Fr. David’s Homily for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:  1) Isaiah 62:1-5; 2) 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; 3) John 2:1-11

Gospel related:  Catechism of the Catholic Church:  486, 495, 1335, 1613, 2618

FOCUS:  God has tender compassion for each of us.

          Today’s readings tell us about the tender compassion of our God.  In the first reading, we hear language that is tender, passionate and definitive.  The Lord says to the people of Israel – and to us today – that we will not be called forsaken.  Our land will not be called desolate.  Rather, the Lord wants to call us “delightful” and “loved.”

          In the second reading, St. Paul teaches us that the Spirit gives each of us different gifts, such as teaching, knowledge, healing or amazing faith.  We are not given these gifts solely for our own benefit, but to help further the work and mission of the Church and to serve the needs of others in the midst of our daily lives.

          Today’s lesson does not end there.  In St. John’s Gospel, we hear the familiar story of the wedding at Cana.  Marriage has long been an analogy of God’s intimate love for His people.  It is fitting, then, that Jesus performs the first miracle of His public ministry at a wedding.

          It is Mary who notices the problem with the wine and decides to intercede.  She does not do so because the couple will be punished for running out of wine.  At worst, the couple or the families will be embarrassed by their lack of resources.  But Mary exemplifies God’s tender and personal loving care so well that she wants to protect this young couple from any undue anxiety.  She steps in, and is persistent with Jesus, who first denies His mother’s request for help.

          Jesus does not just give this couple ordinary wine.  He provides them the best wine.

          Our three readings communicate one important truth:  Our God utterly delights in each of us and loves us unconditionally and without limits.  Some of the ways God shows His love for us are by giving us special graces that allow us to serve each other; giving us His own mother Mary, who watches for our slightest need and anxiety and who intercedes for us; and by giving us more than our heart’s desire.

          God’s tender and compassionate love for us extends throughout the centuries to today.  Let us all pray that we become more open to His transformative love in our lives.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Baptism of the Lord

Scripture Readings:  1) Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7; 2) Acts 10:34-38; 3) Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

FOCUS:  We are God’s beloved children.

          Today’s Gospel recalls an important moment in Jesus’ public ministry.  There was Jesus, God made Man, who certainly did not need a ritual cleansing, submitting to a Baptism by his cousin John.  Unlike the other Baptisms John the Baptist must have performed that day, this Baptism was a showing of Jesus’ “acceptance and beginning of His mission as God’s Suffering Servant.”  (Catechism, 536)

          Can we imagine standing on the banks of the River Jordan and witnessing the Baptism of Jesus?  What a sight it must have been!  The Holy Spirit descends like a dove.  The waters are made holy by Jesus.  Jesus is anointed by the very presence of the Holy Spirit. 

          If that weren’t enough, the heavens once closed by the sin of Adam and Eve are now opened up and a voice calls out You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.  And what was Jesus doing?  Jesus was praying – a habit that would mark all the decisive moments of His earthly ministry and our salvation (Catechism, 2600.)  Surely, this was yet another sign of the His humble and trusting commitment to the will of the Father.

          As spectacular as that scene must have been, we can relate to it – for a similar scene plays out every time one of God’s children is Baptized.  As each infant, child or adult is brought to the waters of Baptism, the Holy Trinity is there.  We do what Jesus commanded us to do – to Baptize in His name and in the name of the Father and the Holy Spirit.

          We encounter Jesus, the seal of the Holy Spirit is conferred, and the Father is pleased with His beloved child, the newly Baptized person.  From that moment on, we get a glimpse of what heaven must be like.

          As St. Paul reminded Titus, the grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope.

          Jesus redeemed us and claimed us as a people as His own, eager to do what is good.

          Similarly, Isaiah prophesied that our guilt would be washed away and that the Shepherd would gather the lambs in His arms.  We belong to Christ!

          Today, as we reflect on the Baptism of the Lord, let us also reflect on our own Baptism.  Let us recall, with great awe and wonder, what happens to us when we are Baptized:  the cleansing water, the presence of the Trinity, the rejoicing in heaven, and the strength of the grace that still abides with us.

          Most importantly, let us be reminded of the great responsibility that comes along with that Baptism.  God claimed each one of us as His own, and gave each of us the grace to overcome the evil in the world.

          So as we celebrate the Eucharist today, let us be transformed by our partaking of Jesus’ Body and Blood so as to go forth and fulfill that Baptismal mission.

          We can articulate that mission in many ways, but St. Paul says it so beautifully in his letter to Titus:  “The grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope.”

Fr. David’s Homily for the Epiphany

Scripture Readings:  1) Isaiah 60:1-6;  2) Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6;  3) Matthew 2:1-12

FOCUS:  The Magi help to make known God’s presence in the world in a particular way.

          As we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany today, we hear the familiar story of the Magi:  the Magi, who help to make known God’s presence in the world in a particular way.  They are the first visible and tangible recipients of the mystery of which St. Paul speaks.  A mystery now revealed…by the Spiritthat the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.

          We enjoy hearing this familiar story of expectation, wonder, joy and faithiful homage but we may forget something essential to the importance of the story:  The Magi were not Jewish.  They were Gentiles!  They were not children of Abraham, people of the Covenant, or Israelites.  They were “foreigners,” most likely Persian, whose religious affiliation and actual occupation are still debated among Scripture scholars.

          Yet, they knew about Jesus.  They knew about the coming of the Messiah.  And they had the courage to approach the Roman-appointed King of Judea, King Herod, then the current “king of the Jews” and ask him:

          Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  We say His star at its rising and have come to do Him homage.

          Asking such a question – essentially implying Herod’s successor and one who might overthrow him – could have been looked at as a threat, if not outright treason.  But that did not deter the Magi in their quest.

          Their journey in faith, and their strength in following God’s prompts and witnessing to His faithfulness, is a model for our own discipleship.  With one exception:  God is already made manifest to us – we do not have to seek Him out; He seeks us out. 

          And when we respond to His call, there are things we can count on – as if they were a star in the sky – to help us make our way to Him:  His word, His sacraments; His grace; and the gifts He has given us that we might in turn offer back to Him.  We are not alone in this endeavor.

          As the Magi were a community of support for each other, so we, too, gathered here, are a community of support and belief.  We have come here because we have heard about the coming of the Messiah and we wish to offer our gifts to Him.  Gifts that will be returned to us in the gift of Jesus’ body and blood, making His presence just as substantially real to us as He was to the Magi.  What a powerful, mysterious gift that transcends time.

          May this and every encounter with Christ empower us and direct us to go forth and witness to the faithfulness of God’s promises, and His enduring presence within and among us.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Feast of the Holy Family

Scripture Readings:  1) 1 Samuel 1:20-22, 24-28; 2) 1 John 3:1-2, 21-24; 3) Luke 2:41-52

FOCUS:  Our family life is enriched when we worship the One who created and loves us.

          Each year, as we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family, we have the opportunity to reflect on their lives.  What can we learn from these holy people?  How might we imitate them?  Perhaps the answer is clear.  In an age when we are faced with all kinds of messages from social media, television and competing ideas of what is the best for us, modern families need to have as their foundation prayer and religious traditions.

          We know very little about Jesus’ life between His birth and the beginning of his public ministry.  We know that He was born in Bethlehem in a humble stable.  Soon, His young life was threatened and His family escaped to Egypt.  Eventually, they returned to Nazareth. 

          We can only imagine Jesus growing up in a simple household with Mary, His loving Mother, and Saint Joseph, His protective guardian.  We picture Him in Mary’s lap or learning a carpenter’s trade at Joseph’s workbench.  The early years of Jesus’ life are often referred to by scholars as the “hidden life” of Jesus.

          The beginning of today’s Gospel states that Mary and Joseph went to Jerusalem annually for the Passover feast according to festival custom.  On one such occasion, when Jesus was 12, He remained at the temple. His parents found Him there, discussing Scriptures with the rabbis.  It is important to note that this story of finding Him in the temple “is the only event that breaks the silence of the Gospels about the hidden years of Jesus” (Catholic Catechism, #534.)

          These visits to a house of worship are important.  The temple in Jerusalem was seen as God’s dwelling place.  Even Jesus (God’s dwelling among people) took the time to go there.  The temple was a house of prayer, where sacrifices were offered and God’s praises were sung.  At the temple, in the synagogues, and in His home, a young Jesus would have learned His people’s prayers.

          Like Jesus, Mary and Joseph, we are part of a holy family.  We, too, are children of God.  Just like Mary and Joseph, our family life is enriched when we go to church to worship the One who created and loves us.  Like Mary and Joseph, we must be attentive to the presence of Jesus in our lives, to hold all He did and said in our hearts, and to willingly participate in God’s divine plan.  By being attentive to God’s Word and by keeping His commandments, we, too, will grow in wisdom, grace and favor.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

Readings:  1) Micah 5:1-4a; 2) Hebrews 10:5-10; 3) Luke 1:39-45

FOCUS:  The Blessed Virgin Mary is a model of humility and obedience who helps us grow in our love for Jesus.

          With Christmas days away, it is appropriate for the Church to shine a light on Mary, the mother of God.  Of course, Jesus is the ultimate center of attention, but Mary’s humble cooperation made the Incarnation a reality.  Today’s Gospel provides opportunities to see even more deeply how important Mary is to our salvation.

          In today’s Gospel, Elizabeth calls Mary blessed.   One definition of blessed is holy; another is favored by God – because God chooses her to be the mother of Jesus.  This helps us understand the important role Mary played and continues to play in God’s unfolding plan of salvation.  Mary is the model of the Messiah, the Savior of the World.

          To grow in our love for Jesus and to be with God one day in heaven, we must strive to imitate Mary’s example of being faithful to God and God’s plan for our lives.  We must also turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary, our spiritual mother, to intercede on our behalf so that we might receive the grace needed to remain steadfast to grow in faith and love for the Lord Jesus.

          In the Gospel, Elizabeth gives Mary credit for believing that what God had told her would be fulfilled.  This message likely touched Elizabeth more than it might have affected others.  This visit from Mary probably strengthened her cousin to believe even more in God’s message to her and her husband about their own son (John the Baptist.)

          The angel had said their son would be great in the eyes of God and man, and that he would prepare a people fit for the Lord. (Luke 1:17)  This was not easy for them to believe, since even having a child seemed out of the question at their ages.  Nevertheless, the word of God was fulfilled a few months later when John – who would become known as The Baptist – was born.

          Mary continues to help people believe in God’s promises.  Her example is a comfort to us, even today, as we seek to understand the mystery of the Incarnation.  How is it possible, Elizabeth asks, that the mother of my Lord should come to see me

          We still ask similar questions.  “Am I worthy to be in God’s Kingdom?  “Who am I to think Jesus came to save me?”  “What does God expect of a lowly person like me?”  Mary’s example helps give us answers.  We are to believe.  We are to trust.  We are to obey, as she did.

          Mary’s example may even have helped her own Son know how to respond to such questions.  Our second reading says that Jesus, Himself, told the Father, I have come to do your will.  It is likely He learned those words from His mother.

          So, as we continue to prepare for the celebration of the Lord’s birth, let us remember Mary’s example.  Let us give thanks for her.  Let us also stay close to her so she can guide us in the way of the Lord.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Third Sunday of Advent

FOCUS:  Rejoice in the Lord, again I say rejoice!

Scripture Readings:  1) Zephaniah 3:14-18a; 2) Philippians 4:4-7; 3) Luke 3:10-18

          The Third Sunday of Advent is traditionally called Gaudete Sunday – a rejoicing reflected in rose vestments and the choice of Scriptures.  We are more than halfway through our season of preparation, as we ready ourselves to both celebrate the coming of Jesus in history and look forward to His return in glory.

          For Christians, this theme of rejoicing lies at the heart of our faith.  Even if we are still struggling with life’s great issues, we are still called to be people of joy and to be ready to share that joy with others.

          So what does this spiritual or holy joy look like?  Clearly, it is not the same as pleasure or human satisfaction – these are emotions that are short-lived and derived from the external, they are what we perceive and experience.

          Spiritual joy arises from our interior life – our relationship with the divine.  Like a well bubbling up from the depths of the earth, spiritual joy wells up even in the midst of life’s struggles and becomes the hallmark of the true Christian.

          Zephaniah is exultant in his description of God’s faithfulness and promise.  St. Paul, too, wants his community in Philippi to be joyful, not with a superficial rejoicing but with a joy that flows from the Lord as they await His imminent return in glory.  To maintain this joy, Paul reminds them to stay prayerful at all times.

          Yet in the midst of all this rejoicing, we hear another voice – St. John the Baptist calling us to repentance and justice.  But it is in the question put to John that catches our attention – what should we do?  It is a practical question, and John has practical answers.  They are not to retreat from life, but be converted to a just way of living.

          They are not simply to put on sack-cloth and ashes or retreat to the Temple, but be sensitive to the needs of justice – to be sharers rather than takers.  Tax collectors are not to resign but be just.  Soldiers are not told to desert but to use their power fairly.  This is a Gospel of people power, where the message can change the world.

          And what must we do?  How can we bring about change in our world?  As spouses and family members, we can strive to love with a God-like love.  As parents and guardians, we can teach our children that their true value lies not in material things or the latest gadget or brand, but in how they treat others and serve the less fortunate.

          As civic minded people, by using our freedom to serve our community.  As employers and employees, by paying a just wage and working hard.  And as Christians, by being faithful to the Gospel and rejoicing in God’s presence and promise!  The list is endless – and it is only when we are faithful to Jesus that we will know real joy and understand the challenging hope of Advent.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Second Sunday of Advent

Scripture Readings:  1) Baruch 5:1-9; 2) Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11; 3) Luke 3:1-6

FOCUS:  The Lord will purify us, perfect us and prepare us for Himself.

          Many of us have likely heard the phrase “All roads lead to Rome.”  The Roman Empire prided itself on its complex system of roads connecting every part of the empire with the capital.  These stone-paved roads stretched through Europe, Asia, North Africa and the Middle East.  They were built by slaves and paid for by taxes from the conquered lands.

          These roads were feats of engineering, passing over hills and mountains, under aqueducts, taking many twists and turns to avoid nature’s obstacles.  They were anything but straight.

          John the Baptist would have traveled Roman roads many times in his life, as did those who came out into the desert to hear him preach.  It was there, where the roads end in the desert, that John tells his disciples to build a new road – one for God’s Son:

          Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths.  John was not telling them to pick up shovels and pick axes.  Rather, he prayed that they might pave a way for the love of the Lord to enter their hearts and touch their souls.

          John is the last prophet before Jesus, as well as the first disciple of Jesus.  For those willing to undertake this ambitious task of making a straight path for the Lord, John tells them they will be met along the way by God in the flesh.

          He comes alongside us to help us in our “road-making” and bridge building, making winding roads both straight and smooth, by forgiving us our sins and removing obstacles from our path.

          Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low.  The Lord will purify us, perfect us and prepare us for Himself.

          This road work began in us on the day of our Baptism, and it continues until we meet the Lord at our death, as Paul told the Philippians:  I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it. 

          To help things along, the Apostle encourages us to increase in knowledge, love and perception, discerning what is of value.  This Advent season, what is of greatest value is not the large number of gifts soon to appear under the tree.  Rather, it is the gift of God’s only Son who hung on the tree of the cross for us and for our salvation.

          During this busy season, we do so much to prepare for the coming of Christmas.  Let us make sure we spend at least as much effort this Advent season preparing for the coming of Christ, both celebrating His birth in Bethlehem and His return in glory as our King.

          At this Eucharistic table, we partake of the promise found in the words of Isaiah and John:  and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

          May we too, then, prepare the way of the Lord as we go forth and proclaim the Good News we have heard and received.

Fr. David’s Homily for the First Sunday of Advent

FOCUS:  In looking forward to the return of Christ in glory, our hearts are full of hope and expectation.

Scripture Readings:  1) Jeremiah 33:14-16; 2) 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2; 3) Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

          As we hear today’s readings, two temptations can easily appear:  First of all, we might presume that since we have been waiting so long for the return of Jesus, that it won’t be anytime soon and so we will have all kinds of time to prepare.

          The other temptation is, we may assume that His return is any moment now, so that we live in fear of that day – unable to hope or to embrace all of life’s adventures. 

          Neither of these temptations is worth embracing.  Instead, we look forward to His return, and as we wait, we use the time to grow in our relationship with the Lord, while understanding that this world is not our ultimate home.

          Today’s Gospel can seem very sobering.  Jesus does not mince His words – there is going to be a reckoning, a judgment – and we do not know when.  But we know it is coming, and therefore we need to be vigilant, prayerful and ready.

          This is after all, a tenant of faith that we profess in our creed.  He will come to judge the living and the dead.  The judgment will be a real one; the review of our life with its many choices and options will be laid out before us in the bright light of God’s revelation and mercy.

          But there are also two other themes in this Gospel passage that we need in order to see the full picture.  First of all, as Christians, we are encouraged to stand tall in the knowledge that our redeemer is at hand, and to hold fast to the hope that our faith gives us even in times of trial and tribulation.  We know the final outcome in the great battle between good and evil – Jesus’ triumph over death. 

          Our task is to ensure that we are on that winning side by living lives worthy of Him.  We cannot take it for granted, but instead daily renew our commitment to fulfill the hope that is within us – and live our lives in the sure and certain knowledge that our redemption is at hand.

          Secondly, as Christians we are called to be realistic, to face up to the fact that our world is broken and in need of healing, and yet we are never hopeless.  Indeed, the Christian view is to see imperfection not as a lost cause but as an opportunity for healing and redemption.  All is never lost until that moment of final judgment.

          That is what we celebrate in the Advent season – a time of preparation and anticipation.  We look forward to the coming of Christ, and as we look forward we strive to be vigilant, prayerful and worthy to stand before Him when He comes in glory.

          In the readings, we hear of cosmic signs like the dead rising and stars falling from the sky.  That might sound like science fiction.  But make no mistake; this is not fiction.  Jesus reminds us that His words shall not pass away

          In the Gospel, Jesus describes these signs leading to His coming again – the sun being darkened and the stars falling from the sky.

          We can well imagine that upon hearing this, His disciples were struck with fear or confusion.  Jesus knows this and so – as in other parables – He speaks about something they can understand:  a fig tree.  When the fig branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near.  In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that He is near.

          Jesus uses this simple image of the fig tree, and the way it comes to life in the summer.  It is not an image of crisis or violence.  It is a sign of new life after winter.

          In our lives, we all experience difficult times.  We even use the phrase “our whole world is coming to an end” to describe our tribulations.  Our crises feel like they take on cosmic proportions.  But Jesus assures us, When you see these things happening, know that I am near.

          Our times of personal trial teach us how to be faithful and faith-filled.  We may not always get it right, but these times prepare us for that time – the days that Jesus describes.

          We need not be afraid.  The Letter to the Hebrews reminds us we have an eternal high priest who, through His own sacrifice, gives us His Body and Blood.  We are being perfected through this Body and Blood for His coming again.

          Our story does not have a scary ending.  While this year is coming to an end, our story, the story we hear and celebrate and live from one Church year to the next, is never ending.  We profess it:  He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and His Kingdom will have no end.