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In the Gospel for the Third Sunday of Advent, God sends John the Baptist to announce Jesus as the Messiah.   Questioned by the priests and Levites about his identity, John answers, “I am ‘the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” (John 1: 23).  John the Baptist is the forerunner of the Messiah, not the Messiah.  Jesus, the one who comes after him, is the Messiah.  I admire the humility of John the Baptist.  He faithfully accepts his call to announce the coming of the Messiah.  I am tempted to claim myself as the Messiah.  I want all the credit for the good things I do.  I often remind my wife how much I do for her.  I forget that any good thing I do comes ultimately from God.  Like John the Baptist, Christian disciples point to Jesus.  We announce God with us when we give God the credit for the good things we do.  We know our love for others comes from God’s love for us.  How do you announce God’s love for you?

 

 

 

 

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In the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Advent, John the Baptist prepares the way for Jesus.  As Isaiah prophesied, ” ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way.  A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’  [Then] John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1: 2-4).  John prepared the way for Jesus.  He baptized those willing to change their ways and accept God’s loving forgiveness.  Everyone has regrets for wrong turns in their lives, for broken  relationships.  Jesus wants us to try to straighten those life curves and crooked relationships.  I have been feeling bad for years about berating my oldest son, now a young adult, for breaking a jar of olive oil he was helping me unload from the car.  It was an accident.  He did not deserve a scolding.  I called him last week to tell him I was sorry.  How can you make straight a crooked relationship in your life?

 

 

In the Gospel for the First Sunday of Advent, Jesus tells a parable about the coming of the Son of Man at the end of time.  He compares watching for the end to a doorman watching for return of his master from a journey.  “Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning.  May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.  What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’ ” (Mark 13: 35-36).  As the doorman does not know when the master of the house will return, nor do we know when the end will come.  Only God knows the time.  Jesus wants us to be vigilant.  Jesus does not want us to be anxiously waiting.  We wait and watch in loving service to others.  We stay awake for those who need our loving care.  We attend to children without families, young adults with addictions, single mothers without a livable wage, family members with abusive partners, and others.   Whom do you need to watch?

 

 

 

In the Gospel for the Solemnity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Jesus describes the Judgement of the Nations.  Christ the King will welcome into eternal life those who cared for him with acts of loving kindness.  “Then the righteous will answer him and say, Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me’ ” (Matthew 25: 37-40).  This Gospel inspired Saint Theresa of Kolkata to her “call within a call” caring for the homeless, sick and dying in the slums of Kolkata, India.  She saw Christ in them.  As Christian disciples we emulate her whenever we lovingly care for those in need.  We witness to our love for Christ when parents feed their children.  When children care for their sick parents.  When a parish provides winter coats for the children of single mothers in the neighborhood.  When a neighbor visits a mentally ill neighbor isolated and alone.  What loving acts of kindness are you doing for Jesus?

 

 

 

 

 

In the Gospel for the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus tells the Parable of the Talents.  Departing on a journey, a wealthy man entrusts his servants with his possessions.  Upon his return he takes an account.  Two of the servants traded their master’s money for a two fold return on their investments.  The third buried the money which gained no interest.  The wealthy man promoted the servants who increased his wealth.  “Well done, my good and faithful servant[s].  Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities.  Come, share your master’s joy” (Matthew 25: 21).  God entrusts us with the responsibility to use our gifts and talents to promote the reign of God.  At the final judgement, God will take an account of how loving and generous we were in our lives.  Did we use our gifts and talents to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, satisfy the thirsty, welcome the stranger, care for the sick, visit those imprisoned?  How do you use your gifts and talents to care for those in need?

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Gospel for the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus tells the Parable of the Ten Virgins.  All went out with their lamps to meet the bridegroom.  They fell asleep waiting so long.  When the bridegroom finally arrived, the virgins with enough oil for their lamps were ready to greet him.  Those who did not have enough went out to buy more.  They returned too late to join the wedding feast.  Jesus concludes with a lesson.  “Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25: 13).  The virgins are like Christian disciples eagerly longing for Jesus.  We feel close to Jesus when times are good.  We can feel alienated from God and alone when times are bad.  We wonder if God cares about us when bad things happen: a spouse gets cancer, a son gets a divorce, innocent people die in a church shooting.  Our faith may weaken; our hope, fade; our love, chill.  Yet our God is full of surprises.  We can experience the presence of God even in the most destitute of times.  We need only to keep looking.  When in times of trouble have you stayed awake for the presence of God ?

 

 

 

In the Gospel for the Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus denounces the scribes and Pharisees for their pride.  He teaches his disciples about humility.  “The greatest among you must be your servant.  Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23: 11-12).  A humble person knows that all good comes from God and acts accordingly.  Christians thank God for all their blessings: family, health, possessions, and much more.  Inspired by the incredible loving generosity of God, Christians share themselves and what they have with others.  Parents share their lives with their children.  Healthcare workers share their medical skills with the sick.  Neighbors share meals with grief stricken neighbors.  Concerned citizens share their time by advocating for legislation that benefits the working poor, homeless veterans, hungry single-parent families, undocumented migrants, and others in need.  How do you humbly serve others?

 

 

 

In the Gospel for the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus answers the Pharisees’ question about paying taxes.  “Then they handed him the Roman coin.  He said to them, ‘Whose image is this and whose inscription?’  They replied, ‘Caesar’s.’  At that he said to them,  ‘Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God’ “(Matthew 22: 20-21).  Jesus answers his inquisitors that God’s claim on them is greater than  the state’s.  His answer makes me wonder what has a greater claim on me.  Do I trust more in God’s providence more than in my government’s protection?  In my paycheck or possessions?  In myself?  A heart enamored with possessions begets selfishness.  A heart full of gratitude for God’s overwhelming generosity inspires loving care for others.  To whom or what do you belong?

 

In the Gospel for the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus tells the Parable of the Marriage Feast.  Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a king who hosted a wedding feast for his son.  Since none of the invited guests showed up, he invited people from the streets.  “But when the king came in to meet the guests, he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.  The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it
that you came in here without a wedding garment?’  But he was reduced to silence.  Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’  Many are invited, but few are chosen’ ” (Matthew 22: 11-14).  The king treats this guest harshly.  Following Jesus demands more than accepting his invitation.  Christian conversion is a life long process requiring perseverance and dedication.  With God’s grace, we can accept the invitation daily.  How are your responding to God’s invitation today?

 

In the Gospel for the Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus tells the parable of the two sons.  One refuses to work in the vineyard for his father.  Then he changes his mind.  The other says “yes” and never does.  “[Jesus asks the chief priests and elders] ‘Which of the two did his father’s will?’  They answered, ‘The first.’  Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you’ ” (Matthew 21: 31).  The first son is like the public sinners who know they need repentance.  The second, the faith leaders who think they are righteous already.  I used to feel self righteous about being Catholic.  I did not need to know Jesus as my personal savior.  Pope Francis encourages all Catholics to have a personal encounter with Jesus.  We all need God’s mercy, Catholic or not.  When have you felt self-righteous?  When have you recognized your need for God’s mercy?