Homily: The Mass Through Scriptures

January 15, 2023 – Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

I am not preaching today, but the following is a homily I delivered on these same readings BACK IN 2020:

Prior to beginning formation as a deacon, I knew very little about the origin of the prayers we use in the celebration of the Mass. I am embarrassed to admit it, but it was not until then that I discovered how many of the prayers are taken directly from scripture.

The more I studied scripture, the more examples I discovered. I love the Mass and I love scripture, so when the two mesh, I get excited. Scripture is the divinely inspired Word of God. God is speaking to us throughout the entire Mass, and we are offered multiple epiphanies as Christ is revealed to us. I find that fascinating and interesting – so now you have to hear about it, as you walk through the richness and beauty of the Mass with me.

Earlier in the Mass, we sang the Gloria, beginning with the words, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.” These are the same words the angel used when announcing the birth of the Messiah to the shepherds in the Gospel of Luke.

Later, after the offertory gifts are brought forward, the Liturgy of the Eucharistic will begin, at which time we will pray the Sanctus – the Holy, Holy prayer. The origin of that prayer can be found in these words from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts. All the earth is full of his glory.”

During the Eucharistic Prayer, Father will recite the words of consecration: “Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my Body…

Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my Blood…”

These words, of course, echo the words of Jesus in the narratives of the Last Supper found in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

Those are but a few examples.

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The Word of God is Living

January 14, 2023

Each day, I reflect upon a word or a phrase inspired by the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

The word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12-13)

THE WORD OF GOD IS LIVING: I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard people say, “Today’s reading really spoke to me” or “That Gospel was written just for me” or “I needed help, so I opened up to a random page in the bible and found my answer.”

There is nothing “random” about these occurrences. God comes to us, speaks to us, through scripture. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)

God knows our hearts. He is able to discern the needs of our hearts and nourish us. One way that nourishment is made available to us is through scripture.

Reading scripture brings us into relationship with God. Our pursuit of Him through scripture yields knowledge, truth, and the assurance of His love.

Read scripture with the eyes of your heart. Listen to scripture at Mass with the ears of your heart. God will speak to you and provide all you will ever need.

THEIR Faith

January 13, 2023

Each day, I reflect upon a word or a phrase inspired by the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:1-12)

THEIR FAITH: Today’s gospel reading offers some insight into the shared responsibility to pray. Jesus was traveling from town to town, preaching to all and healing the afflicted. A paralyzed man wanted desperately to be in the presence of Jesus. He was confident that simply being in the presence of Jesus would cure him and allow him to walk again. However, the crowd was too big and the paralyzed man could not get close enough. Others interceded on his behalf. They carried his stretcher, made their way through the crowd, and brought him to where Jesus stood.

The words of the gospel that appeared just before Jesus healed the paralyzed man resonated with me: “When Jesus saw their faith…”

The paralyzed man had great faith. He believed Jesus could heal him. He also believed that there was strength in numbers. He knew he couldn’t do it alone, so he called upon others to help. A pivotal part of the story – the others responded. They, too, believed. They made it possible for the paralyzed man to reach Jesus.

It was their faith Jesus saw – that of the paralyzed man and those who carried the stretcher.

Next time someone asks you to pray for him or for someone close to him who is suffering, set aside the thought that your intercession is not good enough. Picture yourself carrying the stretcher. Think of yourself as one of the people making it possible for that person to be in the presence of Jesus.

Harden Not Your Heart

January 12, 2023

Each day, I reflect upon a word or a phrase inspired by the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

Oh, that today you would hear his voice, “Harden not your hearts… (Hebrews 3:7)

“If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart.” (Psalm 95:8)

HARDEN NOT YOUR HEART: In today’s first reading, and again in our Responsorial Psalm, we hear the familiar words: If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart.

What does it mean to “harden your heart?” Perhaps the easiest way come to an understanding of a hardened heart  is to describe the opposite type of heart – a “soft” heart if you will.

A soft heart is warm and welcoming, flexible and forgiving, open and tolerant. So a hard heart must be cold and inhospitable, inflexible and unforgiving, closed and intolerant. If we are Christians truly focused on living out the two greatest commandments, to love God and love others, it seems a soft heart would be a necessity.

Surely if we were to hear God’s voice, our heart would not harden…would it?

We need to remember that God speaks to us through the people we encounter in our daily lives: the co-worker we ignore each day because he is a little odd, our sister that we have yet to forgive after she said something hurtful to us, the homeless man we pass on the street and pretend not to see, the man on the bus we fear because of the way he looks or the color of his skin, and the spouse we argued with simply out of a need to be “right.”

Today you will hear God’s voice. He will speak through the people He puts in your life. What type of a heart will He find beating in you?

Deserted Place

January 11, 2022

Each day, I reflect upon a word or a phrase inspired by the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place… (Mark 1:29-39)

DESERTED PLACE: This is not the only time we hear of Jesus going off by himself. With the public life he was leading, he was always “on.” People demanded so much from him and he recognized how important it was that he respond to their needs. They were, after all, “like sheep without a shepherd.”    

Jesus recognized his own human needs as well. Sometimes he just needed to get away – to gather his thoughts, to reflect, to mourn, or to pray. He was expressing his humanity and setting an example for us. After all, if it’s good enough for Jesus, surely it is good enough for us.    

Solitude is underrated. It offers us time away from all of the distractions of life. We can focus, calm ourselves, and clear our minds. We can reflect on things we have done or are considering doing. And, of course, we can pray. We can have open, honest, one-on-one conversations with God.    

The peace and quiet that comes with solitude will also allow us to listen, to hear God’s response to what we have shared.

Having Authority

January 10, 2023

Each day, I reflect upon a word or a phrase inspired by the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

Jesus came to Capernaum with his followers, and on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. (Mark 1:21-22)

HAVING AUTHORITY: The residents of Capernaum came to the temple, as they did every sabbath, to listen to the scribes teach. When they heard Jesus teach, they were “astonished.” Why?

When one of the scribes taught, he repeated what he had learned from the Rabbi under whom he had studied, putting his own spin on it. The Rabbi he had studied under repeated what his mentor had taught him, adding his own interpretation. And so on, and so on, all the way back to those who first read Scripture, the divinely inspired Word of God.

When Jesus taught, the people of Capernaum heard the Word of God in its original form, pure and unchanged – as one “having authority.”

I Formed You

January 9, 2023

Each day, I reflect upon a word or a phrase from the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

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. (Isaiah 42:1-7)

I FORMED YOU: There are volumes of books written on the topic of Catholic social teaching and social justice. Through Isaiah, God tells us in very simple language what His expectations are. We are to:

  • …champion justice
  • …be a light to the nations
  • …open the eyes of the blind
  • …bring prisoners from confinement
  • …bring into the light those who live in darkness

Stated even more simply: “You are your brother’s keeper.”

Homily: Wise Men Still Seek Him

January 3, 2023 – Feast of The Epiphany

I am not preaching today, but the following is a homily I offered on the Feast of the Epiphany BACK IN 2021:

Before Christmas, my pregnant daughter sent me an email, attaching a copy of a cartoon she had come across. The cartoon depicted the nativity manger scene. Mary and Joseph knelt in front of the crib that held the child Jesus. There were three women included in the cartoon, each bearing a gift: One had a box of diapers, the second had a case of baby formula, and the third, a casserole.

The caption of the cartoon read, “Thankfully, after the three wise men left, three wiser women dropped by.”

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Today we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany. The term epiphany refers to a revelation: important, long-awaited information is revealed. While additional events also revealed Jesus as the Christ, it was the experience of the magi that is considered the landmark event of the epiphany.

In Fr. Jim’s Christmas homily, he referenced these men that made the trip to visit the Christ child, saying, “the Magi, the three kings, the wise men – whatever you choose to call them – came bearing gifts.”

Why do we have three different names for this same group of visitors?

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Empty Vessels

January 7, 2023

Each day, I reflect upon a word or a phrase inspired by the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” (John 2:2)

EMPTY VESSELS: Today’s Gospel tells us that a problem arose at the wedding feast in Cana – they were out of wine. What are we “out of”? Are we empty vessels? What causes that feeling of emptiness, and where do we turn?

We must acknowledge our need and turn to Jesus. We saw that take place at Cana. We also saw the power of intercession. The bridegroom was out of wine, so Mary interceded with Jesus on his behalf.

Catholics are often questioned about our fascination with Mary. People want to know why we ask her to intercede for us. Today you have your answer: “Because at the wedding feast in Cana there was no wine. Mary talked to Jesus…and suddenly, there was wine. Problem solved. We pray to Mary because Mary gets results.”

So we bring our needs to Jesus, directly or perhaps asking for the intercession of Mary or the saints. We pray.

However, prayer is not a monologue. We must allow time to listen. We get that message from today’s Gospel. Mary directed the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

We can’t do whatever Jesus tells us if we don’t take the time to listen.

Jesus will respond to our needs. We will no longer be empty, but filled to the brim. Filled not with water, but with wine. Filled not with the ordinary, but with the extraordinary.

Possess the Son

January 6, 2023

Each day, I reflect upon a word or a phrase from the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever possesses the Son has life (1 John 5:5-13)

POSSESS THE SON: Today John writes about the cyclical and replenishing nature of God’s life-giving love.

We cannot see God’s love, but we know it is real because it comes to us “in the flesh” through the love of others. Others express the love of God to us. If we do not return that love by taking it out into the world, it will be fleeting in nature – it will leave us as quickly as it came. It will eventually die.

When we love one another, we re-cycle God’s love, giving it new life.  

God wants us to be His sponge: We need to soak up all of the love others offer us on His behalf, allowing it to fill us. However, we’re not done yet. Everyone knows not to put away a sponge in that condition. We must wring it out.

Isn’t it sad to think that some may not feel God’s loving presence in their lives because others have chosen to keep it all to themselves?

We must allow others to “possess the Son.”