John the Baptist was asked to make account of himself. Who are you asked the priests and Levites. This is a proper question.
The priests and Levites are responsible for the faith tradition and regulation of the religious teaching and liturgical actions of all within the community.
John who dressed like a prophet (see Zech 13:4 and 2 Kings 1:8) and led an eclectic lifestyle like Elijah (see 2 Kings 1:9 and 2 Kings 4:25) but in humility did not equate his actions and identity with Elijah.
He reassured he was not the Messiah, Prophet, nor Elijah.
So, then, what do you have to say for yourself?
I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.”
The ‘way’ (which later is the first name given to Christianity: The Way) is using the most implausible path imaginable. Instead of returning from the Babylonian exile via the Fertile Crescent path (the well watered and well traveled way), the path will be through a desert which will become a well watered path. This is figurative language of The Way.
Someone new. Something new.
Why Do You
Next questioners are the Pharisees. Their question wasn’t liturgical or spiritual but of power. Why do you – by what authority? This too is a proper question.
John the Baptist answers basically, I am doing my part, call to right living and repentance, the one coming after me is the one who has the authority to have me do these things.
The humility of his answer is unassailable. Who would argue against right living? Who would deny water purification as invalid? But it is easy to miss the deeper meanings and they did miss it.
The Implausible Path
We are called to an implausible path. Not a path based on the power of Armies nor of civil law. It is impossible without the authority of the Messiah. It is impossible by human effort alone. It is implausible because all the levers of government, finance, politics and control are useless for the implausible path, The Way.
Teaching about Martyrdom … … [were] used to encourage individual self-improvement through ascetic discipline as well as to awaken the Church to the danger of civil and heretical authority masquerading as the instrument of a Christian establishment (Rouseau, BASIL of CAESAREA, 184).
Conversion is a path of love experienced not law imposed rather a baptism of water and spirit.
Christmas Day, Octave of Christmas and Christmas Season.
The Octave of Christmas (the eight day celebration) comes to its completion today with the honoring Mary, Mother of God, Theotokos.
The wonder of the Virgin Mary deserves our attention as all new Mothers know sometimes the Mom is forgotten for the birth of the baby. There is no baby without the Mom and her life-giving maternity.
Even more so we contemplate the ever virginity of Mary as we do the not consumed, burning bush found in the book of Exodus:
There the angel of the LORD appeared to him as fire flaming out of a bush. When he looked, although the bush was on fire, it was not being consumed. So Moses decided, “I must turn aside to look at this remarkable sight. Why does the bush not burn up?” When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to look, God called out to him from the bush: Moses! Moses! He answered, “Here I am.” God said: Do not come near! Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. I am the God of your father,* he continued, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
Of course in Mary’s case we are very much asked to look upon the scene of Mother and Child and believe.
A marvelous exchange! Man’s Creator has become man, born of a virgin. We have been made sharers in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity (Evening Prayer I/Liturgy of the Eucharist).
The Christmas Season continues through two additional celebrations. The Epiphany (this Sunday the Magi come) and the Baptism of the Lord (initiation of his earthly mission) which brings the Christmas season to conclusion.
So keep saying Merry Christmas until then!
Throughout the Christmas Octave we meet so many who knew Jesus as infant. We continue the introductions throughout the season but the Octave focused on mostly chapter 2 Gospel of Luke and the first seven:
Holy Innocents, first infant Martyrs
Holy Family (Jesus, Mary, Joseph)
Saint Stephen, first Christian Martyr
Magi (Gospel of Matthew chapter 2 – this on the Epiphany Sunday)
Every Pediatrician has a large bottle of hand moisturizer in every exam room. When asked why they will tell you that new Mom’s and Dad’s bring their infant to be examined but hoover over the child in a personal protective shield. So the Dr has them hold out their hands and gives each a generous squirt of hand lotion to work in and to step back so the Dr can examine the baby.
Mary Bearer and Sharer
One of the most important things to remember about Mary is her complete and instantaneous sharing of her Son with family, relations, community, and the whole world. She adored her baby. She let and encouraged others to Adore him too as we do today!
Simeon told Mary – “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.”
Generally we think of the Cross as the fullest meaning of this statement. But I draw your attention to Mary’s immediate sharing and allowing herself to be pierced for the many.
Simenon held Jesus. Anna held Jesus, the Shepherds held Jesus and the Magi held Jesus (at least I imagine it thusly).
The Virgin Mary shared her prized possession since the first moments of the Annunciation and her visit to her cousin Elizabeth.
Even beyond today’s reading Jesus lost in the Temple is also the story of how Mary trusted Jesus to be among the clan traveling (Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances).
May Jesus pierce our hearts as like Mary’s. May we share Jesus, our prized possession, as did and does Mary.
My entire text, spent hours on, it self-deleted. Eek!
In today’s gospel Mary was in the middle of an Angel and Joseph.
I will reduce then to a few simple paragraphs.
Jesus spent his entire life retraining us to orient our thinking to the needs of the other, specifically, the one in the middle. Being in the middle you are surrounded by spectators and accusers by way of the Law. But, Jesus, taught us to see the central need of the person in the middle. Then he provided what they needed and set them free.
Be a Messiah. Reject the culture of death shrouded in Pro-life and Pro-choice debates. See the woman. Help the woman. And you are more than likely to save the child. I used these examples: Lot, Joseph, Job, Susanna, Elizabeth, Mary, Woman in Adultery, and the Paralytic. I used stories from the Shoah (self-preservation and nulling sex abuse stigmatism).
Greetings on this the Thursday of the Third Week of Advent Readings: GN 49:2, 8-10; PS 72:1-2, 3-4AB, 7-8, 17; MT 1:1-17
Obsession with Death by Commission
Attorney General William Barr, an ostensible Catholic has updated the federal inmate execution policy thusly:
“If a State does not permit the death penalty in the jurisdiction a defendant is convicted, the statute directs the court to designate another State whose laws does “provide for the implementation of a sentence of death, and the sentence shall be implemented in the latter State in the manner prescribed by such law”.
Let me simplify, the federal Judge is to SHOP for a State that has a death penalty with a manner of execution suitable to his/her liking and to move the inmate to that State and execute the prisoner.
Pope Francis has made it quite clear that capital punishment is not a State sponsored activity permissible by Church law. Period. Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob, listen to Israel, your father.
This is a commission of sin.
Before President Trump’s term ends AG Barr has made certain that at least five more executions will take place (estimate). Already 2020 was a modern-time record for executions. While you were entertained by the Apprentice President, he was busy killing people in the name of the People of these United States of America.
This is the state of affairs of the American Republican Party and American Catholic Church.
Obsession with Death by Omission
Abortion is of grave matter and can be a mortal sin as we account the conditions of mortal sin. The Church should do everything it can to encourage a woman to want her baby. In this country the regulated right to abortion is difficult, at best, for Catholics to endure given the consequences. We do, however, recognize it is an individual decision not a decision of the State.
The key difference is this: Capital Punishment is an Act of Vengeance. Abortion is an Act of Desperation. Two difference types of problems. Two different types of solutions.
Yet we are not powerless in the face of such catastrophic decisions. We can advocate for and fund supporting services to change a No to a Yes for life but by an act of Free Will not demanded by force of law alone. Abortion is primarily a solution of poverty. Not all, but primarily.
He shall defend the afflicted among the people, save the children of the poor.
This is the Catholic solution. But it is rejected by the American Republican Party and American Catholic Church controlled by the Party. Make no mistake they are busy purging the Republican party of any idea of social justice as a way to incentivize life affirming choices. They use derisive terms like ‘social justice warriors’ to describe anyone that disagrees with them. Lots of titles RINOs, Never-Trumpers, Democrat, etc, etc. Stalinists with American Flags on their ballcaps.
If they have their way, they will purge the Catholic Church of people who profess social justice and the Beatitudes as the guiding rule for our governance and ways of life. The Way is not the way of Law but of Charity.
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Have they even read the genealogy of Jesus in the Gospel according to Matthew?
Ruth was outside the people but made as one of their own.
David committed unspeakable crime to take a woman to be his wife and the Kingdom continued by her child.
Do you not know the curse of Jechoniah? I doubt so if you don’t feel the twinge of guilt.
All these things point to the difficulty of life and life decisions and the mercy of God. If you believe in Jesus then you must accept, as God accepts by permissive will, the difficulties we create and live and yet he still claims us. The ‘curse’ was not kept because God doesn’t curse we we understand curses.
Put an end to Capital Punishment.
Fight abortion not by Law which is dominance but by Charity which is love. Advocate with the new Administration!
Using Census tract data cross referenced to abortion frequency tracts, provide Church and public funding for:
Daycare, adoption and fostering.
Counselling and crisis intervention
Healthcare, prenatal and postpartum, minimally
Orphanages (yes, it is time to return to the days of orphanages for unwanted children).
CDC conduct authentic research, recommendations.
You will see abortion wither away. The thing is you see a moral dilemma is providing services but no dilemma in law making prohibitions as the highest form of faith. Law over charity is inferior and insufficient understanding of Church teaching. Period.
Saint John of the Cross was a reformer. He offered reform by way of mystical commentaries.
May the Passion of Christ be always in our hearts.
I do not claim expertise in the mystical ways and poetry of Saint John of the Cross. Each of us on our journey get exposed to one or two different charisms to consider keeping. The first from your Mom? The second we choose.
The Passionists claim Saint John of the Cross founder. We are very fortunate to have our retreat center is actually run by the Passionists. In days gone by I would take my RCIA classes to the retreat center even for a quick tour to allow them to see a place of respite in the middle of this great megalopolis.
The Passionists have a gentle way of beaconing each person to conversion and help them in seeking the mercy of God and the vision of the face of God.
Who is John?
In today’s Gospel Jesus asks the question, “Do we, in fact, believe that John the Baptist came from God?” The chief priests and the elders were focused on the power they held.
By what power/authority do you, Jesus, speak?
Well, tell me, what authority did John the Baptist speak?
Of what does John speak?
John the Baptist speaks to the need for conversion as a primary spiritual goal.
We need conversion.
The second point (yes, second, not first) John made was once we acknowledge the need for conversion we need this Jesus who is the Lamb of God to see us through the initial conversion to a new way of life. Later to be known as The Way.
His question for us:
Jesus said to them in reply, “I shall ask you one question…
It is a dialog between you and Jesus. Trusting him to be truthful and faithful to his mercy.
Today and tomorrow we have an evening encounter with the Lamb of God. The framework is John the Baptist and his call to repentance with the invitation to continue your journey in grace through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Note: This Homily was given at the 4:00 PM Vigil Mass December 12th, 2020. It was not long after dealing with continuous attacks by a prominent right wing Catholic Republican who suffers the disorientation of the loss of a general election (President-elect Joseph Biden). Having four years of an uncontrolled microphone and undisciplined Twitter President there is an inability to shift the focus from nonsense to truth. The focus now should not be on Supreme Court picks or appointing incompetent judges that are willing to sell righteousness for a ticket at the big table.
Now, the focus should not on law but on salvation of souls through their tender care. They don’t want that. Too expensive they say. They would rather exhaust the wealth of an entire nation reelecting a Pagan President than spend money on day care in locations where abortions are of high quantity.
It seems my teaching social justice focused on the merciful handling of people in crisis is out of touch with modern Catholic Florida.
Rather they want to continue the Trump age of the Iron Fist of law and compliance.
I won’t stop preaching. I won’t stop after being called vile names and lost friendships. I get no money, I have no advantage, and there are no alliances. I have Christ. I stick to the Church teaching and with life affirming intent. The Church is filled with dead letter Catholics, check list people. It is enough reason to keep preaching.
I am so happy!
Gaudete Sunday is always a favorite Sunday for me. Yes, we get to wear our Rose vestments only two days a year so that is special. It signals the closeness of the coming of the Messiah, Jesus. Soon and very soon!
The readings make be so happy.
Isaiah – Messianic Role
How can I not be joyful the words of Isaiah proclaiming the messianic role!
Glad tidings to the poor, healing the brokenhearted, release of prisoners, and vindication by the Lord himself.
As you know too that this is Jesus’ mission. We have the wonderful account in the Gospel of Luke chapter 4.
Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, given the scroll in the synagogue on the Sabbath, he opens the scroll and proclaims…
The very same words!
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel, Glad tidings to the poor, healing the brokenhearted, release of prisoners, and vindication by the Lord himself.
Jesus knows who he is (Son of Man, Son of God) and now be proclaims his mission on Earth. He is worried about us! He wants to help and heal us!!
All of us!!
The promised on is on his way as we re-experience Christmas (and will come again in the Second Coming).
We share this Joy!!
Again my heart leaps for joy!
The entire community sings in dialogical form the Magnificat (My soul magnifies the Lord). All of us together echoing the beautiful response of Mary to her encounter with the Lord. Well, more than that!
The Magnificat is a reflective outpouring of the effects of having been overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. Think of it (maybe read Gospel of Luke chapter 1), Mary having been given reassurances of her virginity and purity is overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and conceives a son. Son of Mary and Son of God.
This is the song of a soul in love and the effects of being loved in a most special and tender way!
We share this Joy!
A closer look at Isaiah and Luke and we realize that both proclamations are integrated, interleaved. Jesus/Messiah, Mary Theotokos.
We have then the bridegroom adorned with a diadem, and the Church and her Mother like a bride bedecked with her jewels.
We are missing the best man, the friend of the bridegroom.
Already Pretty Cool
So thus far the readings are ones of Joyous outpourings. Jesus announcing his work. Mary announcing her work. All of which is purposed for your wellbeing and tranquility. Now a strange twist with the best man.
A Confession Story
Let me introduce John the Baptist with a confession story.
My daughter about age 12 I think, had a very bad Tuesday. After listening to the story (which I have long forgotten) I tilld her well we need to go to confession on Saturday.
“I’m not going”.
Wednesday tuck-in time. Oh, don’t forget we go to confession on Saturday.
“I’m not going”.
Thursday tuck-in time. Oh, don’t forget we go to confession on Saturday.
“I’m not going”.
Friday tuck-in time. Oh, don’t forget we go to confession tomorrow.
“You can make me go but you can’t make me say anything”
Saturday we queue up as per the norm.
She takes her turn, then I take mine.
Off to Publix to food shop.
“Aren’t you going to ask me how it went?”
“OK. How do you fell?”
I feel GREAT! I’m so HAPPY”
Smiling as I type it
Isn’t it something when we settle things in our minds? When we get a chance to think about who we really are in essence. And when we do things disconnected from the essential truth being children of God we need to get it off our chest.
My baby girl found herself that day: who she is, who she is not. I have no idea what happened in that confessional nor do I need to know. What I do know is that when we are willing to confront life and our own actions (not the actions of others) we find ourselves and tranquility of the balm of divine forgiveness.
A man named John
Our Gospel reading today is John’s confession. We get a peek into his world and the world he had to deal with.
Most of our confessions are private (thanks God) but we get a unique peek into John’s struggles.
Who are you?
Priests, Levites, and Pharisees came to challenge him. Not simply what he does but by what authority he does them. Who does he think he is? Elijah? A prophet? The Christ? Interestingly John actually was of the priestly line and was a prophet and Jesus even (later) notes he John is Elijah returned.
John is not focused on any of that. Make NO mistake this was a complete power play. They wanted to work advantage and alliances.
John in his humility denies any exaltation.
Please remember his father Zechariah was a powerful and important man. His mother, Elizabeth, was no doubt a doting Mom having a singular son so late in life. He was given great grace in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He no doubt was trained well in the matters of the practice of faith and the promise of the Messiah. He could have fallen into the temptation placed before him.
He could have claimed many special rights and treatments if he desired based on his line and that of his father.
He did not.
John found himself. John came to know who he is essentially and his own part in the Messianic plan.
“I’m not these things. I’m this thing”.
I am to call people to repentance. I baptize with water. And if Jesus asks me to I will tie his sandal straps even though I am unworthy.
And he was happy. Very happy. He found himself. Who he is. Who he is not. What his Messianic role is.
Rejoice the Messiah has come. Rejoice his Mother shared her overshadowing with us. Rejoice with John who found himself in full view of the rest of us.
Now… let us find ourselves. First we are to share in the Eucharistic thanksgiving of Jesus. Then having received Jesus and the Holy Spirit discover like Mary what it all means. All of it is directed toward conversion. A turning toward God, discarding evil and doing good.
I’ll not stop until Jesus finishes pouring me out as a libation for the salvation of souls.