Our Gospel for today begins with a litany of names and titles. Homilists do not like lists! Proclaiming these tongue-twisting names seems unnecessary and an awkward preface to the meat of the passage. Perhaps Luke was a history buff, but is it important to anyone else? The answer is a resounding “Yes.” Luke, by setting the preparation for the advent of Jesus Christ in the context of world history and the universal purpose of God, says that the gospel belongs to all people. The gospel is for the world. This is God’s gift to God’s creation.
I have grown accustomed to waiting, which is not to say that I gladly welcome it in any sense. When I take my mom to her doctor’s appointment, visit the post office, drop off my car, or go shopping, I expect that it will take time. I am prepared; I read, play Words With Friends on my phone, or answer texts and emails.
We celebrate today the Feast of Christ the King, as the Church concludes the liturgical cycle and begins again with Advent next week. Even though we are celebrating, the readings of this Sunday offer plenty of opportunity to reflect on the more serious aspects of life. As we enjoy this Thanksgiving weekend with the familiar comfort of family, friends, food and football, we should remember to include those much less fortunate than ourselves in our thoughts and prayers.
In this day and age of mistrust in the Church, the priesthood, bishops, and even Pope Francis, in light of the recent sex abuse scandals, it is crucial for us Christians to keep up our faith, hope and love for God, also expressed in our love for our neighbors. I have heard of the saying, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” And that main thing is our relationship with God, through Jesus Christ. Why do we need to keep up this relationship with our Lord? Because God loves us very much, even despite our sins. Like any reciprocal relationship, we honor God and give thanks to him for the countless gifts and blessings we receive.
Today’s responsorial Psalm invites us to “Praise the Lord, my soul!” And the first verse of the psalm tells us the reason for this joyous praise. It is because “the Lord keeps faith forever.” “The Lord keeps faith forever.” That’s an interesting thought – an unusual approach todescribing God’s relationship with us. Life often presents the challenge of reflecting on our faith in God.
The Responsorial Psalm for this Sunday’s readings reminds us all of the great and wonderful things that God has done for us and continues to do for us. Our response to the Lord’s works is to be a stance of joy! The first reading today from the book of the prophet Jeremiah and our Gospel reading from Mark point to the restoration and healing that God brings to us.
It seems easy to judge and target James and John, as well as the other apostles upset at them, for they all wanted the same thing: to stand out and be “on top” with a sense of success and superiority. After all, hadn’t they learned anything about discipleship and self-giving? Jesus journeyed at length with them and had just told them for the third time that in his mission, he was going up to Jerusalem where he would suffer, die and be raised on the third day. But the apostles never seemed to get it! Their energy was taken up-as it can be for any of us-in the business of comparison and climbing.
What do you think God is asking of you today? What are you willing to give to God? Are there limits to your response? Can you name them? In what ways do you hold back, ignore, or even say no? Why?
It was natural that Jewish mothers should wish their children to be blessed by a great and distinguished Rabbi. Especially, they brought their children to such a person on their first birthday. It was in this way that they brought the children to Jesus on this day.
“Would that All the People of the Lord were Prophets!” “Would that the Lord might bestow His Spirit on them All!” “Whoever is not against Us, is for Us!” These are quotes from Moses and Jesus that we hear in our readings today, and they are very powerful! They are also very applicable to our current times in the Church and the World. I am always amazed at how things said and written so many centuries ago have a message for us today! But, I believe that they do!
What is it with us human beings? What makes us tick? Why do we act the way we do? Why is it, for instance, that when we come across a truly good and holy person, we’re often fearful of that person? We may be attracted to such a person, but then we also are fearful of that person at the same time – feeling odd or uncomfortable in that person’s presence. Rather than rejoicing in that person’s goodness, why is it we often look upon his existence as a personal affront? Is it because that person’s goodness functions for us something like an external conscience? Or perhaps we see in that person what we really want ourselves to be but are not? Remember how Tim Tebow was treated when he was drafted by an NFL team? Remember how he was ridiculed because of his faith?
One thing I really wish I was better at is remembering people’s names. There is nothing more important, in my opinion, than to call someone by their name. When we call someone by their name, it shows that we are in relationship with each other and that we matter to each other. The few times I have been fortunate enough to fly business class, I get a kick out of the flight attendants welcoming me and calling me Mr. McCarthy. I know it is their job to know my name but it does feel good to be called by name.
Having recently returned to the Gospel of St. Mark, after several weeks of hearing St. John’s discourse on the Eucharist, we discovered in last week’s Gospel that Jesus is attempting to open our minds and hearts both to what defiles us from within and also defines us as children of God. If we were to take last week’s Gospel at face value, we might find ourselves quite depressed over the listing of vices that can come forth from within each of us; vices that arequite prevalent in the very world that we live in.
“This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.”
The difference and the argument between Jesus and the Pharisees and the experts in the law are of tremendous importance, for they show us the very essence and core of the divergence between Jesus and the orthodox Jew of his time.
In general, there are three sorts of questions we encounter daily. First, there are things that sound like questions, but really aren’t. Second, things that don’t sound like questions, but really are. Third, there are real questions.
For instance, when we walk by someone we know in an office hallway or on campus or at the store, one of us says, “Hi! How are you?” Usually, we don’t want a real answer. If the person we have greeted stops and starts telling us about his recent medical exam, or about her mother in Altoona, generally we aren’t happy about it. It wasn’t a real question.
Over the course of the past four weeks we have been invited to hear and reflect upon a
good portion of what is known as “the Bread of Life discourse” in the gospel of St. John.
Inasmuch as we are in the year of St. Mark, this shift to the fourth gospel for a 4-week period signifies the importance of this prominent discourse and serves as a reminder of the implications of it in our own lived faith-journey.
Hungry and Humble
Much has been said, written, tweeted and blogged about a Villanova University Men’s Basketball program that has captured 2 of the last 3 NCAA Championships. The program is far from perfect, but there are some core values, foundational building blocks, that contribute to lasting and sustained success. Ask a tournament MVP, a first round NBA draft pick, a walk on who never plays, a manager who does all the laundry behind the scenes, or their award winning coach, and you will hear the same mantra: “We strive to stay hungry and humble.” They literally wear bracelets on each arm that say “Hungry and Humble,” as a reminder of the importance of living, thinking and playing this way.
How can so little suffice for so many? There are many times when I wished that I had more money to give to someone or in someway to give that person something which would be of value, but we are limited in what we can, because there is no time to prepare or opportunity to do more.
One of these scenarios has happened to all of us:
• You keep your Saturday afternoon schedule clear so you can watch a baseball game.
• You shuffle the children off to their grandparents so you and your husband can have one dinner where no milk is spilled, no food goes airborne, and the conversation involves more than the latest adventures of “Dora the Explorer.”
• You finally find a few hours to start that book or watch that movie everyone has been recommending.
And then the phone rings.
“So they went off and preached repentance. The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.”
Hospitality was a sacred duty in the East. When a stranger entered a village, it was not his duty to search for hospitality; it was the duty of the village to offer it.