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Showing posts from 2017

4th Sunday of Advent

This 4th Sunday of Advent we focus on the Incarnation… God made manifest through the birth of Jesus.  Nothing captures this moment better than our Gospel, but as we will see, our other readings would suggest that this meeting between God and his people has been coming for some time…

The Word for the 4th Sunday of Advent 2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16
Psalm 89:2-3, 4-5, 27-29
Romans 16:25-27
Luke 1:26-38

To better understand our readings for this week, I think we should first look at our Gospel.  In a story that is unique to Luke’s Gospel, we here the of the angel Gabriel coming to Mary to announce God’s plan for the birth of his Son.  It’s not hard for us to imagine Mary’s amazement in this moment.  Not only is this humble girl from Nazareth (already likely anxious over her betrothal to Joseph) being approached by an angel, a messenger for the Lord, but the angel’s message is almost unbelievable:  God has chosen her to bear his Son.  Mary isn’t naive, however, and challenges Ga…

3rd Sunday of Advent

The third Sunday of Advent marks the midpoint of the season… in Catholic terms, this is like “hump day”, where we happily see that the conclusion of our journey is within sight.  Referred to as Gaudete Sunday, it takes its name from the Latin word for rejoice.  We will hear this word several times throughout this Sunday's Mass in our prayers and our readings.  We light the rose colored candle on our Advent wreaths, rose being a mixture of Advent violet and Christmas white.  Not only is Christmas a joyous occasion to celebrate the birth of our Lord, but it reminds us that we are joyous (not fearful) of his return.

The Word for the 3rd Sunday of Advent Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11
Luke 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28

We open with a great announcement from Third Isaiah, that the anointed brings glad tidings to the poor.  If his words sound familiar, they should.  Not only are they reminiscent to the announcement made by the angels to the shepherd in th…

2nd Sunday of Advent

Prepare the way of the Lord!  Make straight his path!  This is the clarion call we receive for this 2nd Sunday of Advent.  Preparation is the message as we are bombarded with all sorts of advertising right now... to find the perfect gift, create the perfect meal, decorate the perfect home, all the while surrounded by the perfect sense of family.  Trouble is, when we seek this type of perfection, we often find ourselves disappointed.  Not only have we missed the point of the season, we’ve allowed the secular world to obfuscate our understanding of the Gospel message…

The Word for the 2nd Sunday of Advent Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
Psalm 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14
2 Peter 3:8-14
Mark 1:1-8

We open with one of the finest songs of forgiveness and triumph from the Prophet Isaiah.  There is an established pattern in all of our worship… that before we ask for something from God, we first must ask him for forgiveness for our sins.  We see this every time we celebrate the Mass as we begin with t…

Nuns and Nones... continued...

On 6-24-2016 I wrote a brief commentary on what we call the "nones"... that is, those people who check the box that says "none" when asked about their religious affiliation.  That commentary was based on an address by my former high school's principal at their 2016 graduation address.  But this topic of the "nones" returned to my attention with this article posted on our daily Angelus News email from the e-magazine Crux:

Notre Dame debuts digital platform to reach young Catholics, ‘nones’
Please take a moment to read it... 

Of particular interest is the increasing number of "nones," those people who claim no religious affiliation. I first heard this term a few years back from one of the speakers at our LA Religious Education Congress. The term itself grew out of a 2012 Pew Research study that showed this rising trend. Working as I do with the RCIA and Adult Faith Formation, this was a known issue, but the Pew study validated what ma…

1st Sunday of Advent

With the 1st Sunday of Advent we welcome a new Liturgical Year, but unlike our secular celebration of the new year, we don’t do it with champagne and noisemakers.  Instead the Church begins her new year with a season of solemn reflection and preparation for the coming of Jesus.  Not his coming as an infant… that moment has past… but for his coming again in glory.  His second coming.  But this is not something to fear, it is something to rejoice!  Just as we rejoice in the memory of his first coming during the Christmas season.  Advent is our opportunity to look how well we are following through with our mission to follow Christ, and ask ourselves if we are ready for his return.

The Word for the 1st Sunday of Advent Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7
Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Mark 13:33-37

The beginning of the new Liturgical Year also brings a new Lectionary cycle.  Last year, Cycle A, we spent with the Gospel of Matthew, but now we transition to Cycle B with a f…

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

In the Nicene Creed we state that we believe Jesus “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end."  This belief didn’t originate in the Creed, these words have their origins in the scriptures.  This Sunday's Gospel reminds us that God alone determines our fate after death, but that fate is also determined by our own choices in life... our free will to follow a path of righteousness or selfishness.  In one of Jesus' final sermons to his Apostles (a continuation from last week's Gospel), Jesus gives us concrete examples to follow.

The Word for Christ the King Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17
Psalm 23:1-2, 2-3, 5-6
1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28
Matthew 25:31-46

Our first reading comes Ezekiel, the exiled priest who found his prophetic voice in Babylon.  At a time where the exiled Jewish community is feeling abandoned by God, Ezekiel is called to bring a message of hope.  He speaks of God as a shepherd who seeks to bring back his l…

Reclaiming Thanksgiving... an article and an observation...

A very interesting article was posted to our daily Angelus News today. Everyone should read this one... Reclaiming Thanksgiving by Dr. Barbara Golder, MD, JD
As Catholics the idea of Thanksgiving is in our DNA... it is an integral part of the Mass, and it calls to how we celebrate everything... with a Mass followed by a feast!
I have to admit, however, that I've got some mixed feelings on this article. Dr. Golder is quite correct in stating that "modern secular society would like to expunge the very notion of religion from our history," but she does continue to recognize that "the fabric of American life is tied up with religious life, thought and expression." How do we reconcile these two seemingly competing ideals?
It is true that secular society goes out of its way to sanitize God and religiosity from our common experience, particularly with holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas who's roots are religious. Not only that, secular society has always be…

The Christmas Season? How about reclaiming Advent!

It's only been a couple weeks since we celebrated Halloween, and we still have a week to go before Thanksgiving, but by all other measures of secular society, we're on a fast train to the Christmas season.  KOST 103.5 FM has already begun their non-stop barrage of Christmas music, and all the retailers are gearing up for "black Friday,"  Which for many of these stores starts on Thanksgiving Thursday.  The frenzy of the Holidays is upon us, complete with the first house I saw last night on Clark Ave with their Christmas lights already up.  While I enjoy the holiday season just as much as anyone else, I still can't get past the fact that our secularized celebration of the season has it all wrong.

Allow me to explain... For us Catholics, we're nowhere near the Christmas season yet.  For the moment, we're still celebrating Ordinary Time.  We've put All Saints Day and All Souls Day behind us, and as Church in the United States we're preparing for Thank…

33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

God the Father has endowed us with many gifts.  Not only does scripture recommend that we give thanks for these (as in our readings from Proverbs and Psalms), but it recommends that these gifts must be put to use for the greater good and the love of God.

The Word for the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31
Psalm 128:1-2, 3, 4-5
1 Thessalonians 5:1-6
Matthew 25:14-30

We open with a reading from the book of Proverbs.  This book falls within the category of “wisdom literature” in the Bible.  Like it’s other wisdom book counterparts, it is a collection of wise sayings used as a type of “catechism” to teach right living in the eyes of God.  Proverbs is thought to originate during the period of the Monarchy, but doesn’t reach its final form until the post-exilic period.  Our passage for this coming Sunday gives us the example of the value of a “worthy wife,” and how we should honor that value.  “Wisdom” in this period is considered more practical than theolo…

32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

With Halloween behind us, it seems the secular world is ready to push us into the Christmas season.  But hold on, I say.  Not only do we still have Thanksgiving to attend to, but the entire season of Advent is still before us.  So a little patience.  There's no need to get sucked up into the frenzy that is secular Christmas... at least not until you're ready.  For there is plenty else in front of us for which we need to prepare.  And preparedness, patience, and persistence are topics we'll be facing in this week's readings...

Be prepared.  Our world is full of uncertainty.  Anything could happen at any time that can affect our lives, either personally, locally, or globally.  As Southern Californians, we live with the constant threat of the next big earthquake (in between all the fires, flash-floods, and traffic accidents), and we’re taught regularly what we need to do in the case of a disaster.  But what of our spiritual lives?  Are we prepared for the nex…

31st Sunday of Ordinary Time

Practice what you preach.  This is the warning from our readings this week.  While pointed specifically at the religious leaders of the community, these warnings also serve as a reminder for us, that we too much not become complacent in our duties to the Lord. 

The Word for the 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time: Malachi 1:14b-1:2b, 8-10
Psalm 131:1, 2, 3
1 Thessalonians 2:7b-9, 13
Matthew 23:1-12

We open with a reading from the prophet Malachi, who’s career began a few generations after the return from Babylon.  Malachi sees a priesthood that has lost its way, and through that, caused the people to falter.  The prophet condemns them and reminds them that is God who created us and with whom we have our covenant. 

Our Psalm helps those priests (and all of us) to focus back on what’s important as we sing, “In you, Lord, I have found my peace.”  When we turn to the Lord in humility, we find peace and hope.

Our second reading picks up on that theme of a caring mother found in our Psalm a…

30th Sunday of Ordinary Time

What is the measure of a person?  From a Biblical perspective, it’s how you treat others.  In fact, the Scriptures are quite consistent on this point.  From the Mosaic Law Code in Exodus, to the teachings of the prophets, to the parables of Jesus, to the teachings of Paul and the Apostles, we are constantly reminded about how a God-loving people are expected to act toward one another.  Our readings for this coming Sunday provide us the best examples of this most important teaching:

The Word for the 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time: Exodus 22:20-26
Psalm 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51
1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10
Mathew 22:34-40

We open with a reading from the book of Exodus.  When we think of the Exodus, we always remember the Ten Commandments, but we tend to forget that these Ten are just the beginning of the Law code.  Just as with the preamble to the Constitution for the US, there’s a whole lot more that follows, providing the nuts-and-bolts (the context and applications) of how this new Covena…

29th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Who is God and what do we owe him?  The answer to both questions is “everything.”  This question has its origins in the 1st Commandment, “I am the Lord your God… there is no other.”  But what does that mean to us on a practical level?  In short, it is God whom we thank for everything we have, and because of this, it is only to God whom we owe our allegiance.

The Word for the 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time: Isaiah 45:1, 4-6
Psalm 96:1, 3, 4-5, 7-8, 9-10
1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b
Mathew 22:15-21

We open with a reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah… in this case, “Deutero” or Second Isaiah.  The Exile is coming to an end.  The Babylonian Empire has fallen to the Persians and now Cyrus, whom we know as Cyrus the Great, has been, according to Isaiah, anointed by God.  Cyrus?  A pagan?  A foreign king?  Yes.  How could this be?  Simple… God can choose whomever he wishes.  The hand God chose to free Israel from her Exile was in fact the hand of Cyrus, the king of the Persian Empire, …

28th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Invitation.  This is the theme that resonates through our readings for this 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time.  And not just any invitation… an invitation to the Lord’s house.  Who wouldn’t want to go?  Who would turn down this invitation?  Let’s explore our readings to see what we might be missing…

The Word for the 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time: Isaiah 25:6-10a
Psalm 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6
Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20
Mathew 22:1-14

We open with a reading from Isaiah at a point where he sees great hope for Israel (for a brief time as King Hezekiah begins his reign).  In this poem of praise for God, he describes what it is like to live on the mountain of the Lord… a paradise with rich food and choice wines… a place where God’s people rejoice under the umbrella of his protection.  Our Psalm echoes this joy with its chorus “I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.”  Who would want to leave?

Our Gospel from Matthew continues where we left off last week, where we see Jes…

Community Life on the Wane? Yes, for some time now...

I ran across a very interesting article that was posted on our daily Angelus News email.  Posted from the National Catholic Register:

Catholic Community Life on the Wane? As community life in the United States declines, Catholic parishes also must address the consequences. The article discusses that this is not just a Catholic phenomenon, but that community life in general has been on the decline for some time.  The author, Nicholas Wolfram Smith, makes use of a study from a new research group in the U.S. Senate, called the Social Capital Project, which recently published it's first report, “What We Do Together,” another interesting read if you have the time.
The report and the article mention several contributing factors to this decline in what they call "associational life," including an increase in "affluence" as one of the factors.  But in all this research, I feel they've missed a very important factor... that we have lost the perceived need for communi…

27th Sunday of Ordinary Time

This week we continue with our series on morality.  While our readings give us examples of what could be considered “bad behavior”, the focus is not so much on the behavior but the consequences of that behavior.  Bad consequences for bad behavior is indeed a motivation for right behavior, but it is not, and should not, be the only motivator for taking the right path.  God wants us to see the right path, but we sometimes miss the opportunities that are right in front of us...

The Word for the 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time: Isaiah 5:1-78
Psalm 80:9, 12, 13-14, 16-16, 19-20
Philippians 4:6-9
Matthew 21:33-43

We open with a lament from early Isaiah.  Remember that Isaiah is known as one of the greatest prophets, and is the most quoted in the New Testament.  His prophetic book, by at least three different authors, takes us from a time before the Assyrian uprising, through the Babylonian uprising, through the great Babylonian Exile, and all the way to the Israelites return to Jerusal…

26th Sunday of Ordinary Time

How do we know what is right or wrong?  Even when we think we have a firm hand on morality, how then do we turn that into a consistent life ethic… a way of living each and every day in a manner that reflects our beliefs?  These are difficult questions… but as Christians we turn to our scriptures for some answers.

The Word for the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time Ezekiel 18:25-28
Psalm 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14
Philippians 2:1-11
Matthew 21:28-32

This Sunday we open with a passage from Ezekiel.  You may recall that we heard a passage from this same prophet a couple weeks ago.  This week Ezekiel, our great prophet from the Babylonian Exile, has a stern warning for us.  This passage comes from a time just before the fall of Jerusalem.  Ezekiel sees the “writing on the wall” and is urging the people of Israel to reconsider what is fair in the eyes of the Lord, and do what is right and just.  While Ezekiel’s message didn’t help the Israelites at that time, it does provide us with a valuable l…

25th Sunday of Ordinary Time

For anyone who is a parent, or anyone who’s had to mediate a dispute among children, you likely have confronted the phrase “But that’s not fair!”  Even as adults we have a tendency to equate “justice” with “fairness.”  But here’s the thing… what is “just” may not always be “fair,” and what is “fair” to one person may not be to the other.  Our readings this week deal with just that problem… the difference between what we think is fair, and what God thinks is fair…

The Word for the 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time Isaiah 55:6-9
Psalm 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18
Philippians 1:20c-24, 27a
Matthew 20-1-16a

We open with a reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah… in this case, from the closing chapter of Deutero or “second” Isaiah.  This comes from a point in Israelite history where the people have been released from their Exile in Babylon.  The Lord has shown them great mercy and forgiveness, and freed them from exile.  But why?  They broke their covenant with God and they were punished.  Wh…

24th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Last week our readings spoke of a conversion of heart… learning that we not only must love one another, but that we have a duty to each other.  A duty that demands that we speak out when we see injustice, personally at first, and publicly as needed.  But in order for love to survive, take root, and grow, we also need to learn to forgive…

The Word for the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time Sirach 27:30-28:7
Psalm 103:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12
Romans 14:7-9
Mathew 18:21-35

We open with a reading from the book of Sirach… which is also referred to as the “Wisdom of Ben Sira” in honor of its author (Yeshua [Jesus or Joshua = chosen of God], son of Elezar, son of Sira).  The prophet wrote during the post Exilic period, completing his work around 175 BCE, with his grandson preparing the Greek translation around 117 BCE.  The book is also referred to as “Ecclesiasticus”, which translates to “Church Book” because it was commonly used in the preparation of catechumens… like an early catechism for …