Tuesday, January 31, 2012

February 5th 2012 - Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time


Job 7:1-4, 6-7
Psalm 147:1-6
1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23
Mark 1:29-39

Marc Chagall's Job in Despair

Raised to Serve 

by Scott Hahn


In today’s First Reading, Job describes the futility of life before Christ.
His lament reminds us of the curse of toil and death placed upon Adam following his original sin (see Genesis 3:17-19). Men and women are like slaves seeking shade, unable to find rest. Their lives are like the wind that comes and goes.

But, as we sing in today’s Psalm, He who created the stars, promised to heal the brokenhearted and gather those lost in exile from Him (see Isaiah 11:12; 61:1). We see this promise fulfilled in today’s Gospel.

Simon’s mother-in-law is like Job’s toiling, hopeless humanity. She is laid low by affliction but too weak to save herself.

But as God promised to take His chosen people by the hand (see Isaiah 42:6), Jesus grasps her by the hand and helps her up. The word translated “help” is actually Greek for raising up. The same verb is used when Jesus commands a dead girl to arise (see Mark 5:41-42). It’s used again to describe His own resurrection (see Mark 14:28; 16:7).

Healing Simon -Peter's Mother-in-Law by John Bridges 19th Century
What Jesus has done for Simon’s mother-in-law, He has done for all humanity - raised all of us who lay dead through our sins (see Ephesians 2:5).

Notice all the words of totality and completeness in the Gospel. The whole town gathers; all the sick are brought to Him. He drives out demons in the whole of Galilee. Everyone is looking for Christ.
We too have found Him. By our baptism, He healed and raised us to live in His presence (see Hosea 6:1-2).

Like Simon’s mother-in-law, there is only one way we can thank Him for the new life He has given us. We must rise to serve Him and His gospel.

Our lives must be our thanksgiving, as Paul describes in today’s Epistle. We must tell everyone the good news, the purpose for which Jesus has come - that others, too, may have a share in this salvation.

Yours in Christ,

Scott Hahn, Ph.D.

You can Listen Here!

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

January 22, 2012 - Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

 The calling of the brothers in today’s Gospel evokes Elisha’s commissioning by the prophet Elijah
(see 1 Kings 19:19-21).

As Elijah comes upon Elisha working on his family’s farm, so Jesus sees the brothers working by the seaside. And as Elisha left his mother and father to follow Elijah, so the brothers leave their father to come after Jesus.

Jesus’ promise - to make them “fishers of men” - evokes Israel’s deepest hopes. The prophet Jeremiah announced a new exodus in which God would send “many fishermen” to restore the Israelites from exile, as once He brought them out of slavery in Egypt (see Jeremiah 16:14-16).

Jonah 3:1-5,10
Psalm 25:4-9
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Mark 1:14-20
By Jesus’ cross and resurrection, this new exodus has begun
(see Luke 9:31).
And the apostles are the first of a new people of God, the Church - a new family, based not on blood ties, but on belief in Jesus and a desire to do the Father’s will (see John 1:12-13; Matthew 12:46-50).

From now on, even our most important worldly concerns - family relations, occupations, and possessions - must be judged in light of the gospel, Paul says in today’s Epistle.

The first word of Jesus’ gospel - repent - means we must totally change our way of thinking and living, turning from evil, doing all for the love of God.

And we should be consoled by Nineveh’s repentance in today’s First Reading. Even the wicked Nineveh could repent at Jonah’s preaching. And in Jesus we have a greater than Jonah (see Matthew 12:41).

We have God come as our savior, to show sinners the way, as we sing in today’s Psalm. This should give us hope - that loved ones who remain far from God will find compassion if they turn to Him.

But we, too, must continue along the path of repentance - striving daily to pattern our lives after His.

Listen Here!


Homily for January 22, 2012

My friends, today, I ask for your prayers. I shall preach something which is difficult to say and which may be difficult to hear. Today, I am going to talk about abortion and contraception. This may cause some of you to feel uncomfortable and others to get upset yet it requires a prophet’s voice. I am encouraged by the 1st reading where Jonah’s voice of truth allowed for Conversion of the hearts of the people of Nineveh. Perhaps my simple voice will lead to the conversion of some here or in our society.

Yesterday morning, many joined together to march for life.  I was amazed to see all the young people  and all the babies. Everywhere you turned there was new life and there was vitality. Seeing all these babies, it reminded me of a time when I was in Rome. I loved looking at the babies in Rome. You see Italians aren't having children. They average 1.1 children per couple. So when I would see a baby stroller I always wanted to see what the baby looked like. I remember this one time looking into the stroller and in horror saw the ugliest baby ever. I’m serious. It was ugly. It had big teeth and a big nose. Its ears stood up and was real pointy. It was so hairy and it had long tongue. When it spoke, it said rough! It was a dog! They put a dog in a baby stroller. You see this is the secular dream. Do not get married and just be partners, not to have children but to have a couple of dogs and to seek to live a comfortable life where one would do what one would feel like. This is advertised all the time. People don't have babies so they try to make dogs into their babies.

Today, January 22, 39 years ago, the United States supreme court passed a judgement
that has caused the death of over 50 million children. 50 million children - this is twice the number that live in Texas completely wiped out. This has been a genocide on an unthinkable level. There are other areas of life that need attention as well – but none whose evil is as widespread as abortion. The bishops remind us that over 3,000 babies each day die within the womb of their mother.

This creates a great wound in the mothers of these children, those that are involved and throughout society in general. Most of these teen mothers feel forced and coerced into this. They may be scared and feel like they have no one to turn to. I remember a sign I recently saw of a young woman. The top of the sign says pregnancy. Around her head is a thought circle that says, “My mother is going to kill me.” Around the womb of the girl is another thought circle that reads, “My mother is going to kill me.” My friends, as witnesses of life we need to help those who are scared or those who are injured by abortion and help them to receive the healing they deserve. The healing and forgiveness of these wounds can be had through Jesus Christ.

We all can be forgiven. We can live in peace. This wound affects all of us. Even me: I remember when I lived in the fraternity house and one of the brother’s pressured his girlfriend to go to planned parenthood. I didn’t know what that meant at the time. I do know that she ended up having an abortion shortly after and I realized that I had missed an opportunity to intervene in someone’s life and keep them from experiencing such a serious wound in their lives. If you have a similar wound, the Church is here for you. Come to the sacrament of Confession and begin the healing if you have been affected in any way by this. Ministries in the Church like Project Rachel are there to help you heal.

Today, I just don’t want to look at our woundedness from abortion but want to go to an evil that is much more rampant in our society and is the foundation for which abortion comes. It is that of contraception.

In the supreme court case Roe vs. Wade in 1973, it was argued time and again that women needed the availability of abortion in the event that contraceptives would fail. Contraceptives created a mentality that was contrary to life. The natural result of this would lend itself to abortion. Otherwise they would have an unwanted child.

John Paul II in The Gospel of Life said, “Indeed, the pro- abortion culture is especially strong precisely where the Church's teaching on contraception is rejected" (n. 13).

Ultimately, both abortion and contraception have the same root. It declares a subjective triumph over objective natural law. Contraception states, “I know this act is ordered towards procreation and committed union, but I don't want a baby, but I still want the fun and therefore I will put myself above natural law.” The same is true with abortion. I know that life is sacred yet I will kill the life. This same so-called “right to privacy” has been listed as a reason to allow same-sex unions to be called marriages. It the elevation of the person’s will over natural law. Once this takes root in a society, it opens the door for all sorts of evils and ultimately the destruction of society.

Mother Theresa said once that a society that begins to kill its most vulnerable, its own flesh and blood that it will rapidly and quickly cease to be civilized.

Humane Vitae mentions that this would happen when civil law detached from natural law. With this Paul VI says “Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone?” Didn’t this happen in China under their one – child policy?

This imposition is no longer seen in countries outside of the United States, but in the United States. The current administration under the leadership of the President has declared that all Church’s and religious institutions must be included in the mandatory provision of Contraception and abortion as part of their health care plans. This is the first time that the constitution has been thrown aside so to impose the contraceptive mentality and disregarded individual and communal conscience. This is evil and must be stopped.

My experience as - You are too young to have too many children.
- I love you so much that I need to protect myself. WHAT!!!

Spiritually, if one chooses to prevent conception, this ultimately renders marital sex to a commodity of pleasure where the other person is used to render pleasure to the other. And then what happens when the contraception fails. The child would be deemed us unwanted – a scourge – and must be eliminated. Children no longer are seen as a gift but they are seen as either a commodity something that I can go shopping for - think of invitro-fertilization - or a burden or even worse a disease. Since when have we as a society decided that we would provide pills to alter a normal functioning body system to “protect it” from a baby. The language itself is one of horror. This is a dark shadow of what God intended marital love to be.

God chose to enter into the life of a family. The center piece of every family is the committed love between a man or a woman. The reality is that God by entering into the womb of Mary and into the family structure with St. Joseph as the head, that he shows the great dignity of the family. Moreover when Jesus goes to the wedding feast of Cana, he is showing that the wedding is a great gift. A wedding feast is a time of joy and a time of new life. I have been blessed to go to many marriages of friends and family. Some stand out in my minds more than others. One in particular is a friend who went on a retreat the week before their marriage. Why? They understood that their marriage had a sacramental dimension. It reflects and was an image of God’s love.

We see in marriage an physical example, a physical icon of the love of the Trinity. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one and are constantly giving themselves completely over to each other as a self gift. In marriage, the two become one. The two people who give themselves over to each other in acts of self-giving is a icon of this love. The Fruit of the Father’s love for the Son, is the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the husband’s love for the wife is a child. This icon can even be taken to be seen physically when the husband and wife whose very body is God’s image becomes one in consummation. When the couples love is Full, Faithful, Free, and Fruitful, the image of the Trinity is made manifest for the world to see. This shows forth love and life. Marital love needs to be Full, Faithful, Free, and Fruitful.

Humane Vitae (Paul VI – 1968) states, “Married love particularly reveals its true nature and nobility when we realize that it takes its origin from God, who “is love,” the Father “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named” My friends this is worth a wedding feast that spans days and years.

My brothers and sisters we are all invited to the marriage feast of the marriage between Christ and His Church. Depending on our state in life God will ask us to be faithful to living out our promises Faithfully, Fruitfully, Fully, and Freely. This is how we can come to the marriage feast clothed in charity as St. Gregory the Great says. This is how we are to ensure that we have put on the wedding garment. It is our decision. May we choose to live a life of true freedom and charity as we celebrate the marriage feast this day.

. . . . and from Facebook Apologetics

Sunday's First Reading Comes from the Prophet Jonah, and Recalls His Experiences Once in Nineveh. The Preceding Chaper of Jonah Recalls His Transport to Nineveh in the Belly of the Whale. Here's an Upbeat Song that Tells the Whole Story. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

January 15, 2012 - Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Ecce Agnus Dei”
by Dienic the Elder Bouts, 1462-64
Readings for Second Sunday in Ordinary Time[1][2]

Readings and Commentary:[3]

Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the LORD
where the ark of God was.
The LORD called to Samuel, who answered, “Here I am.”
Samuel ran to Eli and said, “Here I am.  You called me.”
“I did not call you, “  Eli said.  “Go back to sleep.”
So he went back to sleep.
Again the LORD called Samuel, who rose and went to Eli.
“Here I am, “ he said.  “You called me.”
But Eli answered, “I did not call you, my son.  Go back to sleep.”

At that time Samuel was not familiar with the LORD,
because the LORD had not revealed anything to him as yet.
The LORD called Samuel again, for the third time.
Getting up and going to Eli, he said, “Here I am.  You called me.”
Then Eli understood that the LORD was calling the youth.
So he said to Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply,
Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”
When Samuel went to sleep in his place,
the LORD came and revealed his presence,
calling out as before, “Samuel, Samuel!”
Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Samuel grew up, and the LORD was with him,
not permitting any word of his to be without effect.
Commentary on 1 Sm 3:3b-10, 19

This passage contains the story of the call of Samuel popularized by the song “Here I Am Lord”. It is clear from the text that this historical period did not have regular contacts with those gifted with prophecy. It was rare for the Lord to speak in those days; it is the priest Eli who recognizes that it is God calling to the young Samuel and tells the boy how to respond.

Although it is not contained in the selection, verses 11-18 provide the context of Samuel’s first oracle which is a punishment upon the family of Eli whose sons have blasphemed. Samuel’s fame, we are told, spreads as his favored status as prophet becomes known.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10

R. (8a and 9a) Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

I have waited, waited for the LORD,
and he stooped toward me and heard my cry.
And he put a new song into my mouth,
a hymn to our God.
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

Sacrifice or offering you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Holocausts or sin-offerings you sought not;
then said I, “Behold I come.”
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.

“In the written scroll it is prescribed for me,
to do your will, O my God, is my delight,
   and your law is within my heart!”
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

While Psalm 40 is a song of thanksgiving, it is also combined with a lament. The initial waiting is satisfied by favor shown by God to one who is faithful in service to Him. Praise and thanksgiving are given to God whose justice is applied to all.


The body, however, is not for immorality, but for the Lord,
and the Lord is for the body;
God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power.

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?
But whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one Spirit with him.
Avoid immorality.
Every other sin a person commits is outside the body,
but the immoral person sins against his own body.
Do you not know that your body
is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you,
whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?
For you have been purchased at a price.
Therefore glorify God in your body
Commentary on 1 Cor 6:13c-15a, 17-20  

This passage is part of the Apostles address on sexual sins – moral degradation.  Libertines of the day advocated that the “sexual appetite” was akin to the body’s need for food and drink.  St. Paul refutes this idea.  He places the physical body on a higher order; it is to be a temple, glorified in the end times (the Eschaton).

Don’t you know…” the Apostle emphasizes that the Christian body belongs to Christ.  It is incorporated into the Body of Christ, the Church.  Because of this unity, degradation of the individual body in sexual sins degrades the whole body.  This type of destruction of the body causes Christ, the bridegroom of the Church to be in intimate relationship with a harlot.  The selection concludes with the exhortation to purity so that the Holy Spirit, in dwelling, may live in a temple set aside – sanctified in baptism for God.

Gospel: John 1:35-42

The next day John was standing with two of his disciples,
and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said,
“Behold, the Lamb of God.”
The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.
Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them,
“What are you looking for?”
They said to him, “Rabbi” — which translated means Teacher —,
“where are you staying?”
He said to them, “Come, and you will see.”
So they went and saw where Jesus was staying,
and they stayed with him that day.
It was about four in the afternoon.
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter,
was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.
He first found his own brother Simon and told him,
“We have found the Messiah” — which is translated Christ —.
Then he brought him to Jesus.
Jesus looked at him and said,
“You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas” — which is translated Peter.
Commentary on Jn 1:35-42

Our Gospel shows how John the Baptist recognized Jesus as the Messiah immediately. It also shows the humility of the “Voice” always deferring to the “Word”.  St. John’s disciples hear him identify Jesus as “the lamb of God” and follow Jesus.  St. John, who must “decrease(John 3: 30) encourages his own disciples to follow Jesus.  The impact of the prophet’s pronouncement on two of his disciples is clear, one of whom we will come to revere as one of the Twelve, St. Andrew, brother of Peter follows Jesus and spends the day with him.  He tells his brother, St. Peter (Cephas) “We have found the Messiah”.  In this Gospel Cephas is brought to Jesus, and receives his new name; “Rock”. 

Somewhat ironic is the translation we are given which demonstrates the multi-linguistic nature of the translation.  “…you will be called Cephas” — which is translated Peter.Cephas is from the Aramaic which means “rock”, however the original translation was from Aramaic to Greek.  Rock in Greek is rendered as Petros, our name Peter derives from that form.


We are made, we are called, we respond.  We are made anew in baptism; dedicated to God and sanctified by the gift of the Holy Spirit.  In that sense we are in Samuel’s place, in “…the temple of the Lord where the ark of God was.”  The Hebrews believed that while God was omnipresent, he had a special dwelling with the Ark of the Covenant.  In much the same way we believe that while God is present in all his creation, his essence especially resides in the Eucharist   We are in that place and listen for that call.

St. John the Baptist pointed out who it was that came, anointed by God as the Messiah at his Baptism in the Jordan.  He named him to two of his own disciples in the Gospel; “Behold, the Lamb of God.”  Look, he said, there goes the sacrifice that makes us whole; the lamb who is to be the sacrifice of atonement as prescribed under Mosaic Law.  It is the Seder Meal, unleavened bread, taken before our journey to freedom from sin.  All of that was captured for his disciples as the Lord waked by.  How could they not follow him?

And when the reached him, what did they ask?  What was the first thing they wanted to know?  “Rabbi” — which translated means Teacher —, “where are you staying?”  They asked “Where do you abide – rest?”  Understanding their intention the Lord invited them to come and see.  It is an invitation we also receive, just as we were called like Samuel we are invited to follow the Lord to the place where he abides.

The parallels are clear, we are made and we called.  The only question that is yet to be answered is how we respond?  That is not an easy answer for any of us because the invitation is extended each day and each day we must respond.  Some days we don not hear it, other days; even though the call is clear enough, our hearts cannot say “Here I am.”

What does that mean – “Here I am.”  The Lord knows where we are, he knows our every move so that response is not like one would call out to one blind-folded “I am over here.”  It is an offer of self.  It means that the Lord may ask what ever he wants and “Here I am.”  That response is our gift to the Father.  It means that we have looked and listened to what he would have from us and we respond in the affirmative “Here I am.”  It means that we do not always take the easiest path, but rather do as the Lord would have us do, follow him to where he is staying.

The difficulty, as always, is that we must know the Lord well enough to know were we are relative to were he wants us to be.  In other words, before we can say “Here I am.”  We must know were we are.  It is through prayer and discernment that we discover our place.  It is through effort and dedication that we come to understand what he calls us to do and be.

Today we hear that call once more.  We hear St. John point and say; look, “Behold the Lamb of God” We hear and pray that we may respond with “Here I am.”


[2] The picture used today is “Ecce Agnus Dei” by Dienic the Elder Bouts, 1462-64
[3] The readings are taken from the New American Bible with the exception of the Psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL). This re-publication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

January 8, 2012 - Epiphany of the Lord (Msgr. Charles Pope)

Note: Here in America Epiphany is (sadly) transferred to a nearby Sunday instead of January 6. Hence, this Sunday we read of this event and celebrate it liturgically. With that in mind here are my homily notes for Epiphany, which, for some of you in other parts of the world may seem a bit late.

Walking with the Wise: A Meditation on the Gospel for the Feast of the Epiphany

By: Msgr. Charles Pope
There are so many wonderful details in the Epiphany story: the call of the Gentiles, the nations, and their enthusiastic response, the significance of the star they see, and the gifts they bring, the dramatic interaction with Herod and their ultimate rejection of him in favor Christ.
In this meditation I would like especially to follow these wise men in their journey of faith. We can observe how they journey in stages from the light of a star, to the bright and glorious Light of Jesus Christ. And, of course to authentically encounter the Lord is to experience conversion. All the elements of this story serve ultimately to cause them to “return to their country by another route.” Let’s look at the stages of their journey to Jesus, let’s walk the way of the wise men.
Stage 1. CALL - The text says – When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” – Notice first the identity of these individuals. They are called Magi, (μάγοι, (magoi) in Greek) and they are from the East.
Exactly what “Magi” are is debated. Perhaps they are wise men, perhaps they are ancient astronomers. We often think of them as Kings though the text does not call them that. It also seems Herod would have been far more anxious had they been actual potentates from an Eastern Kingdom. In our imagination we often think of them as Kings since Psalm 72, read in today’s Mass, speaks of “Kings” coming from the East bearing gifts of gold and frankincense. However, for the record, the text in today’s gospel does not call them kings, but “magi.”
Yet, here is their key identity: they are Gentiles and they have been called. Up to this point in the Christmas story, only Jews had found their way to Bethlehem. But now the Gentiles come. This detail cannot be overlooked, for it is clear that the gospel is going out to all the world.
St. Paul rejoices in this fact in today’s second reading as he says: that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and co-partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel (Eph 3:6). Most of us are not Jewish by ancestry, and hence we ought to rejoice for in the call of these Magi is prefigured our call.
And notice that God calls them through something in the natural world. In this case a star. God uses something in creation to call out to them.
We do well to wonder what is the star that God used to call us? Perhaps it was Scripture, but more usually, it is first someone God has used to reach us, a parent, a family member, a friend, a priest, religious sister, or devoted lay person. Who are the stars in your life by whom God called you?
God can also use inanimate creation like he did for these Magi. Perhaps it was a beautiful Church, a painting or a song. By someone or something God calls. He puts a star in our sky. These wise men, these Magi, follow the call of God and begin their journey to Jesus.
Stage 2. CONSTANCY - Upon their arrival in Jerusalem the Magi find a rather confusing and perhaps discouraging situation. The reigning King, Herod, knows nothing of the birth of this new King. It must have seemed probable to them that the newborn King would be related to the current King, so his surprise may have confused them. But Herod seems more than surprised, he seems threatened and agitated.
Even more puzzling, he calls religious leaders to further inform him of this King. They open the sacred writings and the Magi hear of a promised King. Ah! So the birth of this king has religious significance! How interesting!
But, these religious leaders seem unenthusiastic of the newborn King and after giving the location of his birth seem to make no effort to follow the Magi. There is no rejoicing, no summoning of the people that a longed for king had finally been born. Not even further inquiry!
So the wicked (e.g. Herod and his court), are wakeful,  and the saints are sleepy. How odd this must have seemed to the Magi. Perhaps it occurred to them to suspend their search. After all, the actual king knew nothing of this birth, and those who did, seemed little interested.
Ah, but praise the Lord they persevere in their search. They do not give up!
Thanks be to God too, that many today have found their way to Christ despite the fact that parents, clergy and others, who should have led them joyfully to Jesus, were either asleep, or ignorant or just plain lazy. I am often amazed at some of the conversion stories I have heard, people who found their way to Christ and his Church, despite some pretty discouraging obstacles like poor religious upbringing, scandalous clergy and bad example. God sometimes allows our faith and call to be tested but Those who persevere to the end will be saved (Matt 24:13).
Stage 3. CONFESSION OF FAITH – The text says, After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. – With what little information they have they set out and continue to follow the call of God through the star.
Note that they enter a “house.” We often think of the Magi as coming that same Christmas night to the cave or stable but it seems not. Mary (Joseph) and Jesus are found now in a house. It would seem that decent lodging has now been found. Has it been days since the birth? Perhaps even longer, but we are likely dealing with a different day than Christmas Day.
Notice too that they “prostrate” themselves before Jesus. The Greek word is προσεκύνησαν (prosekunēsan) which means more literally “to fall down in worship” or “give adoration.” The verb is used 12 times in the New Testament and it is clear each time that religious worship is the purpose of the prostration.
This is no mere homage or a sign of respect to an earthly King, this is religious worship. This is a confession of faith. So our Magi manifest faith!
But is it a real faith, or just a perfunctory observance? It’s not enough to answer an altar call, or to get baptized. Faith is never alone. It is a transformative relationship with Jesus Christ. So lets look for the effects of a real and saving faith.
Stage 4. COST - There is a cost to discipleship. The magi are moved to give three symbolic gifts that show some of what true faith includes. And they are costly gifts.
Gold is a symbol of all our possessions. In laying this gift before Jesus they and we are saying, “I acknowledge that everything I have is yours. I put all my resources and wealth under your authority and will use them only according to your will.” A conversion that has not reached the wallet is not complete.
Frankincense. is the gift of worship, for in the Bible incense is a symbol of prayer and worship (eg. psalm 141). In laying down this gift we promise to pray and worship God all the days of our life. To be in his holy house each Sunday and render him the praise and worship he is due. To listen to his word and to consent to be fed the Eucharist by him. To worship him worthily by frequent confession and to praise him at all times. And they give
Myrrh - a strange gift for an infant. Myrrh is usually understood as burial ointment. Surely this prefigures Jesus’ death but it also symbolizes our own. In laying this gift before Jesus we are saying, my life is yours. I want to die so that you may live your life in me. May you increase and may I decrease. Use me and my life as you will. So here are gifts that are highly symbolic.
The magi manifest more than a little homage to Jesus. They are showing forth the fruits of saving faith. And if we can give these gifts so too are we.
Stage 5. CONVERSION – The text says, And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.
Here then is essential evidence for faith: conversion. It is not enough to get happy in Church, we have to obey. Hence, these wise men are walking differently now. They are not going home by the same way they came. They’ve changed direction, they’ve turned around (conversio). They are now willing to walk the straight and narrow path that leads to life rather than the wide road that leads to damnation. They are going to obey Christ. They are going to exhibit what St. Paul calls the “obedience of faith” (Rom 1:5; 16:26). They have not just engaged in a possibly perfunctory worship, they are showing signs of a true and saving faith. They are not just calling Jesus “Lord, Lord!” They are doing what he tells them (cf Luke 6:46).
So there it is. Through careful stages the Lord has brought the Gentiles (this means you) to conversion. He called. They remained constant, confessed him to be Lord, accepted the cost of discipleship and manifested conversion. Have you? Have I?
Walk in the ways of the Wise men! Wise men still seek him. Even wiser ones listen to him and obey. Are we willing to go back to our country by another route? Is on-going conversion part of our journey home to heaven? If Epiphany means “manifestation” how is our faith manifest in our deeds and conversion?

January 8, 2012 - Epiphany of the Lord

artist Della Conroy
Historical and Cultural Context - KING OF JUDEANS
 by John J. Pilch, Odyssey Program
The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland

The Magi come seeking the newly born king of Judeans. Matthew and Matthew’s Jesus during his ministry routinely identify God’s people as “Israel” (see 2:6; also 8:10; 9:33; 10:6, 23; 15:24,31; 19:28; 27:9). Three groups make up this people: “Judeans,” “Galileans,” and “Pereans.” Outsiders ignored these distinctions and called everyone “Judeans” (the Greek word is often incorrectly translated “Jews”). Pilate calls Jesus of Nazareth in Galilee “King of the Judeans” (John 19:19-22).

Word that these visitors from the East are seeking a newly born king of Judeans strikes fear into the heart of old Herod who is the current, living king of Judeans. He knows that he has no newly born heir.

Then Matthew draws a contrast between these honorable visitors and the fearful ruler. Herod calls for the Magi “secretly” (v. 7). In the Middle East and all societies in which honor is the core value, privacy is a threat to honor. If honor is a public claim to worth along with a public acknowledgement of that worth, then people’s behavior must be ever on public display. Anyone who acts secretly has something to hide and is therefore automatically considered to be dishonorable, shameful. Herod’s secret inquiry immediately tags him as acting dishonorably.

The Magi listen to his request that they report to him what they find about this new king, but, astute Middle Easterners that they are, they refuse to enter into his shameful strategy. They return home by a different route (v. 12), thereby deceiving the shameful Herod (Matt 2:16).

When the Magi find Jesus, they pay homage. The high, honorable status of these visitors indicates the high degree of honor they pay to Jesus and his mother. They also offer three kinds of gifts (gold, myrrh, and frankincense), further enhancing the honor they bestow. Matthew has masterfully cast Jesus into an impressively honorable context that does not fail to catch the attention of his original Middle Eastern audience.

artist He Qi

EPIPHANY  A wonderful reflection and informative article by Father Victor Brown

When Christmas and New Year’s Day fall on Sundays, unusual things happen to the religious calendar.  And therefore:

• Sunday, January 8th, is the Solemnity of the Epiphany

• Monday, January 9th, the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord

• Tuesday we go back to the ordinary time of the Church year which we haven’t experienced since November 26th.  

The word “epiphany” comes from the Greek meaning “manifestation,” and refers to the multiple manifestations of Our Divine Lord in his human nature to the world.  If you will study the history of this Solemnity of Epiphany, you’ll find that it is older than Christmas itself since it was universally celebrated before the celebration of Our Lord’s birth became widespread.  You will also find that the Epiphany has three elements: 

1) the coming of the Magi to the infant Christ in Bethlehem

2) the Baptism of Our Lord in the Jordan River by Saint John the Baptist

3) and the beginning of Our Lord’s miracles when he changed water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana, a town in Galilee near Nazareth.   

We know that our Lord’s baptism and the beginning of his public life took place when he was about thirty years old, whereas the coming of the magi occurred when he was just a baby.  How did these three events get grouped together in one celebration of “manifestation,” spanning such a long period? 

It is because God our Father wanted to show to the entire world this divine son of his who was and is called “Jesus of Nazareth.”  When the pagan, non-Jewish magi were led by a miraculous star to Bethlehem, they represented their own pagan, Gentile world being brought to acknowledge Christ.  

When the voice of God the Father and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove bore witness to Our Lord in the Jordan River, Jesus was manifested to his own Jewish people who were disciples of Saint John the Baptist.  

And then, shortly after that, when Our Lord turned water into wine, we are told that his own twelve apostles saw what was happening and they came to believe in him.  They were Jews, but they were destined to preach to the entire world, Jew and Gentile alike.  Therefore their faith in Jesus was essential.

Another very important element of the Epiphany is this: of the three events which we celebrate, two of them have very close connections with Our Blessed Mother.  The magi find the infant Christ WITH MARY HIS MOTHER.  Saint Matthew didn’t have to include those words in his gospel, but he did.  The miraculous star led them to where they would find the newborn King of the Jews WITH MARY HIS MOTHER.  Thus Our Lady is seen to be the patroness of the manifestation of her divine Son to the world.  

And then, when she and Our Lord and his apostles had been invited to the wedding feast at Cana, it is she, with a woman’s and mother’s concern, notices a problem, and says quietly to Our Lord, “They have no wine.”  What she really means is “Do something to save this bride and groom and their families the embarrassment of running out of refreshment at their reception.” And as we know, our Lord does something stupendous: he produces between 120 and 180 gallons of wine—far more than a small-town wedding feast could need, especially after the guests had already drunk what had been provided. In scripture, wine is often used as a symbol for joy and gladness.  Thus in addition to the simply historical fact of the water-to-wine story, we have Our Lady using her influence over Our Lord to provide a GREAT DEAL of joy and happiness in the context of human love and marriage.

At the beginning of his public life, Our Lord turns water into wine.  At its end, he changes wine into his own blood, as he continues to do every day at Mass, giving us endless cause for happiness and joy.    

Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.


January 8 - The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

The Baptism of Christ  (Leonardo DaVinci)
Today’s feast of the Baptism of the Lord is a moment to reflect not only on the Lord’s baptism, but also on our own. For in an extended sense, when Christ is baptized, so are we, for we are members of his body. As Christ enters the water, he makes holy the water that will baptize us. He enters the water and we follow. And in these waters he acquires gifts to give us, as we shall see below.

Why was Jesus Baptized – It has been asked in every generation why Christ sought baptism. For baptism of John surely pointed to sin, of which Christ  had none. The question has been well answered by the Father and many others. In effect, Christ descended to those waters, he troubled those waters, stirring them up to make them holy for our sakes. And by this descent, which points to the paschal mystery, to obtain manifold blessings for us. St. Maximus of Turin speaks Christ’s Baptism as this:

I understand the mystery as this. The column of fire went before the sons of Israel through the Red Sea so that they could follow on their brave journey; the column went first through the waters to prepare a path for those who followed……But Christ the Lord does all these things: in the column of fire He went through the sea before the sons of Israel; so now in the column of his body he goes through baptism before the Christian people….At the time of the Exodus the column…made a pathway through the waters; now it strengthens the footsteps of faith in the bath of baptism. (de sancta Epiphania 1.3)

So Christ, as it were, opens a way for us by troubling the waters, just as he did at the Red Sea,  and obtains for us victory over our spiritual enemies.  He brings us forth to freedom on the other side. He is baptized for us. Ephesians 5:30 says we are members of Christ’s body. Thus when Jesus goes into the water we go with him. And in going there he stirs up, he troubles the water for us, acquiring gifts on our behalf.

Don’t be afraid of troubled waters, there is a blessing on the other side. A song writer one spoke of seeking a bridge over troubled waters. Biblically this is poor advice. For it is only by going through, or wading into, the troubled waters that the blessing is found. More on this in moment. For now simply observes that Christ wades in, he troubles the water, and he obtains blessings for us out of troubled waters.

And what are the gifts He obtains for us? The texts speak of them somewhat figuratively, but also clearly. In effect, there are four gifts spoken of in the Gospel descriptions of Jesus’ Baptism:
  1. Access - the heavens are opened . The heavens and paradise had been closed to us after Original Sin. But now, at Jesus’ baptism, the text says the heavens are opened. Jesus acquires this gift of sanctifying grace for us. And by this grace, the heavens open for us and we have access to the Father and to the heavenly places. Scripture says: Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, (Romans 5:1) It also says, For through Jesus we have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Eph 2:17). Hence the heavens are opened also at our own Baptism and we have access to the Father.
  2. Anointing - the Spirit of God descends on him like a dove – Here too, Jesus acquires the Gift of the Holy Spirit for us. In Baptism we are not just washed of sins, but we also become temples of the Holy Spirit. After baptism there is the anointing with chrism which signifies the presence of the Holy Spirit. For adults this is Confirmation. But even for infants, there is an anointing at baptism to recognize that the Spirit of God dwells in the baptized as in a temple. Scripture says, Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? (1 Cor 3:16)
  3. Acknowledgmentthis is my beloved Son. Jesus receives this acknowledgment from his Father. He allowed this to be heard by some of the bystanders for the sake of their own faith. But he also  acquires this gift for us. In our own Baptism we become the children of God. Since we become members of Christ’s body, we now have the status of sons of God. On the day of your Baptism the heavenly Father acknowledged you as his own dear Child. Scripture says: You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (Gal 3:26)
  4. The Baptism of Christ (artist: El Greco 1568)
  5. ApprovalI am well pleased . Jesus had always pleased his Father. But now he acquires this gift for you as well. Here too is another acknowledgment of the sanctifying grace that the Lord gives us in Baptism. Sanctifying grace is the gift to be holy and pleasing to God. Scripture says, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in his sight. (Eph 1:1-3)
Thus, at his Baptism, Christ acquired these gifts for us, so that, at the troubled, stirred up water of our own Baptism, we could receive them. Consider well the glorious gift of your Baptism. Perhaps you know the exact day. It should be a day as highly celebrated as your birthday. Christ is baptized for our sakes, not his own. All these gifts had always been his. Now, in his baptism he fulfills God’s righteousness by going into the water to get them for you. It’s alright to say, “Hallelujah!”
This video I put together shows that God has a way of bringing blessings when he troubles the Water.

He troubled the waters in the great flood to cleanse the earth,
He troubled the waters at the Red Sea to bring forth victorious escape and freedom from oppression,
He troubled the waters in the desert to satisfy the Israelites,
He troubled the waters of the Jordan so they could enter the promised land,
Jesus troubled the waters at his baptism and obtained many a gift for us,
And from the troubled waters of his pieced side came for salvation and the Holy Spirit.
So don’t build a bridge over troubled waters, wade on in! There’s a blessing on the other side.