I share Pope Francis' dream. I dream that we will give Jesus first place in our lives. That we will hear him say, "Follow me." And that we will do our part in gathering the people*: Those who have become discouraged, those who have drifted from the faith. Families with small children, high school students and young adults.
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And John the Baptist saw Jesus and proclaimed, “Look, there is the Lamb of God. He is the one who will baptize with he Holy Spirit.” Jesus’s disciples would be given the power of God to transform the world. They would be given the power to create a new world, a world with a new way of living, the way of sacrificial love.
Today we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. With this Feast we come to the end of our Christmas celebrations. We have pondered on and wondered at the God who makes himself the Son of Man and shares in our human life, in order that we might become children of God and sharers in his divine life.
There are very many Epiphany stories revolving around the three Kings and their mission to seek, worship and give gifts to the King of Kings. I enjoy telling Henry Van Dyke’s story about the Fourth Wise Man, O Henry’s, The Gift of the Magi, and G. K. Chesterton’s story about the Modern Wise Men.
John brings people together around a common ritual; he baptizes them as they confess their sins. Jesus and the Church he founded continues that practice. Pope Francis states, "The transmission of faith occurs first and foremost in baptism."
Using apocalyptic language and images, Jesus wants to remove the veil that prevents us from seeing the world through the eyes of God. When he seems to announce the end of the cosmos, he is not referring to the end of the world, but helping us to understand the end of the world.
A woman had seven husbands, who all died. Whose wife will she be when she dies? I don’t know, but I do know that when she dies she’ll have some explaining to do about her cooking. I figure she must have served them corned beef. Certainly, it couldn’t have been spaghetti, God created that. OK, I that wasn’t how Jesus answered the question.
Jesus didn’t intend to stay there. He was passing through Jericho. But something happened that made Him change His plans. Compassion happened. And Mercy. And Love. The little man that everyone hated, Zacchaeus the head tax collector, had climbed a tree along the road that Jesus was walking down. He was merely curious. He wanted to see this Jesus.
And so we come to Church today seeking God’s Presence to fill our emptiness. We recognize how our sins have left us isolated in our worlds. We have lost close friends because we have not been able to control our tongues. We have destroyed relationships when we have allowed fantasy to be confused with reality.
Jesus told his disciples, "pray always without becoming weary." By pestering the judge, the widow got what she wanted. The Israelites defeated Amalek as long as Moses prayed. All of life experience tells us, stick-to-it, set the goal and keep at it. But, why do we pray? Why do we pester God with persistent prayer? God knows our needs. We do not have to tell God what we need! We do not have to keep badgering God until God meets our needs
We can run the risk of reducing the message of the today’s Gospel to a lesson of good manners, to remember to say thank you to those who help us. The message of joy is this: the impure, the heretics, the marginalized are not only closer to God, but they get to him and to Christ first and in a more authentic way than the others.
Many events of our life are enigmatic, incomprehensible and illogical and seem to give reasons to one who doubts whether God is present in and accompanies our history. In these moments our faith is put to hard test and we would naturally cry out to the Lord and implore: “Listen to our voice, understand our lament.”
To enjoy life is to renounce what is superfluous. Jesus considers both greed of goods of this world and honestly earned wealth, as almost insurmountable obstacles to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. The deceitfulness of wealth chokes the seed of the Word (Mt 13:22); it tends to gradually conquer the whole human heart and leave no space for God nor for the neighbor.
A Lost Person is a Defeat for God. These parables are not told to convince the sinners, but to help the just to understand this idea. The three parables speak of joy (although not all in the parables are happy) and a feast is prepared (not all want to participate). Who are in and who are out?
None of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all of his possessions. These are quite uncompromising words from Our Lord in the extract from the Gospels presented to us today. And one really wonders what to make of them.
Today's Gospel contains two teachings of similar styles. Both start with when, "When you go to a banquet" and " When you give a banquet." Both have a cautioning phrase, don’t. "Don't sit at a high place, lest you be put down," and "Don't put out a spread for the rich to impress them, lest you already receive your reward."
So, would this living of the Christian life be easy? No, nothing worthwhile is easy. Everything of value has its price. In today’s Gospel, Jesus called the price the narrow gate. The narrow gate is not the popular gate, but it is the only one that leads to God.
“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing.” Luke 12:49 The readings today present us with the challenges of our faith and the challenges to our faith.
Today’s Gospel reading reminds me of the old story of the apparition on the corner of Main and Market in a busy city. It was Saturday morning when Fr. Pascucci heard a knock on the rectory door and an extremely excited lady said, “The Lord has appeared on the corner of Main and Market.”
This is the lie of materialism. “The more you have, the happier you will be,” the false gods of materialism claim. Then reality kicks in. People can have everything, but are not happy. The Goth movement is really not that much different than atheistic existentialism.