There are many scenes in the Passion account from the Gospel of Matthew which we have just proclaimed. This year, a particular scene keeps recurring to me. The scene is not on Golgotha, but in Jerusalem, in the Temple. The time in at 3 in the afternoon at the moment that Jesus dies.
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Jesus is the God of life and not of death. He came to do battle with death and vanquish it. Ezekiel today tells us this welcome message from God. "I will open your graves and have you rise..." If we comprehend the Lord with another mind-frame, then we are stuck with a faux Jesus. The genuine Christ longs for the hour when death will go belly up for each of us.
Jesus had just healed a blind man, "to let God's work shine forth." But by doing this he threatened the comfortable ordered life of the Jewish leaders. How could God possibly be working through someone other than them? If people were to claim God's work outside of their structure, then their authority was being threatened. They missed the fact that God was indeed working.
The long gospel of the woman at the well, the fourth chapter of John, is a wonderful drama of sin and forgiveness. Jesus had promised her living water. She received it. She received forgiveness. And she went into town exuberant, full of life, full of love and full of hope.
This Sunday all three readings follow the same thought that, perhaps, can be expressed in this way: faith is a journey we are all on, a journey of joy, a journey that demands sacrifice, and a journey that leads to glory.
Even Christians are “a chosen people” (1 P 2:9). “We remember brothers and sisters, the circumstances of your being called” declares Paul to the Thessalonians (1 Thes 1:4). Truly I realize that God—as Peter says—”does not show partiality” (Acts 10:34), so what is the point of talking about election? he choices of God do not follow human criteria.
A pilgrim asked Mother Teresa, "What's wrong with the Church?" She replied, "You and I, for we are the Church." Reflect this Lent that there is no neutral ground in the universe. Every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan. While Satan is out of style, he is not out of business. (CS Lewis)
Don’t be anxious, the Lord says. Tomorrow will bring new joys and new graces. Yes it will have its burdens, but it will also have the grace to conquer them. When grace is considered the burdens of tomorrow will be no heavier than those of today. Each day has its own toil, its own cross and its own joy.
Perhaps the most difficult of all of Christ's commands are those which are expounded in today's gospel, from the Sermon on the Mount. "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer.
Matthew's gospel was written primarily for Christians who had first been Jews. These were Christians who were grounded in the scripture and traditions of the ancient Hebrews. The gospel also addressed Jews who were considering becoming Christians as well as all who wanted to learn more about this New Way, as our faith was first called.
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. This feast returns us to the Christmas season focusing in on the person of the Lord. Jesus is seen as a child, presented to the priests according to the law of Moses.
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.
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.