Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

 Homily by Fr. James DiLuzio CSP (Biblical Readings follow at the end of the homily.)

Long before Freud, Psychiatry, Behavioral Sciences and Psychology, there was the Bible with precepts and laws to govern human behavior.  Evidently, we humans think of anything and everything and thus required mandates and prohibitions from on high: Do this, don’t do that!  Then, as now, guidelines remain essential for humanity’s survival.  God mandates that we all get along. 

Moreover, our Covenant with God insists we have a future to build, goals to achieve. From the beginning, God, in God’s infinite Wisdom, desired human participation in building an earthly kingdom to prepare every person for heaven.  Whether we like it or not, Cooperation with God and Reverence for all God’s creation –people, animals, nature, things– have been, and always will be, part of God’s plan. 

The Signs of our Times demand this.  We can no longer perpetuate the sins of our ancestors. Nor can we afford to succumb to neglect of vital issues they ignored. We were baptized into “kingdom building:” Each of us destined to make our mark advancing equality, justice with mercy.  Our Eucharistic Spirituality insists “everyone belongs,” everyone is respected.  Cultures may separate us.  Economies and politics divide us. But Jesus unites us.  Remember, Our Savior never accepted the status quo, never defaulted to convenience and comfort when improvements could be made.  He insisted on new wine poured into new wineskins, knowing full well that, without his help, our fallible nature will keep us cultivating the old.

Yes, Jesus acquainted Himself with temptation for our sake. He understood the allures of self-aggrandizement, and one-upmanship.  He knew well that we prefer comfort and security at the expense of integrity and hope.  He knew we would sin; He knew we cause harm to ourselves and others. Therefore, he insisted that we reconcile with one another—never lording another’s faults or flaws or wickedness over him or her, but instead,  acknowledging our own temptations as we strive to  reconcile wrongdoers to the better way: the 10 Commandments and the Beatitudes.  These are our litmus tests for our behavior and everyone else’s.  We must hold ourselves and others accountable if we are ever to move forward to a true communion of Saints.  But we must not be “holier than thou” for    condescension and condemnation never win over anyone.

Today’s Readings remind us we are to warn the wicked to turn from evil ways while making every effort not to become wicked ourselves.  Who among us has not been betrayed?  Who hasn’t been put down, scorned, unforgiven?  Whose most cherished beliefs and values have not been dismissed or scorned? Evil beckons whenever these affronts occur. We must remember what Jesus knew 2,000 years ago:   Because everyone suffers, deal with the suffering others cause by addressing one problem at a time, one person at a time.   That is the most humbling approach; only true humility will work things out.

Naturally, it is easier to be humble with people we know and love.  When we witness wrongdoing, when we or others we care about get hurt, we usually need to vent first –expunge the anger, the outrage, the hurt so that we may cool off.  It is fitting, then, to vent to God and to loved ones before we address our offenders.  Still, we are obliged to let them know not only that the Church expect better of them, but that we know they are capable of better behavior.  Trusting in another person’s better self is the way to broach wrongdoing.  As disciples In Christ, it is the only way.

Of course, when dealing with people we do not love, Jesus’ prescription is next to impossible to follow on our own.  It is especially difficult with people who have authority over us -a manager, a boss, a benefactor.  In fairness, if we do not feel safe –-emotionally or physically, one-on-one reconciliation can be unworkable without the help of others.  Thankfully, Jesus says, “take one or two along with you.”  Thank God those folks are in our lives!  But even then, the step we often miss, or refuse to take, before we attempt to reconcile is prayer—praying alone and with those who support us. Prayer will fortify us to move forward. Notice how Jesus’ precept on reconciliation concludes with his insistence on prayer.     

Prayer will prepare us to handle uncontrite offenders by placing us in solidarity with Jesus on the cross, who, out of compassion, forgave the unrepentant. And although we may need to start with “pity,” (the lesser cousin of compassion), prayer, and perseverance in prayer, will, in time, move pity to empathy. For isn’t it sad when we are, or anyone is, mean?  Isn’t it a shame that people can choose to hurt, to offend, cause harm to any person, to any animal, to anything on which goodness, truth and health depend?  Isn’t it a pity when we denigrate our being made-in-God’s-image by clinging so tightly to the past that we refuse to move forward to advance human destiny toward the Kingdom of God?

Pity may be the pivotal point of redemption for reconciliation and getting along. Was not compassion for sinners the reason for Jesus’ incarnation?  We must cultivate a daily consciousness that we are always in need of a Savior and embrace the Thanksgiving in this and every Eucharist.   Without Jesus, we have no true humility. Without humility we find little recourse to prayer. Without prayer, we have little pity for the sinner—be it our own sins or anyone else’s.  So, let us pray:  

“For every person our lives have touched, for every person whose life has touched ours, for good and for ill, whether known or unknown to us, Lord, have pity!  Strengthen the gifts of Your Holy Spirt in us.  Nurture us in patience and humility that inspire reconciliation, and sustain us in faith, hope, and love.  Let Your Kingdom come.”

Lectionary: 127

Reading 1

EZ 33:7-9

Thus says the LORD:
You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel;
when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me.
If I tell the wicked, “O wicked one, you shall surely die, ”
and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way,
the wicked shall die for his guilt,
but I will hold you responsible for his death.
But if you warn the wicked,
trying to turn him from his way,
and he refuses to turn from his way,
he shall die for his guilt,
but you shall save yourself.

Responsorial Psalm

PS 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9

R. (8) If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works.”
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Reading 2

ROM 13:8-10

Brothers and sisters:
Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another;
for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery;
you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet, ”
and whatever other commandment there may be,
are summed up in this saying, namely,
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 
Love does no evil to the neighbor;
hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.

Alleluia

2 COR 5:19

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ
and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel

MT 18:15-20

Jesus said to his disciples:
“If your brother sins against you,
go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. 
If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.
If he does not listen,
take one or two others along with you,
so that ‘every fact may be established
on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’
If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. 
If he refuses to listen even to the church,
then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.
Amen, I say to you,
whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Again, amen, I say to you,
if two of you agree on earth
about anything for which they are to pray,
it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. 
For where two or three are gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them.”

Exploring Feelings of Oppression

Commentary and Questions Prepared for you by FR. James DiLuzio CSP

Reflecting on Zechariah and Elizabeth’s situation in Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 1, vs 5 through 25, I invite you to identify with the way they and those hearing or reading Luke’s Gospel were experiencing oppressions.

  • Oppressed as a childless couple, stigmatized in an ancient culture
  • Oppressed as a people conquered by the Roman Empire and formerly oppressed by other empires
  • Oppressed by not having citizenship, deprived of all the rights and liberties thereof
  • Oppressed by fear their religious traditions will be compromised by Rome’s official religions and/or that the religious freedom they enjoyed could be taken away

To feel oppressed is to feel “put upon,” to be denied a say in what impacts you.  It can mean feeling taken for granted in ways that evoke a sense of helplessness and loss of basic human dignity.  It can mean living in fear, under the threat of violence, imprisonment or death. One may be oppressed by the economy, social mores, unjust laws, or oppressed by people in authority—an unreasonable boss, an overbearing teacher or team leader—or even feel oppressed, taken for granted, by family members and friends.   Knowing as we do that marriage in today’s Church and in modern societies is understood as a true partnership of equals—male and female, still, how often we hear one spouse say to another, “Why is it we always have to do things YOUR way . . . DEAR?”  So now, focus your group on these three questions.

1.  What do you imagine it would be like to live in an occupied country, or to live in your own country with lack of citizenship? Explain.

2. In what ways might you feel “oppressed” in your current life situation?”  

3.  What may be some of the most productive ways you and others can address your feelings of oppression?  Some resources such as “Non-Violent Communication Skills” are featured on the web.  You’ll find some suggestions in the footnote below.[1]

4. Does naming your personal oppressions enhance or detract from your ability to enter into this part of the Gospel and other stories like it?  Please explain.

5. Does naming your personal oppressions enhance or detract from your ability to empathize with other oppressed people?

6. Explore the topic of Religious Freedom.  How important is “religious freedom” to you?  What about religious expression?  For example, what is your opinion regarding displaying personal, religious symbols in public? And, what feelings are evoked within you as you discuss this topic? It would be best to start with how you “feel,” before you go into the topic.

7. To what extent is a person entitled to freedom of religious expression in the workplace?  What is your opinion? What ethical principle grounds your opinion? For example, you could say, “The Golden Rule,” or “The Platinum Rule,” or “The US Bill of Rights.” Or perhaps you ground your opinion in a political philosophy, or a passage from the Bible, whether it is TANAKH (the formal name for the Jewish Bible) or the Christian Bible, Koran, other religious source, or, perhaps, some combination thereof.

Would you like a PDF copy of these Questions to print out for Small Groups or Personal Reflection? Write to jamesdiluzio@hotmail.com I’ll be happy to send it to you God bless!


[1] http://www.nonviolentcommunication.com/aboutnvc/4partprocess.htm

https://www.cnvc.org/Training/10-steps-peace                

http://www.theccnv.org/

https://www.wikihow.com/Practice-Nonviolent-Communication

HOMILY FOR 18TH SUNDAY OF Ordinary Time

2 August 2020 by Father James DiLuzio CSP NOTE: Scripture Readings are cited below and featured in their entirety at the end of the homily

Reading 1  IS 55:1-3 Responsorial Psalm    PS 145:8-9, 15-16, 17-1 Reading 2 ROM 8:35, 37-39 Gospel MT MT 14:13-21

We are into our sixth month of the corona virus pandemic and (to quote the prophet Jeremiah) “our teeth are set on edge.”  We would love it if all our prayer, all the masses we’ve attended sitting in alternate pews, covering our faces with masks or, sharing in spiritual communion online—if all this prayer would keep us centered In Jesus. That is why we are here today, isn’t it? So that Jesus’ love for us and for the world will ground us in SERENITY to prevent us from caving into despair over difficult situations and/or difficult people.

We have so many spiritual resources at our disposal, and yet, reading or watching the news, can fill us with anxieties, fears, and hopelessness. Isaiah cried out “Come to the Waters!” but we feel our thirsts are not quenched.  Not because this pandemic prohibits Holy Water in our founts, but we let the troubles of our times diminish the indelible marks of our Baptisms. Today I propose we reclaim our Baptismal identities as God’s people, empowered by the Spirit to be Christ’s ministers to our wounded world. Today why not re-commit ourselves to God who offers us the equilibrium to be Christ-bearers—a people who, like our Savior offering a miraculous multiplication of loaves and fishes to a hungry crowd, disciples who care enough to pay attention to our African American neighbors’ cries for justice to join them in establishing a more equitable nation?

Remember Jesus incarnated “Peace Be with You” during the great Roman occupation of half the European, North African, and Middle Eastern world.  Yes, like our nation today, Rome offered history a legacy of centuries of grandeur but centuries of great suffering and oppression, too. And in one among many of thousands of examples of following Jesus, of persevering faith in difficult times, sixteen hundred years after Our Lord walked upon this earth, one of his disciples, Saint Teresa of Avilla wrote:    Let nothing disturb thee, let nothing affright thee. All things are passing. Patience obtains all things. He who has God has everything – God alone suffices.”

Teresa wrote this in the era of the Reformation, of Religious Wars, Political Chaos–the European map was in free fall in her day–and the INQUISITION was reinvigorated to threaten almost everyone –including her!

I suggest we plead with God today for constancy amidst the social movements of our time, so we can collaborate for change.  We can say “Yes,” to gender equality, equal pay for equal work, and school systems and work environments that truly offer equal opportunity for all, and a justice and prison system that offers reform and rehabilitation instead of dehumanizing, soul crushing castigation.  

Everyone in church today and those participating at home have so many Spiritual Gifts bestowed upon us, but let’s admit it:  we do not access these graces enough.  Even though many of us are able to work amid this pandemic; many have resources enough to see us through better days, we don’t let the Spirit enliven us! In light of this Gospel of Jesus’ pity for the crowds, we must THINK of those whose workplaces are closed, who are relying on unemployment (which may soon end) or who are dependent on resources for basic needs that may be withheld. We must see their full humanity akin to our own that acknowledges their inner struggles–wrestling matches of pride with need, dignity with want and the corresponding judgments from within their own souls as well as those outward judgments, condescension and cruelty thrusted upon them by too many sectors of our  society.

Think of those who may have work but are clearly not in a “safe environment”” either due to lack of health precautions or because of sub-standard working conditions; jobs that our government labeled “essential” but exist in un-evaluated conditions. And think of those who are assumed guilty when attempting only to exercise their rights, both God-given and legal.  

The words of former congressman John Lewis’ post-mortem message continually ring in my ears about the terror of racism’s impact on his childhood— America’s racism had the power to turn a simple stroll to the store for some Skittles or an innocent morning jog down a lonesome country road into a nightmare.” Is not Jesus’ pity and mercy applicable to all those forced to live in a State of the Union such as that?  For what was experienced years ago by Congressman John Lewis continues to be experienced today by all too many people whose skin shades are of a darker hue than most of us sitting in these pews.

Today, Jesus’ pity must motivate us to pity and to the kind of action that mirrors miraculous multiplication of loaves.  We’re so used to making distinctions among peoples based on money, prestige, celebrity, cultural preferences and ethnicities that these way heavy on our national psyches. It’s time we reject this way of thinking! Jesus didn’t divide the crowds into “first class, business class” or any other class. He fed them all. We keep hearing the adage “We’re all in this together,” but, my dear friends, Jesus, the Eucharist and this Gospel have been telling us that for 2,020 years.

Eighteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 112

Reading 1  IS 55:1-3

Thus says the LORD:
All you who are thirsty,
come to the water!
You who have no money,
come, receive grain and eat;
Come, without paying and without cost,
drink wine and milk!
Why spend your money for what is not bread;
your wages for what fails to satisfy?
Heed me, and you shall eat well,
you shall delight in rich fare.
Come to me heedfully,
listen, that you may have life.
I will renew with you the everlasting covenant,
the benefits assured to David.

Responsorial Psalm    PS 145:8-9, 15-16, 17-1

R. (cf. 16) The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.
The LORD is gracious and merciful,    
    slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is good to all
    and compassionate toward all his works.
R. The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.
The eyes of all look hopefully to you,
    and you give them their food in due season;
you open your hand
    and satisfy the desire of every living thing.
R. The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.
The LORD is just in all his ways
    and holy in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call upon him,
    to all who call upon him in truth.
R. The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.

Reading 2 ROM 8:35, 37-39

Brothers and sisters:
What will separate us from the love of Christ?
Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine,
or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?
No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly
through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities,
nor present things, nor future things,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor any other creature will be able to separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Alleluia MT

R.    Alleluia, alleluia.
One does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God
R.    Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT MT 14:13-21

When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist,
he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.
The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns.
When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.  
When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said,
“This is a deserted place and it is already late;
dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages
and buy food for themselves.”
Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away;
give them some food yourselves.”
But they said to him,
“Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.”
Then he said, “Bring them here to me, ”
and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass.
Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven,
he said the blessing, broke the loaves,
and gave them to the disciples,
who in turn gave them to the crowds.
They all ate and were satisfied,
and they picked up the fragments left over—
twelve wicker baskets full.
Those who ate were about five thousand men,
not counting women and children.

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.”

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.

Christ Now!

Homily for Thirty-Third Sunday In Ordinary Time November 2019

6 AM New York City. Wednesday November 13th. Twenty-three degrees Fahrenheit with a windchill well below that found a hundred or more  young women and teens lining along Avenue of the Americas at 48th Street in Manhattan.  Back packs stuffed and overflowing; sleeping bags and suitcases at their feet, these adventurous folks were forming a queue for standby tickets for Saturday Night Live at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. It was only Wednesday morning, but unreserved tickets and cancellations won’t be available until 7 AM Saturday November 16th.  The queue gets longer as the day wears on. Temperature rises to 36 degrees, but nighttime drops to 23. Thursday’s temperatures: 28 low; 45 high but nighttime drops to 37; Friday warmed up to 50 at noon; 36 at night. Saturday at 6 AM: 34.

Great Expectations. Awe inspired Anticipation. Why?  Harry Styles, British pop star will be the host.  He looks a little bit like a young, vibrant, drug-free Mick Jagger. Neither wind, nor chill, nor sleeping bags on frigid sidewalk concrete deterred the anxious throng. 

How prepared are we–how undeterred– to keep our sights on Jesus not only through the vagaries of weather, but sickness and health, good news and bad news?

A glance at the news evokes images not unlike those Jesus offers in Luke’s Gospel:  wars and insurrections, famines —starving children and families still cry out in Yemen due to Saudi Arabia and Syria’s political interventions, and the  protests in Hong Kong may have abetted a bit, but there’s no true reconciliation in sight.   And then, of course, there are our contemporary tragedies analogous to earthquakes:  Fires and school shooting in California and melting glaciers on the poles.

All these things require people of faith to center ourselves more fully in Christ.  When fundamentalist Christians challenge us by asking “Have you accepted Jesus as your Personal Lord and Savior?” it’s time we, too, shout “YES!” And , insist that we are striving to develop the relationship every day. 

Every age has its challenges and every age requires Christians to understand Jesus as Sacrament –the Sacred Manifested in the world and in us.  Our sacraments cultivate the relationship but are not ends in themselves –never were, nor were they intended to be but confirmation of a 24/7 relationship. 

Without Jesus and our attentiveness to prayer to and through Him and with and through His Very Own Communion with His Saints –expressions of Jesus Himself in different epochs, different situations—each offering some inspiration of cooperation with grace—without these, how can we possibly navigate the challenges of our times?

 False prophets are everywhere–asserting prosperity beyond our imagining, “consequence-free” gratification of all kinds or, conversely,  cataclysmic doom.  How easy it is, at times, to give into these fears or try to escape from realities and abandon Jesus because we think He asks much of us!  But what he asks of us, is what he freely gives: the grace to cultivate  honesty, truth, forbearance, hope, trust.  And more than that, He is ever ready to heal and support us when we fail.

It is time that we let Jesus be enough for us –allow Jesus to be all in all in us. Seeing Him as our friend, our patron, our mentor, linking the events of our lives with the events of His life and that of the Saints. As Saint Paul wrote “imitate me” because he imitates Christ. May the Anima Christi prayer be our mantra, today, tomorrow and all the days of our lives.  Then we have nothing to fear. Moreover, we have the courage to engage one another in making this a better world, all in Christ’s name.   And so we pray:

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O Good Jesus, hear me.
Within Thy wounds hide me.
Suffer me not to be separated from thee.
From the malignant enemy defend me.
In the hour of my death call me.
And bid me come unto Thee,
That with all Thy saints,
I may praise thee
Forever and ever.
Amen.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every one who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of the Christ.
May your salvation, Lord, be ever with us.

Homily for 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time –Invest in Faith: There’s a Great Pay-Off!

Reading 1:   Wis 9:13-18b     Responsorial Psalm   Ps 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14 and 17  

Reading 2     Phmn 9-10, 12-17    Gospel    Lk 14:25-33

By this time in our history, what Catholic doesn’t know when Jesus states “You must hate your father, mother, wife, children, brother, sister if you are to follow me”  he used hyperbole / exaggeration to express that we must love God first above all others.  If not, we tend to love family and friends selfishly, manipulatively, with jealousy or envy or with inflated pride or too much criticism.  Following Jesus first, we see our loved ones as Jesus sees them, love them as Jesus loves them, support them as much as we can mirror Jesus’  support—i.e., loving them while insisting on the Two Great Commandments which foster honesty, humility, forgiveness, and courage to repair any damage that we’ve done.   As for “hating even our lives,” of course, we must always be GRATEFUL for our lives, for being invited to share in Jesus’ life, his mission, cultivating his perspectives in how we interact with the world.  What we need “to hate”  is our tendency to default to society’s ways of valuing us – our looks, our possessions, our neighborhoods, our needs for other’s approval.  Grateful that we may have these things but not resentful that we may not.

In the NYTIMES Sunday Arts section today, there’s an insightful interview with Linda Ronstadt, a very popular recording artist of the 1970 and 80’s , now retired and, it seems, living gracefully with Parkinson’s disease.  Regarding her unique recordings of Mexican songs when bringing Spanish into mainstream pop was extremely rare, her interviewer asked her:  ““When critics talk about the pop artists who brought music from outside the U.S. or U.K. to the pop mainstream, they mention Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel, not you. Is that frustrating?  HER RESPONSE:  Who cares? My music is not curing cancer. It will be gone soon enough.

That, my friends is a shining example of being thankful for our lives and talents while being humble and keeping the big picture –whether we ever get our name in a newspaper or our YouTube posts go viral. 

Following Jesus, picking up our cross—i.e. accepting trials and conflicts and difficulties as challenges, opportunities for grace, and being “ever-ready,” “prepared,” “prudent,” eager to learn is the theme for our Eucharist today.  And, I know, how often we may not feel any of that.  Remember, each Mass is here to return us to hope, to courage—to trust in Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life.  I know that not all family, friends and co-workers support us in these beliefs and endeavors.   Many chide, or ridicule us for going to Mass, or for remaining Catholic, or for believing in God.  Others are quick to lord it over us when we do something harmful or indulge our tempers or hurt ourselves or another human being. It is then that we must humbly acknowledge how dependent we are on Christ and His Story of forgiveness, for reconciliation, for courage to admit our wrongs and make amends.  Today’s Eucharist offers us that, too.  Thank God!

And yes, the Church as institution has given us plenty of reasons to judge it, to even hate it.  Yet today and everyday Jesus gives us the grace to hold it accountable with faith and hope, loving it back to its true self and reinstating it to its primordial purpose. Hey, if not  you and me, who?

So, may we not despair that only some of us among family, friends and neighbors have chosen to celebrate Jesus in us and for us today. We never know when the deposit of Grace bestowed on in any given Eucharist will bear fruit  — even when we may not be conscious of it.  I’ll close with what I hope is for you a shining example –an inspiration—as to the possibilities, the grace in store for us precisely because we’re here, cultivating our friendship with God and all that entails.

One day, a certain dad indulged his dark side in ways that were deeply demeaning to his adult daughter.  She found herself brimming with rage.  But a voice within, however, pleaded with her: “Postpone your wrath!”  “Postpone your wrath!” What Eucharist do you think that came from?  “Anyway,” she pacified herself with this thought, “I’ll plot my revenge at a later date.“

As the days went by, the incident replayed repeatedly in her mind, evoking the worst of all her childhood and adult memories.  She’d see her father’s face before her and cringe and craze.  And then it happened!  A realization that she didn’t have to live this way.  She had a choice.  Yes, she could indulge these thoughts and feelings, or she could release herself from unending trauma. She must recall the good times, the pleasant moments with her dad or she’d make herself sick and kill her kinship with her father forever. 

She decided to throw him a party. She hadn’t prayed to Jesus for deliverance, but faith is active even when we’re unconscious of it. Her preparations brought good memories forward to balance the bad ones. Her dad was not a determinedly daily tyrant. No, not at all.  She recalled moments of kindness, patience and generosity. Grace happened!  The party was a singular success and none of those who attended, especially dear dad, would ever know all that transpired in her heart.  She was free, her heart restored, and she thought, “Thank God!” Remember, friends, Eucharist means “Thanksgiving.”

Keeping Us God-centered – a Homily for 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Reading 1:IS 66:10-14C Responsorial Psalm   PS 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20 Reading 2  GAL 6:14-18 Gospel   LK 10:1-12, 17-20 

Jesus said Satan was being conquered by the Gospel. How did that happen then?  How does it happen now?  Are we still applying the Gospel to advance the good and limit if not eradicate the bad by the grace of God?

There are many ways to live and many different foundations of faith to stand on.  Christianity and Judaism are rooted in worship (which teaches us humility, reverence and awe in God’s presence). Faith assures us that God willingly shares a divine spark and spirit with every member of the human race.  Faith invites us to see each other differently than  the world views us—i.e., as consumers, numbers, quota or constituencies.  

With many abandoning organized religions these days, the most popular “alternate religion” is humanism, which, although it denies God and the need for worship, continues to reverence the human being. As it abandons the Jewish and Christian belief in the Divine Spark, the soul in every person, humanism maintains the importance of people as individuals.  It champions “free will” not as a God-given right but a right, nonetheless.  It values “liberty” while softening its tendency to selfishness by borrowing the biblical ideal of unity among peoples for the common good. 

Yes, Humanism promotes tolerance and good will, respect for differences but without the profound Eucharistic dimensions of true acceptance.  Humanism has difficulty with Jesus’ insistence on forgiveness and reconciliation rooted in the Jewish Covenant.  Humanism promotes a vision of the future in which everyone gets along but that lacks the profundity of the Biblical promise of a new heaven and a new earth guided by cooperation with a loving God.  

Why are these distinctions important?  Because without God there is no true humanity.  Without God there is no true humility;  no deference to a wisdom and  love greater than our own.  Humility rooted in submission to God acknowledges human weakness, limitations, tendency to selfishness –what we call “sin”—without which we see ourselves as little gods, tribal leaders, kings and queens  or their modern counterparts, presidents and prime ministers of our own design. The Bible does say, at times,  “You have made us little less than a God,” but the emphasis is on “less than.” 

 In contrast, humanism trusts not in the Trinity of Father, Son and Spirit but in a trinity of its own inventions—commerce, science and technology.  It is time we realize that, more and more,  humanism surrenders human dignity to these newly created gods making “Progress” the greatest good.  If not kept in check, progress will advance at the expense of all religions and even humanist values.  

Saint Paul insisted on humility as a faith foundation, an essential ingredient in true goodness when he wrote: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Covenant with Israel insisted “”Let all on earth worship and sing praise to you,  sing praise to your name!”

And Jesus saw evil being conquered through the efforts of 72 disciples (both Jews and Gentiles at this juncture) participating in His Gift of the Holy Spirit when he said, “I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky. … Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you,  but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”  i.e. God is at work through you.  That is the faith that will bring you to eternal life.  Life is not about us, but God in all.  We view ourselves as “masters of the universe” at great peril.

Jesus’ commandments to the 72 disciples emphasized God, not humanism, not commerce, nor science.  Jesus sent the 72 abroad to experience God through deference to the kindness of strangers, requiring disciples to see every individual and family as members of God’s family.  Jesus’s instructed them to “Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals”  Why?  He did not want them to find their confidence in material things but in the Spirit alive in them.  Jesus said, “Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves his payment.” Notice the “payment” is not gold or riches or social advancement but a sustaining meal; meals in which people truly listen to one another, attend to each one’s feelings and share questions that evoke conversation of values, of faith, of rights and wrongs.  And, since no one is always “right,” but all are sometimes wrong, with forgiveness and hope.   Today’s counterpart to the 72’s experience would be meals without cell phones and private texts, meals without tv, computers or other distractions, meals where monetary concerns are put aside.

Today’s Scriptures offer lessons that teach us how to engage in the modern age.  We must be consistent in posing critical questions to our neighbors, employers, politicians, doctors and heads of corporations and technological conglomerates:

“Who will benefit from these business decisions, from these economic standards, these political views and who will be left out? Will these new technologies advance the health and wellbeing of all or a select few?  Who may be harmed by these decisions and advances?  Do we want to repeat the sins of the past or learn from them instead?

Commerce, science and technology offer amazing possibilities but without God, without you and me and other people of faith, they have no motivation to value a common humanity over a privileged humanity;  no value system to nurture mother earth for the common good.  Instead they will nurture advancement for its own sake, over and above everything and everyone.

Building on the Jewish prophets, Jesus has empowered us to keep commerce, science and technology in check. We must align ourselves with the 72 disciples as we approach the Eucharistic table today.  We must ask the Lord to strengthen our faith -filled convictions, to expand our reverence for God, for all God’s people and God’s good earth.  If  we do not leave this church today with that kind of reverence, what will become of our world? To which Trinity will we have allegiance?  Whose people will we truly be?

My Life’s Philosophy as Told to a Child

My 9 year old Godson interviewed me last week for a school project. I humbly share it with you to remind me of what I always need to be about! God bless us, everyone!


LETTING OUR LIGHT SHINE


I called my Godfather, Fr. James DiLuzio for the essay. He was in the middle of writing a Homily for mass. He put down his pencil, and said he would take a break from writing and do the interview with me. I think that was really nice of him. The interview was based on my nine questions. He said:


“I was born in Nyack, New York on August 18th. I’m a Catholic priest, and am not married. Our tradition invites us to focus on our friendship with Jesus and share that friendship with everybody. The secret to happiness in any life is to be thankful for what we have and the people in our life, and not to worry about what we don’t have. My most important decision was to become a priest and to begin my work as a Paulist Father-Missionary. God is everywhere and his spirit is in all people, and the most important thing of God’s spirit is his invitation to be patient and loving with one another. I learned that helping other people is important, but at the same time, each of us have to use the special talents God gives us so that we can please ourselves while helping others, and that’s a good balance for praising God. Jesus told us to let our light shine, and as I got older, I appreciated that teaching more. The major values that I live by are love, kindness and as much patience as I can cultivate with God’s help, and as little judgment on myself and others as possible.”


Father Jim has a great outlook on life. I learned a lot from him. You can too!

Homily for Baptism of the Lord Sunday – the conclusion of the Christmas Season

Excerpts from Today’s Scripture Readings:

Isaiah 42: 1-4 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; . . .

to open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.

Isaiah 40: 11 Like a shepherd he feeds his flock;
in his arms he gathers the lambs,
carrying them in his bosom,
and leading the ewes with care.

Psalm 29:  R. The Lord will bless his people with peace.

ACTS 10; 34 Peter proceeded to speak to those gathered
in the house of Cornelius, saying:
“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.


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.”

Note the difference between these two scenarios.  Who do we want to be?  

A man wakes up early in the morning.  The cool morning air on his face contrasts pleasantly with the cozy warmth under the blankets.  The old clock radio clicks on to play a sad, sweet, silly song he loved as a teenager and hasn’t heard for years.  It evokes sweet, sad nostalgia interrupted by a bit of static.  This  thirty-year old AM Clock radio was a gift from his parents when they could hardly afford anything.  Amazing it still works at all.  It broadcasts another song he has never heard before.  He listens intently, focused and attentive and looks lovingly at his wife still asleep at his side. With each passing year he loves her more and more, marveling how they, though no longer fit and trim, still delight each other. He whispers a prayer of thanksgiving to God filled with hope for the future.

Another man wakes up early that same morning. The cool morning air on his face is an affront to his comfort. The old alarm clock radio starts and stops with static before the morning broadcast begins. He recalls how  disappointed he was getting this piece of junk for Christmas when he was young.  Cheapskate parents –they never appreciated the finer things of life, nor did they fill him with ambition and tools for success. “Fool that I am,” he says, “you’d think after all these years I could at least have bought myself a Cd player alarm but who could afford it on the lousy salary I make?” His wife stirs beside him.  She’s gained too much wait.  Their relationship isn’t anything what it used to be.  What hope is there for the future? *

Today we commemorate the Baptism of the Lord.  In doing so we must recognize everything about the life of Jesus is meant to tell us about our own.  We follow Him into baptism so we may lead our lives as close to Jesus as we can be, embracing His Vision that we are beloved and wonderfully made.  No exceptions.  If we accept that we can see ourselves and others differently, not as the world sees us.

Many people think Baptism is only about freedom from Original Sin—our compulsion toward a “ME” centered world instead of a God-centered world.  However, Baptism offers us something more.  Our baptisms (bestowed upon most of us when we were mere infants) consecrated us into the truth that God loves us first –before we were even old enough to do anything good, bad or indifferent to ourselves or others.  Remember, in this fourth great event of the Christmas Season (After Christ’s Birth, His Consecration of All Families as Holy Families and His Offering Friendship to the World via the Magi on Epiphany) God called Jesus his “beloved” before he performed any miracle, before he preached any sermon, before he picked up his cross.  So,  too, God calls us his beloved sons and daughters, before we put any of God’s grace and goodness into practice.  Accepting the truth that God loves us first offers us ample opportunities to  love God, ourselves and others more readily, more spontaneously– out of gratitude, awe and wonder.  Thanksgiving for God’s Love, for the life God bestowed upon us constitutes the heart of a good life consecrated in God’s grace.   Baptism insists that we see that.  Jesus underwent Baptism to insist that we understand that.

Baptism and all the subsequent sacraments of the Church inaugurate in us a Heavenly Vision here on earth.  Jesus turned societies’ rules upside down – refusing to judge others in comparison or contrast to Himself.  Instead, He offered Himself in relationship to all—seeking friendship for the sheer enjoyment of being known and knowing others, confident that relationships of honesty, of quality and integrity are the heart of earthly life and the heart of heaven.  Why even the difficult relationships–and Jesus had many of them, including conflicts with his own disciples—yes, even difficult relationships offer opportunities for growth, for patience, courage and transformation.  Jesus literally didn’t care if people were of his stature, wealthy or poor, socially or religiously educated or even disciplined in their behavior.  He made no such judgments. He only desired to engage, to share Himself, His Being and HIS VISION—GOD’S VISION—an alternate way of living, engaging the world for all it CAN BE rather than taking the world on its own terms which all too often (although not always) eschews spiritual truths and values.  

Jesus may have accepted, for example, that it is inevitable that there will be rich and poor in this world, but while society insists that “Progress is King,” that those who succeed are superior beings to those who don’t measure up to its standards of success,  Jesus insisted such disparities never be perpetuated.  Rather, in communion, He invites us to bridge the gap of “the haves” and “have nots” by affirming our common heritage as children of God. If we believe we are “beloved” as Jesus in his humanity was beloved by God, then our task is to affirm the beloved-ness of all including those outside of our “set,” beyond our circle of friends, including those with whom we disagree—even they who are hostile to our vision of communion, those who intentionally thwart cooperation among peoples or refuse to see each and every one as a saint-in-the-making. 

By inaugurating us into a people, a Church, Baptism and the Sacraments support us in helping one another, struggling with one another, conflicting with one another insisting differences can be overcome because of The ONE who first Loved Us.  Sacraments insist we remain thankful for every opportunity we have, and that through Grace, we begrudge no one the same opportunities.  May our commemoration of the  Baptism of the Lord rekindle our lives with the fire of our Baptisms and this Eucharist, confirming our identities as followers of Christ Jesus in whom the Great Commandments to love God, self and others as ourselves continue to hold sway. Christmas may be over,  but its Spirit can perpetuate and enhance our faith, hope and love today, tomorrow and always if we let it.  God Bless us, everyone!

*These scenarios adapted from the book “How To Want What You Have” by Timothy Miller, PH.D. New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc. Copyright 1995 pp 44-46