Homily for The Presentation of the Lord Sunday February 2, 2020

There are times when we all become consumed with longing–desires for an end to all the divisiveness in our nation. For all the problems in our weary world, we insist on visions of peace, we surrender to HOPE that reconciliation-true reconciliation between hostile peoples (yes, even in our families) will become realities; that all people will be free to know and Love God and their neighbor as themselves.  

This is the longing, the hope, the faith of Simeon and Anna, the elder wisdom figures in the temple to which Mary and Joseph brought the child Jesus for his Presentation and Dedication to God.  They grounded their lives on this longing, allowing their minds to keep focused on the blessings they experienced as part of a greater promise for all people.

We, too, our sorrows and disappointments notwithstanding, yes, even during these cynical times, must follow their example.  We must not capitulate to the angers of the day. 

This is especially important for those of us in our senior years because as we get older it gets easier and easier to hold on to memories of the negative events, the worst events of our lives.  Far more readily do bad memories enter our consciousness than those that savor the good times.  Today, on the Presentation of the Lord, we must reclaim the faith into which WE have been baptized.  We were baptized into the promises of Christ that all life is blessed.  God has brought us to this day for God’s good purposes.  Yes, we’ve had bad times, sorrowful times, but also times of blessing–experiences of true love for us and with others.  We must have faith that we will have these again.  

In this the early decades of the 21st century, Simeon and Anna must become our Patron Saints. They had difficult lives, lived to an old age, but they held on to hope.

Hope is what Simeon and Anna saw in the child Jesus –hope that God’s Will would, in God’s good time, become the lived reality of the nations.  Of course, their life experiences, like ours, brought them realistic expectations.  Simeon acknowledges that often enough the true longings of human hearts encounters opposition–“contradicted.”  Many people try the thwart the true, the good, the beautiful, often, but not always, because of their own sorrows and sufferings.

Simeon says this to Mary for the benefit of all.  He acknowledges the reality of evil while naming its antidote: live with humility and honesty so that “the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.” This means that identification with the sorrows of others will liberate evil from the world.  As we name a comprehensive TRUTH–the good and the bad from all sectors of God’s peoples–all perspectives—Grace will inspire us to take the next steps, the right steps forward.

 Saint Paul described this in his letter to the Corinthians: love entails that people will “not rejoice in what is wrong but rejoice only in the truth.’’ In John’s Gospel Jesus insists “The Truth Will Set You Free.”  As we come to the Eucharist today may we ask the Lord to strengthen us in the PROMISES OF CHRIST and truly believe and live confident that hope is eternal, and that hope is NOW for “THE KINGDOM IS AT HAND.”

Pity The Nation — # 1 and # 2 A Wake Up Call to America

PITY THE NATION – Kahil Gibran

Kahlil Gibran > Quotes > Quotable Quote

Kahlil Gibran
Kahil Gibran

“Pity the nation that is full of beliefs and empty of religion.
Pity the nation that wears a cloth it does not weave
and eats a bread it does not harvest.

Pity the nation that acclaims the bully as hero,
and that deems the glittering conqueror bountiful.

Pity a nation that despises a passion in its dream,
yet submits in its awakening.

Pity the nation that raises not its voice
save when it walks in a funeral,
boasts not except among its ruins,
and will rebel not save when its neck is laid
between the sword and the block.

Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox,
whose philosopher is a juggler,
and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking

Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpeting,
and farewells him with hooting,
only to welcome another with trumpeting again.

Pity the nation whose sages are dumb with years
and whose strongmen are yet in the cradle.

Pity the nation divided into fragments,
each fragment deeming itself a nation.”  
― Kahlil Gibran, The Garden of The Prophet

PITY THE NATION – Lawrence Ferlinghetti, American Poet Laureate (After Khalil Gibran)

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, left, at the Grolier Poetry Bookshop in Harvard Square, 1965, with Bookstore Owner Gordon Cairnie . Photo from http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Lawrence_Ferlinghetti

Pity the nation whose people are sheep
   And whose shepherds mislead them
 Pity the nation whose leaders are liars
            Whose sages are silenced
  And whose bigots haunt the airwaves
 Pity the nation that raises not its voice
          Except to praise conquerers
       And acclaim the bully as hero
          And aims to rule the world
              With force and by torture
          Pity the nation that knows
        No other language but its own
      And no other culture but its own
 Pity the nation whose breath is money
 And sleeps the sleep of the too well fed
      Pity the nation oh pity the people
        who allow their rights to  erode
   and their freedoms to be washed away
My country, tears of thee
                   Sweet land of liberty


Lawrence Ferlinghetti, American Poet

Lawrence Monsanto Ferlinghetti is an American poet, painter, social activist, and the co-founder of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers. He is the author of poetry, translations, fiction, theatre, art criticism, and film narration. Ferlinghetti is best known for his first collection of poems

http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Lawrence_Ferlinghetti

There is, of course, a SOLUTION, an ANTIDOTE to this realization: Christians may find it in the Gospel, Jews in the Books of the Prophets. Here’s my homily for Sunday, 2 February 2020:

The Presentation of the Lord Sunday 2 February 2020

There are times when we all become consumed with longing–desires for an end to all the divisiveness in our nation. For all the problems in our weary world, we insist on visions of peace, we surrender to HOPE that reconciliation-true reconciliation between hostile peoples (yes, even in our families) will become realities; that all people will be free to know and Love God and their neighbor as themselves.  

This is the longing, the hope, the faith of Simeon and Anna, the elder wisdom figures in the temple to which Mary and Joseph brought the child Jesus for his Presentation and Dedication to God.  They grounded their lives on this longing, allowing their minds to keep focused on the blessings they experienced as part of a greater promise for all people.

We, too, our sorrows and disappointments notwithstanding, yes, even during these cynical times, must follow their example.  We must not capitulate to the angers of the day. 

This is especially important for those of us in our senior years because as we get older it gets easier and easier to hold on to memories of the negative events, the worst events of our lives.  Far more readily do bad memories enter our consciousness than those that savor the good times.  Today, on the Presentation of the Lord, we must reclaim the faith into which WE have been baptized.  We were baptized into the promises of Christ that all life is blessed.  God has brought us to this day for God’s good purposes.  Yes, we’ve had bad times, sorrowful times, but also times of blessing–experiences of true love for us and with others.  We must have faith that we will have these again.  

In this the early decades of the 21st century, Simeon and Anna must become our Patron Saints. They had difficult lives, lived to an old age, but they held on to hope.

Hope is what Simeon and Anna saw in the child Jesus –hope that God’s Will would, in God’s good time, become the lived reality of the nations.  Of course, their life experiences, like ours, brought them realistic expectations.  Simeon acknowledges that often enough the true longings of human hearts encounters opposition–“contradicted.”  Many people try the thwart the true, the good, the beautiful, often, but not always, because of their own sorrows and sufferings.

Simeon says this to Mary for the benefit of all.  He acknowledges the reality of evil while naming its antidote: live with humility and honesty so that “the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.” This means that identification with the sorrows of others will liberate evil from the world.  As we name a comprehensive TRUTH–the good and the bad from all sectors of God’s peoples–all perspectives—Grace will inspire us to take the next steps, the right steps forward.

 Saint Paul described this in his letter to the Corinthians: love entails that people will “not rejoice in what is wrong but rejoice only in the truth.’’ In John’s Gospel Jesus insists “The Truth Will Set You Free.”  As we come to the Eucharist today may we ask the Lord to strengthen us in the PROMISES OF CHRIST and truly believe and live confident that hope is eternal, and that hope is NOW for “THE KINGDOM IS AT HAND.”

Annual Paulist Fathers Appeal

Today the Catholic Church commemorates the Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle – patron of the Paulist Fathers. I’ve been invited to preach the Annual Paulist Appeal that supports our lives and ministries here at our church in New York. I will be at two masses this weekend. Tonight at 5:15 and tomorrow Sunday at 8 AM. Other Paulists will be presiding and preaching at other masses. For those who follow me, I wanted to share my best effort. here it is:

Paulist Appeal 2020 by Father James DiLuzio C.S.P.
Most of you know that Saint Paul the Apostle parish is ministered by the Paulist Fathers, the first order of Catholic priests founded in the United States in 1858. Five priests–Isaac Hecker and four others –all converts to Catholicism—insisted we enhance the American Spirit with Catholic sensibilities. Paulists, then and now, strive to keep Catholics sustained in faith, hope and love amidst the strengths of American liberty and diversity and the reality of all human weaknesses.

I am here today for the Annual Paulist Appeal. Once again, asking for your financial support to maintain our lives and collaboration with you, the Catholic faithful. We are grateful to be blessed that so many of you work with us in our service to the Church and society. We hope and pray you do, indeed, appreciate our efforts and are willing and able to offer ongoing financial support.

What do Paulists offer this parish and other parishes, campus ministries and national offices in 15 cities throughout the country? Paulists value practical, relevant preaching. We apply the Gospel to everyday life. We honor dialogue. We listen. We appreciate where people are at.

Established in full devotion to the Holy Spirit, Paulists insist we recognize the good and beautiful in all people. By extension, we affirm the good in all faiths and cultures to lay the groundwork for the loving challenges Faith and true collaboration provide–challenges to ourselves and others to grow deeper in hope, cultivating virtue for our good and the good of our country and our world. As Jesus insisted: “lay a foundation on rock, so when the storms come, our spiritual homes will not be shaken.”

Our Catholic sensibilities reveal compassion as Christ’s foundation. The biblical evidence is abundant: Jesus had insight to the deepest longings in the human heart. Jesus looked upon the crowds with pity. Jesus fed the crowds, inspired the destitute, healed the sick, forgave the hate thrusted upon him on the Cross; offered Peace to those who abandoned Him. As Jesus was moved to compassion for Jew and Gentile alike, so must we be. Paulists model Jesus’ commitment to compassion by dedicating ourselves to the ministry of welcoming and reconciliation. Paulist are healers, offering reconciliation in and outside of the confessional. “Come as you are, for all are welcome.” This is the foundation of Paulist service, so essential in these times when our country and our world have become increasingly factious and divisive.

Paulists have much in common but our devotion to the Holy Spirit insists we attend to the unique individual gifts in each of us. We hope you experience us honoring the uniqueness within each of you. My ministry, for example, is considered unique. I am one of 7 Paulists missionaries to the U.S. — 7 out of the 114 Paulist Fathers worldwide. We visit Catholic parishes a week at a time, preaching at all weekend masses and offering weekday Mass and presentations morning and evenings for spiritual enrichment. My ministry is called Luke Live! – a semi-dramatic recitation of Luke’s Gospel in 4 specific missions that include preaching and Song Meditations (sacred and secular) to keep the Gospel in dialogue with our lives, our culture and contemporary issues.

This Paulist appeal supports three of our National Offices in need of your funding: the uniqueness of Busted Halo –a ministry to young adults (college and post-college) who may or may not be participating in Church life. It’s outreach that assures the new adult generation that the Church is here for them, welcoming and open to dialogue. Furthermore, YOU were the ones who inspired this outreach as so many of you came to us saying, “Help us get our college and post-college kids back to Church!”

Busted Halo has two platforms: a website BustedHalo.com with articles, videos and podcasts (and a talented lay staff of 4 extraordinary talented young adult women plus host of freelance writers) and a 2 hour weeknight program Monday through Friday on Sirius Radio’s Catholic Channel, produced and hosted by Fr. Dave Dwyer, who often presides and preaches here.

Your contributions will also support Openings, our NYC outreach to artists of all faiths, offering support and dialogue focused on the spiritual underpinnings of art and creativity, shepherded by Paulist Frank Sabatté, an artist himself. See his embroideries of Isaac Hecker, Saint Bernadette on back walls before you go. The third ministry is called LANDINGS International–-designed to train and support lay parishioners to welcome “on the fence Catholics” who need friendship and support as they consider returning to the sacramental life in the Church. Their numbers are legion.

We also need your support in more practical matters, the care of seniors– a growing group of almost 50 men aged 72 to 97 in need of room and board, medical care, fraternal and spiritual enrichment. I am pleased to report that many if not most are still at work, at least part time offering sacraments, missions, classes, support groups, and, of course, ongoing prayer for you and the Church as a whole. The average cost of care for each Senior Paulist Father is $53,000 per year. Perhaps your income enables you to support one of them this year. Whatever you can give, I know that you would want to thank them for over 50 years of service each.

This appeal also helps us educate and train our 10 Paulist students to assure our Paulist charism continues. Each student requires 4 to 5 full years of tuition at Catholic University plus a year of prayer, discernment, and some ministry in the DC area called “Novitiate Year.” In addition, we require students to have a year of pastoral experience before his ordination, to assure us that each has the opened mind and heart and welcoming spirit of the Paulist Fathers. The average cost of each Seminarian is $70,000 per year. All of this completely is subsidized by your support.

Your gift also subsidizes our Vocation Office. Our Director, Fr. Dat Tran, visits parishes and campus ministries throughout the USA to invite men to consider Paulist priesthood; he also offers several annual retreats with that resolve. We know you want more priests with the Paulist Spirit for not only this but future generations. Only you can make all this happen with your willingness to collaborate, to grow in faith with us, and your financial support.

Remember the Paulists, like all Religious Orders, were created and are sustained with the kindness and collaboration of the people. We hope you have come to believe in us as we believe in you –true and faithful servants of the Gospel. Paulist Appeal Envelopes have been mailed to all registered parishioners and for the rest, with faith and trust, we have placed more envelopes in the pews. You may contribute what you can today or better, take the envelope home for further prayer and discernment. If you choose to give today, please write your name and address on the outer envelope (pens are in the pews), so we thank you and you’ll have a record of your donation. You may consult our website http://www.paulist.org/ for more examples of our lives and make a monthly pledge on line to sustain us through the year. No contribution is too big or small.

Wherever you are on your faith journey, I hope you experience Paulist leadership as welcoming and accepting. We have entrusted our lives to the Eucharistic, all the sacraments and the best of the American spirit: “for the people” by the people, and with the people;” or, to us Church language: “Together in mission.” Isn’t this the kind of Priesthood you want to support? Please don’t give up on us! Thank you, thank you, with all our hearts. God bless you!

See Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/paulists/ and also http://www.paulist.org

WEST SIDE STORY now in Previews on Broadway – A Review

WEST SIDE STORY now in previews at the Broadway Theatre, directed by wunderkind Ivo Van Hove (The Crucible; A View From the Bridge) is electrifying. Its conceit is that it is both theatre and cinema – a nod to the youth and young adults of this generation always snapping selfies and recording life with their phone cameras.  The opening sequence offers movie screen size head shots on the back wall of the stage of each of the gang members, Jets and Sharks, as the actors stand in rows along the stage proscenium.  They’re no longer just “gangs,” but distinct individuals, each with their own angers and issues.  What a great way to introduce the “war of the immigrants verses the native born.” Van Hove cues the tension at the onset and it never lets up, giving this musical drama more Shakespearean dynamics than I have ever experience in previous productions, including the 1961 movie. Presented without an intermission, the drama of two young lovers thwarted by hate-filled rivalries maintains suspense throughout, holding the audience captive yet riveted.  

The cast of astounding young professionals is refreshingly multi-ethnic and there’s a nod to sexual diversity that firmly sets this West Side Story in the 21st Century.  These are young adults we recognize and with whom new generations should identify easily.

There are many standout performances beginning with Isaac Powell as Tony. He has a fine voice yet fittingly eschews it a few times here and there to convey a naturalism, almost conversational delivery suitable for a teenager who is meant to be both tough and tender. Shereen Pimentel, clearly trained in operatic vocal technique at Julliard, brings full bodied singing to her role as Maria and is especially good in the demanding “I Have a Love.” Both leads have the right look for their roles and act more playful and believably juvenile than many who have taken on these demanding roles in the past.  Dharon E. Jones as Riff in his Broadway debut and New York City ballet dancer Amar Ramasar as Bernardo (last seen to great effect in the revival of Carousel) perfectly inhabit their roles and astound with their dancing as do Yesinia Ayala as Anita and Elijah Carter as Action. 

The choreography inspired by the Jerome Robbins original but advanced to the steps of the modern age by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker is breathtaking and jaw droppingly executed by a first-rate ensemble. My only reservation here concerns the backwall video honing in on individual dancers or groups to the detriment of the full picture displayed by the terrific company on stage.

There are also some new bits of orchestration by Jonathan Tunick that bring a fresh feel and surprising nuance to the score, conducted with aplomb by Alexander Gemignani. Mr. Gemignani is more often seen on Broadway as a performer (Carousel, Les Miserable revivals) yet now follows the path his father (Paul), a frequent Broadway Musical Director and Conductor.  

Ivan Van Hove brings many thrilling touches to the staging.  I will not reveal them here so you will not be bereft of surprises when you go.  As the show is still in Previews until Opening Night February 20th, there may be more marvels in store. I recommend you get a feel for all that awaits by going to the show’s official website: https://westsidestorybway.com/    There you may get tickets directly from the venue and not second hand.  And I highly recommend that you go.  I may even return!

Homily for Sunday 19 January 2020 -KEEP MINDFUL OF "WHY" JESUS

Must it take me an entire day to consult commentaries and write a homily for Sunday? One would think after almost 27 years of priesthood an hour or two would be all that I would need! Nevertheless, I’m dependent on the Holy Spirit as the Spirit will utilize me and so I surrender and God keeps me humble. Here’s what I came up with:

Homily for the Second Sunday in Ordinary TimeFr. James DiLuzio C.S.P.
Every family seems to comprise an individual or two who love to brag about certain relations, be they sons or daughters, nieces or nephews. Oddly, they rarely praise the individual in person, only to other relatives. They weary us with the list of this one or that one’s virtues and accomplishments and we wonder, “how could anyone be so wonderful?” We begin to look at the objects of these effusive accolades with suspicion, discomfort at best, resentment at worst. The result: now there are two people we try to avoid: Uncle Charlie, Aunt Petunia AND poor cousin Mickey.


Who are these patriarchs, matriarchs trying to impress? Don’t they know goodness doesn’t lie in any individual alone, but that all is grace, and all good abilities and accomplishments are God’s gifts? No one is greater in God’s eyes, all belong, all are invited to salvation in which all good works are providential for God’s purposes, far greater than our own satisfaction or advancement.


That’s what makes John the Baptist’s words about Jesus so different. This isn’t bragging. This is acknowledging God is with us, God’s plan for humanity is in evidence. Prior to this moment, John simply knew Jesus as his cousin. Yes, he had heard of the prophecies, no doubt, but Remember there were many different interpretations of who and what MESSIAH would be. “I did not know him” refers not to John’s human knowledge but rather recognition and understanding of Jesus’ true role of redemption, Jesus’ salvific purpose. As John sees the Dove, the Spirit descend upon Jesus, he is inspired to see Jesus as God reveals Him, as God intended John and all of us to see.


As we return to the Church’s Season of “Ordinary Time,” we do well to see what John saw, to recognize the true Jesus, His true purpose; how the confirmation of eternal life in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection saves us from harming ourselves and others.
Christmas Season may be over, and Lent and Easter are not quite near, but in our everyday life we must carry the images of Christmas and Holy Week forever in our hearts. We must not ever stop being nurtured by the scene of Infant Jesus in the manger, surrounded by humble parents, poor shepherd and lowly animals. The symbols of the Nativity, the Crèche scene, must forever compel us not only to be in awe of Jesus, the Incarnation but suffer us to be in awe of every infant, every child, regardless of his or her social status or inheritance. Let the manger maintain in us reverence for all life, be it animal, vegetable or mineral, for all witness to God’s immeasurable Wisdom that divined the interconnectedness of all people and all things.


Of course, it’s easy to love every infant –well, for most people, it is. We do have a number of curmudgeons among us who value peace and contemplative silence above all things at home, at church, at supermarkets and elsewhere, forgetting that they once, too, screamed during the offertory, mother’s favorite tv program or giggled at the teacher trying so hard to achieve some sense of decorum. Still, our love and gratitude for children, must easily be extended to the beauty of the earth, the majesty of the animals domestic and wild, the necessity of trees—their gift of oxygen, the waterways—especially fresh water to drink, the honeybees pollinating the fruits we eat and everything else that contributes to our being. After all, all played their part in bringing humanity into being, furnishing the elements on their way to their consummation and fulfilment in Christ Jesus, the WORD INCARNATED that initiated creation and continues to sustain it and all of us unto eternity.
Gratitude for Jesus is Gratitude for all, and thankfulness is the best way to get through this day and any day. Yet, life also is suffering and that’s why we must keep the Cross and Easter balanced with our Christmas inspirations.


Seeing Jesus on the Cross we must not only be reminded that He died for us, be convinced of His love for us, but to see how we individually and collectively as a society perpetuate suffering – suffering of the innocent as He was—and by extension, the weak, the lonely and vulnerable (there’s that baby in a manger again) but all suffering– be it among the good or the wicked, for as Jesus said in Luke’s Gospel, “God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked,” never causing evil but alleviating it for all who turn to him and cooperate with His grace. Yes, the crucifix does expose the sins of the world but remember, exposed in order to forgive them –mercy being the only antidote to sin, the only way life is rejuvenated, resurrected, redeemed, the only way earthly life continues toward eternal life. As we explored last week, Jesus insisted John baptize him, saying, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness” —revealing righteousness as the Mercy of God toward all, not just an elect few.


Do we recognize all this in Jesus as John the Baptist did on that holy day? Do we intend through meditation and prayer and thanksgiving and participation in the Sacraments to see every day as holy, every person, every aspect of God’s good earth holy and precious and important? When we do, we join with John the Baptist in recognizing Christ With US and witnessing to the truth that Jesus as the Son of God makes a difference for us in how we think, how we see, how we live, what we eat and how we eat it on a daily basis, not just particular times of the year. We need to see more than bread and wine when we come to the table this morning. That’s for sure! Welcome back to “Ordinary Time.”

Movie Review: Little Women, a film by Greta Gerwig

Men must see the film LITTLE WOMEN currently in theatres (Opened Christmas Day).

 I just got back from seeing LITTLE WOMEN for the second time and, once again, I was so captivated by the performances and the beauty of the film. I enjoyed it even more the second time. It is a timeless story about family, togetherness, hope and ambition and mostly about love in all its many forms. Though I am blessed and content as a celibate priest there were moments in the film that I simply melted witnessing how feminine energy can captivate a person and how easy it would be to fall in love with any of the March women. There are a couple moments in the film where you see the male characters standing at attention in awe of the interaction of mother and daughters. The moments are priceless and I daresay must prove indicative of most people’s reaction to the movie.

A note to married men and those seeking marriage: You will appreciate your wife and woman friend all the more after seeing this movie: The Wonder of the Feminine” is in full display here –its strengths, its solidarity, its honesty about the friendship and competition among sisters–not so unlike that of brothers (Surprise!) and their love for men in the special sense of all humankind but also their appreciation and respect for the marked differences between us.


This new film written and directed by Greta Gerwig also highlights the way echoes of the 19th Century limitations upon women continually need to be addressed for men and women in society today for we are not yet true partners at home, at work nor in our collective mission to make this a better world, lovingly, respectfully and with integrity. There’s also some important social commentary about the proper and improper use of wealth but I’ll let Meryl Streep’s characterization of Aunt March spell that out for you. (Streep is amazing as always in a significantly minor role.)

All performances are luminous and completely “right,” but three stand out for me:  Saoirse Ronan as Jo, Florence Pugh as Amy and Laura Dern as “Marmee” (“mother”).   Timothée Chalamet as Laurie, (“the boy next store” and devoted friend) is also excellent, especially in the scene he confesses undying love to Jo.  Gerwig’s script gives them great opportunities to be “REAL” and the way the script and editing move back and from within a seven-year time period adds layers of perspective that adds to the insights this family drama offers.  Cinematography, Set Design and Costumes are A+. A fine score, too, by Alexander Desplat.


GO SEE THIS MOVIE with as many men and women and young people as you can. I’d say age 10 and up. And then read the book and DISCUSS it with women and men, boys and girls because it is not only about girlhood, womanhood but about life and death, love and ambition, inner and outer conflicts, timidity and boldness–i.e. it’s for everyone. I believe it needs to be back on the school’s reading lists, too. When I was a student teacher long ago, I put it on my reading list for high school freshmen but didn’t get the chance to teach it. Perhaps it would have become a deterrent to my vocation. Evidently God had other plans for me, but I shall continue to appreciate and enjoy the story and the women in my life always and always.

Homily for The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord 12 January 2020

Here’s the Scripture Readings:

Reading 1 IS 42:1-4, 6-7

Thus says the LORD:
Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
upon whom I have put my spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations,
not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street.
a bruised reed he shall not break,
and a smouldering wick he shall not quench,
until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands will wait for his teaching.

I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10

R/ (11b)  The Lord will bless his people with peace.
Give to the LORD, you sons of God,
give to the LORD glory and praise,
Give to the LORD the glory due his name;
adore the LORD in holy attire.
R/ The Lord will bless his people with peace.
The voice of the LORD is over the waters,
the LORD, over vast waters.
The voice of the LORD is mighty;
the voice of the LORD is majestic.
R/ The Lord will bless his people with peace.
The God of glory thunders,
and in his temple all say, “Glory!”
The LORD is enthroned above the flood;
the LORD is enthroned as king forever.
R/ The Lord will bless his people with peace.

Reading 2 ACTS 10:34-38

Peter proceeded to speak to those gathered
in the house of Cornelius, saying:
“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.
Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly
is acceptable to him.
You know the word that he sent to the Israelites
as he proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all,
what has happened all over Judea,
beginning in Galilee after the baptism
that John preached,
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth
with the Holy Spirit and power.
He went about doing good
and healing all those oppressed by the devil,
for God was with him.”

Alleluia  MK 9:7

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The heavens were opened, and the voice of the Father thundered:
This is my beloved Son, listen to him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel   MT 3:13-17

Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan
to be baptized by him.
John tried to prevent him, saying,
“I need to be baptized by you,
and yet you are coming to me?”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us
to fulfil all righteousness.”
Then he allowed him.
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.
And a voice came from the heavens, saying,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

We’re leaving a Season of Symbols – Evergreens representing God’s eternal, undying love will be grounded into mulch or used to stabilize sand dunes in beach communities; twinkling lights that witness to Christ as the light of the world withdrawn to attics and corner closets; candles, the burning fire of the Holy Spirit– snuffed out. Poinsettias–plants with striking red leaves branching out in star-like fashion akin to the Star of Bethlehem—perhaps lingering longer in homes and churches than the other signs, might provide us with a remnant of  Christmas Spirit to carry us through the mischief of March and the coming of Lent.  Oh, Lent!  Those perennial forty days that annually insist we repent for not keeping Jesus close, not letting Jesus guide us in all aspects of our lives, asking, “Why is your manger vacant?”

Yes, the Christmas Season concludes this weekend, but not without offering one more Christian symbol, this one perpetual and unchanging: Baptismal water. The Baptism of the Lord is the fourth and final of the “First, Initial Epiphanies” of Jesus’ manifestation to the world.  First: His birth set before lowly shepherds and innocent of animals. Second:  his presentation in the temple to people of faith—Simeon and Anna who lived, longed for rejuvenation, “new hope” in “God. The third Epiphany: Magi, models of the world’s Wisdom figures seeking eternal truths worshiping Jesus. The Magi—representatives of all discontented Gentiles drawn to Judaism’s God—THE GOD who created the cosmos not through the riotous and ravenous warfare as in most pagan world’s religion or atheism’s accusations through some cruel and indifferent power, but out of infinite, all-consuming love.  The fourth “First” is Jesus’ Baptism through which the Christ inaugurated his public ministry.   

That Jesus submitted to Baptism is but an extension of his submission to human nature.  So deeply united to humankind, Jesus identifies fully even with human sin, though He Himself was completely innocent and without sin.  Through Baptism, Jesus attested to the power sin holds over humanity while offering a way out–a remedy to sin’s oppression. And what are these “sins,” rooted in the primordial evil pulling humankind away from God?  Nothing more or less than the world’s compulsion to advance at the expense of others; arrogance and pride that denigrates the weak and the lowly; hate and prejudice leading to violence and murder, sacrificing others—often innocent others—to manifest human will against God’s will.  Jesus enters the waters to show that  in the words of the prophet Hosea, “God desires mercy, not sacrifice,”  i.e., mercy toward the guilty and innocent alike for only mercy, only compassion will establish the reign of Peace that is God’s justice, not human justice. Remember when all humanity’s sins were exposed on the Cross, Jesus offered mercy.

Through Baptism Jesus offered the fullness of God’s mercy to the nations. As the prophet Isaiah foretold, Jesus is “the Chosen One,” in complete possession of God’s spirt – a spirit that does not demean or diminish anyone.  That is the meaning of Isaiah’s words “a bruised reed he shall not break, and a smouldering wick he shall not quench”  In modern parlance, Jesus would never kick a dog when its down, or prey upon the weak to make Himself powerful or give himself advantage.  Through Baptism He invites us to trust in compassion as God’s reality–THE Christian reality– and to participate in it.  It’s time we face it: most of the worlds’ history is a story of the powerful sacrificing the weak – be they children or women or people with darker skins or people who don’t fit any consensus of attractiveness or conventional wisdom.  It’s time we repent.  We must re-appropriate our Baptismal charism and start over.  This is the great challenge of the 21st century.  It’s now or never.    

And it is our Baptism that give us hope, assuring us God’s mercy is forever.  Baptism invites us to be courageous and humble.  Let God’s will, not our will, win out–not populism, nationalism, racism, ethnocentrism, antisemitism or any other “ism.”  God puts people first. God puts Mercy first. It’s time we are shocked into Baptism’s deeper reality and submit to it.  This is how the fullness of the Christmas Story will brace us to face the new year. 

Whether it’s the teacher unkind or cruel to a student, a manager demeaning his crew, a spouse impatient and unfeeling, a politician snidely dismissing one ethnic group or another, world leaders out for themselves and their constituencies with no consideration for their neighbours, businesses with no concerns for their impact on local communities, Church leaders who protect themselves against the innocent and  the poor–ONLY REPENTANCE AND SURRENDER T0 GOD’S MERCY WILL TRANSFORM MINDS, HEARTS, NEIGHBOURHOODS AND NATIONS.

Follow Jesus through the water of life again and again, a life force perpetuated for us through frequent Eucharist and, when needed, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, offer us the grace to let go of our resentments, humble ourselves to offer mutual repentance for society’s sins and invite reciprocal learning and shared responsibility.  Of course, we must hold people accountable for their sins yet not without supporting them in mending their ways, helping them accept the consequences of their actions, remedying the situations together without blame, malice or rancour. Why?  Because no wrongdoing emerges from a vacuum but rather erupts from a convergence of many personalities and many situations left un-mended, unattended to or outright ignored.  That is why we needed a Saviour and still need one.

The more we participate in mercy –putting ourselves in the place of others, walking in their shoes, patiently working towards understanding and exploring choices of genuine mutual benefit and sacrifice (for all live by God’s mercy)—the more true Christianity becomes a viable way of life for the world’s consideration.  

The Gospel insists that Jesus fulfilled this righteousness (right way to live/ God’s way to live), inaugurating it through His Baptism because only Mercy empower us to start our lives over, beyond guilt, remorse, regret, revenge to live in the present moment with hope.  Baptism and our Sacramental life provide us with the grace we need to let God’s will work through us to make a better present, a better future. Yes, the Christmas lights have dimmed, but remember Jesus has made you light for the world. Think of that each time you dip your fingers into the Holy Water fonts—for that water is the water of our Baptism, the water of fullness of life and peace and joy, the true Spirit of Christmas.