In the Gospel for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus calls the disciples.  “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” (Matthew 4: 18-20).  As he did Peter and Andrew, Jesus invites us to follow him and sends us on a mission.  The Blues Brothers (1980 film starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd) were on a mission from God to save a Catholic orphanage from foreclosure.  What is your mission from God?

In the Gospel for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time A, John the Baptist testifies that Jesus is the Son of God.  “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 ‘ ” (John 1: 32-33).  Christians are baptized with that same spirit.  The Risen Lord is with us.  What difference does the Spirit of the Risen Jesus within you make in your life?

In the Gospel for the Baptism of the Lord A, Jesus begins his public ministry with baptism by John.  “After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him” (Matthew 3: 16).  Christians look to Jesus baptism as a model for their own.  At his Baptism Jesus was empowered by the Spirit of God.  By Baptism Christians are empowered by the Holy Spirit.  Jesus lived his life (and died) for others.  Christians can do the same.  Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure … We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us …  And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same (Excerpt from Our Deepest Fear by Marianne Williamson).  How is the Spirit of God empowering you to live for others?

 

In the Gospel for the Epiphany of the Lord, the magi travel to Jerusalem looking for the the newborn king of the Jews.  Herod sends them to Bethlehem.  “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” (Matthew 2: 9b-11a).  The star led them to Jesus, the light of the world.  God’s love in Jesus brightens a darkened world.  Soon after buying a new car, I got into a fender bender.  When I got home, my preschool son wished me “Happy Birthday” to lift my spirits.  He brightened my dark situation with his love for me …  God’s love for me.  How does God’s love brighten your dark days?  Your love brighten others’ days?

 

In the Gospel for the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, the Holy Family seeks safety in Egypt from Herod’s cruelty.  Joseph was warned by an angel.  ” ‘Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.’  Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.  He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, Out of Egypt I called my son” (Matthew 2: 13b-15).  Joseph saved his family from danger by escaping to Egypt.  Who saves you from the dangers of life?  Where do you go for safety?

In the Gospel for the Fourth Sunday in Advent, an angel appears to Joseph in a dream.  The angel announces that his betrothed, Mary, is with child by the power of the Holy Spirit.  God wants Joseph to take Mary as his wife and name her son Jesus, Yahweh saves.  “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” (Matthew 1: 22-24).  God intervened in the life of Joseph in an unexpected and unimaginable way.  Mary got pregnant while waiting to marry Joseph.  He was planning to  divorce her quietly.  He thought she had committed adultery.  Then the angel appeared.  God had other plans.  This devout law abiding Jew was moved with compassion.  Surprised by the Holy Spirit, he nevertheless did what God wanted.  I was in seminary preparing to be ordained a Roman Catholic priest.  Then I met my wife.  We have been married for 38 years with three grown sons.  God had other plans for me.  God has blessed me in ways I could not imagine.  What do you do when God acts in ways or through people you do not expect?

In the Gospel for the Third Sunday in Advent A, John the Baptist from prison sends his disciples to ask Jesus if he is the awaited Messiah.  “Jesus said to them in reply, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them’ ” (Matthew 11: 4-5).  Christians make the kingdom of God real when they help others see their way through hard times, get back on their feet after a job loss, recover from an addiction, acquire medical insurance, grieve the death of a loved one, feed their families, and  more.  How do you proclaim good news to the brokenhearted?

 

 

In the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Advent, John the Baptist prepares the way for Jesus.  “I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.  I am not worthy to carry his sandals.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3: 11).  John is the messenger of God’s kingdom.  He acknowledges Jesus as the messiah, anointed by God to establish the kingdom of heaven.  John is not God, Jesus is.  I often think everything relies on me.  I hurt others and frustrate myself trying to do everything.  I try to carry everyone’s sandals.  I forget that everything and everyone relies on God, not me.  The more I get myself and my ego out the way, the better I am able to love myself and others as God loves.  I can carry the sandles I need to carry with God’s help.  God’s love sustains us all.  How does God’s love sustain you?  How does your love sustain others.

 

In the Gospel for the First Sunday of Advent, Jesus warns the disciples to be ready for the coming of the Son of Man.  “Therefore, stay awake!  For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.  Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into.  So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come” (Matthew 24: 42-44).  If Christians stayed awake until the day of the Lord, we would all be sleep deprived.  Rather, Jesus wants us to be spiritually awake.  He wants us to live every day loving God and loving others.  God is going to judge us on the fruits of our love: caring for a sick spouse, feeding a family of an unemployed or underemployed neighbor, visiting a relative suffering from a mental illness, finding shelter for a homeless person, assisting a friend victimized by domestic violence, forgiving family members and friends who have hurt us.  How are you staying awake?

In the Gospel for the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus, King of the Universe C, Jesus forgives the repentant criminal crucified with him.  The other criminal taunts Jesus.  The repentant one defends Jesus’ innocence.  “And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.”  Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.  He replied to him, ‘Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise’ ” (Luke 23: 42-43).   The criminal acknowledges Jesus as King.  He understands that after death, Jesus will enter his kingdom where he will reign with God.  He is relying on the power of Jesus to acquit him of his crimes.  He trusts in the forgiveness of Jesus.  How about you?