Occasion: Lætare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent)

You can find the full readings here. This lectio is taken from the Gospel, Luke 15:1-3, 11-32.

Reading

Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus,
but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying,
“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
So to them Jesus addressed this parable:
“A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father,
‘Father give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’

So the father divided the property between them.
After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings
and set off to a distant country
where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.
When he had freely spent everything,
a severe famine struck that country,
and he found himself in dire need.
So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens
who sent him to his farm to tend the swine.
And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed,
but nobody gave him any.
Coming to his senses he thought,
‘How many of my father’s hired workers
have more than enough food to eat,
but here am I, dying from hunger.
I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him,
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
I no longer deserve to be called your son;
treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”’
So he got up and went back to his father.
While he was still a long way off,
his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.
He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.
His son said to him,
‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you;
I no longer deserve to be called your son.’
But his father ordered his servants,
‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him;
put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
Take the fattened calf and slaughter it.
Then let us celebrate with a feast,
because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again;
he was lost, and has been found.’
Then the celebration began.
Now the older son had been out in the field
and, on his way back, as he neared the house,
he heard the sound of music and dancing.
He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean.
The servant said to him,
‘Your brother has returned
and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf
because he has him back safe and sound.’
He became angry,
and when he refused to enter the house,
his father came out and pleaded with him.
He said to his father in reply,
‘Look, all these years I served you
and not once did I disobey your orders;
yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends.
But when your son returns
who swallowed up your property with prostitutes,
for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’
He said to him,
‘My son, you are here with me always;
everything I have is yours.
But now we must celebrate and rejoice,
because your brother was dead and has come to life again;
he was lost and has been found.’”

Stand-out words and phrases

Welcomed sinners, filled with compassion, lost and found

Meditation

We are halfway through the penitential season of Lent, but every Mass is still a celebration. This Sunday, as we celebrate Lætare Sunday, we are reminded of the joy that penitence can lead to. Lent is a time of great spiritual exercise and to take stock of our lives.

The younger son in the parable was facing the consequences of his choices. He took stock of his life, and he accepted responsibility for his actions. This is when things started to pick up for him; with acceptance.

With acceptance of his wrongs, followed by repentance, the prodigal son was greeted with joy by his father. Our Heavenly Father greets us in the same way when we repent, and He lifts the weight off our souls like the rags lifted off the prodigal son, and He robes us in peace.

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Occasion: Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time

You can find the full reading here. This Lectio is based on the reading from Luke  5·1-11.

Reading

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.

Stand-out words

Put in to deep water, sinful man, catching men, followed him

Meditation

“Put out into deep water.”  These words are being used by vocational directors, including in my home diocese of Biloxi.  It’s often used in Latin, “Duc in altum.”

Sometimes, when we have a feeling of the appropriate path before us, we may question it. Maybe it does not initially make sense to us, as it did not to Simon Peter; “Master, we have worked all night and caught nothing.”  Once the path is proven, maybe we become afraid, as Simon Peter did, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”  Maybe we think we are unworthy, or incapable of the road before us.  Maybe we are afraid of letting something go.

Simon Peter is a good role model for us today.  We may question a situation, and then become fearful when we see the truth.  He followed Jesus, but he had his ups and downs with the journey, as we will see when Lent begins in a few weeks.  He would go from high aspirations to low doubts. In the end, Simon Peter, today St. Peter would be given great responsibility by our Lord, because our Lord believed in him, as he believes in us, and asks us to believe in Him in return. We have to trust Him all the way.

 

The silent can speak loudest

St. Joseph teaches us so much without a single, quoted word in the Bible.

Christmas Vigil Mass, 2018

Gospel, MT 1:18-25

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.
He had no relations with her until she bore a son, 
and he named him Jesus.

Stand-out words: 

Righteous man, unwilling to exposure her to shame, do not be afraid

Meditation

St. Francis once said, “Preach the Gospel, and when necessary, use words.”  About eleven hundreds years before he said that, St. Joseph was did just that.  He has no recorded words in the Gospels, yet we know so much about him by what he did. (How many of us knew what our dads meant by their actions, or by the looks they gave us?)

We know St. Joseph by his recorded actions.  He was a righteous man who followed the Hebrew Law, but he is compassionate.  He suspects Mary has been unfaithful, but will not hand her over to harsh judgement.  They will quietly go their separate ways, and then whatever happens, happens.

This is St. Joseph’s first example to us:  Follow Church teaching, but do not be prudish.  There is a legal judging, and then there is judgemental.  He is not judgemental toward Mary, but he does intend to follow the law with care. No one ever came back to the Church after the door was slammed in their face.

An angel then tells St. Joseph that things are not what he fears; God is behind this situation, not Mary, and that he should not be afraid.  This is the second example St. Joseph sets for us:  Trust God, even if we think we know better.  Sometimes things do not work out as we plan, but that may have been God’s plan all along.

St. Joseph goes on to take Mary into his home.  In further readings, St. Joseph leads his family into Egypt for Jesus’ protection, then back to Nazareth, where he provides for them and makes them the center of his life.  Here, we have the third example of St. Joseph:  He is the provider for the first Christian family.  The Christian family is the most basic building block of the Church.

St. Joseph teaches us so much without a single, quoted word in the Bible.  This Christmas, and throughout the coming year, may we remember to trust God’s Hand in our lives, to practice the Church’s teachings with compassion, and that our family’s needs are our own needs.

Are you a mountain or a valley?

Those that ignore our Lord are the mountains that shall be made low. Those who hunger for Jesus are the valleys that shall be filled.

Occasion: Second Sunday of Advent

Gospel, Luke 3·1-6

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,
when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea,
and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee,
and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region
of Ituraea and Trachonitis,
and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene,
during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,
the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.
John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan,
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,
as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

Standout words or phrases

Prepare, make straight, mountains made low

Meditation

Last week, Jesus told his disciples of the time to come, when people would see great, destructive signs and die of fright, but they must remain alert for those times and be ready. This week, we are rewinding to when John the Baptist sets off on his mission to make ready the way of the Lord. His message sounds similar. John says to prepare the way of the Lord. Mountains will be made low, valleys will be filled.

This is some vivid imagery that may allude to earthquakes and landslides. Eventually, there would be times when the followers of John and later Jesus would feel that their world was being turned upside down. There were many trials to come, and they would need to be strong and have faith that all would turn out as God wills. This message rings true for us today.

To prepare the way of the Lord and make straight His paths is to repent of sin and to make oneself worthy to greet Him when He comes. The people of John’s day were to do so for Jesus’s first coming among them. For us, is to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord at Christmas, to prepare to receive Him at every Mass in the Eucharist, and to be ready for His second coming at the end of time.

John’s sermon is one of hope. Winding roads shall be made straight as we mend our sinful ways. Those that ignore our Lord are the mountains that shall be made low. Those who hunger for Jesus are the valleys that shall be filled.

At this time of year, this passage serves to help get our hearts ready to celebrate the birth of our Lord, but they ring true throughout the year to keep ourselves worthy to receive Him at every Mass, and of course, for the day we stand before Him.

Occasion: Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Mass During the Day)

You can find the full readings here. This Lectio is based on the reading from Luke  1:39-56.

Reading

During those days 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, “Most 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.”

And Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is from age to age
to those who fear him.
He has shown might with his arm,
dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones
but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things;
the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped Israel his servant,
remembering his mercy,
according to his promise to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

Stand-Out Words

Leapt in her womb, who am I, Blessed are you, lifted up

Meditation

“In all the troubles of life, Mary’s power as the Mother of Christ is the most far-reaching.”
— Pope Leo XIII

I had EWTN on while I was writing this reflection, and the above quote, paraphrased as it is, just happened to flash across the screen. Perfect timing!

These days, the Catholic Church is often criticized as being discriminatory to women. One need only look at how we cherish Mary. No man will ever be raised to the heights of which she has been raised. Her veneration throughout history has surpassed that of all other saints, and is second only to God. As the Lady of the Immaculate Conception, she is patron saint of the United States.

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus shows us how to accept Mary. At the wedding at Cana, she intercedes on the behalf of the wedding party when they run out of wine, but she also adds, “Do whatever He tells you.” As He hung on the cross, Jesus entrusted the care of His mother to St. John, but He also entrusted St. John and all of us to her motherly care. As the centuries unfold, Jesus continues to teach us that the easiest way to Him is through His Blessed Mother.

Nothing definite is known about the death of Mary. Whether or not she experienced death at all is even debated, but that she was assumed body and soul into Heaven seems to be the more important point. It is an old belief accepted by both the Eastern and Western Churches. Pope Pius XII dogmatically defined the Assumption in 1950, specifically referencing verses in Genesis and the First Letter to the Corinthians in his writings.

What does this all mean for us? It is the promise made to all of us if we follow Mary’s example. She followed God’s plan for her, despite any fear or uncertainty. We are taught that if we are faithful, our bodies will rise again on the Last Day, and we too will spend eternity with God and Mary, body and soul.

One more about the Church’s place for Mary: Our God, the Holy Trinity, is loved and exalted above all things and all people. Some of our Lord’s feasts may be transferred to the nearest Sunday, including that of His Ascension into Heaven. However, for His Blessed Mother, Her Solemnities as Mary, the Mother of God, of Her Assumption, and of the Immaculate Conception do not move. If her Assumption falls on Tuesday, then we better be at Mass on Tuesday!

~ Joseph Cook

Learn to listen

So often in this world we are in love with the sound of our own voice… We have forgotten how to stop and “listen” to God.

Occasion: Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

You can find the full readings here. This Lectio is based on the Gospel, Matthew 13:1-23.

Reading

On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.
Such large crowds gathered around him
that he got into a boat and sat down,
and the whole crowd stood along the shore.
And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying:
“A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and birds came and ate it up.
Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,
and when the sun rose it was scorched,
and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.
But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit,
a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

The disciples approached him and said,
“Why do you speak to them in parables?”
He said to them in reply,
“Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven
has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.
To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich;
from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
This is why I speak to them in parables, because
they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.
Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:
You shall indeed hear but not understand,
you shall indeed look but never see.
Gross is the heart of this people,
they will hardly hear with their ears,
they have closed their eyes,
lest they see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their hearts and be converted,
and I heal them.

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see,
and your ears, because they hear.
Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people
longed to see what you see but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

“Hear then the parable of the sower.
The seed sown on the path is the one
who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it,
and the evil one comes and steals away
what was sown in his heart.
The seed sown on rocky ground
is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.
But he has no root and lasts only for a time.
When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word,
he immediately falls away.
The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word,
but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word
and it bears no fruit.
But the seed sown on rich soil
is the one who hears the word and understands it,
who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”

Stand-Out Words

ate it up, lack of roots, choked it, produced fruit, not understand, hear the word

Reflection

Many things have been written, many homilies delivered about these particular scripture passages. That can make it difficult to write about this, but I am going to try.

What struck me the most is Christ speaks of hearing the word, not reading the Word. Don’t get me wrong, reading is important and we must read God’s word. But Christ emphasizes that we must “hear” his word, in order to bear fruit. It is a great blessing in the Catholic Church that so much is read aloud to us, somewhere around 20% to 25% of the mass is scripture. The Church has a beautiful 3 year cycle of scripture for us to be able to hear. To hear God’s word and to let it take root in our hearts, isn’t always easy. The person reading the scripture passages may be difficult to understand, or soft spoken, or boring but that does not matter. What matters is that we listen, that I listen to the word of God.

God is always trying to teach me to listen. I love to talk and so often, I’m certain, I’ve missed the opportunity to learn, to bear fruit, simply because I was talking, instead of listening. So often in this world we are in love with the sound of our own voice, that what we have to say is so much more valuable and better that what others have to say, that our education is more or we’ve read more than the person next to us, what could they possibly have to teach me. We have forgotten how to stop and “listen” to God. God always speaks from scripture, but sometimes He speaks to us from our “enemy/co-worker” in the cubicle next to us, sometimes He speaks to us in the “angel/old man” on the subway ride home, and sometimes he speaks to us from our “brother/sister” we don’t understand.

Let us learn to listen, so that one day we will bear fruit for God, whether it be a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.

Fear no one

Not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.

Occasion: Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time

You can find the full readings here. This Lectio is based on the Gospel reading, Matthew 10:26–33.

Reading

Jesus said to the Twelve:
“Fear no one.
Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed,
nor secret that will not be known.
What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light;
what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.
And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul;
rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy
both soul and body in Gehenna.
Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?
Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.
Even all the hairs of your head are counted.
So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Everyone who acknowledges me before others
I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.
But whoever denies me before others,
I will deny before my heavenly Father.”

Stand-out words

fear no one, revealed, proclaim on the housetops, acknowledge, deny

Reflection

Jesus reminds us that nothing is hidden from God. He knows what good we do for each other, and the harm we may cause. The Twelve are being told that as they proclaim the Kingdom of God, there will be those who ignore and even attack them for this. Jesus reminded them to be strong and to continue to spread the Good News. They may be hurt or killed, but their souls will live on with him.

This message is for us as well. It can be difficult to do what we know is right, especially if we are ridiculed for it. This can be as simple as friends chiding us for getting up in the morning for church instead of sleeping in. It can be as vital as speaking up for someone at work who may be falsely accused of wrongdoing. It might be easier to hold our breath and wait for the situation to blow over, but God sees everything. He sees us when we share His Kingdom; He sees others when others ridicule us for it; and He sees us if we hide it under a bushel.

It is easy to think how we might acknowledge Jesus; through acts of love and charity, through prayer and receiving the sacraments. How might we deny Jesus? Of course, it could be through acts of hate and spite. Also, by not doing what we should. If we ignore those less fortunate than us, or show no concern for the needs of others, might we then be denying Jesus?