1st Sunday of Advent (November 27, 2016)
2nd Sunday of Advent (December 4, 2016)
Immaculate Conception (December 8, 2016)
3rd Sunday of Advent (December 11, 2016)
4th Sunday of Advent (December 18, 2016)
Christmas (December 25, 2016)
Mary, Mother of God (January 1, 2017)
Epiphany (January 8, 2017)
2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (January 15, 2017)
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (January 22, 2017)
4th Sunday in Ordinary Time (January 29, 2017)
5th Sunday in Ordinary Time (February 5, 2017)
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time (February 12, 2017)
7th Sunday in Ordinary Time (February 19, 2017)
8th Sunday in Ordinary Time (February 26, 2017)
1st Sunday of Advent (November 27, 2016)
A Reflection on Genesis 4:1-15
Adam had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have produced a man with the help of the Lord.” Through Eve, Cain is the firstborn of man. Through Mary, the new Eve, Jesus is firstborn of God.
Cain brought an offering to the Lord from the fruit of the soil, while Abel, for his part, brought one of the best firstlings of his flock. This implies that Cain is not offering his very best. Jesus’ sacrifice offers everything to God.
Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out in the field.” When they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Jealousy and a hardened heart leads Cain to murder his brother in the countryside. Similar wickedness leads to Jesus being murdered by his own outside Jerusalem’s gates.
The Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He answered, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” Cain is not a keeper of animals, but Jesus says: “I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me.” (John 10:14)
The Lord God then said to Cain: “What have you done! Listen: your brother’s blood cries out to me from the soil!” The blood that Cain shed cried out to Heaven for vengeance, but “the sprinkled blood [of Jesus] speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.” (Hebrews 12:24) The blood of Jesus outpoured begs mercy, for the forgiveness of sins on earth.
Cain said to the Lord: “My punishment is too great to bear. Since you have now banished me from the soil, and I must avoid your presence and become a restless wanderer on the earth, anyone may kill me at sight.” “Not so!” the Lord said to him. “If anyone kills Cain, Cain shall be avenged sevenfold.” So the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest anyone should kill him at sight. Cain is given a protective mark (perhaps a tattoo, common in violent nomadic cultures.)
Jesus enjoys no protective distinction: “There was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, nor appearance that would attract us to him.” Cain was not executed for his crime, but Jesus “was pierced for our sins” and “the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all.” (Isaiah 53:2,6) Killing Cain would have returned “seven fold revenge,” but Jesus’ death brings forth multitudes of mercy, as through the seven Sacraments.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is the anti-Cain. Praise be to God!
By one count, Jesus asks 307 questions in the Gospels. Some of Jesus’ questions were rhetorical (asked to demonstrate a point) but other questions insist on a personal response. Below are some of his shorter questions. As you read this list, sense which questions Jesus is asking you today. What is your reply to him?
Why are you anxious about clothes? — Matthew 6:28
Why are you terrified? — Matthew 8:26
Do you believe I can do this? — Matthew 9:28
Why did you doubt? — Matthew 14:31
But who do you say that I am? — Matthew 16:15
What do you want me to do for you? — Matthew 20:32
Why are you testing me? — Matthew 22:18
Could you not watch for me one brief hour? — Matthew 26:40
Why this commotion and weeping? — Mark 5:39
Why does this generation seek a sign? — Mark 8:12
What were you arguing about on the way? — Mark 9:33
Where is your faith? — Luke 8:25
What is your name? — Luke 8:30
Who touched me? — Luke 8:45
Will you be exalted to heaven? — Luke 10:15
Why are you sleeping? — Luke 22:46
Have you anything here to eat? — Luke 24:41
What are you looking for? — John 1:38
Do you want to be well? — John 5:6
Does this teaching shock you? — John 6:61
Do you also want to leave me? — John 6:67
Why do you not understand what I am saying? — John 8:43
Do you believe this? — John 11:26
Do you realize what I have done for you? — John 13:12
Whom are you looking for? — John 18:4
Shall I not drink the cup the Father gave me? — John 18:11
Do you love me? — John 21:16
For more of Jesus’ questions, check out this list.
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My special thanks goes to Mary Walker for lending her voice to this project.
The U.S. Constitution establishes that the president, “Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation: —“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Typically, presidents-elect take their oaths upon open or closed Bibles — sometimes two or three stacked one atop another under the oath-taker’s hand — but there have been exceptions to this custom. John Quincy Adams (1825) and Franklin Pierce (1853) used law books, while John F. Kennedy’s Catholic missal was found on a side table in Air Force One’s presidential bedroom for the mid-flight swearing-in of Lyndon Johnson in 1963.
History has often recorded the verses to which the presidents’ Bibles were opened. In 1789, George Washington’s Bible was opened “at random, due to haste” to Genesis 49:13. (“Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea; and he shall be for an haven of ships; and his border shall be unto Zidon.”) However, most presidents have intentionally selected their passages.
William McKinley (1897) and William Taft (1909) chose separate accounts of one Old Testament quote. Young King Solomon, invited by the Lord to request a wish, asks for wisdom to lead God’s vast people and it is abundantly granted him. (2nd Chronicles 1:10, 1st Kings 3:9-11)
Hebert Hoover’s (1929) verse, Proverbs 29:18, notes the importance of right purpose: “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt selected 1st Corinthians 13’s teaching on love for all four of his inaugurals (1933, ’37, ’41, ‘45): “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”
Dwight Eisenhower’s (1957) verse, Psalm 33:12, acknowledges our shared dependence on God for our blessedness, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.”
Jimmy Carter (1977) and Warren Harding (1921) chose Micah 6:8: “…What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”
Ronald Reagan (1981 & 1985) twice-chose 2nd Chronicles 7:14, where the Lord invites conversion to gain His blessings: “If my people… shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
We, like all people, must beware of idolizing our presidents and other earthly leaders. (Even among popes only around 30% have been canonized and none of them have been sinless.) But we do well always to ask God’s grace for our leaders and for his blessings on the times in which we live.
For other presidential inaugural oaths’ Scripture passages, check out this list.
Catechism of the Catholic Church #1275-1284
- Christian initiation is accomplished by three sacraments together: Baptism which is the beginning of new life; Confirmation which is its strengthening; and the Eucharist which nourishes the disciple with Christ’s Body and Blood for his transformation in Christ.
- “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
- Baptism is birth into the new life in Christ. In accordance with the Lord’s will, it is necessary for salvation, as is the Church herself, which we enter by Baptism.
- The essential rite of Baptism consists in immersing the candidate in water or pouring water on his head, while pronouncing the invocation of the Most Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
- The fruit of Baptism, or baptismal grace, is a rich reality that includes forgiveness of original sin and all personal sins, birth into the new life by which man becomes an adoptive son of the Father, a member of Christ and a temple of the Holy Spirit. By this very fact the person baptized is incorporated into the Church, the Body of Christ, and made a sharer in the priesthood of Christ.
- Baptism imprints on the soul an indelible spiritual sign, the character, which consecrates the baptized person for Christian worship. Because of the character Baptism cannot be repeated.
- Those who die for the faith, those who are catechumens, and all those who, without knowing of the Church but acting under the inspiration of grace, seek God sincerely and strive to fulfill his will, can be saved even if they have not been baptized.
- Since the earliest times, Baptism has been administered to children, for it is a grace and a gift of God that does not presuppose any human merit; children are baptized in the faith of the Church. Entry into Christian life gives access to true freedom.
- With respect to children who have died without Baptism, the liturgy of the Church invites us to trust in God’s mercy and to pray for their salvation.
- In case of necessity, any person can baptize provided that he have the intention of doing that which the Church does and provided that he pours water on the candidate’s head while saying: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Reflections on John 1:43-51
In the early days of his public ministry, Jesus decided to go to Galilee. There he found his future apostle Philip and says to him, “Follow me.” Philip, from the same town along the northern coast of Galilee as Peter and Andrew, was so awed at encountering Jesus that he tracked down his friend Nathanael (also known as Bartholomew.) Philip told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth!” (Philip is sharing happy news, “We’ve found the promised Messiah, the Christ, and he’s not too far from here!”) But Nathanael is unimpressed and unconvinced, saying, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip winsomely replies, “Come and see.“
When Jesus sees Nathanael coming toward him he says of him, “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.” Nathanael asks, “How do you know me?” Jesus answers, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathanael declares, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel!” Jesus replies to him, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” Jesus tells him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
Why did Nathanael’s opinion about Jesus, that man from Nazareth, change so suddenly? Perhaps Nathanael was sitting under a particular fig tree when Philip found him and Nathanael, believing that there was no natural way Jesus could have known or guessed this, was instantly persuaded. Another explanation is that Jesus is referring to a memorable dream Nathanael has recently had. It’s strange that Jesus would describe an honest man as a son of Israel—that is, as a son of Jacob—whose duplicitous deeds are detailed in Genesis. But recall how Jacob once had a dream in which he saw the angels of God ascending and descending a stairway to Heaven while the Lord God stood beside him. (Genesis 28:10-19) Jesus alludes to that event in this encounter. Now if a stranger were to tell me about a conversation I thought no one else had witnessed, I’d be intrigued; but if someone were to accurately describe my dream from the night before, that person would have my full attention. Whatever the reason behind Nathanael’s change of heart it was the style of Philip and Jesus’ approaches that made it possible.
The Gospels show us through numerous episodes how the apostles started off as far from perfect. When told that Jesus was from Nazareth, Nathanael replies, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” This story presents Nathanael’s prejudice and how that bias nearly made him reject the Christ out of hand. What did Nathanael hold against those Nazarenes living some thirty miles away? Did he think them unfriendly, lazy, unrefined, impious, unscrupulous? Whatever the reason, he looked down on them and it showed.
Nathanael’s rash dismissal of the Nazarene maligns someone Philip regards as a great and holy man. Yet Philip does respond in anger. Instead, he urges Nathanael to learn more. “Come and see.” Nathanael is persuaded by his friend to give this Jesus guy a chance—a fair hearing—and this modest openness eventually leads to him being won over. Still today, one of the best means for dissolving prejudices of every sort is through experiencing “the Other” firsthand.
As Jesus sees Nathanael approaching he demonstrates a penetrating supernatural knowledge of him. Jesus probably knew what Nathanael had previously remarked in secret but Jesus does not reproach or condemn him for it. Instead, Jesus compliments what is good in Nathanael: “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.” Though they do not yet see eye-to-eye, Jesus affirms his sincerity. This opens a door to dialogue that not only changes Nathanael’s mind but his entire life, as he goes on to become an apostle for Christ.
We could imagine a pricklier Philip or a different Jesus rejecting and condemning Nathanael for his initial disrespect toward the Christ of God; however, we see both practice tolerance toward him. Christians are commonly caricatured as easily offended but I have found that the more faithful variety show extensive mercy—which is very different than indifference. We are called to loathe error, but to love everyone. True tolerance does not hate others for holding wrong beliefs but loves them while trying to lead them to the truth.
It would be an oversimplification to say that forceful confrontation is never called for. Jesus occasionally denounced others, like “that fox” King Herod, the hypocritical Pharisees, and the evil spirits. Sometimes Jesus manifested his displeasure through bold prophetic acts, like flipping money-tables at the Temple or cursing the fig tree. Yet Jesus possessed perfect wisdom and a clear vision into others’ hearts. “Jesus knew their thoughts” and “did not need anyone to testify about human nature.” (Luke 5:22, John 2:25) We, however, must guard ourselves to be “slow to wrath,” for apart from the Holy Spirit’s prompting, “the wrath of a man does not accomplish the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19-20)
In this era of division, let us promote unity in advocating for the truth. In our disagreements with friends or strangers, online or face to face, let us shun anger, sarcasm, and revilement and presume the other’s good faith and sincerity. This manner of winsome mercy won Nathanael’s mind and heart for Christ and it can be just as powerful today.
The St. Wenceslaus parish bulletin for the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time on January 15th, 2017.