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Gospel Reflections

Gospel Reflection Feb 19 – Fr. Morris

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Sunday, February 19
 
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 5: 38-48
Gospel:
Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said,
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.
When someone strikes you on your right cheek,
turn the other one as well.
If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic,
hand over your cloak as well.
Should anyone press you into service for one mile,
go for two miles.
Give to the one who asks of you,
and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.

“You have heard that it was said,
You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Reflection:
“So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Our Lord really gives us a tall order to fulfill in the final sentence of this Sunday’s Gospel. Does Jesus really want us to be “perfect?” What does it mean to be perfect like God is perfect?
The Church’s answer is that all Christians are called to the perfection of the saints. We all have what the Second Vatican Council called “a universal call to holiness.” Striving to be a saint is not reserved for some hermit monk in the desert subsisting on the Eucharist alone; we are ALL called to holiness, no matter our vocation or state in life. In one of his Wednesday audiences, Pope Francis commented on this teaching of the most recent ecumenical Council:
“[T]he call to holiness is not just for bishops, priests or religious … No. We are all called to become saints! So often, we are tempted to think that holiness is granted only to those who have the opportunity to break away from the ordinary tasks, to devote themselves to prayer. But it is not so! Some people think that holiness is closing your eyes and putting on a pious face… No! That is not holiness! Holiness is something greater, more profound that God gifts us. Indeed, it is by living with love and offering Christian witness in our daily tasks that we are called to become saints. And everyone in the particular condition and state of life in which they find themselves…Always and everywhere you can become a saint, that is, by being receptive to the grace that is working in us and leads us to holiness…
 
At this point, each of us can examine our conscience, we can do it now, everyone answering for himself, inside, in silence: So far how have we responded to God’s call to holiness? But do I want to improve, to be a better Christian? This is the path to holiness. When the Lord calls us to be saints, he does not call us to something hard or sad… Not at all! It is an invitation to share His joy, to live and offer every moment of our lives with joy, at the same time making it a gift of love for the people around us. If we understand this, everything changes and takes on a new meaning, a beautiful meaning, to begin with the little everyday things.”

We should not afraid of this call to holiness! We are not alone in this journey! Jesus is not only the one who calls us to sanctity, but is the one who is by our side, who grants His graces through the sacraments He instituted and entrusted to the Church. We know we can become perfect, because Christ has told us we can, and He Himself has given us the resources we need to fulfill His call!

Gospel Reflection Feb 12 – Deacon Paul

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Sunday, February 12
 
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 5: 17 – 37
Gospel:
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.
I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.
Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away,
not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter
will pass from the law,
until all things have taken place.
Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments
and teaches others to do so
will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.
But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments
will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses
that of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

“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.
Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court.
Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge,
and the judge will hand you over to the guard,
and you will be thrown into prison.
Amen, I say to you,
you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.

“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.
If your right eye causes you to sin,
tear it out and throw it away.
It is better for you to lose one of your members
than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna.
And if your right hand causes you to sin,
cut it off and throw it away.
It is better for you to lose one of your members
than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.

“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.

“Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
Do not take a false oath,
but make good to the Lord all that you vow.
But I say to you, do not swear at all;
not by heaven, for it is God’s throne;
nor by the earth, for it is his footstool;
nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.
Do not swear by your head,
for you cannot make a single hair white or black.
Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’
Anything more is from the evil one.”

Reflection:
In today’s Gospel, we have Jesus preaching from the Sermon on the Mount, telling his disciples that his mission is to fulfill the Law, by impressing on them the need to form their hearts in the Law and in love of God and neighbor. Jesus states the law first, and then he gives a deeper interpretation. Jesus, the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets, is saying that to be a Christian is “more” than just doing the minimum the law sets out. Being a Christian is “more” than following laws and procedures.

Jesus essentially says, look, if you thought the law was tough, wait until you see this. If you really want to be my disciple, give me your heart without reservation. If we have a tendency to ask the question, “What must we do to get to heaven?” then we have failed from the beginning. Instead, we need to ask, “What can I do to love God?”

For some, the Sermon on the Mount is about how to be good now so that they can go to heaven later. It is a mistake to think of the teachings of Jesus in this way. After all, this is not where Jesus placed the priority of living the Christian life. His focus was on entering into a relationship with God.

Jesus’ call for a transformation of our heart and a higher standard of living is not a static one. Wherever we are in our spiritual walk with Christ, let us be stirred to seek spiritual maturity with our Lord and Savior. For it is those whose hearts are transformed by the love of God, shown in Jesus, who really keep the law.

Deacon Paul Zemanek

Gospel Reflection Feb 5 – Deacon Don

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Sunday, February 5
 
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 5: 13 – 16

Gospel:
Jesus said to his disciples: “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lamp stand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”

Reflection:
Our Gospel today uses the imagery of salt, light, and a city set on a mountain to leave us thinking – can these images remain relevant to us today? Salt, when used to preserve meat, would sustain life even in times of famine. Light, when entering into a dark place, reduces our fear through its illumination and allows us to see more clearly what once was obscure and dark. A city sitting on a mountain provides us a sense of location and direction.

In recent years, there has been a growing trend to reduce the practice of religion to simply a private matter. This would be an errant belief. We can easily become seduced by popular trends and seemingly new discoveries that invalidate the old truths. Our Gospel reminds us that we can and should be like salt, light, and a city – as something seen by others through our actions and beliefs. When the practice of religion becomes privatized, we can enter into a process that opens up our conscience to be formed more by feelings rather than by principles. This can lead to a host of errors in our thinking. Feelings can be subject to a changing world. So often, we can adapt our beliefs to the new issue of the day. Principles, on the other hand, withstand the test of time and can be rigidly applied without modification amidst a changing world. The idea behind an active and communal religion, rather than simply a personal one, can be a place where our formation can be renewed. It can become a constant against the ebb and flow of the day. Guiding principles form how we act and react to the day’s challenges. The Mass (which from its Greek means “to be sent”), sends us forth to participate in the world, actively and principled in our words and actions. This Gospel tells us how.

Our country’s recent political change is now exposing us to many raw issues, both old and new. We’ve seen so much heightened emotions already in such a brief time. We need to be armed with tools based in principles in order to properly digest and act on the many issues in politics that will deeply affect our lives. To resist being seduced into popular positions as well as tired old mantras, we should ready ourselves to be committed to principles rather than feelings. We should deepen our understanding of those principles through weekly participation at Mass.

While not inclusive of all the Church teachings, reviewing Catholic Social Teachings is a good foundation to prepare ourselves to parse out among the many challenges we’ll be asked to weigh in on in the coming months.
Life and Dignity of the Human Person
Call to Family, Community, and Participation
Rights and Responsibilities
Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
The Dignity of Work and Rights of Workers
Solidarity
Care for God’s Creation
Such simple concepts, but with profound impact on how we live and what we value. To read more about these teachings, just click this URL reference from the USCCB.
http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catholic-social-teaching/seven-themes-of-catholic-social-teaching.cfm

Once armed with these significant and relevant principles, we can go out and be better prepared to participate in the world. We can become the salt of the earth and preserve the truth. We can become light of the world to illuminate the darkness around us. We can become the city on a mountain to be a place for others to find their way home. The teachings of the Church are meant to be generous in their scope, merciful in their delivery, and unyielding in their expression of truth and application.

It is a time of special challenges when few politicians adhere to all Catholic Social Teachings and parties pick and choose to what is popular to their constituents rather than guided by the truth. We are left with so many issues up for debate, so lets weigh in on these issues in a generous manner, guided more by our principles and the truth rather than our feelings.

Deacon Don

Gospel Reflection Jan 29 – Deacon Frank

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Sunday, January 29, 2017
Matthew 5: 1-12 A
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Gospel

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain,
and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.
He began to teach them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.”

 

Reflection

Beginning this Sunday and continuing for the next four Sundays, we find ourselves seated on a verdant hillside in Galilee, listening to our Lord preach the most memorable sermon uttered in the history of humankind.  We call it “The Sermon on the Mount” as recorded in chapters five, six, and seven of Matthew’s Gospel.  The sermon opens with the verses we know as “The Beatitudes” which mean “the blessings.”  Nine of the 12 verses we will hear begin with the word “Blessed.”

In the Greek language of Jesus’ day the word “blessing ” was makarios which meant “happy” or “joyous.”  Each of these nine sentences describe what radical, lasting, deeply meaningful happiness is.  Ask anyone what is most important to them and you will probably hear, “to be happy.”  But unlike some temporary, fleeting, giddy feeling that does an all-too brief dance in our souls,makarios is lasting, nurturing, celebratory — defining an awareness of God’s being and intention for life.

This radical happiness is not a pie-in-the-sky fantasy Jesus tossed out to thousands on a Galilean hillside.  Rather it suggests a way of life, a sort of spiritual framework for how followers of Jesus are to live in relationship with God and each other.  In time,  as we all know his radical teaching and way of life nailed him to a cross.   Following Jesus in simple faith is no easy or comfortable decision.  In many ways, these blessings suggest that if we choose to be people of mercy and humility, hungering for righteousness, advocating for peace and reconciliation, we will step into a hornet’s nest of misunderstanding.  This radical happiness of which Jesus speaks is not void of risk.  In fact, Jesus promises persecution, retribution, even death to those who take up his way of life and love. So what will your decision be?  Continually striving for a happiness you never find, or following Jesus in this new, radical way of life?

Gospel Reflection Jan 22 – Sr. Teresa

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Sunday, January 22
 
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 4: 12-17
Gospel:
When Jesus heard that John had been arrested,
he withdrew to Galilee.
He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea,
in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali,
that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet
might be fulfilled:
Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles,
the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light,
on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death
light has arisen.
From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say,
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers,
Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew,
casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.
He said to them,
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
At once they left their nets and followed him.
He walked along from there and saw two other brothers,
James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.
They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets.
He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father
and followed him.
He went around all of Galilee,
teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom,
and curing every disease and illness among the people.

Reflection:
What was the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali? Just a wee bit of biblical history. Zebulun and Naphtali were two of Jacob’s twelve sons. Each son became the head of a tribe and was given land in Israel. When Assyria invaded and conquered Israel, the lands and people of Zebulun and Naphtali were among the first to be taken over. You can read about this in the 2 Book of Kings chapters 15 to 17. It was an area that was occupied by many non-Jews and many Jews who had married Gentiles, or Jews who were influenced by Gentile ways. They were looked down upon by other “pure” Jews. That is probably why they were referred to as the “Galilee of the Gentile.” They had known the darkness for so long. Ironically, the first of the lands conquered by the Assyrians were the first to see the light of Jesus.

I was intrigued by the phrase, “people who sat in darkness.” Have you ever sat in the darkness? Not the darkness that can change by merely switching on the light. Not the darkness that is sometimes necessary for new life to germinate. I mean the darkness that comes over your spirit, your soul, your whole being. The darkness seems to totally envelop you and weigh you down?

Have you ever sat in that kind darkness? That darkness can be caused by so many things: grief at the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, depression, addiction, a broken relationship with spouse or children. Sometimes we are just tired of life or worn down by the harshness of life.

There are so many in our parish who feel the darkness of life for a multitude of reasons. What happens to us when we are in the darkness? In the darkness we grope. We look for answers to questions that have no answer that will satisfy. Sometimes we are nearly paralyzed by the darkness or go through life on automatic pilot. We may try to find our way out or we may just succumb to the darkness. Yet, someplace deep within us we long for the light.

I have to say that when I am in that kind of dark place, the light that comes is not always a bright light. More often than not, it is a tiny little glimmer. It is like the morning star that stands against the darkness of the night. When you are in that kind of dark place it is not always easy to hold on to hope. The light holds the same message … no matter if it is a tiny glimmer of light or a brilliant light. It is the promise that we hear in the Canticle of Zechariah.

“Through the tender compassion of our God,
the dawn will break upon us.
To shine on those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, Matthew says, “he withdrew.” Matthew did not mean that Jesus was getting out of town, but rather, he was taking up the work of John. Today we might say, “he regrouped.” They imprisoned John. They silenced John’s voice, but Jesus picks up the ministry and his voice will not be silenced. It will not plunge the message into darkness.

Where does Jesus go? He goes to the place considered by others to be the darkest of places … the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali. The place that had known the darkness for so long. Jesus always tends to go to the place and people that need him most. Jesus begins to preach and his words offered light.

It is the message that Jesus proclaimed throughout his ministry. “Repent!” Repent, not in the narrow sense of just being sorry for sin, but in the deepest meaning of repent: turn back to God, turn your face to God and believe the Good News, turn toward the light of Christ Turn away for whatever darkness overshadows your life. Reach out and take God’s hand to be led out of the dark times of life. Believe that God, as Jeremiah tells us,

“For I know the plans I have for you.
They are plans for good and not for disaster.
To give you a future and a hope.”

At times it seems like the darkness will never end. We feel that God has abandoned us or, at least, has gone silent in our lives. Trust in God. Trust in God’s love. Hold onto hope. God never abandons us. Believe that God walks with you even in the darkest of times. God is never away from us. God never leaves us. God is faithful. God is the light determined to break into our darkness.

-Sister Teresa Tuite, OP

Gospel Reflection Jan 15 – Msgr. Hendricks

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Sunday, January 15
 
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
John 1: 29-34
Gospel:
John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said,
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
He is the one of whom I said,
‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me
because he existed before me.’
I did not know him,
but the reason why I came baptizing with water
was that he might be made known to Israel.”
John testified further, saying,
“I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven
and remain upon him.
I did not know him,
but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me,
‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain,
he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’
Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”


Reflection:

John the Baptist makes his last appearance this liturgical cycle and cedes all authority and leadership to Jesus Christ.  Shortly, he will be imprisoned and later die a martyr, because he stood up for the truth.
What John reminds us of is finding our center in Christ.  Although popular and one who had the confidence of the people, he knew that he was not the Christ and stepped back and allowed his cousin to fulfill what all of Israel has been waiting and hoping for a long time, a savior who would bring the love of God to fulfillment.  John the Baptist is a great example of humility in action and knowing his Lord.
As we begin this time in the Church to savor the mysteries of faith look to John the Baptist as one who can help us discern our place in the economy of salvation.
Msgr. Hendricks

Gospel Reflection Jan 8 – Fr. Morris

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Sunday, January 8
 
The Epiphany of the Lord
 
Matthew 2:1 – 12
Gospel:
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
in the days of King Herod,
behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?
We saw his star at its rising
and have come to do him homage.”
When King Herod heard this,
he was greatly troubled,
and all Jerusalem with him.
Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people,
He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea,
for thus it has been written through the prophet:
And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
since from you shall come a ruler,
who is to shepherd my people Israel.”
Then Herod called the magi secretly
and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.
He sent them to Bethlehem and said,
“Go and search diligently for the child.
When you have found him, bring me word,
that I too may go and do him homage.”
After their audience with the king they set out.
And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them,
until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,
they departed for their country by another way.

 

Reflection:
We know that the Magi came from afar to worship Jesus, but St Matthew is somewhat scant on the details. He is the only Gospel writer to relate an account of them, since St Mark and St John start with the public ministry of Jesus, and St Luke left the Magi and the flight into and out of Egypt on the editing room floor when composing his Gospel. So we are left to tease out details from not only the Scriptures, but also Church tradition and secular history.

The term Magi (from the Greek “magoi”) means “wise men” and is used by Herodotus the ancient Greek historian in reference to the priestly caste of the Persians. These wise priests were members of the upper level of Persian culture and government, and were adept at astronomy and philosophy. They were respected and influential, and perhaps it was by the high political position they enjoyed in their native lands that they were recognized as three kings.

At the time of the Nativity, Persia was a part of the Parthian Empire, which encompassed modern-day Turkey and Iran. St Matthew says the Magi came “from the East,” which means they had to have come from or passed through the lands of this empire. The reality is that wise and powerful men from a non-Jewish religion and empire made a long and arduous trek in a caravan to see a small baby in a manger. They trekked hundreds of miles from Turkey or Iran or points farther East across bandit-ridden roads and harsh Middle Eastern weather conditions to the little Jewish town of Bethlehem. These three wise men were not priests of the Jewish faith, but they were wise enough to recognize the signs of the times, that the King of Kings had come.

Their witness is relevant to us today; for we are spoiled rotten. We can see and adore Jesus at every Mass, present in the Most Blessed Sacrament! But yet how many of our fellow Catholics miss Mass for the flimsiest of reasons! How could we explain that to the Magi? How quickly would our excuses fall to pieces when confronted with these wise men who experienced great hardships and long travel on horse or camel-back just to look upon Jesus for one single time?

Mass at St Brigid is not a 3-month camel ride away for us. We are lucky! Jesus is so close to us! We have the opportunity to make every Sunday a “little Epiphany” for ourselves, and to worship Christ sacramentally present in our parish church with gestures of adoration and love.

Gospel Reflection Jan 1 – Deacon Don

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Sunday, January 1
 
The Octave Day of Christmas
Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God
 
Luke 2:16 – 21

Gospel:
The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.

When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Reflection:
As we begin yet another new year, we should approach the year with all the hope and expectation of continuing — or restoring joy in our lives. The Gospel today gives us a view of how Mary reflected on the early days of the Holy Family. These memories were doubtless a source of joy to her in later years. It is through her joy and peace in these simple reflections that we should transform them into our own lives. We should reflect on our own joyful memories at this time as a source of renewal. Part of that reflection should include our becoming more like the shepherds, who first came and worshiped, and then evangelized the coming of the Lord to others.

It is part of our human nature to feel the need to seek out and worship the Savior just as the shepherds felt compelled to do. While it is more easily recognized to do this during the Christmas Season, the need for seeking and worshiping should be felt throughout the year. So often though, we return to the busyness of our day-to-day life and forget what should be natural to us in worshiping of the Savior.

Mary’s reflections bring to the forefront the idea and importance through the example of the shepherds one of evangelization and worship. While doing this, she remained obedient to the law of that time. Perhaps she was not burdened by our current notions of self-determination and self-reliance as we can so easily get so caught up into today. No self-rule in her days, but look at how much we have given up by our own self-determination. We feel the right to question all authority and truth until we ourselves decide to make it so. And then, often without properly researching, we make a quick decision as to what we believe. Make a commitment in this new year, among all our other resolutions, to enter into the mystery of the Mass and the Eucharist, each and every week in the new year. We might pray that Mary’s joy derived from her own reflections will be transformed into our own.

On behalf of Monsignor Hendricks, Father Morris, Deacons Frank, Paul and Steve, Sister Teresa, and myself, Deacon Don, we wish you all a healthy, safe, and blessed New Year.

Gospel Reflection Dec 25 – Deacon Frank

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Sunday, December 25

 
The Nativity of the Lord

The Feast of the Lord’s Nativity

Reflection
Never before or since, in the entire course of human history, have men and women been able to gaze upon the face of God. But for a brief moment in time, God “became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” This is the remarkable event we celebrate this season.

Next to the Feast of Our Lord’s Resurrection, this weekend we celebrate a holy day that is unlike any other. Indeed we celebrate a belief that is unlike any other when we proclaim that God became man and walked in our midst. No other major world religion makes such an astonishing claim. And with this comes our unique understanding of the humble nature of God. We believe in a God whose glory is not the glory of the world. His majesty is not like that of earthly kings, emperors, government leaders and rulers. Rather, we believe in a heavenly Father who loves his little children enough to live among them. Jesus once remarked that just as we desire to give good gifts to our children, “how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him”.

God becoming human is a complete example of gift giving. God gave to us his only Son so we might have eternal life. It had nothing to do with material goods, and everything to do with giving completely of one’s self. Christmas gifts are good and important traditions, but it is the giving of ourselves to one another that truly identifies the real reason for the season.

On behalf of Msgr. Joseph Hendricks, Father Matt Morris, Deacon Don Poirier, Deacon Paul Zemanek, Sister Teresa Tuite and myself, Deacon Frank Iannarino, may you and your family have the most blessed and greatest gift of all…Christ himself!

Gospel Reflection Dec 18 – Sr. Teresa

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Sunday, December 18
Fourth Sunday of Advent
 
Matthew 1: 18 – 24

Gospel:
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,
which means “God is with us.”
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.

Reflection
I think today’s gospel is for everyone but I think it is more so for FATHERS and their SONS. What do you know about Joseph? husband of Mary? earthly father of Jesus? No matter how much reading you have done or research you may have done, you still do not know much about him. Isn’t that odd? This man who played such a critical role in Jesus’ life (as all fathers do) is barely mentioned in the scripture. So then, what does this gospel have to say to us today? What can Joseph teach us today?

We do learn that Joseph is described as a “righteous” man. If that was all anyone said about me when I die, it would be enough. Righteous means virtuous, moral, good, just, upright, honorable, honest, respectable, and decent. Mary, his betrothed, being pregnant with a child that he knew was definitely not his was a huge issue. The virtue of chastity was valued probably more in Jewish culture than any other culture of the time. Joseph not only had every right to divorce her, but according to Jewish law, Mary could have been stoned to death. Joseph did not want Mary killed nor did he want her or himself to be shamed in front of the community. He had, under the Jewish law, the right to have Mary stoned even to death and the right to divorce her. Just because you have the right to do something does not mean it is the right thing to do. Even divorcing her privately (which was his plan) would not have saved her or him from shame. He would have been the butt of many jokes because his betrothed had chosen to be with someone else. Mary would be pregnant with no husband. Nothing about this most unusual situation would have been easy. Yet, he was still caught between “a rock and a hard place.” Every guy reading this would be able to identify with this gut wrenching dilemma and would know that Joseph’s ability to make that decision was not done without struggle.

It is in a dream that Joseph found hope and direction. We hear of his dream and the unbelievable message of the angel. Joseph had the dream and heard the echo of the prophet Isaiah. He recognized in the words the promise of a Messiah. He knew what to do. Joseph most likely took Mary to see her cousin Elizabeth. When they returned, Mary obviously pregnant moved into Joseph’s home – no one would have thought that anything was not as it should be. No one was shamed and for many years Joseph was entrusted to care for Mary. He was entrusted with the care of Jesus in providing a home, food, clothing, love for his whole family. He was entrusted to teach Jesus a working skill. He was entrusted to teach Jesus his faith in the Jewish tradition. From the age of 13 Jesus would have been under Joseph’s wing. We heard that Joseph was a righteous man. Again, righteous means virtuous, moral, good, just, upright, honorable, respectable, and decent. Could we not describe Jesus with these words? It was from Joseph that Jesus learned what it meant to be a good man, a righteous man. Perhaps it was from Joseph that he learned that in life you have to stand up for what is right and good.

I think this gospel passage is especially for fathers who today often have to stand against what is acceptable in the culture yet not acceptable in the deepest sense of love and goodness. Fathers teach your sons to resist the idea that would say if I have the right to do it or say it does not mean it is the right thing to say or do. Fathers be righteous so that your example will teach your sons to be righteous. Teach your sons what it means to be respectful of women by respecting and loving your wives. Teach your sons to be virtuous, moral, good, just, upright, honorable, respectable, and decent. Teach your sons so that they will grow up to be good men and when and if their time comes, they too will be good fathers because you were a good father. You have an awesome responsibility as fathers, look to Joseph for help and guidance. Look to Joseph who never sought the limelight because he was too busy being the backbone of his family… too busy being a good man, a good husband, a good father.

Sister Teresa Tuite