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Gospel Reflections

Gospel Reflection Feb 28 – Msgr. Hendricks

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Sunday, February 28

Second Sunday of Lent

Mark 9: 2 – 10

Gospel:

Jesus took Peter, James, and John
and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them,
and his clothes became dazzling white,
such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.
Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses,
and they were conversing with Jesus.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Rabbi, it is good that we are here!
Let us make three tents:
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.
Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them;
from the cloud came a voice,
“This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone
but Jesus alone with them.

As they were coming down from the mountain,
he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone,
except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
So they kept the matter to themselves,
questioning what rising from the dead meant.

Gospel Reflection:

The gospel of the Transfiguration that always occurs on the second Sunday of Lent, was seen to stem from the church in the early centuries to make the point that this miraculous event takes place forty days before the Resurrection of Jesus at Easter.

What is being linked here is the obedience of Abraham to sacrifice his son on the altar of the mountain and the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. The meaning is simply that Abraham rather than cry out about the anger of God and the unfairness of his situation, finds the grace and courage to place all of his trust (including the unthinkable sacrifice of his son) in God. Jesus in turn on the Cross places all of his trust in the Father who speaks of him at his baptism as “my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.”

The climb up the mountain by Peter, James, and John (among the first to be chosen as apostles) gives them and us a glimpse of the future and places Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, at the center of all Jewish and human history. Only later after the resurrection do they come to see the import of what he has done for them and later with the gift of the Holy Spirit allows them to make the very same sacrifice of their lives on behalf of the Church they so courageously preached.

As we read this gospel and link it to our lives with all that has happened in the last year, we are encouraged in our commitment of faith and the bending of our will to that of God, so that we come to know we are never alone in our struggles and strive for the obedience and courage of Abraham and Jesus to bring us home.

Monsignor Hendricks

CRS Rice Bowl Week 1: We Can Do Our Part

Welcome to CRS Rice Bowl 2021! We are so happy you’re joining us on this Lenten journey to three countries, where we’ll learn how to help others through CRS Rice Bowl. When you donate to CRS Rice Bowl, you share your life and your abundance with our global family in need. Your generosity puts nutritious food on their tables and helps them lead healthy lives and reach their God-given potential!

Gospel Reflection Feb 21 – Fr. Morris

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Sunday, February 21

First Sunday of Lent

Mark 1: 12-15

Gospel:

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.

After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Gospel Reflection:

Although rather “stupid” from a strictly tactical and ‘continuity-of-command’ standpoint, we all tend to admire the leader who “leads from the front.” We respect a leader who endures personal danger in order to be in solidarity with their subordinates. The military commander who rides at the head of his troops may not be making the smartest choice, but it is certainly a courageous one. He is not willing to order the men under his command to face a danger that he himself is not willing to face.

Or — if martial imagery is unpalatable to you — then perhaps we can agree that part of the appeal of a TV show like “Úndercover Boss” is that we oddly respect a CEO who is willing—for the sake of better understanding their subordinates’ lives and work conditions — to be a good sport, and submit themselves to the comedic shtick of a reality-show.

We see in the Gospels how Our Lord “leads from the front.” He does not absent himself from the physical sufferings and temptations that all humanity experiences. When He tells us to pray, we know that He prayed long into the night. We are told to fast; He has fasted. We are told to trust in the will of God by the Messiah who sweated blood while praying in the garden about His coming Passion.

We should not be afraid to go deeper into the spiritual desert of Lent, of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, because we are following a Lord who has gone before us in the very same way. Whatever temptations we may find in this time can be conquered, for by grace we are given the strength of the Son of God who rebuffed Satan during 40 days in the actual desert.

-Father Matthew Morris

Gospel Reflection Feb 14 – Deacon Paul

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Sunday, February 14

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 1: 40 – 45

Gospel:

A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said,
“If you wish, you can make me clean.”
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand,
touched him, and said to him,
“I do will it. Be made clean.”
The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.
Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once.

He said to him, “See that you tell no one anything,
but go, show yourself to the priest
and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed;
that will be proof for them.”

The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter.
He spread the report abroad
so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.
He remained outside in deserted places,
and people kept coming to him from everywhere.

Gospel Reflection:

In our Gospel reading from Mark, we heard about a man with leprosy that knelt down and begged Jesus with humility, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” And what did Jesus do, “Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, ‘I do will it. Be made clean.”

Friends, where leprosy is noticeable as an exterior disease of sores on the body, how many of us in turn fully recognize our own inner sores…our sins? Maybe we are unclean? Maybe we are defiled because we have impure thoughts, anger, bitterness, lust, greed, pride, or maybe we have had hurtful actions towards others?

As we quickly approach the season of Lent, with Ash Wednesday this coming week, let us be aware of our inner sores. Let us be “touched” by Jesus and receive his forgiveness and his healing by seeking him out in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Let us kneel and say to Jesus, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” I assure you; he will reply to you with the very same level of compassion he showed to the leper and say, “I will do it, be made clean.”

Friends, do you want to be touched by Jesus? If you want to be touched by Jesus, spend as much time with him as you can. Like the man in the story today, go…and seek Jesus out in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Prostrate yourself…humble yourself… spend time in the Word…spend time praying. Make Jesus a priority, and he will touch you.

-Deacon Paul Zemanek

Gospel Reflection Feb 7 – Deacon Don

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Sunday, February 7

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 1: 29 – 39

Gospel:

On leaving the synagogue
Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John.
Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever.
They immediately told him about her.
He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up.
Then the fever left her and she waited on them.

When it was evening, after sunset,
they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons.
The whole town was gathered at the door.
He cured many who were sick with various diseases,
and he drove out many demons,
not permitting them to speak because they knew him.

Rising very early before dawn, he left
and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.
Simon and those who were with him pursued him
and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.”
He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages
that I may preach there also.
For this purpose have I come.”
So he went into their synagogues,
preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.

Gospel Reflection:

This Gospel is a continuation of last week’s Gospel, where Jesus was teaching with authority and then heals a man possessed with an unclean spirit in the synagogue in Capernaum. Here, Jesus leaves the synagogue and enters the house of Simon (Peter) and Andrew. Jesus finds Peter’s mother-in-law ill with fever and heals her. To reflect for a moment, these are real places you can see today, when visiting Capernaum. The synagogue ruins still exist. You can walk on its stone floor and visualize how the structure looked back in Jesus’ time. The house mentioned in today’s Gospel is about 200 feet away from the synagogue. When walking this space today, you can easily imagine Jesus’ actions in today’s Gospel and walk in his footsteps, which is what he wants us to do.

Jesus created quite a stir with the healing of the man possessed with an unclean spirit. The people wanted more; however, it was the sabbath and the rules of the day suggested no unnecessary work until sunset — the traditional end of the sabbath. Then, the people come out to seek Jesus knowing he was staying at Peter’s house. Jesus heals many that evening.

One interesting thing to note is in both Gospels, last week’s and this week’s, the demons were silenced by Jesus because they knew him. We are left as to why silence them? Throughout Mark’s Gospel, Jesus continuously confronts demons. In many cases, they recognize who Jesus is and Jesus silences them. Theologians have labeled this behavior as the Messianic Secret. Mark’s Gospel presents Jesus as someone who acts, heals, and prays. We are to take his lead in our own experience and in our lives.
We are asked to act — even Peter’s mother-in-law immediately begins to serve, once healed. This is not a sign of servitude, but part of our nature of service to others. It is through our actions that we show others who we really are.

We are asked to heal — perhaps our healings are not in the dramatic sense as miracles, but with our actions and words to be used to heal others. We can become sources of healing for others.

We are asked to pray — Jesus himself prays. Can we do less? Prayer is the source of replenishment to be able to face what’s next. Another day in the life of Jesus can translate to another day in our lives. Prayer is the food to meet tomorrow’s challenges and needs to act and heal.

Jesus demands the demons remain silent — and never trust the demons that claim to speak on Jesus’ behalf. The demons in our lives will speak to us and distort the act, heal, and pray mission in our lives.

-Deacon Don Poirier

Gospel Reflection Jan 31 – Deacon Frank

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Sunday, January 31

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 1: 21 – 28

Gospel:

Then they came to Capernaum,
and on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught.
The people were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.
In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit;
he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
Jesus rebuked him and said,
“Quiet! Come out of him!”
The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.
All were amazed and asked one another,
“What is this?
A new teaching with authority.
He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”
His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

Gospel Reflection:

Many think that prophecy is solely about predicting the future. While this may define some aspects of a prophet’s resume, often the primary concern of the Sunday prophets has to do with what is happening right now.

In this weekend’s Gospel, Jesus, the Son of God, appears as a prophet amid his followers. Jesus’ authoritative nature which stands out forcefully when speaking on Yahweh’s behalf is clear of the uniqueness of his task: “All were amazed and asked one another. What is this? A new teaching with authority’…His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.”

Whether through prophets, apostolic letters, or his own son (Jesus), God is constantly speaking to us His word of truth, direction, and encouragement. He invites us to take His word to heart so that we might be strengthened and healed.

Most believers don’t think of themselves as prophets. This is especially true when they consider the menacing prophets from the Old Testament. They cringe at the over-the-top bizarre lifestyle of Elijah, Isaiah, Jonah, and John the Baptist, to name a few. Yet within the baptismal ritual following soon after the cleansing waters are poured over the newly baptized, prophets are mentioned. A priest or deacon takes the sacred chrism and says these words: “I anoint you with the Chrism of Salvation. As Jesus was anointed priest, prophet, and king so may you also live always as a member of His body.”

As Catholic Christians, we are called to be that prophetic voice in our families, at school, at work, on the team, in our neighborhoods, and in our community – wherever we go, wherever God sends us. Where can you be the voice of Jesus? What words will you say? May the gift of the Eucharist strengthen us always to be his voice of inclusion, forgiveness, and love.

-Deacon Frank Iannarino

Gospel Reflection Jan 24 – Sr. Teresa

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Sunday, January 24

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 1: 14-20

Gospel:

After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
As he passed by the Sea of Galilee,
he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea;
they were fishermen.
Jesus said to them,
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Then they abandoned their nets and followed him.
He walked along a little farther
and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.
They too were in a boat mending their nets.
Then he called them.
So they left their father Zebedee in the boat
along with the hired men and followed him.

Gospel Reflection:

I don’t know about you but I am still reeling from the riot and violence at the US Capitol on January 6th and all that has transpired since then. Back in May when I watched on TV the murder of George Floyd, I found that I could barely breathe. For months we have heard that one of the effects of COVID-19 is the inability or at least difficulty in breathing. So many things have left me breathless.

I have only stood in the Capitol Building once. I was breathless as I stood there in wonder and awe of all that it stood for in our country. On January 6 when I watched on TV the horrific actions of hatred that spilled out at the US Capitol, I again could barely catch my breath and tears rolled down my face. Perhaps, like many of you, I could not believe that what I was seeing was happening in the Capital, the sacred place of our country and government, in real-time and in my lifetime. I am still in a state of shock and disbelief and holding a great sense of sorrow and heartache. I vacillate between feelings of rage and a sense of speechlessness. How did such hatred and so many divisions happen? In the face of turbulent times in our country, our world and our church, where the needs run great and the complexity even greater, who are we to be, and what are we to do? How do we live with religious ambiguity and bring to it hope and light? I do believe the time of sitting back and watching is over. The time, like it was for the four in today’s gospel, for mending fishing nets, is over. The time of only saying how awful it all is and then moving about our daily activities can no longer be the path we choose. Yet how do we love in the face of hatred? How do we begin to mend a world that is so fractured? How do I reflect on today’s gospel passage? I grew up during President Kennedy’s tenure. He said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” How pertinent that is for us today.

In this week’s gospel passage, we again hear the call of Andrew and Peter and we also hear the call of James and John, the sons of Zebedee. Reflecting on this particular scripture passage (the call of the first disciples) with these men quietly sitting by the Sea of Galilee mending fishing nets while we sit in the midst of such religious and global uncertainty seems not only daunting but seemingly so irrelevant to what is happening in the country right now. How do we weave the two together? Do the stories of the call of the disciples two weeks in a row hold some special significance? Is God trying to get our attention? Is Jesus calling and recalling us to be his followers? Could this passage actually be very relevant for the times in which we are living?

The four in the gospel today just got up and left the business to follow Jesus. Most of us may hear the story and the voices in our heads may tell us that it is naïve to think and nearly impossible to leave everything to follow Jesus. Most of us, truth be told, would find it very hard to leave work, family, friends and all the rest to venture into such an uncertain future. We will have many good and valuable reasons why that is not practical — not responsible, not even desired. What would make someone pick up and leave everything behind? Jesus is just beginning his ministry so they did not have the message and teaching of Jesus laid out before them, as we do in the Gospels. Why did they do it? What made them do it?

Last week’s passage coupled with this week’s passage offers great questions. From Jesus “What are you looking for?” From the disciples “Where do you live?” and Jesus’s response – “Come and See.” Where do you live implies a house and as I have mentioned many times before, a house in the scripture is more often than not a metaphor for the heart. Where is the heart of Jesus? It is with the disenfranchised, the poor, the neglected, those unwelcomed and those in need of healing. The heart of Jesus is about confronting religious and civil authorities that choose power over compassion, who work harder at separating people than uniting them. The heart of Jesus is about challenging those who put self-interest before the common good. The heart of Jesus does not separate people because of the color of their skin, their choice of political party, economic status, etc. The heart of Jesus does not hesitate to speak truth to power. If these men knew that this is “where Jesus lived” would they have left everything to follow Jesus? We do know that this is what Jesus is about. Does knowing ”where Jesus lives,” knowing Jesus’ heart, make us reluctant or hesitant to leave it all and follow him?

They did not have an easy time in living out their decision to be a follower of Jesus. As the gospel unfolds in the next few months, we learn that they sometimes end up disappointing, denying and abandoning Jesus at various points in their journey. That sounds like our discipleship journey too. Disciples mess up but then they get up, ask for and accept forgiveness and move on.

As we look at the multitude of pandemics that continue to sweep across our world: coronavirus, systemic racism, injustice, violence, economic insecurity, scarcity of food, for so many, the destruction of the planet and the latest horror and fear brought on by the unbridled hatred and violence at our nation’s capital, we might wonder what are we to do?

Truth be told, I would rather just sit quietly by a lake mending my fishing nets. It is not easy to hear the call, sometimes I pretend I don’t hear it. Yet, Jesus is relentless and unrelenting. He needs his followers to go and see that the needs of our brothers and sisters are great. He needs us to respond. What might we have to leave behind to follow him? I don’t think Jesus is asking us to leave behind our work or our family. But what might we have to leave behind? I have to leave my own prejudices, my own biases, opinions, my own racism, attitudes and self-righteousness. What might you have to leave behind? Remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, JR – “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Will we choose darkness and hate or will we leave everything, go and see where Jesus lives (his heart) and follow Jesus with light and love? Will we be weighed down by the hatred in the world or choose to be lifted up by the power of God and guided by the Spirit with us?

Sister Teresa Tuite, OP

P.S. The above was written before the inauguration of Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris. Thank God it was peaceful. Now the work begins for each of us.

Gospel Reflection Jan 17 – Msgr. Hendricks

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Sunday, January 17

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

John 1: 35-42

Gospel:

John was standing with two of his disciples,
and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said,
“Behold, the Lamb of God.”
The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.
Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them,
“What are you looking for?”
They said to him, “Rabbi” — which translated means Teacher —,
“where are you staying?”
He said to them, “Come, and you will see.”
So they went and saw where Jesus was staying,
and they stayed with him that day.
It was about four in the afternoon.
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter,
was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.
He first found his own brother Simon and told him,
“We have found the Messiah” — which is translated Christ —.
Then he brought him to Jesus.
Jesus looked at him and said,
“You are Simon the son of John;
you will be called Cephas” — which is translated Peter.

Gospel Reflection:

No first-century Jew and later Christian would miss the calling of Jesus as the “Lamb of God.” John was a cousin of Jesus and he was the prophet that spanned the time between the Old Testament Prophets and the new era of the Messiah. By calling Jesus the “Lamb of God,” the gospel identifies Him with the ultimate sacrifice of humankind. Jesus is the one true lamb that freely sacrifices Himself for the forgiveness of sins and the redemption for the human race.

The call of Andrew and his brother Peter allows them to see who Jesus is and later what he will demand of them, namely their sacrifice of their lives for the sake of the one true God and Messiah Jesus Christ. In this sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross as the “Lamb of God,” right and true worship comes back to the temple in Jerusalem and right worship turns from the 24/7 sacrifices that went on there to the one perfect sacrifice for sins that Jesus makes by his death on the Cross.

This passage from John will set up the path that all who give their lives over to Jesus must follow, that is the surrender of self to God in Christ. Nothing less will satisfy.

-Monsignor Hendricks

Gospel Reflection Jan 10 – Fr. Morris

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Sunday, January 10

The Baptism of the Lord

Mark 1: 7 – 11

Gospel:

This is what John the Baptist proclaimed:
“One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee
and was baptized in the Jordan by John.
On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open
and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him.
And a voice came from the heavens,
“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Gospel Reflection:

Jesus comes before St John the Baptist, knowing that his time of quiet in humble Nazareth is coming to an end. Those hours of careful craftsmanship with Joseph’s tools in the woodshop, the loving care of his mother, and fraternity among his neighbors and extended family is over. His transition to his evangelizing period is not marked with grand fanfare or delusional excesses of extravagant dress and personality quirks. Our Savior instead goes to stand in the line of repentant sinners who are waiting to be baptized by the camel-hair wearing ascetic in the desert.

The people around him were there voluntarily; the Jewish law prescribed ways of dealing with sin, but being baptized was not one of them. This baptism was an extra-liturgical step of personal atonement; having fulfilled the Law’s provisions, these pious Jews desired even more of a personal expression of repentance before God. Having made “official” atonement for their sin according to the cultic precepts of the Temple, they now wished in an act of personal devotion to be symbolically washed clean from their former selves that had committed that sin.

After hours of baptizing repentant sinners, no wonder St John was startled to see in his line the only sinless one in the world. But Jesus has quietly waited his time in the line to be baptized. Like his patience in living a normal childhood and family life, he is patient and voluntarily places himself in the same line of repentance as those around him. But his baptism does not announce a turning away from a personal sin, but rather the future conquering of all Sin. The waters of the Jordan do not sanctify Jesus; He sanctifies the waters that will be used for the Sacrament of Baptism.

And Jesus’ humility to stand with his humanity, while also being divine, is answered by an outpouring from above: “You are my beloved Son; with you, I am well pleased.”

Fr. Matthew Morris

Gospel Reflection Jan 3 – Deacon Paul

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Sunday, January 3

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.

Gospel Reflection:

Today’s story about the three Magi, following “the star” of the King of the Jews is a very familiar one for all of us. No other Gospel account other than Matthew has this narrative of the Magi visiting Jesus. His narrative underscores that Jesus is the promised Messiah and that this truth was a real threat to the reigning king.

The Epiphany marks the first appearance of Jesus to the Gentiles. It signals that God loves Gentiles as well as Jews and that God’s plan for salvation includes Gentiles too.
Herod, in our story represents the response of the unbeliever to the news of the coming of the Messiah. He is more concerned that the presence of Jesus will interfere with his power, with his position, and with his lifestyle. Our world today is filled with individuals much like Herod who want to know, but are not actually looking for the One who will save people from their sins.

Then there are the Wise Men. They came to Jerusalem by following the Star of Bethlehem that had been guiding them to the Messiah. The Magi were some of the first people to worship Jesus as Lord. They prostrated themselves in homage and acceptance of the Messiah.

We can probably see ourselves in each of these individuals in this story. There are times when we perhaps keep ourselves wrapped up in the pleasures and power of sin. We, in essence, become like Herod in denying the wise things of our faith and we plot to maintain our material comforts, rather than open ourselves up to the Lord. But then there are those times of grace when we are able to break through from the weight of the world and all of its distractions to see salvation through Jesus, and our redemption from sin. Friends, when we open up our hearts to the Lord, He can put us on the path that leads us not to destruction, but to salvation, away from becoming the Herods of this world and into faith in life everlasting.

Deacon Paul Zemanek

Gospel Reflection Dec 27 – Deacon Don

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Sunday, December 27

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Luke 2: 22-40

Gospel:

When the days were completed for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
They took him up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord,
just as it is written in the law of the Lord,
Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,
and to offer the sacrifice of
a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,
in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.
This man was righteous and devout,
awaiting the consolation of Israel,
and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit
that he should not see death
before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.
He came in the Spirit into the temple;
and when the parents brought in the child Jesus
to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,
He took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:
“Now, Master, you may let your servant go
in peace, according to your word,
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you prepared in sight of all the peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
—and you yourself a sword will pierce—
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
There was also a prophetess, Anna,
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.
She was advanced in years,
having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage,
and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.
She never left the temple,
but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.
And coming forward at that very time,
she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child
to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions
of the law of the Lord,
they returned to Galilee,
to their own town of Nazareth.
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom;
and the favor of God was upon him.

Gospel Reflection:

Today, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. They were unapologetically Jewish so they followed prescriptions of the Jewish traditions of the time following the birth of a son. While they may seem different to us today, these traditions are not all that unlike what we see from many parents when presenting their baby for Baptism in our own day. The families are proud to come to church. They dote over their little one. They dress them often in gowns with long family histories. They bring other family members (somewhat limited this year in COVID times). Some even live stream and record the Baptism. All of this is a family and joy-filled event that begins a new chapter in that family’s history. So it was for Joseph and Mary in going to the temple. Even though they knew whom they had in this newborn babe, the temple encounters with Simeon and Anna became growing proof of how their lives would be forever changed through their newborn son, Jesus.

Despite both Mary’s and Joseph’s “yes” to the Lord, they will be continually astounded by how so many others break into their lives to acknowledge who Jesus is. The Holy Family lived largely in Scriptural obscurity. We can only presume that Jesus lived the life of a typical Jewish child with periodic reminders to his parents, all was not typical. There would be troubles and difficulties in the future for the Holy Family as well.

During this Christmas Season, in respecting COVID restrictions of limited household gatherings, it is a small price in safeguarding our families. It is but a small sacrifice of temporary separation. We can look to the Holy Family, who left Nazareth to go to Bethlehem, then to Egypt, then to Jerusalem before finally return Nazareth to their family.

Deacon Don Poirier