Sunday, January 31, 2021

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Even Demons Fear and Obey

Today's readings tell us about Jesus' authority and celibacy as a way of life for those who serve the Lord.

In the first reading, we are told about the promise of Christ.  Moses tells the people that a prophet will come from God and from the Hebrews.  All must listen to Him.  We see the foreshadowing of the Messiah. Jesus was born from the lineage of King David. He was a Jew. God sent Him (John 3:16). This is all common knowledge to any Christian who knows his or her faith well. 

Ordinary Time is a period where we are introduced to Christ and His teachings. A good homilist will capitalize on these readings and educated his congregation about Christ and His origin, as well as, why we should listen to Him. The responsorial Psalm reminds us that we must listen to His voice and not harden our hearts. We must be happy and joyful in the Lord. It pains me to see some fellow Catholics treat the faith as some obligation that is done on Sundays. Moreover, it also pains me to see fellow Catholics live out their faith mechanically. 

A few years ago, the Holy Father Pope Francis married a couple while on his flight. I was shocked to see on Twitter the many insults directed at the pope over this. They attacked him for doing this in a plane citing canon law and whatnot regarding the location of marriage and so forth. Apparently, they forgot, did not know, or willfully ignored the fact that the pope is the legislator in chief, so to speak. This attitude of trying to know more than the pope or thinking one is more Catholic than him or any other Catholic is a hardening of the heart. It is a fake faith that is set on pharisaic tendencies. We must not harden our hearts like this. We must bow down in worship to the Lord and this means being humble.  We are the people He shepherds. God guides us. The Holy Spirit guides the Church. Many times, we may see the Church move in a direction that causes eyebrows to rise. This is a normal reaction. We are human. Humans often do not like anything that appears to be a change. However, we must not harden our hearts to the Holy Spirit by protesting where His wind blows the sails of the Church or boat of Peter.

The past year into this year 2021, we all have been facing extreme challenges.  A mysterious virus called Covid 19 coronavirus has circulated most of the globe.  Millions are infected by it and over a million worldwide have died because of complications due to this virus.  In the early onset, churches were closed.  This angered many and challenged the faith of those who truly trusted in religious beliefs. We must be careful not to let the bad spirits take us into the road of desolation as St. Ignatius of Loyola tells us.  Viruses will always happen in nature. Our bodies are susceptible to them. We must make certain decisions in order to protect the people.  Granted, I would not have shut down the churches and Masses, but we must not let this affect our faith.  God is in control. We will see this in today's Gospel reading. 

The second reading reminds us how important it is to serve God. It is so important that everything else becomes secondary or non-existent.  St. Paul tells us that those who are unmarried are concerned about the things of the lord. Those who are married are concerned about significant others and family. St. Paul suggests that those who want to serve God remain as he is, celibate and chaste. This is why our Church values celibacy. Celibacy is not a dogma, it can be done away with. It is a mere discipline. This does not mean that it is bad. Celibacy is practical for the reason St. Paul tells us. Those who are celibate can focus on God. This does not mean that those who are married cannot serve God. They can and do serve God in their respective state of life. However, a priest or religious serves God all the time in the life of the Church. He or she has no family, wife, or husband to care for or attend to. There is talk now about ordaining older men to serve in remote areas. This is possible and a good solution to areas that lack a priest. However, this does not mean that celibacy will be done away with. The Roman or Latin rite will always have celibacy as its rule. Orthodox Churches allow their priests to marry. However, their bishops are not married. By being celibate, a man can focus on God and his parish. Can you imagine a priest with a wife and kids serving at a parish? The priest would have to earn a better wage to care for his family. He would have to be on call for both his family and parishioners and so on. This would make things extremely difficult. In fact, the Catholic Church restored celibacy as the rule because of this and the fact that widows wanted Church property after their priest-husbands passed away. celibacy makes sense and allows a man (priest/brother) and a woman (religious sister) to grow more in the Lord and focus on Him and the Church. 

Finally, in the Gospel, we read of Jesus speaking with authority. He taught the people and astonished them. Jesus was a carpenter's son. He was not a doctor, lawyer, physicist, etc. Jesus did not have a high school diploma or college degree. Those things did not exist then, but the point is that Jesus was not "well-educated" in the sense that we understand education. He was a simple soul living in Israel. However, He spoke better than the best philosophers and teachers of Judaism in His time.  His knowledge is greater than even Aristotle, Plato, Aquinas, Augustine, Scotus, Einstein, Hawking, etc.  This was because He was and IS the one. He was the Messiah that was expected by the Jews. He spoke in God's name because He is God and the Son of God. His authority is so great that even the unclean spirits obeyed when He told them to shut up and leave the man in the synagogue. If any other human told a demon to shut up, that human would be tossed around like a doll. This is why an exorcist can only cast out demons in Jesus' name and not his own. The Church's authority, the popes and clergy's authority; even the Bible's authority comes from Jesus Christ.  The aforementioned would be nothing but mere men and books without Christ. 

Jesus was the God-Man; two natures and one personhood. He is Emmanuel or God among us. All authority is His. He existed before all else existed as we read in the first chapter of John. Today's Gospels show us that Jesus is the one Moses spoke of. He speaks for God and comes from the Hebrews. We see how God is not a liar. When God says something will happen or not happen, that is what will be. This is why we who believe in Jesus Christ must never fear even when things are hairy in life.  Life is hard. Life is tough. Life can beat us up. However, we believe in the one who has authority over it. We believe in the one who has authority even over the demons of hell and of death itself.  Even the demons fear and obey Him. Even viruses obey Him. We must never fear. God is in control.  God is awesome.  Let us praise our Lord Jesus Christ who is loving and merciful.

Readings: Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time | USCCB

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Sunday, January 24, 2021

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Repent and Come Follow Me

Today's readings call us to repentance.

In the first reading from the book of Jonah, the word of the Lord God sends Jonah to Nineveh.  There, he is to go warn the people that God would destroy the city if they do not change their ways.  We are told that he took 3 days to do this and that in forty days if they did not heed the warning, Nineveh would be destroyed. 

In the Bible, numbers do not necessarily represent numerical value in the mathematical sense.  They are part of a symbolic system called the gematria. Each number represents something. The number 3 represents totality or completeness.  It is used over 400 times throughout the Sacred Scriptures.  The forty days means a long period or a period of preparation or transition. Nineveh was a city that had it all in regards to sin.  We read more details in Nahum 3.

In this city, thievery is rampant, sexual licentiousness, drunkenness, death, merciless killing, etc. Notice how God gives a warning before He acts.  He sends out Jonah to warn the people. Atheists often like to make claims that the "Old Testament God" is this evil deity who is sadistic and enjoys killing or having others kill in His name.  This is far from the truth and a poor understanding of literary genres in Sacred Scripture. If God was this "evil deity" that did not care, why would He send out Jonah to warn the residents of Nineveh?  Here we see that God is not only just, but merciful (Psalm 86:5Psalm 145:9Ephesians 2:4).  He prefers all be saved than destroyed just like any responsible father would not sit back and let his kids do whatever they want.  A father sets rules and enforces them justly.  This is love.  

Today, we are facing an alleged pandemic with the covid-19 coronavirus.  Some believe this is a punishment or chastisement from God.  I will not say either way, but it does seem weird how this virus appeared out of nowhere and seems to be altering itself to face our "defenses."  The virus is now becoming more contagious even to the point that more layers are needed in regards to masks. Some scientists are claiming that we should were at least two masks, one over another.  Vaccines were rushed into production and were given emergency approval, but are not approved by the FDA. These vaccines themselves are believed to prevent contracting the virus and/or limiting the symptoms. Even these claims are hypothetical since not enough time was given to study them. The whole thing just seems strange. It is like this virus is "intelligent" and knows what we are doing to combat it and is evolving to meet the challenge.  Is this the wrath of God or nature just trying to reduce the human population?  Is this a biological weapon or a simple mishap in a lap with bats infected with covid-19?  We cannot know for sure.  All I can say is that this virus has literally put humanity on its knees. Despite churches closing, faith still increased.  People seem to want God more than before.  Is God calling us via this alleged pandemic?  We must test the spirit of the times and see.  We must pray and ask God to enlighten us.  

The responsorial Psalm responds to the first reading with the statement: "Teach me your ways, O Lord." What does this mean?  Well once we repent of our sins and commit to change, then we must learn how to do so. Simply repenting is not going to show us how to continue on the path to holiness. Only God can teach us this since He is perfection (2 Samuel 22:31Psalm 18:30Matthew 5:48).  We must not become like those in this world blindly following the next fad or chic idea.  We must challenge them and focus on Christ and His will for us. 

In the second reading, we are reminded that time is running out. We are told by St. Paul to behave as such we are not living our daily lives on Earth. In other words, we must not focus too much on the things of this world, for they will pass. Our world will pass.  Science even agrees with this statement. However, this does not mean all life will disappear with it, nor are some going to go floating in the air in some "rapture."  Rather, God will return like a "thief in the night" and will judge us all (1 Thessalonians 5:2).  We will be judged based on how we loved God and others (Matthew 7:2).  This means we are to love God above things and our neighbor as ourselves (Luke 10:27).  We must not love God only on Sundays and Holy Days, but all the time.  This applies to our neighbors as well. We must not love them only during Mass, but all the time; yes, including those who get on our nerves (Matthew 5:44). We must teach our neighbors the truth and not water it down because it may offend their sensibilities (John 17:17).  It would be a sin against charity to lead others to believe that abortion is moral, that same-sex union is love and valid, that contraception is ethical, or that we should mind our own business and not admonish the sinner so as not to offend them. 

A new president was just inaugurated and while he calls himself Catholic, his views do not match our faith. He recently made statements showing his drive to keep abortion legal and propagated and made new orders forcing Americans to adopt the unscientific and sophism of gender theory.  We must pray for him. He is our president and does want to help Americans during this time of need; however, his views on other issues must be challenged and pushed back.  I am not endorsing any president as better or more moral than another, but we as Catholics must know where politicians are coming from and push back when they present views contrary to reason, morals, and faith.  Our Catholic faith is above politics and agendas from Democrats, Republicans, or any other party.  We must promote our faith first and vet our politics via our faith. Whatever does not agree must be cast out. 

Finally, in the Gospel, we learn of John's arrest. The last prophet is arrested and will be beheaded. 
Jesus continues after Him by preaching the Gospel of God. He reminds the people then and now that "The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the Gospel."  Like in the first reading, He warns the people which is what John also did.

However, Jesus continues from that warning into the actual teaching of the Gospel in order to teach the people the way of the Lord as the responsorial Psalm states.  Then He proceeds to call the other disciples by name, Simon, Andrew, James, and John. He uses an interesting phrase, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men." Notice how Jesus is very observant. He sees that these men are fishermen.  Today, the Pope wears the "fisherman's ring" as a reminder that He must go out into the deep and fish-men. 

Furthermore, Jesus then uses that fact to connect the work of God with.  He also calls each by name which shows that He focuses on individuals.  We are not in some cosmic college class where God is a professor who does not know the names of His students.   He engages us directly on a first-name basis because He knows us ever since we were forming in our mother's womb (Jeremiah 1:5).  God does the same today. We do not have to be fishermen to do God's work. A doctor, nurse, lawyer, teacher, police officer, fireman, politician, scientist, librarian, school crossing guard, homemaker, businessman, etc; are all called to bring people into the Church using their own talents which will be guided by God's grace (Psalm 48:14). Never feel as if you cannot do God's work on Earth. 

St. Therese of Lisieux reminds us, "Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, thereby a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love." God in many cases does the opposite of what we expect an omnipotent being to do by choosing those who are weak, uneducated, or outcasts to shame the arrogant and those who see themselves as strong or powerful (1 Corinthians 1:27).  Let us listen to God's call to repent, ask him to teach us how to live, and go do what He asks of us with faith, love, and hope.  Today is Sunday of the Word of God as well. Let us take this time to meditate on Scripture, engage in lectio divina or some form of Scripture study so that we can be nourished by God's Word.   

Readings: Third Sunday in Ordinary Time | USCCB

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Sunday, January 17, 2021

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time: Listen to God's Call!

 The Christmas season is over and we are now in "Ordinary Time." Ordinary time is not just an "ordinary" period, so to speak. The Church gives this time this name just to distinguish between the days where we celebrate important Christ-centered days and regular days. By "regular days," I mean days where the readings are centered on specific sayings or teachings of Jesus instead of an event surrounding His life like the Crucifixion, Easter, His Birth, etc.  This period called "Ordinary Time" is extraordinary in my opinion. It is during this time that we get more in-depth in Scriptural readings, particularly the teachings of Christ.  These teachings lead up to the major events surrounding Christ, so they are extremely important and not just "ordinary."  

Readings: Second Sunday in Ordinary Time | USCCB

In the first reading, we read about Samuel who was sleeping in the temple of the Lord. God's house is a refuge for all. It is also our home. This is why we see Catholic Churches always open up church property to those who need help. Unfortunately, the events surrounding the alleged Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic changed this a bit.  Our churches were forced to close due to pressure from politicians and well-meaning bishops who felt suspending Mass, the Sacraments, and entry into churches would curb the spread of the virus. This was all done despite no science stating that the church or Sacraments are super-spreaders or even a  conduit for viruses to spread. Nevertheless, hopefully, the bishops learned their lesson not to jump at every command of governors and that the law protects religious freedom.    

God's house is a home for all. This was why Samuel was comfortable sleeping in the temple even though he was not familiar with the Lord, as we are told in the reading. God calls to him, but Samuel thinks it was Eli. Eli tells him to go back to sleep. God kept calling Samuel until Samuel realized that it was the Lord when Eli told him to say "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening." Eli realized that God was calling Samuel and Samuel had to respond. When God calls, we must answer. Sometimes we do not realize it at first. We are told that Samuel grew up or matured. God was with him.  This passage reminds me of myself as an atheist and other atheists today. God is always calling us. Sometimes, we are so caught up in the world that we think it is someone else calling us; or something else. Many times, we hear of atheist scientists coming up with all kinds of explanations to refute or attempt to refute, God's personal interaction with us. Atheist psychologists say that the "voice or perception of God" we experience is just man's brain giving agency to something due to stress or some other thing. We develop this defense mechanism in order to cope. Other scientists claim the universe appeared out of nowhere due to gravity and formed randomly without any God. I can go on and on. The truth is that we often put on a mental block that attempts to ignore God and attribute His callings to something natural. We go to "Eli," so to speak, instead of God. We must listen to God and say, "Here I am, your servant is listening." Afterward, God will be with us and will guide us just as He did with Samuel.  God calls even the youth. Young people must never be afraid, ashamed, or scared away from serving God (1 Timothy 4:12). They are an important part of the Catholic Church. 

The responsorial Psalm responds to the first reading with the phrase, "Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will." This must be our words every day of our lives. In fact, this is the first prayer I say when I wake up even before I start the Liturgy of the Hours. I recommend that you use the same short prayer. It is short and simple, but very powerful and inspirational. God is always with us, but will not impose Himself on us. This is why He calls to us and we have the choice to answer. He hears our cries and all of our problems as the Psalm says. However, He will not intervene unless we give permission. I know it sounds strange. How can a mortal and finite creature give God permission?  God who made all things seen and unseen. This is just a reminder of how God is so humble and genuine. How He is so loving and merciful and truly loves us. His love is not manic or sick. It is pure love. It is Himself because He is love! God does not need us. He wants us!  He loves us.  In the second reading, we read that our bodies belong to God. Those baptized are part of the Body of Christ, the Catholic Church. We must care for our bodies and not abuse them. This means living as healthy as possible both spiritually and physically. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Think about this. The Holy Spirit dwells in us. That is awesome! When we have guests over at our homes, we often tidy up the place. We want our guests to feel comfortable in a clean and welcoming environment. Does the Holy Spirit deserve worse than this? I think not!  The Holy Spirit deserves the best tidiness we can offer. This is where the sacraments and prayer come in. We must be in a state of grace so that the Holy Spirit can have a beautiful temple to dwell in. We were purchased at a price as St. Paul says in this reading. This price was Christ shedding His blood on the Cross!  We must glorify God in our bodies. Today, many abuse the body with alcohol, drugs, and other bad things. Others abuse the body by turning it into a sex show for others. Men go to gyms, women go to gyms to look "sexy" so they can appease others. This is not what our bodies are for. If God wanted humans to be "sexy" or have their goal to become "sexy," we would not age and fall apart. We would be ageless creatures. However, we know this is not reality. We age, we get sick, and fall apart. The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord.

Lastly, in the Gospel, we are introduced by St. John the Baptist to Jesus. The Monday after the Epiphany, we celebrated the Baptism of the lord. Today, we read about Jesus being described by John as the "Lamb of God." This phrase can be understood only via the Old Testament. After God stopped Abraham from sacrificing Isaac, He provided a sacrificial lamb (Genesis 22:8). This was a foreshadowing of Christ who is the Lamb God provided as the sacrifice. We all know what sacrifice this was. If you guessed the Cross, then you are correct! Jesus is the Lamb of God. When you go to Mass, focus on this phrase a little more. It has a lot of meaning behind it. It should remind us that Jesus is the pure Lamb that shed His blood for us. We are not worthy to come under His roof. He must say the word. He must call us like He did with Samuel in today's reading. Jesus is introduced to us in the Gospel for today. He is the Rabbi or teacher. He will guide us and educate us in God's ways. Jesus tells us, "Come, and you will see." He calls out to us. We must make the choice to follow Him. Listen to God's voice in your life now and each day. He calls out to you. Do not ignore Him. Do not attribute His calling to another agency. He truly calls you.  Come and see the Messiah whose birth we celebrated. He will not disappoint!  May Jesus Christ be praised.  

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Sunday, January 10, 2021

Baptism of the Lord - Jesus Leads by Example

Today is the Baptism of the Lord.  The festive Christmas season is officially over and we begin to enter into the ministry of Christ as He preached and worked miracles.  There are two options for the first reading from Isaiah. The first option reading from Isaiah tells us that God's servant or His chosen one is someone He is pleased with.  This person will have God's spirit and will bring forth justice to the nations.  He will do so in peace and quiet, not "crying out, not shouting." This is of course referring to Jesus who is the Messiah. 

Despite Jesus being a great speaker, He remained silent on some occasions (Matthew 26:63Matthew 27:12-14).  This "silence" would be heard loud and clear throughout time as the faith spread throughout the world.  Silence is key in our spiritual lives.  It is in silence that we hear God speak to us. This is why I often stress that people be silent in the church. There should not be any talking in the church unless there is an emergency or an important message must be vocalized.  The church should be quiet as we sit or kneel before the Lord in the tabernacle.  The second option tells us that God is the one who gives us to drink and to eat.  He is the one that comforts us and takes on our burden. This again is referring to Christ who provides for us and helps us with our burdens (Matthew 11:28).  As this reading tells us, we must seek Him while He may be found.  Our time to seek salvation in Christ is limited. He gives us ample time to reform ourselves into the image of God.

The responsorial Psalm responds to the first reading with the words that God will bless His people. Peace is something we all look for in the world and in life. Unfortunately, it is not easy to come by. Today we see war, genocide, terrorism, etc.  It seems to be rampant; no end in sight. However, God is the one who gives us peace (Psalm 29:11, 1 Corinthians 14:33).  This is the peace we truly need now dring this alleged covid-19 coronavirus which has taken the lives of many around the world.  Despite several vaccines in existence, the virus continues to spread and has even mutated to become more contagious and virile. We truly need some peace during these trying times. Let me not get into the situation with the election in the United States and the horrendous domestic terrorism against the Us Capitol building. God will give us peace. However, we must ask for it. God respects our free will.

As with the first reading, we also have two options with the second.  The first option is from Acts and shows how Peter, the first Pope took leadership and spoke to the gathered in the house of Cornelius. Peter reminds us that God is not prejudiced.  He shows no partiality, as the text states.  God opens Himself to all people because we are all His children. This message must be told today more than ever where there are so many claims of discrimination, prejudice, sexism, and racism.  Everything is being seen in the kaleidoscope of race and alleged privilege.  This is not what God is about. We are all His children and that makes us brothers and sisters regardless of how we look. The second option tells us that believing in Christ is important.  In Christ, we see the Father (John 14:9-11). Christ is the link between humanity and God; between the creature and the Creator.

Finally, in the Gospel, we read about John the Baptist telling everyone gathered that one is coming after him who is mightier and who he is unworthy to loosen his straps on his sandals. He was of course referring to Jesus who happened to approach and seek Baptism. Why would Christ ask to be Baptized?  He has no sin yet sought it. There are many answers to this but the one that stands out to me the most is that He wanted to be part of us. By getting Baptized, Jesus gave us a "demo" of how to start the spiritual life. His Baptism opened up the doors of grace to the primitive Sacrament John used with simple water.  When Jesus entered the river Jordan, His presence sanctified the waters.  As with the Wedding at Cana, the water in the jars was just water until Jesus got involved. John's Baptism was just a simple bath until Jesus came along and transformed it into an initiation rite that removes Original Sin and restores our relationship with God which was harmed at the fall of man. In this year of St. Joseph, we should reflect on our own baptism. We should think about what took place and the effects of this important Sacrament on our lives.  

Readings:  The Baptism of the Lord | USCCB

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Friday, January 8, 2021

@RealDonaldTrump Permanently Banned from Twitter

After ignoring President Trump's tweet and claiming that his account has historical importance as a public figure when questioned why some tweets were not removed, Twitter permanently banned the RealDonalTrump account. The news came as no surprise to his supporters and many others, including myself. Twitter tweeted this:

I had predicted something like this would happen last year in November. Here is my tweet where I highlighted the original tweet: Twitter claims Trump was inciting violence and this violated their "glorification of violence" policy. To me, it seems that Twitter and other social media networks are just retaliating for Trump's attempt to remove 230 protections which made social media companies immune to litigation for what they allow on their networks. Twitter eventually went after Michael Flynn, Sidney Powell, and other accounts promoting QAnon content banning them all. Rush Limbaugh and a few others deactivated their accounts in protest. 

I lost a lot of followers myself, but am not sure if this is due to a purge by Twitter or if these followers deactivated their accounts in protest. In any event, the censoring of a sitting US president is disturbing. I have seen worse tweets and have been the target of very nasty content that was ignored by Twitter. As stated, this all seems personal. Twitter is retaliating. What do you think? Post below on Disqus. Be sure to follow the rules for posting. 


Sunday, January 3, 2021

The Epiphany of the Lord: Focus on the Light!

 It is Epiphany. It comes from the Greek word "epiphainen" which means to reveal or shine upon.  This day celebrates the main revelations of the person of Christ as God and man. The main times we see this are when the Magi visit Christ (Matthew 2:1-12) which we celebrate today, at the Baptism of Christ (Mark 1:9-11) when the Holy Spirit descends on Christ and God the Father reveals Christ as His only begotten Son; the next moment is at the Wedding of Cana (John 2:1-11) where Jesus performs His first miracle due to the intercession of His Mother Mary.  In this, her last recorded words are shown, "Do whatever He tells you."  Great advice from mom right?  

In the first reading, we read of Jerusalem being told to rise up in splendor, her light has come.  The glory of the Lord shines on her. Darkness covers the earth and thick clouds the people, but God shines through. This light is of course Jesus Christ the Lord (John 8:12)!  Our world is in so much darkness. Just recently, a horrific attack took place in Florida where a mentally ill young Latino shot and killed 5 and wounded others. This perpetrator is said to have been affected by the war in Iraq. Evil is never good. Violence is never good. These affect our psychology. Human beings were not made for violence. We are the only creatures on earth without physical defenses.  Other animals have claws, venom, quills, etc to defend themselves. We do not.

This is why we need Christ the light who illumines minds and hearts keeping us away from evil and violence. The light of the world is Christ and we need to seek Him.  We need to seek Him just like the Three Kings or Magi who came from Midian, Ephah and Sheba with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh did.  These gifts represent Christ's Royalty, Divinity and death as well as the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity.  The Magi represent the "outsiders" or the Gentiles, Pagans and others who are outside of God's "Chosen People," Israel. They represent all the different races coming to meet the Christ child.  All nations will adore the Lord, as we read in today's responsorial Psalm.  God is king over all the earth.  All rulers will pay homage to Him just like the Magi did.  We are the Magi of today coming before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament offering our lives.  I have always loved the Magi. They were instrumental in my conversion because they were men of science who used the stars to find Christ.  In science, we can find God as well! God's creation points to God just like the star pointed to Christ (Job 12:7-10, Psalm 19:1-4, Romans 1:20). The late astronaut and first American in space John Glenn said after seeing the earth from space, "To look out at this kind of creation and not believe in God is to me impossible." 

The magi found the Lord via the science of the stars, astronomy.  We know of their names as Balthazar, Gaspar and Melchior from the document Excerpta et Collectanea which is attributed to St. Bede who died in 735.  Their relics are in the cathedral in Cologne, Germany.  You can read another reflection I wrote here for January 6: In it, I elaborate more on how the Magi represents all the outsiders. The second reading reminds us as well by telling us that Gentiles are also coheirs and part of the body of Christ. 

Christ was born for all people of all races, genders, orientations, faiths; in every time and place. He is the Savior of all!  The Gospel tells us that great story.  Jesus was born in Bethlehem and the magi came from the east asking King Herod where the newborn king of the Jews was. Herod did not like this because he saw himself as the king of the Jews. He asked the magi to bring him the child so he too can adore Him. They found the child via the star and saw Mary with Him.  The magi prostrated themselves and paid homage to the child and gave Him the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh as prophesied in the first reading of today. Before departing, they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod.  They listened and returned home via a different route. 

The Epiphany is an awesome celebration in our faith. Many cultures celebrate it as another Christmas. Kids put hay under their beds for the camels and wake up to find the hay missing and gifts in their place. Other cultures have feasts and other celebrations commemorating the visit of the magi.  To me, the magi represent all peoples outside of Israel and academia coming to worship the Lord.  This is my personal reflection. The stars and all of nature pays homage to God and leads us to admire Him via His creation.  A few years ago, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that he is no longer an atheist (see more here:  Even in the darkness, we see in the world today and the thick clouds that cloud the minds of atheists and others, God shines through.  Let us humbly seek Christ the Lord who is the light. Let us approach Him in the Tabernacle and Monstrance and adore Him.  The magi were the first to participate in adoration in my opinion. They sought the light!  We too must seek the light and focus on the light.  Ironically, a cosmic conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn was formed in late December into the new year 2021.  This conjunction made both planets look like the giant Bethlehem star we all see in photos, paintings, and movies.  I was privileged to see it in the Bronx and mediated on viewing it.  Many biblical scholars and astronomers believe this is what the Magi witnessed.  The idea of a star moving in the sky is possible but highly unlikely as it would distort the laws of physics.  I picture myself being with the Wise Men following the star to Christ.  Let us imitate them!  Instead of bringing gifts of gold etc, we have to bring the gifts of our holiness, love, and kindness to others.  We must offer Him our trials and suffering as well and united them to His passion. During this time of covid 19 coronavirus, we are all in a real physical, emotional, and psychological darkness. We must seek the light like the Three Kings did.   This light is of course not some astronomical phenomenon, but Christ the Lord.  O' come let us adore Him! 

Please remember to help me with this ministry which is focused on reaching out to those in the dark.  Please be generous as the Magi were and consider donating or becoming a regular donor. Any amount is useful. God can do anything with any amount.  You can donate via Paypal or and become a patron on  God will reward you!  I have already received emails from donors who received many blessings just months after donating.  As soon as I get permission from them, I will share those emails.  I am not a businessman nor investor so I rely on God's providence and how He inspires visitors and readers to donate.  Financial means is not the only way to help. You can pray and also volunteer your talents.  God bless you and Mary keep!  

Readings:  The Epiphany of the Lord | USCCB


Here are more reflections from holy writers:

There is something more that must be understood about the gold, incense and myrrh. Solomon testifies that gold symbolizes wisdom when he says, "A pleasing treasure lies in the mouth of the wise." The psalmist bears witness to that incense which prayer offers to God when he says, "Let my prayer ascend as incense in your sight." The myrrh indicates the mortification of our bodies, of which the holy church speaks of its workmen who strive even unto death on behalf of God, "My hands dripped with myrrh."
And so do we too offer gold to the newborn king if we shine in his sight with the brightness of the wisdom from on high. We too offer him incense if we enkindle on the altar of our hearts the thoughts of our human minds by our holy pursuit of prayer, so as to give forth a sweet smell to God by our heavenly desire. And we offer him myrrh if we mortify the vices of our bodies by our self-denial.
Myrrh brings it about, as I have said, that dead bodies do not decompose. For a dead body to decompose is the same as for the human body of ours to become a slave to the decay of dissoluteness, as is said by the prophet: "The pack animals have decomposed in their own dung." This indicates fleshly minded persons who end their lives in the stench of dissoluteness. Therefore we are offering myrrh to God when we employ the spice of self-restraint to keep this earthly body of ours from decomposing through decadence.

— St. Gregory the Great
(540 - 604)

Source: "Forty Gospel Homilies, 10.6," quoted in Manlio Simonetti, ed., Matthew 1–13, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 28-29.

"Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him bring me word." Appropriately did Herod say, "Bring me word," for the one who hastens to come to Christ always brings a word of renunciation to the devil. When the priest says to the future Christian, "Do you renounce the devil?" the latter will answer, "I do renounce him." Properly therefore are the magi instructed to bring word to Herod, who realized he was taking the place of the devil. Satan knew how to corrupt a person.
"That I may come and worship him." He wants to lie but he cannot. He who feigned adoration will come that he might bow to abuse, kneel to inflict punishment, recline to do harm.… But when the clouds of treachery have passed, in the fair weather of emerging Christian faith, the magi behold again the star they had seen, preceding and leading them on. Finally they arrive at the most holy place of the Lord's birth.
— St. Peter Chrysologus
(380 - 450)

Source: "Sermons 158.8-9," quoted in Manlio Simonetti, ed., Matthew 1–13, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 25.

Since Herod was king, he was naturally afraid both for himself and for his children. But why was Jerusalem troubled? Surely the prophets had foretold him as the Savior, Benefactor and Deliverer who would come from above. But Jerusalem remained troubled by the same idolatrous affections that had previously caused them to turn from God precisely when God was pouring out his greatest benefits on them. While God was offering them new freedom, they were once again mindful only of the fleshpots of bondage in Egypt…
Although troubled, they nevertheless did not try to understand what was happening. They did not follow the wise men or even take any particular notice. To this extent were they both contentious and careless. This happened just when those in Jerusalem under Herod had reason to pride themselves that a king was being born among them. This had even attracted the attention of the wise from Persia. They were on the point of having everything going their way, as though their affairs were advancing toward improvement. But most did not even take notice. Amid an empire that had become so magnificent, they showed little improvement.
Jerusalem had only recently been delivered from subjugation. It might have been more reasonable for them to think, If the Persians tremble before this king now merely at his birth, wouldn't they tremble much more when he grows up? They would fear and obey him, and our situation might then be more glorious than that of the barbarians. Even if they knew nothing of mysteries or revelations but formed their judgments only on the basis of present self-interest, they surely might have thought along these lines. But nothing like this really occurred to them, so great was their dullness in prophecy and envy in human affairs.
Such dullness and envy must be rooted out of our minds. One must be more impassioned than fire to stand up against such an array. This is why Christ said, "I am come to send fire on earth, and how I wish it were already kindled." And the Spirit on this account appeared in fire.
— St. John Chrysostom
(347 - 407)

Source: "The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 6.4," quoted in Manlio Simonetti, ed., Matthew 1–13, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 22–23.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Mary, Mother of God: The Greatest Human Woman Ever

Today is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, or Theotokos. The Blessed Virgin Mary is the Mother of God.  This does not mean that God came into existence because of her.  God has always existed.  Mary is a creature of God.  She is the “handmade” of the Lord as she called herself.
Mary is called the Mother of God because her Son, Jesus Christ the Messiah is God the Son.   Since Jesus is God, then the one who gave Him flesh is called the Mother of God.

What an awesome thought.  A human female is the Mother of the Word Incarnate.  She is the Mother of God!   Since the early days of the Catholic Church, devotion to Mary has existed.  The “Sub Tuum Praesidium” is one of the earliest prayers to Mary.

This is a day of Holy Obligation in which all Catholics must treat it as a Sunday and attend Mass.   Let us take this day to recollect on Mary and her role in Salvation.   Mary was always open to life.  She said Yes to God’s will that she be the vessel in which God the Son would take on a human form.

She is a model for all women, especially those who push the disturbing idea that pregnancy and bearing children violates a woman’s bodily autonomy or dignity.  This tokophobia must be replaced with the Yes to life from the Theotokos.

Protestants have an issue with this title because they feel Catholics are giving causation to God, or that by calling Mary the "Mother of God," Catholics are making Mary the God of God.  This is just not true.  The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God is biblical. In Luke 1:43 Elizabeth calls Mary the "Mother of her Lord."

The first reading gives us the blessing often used at Mass and which was a favorite of St. Francis of Assisi. In it, we read about the Lord letting His face shine upon the person being blessed. Mary as Mother of God got to see God face to face. She held Christ in her hands, fed Him, and did all the things a mother does in order to care for a child. The responsorial Psalm repeats the phrase calling to mind God's mercy. God so loved the world that He became a small baby boy. If that does not say mercy, I do not know what does. He did not come down as a warrior with a sword or machine gun. Jesus came as a defenseless poor baby boy.  All of this was planned beforehand.  The second reading reminds us of this.  God sent His son born of a woman, born under the law of man.  He did this so that we could be adopted as sons and daughters. By Christ becoming man, He became a son of Adam and Eve making Him our brother in human flesh. This is just awesome to think about! 

The Gospel tells us of this baby boy lying in a manger.  We are told that Mary kept all of the events that occurred in her heart. I would personally love to know these things. I bet they are memories with lots of emotions.  Mary was a true mother. She did all a mom does. Today's Gospel shows the humanity of Mary and Jesus as Mother and Child.  Mary is also our mother and our link to Christ Jesus (Revelation 12:17).  Mary is the greatest human woman ever.  Now more than ever as this alleged pandemic spills into the new year 2021, we need a great mother to protect us.  We call upon her via many titles, but she is one mother.  I invite you to learn about the apparitions of Our Lady of the Universe in the Bronx.  Visit  Mary is our model. She points to Christ.  Her last recorded words were, "Do whatever He tells you (John 2:5)."  Let us take this advice to heart. 

May Our Lady pray for us and show us the way to Christ her Son.  Mary Mother of God, Pray for us!

We take refuge under thy protection, holy Mother of God:

Do not despise our prayers
in time of necessity:
but always free us
from all dangers,
O blessed and glorious Virgin.

Here are some reflections from holy writers:

The shepherds did not keep silent about the hidden mysteries that they had come to know by divine influence. They told whomever they could. Spiritual shepherds in the church are appointed especially for this, that they may proclaim the mysteries of the Word of God and that they may show to their listeners that the marvels which they have learned in the Scriptures are to be marveled at.

— St. Bede
(672 - 735)

Source: “Homilies on the Gospel, 1.7,” quoted in Arthur A. Just, ed., Luke, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 42.

In the festivity of Christmas we read of the pastors of Bethlehem who were the first to be called to the crib, to see the new-born Child: “And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.” (Lk 2:16.) Let us stop at that “found”. This word indicates a search.
 Man is a being who seeks. His whole history confirms it. Even the life of each of us bears witness to it. Many are the fields in which man seeks and seeks again and then finds and, sometimes, after having found, he begins to seek again. Among all these fields in which man is revealed as a being who seeks, there is one, the deepest. It is the one which penetrates most intimately into the very humanity of the human being. And it is the one most closely united with the meaning of the whole of human life…
 Man is the being who seeks God. And even after having found him, he continues to seek him. And if he seeks him sincerely, he has already found him; as, in a famous fragment of Pascal, Jesus says to man: “Take comfort, you would not be looking for me if you had not already found me.”

— St. John Paul II
(1920 - 2005)

Source: John Paul II, Audience on December 27, 1978

Spiritual circumcision takes place chiefly in holy baptism, when Christ makes us partakers of the Holy Spirit too. Of this Joshua, that Jesus of old, who became the leader of the Israelites after Moses, was also a type. He led the children of Israel across the Jordan, then made them stop and immediately circumcised them with knives of stone. So when we have crossed the Jordan, Christ circumcises us with the power of the Holy Spirit, not by purifying the flesh but rather by cutting off the defilement that is in our souls. On the eighth day, therefore, Christ was circumcised and received his name.

— St. Cyril of Alexandria
(375 - 444)

Source: “Commentary on Luke, Homily 3,” quoted in Arthur A. Just, ed., Luke, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 45.


Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God | USCCB


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