The 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]

The Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
Zeph 2:3;3:12-13 + 1 Cor 1:26-31 + Mt 5:1-12
January 29, 2017

“He began to teach them, saying: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit….’”

John Crosby, who teaches at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, tells the story of two elderly rabbis, sitting on a bench in a park, conversing about their impending deaths. One of them expresses great anxiety about the judgment that God will pass on his life. So his friend, trying to understand his anxiety, asks, “Is it that you fear that God will ask you at the Judgment why you have not become another Moses or David?” And his friend replies, “No, I don’t fear that God will hold me to that standard. What I fear is that God will ask me, ‘Why did you not become the person I created you to be?’”

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In the release time program in Garden Plain, I visit classrooms on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Over the past few months I’ve been talking with the older grades about the Bible, and how the Bible is put together. One of the first things to explain is that the Bible is not a single book, but a library. Just as a library has many different types of books in it, so also the Bible. When you visit the library and take off from different shelves a cookbook, a collection of poems, a presidential biography, and a science fiction novel, you don’t read each of those books the same way. If you open a cookbook expecting it to read like a science fiction novel, you’re going to end up with a very strange supper. Continue reading

The 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]

The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
Isaiah 8:23—9:3 + 1 Corinthians 1:10-13,17 + Matthew 4:12-23
January 22, 2017

There are two different reasons why a person might need courage.

The first reason would be that he’s the sort of person who looks for trouble: an aggressive person. We all know people like this, who love conflict.

The second, very different reason that a man might need courage is because trouble has found him. This is a man who is content to be peaceful and quiet, but who—for whatever reason—finds himself thrown into conflict. There, he has to make a basic decision: fight or flight. If he is a Christian, this is where he needs the virtue of prudence: to choose, in this particular setting, the better course.
Continue reading

The 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]

The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
Isaiah 49:3,5-6 + 1 Corinthians 1:1-3 + John 1:29-34
January 15, 2017

“Here am I, LORD; I come to do your will.”

During the middle of January we here in Kansas expect winter weather. But many years ago, a small town on the Plains saw a snowstorm unlike any other. Schools were closed for several days.

On the first day back at St. Mary’s Grade School, Sister Wilhelmina asked the students whether they’d used their time off constructively. Little Elizabeth nodded and replied, “I sure did, Sister. I prayed for more snow.”

Our Scriptures today offer some insight about how, like little Elizabeth, we might pray better. Continue reading

The Epiphany of the Lord

The Epiphany of the Lord
Isa 60:1-6 + Eph 3:2-3,5-6 + Mt 2:1-12
January 8, 2016

“‘We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.’”

Today the Church celebrates the Twelfth Day of Christmas. This Sunday, of course, is not—according to the calendar—the twelfth day of the Christmas Season. It’s the fourteenth. The reason for this is that—like the Ascension—the feast of the Epiphany was moved from its traditional place in the church calendar of January 6th to the closest Sunday, in order to reduce the number of Holy Days of Obligation, in order—so our bishops tell us—to make the lives of ordinary Catholics “easier”.

Whether our lives need to be easier or more filled with grace is a good question, but the feast of the Twelfth Day is a feast of reflecting on the gift of grace that flows from Bethlehem. In the Gospel today we see the gifts of the three kings from the east. But these three gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, of course, are responses to the Gift—with a capital “G”—named Jesus, who was gifted to mankind by God the Father. It’s the reflection on all four of these gifts that leads members of the Church in the East (both the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Eastern Catholic Churches) to give Christmas gifts not on December 25, but on January 6, the Twelfth Day of Christmas. Continue reading


The Epiphany of the Lord
Isa 60:1-6  +  Eph 3:2-3,5-6  +  Mt 2:1-12
January 8, 2017

“Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.”

As we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany and look at the manger scene, we see three wise men arriving.  We see three kings who were willing to sacrifice of themselves in order to find a newborn King.  Their sacrifice—one that each of us should imitate—reflects the One they were seeking.  Or in other words, they were willing to sacrifice so greatly, because they believed in the greatness of the One they were searching for.  Each of the wise men was willing to leave his kingdom—where everyone bowed down before him—in order to find a king greater than himself.  Each of the wise men was willing to give up his riches in order to find an even greater treasure. Continue reading

St. John Neumann

St. John Neumann, Bishop
1 John 3:11-21  +  John 1:43-51
January 5, 2017

“Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’”

It might seem odd that, on a weekday of Christmastide, the Gospel passage illustrates a scene from the life of Jesus as an adult.  However, the Gospel narratives of St. John—like those of St. Mark—begin with Jesus already an adult.  Today’s Gospel passage, however, does come from the first chapter of John’s Gospel account, in which John narrates “preliminaries” in the unfolding of Jesus’ ministry. Continue reading

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, religious
1 John 3:7-10  +  John 1:35-42
January 4, 2017

“Indeed, the Son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the Devil.”

One of the words in today’s First Reading—“revealed”—can help us focus on serving others to foster love.  We continue to hear from the First Epistle of St. John.  The Beloved Disciple is very blunt in his epistles.  He has just as sharp a sense of evil as he does of divine love.  Surely John’s perception of both was whetted on the rock of Calvary. Continue reading

Holy Name of Jesus

The Most Holy Name of Jesus
1 John 2:29—3:6  +  John 1:29-34
January 3, 2017

“Now I have seen and testified that He is the Son of God.”

While the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus is only an optional memorial in the Church’s liturgical calendar, its meaning dovetails beautifully with the Scriptures the Church proclaims today from the writings of St. John. Continue reading

Sts. Basil & Gregory

Sts. Basil the Great & Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church
1 John 2:22-28  +  John 1:19-28
January 2, 2017

“And now, children, remain in Him….”

St. John the Evangelist often writes in a style that can leave you scratching your head.  Even when he tells a story in his Gospel account with a straight-forward plot, there’s a pervasive sense of double meanings. Continue reading