Gospel Reflections

Gospel Reflection Mar 3 – Deacon Paul

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Gospel Reflection
March 3, 2019

Sunday, March 3

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 6: 39 – 45

Jesus told his disciples a parable,
“Can a blind person guide a blind person?
Will not both fall into a pit?
No disciple is superior to the teacher;
but when fully trained,
every disciple will be like his teacher.
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye,
but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?
How can you say to your brother,
‘Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’
when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye?
You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first;
then you will see clearly
to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye.

“A good tree does not bear rotten fruit,
nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit.
For every tree is known by its own fruit.
For people do not pick figs from thornbushes,
nor do they gather grapes from brambles.
A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good,
but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil;
for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.”

“You hypocrite!” I don’t know about you, but this is not a label that I would ever want associated with me or my actions, especially by Jesus. Jesus has told us in the Gospels that we should not judge, lest we will be judged. In Luke’s Gospel, he was particularly interested in showing his community the way to live authentically as followers of Jesus. In today’s reading, Jesus told His disciples a parable and He asks us “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?” This is perhaps one of the most often quoted verses in Scripture…and maybe one of the most ignored.

So, what is Jesus trying to get across to us with His parable? Jesus is telling us that before we judge the actions of another person, that we should first address our own sins, which may be far greater in comparison. He is telling us not to be so prideful and convinced of our own goodness that we criticize others from a position of self-righteousness. We should instead do some introspection first and correct our own shortcomings before we go after the “splinters” in others. When we point out the sin of others while we ourselves commit the same sin, we condemn ourselves.

Today’s reading refers to wood in several ways…splinter, wooden beam, good tree, and rotten tree. Let us, however, remember the Wood of the Cross as it is the place where all the wounds of sin are healed.

Deacon Paul Zemanek

Gospel Reflection Feb 24 – Deacon Don

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Sunday, February 24

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 6:27 – 38

Jesus said to his disciples:
“To you who hear I say,
love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
To the person who strikes you on one cheek,
offer the other one as well,
and from the person who takes your cloak,
do not withhold even your tunic.
Give to everyone who asks of you,
and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
For if you love those who love you,
what credit is that to you?
Even sinners love those who love them.
And if you do good to those who do good to you,
what credit is that to you?
Even sinners do the same.
If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment,
what credit is that to you?
Even sinners lend to sinners,
and get back the same amount.
But rather, love your enemies and do good to them,
and lend expecting nothing back;
then your reward will be great
and you will be children of the Most High,
for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

“Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give, and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.
For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you.”

Today, power can come to us in many forms – misuse of money, influence, prestige, politics, and even bullying. We are confronted with it daily among our leaders and others around us. With expanding social media, we are experiencing a general decline in civility that now bombards us and our children today. There is a growing feeling of normalcy creeping into our behavior that, even a few years ago, would have been considered abhorrent. In general, we see the need to force others to accept what we want – without compromise or debate.

The Gospel today gives us an alternative kind of power. It is the power of love, forgiveness, and justice. Use of this kind of power provides benefit to both the giver and the receiver. This “turning the other cheek” business seems almost silly and hopelessly idealistic by today’s values. It seems perfectly natural to strike back and it seems even acceptable to strike first and often.

In reality, it requires more courage and strength to not hit back. Unfortunately, one bad act leads to another and then another until the original disagreement is lost amongst hate and retaliation. When Ireland was facing terrorism back in the 1970s, a poster was used to ask the terrorist: “You are ready to kill for peace, are you ready to die for it?” Unfortunately, leading examples of peace seem to die violently, such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Even at Jesus’ moment of death, he gave us his message of peace and forgiveness. Jesus’ notion of love wants us to restore life, truth, justice, and right relationships between people.

What the Gospel is saying is far from impossible or idealistic. It is a human truth from our very creation first lost in the garden of Eden and then restored with Jesus’ incarnation. It is really a question of our attitude and commitment to the Gospel. It is difficult, but no less than what is asked of us. The view of love here is not that of emotion or feelings, but one of conviction, forgiveness, and definitive action – to restore and to maintain human dignity and justice. Forgiveness in the Gospel always implies reconciliation. It also involves our active non-violent campaigning, sticking one’s neck out, and speaking out against injustice. Jesus is not offering us an option today but the only way that makes sense out from the current self-destructive path we may be on. It is the only way that is truly human.

Deacon Don Poirier

Gospel Reflection Feb 17 – Deacon Frank

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Gospel Reflection
February 17, 2019

Sunday, February 17

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 6:17, 20 – 26

Jesus came down with the twelve
and stood on a stretch of level ground
with a great crowd of his disciples
and a large number of the people
from all Judea and Jerusalem
and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon.
And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for the kingdom of God is yours.
Blessed are you who are now hungry,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who are now weeping,
for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
and when they exclude and insult you,
and denounce your name as evil
on account of the Son of Man.
Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!
Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.
For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.
But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
Woe to you who are filled now,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will grieve and weep.
Woe to you when all speak well of you,
for their ancestors treated the false
prophets in this way.”

Every red-blooded American believes in freedom of choice and the gifts of life, liberty and the pursuit happiness. Thanks to leaders such as those we will honor on Presidents Day weekend, we are proud to declare : “I can do what I want; it’s a free country.” This weekend’s Gospel reminds us that all choices are not the same. Some bring us blessing and some bring us woe.

When you go to Mass this weekend you will hear how Jesus inaugurated his ministry in the Gospel of Luke with a Sermon on the Plain, corresponding to the more recognizable Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus begins his discourse with four Beatitudes and four Woes. Jesus has a strange idea of what would lead to blessedness: “Blessed are you who are poor, who are hungry, who weep, who are hated and persecuted.” Jesus also had a strange list of things that would bring woes: riches, having a full stomach, laughter, popularity. Don’t these things constitute the American dream? Jesus promotes a diffrent dream: the kingdom of God, a great reward in heaven.

We are all searching for happiness. Jesus calls us to work with him to build a world of peace and happiness for all. May we pray for the spirit of discernment to help us to recognize the choices we have to make if we are to be the people God wants us to be. Believing in life through death gives us a different way of looking at how we use our freedoms. It means that the American dream may not be the most important thing for us to choose.

Deacon Frank Iannarino

Gospel Reflection Feb 10 – Sr. Teresa

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Sunday, February 10

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 5: 1 – 11

While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening
to the word of God,
he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret.
He saw two boats there alongside the lake;
the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets.
Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon,
he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore.
Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.
After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon,
“Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”
Simon said in reply,
“Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing,
but at your command I will lower the nets.”
When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish
and their nets were tearing.
They signaled to their partners in the other boat
to come to help them.
They came and filled both boats
so that the boats were in danger of sinking.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said,
“Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him
and all those with him,
and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee,
who were partners of Simon.
Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid;
from now on you will be catching men.”
When they brought their boats to the shore,
they left everything and followed him.


“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
–Albert Einstein

What are we to do when what we have always done is no longer working?

Today’s Gospel carries such an important message for us. It was early morning; the fishermen had been fishing all night and had little to show for it. Jesus gets into one of the boats and urges Peter to go back out and, “Put out into the deep.” They objected but, because Jesus had commanded them to do so, Peter obeyed.

“Put out into the deep” is such a challenging and critical call for us at this moment in history. What are we to do in the face of the complex global, national and religious realities embroiling us today? What are we to do as we face very fragile and volatile economies, escalating acts of terrorism and senseless acts of violence, growing misguided notions of nationalism, advancements in science progressing faster than our code of ethics can address them, explosion of technologies, rapid growth of Artificial Intelligence, climate changes that threaten the survival of the planet as we know it? What are we to do?

What are we to do when the human concerns of immigration and migration are on the rise across the world as well as religious persecution, famine, natural disasters?
What are we to do?

What are we to do when “we have worked all night and have little to show for it”? I like that image: “We have worked all night. We have worked in darkness.” It is time to work in the light for the good of all.

When we first read or heard the gospel today, we might have missed a very important little phrase: “Jesus got into their boat.” It was early morning, “probably the crack of dawn.” It was when the darkness of night was giving way to the light of day. It is time to let Jesus into the boat. It is time to be guided by the light of Christ. For surely, what we have always done is not working and, in some instances, are making things worse. There seems to be little to show for all our efforts. The issues of the day call for something new and demand of us serious thought and reflection. We need to find a newer way of deeply listening to each other. Listening from a place of respect for the other, rather than a position of defensiveness, arrogance or self-interest.

Our times, perhaps more than any other time in history, require the best of our thinking, deep prayer and serious communal reflection and discernment. It is not time to divide the people of the world, but rather, these times call for a gathering of people who have at the heart of their deliberations the COMMON GOOD, the common good for all of God’s people.

We will be building the bridge as we walk across the chasms that have divided us, as we, with Jesus in our boat, “put out into the deep” and struggle again for the deeper meaning of the Our Father. Time to live and act what we profess – God is our father and we are brother and sister to each other. Today and every day we are called to let Jesus into our boat and “put out into the deep” with faith and courage.

Take some time to reflect upon your life and our lives in the world community and ask yourself- “who is in my boat?” Is there any room in my boat for Jesus? Do I need to get rid of some stuff (things, attitudes, biases, fear etc.) to make room for Jesus in the boat?

— Sister Teresa Tuite, OP

Gospel Reflection Feb 3 – Msgr. Hendricks

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Gospel Reflection
February 3, 2019

Sunday, February 3

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 4: 21 – 30

Jesus began speaking in the synagogue, saying:
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
And all spoke highly of him
and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.
They also asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?”
He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb,
‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say,
‘Do here in your native place
the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.'”
And he said, “Amen, I say to you,
no prophet is accepted in his own native place.
Indeed, I tell you,
there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah
when the sky was closed for three and a half years
and a severe famine spread over the entire land.
It was to none of these that Elijah was sent,
but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon.
Again, there were many lepers in Israel
during the time of Elisha the prophet;
yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”
When the people in the synagogue heard this,
they were all filled with fury.
They rose up, drove him out of the town,
and led him to the brow of the hill
on which their town had been built,
to hurl him down headlong.
But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.


The prophet Jeremiah, Jesus, and St. Paul all suffered rejection for the message they preached. All three preached the same message, the truth that God Himself gave to the world. The rejection they all suffered and the casting outside of the community they all endured, was buoyed up by their constant trust and faith in the living God who spoke to them about how much God loved the world but desired for people and the world to turn away from self and give one’s heart and soul to God first and foremost.

The message of the gospel today not only underscores that claim, but also assures that the message of Jesus is meant for the whole world, even for those who have not yet heard the name of Jesus.

As St. Paul today gives us the beautiful passage on what love is, we recognize that God is Love and we are simply asked to live a life knowing that Jesus is beside us always. As St. Paul, Jeremiah and Jesus knew, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things.” Love never ends because God is Love.

Gospel Reflection Jan 20 – Deacon Alfonso

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Gospel Reflection
January 20, 2019

Sunday, January 20

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

John 2: 1 – 11

There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee,
and the mother of Jesus was there.
Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.
When the wine ran short,
the mother of Jesus said to him,
“They have no wine.”
And Jesus said to her,
“Woman, how does your concern affect me?
My hour has not yet come.”
His mother said to the servers,
“Do whatever he tells you.”
Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings,
each holding twenty to thirty gallons.
Jesus told the them,
“Fill the jars with water.”
So they filled them to the brim.
Then he told them,
“Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.”
So they took it.
And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine,
without knowing where it came from
– although the servers who had drawn the water knew -,
the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him,
“Everyone serves good wine first,
and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one;
but you have kept the good wine until now.”
Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee
and so revealed his glory,
and his disciples began to believe in him.


“Coming down” from the Holidays is probably the best way to describe our present situation. We come down from the hype and excitement of Christmas and all it’s wonder, anticipation and excitement. It seems that this annual commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ the God-man fascinates us so much that we lose an awareness of the mundanities of the routines of life. But alas, here we are, back to the ordinary. And though we may be tempted to think that we have exhausted our joy and enthusiasm for the year, today’s Gospel reminds us that Jesus Christ arrives to meet us and fill our life when we believe our energies have been exhausted. Not only does our reading show that he can provide abundance in our need but that his provisions are greater than anything we try to muster on our own. The color the church uses for Ordinary Time is green. Let us consider that in the uneventfulness of life there are many opportunities to grow, to in a certain sense become green as a verdant field. All this renewal and growth is available to us through our communion with the saints, the sacraments and our daily encounter with the bridegroom Jesus Christ, who fills our life with the greater joy.

Deacon Alfonso Gámez Alanís

Gospel Reflection Jan 13 – Deacon Don

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Sunday, January 13

The Baptism of the Lord

Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

The people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
“I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

After all the people had been baptized
and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying,
heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him
in bodily form like a dove.
And a voice came from heaven,
“You are my beloved Son;
with you I am well pleased.”

With the Baptism of Jesus, the Christmas season ends. During this brief season, we celebrate three revelations:
Christmas – God comes to us in human form to experience all we experience except sin.
Epiphany – God comes to bring a message of universal salvation as described by the arrival of the Magi from the East.
Baptism of Jesus – God is seen as specially present in Jesus and working in him and through him.
So, why did Jesus, who is sinless, need to be Baptized? While the Scripture writers each describe the passage essentially the same way, it is a not story you would use to market an all-powerful and sinless god. Quite the opposite – this god is weak and would not be impressive to those hearing his word. However, this is precisely what takes place in the Baptism of Our Lord! With this event, Jesus reveals much as to how he intends to operate with us in his public life. He slips into the water with other sinners to humble himself with other sinners while remaining sinless – a profound expression of His solidarity with us. This is sharp contrast to John the Baptist, the last of the Old Testament prophets, who preaches that the Lord will come upon us with his winnowing fan to separate the wheat from the chaff. But God comes down and stands with us sinners. If this is so, then our Baptism is our response that we will stand with Him.

Today is an opportunity for all of us to reflect on our own baptism. It is not simply a one and done event that happened long ago, when God and the world asked nothing from us. It is a new beginning and a lifelong journey. It is our response to God, who chose us to participate and be galvanized to the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are forever bonded to the Body of Christ. Our baptism is a live and on-going organic event. It involves our active participation in the life of the Church and not just passive membership. Each one of us is called to be a living witness to the Gospel. Our baptism is an uninterrupted call to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Today is a great day to re-affirm our readiness to carry on His work. For if we do not carry on His work in response to our baptism, much of His work will simply remain unfinished. What we do and how we respond to this call does indeed – make a difference.

Deacon Don Poirier

Gospel Reflection Dec 30 – Sr. Teresa

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Gospel Reflection
December 30, 2018

Sunday, December 30

Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Luke 2: 41 – 52

Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast
of Passover,
and when he was twelve years old,
they went up according to festival custom.
After they had completed its days, as they were returning,
the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem,
but his parents did not know it.
Thinking that he was in the caravan,
they journeyed for a day
and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances,
but not finding him,
they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.
After three days they found him in the temple,
sitting in the midst of the teachers,
listening to them and asking them questions,
and all who heard him were astounded
at his understanding and his answers.
When his parents saw him,
they were astonished,
and his mother said to him,
“Son, why have you done this to us?
Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”
And he said to them,
“Why were you looking for me?
Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
But they did not understand what he said to them.
He went down with them and came to Nazareth,
and was obedient to them;
and his mother kept all these things in her heart.
And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor
before God and man.

Today the church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family. We often think of the holy family in an idealized way. We think they had no problems, no worries, no concerns no disagreements among them. NOT!! We forget the basics of what we know. When she was nine months pregnant, Mary, with Joseph, had to travel to Bethlehem, a 90-mile trip on donkey or walking. Once there they could find no place to stay. This forced Mary and Joseph to bring Jesus into this world in a shepherd’s cave and lay him in an animal’s feeding trough. Before Jesus was two, Mary and Joseph had to become migrants. They had to get out of the country and migrate (probably with many others) to Egypt. They had to escape Herod’s slaughter of the children.

I am not a parent, but I taught children for many years. I know the terror of losing one of them. I know the relief and the frustration of finding one of the strays. You want to joyfully embrace them while at the same time scolding them for getting lost or not doing as they were told. I know the heartbreak of losing a child (for me a student) through terminal illness or suicide. That pain is so deep and so lasting that it forever puts a slight cloud over every joy. There are many in our parish who know this pain and anguish.

When I read this story of Jesus staying in the Temple, I could feel the tension in me heighten. I think Mary and Joseph experienced the enormity of anguish and bone chilling panic of parents when a child is missing. Mary and Joseph started the journey home full of happiness. They had just celebrated the holy days in Jerusalem. Jesus, being twelve years old, would have been allowed to travel to with Joseph and the men. However, because he was right at the edge of 12, he could also have traveled with Mary and the women. Most likely everyone stopped for the night, after a long day’s journey. That is when they discovered Jesus was missing. Panic and fear must have filled their hearts. They had lost Jesus. The day long journey back to Jerusalem must have been excruciating for them. Upon finding Jesus in the Temple, he did not seem to be concerned for their upset and said something quite confusing; “Did you not know that I must be busy with my Father’s affairs?” What a difficult response to receive! What a challenge of faith! “How can we be good parents?” is a question often asked by parents. Joseph and Mary, no doubt asked the same question. “How can we be good parents for Jesus?”

It is not easy being parents, and yet, it is one of the most important things we are asked to do. Parents want to teach their children to be good people, to be respectful of others, to be kind to others, to help those in need, to teach them to pray and help them to know the importance of God in their lives. Parents want to teach and guide their children through each stage of their lives. As they move toward independence and interdependence, they want them to realize their gifts and potential. Mary and Joseph had the same desires for Jesus. Jesus had been entrusted to their care, just as your children have been entrusted to your care. The gospel today tells us that Jesus returned with them to Nazareth and, “he grew in wisdom, age and favor (grace).” We know next to nothing about these hidden years of Jesus. When we hear of him again Jesus will be a man. Joseph will have died leaving Mary a single mother. Jesus would have learned a craft and cared for and supported his mother.

The Feast of the Holy Family is an invitation to ask Mary, Joseph and Jesus to be with our family. It is a time for parents to ask Joseph and Mary to be with you and guide you, and do your best to keep your children safe and hopeful. Today is an invitation to all of us to pray for parents and families everywhere; pray for single parents; and pray for those who are caring for elderly parents. They cannot do it alone. We, as a parish community, have been entrusted to care for and love the children. The saying, “it takes a village to raise a child,” is right. It took the village of Nazareth and it takes the village we call St. Brigid of Kildare.

Family will be important to your children, if family is important to you.

Prayer will be important to your children, if prayer is important to you.

Quiet time will be important to your children, if quiet time is important to you.

Peace will be important to your children, if peace is important to you.

Forgiveness and reconciliation will be important to your children,
if forgiveness and reconciliation are important to you.

Religion will be important to your children, if religion is important to you.

Service will be important to your children, if service is important to you.

God will be important to your children, if God is important to you.

That which is important to us we find time for — that is the bottom line. Be honest with yourself as parents and take time to articulate what is important to you as a husband and wife, as parents and as a family. Don’t just list the “should be important” things, be very, very honest and truthful and list the things that really are important. Then decide if life is the way you want it to be. If not, why not and what will you do alone and together to change what needs to be changed, to strengthen what needs to be strengthened, to rejoice in what needs to be celebrated?

Thank you, parents, for loving and caring for your children.

Sister Teresa Tuite, OP

Gospel Reflection Dec 23 – Msgr. Hendricks

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December 23, 2018

Sunday, December 23

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Luke 1: 39-45

Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”

Luke today paints a scene of two women meeting, both carrying precious gifts. Elizabeth, the cousin of Mary carrying John the Baptist and Mary a visitor to the home of Elizabeth carrying the most precious gift of all Jesus, the Son of God.

When Mary enters the home of Elizabeth, she greets her, and the baby in her womb, jumps for joy as he now recognizes his savior.

Elizabeth cries out that this woman is Blessed among all her race as she brings to mankind forever the Savior of the world.

Elizabeth calls Mary full of Grace, Gratia Plena. The grace given to her by God himself, she prepares a worthy home for her son and later will stand by him as he hangs from the cross.

Mary is given a great compliment at the end of the gospel story today. She is called blessed because she believed. She took a great step for the world when she said yes to the angel and so set the stage for our salvation in the birth of her son.

Today, as Christmas draws near, listen to the voice of Elizabeth speak for us all, as she learns that the mother of her Lord and ours has finally come to us.

Monsignor Hendricks

Gospel Reflection Dec 16 – Fr. Morris

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December 16, 2018

Sunday, December 16

Third Sunday of Advent

Luke 3: 10 – 18

The crowds asked John the Baptist,
“What should we do?”
He said to them in reply,
“Whoever has two cloaks
should share with the person who has none.
And whoever has food should do likewise.”
Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him,
“Teacher, what should we do?”
He answered them,
“Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”
Soldiers also asked him,
“And what is it that we should do?”
He told them,
“Do not practice extortion,
do not falsely accuse anyone,
and be satisfied with your wages.”

Now the people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
“I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor
and to gather the wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Exhorting them in many other ways,
he preached good news to the people.

St John the Baptist is the Forerunner of Christ, the prophet tasked with preparing the way for the Lord and His public ministry. We can see that clearly in the Baptist’s responses today to the repeated question “What should we do?” from three disparate groups. The prophet’s directives are simple and common-sense advice to “be a good person.” If you have extra food or clothing above your needs, you should share it. If you are a tax collector, collect only what is truly owed. If you are a soldier, don’t mistreat civilians for personal gain.

Compare these “conservative” admonitions of the Baptist in the 3rd chapter of Luke to the “radical” admonitions that Jesus gives in the 6th chapter, the Beatitudes. We see the difference between the Forerunner and the Messiah, the preliminary teachings from a prophet and the radical teachings of the Son of God.

I could probably follow St John’s rules if I tried hard; but I don’t have it in me to follow the Lord’s admonitions. I know I can’t live the Beatitudes, exude that level of righteousness, by my own efforts. Talk about setting someone up for failure! Who can be a good person using the measure laid out by Jesus?

But thanks be to God, for He recognizes that to live the Gospel precepts on our own power is impossible. Thanks be to God, who gives us His grace, the supernatural help we need to live out the Beatitudes. Thanks be to God, for the baby Messiah in the crib at that first Christmas proves that God is for us, not against us!

Father Matthew Morris