al were sitting in a Chinese restaurant. “Sid,” asked Al, “Are there any Jews in China?” “I don’t know,” Sid replied. “Why don’t we ask the waiter?” When the waiter came by, Al said, “Do you have any Chinese Jews?” “I don’t know sir, let me ask,” the waiter replied, and he went into the kitchen. He quickly returned and said, “No, sir. No Chinese Jews.” “Are you sure?” Al asked. “I will check with our manager, sir.” the waiter replied and went back to the kitchen. While he was still gone, Sid said, “I cannot believe there are no Jews in China. Our people are scattered everywhere.” When the waiter returned, he said, “Sir, no Chinese Jews.” “Are you really sure?” Al asked again. “I cannot believe you have no Chinese Jews.” “Sir, I asked everyone,” the waiter replied exasperated. “We have orange juice, prune juice, tomato juice and grape juice, but no one ever heard of Chinese juice!”

3) “Think about your face and cut the homily.” The story is told about a pastor that got up in the pulpit and apologized for the Band-Aid on his face. He said, “I was thinking about my homily while shaving and cut my face.” Afterward the trustee found a note in the collection plate, “Next time, think about your face and cut the homily.”

USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK (For homilies & Bible study groups)

1)Fr. Nick’s collection of Sunday homilies from 65 priests & weekday homilies: https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies

2) Fr. Don’ collection of video homilies & blogs: https://sundayprep.org/featured-homilies/ (Copy it on the Address bar and press the Enter button)

3) Fr. Geoffrey Plant’s beautiful & scholarly video classes on Sunday gospel, Bible & RCIA topics https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant20663) 

4) Dr. Brant Pitre’s commentary on Cycle A Sunday Scripture for Bible Class: https://catholicproductions.com/blogs/mass-readings-explained-year-Biblical basis of Catholic doctrines: http://scripturecatholic.com/ 

5) Agape Catholic Bible Lessons: http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/

6) Searching the Scriptures: http://www.searchingthescriptures.net/

7)Video Sunday-Scripture study by Fr. Geoffrey Plant: https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant2066

 8)Text Week sermons on OT 3 (A): http://www.textweek.com/mtlk/matt4b.htm

21- Additional anecdotes: 

1 Be fishers of men!  On Feb. 2, 2006, President George W. Bush hosted the 64th annual National Prayer Breakfast. This is a bi-partisan event that draws hundreds of politicians, clergy, and other guests each year to the White House. The National Prayer Breakfast is an interfaith gathering: Christians, Jews and even a few Muslims are all included and given time to make remarks. King Abdullah of Jordan was in attendance as a guest of honor. The speaker that day was the rock star known as Bono, lead singer of the group U2. [A few months back we shared with you the remarkable message about caring for the world’s poor that Bono gave to this distinguished audience.] Here is something else Bono had to say: “A number of years ago,” said Bono, “I met a wise man who changed my life. In countless ways, large and small, I was always seeking the Lord’s blessing. I was saying, you know, I have a new song, look after it . . . I have a family, please look after them . . . I have this crazy idea . . “And this wise man said: “Stop!” He said, stop asking God to bless what you’re doing. Get involved in what God is doing — because it’s already blessed.” — Get involved in what God is doing. What a radical idea! Don’t spend so much time asking God to bless what you are doing. Rather, ask God to show you what God is doing, and join in. Bono believes God is calling him to be an advocate for the poor. He said to the National Prayer Breakfast, “Well, God, as I said, is with the poor. That, I believe, is what God is doing. And that is what He’s calling us to do.” All Christians should be committed to helping the poor, but it may not be our chief emphasis. There are people in the medical field who feel called of God to help in the healing of bodies. Some in teaching believe their calling from God is to help little boys and girls’ minds to grow. A plumber can be a Christian plumber, doing honest, helpful work and sharing a positive Christian witness to everyone he serves.  (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).L/23

2) Delivery Room suspense: Three men were pacing nervously outside the delivery room at a hospital when the head nurse came out beaming.  To the first she said, “Congratulations, sir, you are the father of twins.” “Terrific!” said the man, “I just signed a contract with the Minnesota Twins, and this’ll be great press.” To the second man the nurse said, “Congratulations to you too.  You are the father of healthy triplets!” “Fantastic!” he said.  “I’m the vice-president of 3-M Company. This’ll be great P.R.!” At that point the third man turned ashen and ran for the door. “What’s wrong, sir?  Where are you going?” called the nurse. As he jumped into his car, the man shouted, “I’m dashing to my office to resign.  I’m the president of 7-UP!”  (Msgr. Dennis Clarke). –John the Baptist and Jesus surprised the self-righteous Jews by their call to repentance. Today’s Gospel, from the fourth chapter of Matthew, offers us Christians an equally surprising and shocking announcement by Jesus: “Repent; the Kingdom of God is near.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

3) “Do you want the brainiest or do you want the holiest?” John McKay, the former coach of the University of Southern California Trojans once said that it is not the superstars who win most football games but average players giving their best. In the play, Green Pastures, God asks Gabriel to recruit a leader and Gabriel asks in return, “Do you want the brainiest or do you want the holiest?” God answers, “Get me the holiest. I’ll make him the brainiest.” In a little town in the Swiss Alps there is a monument with two figures on it. One is a cultured scientist, the author of many books. The other is a poor Swiss peasant, an Alpine guide. Together they had conquered a great mountain. The scientist’s name made all of the newspapers, but the monument contains both figures because the great scientist could never have made the ascent without the humble guide. — Beginning with the crude manager of Bethlehem, no message is clearer in the New Testament than this one: Christian Faith is the celebration of ordinary people who come to possess a very extraordinary power. When you are asked to serve God in some capacity, don’t talk yourself out of a great opportunity by saying, “I’m too old,” or “I don’t have enough education,” or using some other personal putdown. God can give you the ability. What He can’t give you is willingness to say “yes” and act on it. That must come from our free choice. That is why God always prefers the holiest to the brainiest. The first disciples that Jesus called were ordinary fishermen. (Rev. King Duncan) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

4) Novel way of presenting the Kingdom of God: Jesus came preaching, “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” What was there about that Kingdom that got these fishermen so excited? And why are we not just as excited? It reminds me of a woman who read somewhere that dogs were healthier if fed a tablespoon of cod liver oil each day. So, each day she followed the same routine: she chased her dog until she caught it, wrestled it down, and managed to force the fishy remedy down the dog’s throat. One day, in the middle of this grueling medical effort, the bottle was kicked over. With a sigh, she loosened her grip on the dog so she could wipe up the mess. To her surprise the dog trotted over to the puddle and began lapping up what had been spilled. The dog loved cod liver oil. It was just the owner’s method of application the dog objected to. (Bill McNabb and Steven Mabry, Awaken Your Students to Scripture). — Sometimes, I think something like that has happened to the Good News of the Kingdom of God. It has been so poorly presented to us that we have never been captured by its attractiveness and its power. (Rev. King Duncan) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

5) They kept the stock in Apple Computer for themselves: Jim Egan worked at the West Coast Computer Fair in 1977. His job was to help customers decorate their booths. Industry shows are the cheapest way to reach customers within the trade, but some undercapitalized entrepreneurs hardly have enough to rent a booth, let alone pay for the decorations. Egan was approached by a couple of long-haired kids who wanted some chrome displays to make their booth “look flashy.” Egan said he had the displays, but they were for rent. The kids said they were short of cash, but perhaps Egan might like some stock in their new company. Egan, who had seen them come and go in his twenty years in the business, said he would accept only hard cash. So, Steve Wozniak and Steven Jobs did without the chrome, fixed up their booth, and kept the stock in Apple Computer for themselves. Presumably, Jim Egan is still decorating booths for hard cash. (Peter Hay, The Book of Business Anecdotes, p. 212). —  Sometimes it is a good thing to catch fire from someone else. The story of the New Testament is the story of men and women who got close enough to Jesus to catch fire from Him. Doesn’t it amaze you to see how quickly the disciples left their fishing nets to follow Jesus? (Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn)  (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).(https://frtonyshomilies.com/). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

6) “Please know that the management forgives you.” J. Edwin Orr, a former professor of Church History, described the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit during the Welsh Revivals of the nineteenth century. As people sought the infilling of the Spirit, they did all they could to confess wrongdoings and to make restitution. This unexpectedly created severe problems for the shipyards along the coast of Wales. Over the years, workers had pilfered all kinds of things. Everything from wheelbarrows to hammers had been stolen. However, as people sought to be right with God, they started to return what they had taken, with the result that soon the shipyards of Wales were overwhelmed with returned property. There were such huge piles of returned tools that several of the yards had to put up signs that read, IF YOU HAVE BEEN LED BY GOD TO RETURN WHAT YOU HAVE STOLEN, PLEASE KNOW THAT THE MANAGEMENT FORGIVES YOU AND WISHES YOU TO KEEP WHAT YOU HAVE TAKEN. (Tony Campolo, How to Be Pentecostal (Dallas: Word, 1991), pp. 92-93.) — Wouldn’t you love to see that kind of revival sweep this nation? Couldn’t you get excited about a world in which people began making restitution for their wrongs? Couldn’t you get excited about a world in which you could always trust people to do the right thing because God lived in their hearts? Couldn’t you get excited about a world without child-abuse, without murder, without broken families, or drug addiction? In order to enter this Kingdom of God, Jesus challenges us in today’s Gospel to repent and renew our lives. (Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

7) “Lead kindly light…” In 1833, there was a young theologian and Anglican vicar, John Henry Newman (1801-90; he was converted to the Roman Catholic Church, ordained a priest, made a Cardinal. In 2019 he was canonized by Pope Francis). He was traveling in the Mediterranean when he was struck down by a fever that nearly killed him. “My servant thought I was dying and begged for my last directions,” he recalled in his autobiography. ”I gave them as he wished, but I said, ‘I shall not die, for I have not sinned against light.”‘ Newman recovered slowly but felt desperately homesick. On the way back to England, he took an orange boat sailing from Palermo to Marseilles; the boat was becalmed in the Straits of Bonifacio. Thus stranded, in an exhausted and emotional state, Newman was impelled to write this verse as a meditative poem called  “The Pillar of the Cloud,” expressive of his longing for consoling Christian certainties in an age of mounting doubt (The Telegraph, 22 Sept, 2007). —  Newman probably had in mind the prophecy of Isaiah given in today’s first reading “The people who walked in the darkness have seen a great light.” We too have our moments of darkness. The death of a lifelong spouse, an unexpected rejection by a loved one, a smashed dream of business success or the loss of good health can throw us into temporary darkness. But in these tragic moments, true believers have in the past seen the light of Christ, a light that illumines the shadows of our hearts with the radiance of his splendor, guiding us to travel safely over the tempestuous sea of life. (Vima Dasan in His Word Lives; quoted by Fr. Botelho) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

8) The Light she lit is still burning. Mother Teresa gives us a beautiful example of a man who was brought out of darkness into the light. One day in Melbourne, Australia, she visited a poor man whom nobody knew existed. The room in which he was living was in a terrible state of untidiness and neglect. There was no light in the room. The man hardly ever opened the blinds. He hadn’t had a friend in the world. She started to clean and tidy the room. At first, he protested, saying, “Leave it alone. It’s all right as it is.” But she went ahead anyway. Under a pile of rubbish, she found a beautiful oil lamp, but it was covered with dirt. She cleaned and polished it. Then she asked him, “How come you never light the lamp?” “Why should I light it?” he replied. “No one ever comes to see me. I never see anybody.” “Will you promise to light it if one of my sisters comes to see you?” “Yes,” he replied. “If I hear a human voice, I’ll light the lamp.” Two of Mother Teresa’s nuns began to visit him on a regular basis. Things gradually improved for him. —  Then one day he said to the nuns, “Sisters, I’ll be able to manage on my own from now on. But do me a favour. Tell that first Sister, who came to see me, that the light she lit in my life is still burning.” (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

9) Copper-kettle Christian: A woman who was studying the Bible, went to her basement and made an interesting discovery. Some potatoes had sprouted in the darkest corner of the room. At first, she couldn’t figure out how they had received enough light to grow. Then she noticed that she had hung a copper kettle from a rafter near a cellar window. She kept it so brightly polished that it reflected the rays of the sun onto the potatoes. She said, “When I saw that reflection, I thought, ‘I may not be a preacher or a teacher with the ability to expound upon Scripture, but at least I can be a copper kettle Christian, catching the rays of Christ and reflecting His light to someone in a dark corner.’” — Today’s Scripture lesson tells us that Christ came as a Light and brought us into the Light by calling us to repentance and to the Kingdom of God. (Fr. Chirakkal). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

10) Their faces said it all: A historian tells us that many, many years ago, a group of prospectors set out from Bannock, Montana, in search of gold. For days together they had to endure many hardships and cope with severe weather changes, so that some of them, unable to cope, actually perished. Undeterred, the rest persisted until one day they ran into a gang of ruthless Indians, who seized their horses and belongings and left them with a few limping ponies. Releasing them, the Red Indians warned them never to return for, the next time, their lives would be at risk. The crestfallen group began their return journey very disappointed. At night they decided to stop by a stream and camp. One of the men entered the stream and noticed something unusual about one stone. So he lifted it up and cracked it open and realized that they had struck gold right there. And so his companions joined and they made a reasonable haul. The next day they discovered even more and were absolutely ecstatic. The following day they returned to Bannock, in order to bring all the equipment and horses necessary to collect their treasure. And they vowed that they would not tell anyone of their extraordinary discovery. When they decided to set out, they found themselves surrounded by 300 equally excited gold prospectors. Somebody seemed to have spilled the beans! -The fact of the matter is that no one had let out their secret. But the others saw their ecstatic joy on their faces and sensed there certainly was a very good reason. So, they decided to join, fully assured that soon they too would be as jubilantly happy as the others. The successful prospectors’ beaming faces had literally betrayed their secret! — Do our faces reveal that we have found the greatest treasure: Jesus Christ? (James Valladares in Your Words, O Lord, Are Spirit, and They Are Life; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

11) Ready to follow, no matter what the cost? Have you heard the story of Pizarro, the conqueror of Peru? The Spaniards came to know that the rivers of Peru were flowing with gold and people could just pick up gold from these rivers. Pizarro got together a band of men who were fond of adventure and eager to get gold. They crossed the Atlantic and crossed the Isthmus of Panama. The travel was not easy, and they had troubled times. On the sea there were storms and over land poisonous snakes and wild animals. There was no food, and the band of men had to face many difficulties and therefore decided to return to Spain. Pizarro drew out his sword and drew a line on the sand with his sword that separated north and south. Then he said to his band of soldiers, “Comrades, on the south of this line there lie famine, perils, nakedness, trials, and death, while on the north there lie pleasure, ease, and comfort. As for me I go south,” and he stepped over the line on the south. — Seven men followed him not for love of the gold but because they loved him and trusted him and wanted to sacrifice everything. That is why we remember them as the seven immortals of Peru.
(Elias Dias in Divine Stories for Families; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

12) The Arrival of the Light: Some Alpine valleys are so deep that the rays of the sun do not reach them for days or even weeks in the middle of winter. These days can be very depressing ones for the people who live in the valleys. It is almost as if life were one long night. A priest who ministered in one of those valleys tells the following story. One day in the depths of winter he was in the classroom chatting with the children, who hadn’t seen the sun for nine days. Then all of a sudden, a ray of sunshine shone into the classroom. On seeing it the children climbed on to their desks and cheered for sheer joy. It shows that even though the sun may not touch the skin it can warm the soul. — The little incident shows how light is a source of great joy. For sick people the night is the hardest of all times. How they welcome those first rays of light which signal the end of the night and the dawning of the day. The coming of electricity to rural Ireland transformed life for those living in the country. (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

13) Film: Finding Private Ryan (Embrace your mission in life).
It is June 6, 1944, D-Day. The Allied troops land on Omaha Beach in Normandy. Captain Miller is a squadron leader. After the deadly and horror-filled landing, he is asked to lead his men on a special mission of dubious merit to find a Private James Ryan. Ryan is one of four sons in the U.S. military and, when the other three are killed, top military officials in Washington want the surviving son returned home to his mother. Miller and six men take on the mission. In an American-occupied town, they find the wrong Private Ryan. They continue on and encounter a German guard-post where a sniper kills one of the men. The translator, Corporal Upham, persuades Miller not to kill the sniper, and they let him go. They eventually find the right Ryan in a squad defending a bridge, but he refuses to leave. During an attack, Upham cowers in fear while the sniper they had released shoots one of the team. Miller is also killed, but U.S. planes save the troops and the bridge is held. Upham confronts the sniper and kills him. Private Ryan is saved. Decades later, Ryan and his family visit Miller’s grave in France. — Each one of us has a mission. We have to discover our mission and fulfill that mission to find fulfillment in life.
(Peter Malone in Lights Camera…. Faith! Quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

14) Repent and Believe the Good News: In November of 1984 on one of his PBS Late Night America Shows, Dennis Wholey confessed that he was an alcoholic. He went on to describe a book he had put together entitled The Courage to Change: Personal Conversations about Alcoholism with Dennis Wholey. The book contains frank and revealing conversations with a wide variety of celebrity alcoholics such as rock singer Grace Slick, baseball player Bob Welch, actor Jason Robards, comedian Shecky Greene and Catholic priest Vaughan Quinn. Also, there are heartfelt conversations with Rod Steiger and Jerry Falwell, who are children of alcoholics; and Sybil Carter, whose husband Billy is an alcoholic. Four years earlier, Dennis Wholey had confronted his own problem with alcohol and then went on a mission with his book to help other victims of what is sometimes called “the most treatable untreated disease in this country.” — Dennis Wholey’s message in The Courage to Change matches our Lord’s message in Mark’s Gospel: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe the good news.” (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

15) Let There Be No Factions: In today’s second reading, St. Paul warns the Corinthians – and all Christians – against factions: “Be united in mind and judgment.” It should be unnecessary to tell those joined by Baptism into Christ’s mystical body to avoid fighting each other, but, unfortunately, we, and all human beings, are prone to quarreling. In some tragic cases, throughout the history of the church, Catholics have not only quarreled, but let their quarrels end up in schism. Schism means withdrawal from, and denial of the authority Christ gave to his Church and its Shepherds. Some schisms have been large and have remained unhealed even after centuries. Others have been small, sometimes, permanent, sometimes (thank God) brief. All have involved unchristian bitterness. In the 1850’s there was a small schism in a parish in Rochester, New York, which serves as a good illustration. The issue debated was control by the laity of Church funds and of Pastoral appointments. From as early as 1785, people in some American Catholic parishes had been embattled with Catholic Church authorities over these matters of control. One cause of the trouble was that the state laws for parish incorporation were designed for Protestant parishes, in which, unlike Catholic parishes, laymen were allowed to manage funds and hire or fire pastors. Wherever Catholic laypeople interpreted the State law in a Catholic way, a “trustee” corporation could work out the interpretation. The trouble was that lay Catholic trustees so often abused their powers – even violently – that the American bishops had to forbid this type of lay participation entirely. Gradually, from 1829 to 1850, the bishops were able to put an end to most of these factional quarrels. But not to all. In the 1850’s, in a handful of American Catholic parishes, “trusteeists” decided to make a last stand. One was the German Catholic parish of St. Peter’s Rochester. Here the ringleaders were so bitter that they even worked hand-in-glove with the Know-nothings (an anti-Catholic political party) to get a state law passed demanding that Catholic parishes incorporate according to the Protestant form. When the bishop (John Timon of Buffalo) suspended Church services at St. Peter’s as a countermove, they replied by incorporating a new parish called “The Christ Catholic St. Stephen’s Congregation.” This was schism. Even though they used the adjective “Catholic,” they were no longer a part of the Catholic Church, and no Catholic could attend worship there in good conscience. Fortunately, the dissidents came to their senses eventually. By 1862 Bishop Timon had received all but one back into the Catholic fold. The Catholic parish was reincorporated under the name “Ss. Peter and Paul,” and as such it still functions. — Even today, however, Catholics can be tempted to schism. Factions still arise and some Catholics even leave the Church to worship at other churches that may call themselves “Catholic” but are not in union with either the local Catholic bishop or through him, with the Pope. Schism has often been called “tearing apart of the seamless robe of Christ” – that is, splitting the people of God into parts. Christ prayed “that all may be one.” Those who foster disunion are therefore enemies of Christ’s prayer. (Fr. Robert F. McNamara). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

16) O.K. boys, head ‘em up, and move ‘em out.” Clint Eastwood is an American film icon. Who can forget Dirty Harry and the huge 45 caliber Magnum he carried, more a cannon than a pistol, or the sneering invitation, “Make my day!”? But long before he was Dirty Harry, Eastwood was Rowdy Yates on the TV show Rawhide. — There is an important hand gesture I remember from that boyhood drama. On horseback, the trail boss would lift his hand, index finger up, make a rapid circling motion in the air, then point ahead with these words, “O.K. boys, head ‘em up, and move ‘em out.” It was a call to a long, tough, trail ride with the promise of adventure along the way and a payout at the end. — That is the gesture I see Jesus making in these call stories. “Simon, Andrew, James, John, head ‘em up, and move ‘em out.’ Follow me, and I will help you corral people for God,” or, in the case of their work, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”(Rev. Phil Thrailkill). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

17) To what is your life committed? For a multitude of people today it could be summed up in one word: MONEY. Even Christian people are bowing before the god, Mammon. We do this even though we know we can’t take it with us. Chuck Swindoll in his book, Strengthening Your Grip (Waco: Word Books, 1982), gives one of the most delightful illustrations of that truth that I know. He tells about a minister friend of his who was in need of a dark suit to wear to a funeral. He had very little money so he went to the local pawn shop in search of a bargain. Much to his amazement they had a solid black suit that fit him exactly at a very reasonable price. As he paid for the suit, he inquired how they could possibly sell such nice suits so cheaply. The pawnbroker smiled and said that the suits had once been owned by the local mortuary. They had used them on deceased persons for funerals, then removed them before the burial. The minister felt a little uncomfortable wearing a suit that had been on a corpse, but since no one else would know, and he really did need a suit badly, why not? Everything went fine until about midway through the sermon. While he was talking he casually started to put his hands in the pockets of his new suit…It was then that he discovered that his pants had no pockets. And the truth came home to him. Why would a dead man need pockets? — We leave it all behind. Let me ask the question again. To what or to whom is your life committed? Today’s reading from Matthew’s Gospel is about a group of men who were called by Jesus to be his disciples. It is about Simon and Andrew and James and John, four fishermen, but it is also about you and me, because we have been called to be disciples as well. We have been called to be committed to something that is eternal, that is ennobling, that is earthshaking. What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? (Rev. King Duncan). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

18) The church will be filled: An orchestra was giving a concert in a large church hall in England. The place was absolutely jam-packed. Afterwards a casual member of that church very flippantly asked the pastor of the church when the hall would ever be filled like that for Sunday morning worship. The pastor answered solemnly, “It will be filled when, like that conductor, I have eighty well-trained, committed and disciplined men and women to work with me.” How the church needs that today! (Rev. King Duncan). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

19) “Don’t get too close to people or you’ll catch their dreams.” A few years back there was a movie titled, Tucker. [Tucker: The Man and His Dream is a 1988 American biographical comedy-drama film directed by Francis Ford Coppola, starring Jeff Bridges, and about real-life inventor Preston Tucker.  Google.] It tells the story of Inventor Preston Tucker who tried to fight the Detroit automobile industry by attempting to introduce a car named after himself. In one scene, Tucker is talking about how his mother came from the old country. She was Italian and had a very heavy accent. Tucker remembered that for years when he was young she said to him, “Don’t get too close to people, you’ll catch their dreams.” What she was really saying in broken English was, “Don’t get too close to people, you’ll catch their germs.” But Tucker grew up thinking she was telling him, “Don’t get too close to people or you’ll catch their dreams.” — Sometimes it is a good thing to catch someone else’s dream. The story of the New Testament is the story of men and women who got close enough to Jesus to catch his dream. Doesn’t it amaze you how quickly the disciples left their fishing nets to follow Jesus? (Rev. King Duncan). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

20) “It was the Christians who did everything!” When the missionaries were forced to leave China in 1951, and Christians began to be oppressed by the Communist government, the future of the church seemed bleak. In the preceding decades of western mission work, many of the approximately one million Protestant communicants had become “rice Christians,” accepting the forms of Christianity more for personal gain than genuine conviction. When the pressures began to mount, they soon fell away. With the coming of the Cultural Revolution and the suppression of all institutional religious functions, it seemed that Christianity in China was doomed. Yet during this period of terrible persecution, committed Christians, not afraid to defy the principalities of this world, began to meet secretly in their homes. When regular church services were outlawed during the “Great Leap Forward,” these informal cottage meetings became the primary structure of the church. As their pastors were killed or imprisoned, members of the laity came forward to provide leadership. Women especially took an active role. When their houses were searched by the Red Guards, and all Bibles and Christian literature destroyed, the people drew upon their memory of Scripture and shared experiences to build up one another in the faith. As the Christians in these small groups displayed extraordinary courage, zeal, and love, the Gospel spread to their neighbors and fellow workers. Freely they gave their own food and clothing to the needy and poor “especially to those whose breadwinners had been killed or thrown into prison. They visited the bereaved and prayed for the sick, often seeing God miraculously heal. Typical was the way some believers cared for a Communist school teacher who became seriously ill. So genuine was their compassion, that upon her recovery she, too, accepted Christ, only to suffer public ridicule on return to her work. Required to appear at a public “confession” meeting, she protested: “When I was ill, you did nothing to help me. It was the Christians who did everything!” — That fact shamed her critics into silence. Today the church of Jesus Christ in Communist China is alive and growing because individual Christians did their part to be fishers of men. (Rev. King Duncan) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/). L/23

 “Scriptural Homilies” Cycle A (No. 12) by Fr. Tony: akadavil@gmail.com

Visit my website by clicking on https://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle A homilies, 141 Year of FaithAdult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at akadavil@gmail.com. Visit http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html for the Vatican version of this homily and  the CBCI website https://cbci.in/SundayReflectionsNew.aspx?&id=cG2JDo4P6qU=&type=text. for a full version Or https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies  under Fr. Tony or under CBCI for my website version.  Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604

January 16-21 weekday homilies

Jan 16-21: Click on http://frtonyshomilies.comfor missed homilies:

Jan 16 Monday: Mk 2:18-22:18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 19 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. 21 No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; if he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but new wine is for fresh skins.”

The context: Today’s Gospel passage gives Jesus’ reply to the question raised, perhaps by some well-meaning Pharisees who were disciples of John the Baptist, asking why Jesus’ disciples ate and drank and feasted, while they (John the Baptist’s disciples), and the Pharisees in general, fasted and prayed. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving were the three cardinal religious practices — the “good deeds”– of Jewish religious life.

Jesus’ reply: Jesus responded to their sincere question using three metaphors: the metaphor of the “children of the bridal chamber,” the metaphor of patching torn clothing, and the metaphor of wineskins. First, Jesus compared his disciples with the children of the bridal chamber. These were the selected friends of the bride and groom who feasted in the company of the bride and groom during a week of honeymoon. Nobody expected them to fast. Jesus assured the questioners that his disciples would fast when he, the Bridegroom, was taken away from them. In other words, fasting is necessary when we sin, and our union with Christ begins to fade, as happens when we get addicted to evil habits and evil tendencies, leading us to sin. As Catholic Christians, we are uniquely blessed to experience Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist. In the same way, we are to welcome both the joys of Christian life and the crosses it offers us. But Joy is the chief characteristic of a Christian – joy even in tribulation. Using the comparisons of the danger of using new, unshrunken cloth to make a patch for an old garment, or old wineskins to store new, still-fermenting wine, Jesus told the questioners that they must have more elastic and open minds and larger hearts to understand and follow his new ideas which were, in many cases, different from traditional Jewish teachings. Jesus is challenging us to be open to radical transformation so that we may receive him and, with his grace, reflect his love, mercy, and forgiveness to others.

Life message: 1) We need to be adjustable Christians with open and elastic minds and hearts. The Holy Spirit, working actively in the Church and guiding the Church’s teaching authority (the Magisterium), enables the Church to put into practice new visions, new ideas, new adaptations, and new ways of worship in place of old ones. So, we should have the generosity and good will to follow the teachings of the Church. 2) At the same time, we need the Old Testament revelations, the New Testament teachings, and the Sacred Tradition of the Church as main sources of our Christian Faith. 3) We need to gain spiritual strength by fasting, prayer, and penance, especially when we separate ourselves from Christ by our sins .Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/23

For additional reflections, click on: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

Jan 17 Tuesday: (Saint Anthony, Abbot) (https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-anthony-of-egypt) Mk 2:23-28: 23 As Jesus was passing through a field of grain on the Sabbath, His disciples began to make a path, picking the heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath; 28 so the Son of man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

The context: Today’s Gospel passage gives Jesus’ teaching on the purpose of the Sabbath and on its proper observance. This was his response to a criticism and a silly accusation made by Pharisees against his disciples. On a Sabbath, to satisfy their hunger, the disciples had plucked ears of grain from a field, removing the husks by rubbing the grain between their palms and blowing away the chaff. The Pharisees accused them of violating Sabbath laws by performing three items of work forbidden on the Sabbath, namely, harvesting, threshing, and winnowing. God Himself, the originator of the Sabbath (Gn 2:3), ordered the Jewish people to avoid certain kinds of work on this day (Ex 20:8-11; 21:13; Dt 5:14) to leave them free to give more time to God. As time went by, the rabbis complicated this Divine precept. By Jesus’ time they had extended the list to 39 kinds of forbidden work (Navarre Bible Commentary).

Counter-arguments: According to Matthew, Jesus gives three counter-arguments from Holy Scripture defending the apostles. But Mark gives only one of those arguments. Jesus argues that basic human needs, like hunger, take precedence over Divine worship and Sabbath observance. In other words, the commandment to keep the Sabbath holy does not come before the duty to seek basic sustenance. Jesus cites from Scripture the example of hungry David and his selected soldiers. They approached Abiathar (Mk 2: 26), the high priest of Nob (or his father, priest Ahimelech — 1 Sm 21:1-6) who gave them for food the “bread of the Presence” which only the priests were allowed to eat. The bread of the Presence consisted of twelve loaves or cakes placed each morning on the table in the sanctuary, as homage to the Lord from the twelve tribes of Israel (cf. Lv 24:5-9). The loaves withdrawn to make room for the fresh ones were reserved to the priests (Navarre Bible Commentary).

Life message: Like the Jewish Sabbath, the Christian Sunday is to be: 1) a day of rest and refreshment with members of the family; 2) a day for thanksgiving and the recharging of spiritual batteries through participation in the Eucharistic celebration (for Catholics); 3) a day for parents to teach religious Faith and Bible to their children; 4) a day to do works of charity in the neighborhood and in the parish; 5) a day for socializing with family members, neighbors, and fellow-parishioners. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/23

For additional reflections, click on: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

Jan 8 Wednesday: Mk 3:1-6: 1 There was a man there with a withered hand. 2 And they watched him, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come here.” 4 And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out, and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

The context: Today’s Gospel describes a miraculous healing done by Jesus on one Sabbath as a public violation of Sabbath law to prove that God’s intention for the Sabbath was to do good and to save life rather than to do evil or to destroy life.

The incident and the reaction: Ex 20:8 and Dt 5:12 instructed the Jews to keep the Sabbath holy. But the Scribes and the Phariseeshadamplified God’s law on the Sabbath by misinterpreting it and had made it burdensome for the common people through man-made laws. Jesus wanted to demonstrate in public the original intention of God in declaring the Sabbath holy. For Jesus, the Sabbath was a day of rest to be used in adoring God, learning and teaching His laws, and doing good to/for others. Hence, Jesus took the liberty of granting healing to a man with a withered hand in the local synagogue immediately after the worship service, thus infuriating the scribes and the Pharisees.

Life messages: 1) Our Christian Sabbath, that is, our Sunday, observance of participating in the Eucharistic celebration is meant to recharge our spiritual batteries for doing good to/for others and avoiding evil.

2) Our Sunday observance is also meant to be an offering of our lives to God on the altar, to ask God’s pardon and forgiveness for our sins, to present our needs before the Lord and to participate in the Divine Life by Holy Communion.

3) Sunday is also a day for us to spend time with the members of the family and to participate in the activities of our parish and neighborhood. Fr. Tony(https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/23

For additional reflections, click on: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

Jan 19 Thursday: Mk 3: 7-12: 7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed; also from Judea 8 and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from about Tyre and Sidon a great multitude, hearing all that he did, came to him. 9 And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they should crush him; 10 for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him. 11 And whenever the unclean spirits beheld him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12 And he strictly ordered them not to make him known.

The context: Today’s Gospel describes how both Jews and Gentiles from Galilee and all surrounding areas gathered around Jesus practically every day of his public ministry of preaching and healing. Jesus preached the Good News of God’s love and demonstrated by his healing ministry the mercy and compassion of God his Father .

Jesus’ mission was universal, attracting Jews and pagans alike. He exercised his Divine power of healing, using his human body to demonstrate to people that he was both God and man. Jesus instructed the healed ones not to publicize him, as the expected Messiah because he did not want to bring his public life to a premature end. The ordinary Jews believed that the expected Messiah would declare himself King of the Jews after overthrowing the Roman rule. Hence, it was dangerous to let people regard him as the Messiah.

Life messages: 1) Jesus continues to preach the Good News and heal the sick through the Church and through us, his followers. He welcomes our response to him and calls us to come to Him through the Sacraments, and especially through our participation in the Eucharistic celebration, with trusting Faith and confident expectation.

2) “The holy human nature of our Lord is our only route to salvation; it is the essential means we must use to unite ourselves to God. Thus, we can today approach our Lord by means of the sacraments, especially and pre-eminently the Eucharist. And through the sacraments there flows to us, from God, through the human nature of the Word, a strength which cures those who receive the sacraments with faith (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, “Summa Theologica”, III, q. 62, a. 5). Fr. Tony(https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/23

For additional reflections, click on: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

Jan 20 Friday: [Saint Fabian, Pope and Martyr; (https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-fabian) &  Saint Sebastian, Martyr] (https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-sebastian) Mk 3:13-19: 13 And he went up on the mountain, and called to him those whom he desired; and they came to him. 4 And he appointed twelve, to be with him, and to be sent out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons: 16 Simon whom he surnamed Peter; 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, whom he surnamed Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder; 18 Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus, and Simon the Cananaean, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. Then he went home. (& Lk 6: 12-16)

The context: Today’s Gospel passage gives a short account of the call and mission of the Apostles. Jesus is the first missionary, sent by his Father with the “Good News” that God, his Father, is a loving, merciful, and forgiving Father Who wants to save everyone through His Son Jesus. Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus selects and empowers twelve future missionaries as apostles, giving them his own mission along with a share of his power to preach, and to heal the sick as proof of the truth of their message. Then, Jesus sends them in pairs to the Jewish towns and villages as heralds, to prepare the people to receive the Good News.

Special features: Jesus selected very ordinary people, most of them hard-working fishermen with no social status, learning, or political influence, because he was sure that they would be very effective instruments in God’s hands. It was a strange mixture of people. Matthew was a hated tax-collector for a foreign power, while Simon the Cananaean was a Zealot and fanatical nationalist who belonged to a militant group determined to destroy Roman rule by any means. The others were mostly professional fishermen with a lot of good will, patience and stamina. At first it was only their admiration and love for Jesus that united them. Jesus selected them after a night of prayer and gave them his own powers of healing and exorcism and his own mission of preaching the “Kingdom of God.”

Life message: 1) As Christians, we have the same mission that Jesus entrusted to his apostles: to proclaim the word of God to all the world. We fulfill this mission primarily by living out Jesus’ teachings and by promoting and helping the world-wide missionary activities of the Church with prayer, moral support, and financial aid. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/ (L/23)

For additional reflections, click on: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

Jan 21 Saturday: (Saint Agnes, Virgin and Martyr) (https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-agnes) Mk 3:20-21: Then he went home; 20 and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for people were saying, “He is beside himself.”

The context: Today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus’ relatives and fellow villagers wrongly judged him as out of his mind and consequently tried to take him by force back to Nazareth to his safe, secure job as a good carpenter. That might be one reason why Jesus once remarked, “a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” (Mt 10:36). However, Jesus met opposition with grace and with determination to fulfill his Father’s will.

There were five reasons why Jesus’ family thought he was mad and attempted to dissuade him from his preaching and healing mission. First, Jesus had abandoned his safe, secure job as a much-needed village carpenter with a steady income to become a wandering preacher with no residence or steady income. Second, Jesus had chosen a band of fishermen with no political or social influence, a hated tax-collector and a fanatic zealot among his disciples. Third, Jesus had begun to criticize the power lobby – the chief priests, elders, scribes, and Pharisees – in the Jewish religious headquarters, Jerusalem, labeling them hypocrites. Jesus’ relatives might really have been afraid that Jesus would be arrested, and they would be persecuted with him for criticizing those in power. Fourth, Jesus had indirectly claimed to be the long-awaited Messiah and had worked miracles to support his claim. Fifth, they might have been jealous of Jesus’ huge popularity throughout Palestine.

Life messages: 1) Since Jesus experienced rejection by his own relatives, he can sympathize with the hurt and rejection we receive from our family members and console us in our pain. 2) Let us learn to forgive the modern “liberal-minded” people who find our Christian beliefs and practice “crazy,” and face them with the courage of our convictions based on Christ’s Divine authority and the reliability of his doctrines and promises. 3) Let us remember that many saints, following Christ’s example, have been taken for madmen–but they were mad with love, mad with love for Jesus Christ, their God. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/ (L/23).

For additional reflections, click on: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

O. T. II (A) Sunday Homily

OT II [A] (Jan 15) Sunday homily

(Eight-minute homily in one page)L/23

Introduction: The central theme of today’s readings is a challenge to live like the Lamb of God and to die like the Lamb of Godand thus bear witness to Christ the “Lamb of God.” We have to choose to accept John’s testimony in today’s Gospel as God’s personal and corporate call to us to become witnesses to the Lamb of God. (You may add a homily starter anecdote here)

Scripture summarized: In both the first and second readings, God calls individuals to His service entrusting them with a mission. The first reading is from the “Songs of the Suffering Servant” in Isaiah, where the prophet was chosen by God from his mother’s womb and consecrated to be a “light to the nations.” Here,aspects of Jesus’ own life, as sacrificial lamb, and mission, as salvation of the world, are foreshadowed. In the second reading, Paul reminds the Corinthian Christians that they, like all who call on the name of Jesus, are “sanctified and called to be holy.” They are called by God and consecrated in Christ Jesus for a life of holiness and service. As believers, we too have been called by God to become members of Christ’s Body by our Baptism, and we are consecrated in Christ Jesus for a life of holiness and service. The Gospel passage presents three themes, namely, the witness John the Baptist bears to Jesus, the revelation (epiphany) and identification of Jesus as the “Lamb of God,” and the call to discipleship. John’s first declaration probably brought five pictures of the “lamb” to the minds of his Jewish listeners. 1) The Lamb of Yearly Atonement (Lv 16:20-22) used on Yom Kippur. 2) The Lamb of Daily Atonement (Ex 29:38-42; Nm 28:1-8). 3) The Paschal Lamb(Ex. 12:11ss). 4)The Lamb of the Prophets(Jer 11:19), (Is 53:7). 5) The Lamb of the Conquerors. (See the “gospel exegesis” for details).

Life messages: 1) We need to live and die like the Lamb of God. (A) Live like a lamb by: i) leading pure, innocent, humble, selfless lives, obeying the Christ’s commandment of love; ii) appreciating the loving providence and protecting care of the Good Shepherd in His Church; iii) eating the Body and drinking the Blood of the Good Shepherd and deriving spiritual strength from the Holy Spirit through the Holy Bible, the Sacraments and our prayers. (B) Die like a sacrificial lamb by: i) the sacrificial sharing our blessings of health, wealth, and talents with others in the family, parish, and community; ii) bearing witness to Christ in our illness, pain, and suffering; iii) offering our sufferings for the salvation of souls and in reparation for our sins and those of others. 2) We need to be witnesses to the Lamb of God by our exemplary lives. Today’s Gospel reminds us that being a disciple of Jesus means that we are to grow by Faith to become witnesses for him. And bearing witness to Christ is an active, not passive, lifetime enterprise. One cannot be a disciple of Jesus at a distance, any more than one can be a distant lover. 3) We are invited toCome and see.” The essence of our witnessing is to state what we have seen and believed and then to invite others to “come and see” our experience of Jesus. As with Andrew and John, Faith begins with our responding to Jesus’ invitation to “come and see.” We tell others about good restaurants, barbers, optometrists, etc. Why isn’t there the same fervor over inviting and encouraging people to come and participate in our Church activities? If we are not willing to invite others into this experience, what does that say about our experiences with Christ and with our Church?

OT II [A] (Jan 15) Homily: Is 49:3, 5-6; I Cor 1:1-3; Jn 1:29-34

Welcome back to Ordinary Time, the longest of the Church Seasons, 33 weeks! It starts at the end of the Christmas season and runs up to Ash Wednesday, then returns after Pentecost, and continues all the way through the Feast of Christ the King to the first Sunday of Advent when the next Liturgical cycle (A, B, or C for Sundays; for weekdays, Cycles 1 or 2 for Odd- or Even-numbered years respectively), begins. It’s the time when we aren’t focused on Christ’s birth and death or the beginnings of the Church. What’s special about this season is that it’s, well, ordinary. But good old Ordinary Time is when we cover most of the story of Jesus’ life, preaching, parables, miracles – his day-to-day struggles and successes.

:Homily starter anecdotes:# 1:1: John the Baptist, the Essene preacher who introduced Jesus as the “Lamb of God.” As a young boy John’s priest-father might have taught him fundamentals of Jewish religion and Mosaic Laws and how to read and write. When John’s parents died, he might well have been still too young to be on his own. Zechariah and Elizabeth had been very old when John was born, so that would not have been a surprise, but apparently nothing was done to prepare for it just the same. According to tradition, the rest of the family had gone north to Nazareth because of political problems, and John, left alone, was taken in by a group of ascetic men belonging to Essenes group who lived in a little mountainous village down by the Dead Sea. The place was called Qumran, and the men were known as the Essenes. He was probably raised a a Nazarite with strict dietary and moral laws and study of Hebrew Scriptures. No one agrees just where the Essenes came from originally, but most agree that they had come to Qumran to get away from the “corruption” they believed was taking place in the Temple in Jerusalem. You could say they were religious fanatics, who spent the days and nights copying Scripture with its prophetic scrolls about how one day, God was going to send His Messiah and flush that filth right out of Jerusalem. Since many of them were unmarried, it was common for them to “adopt” homeless children and raise them, teaching them to continue the Essene lifestyle. One of those homeless children might well have been the young boy John. Years later, when he appeared just a few miles north of Qumran, he preached, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!” These are Essene words, pure and simple. Even when he became a popular preacher, John had the humility to acknowledge and introduce Jesus as “the Lamb of God” and the expected Messiah. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

# 2: “Eureka! Eureka!” According to the legend, the ruler Hieros II asked Archimedes the scientist to find a method for determining whether a crown was pure gold or mixed with silver. One day when Archimedes stepped into his bath and noticed that the water rose as he sat down, he leaped out of the bathtub naked shouting, “Eureka! Eureka!” (= “I have found [it]!”). The method of determining whether or not a crown was pure gold, discovered by Archimedes in his bathtub, was to compare its weight to its volume. If one had 1 pound of gold and 1 pound of silver and submerged them in water, the silver would make the water rise higher than the gold, because silver is less dense than gold (and so larger in size, that is, volume). Archimedes compared the volume of water displaced by the suspect crown with that displaced by a pure gold crown of equal weight, to dispel the doubt of his emperor. — Archimedes did not “find” this truth by searching after it — although he might have spent days thinking about a solution to the problem. His “find” came as an unexpected surprise. He might have noticed the water in the bathtub rising hundreds of times before, but its significance didn’t “click” in his brain until that “eureka” moment. Today’s Gospel describes how John the Baptist discovered Jesus as the Lamb of God and how first, Andrew and John, then Simon and James, and then Philip and Nathaniel discovered him as the “Promised Messiah” quite unexpectedly. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

# 3: Lamb at the top of the Church:A tourist visited a Church in Werner, Germany and was surprised to see the carved figure of a lamb carved on the bell tower of the church. He asked why it was there and was told that when the bell tower of the church was being built, a workman fell from a high scaffold. His co-workers rushed down, expecting to find him dead. But to their surprise and joy, he was alive and only slightly injured. How did he survive? A flock of sheep was passing beneath the tower at the time, and he landed on top of a lamb. The lamb broke his fall and was crushed to death, but the man was saved. To commemorate that miraculous escape, a fellow stone artist carved a lamb on the tower at the exact height from which the workman had fallen. — This statue of the lamb expresses a tiny bit of what John the Baptist means when he introduces Jesus to his disciples saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.” Much deeper and more meaningful must be our gratitude to Jesus the Lamb of God for saving us from the eternally fatal fall from grace. (Msgr. Arthur Tonne, Five Minutes Homilies; Rev. Richard Fairchild in Sermon and Liturgy). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

Introduction: The central theme of today’s readings is a challenge to live like the Lamb of God and to die like the Lamb of God.  In both the first and second readings God calls individuals to His service. The Gospel passage presents three themes, namely, John the Baptist’s witness to Jesus, Jesus’ revelation (epiphany) and identification as the “Lamb of God,” and the call to discipleship.  Those who are called gradually accept the identity of the One who calls them.  Like John the Evangelist, we may choose to accept today’s Gospel as a personal and corporate call to become witnesses to the Lamb of God.

Scripture readings explained: The first reading (Is 49:3, 5-6): Bible Scholars have called this and three similar passages from this section of Isaiah (chapters 40-55), the “Songs of the Suffering Servant.”  Today’s selection is from the second Servant Song.  In the original author’s mind, the servant was probably a figure for the people of Israel, or for a faithful remnant within the people.  The Gospels clearly show that the “suffering servant” is Jesus. The early Church saw aspects of Jesus’ own life (as sacrificial lamb), and mission  (universal salvation),  foreshadowed in the Servant Songs, and the Church today refers to all of them throughout the liturgical year. Jesus was consecrated and commissioned to engage in a ministry of universal salvation. As God formed Isaiah from his mother’s womb as His prophet and a “light to the nations,” we too are called by our Baptism to be that same “Light to the nations,” revealing the Christ. Being born again of water and the Holy Spirit gives us Jesus’ mission of being the “Light of the world.” In the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 40), the Psalmist is determined to give thanks not only with his lips but also with his life. The Response for today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 40) gives us the answer God wants from us when He invites us to similar service: “Here I am, Lord;  I come to do Your will!”

The second reading is the beginning of Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, with heading, inside address, and salutation, all in sentence form.  The letter is for all the members of the Church in Corinth.  Corinth was a bawdy seaport in cosmopolitan Greece.  The vices of every seaport, plus the philosophical ferment of ancient Greece, were part of these peoples’ lives and gave rise, in part, to the need for this letter.  Paul reminds the Corinthians that they are “sanctified and called to be holy,” like all who call on the Name of Jesus in Faith. They are called by God and consecrated in Christ Jesus for a life of holiness and service. By virtue of their Baptism into Christ Jesus, believers become members of his Body. They are not alone—they are called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Further, that same Lord Jesus is the Lord of those other Churches as well. As people who are baptized into Christ Jesus through the Holy Spirit, they, and we, share the vocation of Israel and the Church.  So we are all meant to serve as “a Light to the nations,” with Jesus, God’s  “Suffering Servant.”

Gospel exegesis: While the call and consecration of John the Baptist by God commissioned him for the important ministry of becoming the precursor of Jesus, it was Jesus who was consecrated, and commissioned to bring salvation to the world. As precursor of Jesus, John gives testimony to Jesus in today’s Gospel. A testimony can be a statement of a truth about something or someone, or a public expression of a religious experience.  John the Baptist gives testimony to Jesus by pointing out that he is the Lamb of God (vv 29, 36); a man who was before me (v 30); the One on Whom the Holy Spirit remained (v 33); and the Son of God (v 34).  John’s disciples call Jesus, “Rabbi” (vs. 38).  Andrew calls him the Messiah (v 41), and Nathaniel calls Jesus Rabbi, Son of God, and King of Israel (vs. 49).  Jesus completes the Christology with his own declaration that he is the Son of Man (vs. 51).

The Lamb of God: John the Baptist introduced Jesus to the Jews as the “Lamb of God” on the second day (Jn 1:29).  He repeats it on the third day. “Lamb of God” is the most meaningful title given to Jesus in the Bible.  It is used 29 times in the book of Revelation.  It sums up the love, the sacrifice, and the triumph of Christ.  John’s introduction probably brought five pictures of the “lamb” to the minds of his Jewish listeners.

1) The Lamb of Atonement (Lv 16:20-22).  A lamb was brought to the Temple on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).  Placing his hands over its head, the high priest transferred all the sins of his people onto the animal.  It was then sent into the forest to be killed by some wild animal.  2) The Lamb of Daily Atonement (Tamid [“standing,” perpetual, continual] Sacrifice) — (Ex 29:38-42; Nm 28:1-8).  One lamb was sacrificed on the “Black Altar” of the Temple every morning and another was sacrificed every evening to make a continuous sacrifice in order to atone for the sins of the Jews.  3) The Paschal Lamb (Ex. 12:11ss), the blood of which saved the first born of the Jewish families in Egypt from the Angel of destruction.  This lamb reminded them also of the Paschal Lamb which they killed every year on the Passover Feast.  4) The Lamb of the Prophets which portrayed One who, by His sacrifice, would redeem His people: “The gentle lamb led to the slaughterhouse” (Jer 11:19), “like a lamb to the slaughter” (Is 53:7).  Both refer to the sufferings and sacrifice of Christ.  5) The Lamb of the Conquerors. This was the picture of a horned lamb on the Jewish flag at the time of Maccabaean liberation war, used as a sign of conquering majesty and power.  The great Jewish conquerors like Samuel, David, and Solomon were described by the ancient Jewish historians as “horned lambs.”

Christ as Lamb of God is a title familiar to us.  In the Eucharist, at “the    breaking of the bread” we proclaim in word or song what the Baptist said.  Our traditional fraction anthem is the Agnus Dei – “Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us/grant us peace.”  In this prayer we give expression to our deepest understanding of the identity and purpose of Jesus Christ as our Lamb and Lord.  By His life of love and sacrifice, we believe and affirm that He is the One Who was to come, came, and continues to come, into a broken world to take our sins upon Himself. 

 Life messages: 1) We need to live and die like the Lamb of God.  (A) Live like a lamb  i) leading pure, innocent, humble, selfless lives obeying the Christ’s commandment of love; ii) appreciating the loving providence and protecting care of the Good Shepherd in His Church; iii) eating the Body and drinking the Blood of the Good Shepherd; and iv) deriving spiritual strength from his Holy Spirit through the Sacraments and prayers. (B) Die like a sacrificial lamb by: i) sharing our blessings of health, wealth, time, and talents with others in the family, parish, and community; ii) bearing witness to Christ in our illness, pain and suffering; iii) offering our suffering for the salvation of souls and as reparation for our sins and those of others.

2) We need to rebuild broken lives. Like the missionary call of the servant in Isaiah (Is 49:1-3) and “those called to be saints” in St. Paul’s First Letter to the Church in Corinth (1Cor 1:2ff), we are informed that God’s call is trustworthy and true.  Therefore, we can believe from the depth of our hearts that our God is faithful.  Our faithful response to God is to rebuild broken lives, our own and others’, reconciling them with God’s love and justice through Christ Jesus our Lamb and Lord.  Through Baptism into the Body of Christ, we are empowered and enabled by the Holy Spirit to help free and build up the oppressed.  Through the love of the Lamb of God, we are called to better the lot and improve the broken spirit, of all who have been exiled from the possibility of hope and from God’s righteousness or who are burdened by the yoke of spiritual, social, economic, and political dislocation. In other words, through the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the glorified Lamb, we are called to empower the human spirit with a sense of identity and purpose.

3) We need to be witnesses to the Lamb of God.  Today’s Gospel reminds us that being a disciple of Jesus means that we grow by Faith to become witnesses for Him.  And bearing witness to Christ is an active, not passive, lifetime enterprise. One cannot be a disciple of Jesus at a distance any more than one can be a distant lover.  To love Christ is to be drawn close to Him, to know Christ personally, to experience Him through the Bible, prayer, and the Sacraments, and to inspire others to want to know Jesus.  To help Christ is to share the Good News about Him with others.  Blessed are we when we bring to others the gifts of love, peace, justice, patience, and mercy, thus becoming witnesses for the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ our Lord.

4) We need to “Come and see”.  The essence of our witness-bearing is, first, to state what we have seen and believed and then, to invite others to “come and see.” For Andrew and John, Faith begins by responding to Jesus’ invitation, “Come and see.”  Three times Andrew brings someone to Jesus!  First, he brings his brother, Simon (1:40), then, a boy with five barley loaves and two fish (6:8); and finally, “some Greeks” (12:20-22), who want to see Jesus, which signals the hour for the Son of Man to be glorified.  We tell others about good restaurants, barbers, optometrists, etc.  Why isn’t there the same fervor over inviting and encouraging people to come and participate in our Church activities?  Often, we hesitate to do so because of the false notion that talking about religion is taboo in our culture, or that religion is a private matter and shouldn’t be shared with others, or that we don’t have much of a personal Faith to share, or that our worship services would not be appealing to others.  One of the differences that Faith should make in our lives is the desire that others — especially those without a religious Faith — might also share in and benefit from the relationship God offers through Christ.  If we are not willing to invite others into this experience, what does that say about our experiences with Christ and with our Church?

JOKES OF THE WEEK

Pastor joke: My neighboring pastor put sanitary hot air hand dryers in the rest rooms at his Church and after two weeks took them out. I asked him why and he confessed that they worked fine but when he went in there, he saw a sign that read, “For a sample of this week’s sermon, push the button.”The future son-in-law: The rich businessman Raymond goes to meet his new son-in-law to be, Ben. He says to Ben, “So, tell me Ben, my boy, what you do?” “I study the Theology,” he replies. “But Ben, you are going to marry my daughter!  How are going to feed and house her?” “No problem,” says Ben, “I study Theology, and it says God will provide.” “But you will have children! How will you educate them?” asks Raymond. “No problem,” says Ben, “I study Theology, and it says God will provide.” When Raymond returns home, his wife anxiously asks him what Ben is like. “Well,” says Raymond, “he’s a lovely boy. I only just met him, and he already thinks I’m God.”

Lamb o God: If Mary is the mother of Jesus and Jesus is the lamb of God Does that mean that Mary had a little lamb?

Videos for children: 1) The Donut man: https://youtu.be/bHiM1cWt2D8

2) Mac Lucado: The crippled lamb: https://youtu.be/RTbNeVzeng0

USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK (For homilies & Bible study groups)

1) Fr. Don’ collection of video homilies & blogs: https://sundayprep.org/featured-homilies/ (Copy it on the Address bar and press the Enter button)

 2) Fr. Geoffrey Plant’s beautiful & scholarly video classes on Sunday gospel, Bible & RCIA topics https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant20663)

3)Fr. Nick’s collection of Sunday homilies from 65 priests & weekday homilies: https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies

4) Dr. Brant Pitre’s commentary on Cycle A Sunday Scripture for Bible Class: https://catholicproductions.com/blogs/mass-readings-explained-year-Biblical basis of Catholic doctrines: http://scripturecatholic.com/

5) Agape Catholic Bible Lessons: http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/

6) Saint of the Day: a) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/source/saint-of-the-day  :  b) http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/SaintofDay/default.asp

7) Spirituality topics: http://www.shc.edu/theolibrary/spirit.htm

8) Marian materials: C:\WUTemp\Website links\virginmary.htm  

 22 Additional anecdotes:

1) The picture of the Lamb of God in His mercy:  In a cathedral in Copenhagen, Denmark there is a magnificent statue of Jesus by the noted sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen. When Thorvaldsen first completed the clay sculpture he gazed upon the finished product with great satisfaction. It was a sculpture of Christ with His face looking upward and arms extended upward. It was a statue of a majestic, conquering Christ. Later that night, however, after the sculptor had left his fine new work in clay to dry and harden, something unexpected occurred. Sea mist seeped into the studio in the night. The clay did not harden as quickly as anticipated. The upraised arms and head of the sculpture began to drop. The majestic Christ with arms lifted up and head thrown back was transformed into a Christ with head bent forward and arms stretched downward as if in a pose of gentle invitation. — At first Thorvaldsen was bitterly disappointed. As he studied the transformed sculpture, however, he came to see a dimension of Christ that had not been real to him before. It was the Christ who is a gentle, merciful Savior. Thorvaldsen inscribed on the base of the completed statue, “Come Unto Me,” and that picture of the Lamb of God in His mercy has inspired millions. (Rev. King Duncan). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

 2) “Will not my example inspire you to do your best?” Leonardo da Vinci had started a work on canvas in his studio. He chose a subject, sketched its outer lines, shaded here and lightened there. About half way through his work, however, he halted his sketching. He turned to a student of his and said, “I want you to finish the work that I have started.” The student protested. He surely was not worthy of such an honor. Da Vinci reassured him, “Will not my example inspire you to do your best?” he asked. “And besides, I am right here beside you if you should need any help.” —  “Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world.” See Him in his majesty. See Him in His mercy. See Him in His ministry to the world, a ministry to which He calls you and me to complete. May His example inspire us and His presence empower us, so that  all the world may come to know that the victory has been won! (Rev. King Duncan) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

3) “Come and see.” William Willimon, professor at Duke Divinity School, remembers when a friend of his visited the Soviet Union in the 1970s. Upon his return he announced that the Church behind the Iron Curtain was mostly “irrelevant because the only people there are little old ladies.” Dr. Willimon writes, “Looking back now at the collapse of Communism, the difficulties of rebuilding the Soviet Union after a long period of spiritual bankruptcy, I hope my friend would now say, ‘Thank God for the little old ladies.  Their existence provided a continuing, visible, political rebuke to the Soviets.'” (William H. Willimon). — It would be wonderful if our prayer and witness were as effective as the prayers and witness of those little old ladies. It would be wonderful if our witness, like Andrew’s, was effective enough to challenge another Simon Peter. That is our task, and what a joyous, challenging task it is. Having found Christ, or more correctly having been found by Christ, we find others, that they, too, may “come and see.” (Rev. King Duncan). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

4) John the Baptist bore witness by identifying Jesus as the “Lamb of God.” John Sculley, former head of Apple Computer tells about his first encounter with Tom Watson, the man who made IBM into one of the world’s great corporations. Sculley left Pepsi Cola to take the presidency of Apple. It was not an easy transition. During a time of tremendous pressure Sculley received an invitation from Watson to come to Watson’s home. During the weekend, Sculley was most impressed by Watson on many levels but particularly by his modesty and by how genuinely interested he was in Apple. Watson seemed confident that Sculley’s company would get over their problems. “As long as Apple can continue to innovate and hold together the things it believes in, it will pull through,” Watson told Sculley. —  Sculley said it was the word of encouragement he needed coming from a man he greatly admired. John the Baptist did the same thing for his disciples by identifying Jesus as the “Lamb of God.” (Rev. King Duncsan) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

5) “I want to order one pound of Barbecue…  ” One day a man called a Church by mistake. The Church receptionist happened to be distracted at the time, and did not answer the phone in the usual fashion. She just said “Hello.” The man said, “I want to order one pound of Barbecue, two pints of Cole slaw, and a dozen hush puppies.” The receptionist said, “Wait a minute, sir. We are not a food service operation. You must have the wrong number.” The man hesitated a moment and then asked, “What do you sell? What business are you in?” — That’s a fair question to ask. What is our mission? What is our principal message or service or goal? While all our tasks are important, none of them is our central mission. We are here, first and foremost, to declare this Good News: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came down from Heaven as the “Lamb of God” to save us from our sins by His sacrificial death on the cross. (Rev. Bill Bouknight) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

6) “But I just want to leave a committed life behind.” Two months before his assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke to his congregation at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta about his death in what would oddly enough become his eulogy. “Every now and then I think about my own death, and I think about my own funeral,” Dr. King told his congregation. “If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. Every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize; that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards; that is not important. I’d like someone to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr.  tried to give his life serving others. I’d like someone to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr.  tried to love somebody. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try, in my life, to clothe those who were naked. I want you to be able to say that I did try to visit those in prison. I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.” Dr. King concluded with these words: “I won’t have any money left behind. I won’t have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind.” [Henry Hampton and Steve Fayer with Sarah Flynn, Voices of Freedom (New York: Bantam Books, 1990), pp. 470-471.] — Did Martin Luther King, Jr., have that level of commitment when he first began his ministry? It is doubtful. He had youthful enthusiasm to be sure. He had strong convictions. He was well brought up, with an outstanding Baptist preacher as a father. But people who are truly captured by the spirit of Christ become so generally after years of walking in Christ’s footsteps. Our Faith is validated and grows as we “come and see.” (Rev. King Duncan). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

7) “No,” said the Lord Jesus, “not the world’s sins, just yours!” One day a saintly African Christian told his congregation about a vision he had had the night before. In the vision he was climbing up the hill to the Church. Suddenly he heard steps behind him. He turned and saw a man carrying a very heavy load on his back, climbing that hill. He was full of sympathy for this man and spoke kindly to him. Then he noticed that the man’s hands were scarred. Suddenly he realized that this was Jesus. He said to him, “Lord, are you carrying the world’s sins up the hill?” “No,” said the Lord Jesus, “not the world’s sins, just yours!” [Roy Hession, The Calvary Road, (Fort Washington, PA: CLC Publications, 1950), p. 55.] — Jesus’ atoning sacrifice reaches out to the entire world, but it begins very personally with me and you. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

8) “I told you that I would make you regret it. A young soldier was utterly humiliated by his senior officer. The officer had gone beyond the bounds of acceptable behavior in disciplining the young soldier, and he knew it, so he said nothing as the younger man said through clenched teeth, “I’ll make you regret this if it is the last thing I ever do.” A few days later their company was under heavy fire, and the officer was wounded and cut off from his troops. Through the haze of the battlefield, he saw a figure coming to his rescue. It was the young soldier. At the risk of his own life, the young soldier dragged the officer to safety. The officer said, apologetically, “Son, I owe you my life.” The young man laughed and said, “I told you that I would make you regret humiliating me if it was the last thing I ever did!” — That is God’s kind of revenge. “Behold the Lamb that takes away the sins of the world…” Something happened on Calvary that bridged the gap between a Holy God and unholy humanity. We see Christ in His majesty but also in His mercy. (Rev. King Duncan) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

9) “I saw how it would be so easy for me to turn things around.” Working in a small town in Latin America, a woman felt despair. She was experiencing marital problems, as well as conflicts with people she worked with. Without warning, an earthquake struck one day. In those moments of panic and fear, she ran with other people to the relative safety of a garden plaza as buildings shattered and dust billowed. “For those moments I saw everything so clearly,” she recalls, “how I could become so much kinder to my husband, how other relationships could work out. In an instant, and with such gratitude, I saw how it would be so easy for me to turn things around.” — In that dramatic moment this woman had glimpsed how the brokenness in her life could be mended. At that moment she saw clearly how she could bring about healing in her life. At that moment it was as if God had spoken to her in a most dramatic way. [David Douglas, Wilderness Sojourn (San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1987), p. 68.] God had promised John the Baptist a personal epiphany: “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the One Who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” When John saw the Spirit descend upon Jesus in the form of a dove, he knew without a doubt that Jesus was the Messiah. John the Baptist believed that day because of a personal revelation. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

10) Our God is a God of abundance, not of scarcity. In his best-selling books, Stephen Covey talks about people with an abundance mentality and people with a scarcity mentality. This is an important concept and I hope you will bear with me for a moment. People with a scarcity mentality, says Covey, see life as a finite pie: if someone gets a big piece of the pie, it means less for them. People with a scarcity mentality have a hard time in sharing recognition, credit, power, or profit, says Covey. They also have a tough time being genuinely happy for the success of other people, even and sometimes especially, members of their own family or close friends and associates. It’s almost as if something were being taken from them when someone else receives special recognition or success. — Have you ever seen that happen? You can tell someone with a scarcity mentality by the disparaging remarks they make following someone else’s success. It’s a sad situation when other people’s happiness somehow diminishes your own but that’s the “scarcity mentality”! The abundance mentality, on the other hand, says,  “There is  enough glory, enough credit, and enough honor in this world for everybody,” that our God is a God of abundance not of scarcity. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

 11) “It’s not polite to point.” “The Star People are like the Wise Men, people still on the journey, people still searching and seeking out the meaning of life. But once the Star People and the Angel People experienced the newborn Messiah, they could longer stay in those roles. Their lives had been changed. So, I want to give them a different name. Since the birth of Christ, there are Seekers and there are Pointers. —  Now, I know that our mothers told us, ‘It’s not polite to point,’ but in this instance I think it’s OK. Because, we’re called to point out Jesus, as Lord and Savior, to a world of Seekers. It’s OK because, Jesus has already been fingered by God when God spoke at Jesus’ baptism and said: ‘This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.'” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

12) “Come and see”: There’s a scene in the first Toby McGuire Spiderman movie that sort of gets to the point I’m making. In the beginning of the movie Spiderman, Peter Parker undergoes a transformation. Bitten by a spider that’s been subjected to genetic experimentation, Peter develops superpowers and becomes a hero who nightly swings between the skyscrapers, looking for some endangered soul to rescue. One such soul is Mary Jane, a young woman he secretly loves. Of course, she falls for Spiderman, but not for Peter Parker. Mary Jane (M.J.) doesn’t know who Spiderman really is, even though he comes to her rescue. Spiderman saves her life, not once, but twice. Later, M.J. and Peter discuss her mysterious rescuer, and she confesses her love for Spiderman. Mary Jane is impressed that Peter “knows” Spiderman. In fact, Peter admits he’s had a “conversation” with Spiderman about Mary Jane. She wants to know what Peter told him about her. Peter searches for the right words; “I said, um, ‘Spiderman,’ I said, ‘the great thing about M.J. is when you look in her eyes, and she looks back in yours, everything feels not quite normal, because you feel strong, and weak at the same time. You feel excited, and at the same time terrified. The truth is, you don’t know the way you feel, except you know the kind of man you want to be. It’s as if you’ve reached the unreachable, and you weren’t ready for it.'” —  I think what Peter describes is the same phenomenon Andrew and John experienced, and we do, too,  when we come to know Jesus. Looking into the eyes of Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, we feel weak, but He makes us strong; we are terrified, and at the same time we’re more exhilarated than we’ve ever been in our lives; and in Him we see the person we want to become – the person God created us to be. I think that’s what happened to Andrew and John. Jesus said, “Come and see”; they went, they saw – and  they were changed from Seekers to Pointers and then they Pointed Jesus out to others. (Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
13) “‘We’ve found the Messiah.’ That’s all.”: I love the series of movies called The Matrix. The Wachowski Brothers are great story tellers. Their universe is very Christian, even if it doesn’t claim to be. They took all the best parts of Scripture: stories of Faith, faithfulness, temptation, the fall, of prophecy and a Savior and wove them all together in a universe of technology and despair that is both engaging, moving and theologically thought-provoking. There’s a really brief scene in The Matrix, where Morpheus, the John the Baptist or Elijah kind of character, has freed Neo from The Matrix. He’s convinced that Neo is the One – the  one who will save them and set them free. He tells another character, Trinity: “We’ve done it, Trinity! We’ve found him!” Trinity says, “I hope you’re right.” And Morpheus responds, “You don’t have to hope. I know it.” — That’s basically the message Andrew had for his brother. Andrew pointed out Jesus to his brother Simon in a very simple way. He said: “We’ve found the Messiah.” That’s all. He could have quoted Morpheus and said the same thing. “We’ve done it Simon! We’ve found him!” Andrew was pointing the way. And by Andrew’s pointing the way, Simon’s life and name were changed. (Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

14) “Lamb of God. Many people are known not by their name but by their nickname, and sometimes the nicknames indicate who the person is. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was most widely known as Mahatma; Margaret Thatcher as the Iron Lady, and St. Theresa of Lisieux as the Little Flower. Jesus Christ, too, was given names like the Lamb of God, the Servant of God, and the Lord, indicating the roles he performed or fulfilled as he lived on earth.–  What name do we give Jesus? How have we known him? (Fr. Botelho) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

15) Lamb of God for sacrifice:  Sarojini, a nurse at Beach Hospital in Bombay was taking her morning shower when she heard screams coming from the street. Quickly changing, she saw to her horror a little girl being dragged across the street by two stray dogs. The child was covered with blood. Sarojini rushed out and managed to snatch the girl from the dogs. But the dogs would not give up. Suddenly jumping up they managed to get a good hold of the girl and jerked her from Sarojini’s hands. As soon as she fell to the ground, the dogs began to bite the child on the head, hands, and stomach. Sarojini jumped on top of the girl and lay flat on her, protecting the girl from the dogs, using her body as a shield. Now the dogs began attacking Sarojini. She was in agony as they dug their teeth into her hip and thighs. But Sarojini did not move, all the while attempting valiantly to kick the dogs with both her legs. Meanwhile two people came running from nearby houses with heavy sticks in their hands and managed to beat the dogs and chase them away. A passing van was stopped and picking Sarojini and the little girl, sped away to Beach Hospital where the girl underwent six hours of surgery and Sarojini four. It took six months for their wounds to heal. “I never regretted what I did,” said Sarojini. “I’ll do it again if needed!”    (Fr. C.P. Varkey in “If He and She Can….” ) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

16) THE LAMB WINS: When Communism fell in Czechoslovakia the churches opened and people were free to worship. One Church in Prague put a sign on a lawn of a Prague church. It read: THE LAMB WINS.   — This week, make the Carthusian monks’ motto your own: “To seek God assiduously, find God promptly, and possess God fully.” (Fr. James Gilhooley) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

17) Heroic love: Many years ago, there was a very dangerous fire in a certain part of Wales. For three whole days the fire raged with such intensity and fury that rescue attempts were greatly hampered. Sadly, quite a few lost their lives and their property. On the third day, we are told, some Council workers saw a nest in a tree and they just could not believe that it had survived the ravages of that destructive fire. Very gently one worker brought the nest down. To his surprise he found the charred and lifeless remains of the mother bird with her wings outstretched. And then to his astounded disbelief, he heard a little chirp and found two little young ones beneath the brittle remains of the mother bird. She had bravely and selflessly chosen to die in order to protect her little ones. What heroic love! — This is what we commemorate and celebrate today. There was no way we humans could be delivered from sin and death by our own efforts. A price had to be paid, and the supreme price that  could make deliverance possible and available for us to receive was paid by God Who gave us his Son Jesus to die for us. Jesus is the Lamb of God who has taken away the sins of the world. How do we show our gratitude for his sacrifice today? How can we imitate him? (James Valladares in Your Words, O Lord, Are Spirit, and They Are Life) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

18) Finding Jesus Today: Regina Riley tells a story to which many parents can relate. For years she had prayed that her two sons would return to the Faith. Then one Sunday morning her sons were in the aisle besides her; her joy and gratitude overflowed. Afterwards she asked her sons what prompted their return and the younger son told the story. One Sunday morning, while vacationing in Colorado, they were driving down a mountain road. It was raining cats and dogs. Suddenly they came upon an old man without an umbrella. He was soaked through and through, and walked with a noticeable limp. Yet he kept trudging doggedly along the road. The brothers stopped and picked him up. It turned out that the stranger was on his way to Mass at a church three miles down the road. The brothers took him there. Since it was coming down so hard, and since they had nothing better to do, they decided to wait for the stranger to take him home after Mass. It wasn’t long before the two boys figured that they might as well go inside, rather than wait in the car. As the two brothers listened to the reading and sat through the breaking of the bread, something moved them deeply. — The only way they could explain it later was: “You know Mother it felt so right. Like getting home after a long, tiring trip.” (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

 19) Jesus the Lamb of God that Washes Away Our Sins…Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, when he was a young priest, was appointed as the parish priest in a small parish. One summer afternoon, he was sitting in the confessional. A woman came and knelt and said, “Hey, Priest! Relax. I did not come to make a confession. I came here because of that old lady-my mother, who insisted that I go for Confession. I’ll just kneel here for five minutes and then go away.’ “What is your name,” the priest asked? “Agatha,” she replied. “That’s a lovely name”, continued the priest; “Agatha means good or kind.” The lady giggled and said, “I am a bad girl; the worst in this town. I just came out of the prison and I am in the flesh trade. When I was in the prison, I fell for your holy stuff. I prayed to your God to free me, but He did not answer me. He was too busy for the likes of us, I suppose. Do you want to hear further,” asked the lady? “Yes, go on,” replied the priest. “Then I prayed to the devil,” continued the lady, “I promised the devil that I will take nine sacrilegious communions and he should free me. I took communion and cursed God-aplenty. Do you believe-I got freed on the eighth day. What do you say to that, priest?” “The devil got a good bargain,’ said the priest, “He gave you freedom and then in return he got your immortal soul. But Agatha! Believe me, you are not completely lost. You still have love in your heart. You are here because of your mother. That means that you still love your mother. Anyone with even a little love in the heart is not lost. Stay with me here and all this can be blotted out like a bad dream.” A faint moan came out from her. She started breathing heavily. “That’s enough. I am getting out. You can’t do anything about it,” she said. She got up and began to walk out. “Stay here and please pray,” pleaded the priest. But she went out. As she was going out, the priest shouted and said, “I am going to wait for you here, and I am sure that you will come back.” The priest continued in the confessional. He asked everyone who came to the church to pray for a special intention. After all the confessions the priest knelt down and started praying. Many hours passed. One after another the people moved out of the Church. The sacristan put off the lights and wanted to close the Church. The priest was still praying. He took the key from the sacristan saying that he would lock the Church. Hours passed – it was almost midnight. Then he heard the same trotting of the sandals. Joy filled his heart. Agatha came and knelt next to him. She began to weep. She poured out her sins to him. She got cleansed. She was a new person again. — Hats off to that priest. He forgave and reclaimed that lady in the name of Jesus. Jesus-the Lamb washes away our sins by His blood.  (John Rose in John’s Sunday Homilies) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

20) The doctrine of atonement: There is a name for that truth. It is the doctrine of the Atonement. If you look up atonement in the dictionary it will tell you that it is a satisfaction or reparation for a wrong or injury. For example, in 1942, in the midst of war hysteria, we relocated about 100,000 Japanese Americans to internment centers on the West Coast. Later, we realized that such action violated our own Bill of Rights. As an expression of our regret, we paid money to Japanese Americans who were held against their will.– Such payment is an atonement for the wrong we did them. Atonement in a spiritual context refers to the reconciliation of God and humanity by means of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. John Wesley, our Methodist founder, referred to this as the central doctrine of our Faith. (Rev. Bill Bouknight). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

21) “I have never read one of his books.” Bill Bryson traveled to Hannibal, Missouri, to visit the boyhood home of author, Mark Twain. The house was a “trim, white-washed house with green shutters, set incongruously in the middle of downtown.” It cost two dollars to walk around the site. Bryson found the house a disappointment. “It purported to be a faithful reproduction of the original interiors,” he writes, “but there were wires and water sprinklers clumsily evident in every room. I also very much doubt that young Samuel Clemens’ bedroom had Armstrong vinyl on the floor or that his sister’s bedroom had a plywood partition in it.” The house is owned by the city of Hannibal and attracts 135,000 visitors each year. Bryson was disappointed that he was not able to actually go inside the house. “You look through the windows,” he says. At each window there is a recorded message telling about each room. As he proceeded from window to window he asked another tourist. “What do you think of it?” The friendly stranger replied, “Oh, I think it was great. I come here whenever I am in Hannibal — two, three times a year. Sometimes I go out of my way to come here.” Dumbfounded, Bryson replied, “Really?” “Yeah,” answered the stranger. “I must have been here twenty, thirty times by now. This is a real shrine, you know.” They walked and talked some more. Bryson’s last question to the man was, “Would you say the house is just like Twain described it in his books?” “I don’t know,” the stranger said. “I have never read one of his books.” (Bill Bryson, The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America). – “Visiting his shrine” but ignoring his books is doubtless true of many followers of Jesus who are satisfied with that same superficial approach. They visit his shrine, but never read his teachings. Some of us, though, want to go farther. Some of us want to know Jesus, not just as an interesting historical figure, but as the living  Son of God. How do we find Jesus? That is the question for this morning. How do we find him? Let me suggest some ways.Sometimes we find him through a dramatic act of revelation. It doesn’t happen that way to many of us, but sometimes God breaks into people’s lives in a clear, unmistakable act of disclosure. That is what happened to John the Baptist.  (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

22) Theology of the body: A lot of the physical fitness craze today is not as much about physical fitness as it is about glorifying the body. Joggers pound the street. There is a plethora of work-out books. Why, you can even buy records and videos that tell you how to turn flab into firmness and fat into muscle. To be sure, it is important to stay in shape, but much of this craze is just to glorify the body. Four symbols illustrate our obsession with glorifying the body: 1) “Dress to win!” Learn how to dress so you can be a winner. The worst thing you could ever do is to show up dressed in the wrong clothing. When the ties get narrow, don’t wear a wide one. When the shirts get shorter, don’t wear a long one. You have to know how to dress to win, that is how to glorify the body. 2) The tanning spa. People are paying what I consider to be a very high price to tan their bodies so their bodies can be glorified. Now, all of us know that tanning spas are not good for anyone. They can cause skin cancer from which one can die, or, at least, can permanently damage one’s skin. Yet, because we are so obsessed with glorifying the body, we will pay high prices to get brown, even  causing much harm to body, psyche and immortal soul.  4)  Steroids. One who takes steroids to enlarge the muscles of the body in order to become a better athlete, is asking for real trouble.  When one pumps iron after taking steroids, the muscles in the body take on added dimension and strength, but  the internal harmony of the body is disturbed with sometimes fatal results. So I say to you, we know a lot about how to glorify the body, but we don’t know very much about how to glorify God with the body. One of the reasons we don’t know how to glorify God with the body is that we have been taught to glorify God with our spirits, but not with our bodies. We have been taught that the body is not as important as the spirit. We have been taught that spiritual glorification is more important than physical glorification. We have been fed the lie that the body is our possession and that we can do as we please with it, no matter Who says No. — The Apostle Paul tried to correct that notion when he said, “Glorify God with the body! Glorify God with the body!” How is it then that we glorify God with the body? 1) Saint Paul said we glorify God with the body by shunning immorality. To “shun” immorality means don’t flirt with temptation! 2) Furthermore, Saint Paul said that the body is not meant for immorality, but is meant for the Lord and the Lord for the body. The body, in other words, is a member of Christ’s body. 3) Finally, we glorify God with the body when we physically do things that glorify God, as when we use our bodies in service to humankind. This is probably the greatest glorification of God with the body. — Today’s Gospel tells us that after receiving a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit in baptism, Jesus then left the river Jordan to begin his public ministry. Jesus glorified God not only with his words, but with his flesh-and-blood body. Had it not been for Jesus’ bodily glorification of God, God’s words about a descending Spirit would have been hollow. It was Jesus’ bodily glorification of God which gave validity to the Spirit’s work. So if the Spirit is truly with us, we will glorify God not only with our words, but with our physical bodies as well. “Glorify God with your body,” said St. Paul. That’s what Jesus did and so should we. How else will the world believe that the Spirit has descended on us? (https://frtonyshomilies.com/). LP/23

  “Scriptural Homilies” Cycle A (No. 11) by Fr. Tony: akadavil@gmail.com

Visit my website by clicking on https://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle C homilies, 141 Year of FaithAdult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at akadavil@gmail.com. Visit https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies  of Fr. Nick’s collection of homilies or Resources in the CBCI website:  https://www.cbci.in.  (Special thanks to Vatican Radio website http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html -which completed uploading my Cycle A, B and C homilies in May 2020)  Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604

Jan 9-14 Weekday homilies

January 9-14, 2023: Click on http://frtonyshomilies.comfor missed homilies:

Jan 9 Monday: (The Baptism of the Lord)

(Is42:1-4, 6-7; Acts 10: 34-38; Mt 3:13-17)

Introduction: The Baptism of the Lord is the great event celebrated by the Eastern churches on the feast of Epiphany because it is the occasion of the first public revelation of all the Three Persons in the Holy Trinity, and the official revelation of Jesus as the Son of God to the world by God the Father. Hence, it is described by all four Gospels. It marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.

The turning point: His baptism by John was a very important event in the life of Jesus. First it was a moment of identification with us sinners. Sinless, Jesus received the baptism of repentance to identify himself with his people who realized for the first time that they were sinners. [St. Damien, St. Teresa of Calcutta
(Mother Teresa), Gandhi, and Mandela identified with the people whom they
served.] Second, it was a moment of conviction about His identity and mission: that He is the Son of God and that His mission was both to preach the Good News of God’s love and salvation, and to atone for our sins by becoming the “suffering servant.” The Father’s words,
“This is my beloved Son,” taken from Psalm 2:17, gave Jesus the identity of God’s Son, and the words with whom I am well pleased,” from Isaiah 42:1 (referring to the suffering servant“), pointed to Jesus’ mission of atoning for the sins of the world by His suffering and death on the cross. Third, it was a moment of equipment and empowerment. The Holy Spirit equipped and empowered Jesus by descending on him in the form of dove, and giving him the power of preaching and healing. Fourth, it was a moment of decision to begin his public ministry at the most opportune time after receiving the approval of his Heavenly Father as His beloved Son.

Life messages: (1) The baptism of Jesus reminds us of our identity. It reminds us of who we are and Whose we are. By Baptism we become sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus, members of his Church, heirs of heaven and temples of the Holy Spirit. (2) Jesus’ baptism reminds us also of our mission: a) to experience the presence of God within us, to acknowledge our own dignity as God’s children, and to appreciate the Divine Presence in others by honoring them, loving them, and serving them in all humility; b) to live as the children of God in thought, word, and action. c) to lead a holy and transparent Christian life and not to desecrate our bodies (the temples of the Holy Spirit and members of Jesus’ Body), by impurity, injustice, intolerance, jealousy, or hatred; d) to accept both the good and the bad experiences of life as the gifts of a loving Heavenly Father for our growth in holiness; e) to grow daily in intimacy with God by personal and family prayers, by meditative reading of the Word of God, by participating in the Holy Mass, and by frequenting the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

(3) It is a day to thank God for the graces we have received in Baptism, to renew our Baptismal promises, and to preach Christ’s ‘Good News’ by our transparent Christian lives of love, mercy, service and forgiveness. (Fr. Tony) L/23

For additional reflections, click on: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

Jan 10 Tuesday, Mk 1:21-28: Then they came to Capernaum, and on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. 22. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. 23.In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; 24. he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!” 25. Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” 26. The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. 27. All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” 28. His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

The context: Jesus made the city of Capernaum on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (the center of the fishing business), his headquarters. There he started his preaching, teaching, and healing ministry. The people were impressed by the authority of his teaching. The Old Testament prophets had taught using God’s delegated authority, and the scribes and Pharisees taught quoting Moses, the prophets, and the great rabbis. But Jesus taught using his own authority and knowledge as God. Perfect knowledge of God, perfect accomplishment of God’s will, and absolute confidence in God were the sources of Jesus’ authority.

The second part of today’s Gospel describes a healing by exorcism which Jesus performed in the synagogue. We are told how Jesus, using his authority as God, cast out the devil by just one command: “Be silent, and come out of him!” In first-century Palestine, most sicknesses, especially mental illness, were considered to be the result of demonic possession, and both Jewish and pagan exorcists used lengthy procedures and physical force in their exorcisms. When Jesus commanded the Evil One to depart, it did so at once, and in its rush to depart, convulsed the man. Thus, Jesus demonstrated that he is the Messiah, the Savior, more powerful than the demon.

Life messages: 1) Our Faith is based on the Divinity of Christ, which is proved by his miracles; these, in turn, give authority and validity to his teaching and promises. Hence, let us accept Jesus’ teachings even if some of them are mysteries beyond our reach. 2) Let us read the authoritative word of God every day and assimilate it into our lives. 3) In our illnesses, let us confidently approach Jesus, the healer, with trusting Faith and then go to the doctors who serve as the current instruments of Jesus’ healing ministry in our midst. Fr. Tony(https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/23

For additional reflections, click on: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

Jan 11 Wednesday; Mk 1:29-39: 29 And immediately he left the synagogue, and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever, and immediately they told him of her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her; and she served them. 32 That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together about the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. 35 And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him pursued him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” 38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

The context: Today’s Gospel tells us that preaching the Good News of God’s love, mercy, and salvation and healing the sick were the means Jesus used to enable his listeners to do the will of God and thus to build up the Kingdom of God, allowing God to take control of their lives. We are also told that Jesus recharged his spiritual batteries by talking with and listening to his Heavenly Father. Thus, preaching, healing, and recharging spiritual power by prayer were the three key points of Jesus’ public ministry.

Healing mission: Jesus was never tired of healing the sick, thus demonstrating the mercy and compassion of his Heavenly Father to every sick person who approached him with trusting Faith. As soon as he had finished the day’s preaching in the synagogue on one Sabbath, Jesus went to Simon’s home and healed Simon’s mother-in-law of a fever. In the evening when the Sabbath rest was over, people brought all their sick dear ones to Jesus for healing and exorcism, and he healed them all. Jesus began the next day very early, spending time in prayer in a lonely place.

Life messages: 1) We are called to continue Jesus’ preaching mission primarily by bearing witness to Christ through our day-to-day lives, as we radiate Christ’s mercy, love, forgiveness, and spirit of humble service to all around us. 2) We can participate in Jesus’ healing mission by praying for the sick, by visiting them, and by helping and encouraging the sick and shut-ins. 3) But in order to continue Jesus’ preaching and healing mission, we, too, need to have our spiritual batteries recharged every day by prayer as Jesus did. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/23

For additional reflections, click on: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

Jan 12 Thursday: Mk 1:40-45: 40 And a leper came to him beseeching him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 And he sternly charged him, and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.” 45 But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread

The context: Today’s Gospel describes Jesus touching a man sick with a severe case of leprosy and healing him instantly. In this miracle we have all the essentials for any miracle, says, Rev. Dr. L. Parker. We have a) a leper; b) a disease, leprosy; c) recognition of the disease by the man who has it; d) the presence of Jesus; e) Faith; f) trust, and g) humility enough for the sick man to ask for help from Jesus. Biblical “leprosy” rarely indicated Hansen’s disease (leprosy proper). Mostly, the term referred to skin diseases like ringworm, psoriasis, leukoderma, skin cancer, and vitiligo. The suffering of lepers in Biblical times was chiefly due to the way they were treated by the religious society of the day (Interpreter’s Bible). They were deemed unclean, unfit to be counted among a people who considered themselves “a kingdom of priests, a holy nation” (Ex 19:6). In addition, lepers were treated as sinners who were being punished by God with this contagious disease. The leprosy given by God as punishment to Miriam, the complaining sister of Moses (Nm 12: 1-3, 9-13) , to Gehazi, the greedy servant of the prophet Elisha (2 Kgs 5:22-27), and to the proud king Uzziah of Judah, also called Azariah (2 Kgs 15:3-5), supported the Jewish belief that leprosy was God’s punishment for sins. Finally, “leprosy” was considered a contagious disease, and, hence,its victims were separated from their families and society. The Mosaic Law, as given in Leviticus, demanded that the priest declare the leper unclean and that the leper a) keep his garments rent and his head bare, b) muffle his beard, c) cry out, “Unclean, unclean,” and d) dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp. As a general rule, when a Jewish leper was healed, he had to go to the local priest for confirmation that he was now clean and was permitted to mix with the general public. Here the healed leper started evangelizing everyone he met by sharing the Good News of God’s activity in his life and allowing the Holy Spirit to touch the lives of others.

Life Messages: 1) The strong Faith of the sick man prompted him to violate the Mosaic Law prohibiting him from joining a crowd and approaching Jesus. The sympathy and mercy of Jesus prompted Jesus to violate the Mosaic Law which forbade anyone to touch an untouchable leper. Thus, Jesus teaches the lesson that the essence of Christianity is to touch the untouchable, to love the unlovable, and to forgive the unforgivable. L/23

For additional reflections, click on: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

Jan 13 Friday (St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church) For a short biography click on (https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-hilary-of-poitiers ): Mk 2:1-12: 1 And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door; and he was preaching the word to them. 3 …..12

The context: Today’s Gospel presents the last in a series of five healing stories. This one demonstrates the power of Faith, and in this particular case we learn what others can do for us if they are persons of Faith. As soon as Jesus got back to Capernaum after a preaching tour of Galilee, the crowds gathered in and around the house where he was staying, so that there was no room to get in or out. Four men, carrying their paralyzed friend, tried in vain to get to the house through the crowd. Here is the wonderful picture of a man who was saved by the Faith of his friends. His friends weremen who had trusting Faith in the healing power of Jesus, and they were men with initiative, tenacity, and creativity. So they carried their friend to the flat roof of the house and removed a number of roof tiles sufficient to open an area wide enough and long enough to allow them to lower the man on his mat, and place him right in front of Jesus. Luke tells us that there were in the crowd Pharisees and Doctors of the Law from Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem sent to check out Jesus, the new preacher, and to report back to the Sanhedrin.

The sick man’s paralysis was seen by the people around as a punishment for some serious sin in his own life or the lives of his parents. It was a common belief that no major sickness could be cured until sin was forgiven. For that reason, Jesus began the young man’s healing by audibly forgiving his sins, so that he might feel no longer estranged from God. Then the young man was able to receive the physical healing he and his friends desired for him. But the Pharisees judged that, in forgiving sin, Jesus had insulted God by blasphemy, because forgiving sin is the exclusive prerogative of God. Jesus insisted that if he healed the man, then his enemies must recognize his authority to forgive sin, and consequently his Divinity. He then healed the young man with a single command, but we do not know whether any of the objectors responded by believing in Jesus.

Life message: We are called to intercede for others and to bring them to Christ. 1) In the Old Testament, it is Moses who constantly begs God’s mercy and forgiveness for the Israelites’ sins. Later, we find the prophets interceding for the unfaithful Israelites. 2) In the New Testament, the dramatic role played by the friends of the paralyzed man in the healing story reminds us of the continuing need for, and power of, intercession for/by others. The text gives us encouragement to intercede for those who are ill or in special need. When we pray and invite God into the situation, healing takes place. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/23

For additional reflections, click on: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

Jan 14 Saturday: Mk 2:13-17: 13 He went out again beside the sea; and all the crowd gathered about him, and he taught them. 14 And as he passed on, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. 15 And as he sat at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were sitting with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

The context: Today’s Gospel episode, telling of Matthew’s call as Jesus’ Apostle, reminds us of God’s love and mercy for sinners and challenges us to practice this same love and mercy in our relations with others.

The call and the response: Jesus went to the tax collector’s station to invite Matthew to become his disciple. Since tax collectors worked for a foreign power and extorted more tax money from the people than the area owed, they were hated and despised as traitors by the Jewish people and considered public sinners by the Pharisees. Jesus could see in Matthew a person who needed Divine love and grace. While everyone hated Matthew, Jesus was ready to offer him undeserved love, mercy, and forgiveness. Hence, Matthew abandoned his lucrative job, because for Matthew, Christ’s call to follow Him was a promise of salvation, fellowship, guidance, and protection.

Scandalous partying with sinners. It was altogether natural for Matthew to celebrate his new calling by holding a feast for his friends. But Jesus’ dining with outcasts in the house of a traitor scandalized the Pharisees for whom ritual purity and table fellowship were important religious practices. Hence, they asked the disciples, “Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?” In answer to their question, Jesus stressed his ministry as healer: “Those who are well do not need a physician; the sick do.” Then, in Matthew’s own account of his conversion, Jesus challenged the Pharisees, quoting Hosea, “Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ (Hosea 6:6).” Finally, Jesus clarified his position, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Life messages: 1) Jesus calls you and me for a purpose: Jesus has called us through our Baptism, forgiven our sins, and welcomed us as members of the Kingdom. Further, He calls us daily through the Word and through His Church, to be His disciples, and to turn away from all the things that distract us and draw us away from God. 3) Just as Jesus did for us and for Matthew, we are to reach out to the unwanted and the marginalized in society with God’s own love, mercy and compassion. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/23

For additional reflections, click on: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

Epiphany of the Lord (Jan 8th Sunday)

Epiphany of the Lord (Jan 8) (8-minute homily in 1 page) L/23

Introduction: The Greek word Epiphany (επιφάνεια), means appearance or manifestation. First, the angels revealed Jesus to the shepherds. In the Western Church, the Feast of the Epiphany celebrates Jesus’ first manifestation to the Gentiles, represented by the Magi, while in the Eastern Church, the Feast commemorates the baptism of Christ, at which the Father and the Holy Spirit gave combined testimony to Jesus’ identity as Son of God. Later, in the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus revealed Himself in words as the promised Messiah, and at Cana Jesus revealed His Divinity by transforming water into wine. These multiple revelations are all suggested by the Feast of the Epiphany.

Scripture lessons summarized:Today’s Gospel teaches us how Christ enriches those who bring Him their hearts and offer their lives to Him. The adoration of the Magi fulfills the oracle of Isaiah (first reading), prophesying that the nations of the world would travel to the Holy City following a brilliant light, bringing gold and incense to contribute to the worship of God. Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 72) verses 10-11 picture kings from foreign lands bringing gifts to pay homage to a just king in Israel. Paul’s letter to the Church of Ephesus (today’s second reading), expresses God’s secret plan in clear terms: “the Gentiles are…co-heirs … co-partners in the promise, in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.” Today’s Gospel reminds us that if God brought the Magi – foreigners and pagans – to recognize and give Jesus proper respect as the King of Jews, we should know that there is nothing in our sinful lives that would keep God from bringing us to Jesus. There were three groups of people who reacted to the Epiphany of Christ’s birth. The first group, headed by King Herod, tried to eliminate Jesus, the second group, priests and scribes, ignored Jesus, and the third group, represented by the shepherds and the Magi, came to adore Jesus.

Life Messages: (1) Let us make sure that we belong to the third group: a) by actively worshiping Jesus at Mass with the gold of our love, the myrrh of our humility and the frankincense of our adoration; b) by giving a new direction to our lives. Just as the Magi chose another route to return to their homes, let us choose a better way of life, abstaining from proud, unjust, and impure thoughts, words, and actions, evil habits, and selfish behavior; c) by becoming stars leading others to Jesus, as the star led the Magi to Jesus. Let us remove the darkness of the evil around us by radiating the light of Jesus’ love through selfless service, unconditional forgiveness, and compassionate care. (2) Like the Magi, let us offer Jesus our gifts on this feast of Epiphany and every day: (a) the Gift of our life by offering it on the altar during the Holy Mass and every morning as soon as we get up, asking for the strengthening anointing of the Holy Spirit to do good and avoid evil during the course of the day. b) the Gift of responsive relationship with God by talking to Him in personal and family prayers and listening to Him through reading the Holy Bible every day. c) the Gift of friendship with God by recognizing Jesus’ presence in, and offering loving, humble service to, everyone we encounter, and by getting reconciled to God every night, asking His pardon and forgiveness for our sins and failures during the day.

Feast of Epiphany (Jan 8): Is 60:1-6; Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6; Mt 2:1-12

Homily starter anecdotes # 1:Because you never know what’s going to happen next!” A survey was made among school children asking the question why they enjoyed reading Harry Potter novels and watching Harry Potter movies. The most common answer was, “Because you never know what’s going to happen next!” The same element of suspense and discovery marked the journey of the Magi, who never knew what road the Spirit was going to take them down next. Half a billion people all around the world watched with suspense and were thrilled when men, three astronauts in Apollo 8, landed for the first time on the moon (July 20th, 1969). When pilots Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager made their historic flight in 1986 with their spindly Voyager aircraft, the whole world followed it with excitement. For nine days a sky-watch was kept tracking the first non-stop global flight without refueling. The same elements of suspense and discovery were there when Marco Polo journeyed to India and China, when Christopher Columbus travelled to America, and when Admiral Byrd went to the South Pole. Such adventurers have always aroused our admiration and curiosity. — The magi-astrologers described in today’s Gospel had to be a little crazy leaving the security of their homeland to venture forth into a strange country presided over by a mad king like Herod, in search of a Divine Child. But their great Faith, curiosity, and adventurous spirit enabled them to discover the secret of the whole universe – the secret of God’s incredible love for His people – because the Child they found was no ordinary child, but the very Son of God become man. Today’s readings invite us to have the curiosity of the school students and the Faith and adventurous spirit of the magi so that we may experience the “epiphany” of our God in everyone and every event, everywhere. (adapted from Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

# 2: A woman among the Magi? Renowned Gospel of Matthew professor, Dominican friar and priest, Rev. Benedict Thomas Viviano has a new Biblical theory that may change nativity scenes across the globe: there was one Wise Woman (or more) among the Wise Men. (https://www.stlbeacon.org/#!/content/17405/viviano_writes_about_a_woman_magi). Viviano’s original theory was published in 2011 in Studies of Matthew by Leuven University Press. It’s “perfectly plausible,” he argues, that Matthew would have understood the magi as some sort of Eastern sages. “On the other hand,” Viviano suggests, “the masculine plural magoi does not close the question of gender. … The main reason to think of the presence of one or more women among the magi is the background story of the queen of Sheba, with her quest for Israelite royal wisdom, her reverent awe, and her three gifts fit for a king.” Viviano’s second reason to suspect the presence of the feminine, he says, is the Israelite tradition of personifying wisdom as a woman (Proverbs 8:22-30; 9:1-6; Sirach, 24). Viviano’s third argument for his female-among-the-magi cause is that Matthew’s Gospel later characterizes Jesus as embodying wisdom, which Jewish literature considers female and even terms Lady Wisdom. The passages Viviano refers to are Matthew, Chapter 11:19 and 25-30. — What difference would it have made if there had been a woman among the magi? A women’s magazine said: “They would have come before the birth of Jesus, brought provisions for the child and his mother, and would have served as midwives!” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

#3: Artaban the fourth Wise Man: In 1895, Henry van Dyke wrote the story, “The Other Wise Man,” telling of a fourth wise mancalled Artaban. Our hero is not mentioned in the Gospel because he missed the caravan. He got to Bethlehem too late to see the Baby Jesus. But Artaban did make it in time, using one of his gifts for the newborn King to save one of the Holy Innocents by bribing a soldier. For 33 years Artaban searched for Jesus. He did not find Jesus, but in the meantime, the Fourth wise man used the precious gifts he had brought for the King to feed the hungry and help the poor. Then one day in Jerusalem Artaban saw the “King of the Jews” being crucified. He started to offer his last gift for the King, a great pearl, to the soldiers as ransom for Him. But then he saw a girl being sold into slavery to pay family debts. Artaban gave his pearl to buy freedom for the girl. Suddenly the earth quaked as Jesus died on the cross and a stone struck Artaban. Dying, he heard a Voice saying: “When you helped the least of my children, you helped me. Meet me in Heaven!” — Artaban, the fourth Wise Man, had been making God present in his community for years by helping others. God asks each of us on the feast of Epiphany to be a fourth Wise Man by becoming God’s epiphanies, making His love present in the world around us by our acts of love and kindness. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

Introduction: The Greek word Epiphany (επιφάνεια), which means appearance or manifestation or showing forth, is used to describe Jesus’ first appearance to the Gentiles. Originally, the word Epiphany referred to the visit of a king to the people of his provinces. In the context of Christianity, “Epiphany” refers to God’s Self-revelation as well as to the revelation of Jesus as His Son. The Feast of the Epiphany, having originated in the East in the late second century, is an older celebration than the feast of Christmas. In Italy and Spain, the gifts traditionally associated with the Christmas season are exchanged today, on the feast of the Epiphany. Among Italians, it is believed that the gifts are brought by the old woman, Befana (from Epiphany), whereas Spanish custom attributes the gifts to the Kings or Magi.

In the Western Church, the feast commemorates the coming of the Magi as the occasion for the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles; in the Eastern Church, the feast also commemorates the baptism of Christ. The angels revealed Jesus to the shepherds, and the star revealed Jesus to the Magi, who had already received hints of Him from Jewish Scriptures. Some thirty years later, God the Father revealed to Israel Jesus’ identity as His Son, as John baptized Jesus in the Jordan. In the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus revealed Himself as the promised Messiah. Finally, Jesus revealed His Divinity by turning water into wine at the wedding of Cana. These multiple revelations are all suggested by the Feast of the Epiphany.

Scripture readings summarized: Today’s Old Testament reading, Isaiah 60:1-6, is chosen partly because it mentions non-Jews bringing gifts in homage to the God of Israel. Here the Prophet Isaiah, consoling the people in exile, speaks of the restoration of New Jerusalem from which the glory of Yahweh becomes visible even to the pagan nations. “Jerusalem,” the prophet Isaiah cries out, “your light has come in the midst of darkness and thick clouds covering the earth; the glory of the Lord shines upon you.” For the people of Israel, then in exile in a foreign land, Isaiah was promising redemption, renewal, and restoration –- a new life, to be lived in their own land. And the promise goes beyond the Jewish people to include all peoples. For the prophecy continues, “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”Thus, in this passage, the prophecy which the Lord God gives His people celebrates the Divine Light that will emanate from Jerusalem, and it pictures all the nations acknowledging and enjoying that Light and walking by It. As a sign of gratitude for the priceless lessons of Faith offered by Jerusalem, the nations will bring wealth by land and sea, especially gold for the Temple and frankincense for the sacrifice. Everyone will be drawn to Jerusalem because the radiance of God’s favor rests on her. This prophecy of Isaiah is realized in Jesus Christ, God’s Anointed One (Christ; Messiah), Savior of the world, and in His Church, the New Jerusalem made up of Jews and Gentiles. Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 72) declares “The kings of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts; the Kings of Arabia and Seba shall bring tribute. All kings shall pay Him homage, all nations shall serve Him” (vv 12-13). In Christ, God is calling together the one human race to acknowledge and serve Him in holiness. Thus, this reading with its response expresses Hope for a time when “the people of God” will embrace all nations. As a privileged recipient of a Divine “epiphany,” Saint Paul, in today’s second reading, reveals God’s “secret plan,” that the Gentiles also have a part with the Jews in Divine blessings. Affirming the mystery of God’s plan of salvation in Christ, Paul explains that the plan of God includes both Jews and Gentiles. Jesus implements this Divine plan by extending membership in the Church, making it available to all peoples. Thus, the Jews and the Gentiles have become, “coheirs, members of the same Body and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.” Hence, there are no second-class members in the Church among Christian believers. Paul declares that he has been commissioned by Christ to make this mystery known to the world. Today’s Gospel teaches us how Christ enriches those who bring Him their hearts. These pagan Magi were acceptable to God because they feared God and did what was right. Since the Magi came with humble joy in their hearts to visit the Christ Child, God allowed them to see wondrous things. At the same time, today’s Gospel hints at different reactions to the news of Jesus’ birth, foreshadowing Jesus’ passion and death, as well as the risen Jesus’ mandate to make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19).

Gospel exegesis:  The first two chapters of Matthew’s Gospel together with Luke, Chapters 1 and 2, come under the heading “infancy narratives.” They have been described by Raymond E. Brown (The Birth of the Messiah, Image Books, New York: 1979), as a “Gospel in miniature,” in which the evangelist has set forth the basic tenets of the Good News, namely, (1) the universal scope of salvation; (2) an affirmation of Jesus’ Divine origins and Messianic mission; (3) the implications of God’s plan and of Jesus’ mission for the Church, i.e. a missiology of world-wide proportions.

Bethlehem in the Scriptures. According to the Gospels (Matthew 2; Luke 2), Bethlehem was the site of the Nativity of Jesus Christ. Christian theology has linked this with the belief that his birth there fulfills the Old Testament prophecy of Israel’s future ruler coming from Bethlehem Ephrathah (Micah 5:2). The name Bethlehem means “House of Bread,” probably suggesting a broader context of “food” because of its nearness to bountiful fields within the Judean desert. The town of Bethlehem is situated about five miles southwest of Jerusalem in the hill country of Judah, about 2,500 feet above sea level. It is now in the West Bank area. The climate is mild, and rainfall is plentiful. Fertile fields, orchards, and vineyards surround the city. Located on a rocky spur just off the main route to Hebron and Egypt, the city has welcomed a fusion of cultures and peoples since its origin. In the Hebrew Bible, the period of the Israelites is described; it identifies Bethlehem as the birthplace of David as well as the city where he was anointed as the third monarch of the United Kingdom of Israel, and also states that it was built up as a fortified city by Rehoboam, the first monarch of the Kingdom of  Israel. Bethlehem is first mentioned in the Bible as the town nearest to where Jacob’s wife Rachel died and was buried (Genesis 35:1948:7); at that time, it was a Canaanite settlement. Naomi (Ruth’s mother in law), her husband, and their two sons lived in Bethlehem before traveling to Moab during a famine (Ruth 1:1). It was to Bethlehem that Naomi returned after the deaths of her husband and sons, along with her daughter-in-law Ruth (Ruth 1:16–1922). To the east of Bethlehem lies the valley where Ruth gleaned in the fields of Boaz (Ruth 2:4). Boaz and Ruth were married in Bethlehem, where they also had their son, Obed, who was the grandfather of King David (Ruth 4:1317). As the City of David, Bethlehem became a symbol of the king’s dynasty. Under Solomon and later Rehoboam, Bethlehem expanded in importance as a strategic fortress. Bethlehem, while diminished in importance to a humble village in New Testament times, remains distinguished above all other biblical cities as the place where our Savior Jesus Christ was born. Today the Church of the Nativity, built by Constantine the Great around AD 330, still stands in Bethlehem. Tradition states that a cave under the church is the actual spot where Jesus Christ was born. The manger site is marked by a star with the Latin inscription, Hic De Virgine Maria Jesus Christus Natus Est, meaning “Here Jesus Christ was born of the virgin Mary.”

The Magi and the star: The Magi were not Kings, but a caste of Persian priests who served Kings by using their skills in interpreting dreams and the movements of the stars. The sixth century Italian tradition that the Magi finding Jesus were three Magi, Casper, Balthazar, and Melchior, is based on the fact that three gifts are mentioned in Matthew’s Gospel:  gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew nowhere says that there were three wise men from the East. Tradition holds each of them came from a different culture: Melchior was Asian, Balthazar was Persian, and Caspar was Ethiopian – thus representing the three races known to the ancient world. “They are supposed to have been kings, but this stems from a very literal translation of a psalm verse: ‘The kings of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts’ (Ps 72:10). Ancient depictions of them never involved symbols of royalty, but simply the Phrygian cap and garments of noble Persians” (Dr. M Watson). The Magi may actually have been Persian priests or Babylonian astronomers or Nabataean spice-traders. Eventually, however, they were pictured as representatives of different peoples and races.   The Orthodox Church holds that the Magi consisted of twelve Kings, corresponding in number to the twelve tribes of Israel.  (The term magoi in Greek refers to a wide variety of people, including fortune-tellers, priestly augurs, magicians, and astrologers). Because of their connection with the star in this story, it is safe to conclude that Matthew identified them mostly with the last group. Possibly they came from Babylonia, or Persia, where the word magus originated. There were almost certainly Gentiles, for if they had been Jews, they would have known better than to ask King Herod about a national ruler who would challenge his dynasty! It is not clear from the story why they wanted to pay homage to a Jewish king, or what they learned about him from their observations of “his star” (Mt 2:2) (Dr. M Watson). Christian life, the life of God’s people, is most often represented in the Bible and in literature, as a journey – a journey that begins with our confession of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior in Baptism and ends when we at last meet Him, God’s  Incarnate Only-begotten Son, in the Trinity, face to Face, in God’s heavenly kingdom. The magi represent the first fruits of the pagan nations, welcoming the Good News of Salvation through the Incarnation (CCC #528). Note that in Matthew’s Gospel, it is  Mary  who makes the Word known first to Gentiles (the magi) (CCC #724).

The star:  Commentary on the Torah by Jewish rabbis suggests that a star appeared in the sky at the births of Abraham, Isaac, and Moses.  Similarly, in the Book of Numbers, the prophet Balaam speaks of “a star that shall come out of Jacob.”  Stars were believed to be signs from God, announcing important events.   Thus, the brightness of the Light to which Magi  were drawn was made visible in the star they followed. (In the last 40 years, a number of scientists and astronomers have pointed to particular clusterings of planets or stars around the time of Jesus’ birth, which would have created an unusual or dramatic heavenly “portent,” suggesting that perhaps Matthew’s account is more historical than some exegetes might choose to believe). The star which shone over the area and served as a beacon for the astrologers can be explained scientifically. Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), a German astrologer and mathematician, calculated that the planetary conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn which occurred ca 7-6 B.C.E. could have produced such an illumination in the sky over Bethlehem.  However, the star featured in Matthew’s narrative figures more importantly because of its theological significance. No doubt, Matthew, with his mission to demonstrate that Jesus was the Promised One and the fulfillment of all Jewish hopes and prophecies, intended his readers to recall the story of Balaam in the book of Numbers (chapters 22-24). Therein, Balaam, a pagan seer from the East was co-opted by Balak, king of Moab to curse the Israelites. Prevented by Yahweh from uttering the curse,  Balaam blessed Israel and prophesied, “a star shall rise from Jacob and a scepter shall arise out of Israel” (Nm 24:17). Matthew portrayed the astral herald that proclaimed the appearance of Jesus and beckoned the Gentiles to salvation as the fulfillment of Balaam’s prophesy.(Sanchez Files).

The gifts:  Gold, frankincense and myrrh may be thought of as prophesying Jesus’ future.  Gold was a gift for Kings; frankincense (an ancient air purifier and perfume), was offered to God in Temple worship (Ex 30:37); and myrrh (an oriental remedy for intestinal worms in infants), was used by the High Priest as an anointing oil (Ex 30:23), and to prepare bodies for burial.  These gifts were not only expensive but portable.  Perhaps Joseph sold the gifts to finance the Holy Family’s trip to Egypt.   The gifts might have been God’s way of providing for the journey that lay ahead.

The triple reactions: The Epiphany can be looked on as a symbol for our pilgrimage through life to Christ.   The feast invites us to see ourselves in the Magi – a people on a journey to Christ.     Today’s Gospel also tells us the story of the encounter of the Magi with the evil King Herod.   This encounter demonstrates three reactions to Jesus birth, a) Hatred: a group of people headed by Herod planned to destroy Jesus;   b) Indifference: another group, composed of priests and scribes, ignored Jesus;   c) Adoration: the members of a third group — shepherds and the magi — adored Jesus and offered themselves to Him.

A) The destructive group:  King Herod considered Jesus a potential threat to his kingship.  Herod the Great was a cruel, selfish king who murdered his mother-in-law, wife, two brothers-in-law and three children on suspicion that they had plotted against him. In today’s Gospel, Herod asks the chief priests and scribes where the Messiah is to be born. Their answer tells him, and us, much more, combining two strands of Old Testament promise — one revealing the Messiah to be from the line of David (see 2 Sm 2:5), the other predicting “a ruler of Israel” who will “shepherd his flock” and whose “greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth” (see Mi 5:1-3) (Dr. Hann). Later, the scribes and Pharisees would plot to kill Jesus because Jesus had criticized them and tried to reform some of their practices. Today, many oppose Christ and the Church because of their selfish motives, evil ways, and unjust lives. Children still have Herods to fear. In the United States alone, one and a half million innocents, unborn children are aborted annually.

  1. B) The group that ignored Christ: The scribes, the Pharisees, and the Jewish priests knewthe nearly 500 prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures concerning the promised Messiah.  They were able to tell Herod the exact time and place of Jesus’    They were in the habit of concluding their reading from the prophets on the Sabbath day by saying, “We shall now pray for the speedy arrival of the Messiah.”   Unfortunately, they were more interested in their own selfish gains than in discovering the truth. Hence, they refused to go and see the child Jesus — even though Bethlehem was quite close to Jerusalem.  Today, many Christians remind us of this group.   They practice their religion from selfish motives, like gaining political power, prestige, and recognition by society.   They ignore Jesus’ teachings in their private lives.
  2. C) The group that adored Jesus and offered Him gifts: This group was composed of the shepherds and the Magi.  The shepherds offered the only gifts they had: love, tears of joy, and probably woolen clothes and milk from their sheep.  The Magi, probably Persian astrologers, were following the star that Balaam had predicted would rise, along with the ruler’s staff, over the house of Jacob (see Nm 24:17). The Magi offered gold, in recognition of Jesus as the King of the Jews; frankincense, in acknowledgment of HIM as God, and myrrh as a symbol of His human nature. “Like the Magi, every person has two great ‘books’ which provide the signs to guide this pilgrimage: the book of creation and the book of sacred Scripture. What is important is that we be attentive and alert, and listen to God Who speaks to us, Who always speaks to us.” (Pope Francis)

Let us conclude with a 19th century English carol, Christina Rosetti’s “A Christmas Carol”, which begins, “In the bleak midwinter.” The carol sums up, in its last stanza, the nature of “giving to the Christ Child”:

What can I give him, poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd, I could give a Lamb.

If I were a wise man, I could do my part.

          What I can I give Him?  Give Him my heart!”

JOKES OF THE WEEK: 1) “I want your big cow!”: It was an excited little girl who told me this story. The first two wise men got down from their camels and offered their precious gifts to the Baby. He declined them. When the Baby Jesus declined the gift of the third of the also, the exasperated wise man asked, “Then what do you want?” The Child Jesus answered quickly and with a warm smile, “Your big cow!”

2) An 8-year-old asked, “How come the kings brought perfume to Jesus? What kind of gift is that for a baby?” His 9-year-old sister answered, “Haven’t you ever smelled a barn? With dirty animals around, Mary needed something to freshen the air.”

3) A husband asked his wife, “Why would God give the wise men a star to guide them?” She replied, “Because God knows men are too proud to ask directions.”

4) Three Wise Women: While they were talking about the story of the three wise men, a woman asked her parish priest, this question, “Do you know why God gave the star to the wise men?” When he professed his ignorance, she told him: “God knows men are too proud to ask directions. If there had been three wise women instead of three wise men, they would have asked for directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, and given some practical gifts!”

4) Epiphany of a Sunday school boy: A little boy returned from Sunday school with a new perspective on the Christmas story. He had learned all about the Wise Men from the East who brought gifts to the Baby Jesus. He was so excited that he could hardly wait to tell his parents. As soon as he arrived home, he immediately began, “I learned all about the very First Christmas in Sunday school today! There wasn’t a Santa Claus way back then, so these three skinny guys on camels had to deliver all the toys!” He further continued, “And Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with his nose so bright also wasn’t there yet, so they had to have this big spotlight in the sky to find their way around!”

5) Epiphany of a pilot: A helicopter was flying around above Seattle one day when an electrical malfunction disabled all the aircraft’s electronic navigation and communications equipment. Due to the clouds and haze, the pilot could not determine the helicopter’s position and course to steer to the airport. The pilot saw a tall building, flew toward it, circled, drew a handwritten sign, and held it in the helicopter’s window. The pilot’s sign said “Where am I?” in large letters. People in the tall building quickly responded to the aircraft, drew a large sign, and held it in a building window. Their sign said, “You are in a helicopter.” The pilot smiled, waved, looked at his map, determined the course to steer to Sea-Tac airport, and landed safely. After they were on the ground, the co-pilot asked the pilot how the “You are in a helicopter” sign helped determine their position. The pilot responded, “I knew that had to be the Microsoft building because, like their help-lines, they gave me a technically correct but completely useless answer.”

USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK (for daily homilies)

1) Dr. Brant Pitre’s  commentary on Cycle A Sunday Scripture: https://catholicproductions.com/blogs/mass-readings-explained-year-c

2)Video Sunday-Scripture study by Fr. Geoffrey Plant:

https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant2066

3)Fr. Don’ collection of video homilies & blogs:  https://sundayprep.org

4) Fr. Nick’s collection:  http://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/weekday

5)Based on Barclay commentary: http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/

6)Saint of the Day: a) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/

  1. b) http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/SaintofDay/default.asp

7)http://www.wordonfire.org/resources/

8)An Important apologetic source: https://www.crediblecatholic.com/pdf/M5/BB5.pdf

https://www.crediblecatholic.com/pdf/M5/BB5.pdf

9) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KR1n56M9ybo (Discern Scripture: Who were the wise men from the East- a Christmas study) A thorough study of the Magi episode

Scriptural Homilies Cycle A (No. 9) by Fr. Tony: akadavil@gmail.com

38 Additional anecdotes:

1) Three kings in a school Christmas play: I read this story about high school students who were putting on a Christmas play which they themselves had written. In the afternoon before the play’s performance, the students suddenly realized that they had forgotten all about the three kings in the story. The director of the play hit upon the following solution: he would phone three people at random and ask them if they would stand in for the three kings. All they had to do was this: bring along some gift which was especially meaningful to them and then explain in their own words why they had chosen that gift.

The first of the three kings was a fifty-year-old father of five. He worked for the town council. He brought along a pair of crutches and explained: “Some years ago I was in a head-on collision on the highway. I spent many months in the hospital with broken bones. No one was sure that I would ever walk again. But I tried and tried and used these crutches for weeks. During that time my whole attitude changed: I became happy and grateful for every little daily success. I learned to take nothing for granted. I bring these crutches as a symbol of my personal thanks to God.”

The second of the three kings was really a queen, a mother of two children. She brought along a bundle of diapers and baby clothes. She explained: “I was very happy and successful as a graphic artist. Then I got married and the bottom fell out of my life. My husband did not want me to work anymore. All he wanted me to do was stay at home and take care of the house. Then along came the babies and they needed me. But after they grew up, I was again lost…. until I began to put my talents to work in creative art classes for children. I bring along this bundle of baby things to show that it was the little ones, the babies, who brought a new meaning into my life. I feel that by working and helping in their little world I am bettering the whole family of mankind.”

The third king was a young teenager. All he brought along was a blank piece of paper. He laid it before the Infant Jesus in the crib and explained: “I was not even sure whether I should come here or not… My hands are empty; I have nothing to give. In my heart I long for success and a meaning for my life. I am filled with doubts and questions and unrest. My future looks foggy and unclear to me. I lay this empty sheet of paper before You, Child in the crib and ask You to bring me an answer to some of my problems. I feel empty on the inside but my heart is open and receptive.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

 2) The wise men: There is a beautiful old tradition about the star in the East. The story says that when the star had finished its task of directing the wise men to the baby, it fell from the sky and dropped down into the city well of Bethlehem. According to some legends, that star is there to this day and can sometimes still be seen by those whose hearts are pure and clean. It’s a pretty story. It kind of makes you feel warm inside. There are other legends about this story of the wise men from the east. For instance, how many wise men were there? In the old days in the east, they believed that there were 12 men who made the journey, but now most everyone agrees there were three. One old legend even tells us the names of the three. Melchior was the oldest of the group, with a full beard. He gave the baby the gift of gold. Balthazar also had a beard, but was not as old as Melchior. He presented the gift of myrrh. The youngest of the three was Casper, who had no beard yet, but did present the gift of frankincense to the baby. Yet another legend goes on to tell us that, after seeing the baby, the three continued traveling as far as Spain, telling the world the good news about what they had seen. — These stories bring the wise men a little more to life and add some color to the meaning of Christmas. — They can also get in the way. The problem with legends is that sometimes they add color to stories that don’t need any additional color. In fact, sometimes legends are so colorful, they are unbelievable, and can end up making the entire story unbelievable as well,  kind of like that star falling in the well. It makes you warm inside. It also makes you wonder. I am not out to ban legends, but I do think it might be worthwhile to hear the story one more time, the way it was told the first time…. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

3) Epiphany of Christ “in His most distressing disguises.” Mother Teresa of Calcutta (canonized October 19, 2016 by Pope Francis as St. Teresa of Calcutta) died of a heart attack. She has been lauded as the “Saint of the Gutters,” as one of the “greatest women of the twentieth century” and as “one who made it her life’s work to care for the poorest of the poor.” Never stinting in her commitment to Christ, especially to “Christ in his most distressing disguises” (e.g. the sick, the dying, the outcasts, lepers, people with A.I.D.S, etc.), Mother Teresa described herself as “a pencil in God’s hands. “As long as God keeps pouring in the ink, I will continue to let God write with me and through me.” Through this physically diminutive, spiritual giant, God has indeed writ large. Through her, God has continued to reveal in our midst the mystery or secret plan of salvation of which the author of Ephesians writes in today’s second reading. St.  Teresa of Calcutta understood that there were no second-class citizens in the people of God. Nor is anyone an afterthought in God’s saving plan. The small nun who ministered to the world’s poor also left the world a legacy and a challenge. — At the beginning of this new year, contemporary believers might take time to consider if her legacy will live on in them and how that challenge can be met. Am I willing to accept and cherish absolutely everyone I meet as a co-heir, as a member of the same body and as a sharer of God’s promises? If so, then God’s secret plan continues to be revealed in me; if not, then I have darkened and obscured the manifestation of love and light that we celebrate today. (Sanchez Files). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

4) Epiphany of adventurers: When pilots Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager made their historic flight in 1986 with their spindly Voyager aircraft, the whole world followed it with excitement. For nine days a sky-watch was kept, tracking their first non-stop global flight without refueling. Achievers and risk-takers like Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager have always fascinated us. Marco Polo journeying to India and China, Christopher Columbus coming to America, Admiral Byrd going to the South Pole, our Astronauts flying to the moon —  such adventurers have always aroused our admiration and our skepticism. It was no different at the time of the Magi in today’s Gospel story. —  To the cynical observer, the Magi must have seemed foolish to go following a star. These astrologers had to be a little crazy leaving the security of their homeland to venture forth into a strange country ruled by a madman like Herod. Nevertheless, to the person with the eyes of Faith, the Magi had discovered an immense secret. They found not only the secret of the star, but the secret of the whole universe –the secret of God’s incredible love for his people. For the child they found was no ordinary child but the very Son of God become man (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

 5) My Star: Consider the true story of a young man named Tony. He travelled all over the world, appearing widely on stage and on television as a drummer in a world-famous music group. Then one day Tony felt called to the priesthood. When he resigned from the music group to enter a seminary, some people thought him to be a fool. — The story could end here. And if it did, some would consider it to be a sad story. It would be the story of a young man who let a dream slip through his fingers. But the story doesn’t end here. Tony’s now a priest in the diocese of Dallas. And he’s tremendously happy. Jesus will someday say to him what he said to Artaban: “You’ve been helping me all your life, Tony. What you did for your Parishioners, you did for me.” (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

6) An epiphany in the airport. We spot what looks like a family – a mom, a dad, and three teenage daughters. The girls and their mom are each holding a bouquet of roses. We are wondering what the story is. Whom are they expecting? The dad keeps looking at his watch. The mom keeps turning her head to make sure she hears each airport announcement. Finally, the door opens. First come the “rushers”–men and women in suits with briefcases and bags over their shoulders, rushing towards phones, bathrooms, and their cars or rent-a-cars. We’re still wondering and watching to learn whom this family we’ve been studying is there to meet. Then out come a young Marine, his wife, and their obviously brand-new baby. The three girls run to the couple and the baby. Then Mom. Dad. Hugs. Kisses. Embraces. “OOPS! The flowers!” But the baby is the center of attention. Each member of the family gets closer and closer to the mother and each opens the bundle in pink to have a first peek at this new life on the planet. We’re seeing it from a distance. It’s better than the evening news. Then we notice several other smiling people also watching the same scene. There are many other hugging scenes, people meeting people, but this is the big one. We’re smiling too. A tear of joy. — What wonderful moment we are photographing into our memory. We’re thinking, “Family! Children! Grandchildren!” This is what life is all about.” We’re experiencing an epiphany. Life is filled with them. Praise God! (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

7) O Henrys story of real love through sacrificial sharing: Gift of the Magi:   The story is about about a young couple who were poor. She had long beautiful, brown hair and used to look longingly at some tortoise-shell combs in the shop window. He had an old pocket watch that belonged to his grandfather. He used to look at a gold watch chain that would have gone well with the watch, in the shop window. But they were poor newlyweds and window shopping was all they could afford. That Christmas she cut and sold her beautiful hair to a wig maker so that she could buy her husband the gold watch chain. He, meanwhile, pawned his prized watch to buy her the beautiful tortoise-shell combs. Each gave up what they most prized to buy something the other wanted. (summarized by Fr. Peter DeSousa). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

8) The true epiphany: A rabbi put the following question to his disciples, “How can we determine the hour of dawn, when the night ends and the day begins?” One student replied, “When from a distance you can distinguish between a sheep and a dog.” “No,” said the rabbi. Another student quickly offered, “When you can tell a fig tree from a grapevine.” “No,” repeated the rabbi. “Then tell us, please,” asked the students. Replied the rabbi, “Darkness ends and day begins when you can look into the faces of all other human beings, and you have enough Light in you to recognize them as your brothers and sisters.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

9) Run away to return: John Thomas Randolph offers this modern story of running and returning to illustrate our Lord’s circumstances. Here is the difference between cowardice and heroism. The coward runs away and stays away. The hero runs away but he always returns at the appropriate time. I have a biography of General Douglas MacArthur that was written by Bob Considine. The picture on the front cover shows the general standing like a boulder, looking off into the distance, with that famous corncob pipe in his mouth. You can almost hear him telling the people of the Philippines, “I came through and I shall return.” Ordered to make a strategic withdrawal, his promise to return became the rallying cry for a whole country. MacArthur had to “run away” for a while, but he would “return” and it was the returning that mattered most. — Jesus ran away into Egypt, but he returned! All of our running away, as Christians, should be with the ultimate goal of returning. Why do we run away? When I look at my own experience, I find that I usually run away for one of three reasons: I am frightened ; I am fatigued; or I am frustrated. Isn’t that why you run away too? (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

10) “I hope it will identify me with the Gospel that I preach.” In October 1989, a new star was added to the 1900 stars on the famed sidewalk on Hollywood Boulevard. The new star was placed near the stars of Julie Andrews and Wayne Newton. The new star, as curious as it seems, was the late evangelist Billy Graham, (died February 21, 2018), who preached the Gospel to more than 100 million people around the world. Forty years earlier, he refused to have his name on a star, but he reconsidered in 1989. He said, “I hope it will identify me with the Gospel that I preach.” At the unveiling he added, “We should put our eyes on the Star, which is the Lord.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

11) Epiphany of a protecting God: The British express train raced through the night, its powerful headlight piercing the darkness. Queen Victoria was a passenger on the train. Suddenly the engineer saw a startling sight. Revealed in the beam of the engine’s light was a strange figure in a black cloak standing in the middle of the tracks and waving its arms. The engineer grabbed for the brake and brought the train to a grinding halt. He and his fellow trainmen clambered down to see what had stopped them. But they could find no trace of the strange figure. On a hunch the engineer walked a few yards further up the tracks. Suddenly he stopped and stared into the fog in horror. A bridge had been washed out in the middle and ahead of them it had toppled into a swollen stream. If the engineer had not heeded the ghostly figure, his train would have plummeted down into the stream. While the bridge and tracks were being repaired, the crew made a more intensive search for the strange flagman. But not until they got to London did they solve the mystery. At the base of the engine’s head lamp the engineer discovered a huge dead moth. He looked at it a moment, then on impulse wet its wings and pasted it to the glass of the lamp. Climbing back in to his cab, he switched on the light and saw again the “flagman” he had seen in the beam, seconds before the train was due to reach the washed-out bridge. In the fog, it appeared to be a phantom figure, waving its arms. When Queen Victoria was told of the strange happening she said, “I’m sure it was no accident. It was God’s way of protecting us.” —  No, the figure the engineer saw in the headlight’s beam was not an angel…and yet God, quite possibly through the ministry of His unseen angels, had placed the moth on the headlight lens exactly when and where it was needed. (Billy Graham from Unto the Hills) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

12) The Star: In Arthur C. Clarke’s short story, “The Star”, we read about a Jesuit astrophysicist who makes a space trip with other scientists to a distant galaxy called the Phoenix Nebula. There they chance upon a solitary planet still orbiting the remnant of a central sun, which had exploded thousands of years ago. The explorers land their spacecraft on this planet and examine the scorched surface caused by that cosmic detonation. They discover a melted-down monolithic marker at the entrance of a great vault in which they find the carefully stored treasures and records of an advanced civilization. On their return trip to earth in our own galaxy, the Jesuit astrophysicist calculates the exact time when the light from this cosmic explosion in the Phoenix Nebula reached earth. It was the date of Christ’s birth when the light from that fire was seen as a bright new star appearing in the East.  But now that he had solved an ancient mystery, he had a greater mystery to grapple with. How could a loving God allow a whole planet of intelligent being to be given a galactic conflagration, so that the symbol of their passing might shine above Bethlehem at his Son’s birth? — This science-fiction story about the star of Bethlehem has its source in today’s Gospel. Mathew’s narration of the Magi uses the star as its central symbol. From its rising in the East to its coming to a standstill over Bethlehem, the star leads and guides the astrologers. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

13) The night the stars fell: One summer night in a seaside cottage, a small boy felt himself lifted from bed. Dazed with sleep, he heard his mother murmur about the lateness of the hour, heard his father laugh. Then he was borne in his father’s arms, with the swiftness of a dream, down the porch steps, out onto the beach. Overhead the sky blazed with stars. “Watch!” his father said. And incredibly, as he spoke, one of the stars moved. In a streak of golden fire, it flashed across the astonished heavens. And before the wonder of this could fade, another star leaped from its place, and then another, plunging toward the restless sea. “What is it?” the child whispered. “Shooting stars,” his father said. “They come every year on certain nights in August. I thought you’d like to see the show.” That was all: just an unexpected glimpse of something haunting and mysterious and beautiful. But, back in bed, the child stared for a long time into the dark, rapt with the knowledge that all around the quiet house the night was full of the silent music of the falling stars. — Decades have passed, but I remember that night still, because I was the fortunate seven-year-old whose father believed that a new experience was more important for a small boy than an unbroken night’s sleep. No doubt in my childhood I had the usual quota of playthings, but these are forgotten now. What I remember is the night the stars fell …(Arthur Gordon from A Touch of Wonder). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

14) A new Magi story: In this story the three wise men, Gaspar, Balthassar and Melchior, were three different ages.  Gaspar was a young man, Balthassar a middle-aged man and Melchior an elderly man.  They found a cave where the Holy One was and entered, one at a time, to do Him homage.  Melchior, the old man, entered first.  He found an old man like himself in the cave.  They shared stories and spoke of memory and gratitude.  Middle-aged Balthassar entered next.  He found a man his own age there.  They spoke passionately about leadership and responsibility.  Young Gaspar was the last to enter.  He found a young prophet waiting for him.  They spoke about reform and promise.  Afterward when the three kings spoke to each other about their encounter with the Christ, they were shocked at each other’s stories.  So they got their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh together and all three went into the cave.  They found a Baby there, the infant Jesus only twelve days old. —  There is a deep message here.  Jesus reveals himself to all people, at all stages of their lives, whether they are Jew or Gentile. (Fr. Pellegrino). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

15)  The whispering angel: The seventeenth century painter Guido Reni has left us a magnificent painting of Matthew. An angel is whispering to him various events in the life of Jesus. The attentive Evangelist is frantically writing down all that he is told. The tale will become his Gospel. — A portion of those whispers is today’s story of the Epiphany. It is only Matthew who tells us this tale filled with wonder. Why the other Evangelists ignored this magical story, we will never know – at least this side of the grave. (Fr. Gilhooly). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

16) The Star of Bethlehem: Gordon Wilson’s daughter was killed by a bomb in Enniskillen on Remembrance Day 1987. Instead of calling for revenge, he forgave her killers and began a campaign for peace and reconciliation. He said: “I am a very ordinary sort of man. I have few personal ambitions and no political aspirations. I just want to live and let live. Life has been kind to me in the main, and I have tried to live by the Good Book. I do not profess to be a good man, but I aim to be. I would like to leave the world a better place than I found it, but I have no exaggerated ideas of my ability to do so. I have hitched my wagon to a star, a star of hope, the star of Bethlehem. (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

17) The New Age: Every year at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, there is displayed, beneath the great Christmas tree, a beautiful eighteenth century Neapolitan nativity scene. In many ways it is a very familiar scene. The usual characters are all there: shepherds roused from sleep by the voices of angels; the exotic wise men from the East seeking, as Auden once put it, “how to be human now”; Joseph; Mary; the Babe — all are there, each figure an artistic marvel of wood, clay, and paint. There is, however, something surprising about this scene, something unexpected here, easily missed by the causal observer. What is strange here is that the stable, and the shepherds, and the cradle are set, not in the expected small town of Bethlehem, but among the ruins of mighty Roman columns. The fragile manger is surrounded by broken and decaying columns. — The artists knew the meaning of this event: The Gospel, the birth of God’s new age, was also the death of the old world. Herods know in their souls what we perhaps have passed over too lightly: God’s presence in the world means finally the end of their own power. They seek not to preserve the birth of God’s new age, but to crush it. For Herod, the Gospel is news too bad to be endured, for Mary, Joseph, and all the other characters it is news too good to miss. (Adapted from Thomas G. Long, “Something Is About To Happen,” quoted by Fr. Kayala). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

18) Epiphany gift: Tolstoy once told the story about an old cobbler, Martin, who dreamt that Christ was going to visit him. All day he waited and watched but nothing extraordinary seemed to be happening. While he waited, he gave hospitality to one person who was cold, to another who needed reconciliation, to another who needed clothing. At the end of the day, he was disappointed that Christ had not come. That night he had another dream, and all those to whom he gave hospitality returned and a Voice said, “Martin, do you not know me? I am Jesus. What you did to the least of these you did to me.” (Fr. Kayala) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

19) Returning Social Security check: They tell of a man in a small town in South Dakota who tried to give some money back to the Social Security Administration, but could not. At age 65 the man retired from his work as a farm laborer and moved into town. His retirement house was extremely modest, sparsely furnished, and simply kept. Most could not manage on his meagre minimum  Social Security check. At the end of the first month of collecting on Social Security, this humble man went to the bank with five dollars in cash and told the teller he wanted to return some money because the government had given him more than he needed. With that request he “blew everybody in the bank away.” They explained to him that he couldn’t do that, that the government could give out Social Security funds, but that there was no program set-up for taking any of it back! There was no category for people who wanted to give any of their Social Security back to the government.  — Application: To receive something graciously from another is as much a gift as giving. (Gerard Fuller in Stories for all Seasons) (Fr. Kayala). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

20) Epiphany under water: There was once a holy monk who lived in Egypt. One day a young man came to visit him. The young man asked: “Oh, holy man, I want to know how to find God.” The monk was muscular and burly. He said: “Do you really want to find God?” The young man answered: “Oh, but I do.” So the monk took the young man down to the river. Suddenly, the monk grabbed the young man by the neck and held his head under water. At first the young man thought the monk was giving him a special baptism. But when after one minute the monk didn’t let go, the young man began struggling. Still the monk wouldn’t release him. Second by second, the young man fought harder and harder. After three minutes, the monk pulled the young man out of the water and said: “When you desire God as much as you desired air, you will have the epiphany of God.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

21) Herod and Stalin – pride leading to destruction: Why did Herod try to destroy Jesus, but the Magi worshipped him? The difference can be summed up in one word: humility. The Magi had humility, Herod lacked it. And history tells us where that lack of humility landed him. Herod spent his life trying to keep everything under his control. He became pathologically suspicious. He murdered his mother-in-law, wife, two brothers-in-law and three sons  because he thought they were plotting against him. In fact, his whole life was a series of violent, horrible crimes. His tyrannical fear of losing control eventually made him universally hated, even by his closest collaborators. As he lay dying, he ordered a thousand of his best servants and ministers to be led into a stadium and slaughtered, because he wanted to be sure there was mourning and sadness in his kingdom upon his death. Joseph Stalin, the equally bloody tyrant of early Soviet Russia, followed a similar path. He climbed the ladder of success by lying, double-crossing, and murdering. And once he had reached the top, he systematically eliminated all potential rivals. But soon he began to think everyone was a potential rival. He sent his best friends to concentration camps in Siberia. He became so suspicious of plots against his life that he slept in a different corner of his house every night. He, too, died fearful, miserable, and half-crazed. — These extreme examples illustrate the all-important fact that we are not God. God is God. We are not meant to control everything; we are meant to  follow  Christ humbly, to trust him, to kneel before him, like the Magi, and say with our lives, “Thy will be done, not mine; thy Kingdom come; not mine.” Herod couldn’t say that, Stalin couldn’t say that – the Magi could. They gave everything over to Christ. And they went home full of joy.  (E- Priest). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

22) God who guided the magi guides us, too, provided we trust Him:  We really need to let this truth sink in. It’s like the story of the rock climber. He was in the mountains, climbing alone (a bad idea). And it was getting late. The sun had just gone down, and the temperature was dropping fast. He was descending a section of rock that was inclined beyond the vertical, like the inside of a steep roof. He was deep in the shadows of cliffs. Suddenly, he slipped, lost his grip, and did a free fall of about forty feet before his rope caught on the last stay he had driven into the rock. He was hanging like a spider on a strand of web. He tried to climb up the rope, but at the end of the long day, he just didn’t have the strength. He was hanging there in the void. It was dark. It was cold. He had nowhere to turn. So even though he wasn’t a Church-going man, he said a prayer: “God, if you’re up there, please help me.” Much to his surprise, he heard an answer. It said, “Cut your rope.” He was surprised and overjoyed to get an answer, but he didn’t like the answer he got. He looked below him. Only darkness. It was getting colder. He prayed again, “God, if that’s really You, please help me.” Again, he heard an answer, “It really is Me. Cut your rope. Trust Me.” He looked down again. It was getting colder. He couldn’t understand why God wanted him to cut his only support. He took out his knife. But he just couldn’t get himself to cut the rope. The next morning in the bright sunlight, a group of rock climbers found him hanging from his rope, frozen to death, ten feet above the ground. — So many times, we are at the end of our rope, and we need the help of Someone we can trust – Someone who is faithful, like God. He won’t always explain everything to us, because we simply can’t understand it all;  our eyesight is limited. But when we hear His voice in our conscience, we know that the One Who is All-Good and All-Powerful is faithfully guiding us, as He guided the Wise Men, and He won’t leave us hanging – if we believe in Him. (E- Priest). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

23) “Change your name or change your conduct!”: Alexander the Great, one of the most remarkable military leaders who ever lived, conquered almost the entire known world with a relatively small army. One night during a campaign, he couldn’t sleep and left his tent to walk around the camp. He came across a soldier asleep on guard duty – a serious offense. The penalty for falling asleep on guard duty was, in some cases, instant death: the commanding officer sometimes poured kerosene on the sleeping soldier and lit it. The soldier began to wake up as Alexander the Great approached him. Recognizing who was standing in front of him, the young man feared for his life. “Do you know what the penalty is for falling asleep on guard duty?” Alexander the Great asked the soldier. “Yes, sir,” the soldier responded in a quivering voice. “Soldier, what’s your name?” demanded Alexander the Great. “Alexander, sir.” Alexander the Great repeated the question: “What is your name?” “My name is Alexander, sir,” the soldier repeated. A third time and more loudly Alexander the Great asked, “What is your name?” A third time the soldier meekly said, “My name is Alexander, sir.” Alexander the Great then looked the young soldier straight in the eye. “Soldier,” he said with intensity, “either change your name or change your conduct!” — We Christians who carry the name of Christ shouldn’t be afraid of following Christ – as Herod was. We should be glad to live up to our name, following Christ wherever he leads us – like the Magi. (From “Hot Illustrations”) E- Priest.. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

24) Conquer by this sign: The Battle of Milvian Bridge was fought between Roman Emperors Constantine I and Maxentius AD 312. On the evening of October 27, with the armies preparing for battle, Constantine had a vision. A most marvellous sign appeared to him from Heaven,  a cross of light, with the inscription, “In this sign, you shall conquer”(In hoc signmum vinces). At this sight, he himself was struck with amazement, and his whole army also, which followed him on this expedition, and witnessed the miracle. Constantine delineated the sign on the shields of his soldiers as he had been instructed to do in a dream, and proceeded to battle, and his troops stood to arms. Maxentius was defeated in the battle, and Constantine was acknowledged as emperor by the senate and people of Rome. Constantine’s victory brought relief to the Christians by ending persecution.

(Richard Cavendish, “The Battle of the Milvian Bridge” History Today, vol. 62, # 10, (October 2012); [www.historytoday.com/archive/battle-milvian-bridge] — 300 years before Constantine, God’s sign appeared on the sky as a luminous star. It announced the Good News that a Saviour was born to emancipate humanity from the clutches of evil. This sign was read by the wise men. It led the wise men to Bethlehem. (Fr. Bobby). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

25) “The light she lit in my life is still burning.” Mother Teresa once visited a poor man in Melbourne, Australia. He was living in a basement room, which was in a terrible state of neglect. There was no light in the room. He did not seem to have a friend in the world. She started to clean and tidy the room. At first he protested, “Leave it alone. It is all right as it is.” But she went ahead anyway. As she cleaned, she chatted with him. Under a pile of rubbish she found an oil lamp covered with dust. She cleaned it and discovered that it was beautiful. And she said to him, “You have got a beautiful lamp here. How she said to him, “You have got a beautiful lamp here. How come you never lighted it?” “Why should I light it?” “No one ever comes to see me.” Will you promise to light it if one of my sisters comes to see you?” “Yes,” he replied. “If I hear a human voice, I will light the lamp.” Two of Mother Teresa’s Sisters began to visit him regularly. Things gradually improved for him. Every time the Sisters came to visit him, he had the lamp lighted. Then one day he said to them: “Sisters, I will be able to manage myself from now on. Do me a favour. Tell the first Sister who came to see me that the light she lit in my life is still burning.” — The light that God lit to announce the coming of His son is still burning. The Magi followed the path of the great light and reached the cradle of Jesus. For the last twenty centuries many have followed the footprints of the Magi. Today, Jesus stands before us declaring, “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the Light of Life.” (Jn 8:12).  (M K Paul; quoted by Fr. Bobby). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

 26) Gentiles … Jews, Sharers of the Promise: In the second reading of today’s Feast of the Epiphany, St. Paul reveals God’s sacred plan: to unite and save in Christ’s Mystical Body, both Gentiles and Jews. Usually, we think of Jews and Gentiles as incapable of merging. God intended quite otherwise. Edith Stein exemplifies that intention. Edith Stein was born to devout Jewish parents at Wroclaw, Poland in 1891. As an adolescent she lost her Faith in God, but gradually recovered it when she began to study philosophy. Eventually, after reading the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, she sought Baptism as a Catholic in 1922. Having finished her graduate studies, Edith took up teaching. Her brilliant conferences won her considerable note. In 1932 the Education Institute of Muenster, Germany engaged her as a regular lecturer in its philosophy department. Edith lost this position after only a year, however. In 1933 Nazi Germany enacted laws to exclude from professional positions men and women of Jewish birth. She was not too disappointed. Now, at least, she felt free to take a step she had long contemplated and became a cloistered Carmelite nun. As Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, she continued to write important books on philosophy and spirituality. When the Nazis intensified their persecution of the Jews in 1938, Sister Teresa, for safety’s sake, was sent to a monastery in Holland. But early in World War II the Nazis overran Holland as well. In a circular letter of 1942, the Holland Catholic bishops denounced the introduction there of the Nazi purge of Jews. Hitler’s response was typical. In reprisal for the protest, he arrested and sent to Auschwitz a number of priests and nuns in Holland who were of Jewish blood. Sister Teresa Stein was one of the prisoners. She was gassed to death at Auschwitz that same August. — In her person, both Jew and Gentile were called into the happier Kingdom of God’s promise. -Father Robert F. McNamara (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

27) “Down Will Come Baby.” Some years ago I saw a play called “Down Will Come Baby.” Asthe play opens, the husband is taking down the Christmas tree. Among the things that have been hanging on the tree, there is a model of the Christ child in the manger. Apparently, they had been given out at church, and almost everyone in the parish had one on their tree. The husband says, “I’ll be sorry to see this go” holding up the model crib. “Can’t we keep Him?” says the wife. “No,” says the husband, “I’ll put Him out when I throw out the tree, the garbage man will collect Him. On the day after Christmas, you’ll see models of the crib lying all over the place, inside, outside.” The wife is shocked, but the husband says, “It has to be done; the Baby is where He belongs, thrown out with the Christmas cards and carols.” The wife becomes increasingly disturbed as the husband continues, “Everybody loves a baby, with its big eyes and all the cute things it does. But when He grows up, it is different: His eyes look through us and watch our thinking. His hands stretch out to make us care. His lips tell us what we are. Then we would have to live like real people: that is more than we can bear.” — The idea for some people is to keep the baby Jesus from becoming Christ the Lord. And that idea is not really new, King Herod had it first. Herod could not stand competition, he could not stand to face what the child might grow up to be, so he told the three wise men to let him know where the child was so he could kill him. (Fr. Bob Warren). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

28) Three modern wise men: I have a favorite story for adults for the Epiphany. Not the Gift of the Magi or the Fourth Wise Man, stories I love telling the children, but the story developed from an essay by the famous English author of a hundred years ago, G. K. Chesterton. G. K. Chesterton, wrote a wonderful essay on three modern wise men. These three heard that there was a city of peace, a city where there would never be wars or disturbances. The men wanted to live in that city, but to do so, they had to past a test. They had to present themselves at the gates of the city with gifts to demonstrating that they belonged there because they were men who would ensure the continual peace of the city. So they journeyed to this wondrous city with what, they were sure, would be gifts that would guarantee peace and earn them admission into the city. When they got to the gates of the city, St. Joseph was there to judge their gifts. The first modern wise man brought gold. He suggested that money was the root of all wars. With the gold that he bought, people could buy all the pleasures of the world and have no need to fight. He was convinced that gold would bring peace. The second modern wise man did not bring frankincense. He brought chemistry. He brought modern science. With his science he could drug the minds of people into a state of perpetual bliss. With his chemistry, he could seed the soil and control the population. People would then have all that they would need so they would never go to war again. The story was developed to present the third modern wise man bringing a split atom, a new myrrh, a new symbol of death. His message was that anyone who opposed the way of peace would face death. This wise man was the father of nuclear deterrence. After they showed him their gifts, St. Joseph refused to let any of them enter. “What more could we have brought to demonstrate that we are men of peace?” they protested. “We carry with us means to provide affluence, control nature, and destroy enemies.” St. Joseph whispered something into the ear of each man. Then they turned and went away with heavy hearts. — Do you know what St. Joseph told each of them? He told them that they had forgotten the Child. This might all seem good, but we have forgotten the Child. Peace only comes through the Prince of Peace. Men cannot create peace apart from God.(Msgr. Joe Pellegrino). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

29) Christ avoided crucifixion and ended up on Japanese shores: I read recently a most startling report from Japan. Did you know that there is a village in Japan where local lore says that Jesus escaped the Romans 2,000 years ago, eventually settling in northern Japan until he died at age 106. Two 13-foot crosses marked his reputed grave and that of his supposed brother for nearly four decades until one morning last year, when somebody cut them down with a saw. Local officials are calling the vandalism a “malicious prank,” and police are pursuing it as a case of property damage. The local tradition about Jesus springs from an ancient scroll said to have been found in a temple in the 1930s. Believers say Jesus wrote it after he arrived in Japan following a life of adventure. The text recounts how Christ avoided crucifixion and ended up on Japanese shores. According to the legend, he married a woman named Miyuko and had three daughters. Some 100,000 tourists visit the graves each year, leaving change or fruit because the ground is believed to have magical healing powers. Village authorities have turned the grave site into a park with an enormous billboard that says “Shingo: Hometown of Christ.” Until recently, Shingo residents painted crosses on the foreheads of newborn babies in the hope that it would bring good luck from Christ. Japan is notoriously ambivalent about religion. Rites to appease the spirits of dead relatives are everyday affairs, but most Japanese don’t find it necessary to adhere to one religion in particular. Many families hold Shinto marriages and Buddhist funerals. — Just when you think you’ve heard everything, a report surfaces like this one! To set the record straight, the hometown of Jesus was not Shingo, Japan but Nazareth in Galilee. His birthplace was Bethlehem, as foretold by the prophet Micah. We wish we had more information about Jesus’ childhood and about Mary and Joseph, but we do not. Nothing certain is known about this family until Jesus is twelve years old, when Mary and Joseph take him to the Temple. No wonder that on the day of Epiphany, we like to take out this one last snapshot of the Holy Family, Mary and Joseph and the young child! It is the last one we will have until the child is nearly grown. (Philip Yancey, The Jesuis I Never Knew). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
30) What was different about these magi? In the year 7 B.C. the planets Jupiter and Saturn appeared very close together in the night sky, casting a bright glow similar to that of a single large star. The following year, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn were also closely aligned. Some scholars believe one of these two events produced the bright light in the sky the wise men followed when they came to Bethlehem two thousand years ago. You know the story.  — What fascinates me is this: hundreds of thousands of other people living in that part of the world saw the same bright light in the sky, but they did not leave their homes to go find the newborn king. What was different about these magi? Vision. First of all, these magi were searching for something that was real–something that would transform their lives. God loves searchers. (Rev. King Duncan). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

31) Destructive journeys in search of stars. So many people are taking destructive journeys in our world today, following so many false stars. A few years back our Air Force built a sophisticated unmanned jet called the Global Hawk. With no pilot aboard, this plane can fly for more than a day, scouring terrain and relaying video to a ground station 3000 miles away. A few years back one of these planes was lost in a freak accident. No, it didn’t crash into a mountain. It didn’t run out of fuel or have one of its parts malfunction. Rather, it committed suicide. It shut its engines down, erased classified material from its computer, set its flaps in a death spiral and smashed at 400 mph into the desert.  Here’s what happened. More than 100 miles away, a team of Air Force personnel were testing a second Global Hawk aircraft. At some time in this test, this team told this second plane to terminate its flight. Unfortunately, the first plane “overheard” this signal from more than 100 miles away and thought it was being ordered to terminate its flight, and it did just that. A forty-five million dollar plane was lost because it listened to the wrong voice. (TIME magazine, 1‑24‑2000, p. 18). — There are many journeys we can take in today’s world, many voices we can listen to, many stars that we can follow. But only one leads us into the path of abundant life. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

32) There it is, Epiphany: Leo Buscaglia once told a story that happened while he was a professor at the University of Southern California. He had a student who was brilliant and filled with potential. Joel, however, had lost his meaning and purpose for living. Joel had been brought up in the Jewish faith, but like many young people he had wandered away. God had become a meaningless symbol. He had no motivation to live another day and no one could convince him otherwise. So he prepared to take his own life. On his way, he stopped by Leo’s office. Fortunately, the good doctor was in. The student told Leo that he had lots of money, clothes and cars. He had been accepted at several of the top engineering schools to work on his Master’s degree. He had everything going for him, even good looks. Women circled around him like sharks. Yet he had nothing inside. There was no fire or passion in his belly. He had no vision, no joy, no enthusiasm, no peace, no harmony. Leo said, “Before you take your life, I want you to visit some old people at the Hebrew Home which is adjacent to our campus.” “What for?” the young man countered. Leo said, “You need to understand life through the eyes of your heart.” “The eyes of my heart?” the young man asked. “Yes, you need to experience what it is like to give to those who have lost their connection to a meaningful life. Go to the desk and ask if there are people there who have not been visited for a long time by anyone. You visit them.” “And say what?” the young man asked.“I don’t know,” Leo said, “Tell them anything that will give them hope.”Notice Leo’s strategy–we get back what we give. Leo did not see the student for months. In fact, he largely forgot about him. Then one day during the fall, he saw him coming from a bus with a group of seniors, some of whom were in wheel chairs. Joel had organized a trip to the baseball game with a group of his new senior friends who had not been to a game in years. Leo and Joel chatted for a moment. Just before parting Joel said, “Thanks for helping me find the ‘eyes of my heart.’” Leo nodded and smiled. (http://www.stmatthews‑bowie.org/Worship/Sermons/2004/sermon_09_26_04.asp.)There it is. Epiphany. Seeing life with new eyes. Vision. Seeing in the world new possibilities. That is what I wish for each of us this day. The magi came searching. Their search took them on a journey of faith. When they found the newborn king they offered him gifts, gifts that represented the best that was in them. This is the kind of vision we need as we begin this new year–a vision to build new lives and a new world. (Rev. Richard E. Stetler). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

33) Stargazers: Charles Kuralt travels across the United States learning about people. Recently he visited the mountains of North Carolina. Kuralt claims that mountain people know a lot of things the rest of us have forgotten. For example, at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve the mountain people he visited open their windows. That’s to let bad luck out and good luck in. On New Year’s Day they eat black-eyed peas for dinner. That’s also for good luck. Don’t worry if you forgot. Simply look for a red-haired girl riding on a white mule. That’s good luck any time of the year. Another thing mountain people know is that the first twelve days of January correspond to the first twelve months of the year when it comes to predicting weather. Accordingly, if you want to know what the weather will be like in May just look out the window on Wednesday, January 5. “Mountain people know so many things,” Kuralt says. It’s a wonder, “those of us who don’t know them can get along at all.” Other examples include: if your nose itches that means company is coming; if a honey bee buzzes around your head that means you’re about to find some money; if you need to stop a cut from bleeding just say the sixth verse of the sixteenth chapter of Ezekiel while walking toward the sunrise. “Everybody around here knows that,” he says. —  I thought you could use some good advice on this first Sunday of a new year. Where do you turn when you want some good advice? (1) Some people look to the stars. I read recently that in Canada, fully 88 percent of the people know their astrological sign and 50 percent read their horoscope at least once a month. Only half as many read the Bible that often. (2) I’m not going to ask you if you read your astrological forecast. Some foolish people live by them. That was true in the ancient world as well. People have always wanted to know what the future holds. 3) Star gazers were very popular at the time of Jesus’ birth. They were welcomed by kings. They were respected in the marketplace. Many became quite wealthy. — The Wise Men from the East were astrologers. But they were also deeply religious. They scanned the heavens nightly looking for some sign from God. One evening a sign appeared, a star they had never seen before. It was bigger than any other star in the heavens. “Could this be the sign we have been looking for?” they wondered. Perhaps if they followed the star it would lead them to the answers they had been seeking. (Rev. King Duncan). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

34) Today they are pumping vast quantities of oil.  There is an interesting story about a director of Standard Oil Company who was reading his Bible one day and came upon Ex 2:3. This is the story of the mother of Moses seeking to hide her child from the Egyptians. She makes a little basket made of  bullrushes, you’ll remember. This is how the writer of Exodus describes the process, “…and [she]daubed it with slime and with pitch.” The Standard Oil director knew that where there is pitch there is usually oil. So he sent his engineers to work. Today they are pumping vast quantities of oil out of the ground near Moses’ home town in Egypt.
— There are two lessons here, I suppose. One is about reading your Bible. The other is about dropping everything and acting on what you read. (Rev. King Duncan). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

35) Is he here?” Perhaps you remember the old Russian legend about a woman named Babushka. Like too many of us Babushka was always busy, too busy, a tidy housekeeper, always occupied with the many chores that needed her attention. One evening as she is cleaning her house she hears a commotion out on the street. Looking out her window she sees her neighbors pointing to a star high in the heavens. Off in the distance she sees a caravan approaching.
Babushka is startled to hear a knock at her door. She opens it to find three richly dressed kings. They ask her if they could lodge there overnight. After all, she has the finest house in the whole village. That night they tell Babushka that they are following a star. They invite her to go with them in search of the newborn king. Babushka makes excuses. First she tells them she doesn’t have a proper gift. Besides she has to clean up her house before she does anything. As the three kings are leaving she promises to join them the next day after her work is complete. But the kings leave without her.
The next day Babushka cleans her house and finds a proper gift. All of a sudden she has the urgent desire to catch up with these men. They are a full day’s journey ahead of her but, she hopes to catch them. Everywhere she asks if people have seen the three kings. Finally she tracks them to the village of Bethlehem. But she is too late. The kings have come and gone. And the baby they were searching for is gone too. Babushka missed the kings and the King of Kings. According to legend she continues her search year after year. In fact many believe that she can still be seen in villages at Christmas time, looking for the Christ Child. “Is he here?” she asks the villagers, “Is he here?” (Wendy M. Wright, The Vigil) — Follow the star. That’s good advice for this first Sunday of a New Year. Carpe Diem ” seize the day. Get into action. Don’t let life pass you by.
(https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

36) Another Road: Let me tell you about another wise man, a wise man of our day, who like the wise men of old, was led by the stars and then lead home by Another Road. From a young age, Hugh Ross was consumed by the study of physics and astronomy. He devoured scientific texts, and found in them a knowledge that excited him. His studies of science and the order of the universe led Hugh to the belief that there had to be a Creator somewhere that set the whole thing in motion.

As a young man, he began studying the texts of the world’s major religions. He measured each one against the known facts of science and history. If there was a Creator, Hugh felt, and if this Creator went to such great lengths to make an orderly universe that could be understood, then such a Creator would want to communicate with His creation in an orderly and truthful manner. Hugh Ross’ study of the stars and the planets led him to believe that there was such a God. Hugh Ross found that God in the Bible. But it would be another few months of wrestling with his will before Hugh was ready to humble himself and ask Jesus to be Lord of his life. — Today, Dr. Hugh Ross has earned degrees in physics and astronomy from the University of British Columbia and the University of Toronto. He is the director of Reasons to Believe, an organization that publicizes the historical and scientific truths of the Bible. Dr. Ross comments, “As an astronomer, I have achieved my ultimate quest: My education led me to the stars; my faith led me beyond.” (Dr. Hugh Ross in The Day I Met God) Dr. Ross searched for knowledge; what he found was Truth and it sent him home by Another Road. This morning we’re invited to come to Bethlehem, “the house of bread” and to leave by Another Road. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

37) See a star, and follow it: In 1982 a woman named Celeste Tate was shocked by how much good food supermarkets throw away. She persuaded a store manager to donate his expired items to help the less fortunate. She and David McKinley set up shop in a garage. Soon they had built the first Gleaners supermarket for the needy in Las Vegas. The name Gleaners comes from the Old Testament practice of leaving some grain in the fields after harvesting so that the poor may gather it.Today the Las Vegas store serves about 20,000 people a month. There are now 194 stores based on the Gleaners model in the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Holland and China. These not-for-profit shops receive food and other perishable goods from supermarkets and big businesses, repackage them and either give them away to the needy or sell them at dramatically reduced prices for those whose budgets are limited. The Department of Health and Human Services has called Gleaners the most outstanding food program in the United States. And it began because one woman was shocked at the waste in our supermarkets.  (Patricia Aburdene and John Naisbitt, Megatrends for Women). — Nothing happens in this world until someone sees a star and follows it. These three Magi were obviously men of action. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

38) Magi were “Yes, I will” people. Mary Kay Ash, who built Mary Kay cosmetics into a corporate giant, once said this: “If we ever decide to compare knees, you’re going to find that I have more scars than anyone else in the room. That’s because I’ve fallen down and gotten up so many times in my life.” (Deborah Ford with Edie Hand, The Grits (Girls Raised in the South) Guide to Life) Those are the people who are successful in the world. People who refuse to give up. People who follow their star regardless of the obstacles. Motivational speaker Earl Nightingale once told the story of an American team of mountain climbers who set out to conquer Mount Everest. Before the team left the U.S. a psychiatrist interviewed them. Each was asked individually, privately, “Will you get to the top of Everest?” There was a wide assortment of answers. “Well, Doc, I’ll do my best.” “I’m sure going to try.” Each knew how formidable was the challenge. But one of them, a slightly built team member, gave a totally different answer. When the psychiatrist asked him the question, he thought for a moment and then quietly answered, “Yes, I will.” Not surprisingly, he was the first to make it to the peak of Mt. Everest. Nightingale comments: “Yes, I will–three of the most potent words in our language. Whether spoken quietly, loudly, or silently, those three words have propelled more people to success and have been responsible for more human achievement than all other words in the English language combined.” (Rev. Dan Mangler). — The Magi were men of action, men of determination. They were “Yes, I will” people. But more than anything else, the three Magi were men of faith. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

39) Reliquary of the magi in Cologne Cathedral: One of the most evocative tales in the Bible is that of the journey made by the three wise men to Bethlehem. The Shrine of the Three Kings in the Cologne Cathedral is a reliquary said to contain their bones. It is a large gilded and decorated triple sarcophagus placed above the high altar of Cologne Cathedral. It is considered the high point of Mosan Art and the largest reliquary of the Middle Ages. According to legend, the “relics of the Magi” were originally situated at Constantinople but brought to Milan in an oxcart by Eustorgius I, to whom they were entrusted by Emperor Constantine in 314. Eight centuries later, in 1164, the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa took the relics of the Magi and give them to the Archbishop of Cologne, Rainald of Dassel. Parts of the Shrine were designed by the famous medieval goldsmith Nicholas of Verdun The Shrine is shaped like a basilica with two sarcophagi stand next to each other, with the third sarcophagus resting on their roof ridges. It is approximately 43 inches wide, 60 inches high, and 87 inches long. The decoration of the structure is rich with filigree and enamel and is covered with over 1000 jewels and beads. The basic structure is made of wood, with gold and silver overlay. The entire outside of the shrine is covered with an elaborate decorative overlay. On the sides, there are depictions of the prophets, the apostles, and evangelists. On one end there are images of the Adoration of the Magi, Mary enthroned with the infant Jesus, and the Baptism of Christ, and above, Christ enthroned at the Last Judgement. The other end shows scenes of the Passion and has a bust of Rainald of Dassel in the center. The shrine was finally opened in 1864, and was found to contain the bones of Philip I, Archbishop of Cologne, along with some coins belonging to him. Today, the Shrine rises above the medieval high altar, making this area the main focus of the Cologne Gothic Cathedral, which was built as a stone reliquary for this precious shrine. L-23

“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle A (No 10) by Fr. Tony: akadavil@gmail.com

Visit my website by clicking on https://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle A homilies, 141 Year of FaithAdult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at akadavil@gmail.com. Visit also https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies  under Fr. Tony’s homilies and  under Resources in the CBCI website:  https://www.cbci.in  for other website versions.  (Vatican Radio website: http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html uploaded my Cycle A, B and C homilies in from 2018-2020)  Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604 .

Jan 2-7 (2023) weekday homilies

Jan 2-7 :Click on http://frtonyshomilies.comfor missed homilies

Jan 2 Monday (Saints Basil the Great & Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops) For a short biography click on (https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-gregory-nazianzen; John 1:19-28: 19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, he did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 They said to him then, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, `Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” 24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water; but among you stands one whom you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 This took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

The context: The news reached the central Jewish religious authorities in Jerusalem that one John, the son of a Jewish priest, was preaching repentance and renewal of life to the Jews and inviting them to receive the baptism of repentance meant only for Gentiles. Hence, the Sanhedrin sent a delegation of experts to Bethany on the eastern bank of river Jordan (different from the Bethany near Jerusalem, where Lazarus lived), to discover whether John was claiming to be the expected Messiah or his forerunner Elijah, the prophet, and to ask why he encouraged the Chosen People to receive the baptism of repentance.

John’s witnessing mission: John frankly declared in all humility that he was not Elijah nor the expected Messiah nor even one of the Old Testament prophets reincarnated. Later, Jesus referred to him as “a lamp “He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light (Jn 5:35). In the spiritual life, the ideal is to become invisible, and our role as Christians is to become salt, yeast, grain, and light. But John claimed that he was the forerunner of the real Messiah, and that his mission was to prepare the lives of the Jews to receive the expected Messiah and to bear witness to him when he should appear in public. John also explained to them that he was baptizing the Jews with water because they must be made holy through repenting of their sins and renewing their lives if they were to receive the most Holy Messiah in their midst.

Life messages: 1) As Catholic Christians, we believe in the coming of Jesus our Lord and Savior on our altars during each Eucharistic celebration. Hence, we, too, need to repent of our sins and ask God’s pardon and forgiveness on a daily basis if we wish to receive Jesus into our hearts and lives sacramentally. 2) We, too, need to renew our lives with the help of our Lord Jesus living within us, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, so that He may radiate His love, forgiveness, and mercy to all around us. 3) We too need to practice the true humility of John the Baptist. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/23.For additional reflections, click on: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/;https://www.epriest.com/reflections

Jan 3 Tuesday: (The Most Holy name of Jesus): John 1:29-34: 29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 … 34

The context: The central theme of today’s Gospel is a challenge to live like the Lamb of God and to die like the Lamb of God. The Gospel passage presents two themes, namely, John’s witness to Jesus and Jesus’ epiphany and identification by John as the “Lamb of God.” Today’s Gospel is a personal and corporate call to us to become witnesses to the Lamb of God. John the Baptist gave testimony to Jesus by pointing out that He was the Lamb of God (vv. 29, 36); a man who was before me (vs. 30); the one on whom the Holy Spirit remained (v. 33); and the Son of God (vs. 34). Lamb of God is the most meaningful title given to Jesus in the Bible. John’s introduction probably brought five pictures of the “lamb” to the minds of his Jewish listeners. 1) The Lamb of yearly Atonement (Scapegoat): (Lv 16:20-22). Two lambs were brought to the Temple on the Day of Atonement. Lots were cast, and the high priest slowly led one to the altar to be killed as a sin offering for the people. Then he placed both his hands on the head of the other and confessed the sins of Israel and transferred them to that scapegoat. It was then sent into the forest to be killed by some wild animal. 2) The Lamb of Daily Atonement (Ex. 29:38-42; Nm 28:1-8). This was the lamb sacrificed on the “Black Altar” of the Temple every morning and evening to atone for the sins of the Jews. 3) The Paschal Lamb (Ex. 12:11ss.). This was the lamb whose blood saved the firstborn of the Jewish families in Egypt from the “Angel of destruction” as well as the Paschal Lamb killed every year on the Passover Feast. 4) The Lamb of the Prophets. The prophets portrayed one Lamb Who, by His sacrifice, would redeem His people: “The gentle lamb led to the slaughterhouse” (Jer 11:19), “like a lamb to the slaughter” (Is 53:7). Both refer to the sufferings and sacrifice of Christ. 5) The Lamb of the Conquerors. This was the image of the horned lamb on the Jewish flag at the time of Maccabaean liberation war, used as a sign of conquering majesty and power.

Life messages: We need to live and die like the Lamb of God.

(1) Living like a lamb means: a) leading a pure, innocent, humble, selfless life, obeying Christ’s commandment of love; b) appreciating the loving providence and protecting care of the Good Shepherd in his Church; c) eating the Body and drinking the Blood of the Good Shepherd and deriving spiritual strength from the Holy Spirit through Sacraments and prayers.

(2) Dying like a sacrificial lamb means: a) sacrificially sharing our blessings of health, wealth, and talents with others in the family, parish and community; b) bearing witness to Christ in our illness, pain, and suffering; c) offering our sufferings for the salvation of souls and as reparation for our sins and those of others(https://frtonyshomilies.com/)LP/23

For additional reflections, click on : https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

Jan 4 Wednesday (St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Religious (U. S. A.) John 1:35-42: John 1:35-42: 35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples; 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, “What do you seek?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).

In Mathew’s Gospel, Jesus called the fishermen Andrew and his brother Simon from their fishing boat. But John the Evangelist gives a slightly different story. According to him, Andrew and he (John, son of Zebedee) were disciples of John the Baptist. John the Baptist wanted them to join the true Messiah, Jesus, as His disciples. So, one day when Andrew and John (according to tradition) were standing with their master, John the Baptist, Jesus happened to pass in front of them. John the Baptist promptly introduced Jesus to them as the Lamb of God. It was natural for Andrew and John to guess what their master, John the Baptist, wanted them to do. So, they followed Jesus. Since Sabbath rest was about to begin when travel was forbidden, Jesus cordially invited them to come and stay with Him and learn more about his life and mission till the Sabbath was over.

When the Sabbath rest with Jesus was over, Andrew and John went home. Andrew was so fascinated with Jesus and his contact with him the previous day that he promptly told his brother Simon about Jesus: “We have found the Messiah.” Without wasting time Andrew brought his brother to Jesus. Jesus surprised Simon by calling him by his name, Simon, and changing that Hebrew name to the Greek name, Cephas (Peter),meaning rock, and accepting him as His disciple.

Life message: 1) We need to be missionaries like Andrew. Just as a day’s contact with Jesus transformed Andrew into a missionary, leading his brother to Jesus, we are expected to experience Jesus in our lives by Bible reading, personal prayers and sacramental life and acts of charity. Once we experience Jesus personally, we too must start leading others to the same experience of Jesus as their Lord and Savior, enabling them to surrender their lives to Jesus, too. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/23

For additional reflections, click on : https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

Jan 5 Thursday: St. Jon Neumann, Bishop (U.S. A): John 1:43-51: 43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. And he found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Beth-sa’ida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathan’a-el, and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathan’a-el said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathan’a-el coming to him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” 48 Nathan’a-el said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathan’a-el answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.”

In today’s Gospel of John (John 1:43-51), Nathanael, also called Bartholomew or “son of Tholomay,” is introduced as a friend of Philip. He is described as initially being skeptical about the Messiah coming from Nazareth, saying: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” But he accepts Philip’s invitation to meet Jesus. Jesus welcomes him saying, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” Jesus’ comment, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you,” is probably based on a Jewish figure of speech referring to studying the Torah. Nathanael immediately recognizes Jesus as “the Son of God” and “the King of Israel.” Nathanael reappears at the end of John’s Gospel (Jn 21:2) as one of the disciples to whom Jesus appeared at the Sea of Tiberius after his resurrection from the tomb. The Gospels thus present Bartholomew as a man with no malice and a lover of Torah with openness to truth and readiness to accept the truth. Nathanael was the first Apostle to make an explicit confession of Faith in Jesus as the Messiah and as the Son of God.

Life message: Let us pray for the grace to love the word of God as Bartholomew did and to accept the teaching of the Bible and the Church with open heart and open mind without pride or prejudice. (Fr. Tony) LP/23

For additional reflections, click on : https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

Jan 6 Friday: (St. Andre Bessette, Religious (U.S.A.) Mark 1:7-11: And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” 9. In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove; 11 and a voice came from heaven, “Thou are my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.” (or Lk 3:23-28 or 3:23, 31-34, 36, 38

Introduction: The Baptism of the Lord is the great event celebrated by the Eastern churches on the feast of Epiphany because it is the occasion of the first public revelation of all the Three Persons in the Holy Trinity, and the official revelation of Jesus as the Son of God to the world by God the Father. Hence, it is described by all four Gospels. It marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.

Importance: The baptism from John was a very important event in the life of Jesus because 1) it was a moment of his identification with us sinners; 2) it was a moment of conviction about his identity and mission: that Jesus is the Son of God and his mission is to preach the Good News of God’s love and salvation and to atone for our sins by becoming the “suffering servant”; 3) it was a moment of equipment: the Holy Spirit equipped Jesus by descending on him in the form of dove, giving him the power of preaching and healing; and 4) it was a moment of decision to begin public ministry at the most opportune time after receiving the approval of his Heavenly Father as His beloved Son.

Life messages: (1) The baptism of Jesus reminds us of our identity. It reminds us of who we are and Whose we are. By our Baptism we become sons and daughters of God, members of God’s family, brothers and sisters of Jesus, members of his Church, heirs of Heaven and temples of the Holy Spirit. (2) Jesus’ baptism reminds us also of our mission: a) to experience the presence of God within us, to acknowledge our own dignity as God’s children, and to appreciate the Divine presence in others by honoring them, loving them and serving them in all humility; b) to live as the children of God in thought, word, and action; c) to lead a holy and transparent Christian life, and not to desecrate our bodies (the temples of the Holy Spirit and members of Jesus’ body) by impurity, injustice, intolerance, jealousy, or hatred; d) to accept both the good and the bad experiences of life as the gifts of a loving Heavenly Father for our growth in holiness; e) to grow daily in intimacy with God by personal and family prayers, by meditative reading of the Word of God, by participating in the Holy Mass, and by frequenting the Sacrament of Reconciliation. (3) It is a day to thank God for the graces we have received in Baptism, to renew our Baptismal promises, and to preach Christ’s “Good News” by our transparent Christian lives of love, mercy, service, and forgiveness. (Fr. Tony) LP/23

For additional reflections, click on: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

Jan 7 Saturday: (St. Raymond Penyafort, Priest)https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-adrian-of-canterbury/John 2:1-11: Miracle at Cana 1 On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; 2 Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples. 3 When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 … 11

We are at a wedding at Cana where Jesus reveals his Divine power by his first miracle, transforming water into wine. The Bible begins with one wedding, that of Adam and Eve in the garden (Gn 2:23-24), and ends with another, the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rv 19:9, 21:9, 22:17). Throughout the Bible, marriage is the symbol of the Covenant relationship between God and His chosen people. God is the faithful Groom and humanity is His beloved bride.

In today’s Gospel, John describes the first of the seven “signs’ by which Jesus showed forth his divinity. When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother told him about it. At first Jesus seemed to refuse to do anything about it. But later he told the servants to fill six large stone jars with water and take some to the headwaiter. When they did so, the water had become wine, better wine than that which had run out.

Life messages: 1) We need to, “Invite Jesus and Mary to remain with us in our homes.” St. John Mary Vianney suggests this as the solution for many of our family problems. He used to encourage parents to create an atmosphere of prayer, Bible reading, mutual love and respect, and sacrificial service at home so that the presence of Jesus and Mary might be perpetually enhanced and experienced in the family. 2) We need to, “Do whatever He tells you.” This is the only command and piece of advice given by Mary recorded in the New Testament, and it is a prerequisite for miracles in our families. The Bible tells us how to do the will of God and effect salvific changes in our daily lives. 3) Just as Jesus filled the water jars with wine, let us fill the hearts around us with love. If our families have lost the savor of mutual love, let us renew them at the altar with the invigorating power of the Holy Spirit. By the miracle of Cana, Jesus challenges us also to enrich the empty lives of those around us with the new wine of love, mercy, concern, and care. 4) We need to learn to appreciate the miracles of God’s providence in our lives. God, often as an uninvited guest in our families, works daily miracles in our lives by protecting us from physical and moral dangers, providing for our needs, inspiring us, and strengthening us with His Holy Spirit. Let us also appreciate the miracle of the Real Presence of the Lord on the altar, where God transforms our offering of bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus. (Fr. Tony) L/23

For additional reflections, click on: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections