January 5, 2018 – Friday before Epiphany & 1st Friday

 

Saint for the day: John Neumann (March 28, 1811 – January 5, 1860

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

1 John 3:11-21 – Psalm 100: 1-5 – John 1:43-51

“Whoever does not love remains in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer.” (1 John 3:15)

Those are pretty hard words and there’s not much way around them to soften them. Most of us would rather go back to the nice, quiet scene of the stable in Bethlehem rather than moving on. But our Gospel jumps us way ahead to where Jesus is beginning to assemble his chosen disciples. It’s obvious that we are at a “liturgical crossroads” and just when we’re about to celebrate the feast of Epiphany.

But we have to remember that the word, “Epiphany” means “manifestation” and that manifestation is that this “Baby Jesus” – with His little arms outstretched in welcoming both shepherds and Kings – is the same Jesus who is destined to stretch out His arms on the Cross for our salvation. And He won’t do this just alone and by himself but in the context of gathering “apostles” (ones who are sent) who will witness why He had to die on the cross in order that we might have life.

On this coming Sunday we celebrate Epiphany and then the following Sunday is the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord and then on January 20th were back to the “Second Sunday in Ordinary Time” and our march will ultimately lead us to the celebration of the Paschal Mystery of Holy Week and Easter.

But first, let me interject a ‘footnote’ about the word “ordinary time.” There’s nothing “ordinary” about the way Jesus chooses his disciples or teaches them about His mission. Our use of the word, “ordinary” comes from the Latin word; “ordinal” which really translates “numbered” or “counted.”

I think it’s a shame that most of us think that we leave the wonder of the birth of our Messiah and slip into ordinariness Easter. There is nothing “ordinary” about our calling to until follow Jesus. It begins in the quiet of the Bethlehem Stable, passes through His death and resurrection and leaves us with His legacy “go out … I will meet you on the road.”

January 3, 2018 “The Most Holy Name of Jesus Feast

January 3, 2018 – Wednesday

 

The Most Holy Name of Jesus

 

Note about today’s Feast

Since the Western Dominican Province is officially titled “The Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus” today is our “titular Feast Day” and most Dominican parishes will have scriptures from the Dominican Lectionary. But, given that the majority of our readers worship in non-Dominican parishes, I will make today’s reflection using the following scriptures.

 1 John 2:29 -3:6 – Psalm 98 – John 1:29-34

 “All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.” (today’s Psalm response Psalm 98)

 Today is officially the feast day of our Western Dominican Province whose official title is “Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus in the federated states of America.” That would call for the Dominican Parishes to use special scripture readings for this Feast. However, I will try to make today’s reflection give you a deeper understanding of today’s feast. This morning, besides my regular routine of checking out the readings for the Mass and a couple of regular commentaries, I “googled” “the most holy name of Jesus” and found a Litany that is well worth our looking into. When you want to know “Who Jesus is” this litany will give you more than enough images to ponder. Here’s the “link” that will take you right to that site. http://www.ourcatholicprayers.com/holy-name-of-jesus.html

Then, if you need more stimulus, today’s first reading should help you along. It’s one of my favorites and one that I have often used especially at funerals. “See what love the Father has bestowed on us in that we are the children of God. And that is what we are.” Then he throws in the ‘corker:’ “What we shall become has not yet been revealed. When it is revealed we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He really is.”

I don’t know about you, but I know that anyone who has struggled with their “self-image” should be able to have some hope in this reading. I can remember a time long ago when I was at my parents home at a time when they were having some friends in for a gathering and dinner. A women who I had never met but who worked with my father came up to me with the opening, “So, I finally get to meet this son whose father never stops talking about!” That was so like what must have happened at Jesus baptism when the voice of God said, “this is my beloved son…”

We all need to hear those words to give us the confidence to know that we are loved and appreciated. It’s a reminder to all of us to look for the good in the people that we live and work with and to give them encouraging words that build them up rather than tear them down. We’re all on our way to becoming something more than what we are right now. This should be one of our “New Year’s Resolutions.” Amen!

January 1, 2018 – The Octave Day of Christmas

Today’s Celebration:  The Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy

Numbers 6:22-27 – Psalm 67 – Galatians 4:4-7 – Luke 2:16-21

“Hail, Holy Mother, who gave birth to the King who rules heaven and earth for ever

In recent times the liturgy for New Year’s Day has had various foci: The Holy Name of Jesus; World Day of Peace; & now Mary, Mother of God. Perhaps it is most fitting as it now stands since we are at the beginning of a new year. It’s a time to let the old ways fade away as a new era begins. Thus the reading from Numbers asks God’s blessing on us that the face of God would shine upon us and be gracious to us. Mary ushers in a new season and yet she, as Mother of God, is not exempt from living in a broken world with all its uncertainty – “This child shall be the cause of the rise & fall of many” and “Mary held all these things in her heart.” A heart that a sword had pierced. Gosh, if I were asked to be the Mother of God (all things being equal) I’d right away start thinking about all the “perks” that might come my way because I said “Yes” to the angel. Yet, the reality is quickly put in its rightful place: if Mary, the Mother of God has to walk in this world and see & experience the suffering that her son had to experience how should we expect to breeze through life without any trials.

Still we stand here at the beginning of a New Year – 2018 – and let go of this past with its vivid, painful memories – of wars and the suffering of people in all corners of our world – and boldly embrace the unknown New Year. Like Mary, we don’t know what it will be like. Still she picked up the baby Jesus and went back to her home town to raise Him as best she could amidst all kinds of uncertainties.

Can we not ask for that same grace to walk as best we can into this New year?”

The Lord bless you & keep you! The Lord let His face shine upon you and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon you kindly & give you Peace. Amen!

December 31, 2017 – Holy Family of Jesus, Mary & Joseph  

Note: The scripture readings for the liturgies between Christmas and Epiphany offer us a variety of references so you may hear different scriptures at your parish than your relatives heard at their’s. I don’t want to take up the whole page listing them, so I’ll leave that to your ability to make your selections. The bottom line, will still focus on the reality of the Holy Family.

Because the Feast of Xmas is date specific and there are celebrations that are slated for the days in between Xmas and Epiphany we always loose one or another of the feasts in the Xmas weeks. Today we stick with celebration of the Holy Family. In thinking about this Feast I couldn’t help but reflect on the way art so often can skew our images by sentimentalizing the reality that Jesus was born into a real time and place and was like us “in all things but sin.” Therefore, He lived through life like any Palestinian of His time; spending a lot of His energy just eeking out the necessities of day to day living. My experience of the years I spent in Africa gave me a better image of what Mary and Joseph and Jesus had to do to just survive: fetching water; walking great distances to get a simple board in order to make a table or plow. Still their life was focused on being in union with God and there was a desire to be in harmony with all creation. They followed the Jewish customs regarding prayer over all their actions and duties. Would that we might follow their example. Let us pray for our own families especially any that are faced with difficulties of one kind or another. May the example of the Holy Family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus give us some insight into how best to make our own families be a means to our growth in holiness and an ability to live in peace with one another for the good of all. If we really care for each other in our families and seek the good of each member I’m sure our world could begin to make a turn for the better. This process might best begin by getting the family to pray together as often as possible. Amen!

Dec. 30, 2017 – Sixth Day within the Octave of the Nativity

 

Saint for the day: Egwin (d. c. 720)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

1 John 2:12-17 – Psalm 96 – Luke 2:36 – 40

A holy day has dawned upon us. Come, you nations, and adore the Lord. Today a great light ha come upon the earth. (today’s Gospel “Alleluia Verse)

Christmas is always celebrated on the 25th of December but some of the other feasts and celebrations of the Christmas season were calculated on various days following the 25th of December. So we celebrate the “Octave (8) day of Christmas which is New Years the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God with the Sunday in-between being the Feast of the Holy Family. Since the Church wants us to be able to celebrate Epiphany – which should be the 12th day of Christmas – this year is celebrated on Sunday, January 5th.

I guess what we end up with is the reality that with God there is no yesterday, today or tomorrow but only this one moment of salvation. God is just generous with us and let’s us “lock things down” so that we can better remember what we are trying to do as we follow him.

All that being said, we look at the Holy Scriptures appointed for today’s Liturgy which open with this line from 1st John: “I am writing to you children – fathers, and young men … do not love the world or the things of the world … it is all passing away.”

 In today’s Holy Gospel we are introduced to this holy women, Anna, who appeared to live in the temple day and night! Jesus is brought to the Temple to complete the Jewish prescriptions and then the Holy Family returned to Nazareth where, as the Gospel tells us, “the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him. (Luke 2:40Reading this I have to tell you that it flashes up memories of so many of the saints and holy people of God who often spent long hours in the church and presence of God. They often forsook sleep and, as today’s Holy Gospel says, “they became strong, filled with wisdom and the favor of God with upon them.”

 A long time ago, reading about the great TV Evangelist of the 50’s, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen I found out that he did his weekly TV Show, “Life is worth living” live and without any script. His method kind of followed that of Anna in today’s Holy Gospel: he says he never prepared a sermon without being in the chapel in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

Following his example, I prepare these Scratchpad Reflections early in the morning in the chapel in front of the Blessed Sacrament. If so many saints and holy men and women of God did this there must be something to it!

So many people today – priests and religious and faithfully-dedicated-lay persons – rush around doing the best they can to bring the presence of God to a world desperately in need of help. But often they “burn themselves out” because they never spend time with the source of their strength – the real presence of God in the Blessed Sacrament.

All of us – myself included – need to remind ourselves to conscientiously set apart some quiet time with the Lord. How do we expect God to communicate with us if we never come before Him in quiet prayer?

I have to get up early in the morning in order to have some precious time with the Lord before I get caught in the busyness of the day. I know that I have a long way to go in holiness but at least I’m trying to start on the right foot! Amen!

December 29, 2013 – Friday in the 4th Day of Christmas

December 29, 2017 – Friday, the 4th Day of Christmas

Saint for the day: Thomas Becket (December 21, 1118 – Decmber 29, 1170)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy

1 John 2:3-11 – Psalm 96 – Luke 2:22 – 35

“And Simeon said, ‘Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.’” (Luke 2:35)

In the opening chapters of St. Luke’s Gospel it is important to see Jesus – even in his infancy – being the fulfillment of Messianic Prophesy. Simeon’s prayer – the “Nun Dimittis” (quoted above) is prayed every day in the Church’s night prayer, Compline. It is one of the three great Gospel Canticles – the Benedictus at Morning Prayer and the Magnificat at Evening Prayer that are found in chapters one and two of Luke’s Gospel.

The thought that caught my attention this morning was the ending of the quoted verse above: “,,, so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

 I think this is a reminder to all of us that we can’t just go through the motions e.g. being a good Catholic; going to Mass and Holy Communion on all the prescribed days, etc. but we have to do this with a loving heart. I remember back in my teenage years when I used to clean up the church on Saturdays just before confessions started. One day, a classmate came for confession and I was surprised to see him since he often scoffed at many of the Catholic traditions. When he came out and was leaving the church he said to me, “Well, I hope that keeps my mom happy!”

What are the thoughts of your heart? In each of these three Gospel Canticles we can see that the promise of salivation is made to those of us who walk in darkness. Mary says, “My soul magnifies the Lord…” and Zachariah (in the Benedictus at Morning Prayer) says, “Blessed be the Lord who has come to His people and set them free.” And Simeon’s prayer, “Now, Lord, you may let your servant go in peace because my eyes have seen your salvation.”

These three “canticles” are prayed every day by the Church in the Liturgy of the Hours so they must be important for us to know. It’s another reminder to us that, “where your thoughts go in your idle moments … there is your treasure.” Amen!

December 28, 2017

December 28, 2017 – Holy Innocents

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

1 John 1:5 – 2:2 – Psalms 124 – Matthew 2: 13-18

In these octave days of Christmas the Church is giving us a wide variety of accounts of what it means to follow Christ: whether you are an innocent babe or a seasoned Moses you cannot avoid both the pains of birth or the manner of death. The interesting point, though, is how the story is told of our lives: how we were born, what we did in our life and how we finally met death. In light of this I quote my good friend and Dominican brother, Fr. Martin de Porres Walsh whose oft quoted line, “Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story!” certainly applies to today’s feast.

We have to ask how this feast got such prominence and placed here in these days after the celebration of Christmas when most scripture scholars agree that there is scant evidence to support such a massacre at the level reported in Matthew’s Gospel.

So, how do we gain some insight into what is being celebrated in today’s feast? We can’t just say that this celebration speaks loudly against abortion. It can take that stance but it is also more than that.

I’ve often pointed out that this little baby that we represent as laying in the manger with his arms and hands open to welcome us into His life is the same Christ who at the other end of His life will stretch His arms out, wide on the cross for our salvation. We love the little baby, Jesus and want to stay with him in the quiet of that cave at Bethlehem but we can’t just stay there. Just like Mary and Joseph who had to “hit the road” we, too must go out from the quiet comfort of whatever place we’re at and get on the road of life. That’s the only place where we’ll be able to meet Jesus.

But along the way we might also meet a “Herod-like person” who threatens our life and wants to get in the way of our following of Jesus.

This, perhaps is the deeper meaning of today’s celebration. Even during this time of Christmas celebration we are still on our way to Calvary. But it doesn’t end there. We will meet the Resurrected Jesus – like the disciples on the road to Emmaus – and be able to say, “Were not our hearts burning within as he explained the scriptures to us.” Then, we’ll know what this feast was all about. Can we allow ourselves to rest in this thought? Amen!

 

December 27, 2017 – 3rd day in the Octave of Christmas

Saint for the day: John the Apostle (6 – 100)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy

1 John 1:1-4 – Psalm 97 – John 20:1-a – & 2:8

The images that come to us on this feast of “The Beloved Disciple” are those of one who was able to understand what the Lord’s greatest commandment – “Love one another” really meant. He chose the better part and was content to recline on the bosom of the Lord. From this close encounter he was able to comprehend the inner core of Jesus’ message and he was able to soar to incredible heights of mystical knowledge. John’s symbol, the eagle gives us a sharper view of who he was in contrast to some artists who would portray him as being effeminate.

These “Octave Days of Christmas” give us a wide variety of saints to contemplate. Saints, not only those who were close to Jesus and walked with him but later saints who didn’t have the physical contact with Jesus but were still able to connect with “the Word made flesh” and share in that same intimacy that today’s St. John enjoyed.

It’s interesting that this feast of the beloved disciple sends me way back to my early days in grammar school where the good sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary first brought the gift of faith to us. They taught us to bow our heads whenever we said the name of Jesus or Mary – a practice that was carried even a step further in my early days as a Dominican – where we didn’t just bow our heads, but we bowed our entire bodies any time those names were mentioned in the liturgy. Sad that, today, many of those “reverences” are not even thought about. The other side, however, of the sisters teaching in regard to today’s feast, was based on that passage that we just heard in today’s readings, “the disciple, the one Jesus loved, got to the tomb first but didn’t go in…” This was an occasion for the sisters to teach us respect for our elders – which is a good thing to teach young children but misses the important part of this passage from John’s gospel: “… then, this disciple went in, saw the linen wrappings folded up … and believed!”

Respect for the holy names of Jesus and Mary are important as is a respect for our elders but the most important point of this Gospel passage is that this beloved apostle – who loved Jesus in His life – now could understand what was most important to believe and is summed up in the world’s most frequently referenced scripture passage: John 3:16 “God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son that whoever believes in him might not be lost but have eternal life.” This is what John believed and what made him to be a saint. Can we, also, look into the empty tombs of our lives and still believe in the God who so loved the world and us? Amen!

December 6, 2017 – “The First Day of Christmas

December 26, 2017 – 1st Day of Christmas

 Acts of the Apostles 6: … 7:59 – Psalm 31 – Matthew 10:17:22)

“The 12 DAYSY’S OF CHRISTMAS”

Even though the above title is familiar to most of us it really does hove it’s origins in history. The 12 Days really represent the span of days from Christmas to Epiphany. Even though it was originated by the Church it became more popular when a song was introduced early In the last century. I think it was a way to keep people focused on the solemnity of the Feast of the Birth of Christ rather than to get caught up in fantasies from the common folk. And, as the Church has done down through the ages, the locals took it upon themselves to make the time after Christmas still have meaning by a subtle song that gave some liturgical sense to each day after Christmas in order to let the local folks know that the Solemnity of Christmas was meant to change their lives and draw them more completely into the day-to-day life of the Catholic Church. The song. “The Twelve Days of Christmas” was a way to keep Catholics focused on the entire Christmas Season.

Your “homework” today is to look up the song and see if you can catch the hidden meaning of the words. We’ll come back to this tomorrow. Meanwhile don’t let Christmas just fade way without your trying to see that the Church wants us to stay with it until the Solemnity of Epiphany.            

 

December 25, 2017 – The Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord

 The following “link” has all the options for the: Various Masses of Christmas

 “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of Grace and truth.” (today’s Gospel according to John.)

This familiar quote from today’s Gospel might also be translated like the saying, “Put your money where your mouth is.” And it’s not difficult to see the reality of this in our world today – from tyrannical dictators down to the local politicians. It’s easy for them to promise us the world during their campaigning and then to forget what they said on their way to the bank after they’ve feathered their own nests. Words without flesh – words with no meat on them – fade quickly and have no meaning.

Jesus, our Word made flesh, didn’t come in a bang of excitement but was born in the quiet, stillness of a winter’s night. No brass bands. No packed stadiums of banner-waving supporters. Only a chorus of angels and a few lowly shepherds.

St.Paul tells us to “clothe yourselves in Christ Jesus” (Romans 13:14) which means more than just putting on a T-shirt with the words, “I [heart] Jesus!” Today’s Feast, which often begins for many of us at a Mid-night Mass or a Mass at the crack of dawn forces us to focus on Jesus without distractions of surrounding things. I think that it’s no accident that the Church has set this Christmas Celebration right around the darkest day of the year in order to help us see the Light of Christ more easily.

My method of writing these Scratch Pad Reflections is to do it early in the morning – when it is still and quiet and there are no distractions. I sit in our darkened chapel with just the light of one candle – and in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament – and listen to what the Lord is saying to me. I read over the Scriptures appointed for the days’ liturgy and then try to put some flesh on them. This is what all of us need to do. It has to be more than just wordy, wordy, wordy.

When I hear the words from today’s Gospel, “… to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, …Emmanuel – God is with us.”

A good exercise for us is to do – again in some quiet, still place – is to ask ourselves, “What do I hear God saying to me?” Right now I try to put myself inside that Bethlehem stable or cave and listen to what Jesus wants to say to me. Even in the darkness of that place there is nothing hidden from Him and I can listen and I can let flesh be put on the words I hear.

I think that’s all I want to say today with the exception of wishing that our celebration of the Birth of our Savior might become more real to you and you will know that He will never leave you alone.A Blessed Christmas to you and may the coming New Year be a year of Peace for you as you struggle to bring that Peace into your part of the world. Amen.