Rise – Let us be on our way!

Palm Sunday

Gospel Matt: 21:1-11, Is 50:4-7, Psalm 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24, Phil 2:6-11, Gospel: Matt 26:14-27:66

First Homily

Rise – Let us be on our way!
Seven years ago I visited Walburga Abbey in Northern Colorado with 14 of my best friends.  We stayed there for five days and while I was there I re-read one of the best books that I have ever read – it is called “Rise, Let us be on our way!”  This book was written by Blessed John Paul II, as a reflection of being a Bishop for 25 years.  In this book he reflected on his journey through the life that God had called him to, and he had some very deep and profound reflections.  He began his journey to the priesthood during the Second World War, at a time of great suffering and oppression.  By the time he wrote this book in 2004 he had spent his life growing steadily in holiness.  In his book he reflected on the beauty of God’s plan for his life and how that plan unfolded to fill him more and more with joy.  The title from his book comes from the words of Christ to Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane – Rise let us be on our way!

We stand at the gates to the Holy City
My Sisters and Brothers.  For the past six weeks we have lived a life of Prayer, with Fasting and with Almsgiving to prepare us to celebrate this week with the fullness of our being.  Here we meet at the gates of the city of Jerusalem, to enter into God’s kingdom with our Savior, with joy and anticipation as He invites us to enter into the depths of his Love and his Passion for us.

This procession symbolizes of our desire to follow Christ the King
Today the Church begins her worship of God with a procession.  We like the Jews in the time of Christ re-live this moment of procession.  For us this procession is more then symbolic, it is the beginning of our spiritual journey with Christ this week.  We begin celebrating the kingship of Christ in our lives, and our willingness to follow his law in our lives.  We begin this week recognizing that Christ is the one who is sent to lead us into the kingdom of heaven.

We process as a Pilgrim Church
The Church is often described as a pilgrim Church – the community of believers that are on a journey, on a mission through this life towards the kingdom of heaven.  Being a pilgrim requires a particular attitude of heart that chooses not to be attached to things, to stuff.  As pilgrims we accept with gratitude both the hardships and the joys encountered on the road.  As pilgrims find joy in those who travel with us and who help us in our journey.  As pilgrims we know we are women and men with a destination in mind, towards which we are always seeking.

We are processing to the Heavenly Jerusalem
In a few minutes we will process from here to the entrance of St. Anthony’s.  The Church that we enter today is a symbol of the City of Jerusalem, both the city of old, and the Heavenly Jerusalem towards which we journey.  The symbolism of this procession here today is the symbol of us journeying through our lives towards heaven with our Messiah – with Christ.  This procession today represents our willingness to walk with Christ towards his passion and suffering and death.  This procession today leads us into our celebration this week of Holy Week.

Giving thanks to God for the Journey he has called us to
While we process through the world, let us give thanks to God for the gift of this week by singing Hosanna in the highest!  That means that we praise God with all of our hearts in thanksgiving for this moment.  To be able to pray this way means that we have taken stock of where we are this Lent and are truly grateful to God for his role in our life.

Second Homily – After the Passion
I first read Blessed John Paul II’s book in December of 2005, when my son Mark was born.  I knew what the Hospital drill was like, with Mark being kid #5, there would be some intense time, but then a lot of quiet time to be spent while Mom slept and Mark napped.  So, I picked up this book to accompany me on that Journey.  During the three days we spent in the hospital I had many a quiet hour sitting there holding my new Son while he slept, and while Tina was resting I was able to journey with the Pope and learn about the journey of his life.  Reading his book made me reflect on the inconsistency of my life – I loved God greatly, and yet I found that I still fell into sin.  If only I could get my act together!

That same inconsistency exists today, and as I reflected on this Mass, that inconsistency exists even in our celebration of this Eucharist.  Notice how we began this mass celebrating Christ as King, and rejoicing in his entry into our lives and into our church.  Then, minutes later we are standing here reading the passion, asking Pilate to Crucify Christ – the one we welcomed here with Joy.

Our relationship with God is trapped in a contradiction
Our relationship with God is a contradiction and confusion.  I think this reflects our relationship with God.  On one hand we love Him and have a deep desire to want to know him and honor Him.  On the other hand, we reject and rebel against God and His plan for our life.  We see this most clearly when we reflect on our life of Sin.  When we come to Mass on Sunday we are most likely saying to God – I love you, I need you in my life, and I am here today so that my life can be illuminated by your love a little more.

When we are away from the Church we get caught up with the Crowd and Scream “Crucify Him!”
However when we are away from the Church, we are attacked by the temptations of the world and perhaps led astray – we get caught up in the crowd of the world with the emotion of the crowd and we begin to do the things that the world does – like living together without being married, like lying, stealing, or tearing one another down with our words or our gossip.  When we fall into these patterns of behaving we are going along with the Crowd and our actions join the shouts of the Crowd as they scream at Pilate – “Crucify Him”!

If we are honest, we are more likely to scream Crucify Him than to cry out “Hosanna is the King”
How do we deal with this contradiction of Love in our lives?
The question that all Christians need to answer is who do I love more – God or Sin?  The reason why we have spent the past six weeks in prayer and fasting and almsgiving is so that our hearts are free to examine this difficult question.  When we choose to celebrate Holy Week, we have the opportunity to confront this contradiction in a deep way so that Christ can enter more deeply into our lives.

Lent is a time to work on our relationship with God – Holy Week is the crowning experience
At its heart our celebration of Holy Week is a reflection on the love of God.  It is an opportunity for us to accept Gods love in a deeper and more profound way this year.

How has this Lent purified us?  Me?
When we entered into Lent we were invited to begin a life of prayer and fasting and almsgiving.  For many of us here today we have been faithful to those disciplines, and are perhaps longing for Easter so we can resume the habits of the things that we have given up for Lent.  For others, we have forgotten our discipline, and might even feel a little embarrassed to see how we have lived during this Lent. I want to invite us to reflect on three different questions:

  • What have I learned my Lenten Discipline this Lent?
  • In what way have I changed this Lent?    
  • How have my Lenten Disciplines helped me to grow in my relationship with God?  

Three Examples
Holy Week is an opportunity to draw valuable lessons from our Lenten practices.  It is a time to look back on our practices of Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving and to

Prayer – Holy Thursday
Perhaps I have taken up a deeper form of prayer for this Lent – either by praying more or by trying to be more attentive to God in my prayer.  Am I more aware of God’s presence in my life?  Is my prayer less distracted?  Do I have a clearer sense of God’s role in my life?

This Holy Thursday we celebrate the Mass of the Last Supper and the start of the Passion of Christ.  It is the perfect opportunity for us to gather and pray in deep and profound ways.  It is a great way to work on my relationship with God, to eat with him at the feast of the Last Supper, and then to watch and pray with him in the Garden as he has to reconcile his will with God’s.  Praying in adoration after the Mass of the Last Supper is a powerful way to learn and understand what Christ means when he says “Not my will Lord, but yours be done”.

Fasting – Good Friday
Good Friday this week is a day of fasting and abstinence from meat.  We fast on Good Friday to have solidarity with Christ’s suffering.  Fasting is the most popular discipline of Lent, we all like to “give something up” – but often that is as far as it goes.  By fasting during Lent we are trying to teach ourselves to imitate Christ’s Love.  By fasting we imitate Christ’s willingness to accept suffering so that we could enter into God’s kingdom.  This is what St. Paul speaks about in the second reading.

This Friday we have an opportunity to learn to love as Christ loves, to embrace the cross and to follow Christ.  To learn to depend on God and to do what is right, even though it is difficult.  This Good Friday we have the opportunity to return here and to reflect more deeply on Christ’s total obedience to God, and his total willingness to enter into death through love rather than

Almsgiving – the Easter Vigil
Almsgiving – the ability to share the gifts that we have been given by God comes from a heart of gratitude.  There can be no greater sense of Almsgiving then to discover that my life has been saved.  It is a debt that cannot be repaid.

So how do I repay God for the gift of eternal life that He has given me?  By imitating His love, by sharing the gifts that I have been given with those who are in need.  At it’s heart this is the gift of Almsgiving – it comes from a generous heart that is aware of the gifts that God has given me.

At the Easter Vigil we retell the whole story of creation and salvation.  We see learn how much that God has loved us and we begin to see his love poured out on those who receive him with the fullness of sacramental grace this year.

Walking to Jerusalem
We began this mass walking with Christ into the Heavenly Jerusalem, journeying with Christ as a symbol of our life here on Earth.  Let us enter into this entire Holy Week with a spirit of Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving so that we can learn from the Lord the life-changing lessons that he wishes to teach us this Lent.  That we might grow in holiness in our relationship with God and one Another.  Rise – Let us be on be on our way!


Rally Point

2nd Sunday of Lent – Cycle A

Gen 12:1-4a, Psalm 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22, 2 Tim 1:8b-10, Gospel: Matt 17:1-9

Map and Compass
The last time we spoke together was during Ordinary time and we were reflecting on the need to know the Law, and to use our conscience to decide how to act rightly in God’s eyes.  The analogy that I used last time was that of climbing in the mountains, of having a Map (the Law) and a Compass (a Conscience).

Rally Point
When I am backpacking with a large group in the wilderness there can be times where there are too many of us to travel together, our groups become too big and unwieldy, and so what we do is we get together in the morning and split up into small groups.  Before we set out for the day we establish a “rally point” – that is a destination where we will all meet up at the end of the day, then we head out and all make it as best we can through the day.

In a way, the readings today point us to a rally point, they teach us where we are going.  The Church does this here in the second week of Lent because by now we have had enough of Lent to allow the enthusiasm for our spiritual disciplines to begin to wear thin, and we are beginning to realize that we are in this for the long haul.  It is like climbing the second 1000 feet of a tall mountain, it is time to hunker down and climb, or give up and go home.  This is the time during Lent when we begin to look for excuses to quit them and get back to life as “normal”.  The readings point out to us the way that we are on, and the destination to which God is leading us.  Let’s go through them and see how they can encourage us on our journey this Lent.

Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving should lead us to God’s love
The Lenten disciplines of Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving have the goal of helping us to grow closer to God, so that when Easter comes we can better appreciate, better celebrate God’s love.  That is why we have the discipline of Lent – we are here to learn more about God’s love, to live God’s love and to share God’s love.

The thrust of the Lenten disciplines is to get us outside of ourselves, to help us to become more like Christ, to better imitate his actions and his spirituality in our own lives.  Christ came and witnessed to us sacrificial love, it was a love founded in the truth of where our relationship is at, but a love that was always willing to be open to the other, to engage the other and invite the other back into a relationship with God and with the truth.

The readings today teach us that the three Lenten disciplines – Fasting, Prayer and Almsgiving are designed to help us to better imitate the love of Christ.

The First Reading – Prayer – To Listen and to Act
The first reading is from the book of Genesis that is the first book of the Bible.  In a certain sense the first reading takes us back to the beginning and shows us where we have come from because we are all sons and daughters of the hero of the first reading who is Abraham.  Abraham is the Father of all of the faithful.  In Genesis we meet Abraham before God has changed his name, and he is known as Abram.  God calls Abram and leads him from the land of his family and lead him to a new land, a new place that God will show him.  God also makes Abram a promise – if you do this you will become a source of blessing for the world.  In essence God is saying to Abraham that I will bless the world through your family, through you.

Abram had to listen in prayer
What had to happen for Abraham to discover this gift that God wanted to give him?  What did Abraham have to do to understand God’s will for him?  He had to listen with prayer, Abram had to be willing to listen to hear the voice of God.

The first Lenten discipline is prayer – It is taking time to get to know God more deeply, more intimately during Lent.  The goal of prayer is to draw us into a more intimate and loving friendship with God.  We are invited by the Church to spend the next 4 weeks getting to know God better so that when Easter arrives, our celebration will be that much more filled with Joy and Thanksgiving at the wonder of God’s love.

We have many opportunities for prayer here in the parish this lent – for example, Adoration on Thursdays or praying the Stations of the Cross on Fridays.  They are opportunities for us to enter into our relationship with God more deeply.

Prayer alone is not enough – I have to respond to God.
Those of us who have been married long enough are aware of a trap that ultimately stymies our relationships – I call it YesDearItis.  It is when we hear our spouse, but we are not really listening to them.  Our answers become automatic – we say “Yes Dear” hearing the words that are being said but not listening to the heart of our spouse.  Does our prayer life suffer from “YesDearItis”?

When we are Faithful and Obedient we become the source of God’s Blessing to the World.
The reason why Abram is the Father of the Faithful, and the one through whom God pours out his blessings on us is not because he prayed, but because he listened in his heart to God and then responded to God with his actions.  He was faithful to God, and Obedient to God.  Obedience and faithfulness are the sources of God’s blessing in our lives and through our lives into the world.

We are created to be the vessels through which God pours out His blessing into the world.

  • How willing are we to listen to God?  
  • How willing are we to be the channel of God’s blessing?

Prayer makes us aware of our disobedience and our unfaithfulness
We are able to be the channel of God’s blessing in as much as we are obedient and faithful to God.

  • What are the areas of our lives that are disobedient?  
  • What are the areas of our lives that are unfaithful?  

These are the areas of our life that interfere with God’s plan to show His love the world.  Prayer is critical because makes us aware of the obstacles that we have that are obstacles to God’s love.

Confession is an honest dialog with God seeking His forgiveness
Confession not so much a “Get out of Hell Free” card, and more about having an honest and open dialog with God.  In confession we recognize the problems in our relationship with God and receive the gift of God’s forgiveness and love.  God’s graces help us to change so that we die to our sins and remove the obstructions in our lives to God’s love.  In truth we are created for relationship with God and with one another, and in Confession we have the opportunity to address the problems in those areas, and to open ourselves up to be healed.

How do we address these obstacles?

  • Confession and Penance

Fasting is not about needless suffering
Often times people remember that Lent is the season where we “give something up” – Why do we do that?  Do we as Catholics believe that there is not enough suffering in the world, in our worlds, and so to help “balance” things out we need to add some more suffering of our own?  Is that what is really going on here?


Lent is not about embracing needless suffering.  It is not about giving up candy so you can gorge yourself at Easter – it is about taking up your cross daily and following after Christ.

Suffering is not punishment, Fasting is not punishment
It is very easy to fall into the trap that suffering means punishment.  If we have this perspective then at its heart we have a fundamental hatred of self.   It is coming from an attitude that I have done something wrong and I need to be punished for my actions.  If we are approaching Lent with this attitude then I am here to challenge us to stop.  God is a God of love, and he calls us, he invites us into a relationship of love.  God is not sitting in heaven with his spiritual radar gun handing out fines for driving the wrong way down a one-way street.

There are two spiritual benefits to fasting; to imitate the love of Christ and to make space in our lives for Christ.

The first benefit of fasting is that it allows us to imitate the love of Christ, to love the other more than I love myself.  The witness of the Crucifixion is that Christ loves me so much that he is willing to suffer, to endure hardship for me.

What have I given up for lent?  Facebook?  Chocolate?  Coffee?  Coca-cola?  Ice cream?  Computer Games?

How does my surrender to these things teach me about sacrificial love?

Fasting leads us to practice sacrificial love.
Fasting from things during Lent provides us with an opportunity to reflect on our relationships with one another.  It is a way of resetting our spiritual life and pointing it back towards God.  It is a way of reminding ourselves that God and our sisters and brothers are more important than what we have given up.
Fasting is a way of resetting my spiritual life and pointing it more closely towards God.

Fasting creates space for Spiritual Pursuits
The second benefit to fasting is that it creates space for spiritual pursuits.  It does us no good to give up video games for Lent only to fill that time with movies, or work.  Instead of facebooking I have time to visit with those in need, Instead of Call of Duty I have time to learn about God by reading scripture, or about the lives of the saints, in dealing with my cravings for ice-cream I can interceded for those in need, for those who are really suffering from loss – those who are divorced, widowed, who have suffered abuse.

Fasting teaches us to rely on God
A benefit of fasting is that it teaches us to depend on God, to rely on the strength to persevere in our fasting with the strength that comes from God.  As St. Paul says to Timothy, “Beloved:  Bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.”   Fasting teaches us to rely on God rather than ourselves.  In this way fasting serves as a stepping stone – if I can learn to rely on God in this simple fast, then how much more can I rely on God when I am in a bigger crisis?

Fasting Prepares us for a Holy Life
Fasting also prepares us for a holy life, as St. Paul says, the reason why we are Christians is that Christ has “saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design.” The secret to living a Holy life is not that I do it of my own free will, but rather that I cooperate with God’s grace.  It is God’s desire that I lead a happy, holy life, do I seek to live out the Gospel?  Do I seek to share the love of Christ with others?

Like the first reading Paul’s second letter to Timothy drives home the point that God has chosen us from the beginning of time to be the ones through whom God is bringing his salvation, the witness of His love into the world.  Are we living our lives with this kind of idea in our hearts?  How do we respond to the dismissal of the Mass – “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord!”  Will we shy away, or will we take the lesson of fasting and rely on God’s grace to shine through our actions this week?

In the Gospel Christ Shares his Divinity with us through his humanity.
The Gospel today is one of those passages that reveals God’s generosity.  The generosity that is revealed in the Gospel is the generosity of God’s love.  Jesus wants to share with his three closest friends the heart of his nature – his divinity.  The Lord wants to do this for many reasons, but there are two that I would like us to reflect on today, For Generosity and for Courage.

When Peter, James and John get to the top of the Mountain Christ’s divinity is revealed, and the Apostles develop an understanding of Christ that is beyond what they had imagined, their friend is God himself.  Jesus is giving this gift to Peter, James and John because he know what is coming up, the passion and death and resurrection.  He wants Peter, James and John to have this experience in the depths of their hearts as a touch-stone that they can come back to when they face difficulties in the years ahead.

How do we respond when God gives us a great gift?
When we are given a great gift we respond with thanksgiving, with action.  Peter’s response to this profound reality is action – it is in Peter’s heart to act when he witnesses God’s presence.  His suggestion is to make a memorial (“Let us make tents”) – to fix this experience in a physical way in his heart.  Then God the Father speaks to Peter and tells him how to memorialize this day when he says “This is my beloved Son, listen to Him”.

Almsgiving – To Share in God’s Generosity
We respond to God’s generosity by imitating it, which is why we have the Lenten practice of Almsgiving.  The goal of Almsgiving is to grow within our heart a generosity that imitates the generosity of God who was so generous as to enter into our lives and share them with us.  My challenge to you is for the rest of Lent is to increase your almsgiving by 50%.  What did you give to the poor last week?  Is there a way that I can trim back some luxuries in my life for the next 4 weeks and give a little more.  (If I was a salesman I would point out that I have already given you a 33% discount on this invitation by waiting until after the first 2 weeks of lent to propose it).  Almsgiving is about learning to imitate the generosity of God, who gave everything to us so that we could share in his life.

Generosity / Almsgiving has the ability to open our hearts to an awareness of the gifts that God has given to us.  Before you give alms, take a moment and consider the many good things that God has given to you – Health, Family, Friends, Faith, Stable Work, what ever.  And then as a way of saying thank you – of sharing God’s blessings with others.  It is not the act of writing a check, or of handing out cash – but rather the act of recognizing God’s blessings in our lives and then responding to His gifts.

The Gospel summarizes the Lenten Practices
The Gospel is really a summary of all of our Lenten practices.  In the Gospel Christ discusses the cross (fasting) – sacrificial love with Moses and Elijah, He listens to the Father affirm his vocation, his mission (prayer), and he shares his divinity with Peter, James and John (almsgiving).

Imitate Christ and be a blessing for the world
Our challenge this week is to imitate Christ in the Gospel by pursuing our Lenten disciplines because in that way we become like Abraham – the ones through whom God is revealing his love to the world.


Map and Compass

6th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle A

Sir 15:15-20, Ps 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34, 1 Cor 2:6-10,  Gospel: Matt 5:17-37

Map and Compass
As many of you know I really enjoy backpacking and exploring the wilderness.  I love wander around in God’s creation, to climb high mountains and see beautiful vistas.  In all my years of climbing and exploring I have learned that one of the hardest thing to teach others is how to use a map and a compass to know where you are and to know how to get to your destination.

A Map tells you where you are, and where you can go.  
A Compass tells you what direction you are going in.
Learning to navigate with a map and compass is hard because it requires constant awareness.  You need a map – that tells you where you are and helps you to figure out where you are going.  You also need a compass – which I might need to explain in this era of GPS-enabled smart-phones.  A Compass has a needle that always points North.  With a reliable pointer to the north you can walk in any direction and be certain that you will get to your destination.  The map is used to determine where you are and where you are going, and the compass shows you the direction to take to get from here to there.

Map = Law of God, Compass = Conscience
The Map is like the Law of God – When we know what God’s plan is it is easier for us to know where we are and where we are going.  The Compass is like our conscience.  It helps us to choose the right direction whenever we are confronted by moral choices.

The Law and Our Conscience
The readings today speak to us about the law and our conscience.  The law is the way that God created us to live together, to find happiness.  The law is like a map.  A map tells me the truth about the ground around me.  The law tells me about the truth of the human heart, and by meditating on the law I can come to discern the way to happiness.

What use is a map if you do not use it?
If we have a map but we do not study it then it is simply a piece of paper.  For a map to be useful we need to study it.  We need to read the key to learn what those squiggly lines mean?

The Map is like the Law – it tells us where we can go.
If we use a map casually, then I can get into a general area, but I am still not finding where I need to be.  But if I have a map, and read it, and think about it, and study it, and plan my route by it – then I will find the best way.  In this way the map is like the law of God – it shows us where we are and where we can go (Both positively and negatively).

The Map reflects the truth of the land, the Law reflects the truth of our human experience.
In the Gospel today Christ tells us that he has not come to abolish the law but to fulfill the law.  He fulfills the law to the fullest when he dies on the cross.  The Law, says Christ is not going anywhere.  No matter what you do, there are mountains and valleys, hills and streams.  What you can do is try to live according to the law.

When we live our lives (either in accordance with or against) the Law, we teach others to do likewise.
Jesus also warns us not to teach others to misread the law, do not misuse the map that God has given you – it is to your detriment.  We teach primarily by our example of actions.

What do our actions teach others about our faith in God?


A Compass
The other piece of equipment that is vital for wilderness navigation is a compass.  A compass always points to the north, and so it can be used to determine which direction you are going.  A compass will tell you where you are going, but it won’t tell you where you are, or what is coming next.

Conscience is the spiritual equivalent to a compass.
The spiritual equivalent of the compass is our conscience.  Our conscience is our ability to know right from wrong, to judge our actions and to see our journey through life from God’s perspective.  The Catechism teaches that the conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that will or has been performed... In all we say and do we are obliged to follow faithfully what we knows to be just and right. It is by the judgment of our conscience that we see divine law.

What conscience is not
Conscience is not what I think, it is not my opinion, it is not a justification or a rationalization.  Conscience is the inner voice that God gives us to recognize His word and to respond to it.

Our conscience advises us on what we should do, and it judges us when we fail to do what is right.  Because conscience is a way that we listen to the voice of God, it is not subjective, because God is not subjective.  By that I mean God is the same for you and for me, He is not different.  We know this because God is from the Truth, and the Truth is unchanging, eternal and faithful.

Our Conscience can be mis-formed
We form our conscience in a good way when we choose good and reject evil.  We form our conscience in a bad way when we choose evil and reject good.  Whenever we are act in a way that is contrary to God’s law then we need to understand that some justification or rationalization is at work in our hearts and is causing us to deform our conscience.  Whenever this happens we need to be alert and change our choices.

How do we listen to our conscience?
Silence and Stillness are the important ingredients to listening to our conscience.

  • Do we provide ourselves the opportunity to consider our actions each day?  
  • Do we take the time to pray and reflect before making big decisions?  
  • Do we spend time in silence and stillness seeking to listen to the direction of our conscience in our lives?  

If we don’t then the readings today are an invitation to conversion, and invitation to change.  This week, can we for 5 minutes a day take some time to reflect before making decisions, and to reflect at the end of the day.

Freedom – The other directions that we can go.
The first reading teaches us that God has given us the gift of freedom, the ability to choose good or evil.  Just as we use a compass to know which way to go, we use our conscience to choose right from wrong.  Freedom means that we need to choose in every situation that allows us to choose good or evil.

We respond to God’s gift of freedom positively when we choose good over evil.  We reject God’s gift of freedom when we choose evil over good.  The reason that God has given us freedom is because we need freedom in order to choose to love or not.  If there was no freedom, then we couldn’t choose to love or to hate.  The reality of God’s law is that when we choose evil, we become enslaved to evil, addicted to evil and hence we lose our freedom.  When we choose good, then we grow in freedom because we are further away from those things that would enslave us (sin).  God does not abandon us in our freedom.  He provides us with the Map (the Word) and a Compass (our conscience) to guide us in our choices.

This is what Sirach means when he says

if you trust in God, you too shall live;
he has set before you fire and water
to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand.
Before man are life and death, good and evil,
whichever he chooses shall be given him.

Reflecting more deeply on the Gospel
In the Gospel Christ reflects on the roots of the Law, the deeper meaning of the law.  Often times whenever someone enters into a discussion of the spirit of the law versus the letter of the law they do so to justify some way of breaking the law.  Their goal is not to uphold the law but to justify breaking the law.  Jesus does not do this, rather in the Gospel today he goes in the opposite direction.  He goes through four different laws that Moses gave and then shows the Spirit that is behind the law.  In a way Jesus is saying, if you want to get a “C” in morality then at least do this – but if you really want to understand this law then think about this.  Lets pick up our moral compass, and reflect on the map’s of our lives.

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.  But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin;  and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna. Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

For those who are wondering, the word Raqa is a Hebrew word that means “Blockhead” or “Imbecile”.

Here Jesus is reflecting more on the spirit of the commandment – “Thou shalt not kill”, and points that at the root of this commandment is Anger.  When we fall into Anger it leads us (unchecked) to have a murderous heart, a heart that desires the annihilation of the other.  It is easier to be angry with a person than to be forgiving. This is especially difficult when the brother that we are angry with has wronged us over some period of time and the relationship becomes set in stone.

Lay your gift aside and be reconciled
One of the reasons why Christ places reconciliation as a condition before making an offering to God is because the relationships that we have are gifts from God.  How can we give God a gift if we are not accepting the gifts that he has given us?

Two things to do if we are stuck.

  • Pray for the one we are angry with (each day).
  • Pray for ourselves to be open to the Holy Spirit (each day) – so that when the time for reconciliation occurs we can recognize it and act on it!

You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery.  But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Jesus is looking at the root of the corruption of marriage, and trying to draw us back to God’s plan.  Our sexuality was created to unite us in a relationship that is good and self-giving.  Yet, Lust corrupts that gift by corrupting ourselves.  When we lust we are transformed into selfish people.

What is the antidote?  If your eye causes you to sin then tear it out!
The remedy that Christ presents in the Gospel is rather extreme – If you eyes cause you to sin then tear them out!  The point that Christ is making is that the sin of Lust can be deeply rooted in our hearts because it is the corruption of one of God’s greatest gifts.

Avert your eyes!
St. Francis struggled with the sin of lust, and so he chose to avert his eyes rather than tearing them out.  Whenever he met a woman he would stare at his feet as a way of avoiding entering into lust in his heart.  The other action that we can take is an action of interior prayer.  We can ask the Holy Spirit for the grace to recognize when we are tempted to Lust, and then we can use our conscience to choose a better course.

“It was also said, Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce. But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife - unless the marriage is unlawful - causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

This gospel is challenging to us as a community in three different ways.  To those who are married – it challenges us to strengthen our marriages.  To those who are divorced – we are challenged to reflect on the situation of our divorce – was our marriage unlawful?  And to those of us who are divorced and remarried outside the Church, or those who are cohabitating – how do we escape from the trap of adultery?

I know that many of us here are divorced and subsequently married.  There are also people here today who are divorced and not remarried.  For us, this part of the Gospel is challenging.  We also live in a society that encourages divorce – if this spouse is not working out, go and get another!  The problem with our culture is that it seeks to undermine the freedom that exists within marriage.  God designed marriage to be a life-long commitment to create the space in our relationship for us to grow in holiness.  When either party can leave at any time then that freedom is damaged or destroyed.

The reality of marriage is that it is hard work being faithful and life-giving to one another throughout our marriage.  For those of us who are married,

  • Do we take time to share our lives with our spouses?  
  • Do we pray with them?  
  • Do we listen to them?  
  • Do we find time to care for them in their needs?

Married Folk – Pray with one Another!
For those of us who are married, then the spiritual lesson from this part of the Gospel today is to take 5 minutes each day to pray for your spouse.  I would suggest that each night, before one of you goes to bed that you take the time to sit together, turn off the TV and the computer and to share briefly what happened that day, and the needs that you have for tomorrow.  Then let your spouse pray for you and reciprocate.

Cohabitating Folk – Let this Gospel Challenge you!
For those here today who are divorced and remarried outside of the Church, or who are co-habitating, then I encourage you to let this Gospel challenge you.  In what way is your life and your relationship in disorder?  Use your conscience and compare it to the teachings of your faith.  How can you allow Christ to lead you to a deeper relationship with him in your actions.  This road may seem hard, and may lead over some very difficult terrain, but I promise you it leads to a more beautiful life because your life will be more open to grace and you will have learned to truly trust in God.

Divorced Folk – Reflect on your relationship.
This is hard and painful, we need to take time as we are able to reflect on our relationship and see what has been going on.  We need to have courage to faith the truth in the presence of Gods love.

Have you ever talked to a traveling sales-man or a used-car dealer or politician?  (I mean no disrespect to any traveling salesmen or used car dealers here – I am using the stereotype.)  Whenever someone has to make an oath they are in essence saying – I can’t be trusted, but God can.  Christ’s point here is that if we choose to live as men and woman of truth and of the Gospel, then our word is our bond, and we need no other assurance.  If we learn to live by our conscience and by the law of God then we are men and women who are trustworthy, who live with integrity.  Then our yes does mean yes, and our no means no.

Knowing the Law and Listening to our Conscience is hard – but it leads to a beautiful place.
Navigating by Map and compass is hard.  You need to be constantly referring to the compass to make sure that your direction has not drifted off of course, and the map to check against the ground you are walking across to make sure that you continue to know where you are.  If you stop paying attention to either of them, you can end up lost, and then you have to stop and figure out where you are before proceeding on again.

Walking with Christ can be hard at times, but it is at the same time very simple.  Let us live our lives this week by the light of God’s law and trust to his grace to guide our conscience along the right path.


Created for Mission

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle A

Is 49:3, 5-6, Psalm Ps 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10, 1 Cor 1:1-3, Gospel: Jn 1:29-34

St. John and St. Paul
In the readings today we hear from two powerful Saints, both were powerful preachers whose mission was to share God’s love with the world.  Both died a martyrs death because of their fearless proclamation of the Gospel.  These men are St. John the Baptist, and St. Paul the Apostle.

St. John had a mission from conception
We know a lot about the life and ministry of St. John the Baptist.  We first heard of him in the beginning of the Gospel of Luke, when his father Zechariah was serving the Lord in the temple and the Angel Gabriel came to him to tell him that he would have a son whose mission would be to prepare the world for the coming of Christ.

John knew that his Joy was in Christ
From the moment of his conception John knew that his joy was found in Christ.  The Blessed Mother was pregnant with Christ when she came to visit John’s mother Elizabeth.  St. Luke tells us that Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and that John leapt for joy when he met the Messiah.

John called people to repentance so that they could learn about the Joy that Christ offers
John then reappears after the infancy narrative to invite the people of God to repent, to change their ways and to prepare for the coming of Christ.  So it is fitting that as we are ushered into Ordinary Time St. John comes to us again in the Gospel to give his witness to Christ to us.

John knows that his mission is to prepare the people of God to encounter the joy of God’s love, but that in order to do so they need to be able to hear God’s love.  Unfortunately their lives are drowning in the noise of sin.  For this reason John’s mission is to call us to repentance, so that we can get rid of the noise of sin and hear the good news in our hearts.

How does John encounter God again?
John’s mission is to identify who Christ is.  He knows that this will happen if he calls people to a baptism of repentance.  John is faithful to his vocation.  He begins the Gospel today watching for the Lord and when Jesus finally comes to him John recognizes him as the Messiah and identifies him to the world.

Re-Read Isaiah in light of the life of St. John the Baptist
Keeping in our minds this image of John the Baptist allows us to listen to the first reading to see how John lives out his vocation.

The LORD said to me: You are my servant, Israel, through whom I show my glory. 

John lived his life as a servant of God.  He did what he was asked to do.  Do we live our lives as servants of God?  Do we respond to God’s word?

Now the LORD has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb, 

John’s conception was heralded by the gift of mission from the Archangel Gabriel.  His mission was known from the moment of his creation.

that Jacob may be brought back to him and Israel gathered to him; 

John’s Mission was to help those who are far from God to come back to him.  Who do we know whom God wants to bring back to him?

and I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD, and my God is now my strength! It is too little, the LORD says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.

Through John’s response to God’s will not only were the Children of Israel saved, but all mankind!

Do we dare respond to God’s love in a similar way?

St. Paul
The second reading is from the beginning of the first letter to the Corinthians that was written by St. Paul the Apostle.

St. Paul was raised as a devout Jew and he loved his faith.  After the resurrection of Jesus he began to persecute the Church and was present at the martyrdom of St. Steven.  Later while on his way to Damascus to persecute the Church in Syria he encountered the risen Christ and his heart was changed.  He was baptized and became an apostle and teacher of the Gospel to the Gentiles.

St. Paul’s mission was to explain to people how much God loved them.  Perhaps it was his introduction to Christianity that gave him such a profound awareness of God’s mercy.  God had mercy on St. Paul and helped him to change his life to serve God rather than to persecute his Church.  Paul’s vision of God’s mercy and love permeates all of his writings and actions for the rest of his life.  St. Paul suffered martyrdom by beheading about six years after writing this letter to the Corinthians.

St. Paul’s vocation was to be a messenger of God’s love
St. Paul begins his letter to the Corinthians by identifying himself as an Apostle, a messenger of God’s love.  He says that it is his mission from God to share the message of God’s love.

Re-read Isaiah in light of St. Paul’s life.

The LORD said to me: You are my servant, Israel, through whom I show my glory. Now the LORD has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb, that Jacob may be brought back to him and Israel gathered to him; 

Paul was gathered back to God on the road to Damascus.  It was when he encountered Christ that his life made sense.  Have I recognized God’s mercy in my life?

and I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD, and my God is now my strength! 

Paul says – I have fought the good fight, I have competed well…

It is too little, the LORD says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.

St. Paul is known as the Apostle to the Gentiles.  It was through him that Christ brought the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

St. Paul writes to us and calls us to a mission of holiness.
Paul addresses his letter to the Church in Corinth, and through them to us.  Paul reminds us that we are the community that God has established.  He reminds us that we have been saved from sin by Christ Jesus, and that we are called to be holy, to be set apart for God.  Paul is teaching us that we too have a mission – that is to reflect the joy of God’s love to the world.

How do we respond to this call to holiness?
The readings today are not just an accounting of certain events from the early Church, but they are here to remind us of our vocation, of our mission.  We too brothers and Sisters are called to a life of mission, a life that is dedicated to serving God.  The Psalm today outlines the steps that we need to take to allow ourselves to live out the mission that Christ calls us to.  There are four steps outlined in the psalm today

  • Waiting
  • Listening
  • Responding
  • Discovering
  • Proclaiming


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.

Like John the Baptist all we need to do is what is set before us.  We wait and God will act.  If we make space in our lives for God he will come to us and make his presence known.  This is a quiet waiting, not with words and problems, but with peace and listening.  One of the best ways to do this is with prayer each morning.  Set an alarm clock for 5 minutes in the morning and begin your day waiting for God.

Listening and Responding (with my heart)

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.”

The word Listen and the word Obey come from the same root word.  To be obedient is to hear with my heart.  This means that I need to set aside all of my own preconceptions and really listen to God.  When I hear him, I respond.  – “Here I am Lord, I come to do YOUR will”.

Discovering the value of a holy life

“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!”

When we have the courage to respond to God’s will we discover the depths of his love.  We discover that living a life dedicated to God is filled with a joy greater than all of the distractions of the earth because when we can listen to God then we live our lives responding to the impulse of His love for His people.

Proclaiming the Joy of God’s love
I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.

We announce God’s love by our actions.  We are glad that people know the reason why we are filled with Joy and God’s love.  This is why we are led to works of charity to share the love that we have received with those who are in great need for it as well.  This is not an overt-sharing “Here, let me help you with that, because clearly you have no hope” – but rather a willingness to walk with those who are suffering, a willingness to share God’s love with those who are oppressed just by being with them.

What is the Prophet Isaiah saying to you?
Let us listen to the prophet Isaiah to you one last time.  This time I invite you to close your eyes and to listen, because this time God is addressing the words from the prophet Isaiah to you.

The LORD said to me: You are my servant, Israel, through whom I show my glory. Now the LORD has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb, that Jacob may be brought back to him and Israel gathered to him; and I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD, and my God is now my strength! It is too little, the LORD says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.

How will you respond to God’s invitation?

Hear I am Lord – I come to do your will.