02.10.19 – 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Welcome Back!

The theme of Sunday’s readings revolve around “Being Called.” Let’s dig in! We also hear a lot about the angels, and the 9 choirs of angels. This visual explains the 9 choirs:

Image result for 9 choirs of angels

For the Sunday readings click here
Where in the Bible are we? We’re in the GREEN areas (click here 1.page.bible.timeline)

Fun Fact:
There are 16 prophets in the Old Testament (who have books titled after their name). Four are major – Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Isaiah; Twelve are minor – Hosea, Amos, Zechariah, Zephaniah, Haggai, Malachi, Nahum, Ezra, Nehemiah, Jonah, Habakkuk & Joel (our Ash Wed. reading). “Major” or “Minor” refers to the length, scope, and depth of the book, not its importance. Hmmm… there are 4 major prophets … 4 gospel writers; there are 12 minor prophets … 12 disciples, 12 apostles. Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not.

1st Reading: Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8
(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel.)

Isaiah is by far one of the most difficult books in scripture. It was so tough that even St. Augustine, doctor of the Church, admitted he did not understand what he was reading. So he put it aside. See? Even saints don’t get Isaiah! Don’t feel bad if you don’t either.

St. Jerome, another doctor of the church, explains: “No one should think I mean to explain the entire subject matter of [Isaiah] in one brief sermon, since it contains all the mysteries of the Lord. It prophesies that Emmanuel is to be born of a virgin and accomplish marvelous works and signs. It predicts his death, burial and resurrection from the dead as the Savior of all men. I need say nothing about the natural sciences, ethics and logic. Whatever is proper to Holy Scripture, whatever can be expressed in human language and understood by the human mind, is contained in the book of Isaiah.”

Scholars have remarked on Isaiah’s eloquence and poetic style, calling him “The Shakespeare of the Bible.” They often refer to it as “The Fifth Gospel” because of the book’s scope. The kicker is, Isaiah doesn’t write in chronological order. He jumps around, and frequently. This is why we don’t see God call him until chapter 6 (chapters 1-5 serve as The Prologue). Isaiah is divided into 2 parts, chapters 1-39 concern judgment (bad news, Israel, you’ll undergo judgment because you turned from God); chapters 40-66 concern restoration (good news, Israel, you’ll eventually be restored and brought back).

Last week God called Jeremiah. He said he was too young to be a prophet. Now God calls Isaiah. He says he is unworthy, “Woe is me! For I am lost; I am a man of unclean lips.” Seraphim are angels are in the highest of the 3 “choirs of angels”, and are sometimes called “burning angels.” With a purifying fire, they flew in and touched Isaiah’s mouth with burning tongs. Why? To cleanse Isaiah from sin and prepare him for the 79 years of the tough work that lay ahead. Fortunately, we too can experience being cleansed of sin through the sacrament of reconciliation. (Purgatory also contains a purifying, cleansing fire like the one in this reading.)

Today’s reading is full of liturgical meaning in what is said, smelled, and heard. In Isaiah’s vision of God, we hear the same words we recite at Mass: The seraphim sing their angelic proclamation, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts.” During Mass, an authentic experience of Heaven on Earth, we join the choirs of angels singing this same proclamation. Truly, at Mass, we are among the angels in Heaven and they are among us. So much of our Mass – including the Holy, Holy, Holy – comes straight from the book of Revelation. We can see this in action when the priest says, ” And so, with Angels and Archangels, with Thrones and Dominions, and with all the hosts and Powers of heaven, we sing the hymn of your glory, as without end we acclaim: “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts. [Right here, right now,] Heaven and Earth are full of your glory…”

Next, Isaiah notes the house was filled with smoke. Smoke signifies the presence of God and is a medium through which prayers travel (incense). The reading ends with Isaiah answering God’s call much like Samuel did, “Here I am’, I said, ‘send me!”

Response Psalm 138: “In the sight of the angels I will sing your praises, Lord”
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

This psalm of David is one in which angels figure prominently, making it a fitting response to our first reading. “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with all my heart, for you have heard the words of my mouth…when I called you answered me, you built up strength within me.”

2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
(The 2nd reading is usually from Paul’s letters. Speaks to how the early church was built after Christ’s death and resurrection).

It’s our last week in Corinthians for a bit. Corinth is Paul’s 2nd of 3 missionary journeys, around 51 A.D. We’re getting to the end of his letter now, and he is addressing the subject of Christ’s resurrection. Some followers lacked confidence in this reality, and were fracturing the Church in Corinth as a result. The fracture was likely unintentional, but just like in our present day, we need a shepherd to help us distinguish the voices around us. Their shepherd was Paul. Basically, if the resurrection never happened, Paul says, they’re all teaching in vain. So here, Paul defends the doctrine of the resurrection for 58 verses. Today we hear 11 of those 58 verses.

Paul takes on a pastoral tone. He’s their father in faith and they need to be re-taught. (Have kids? You can relate.) He starts by reminding them in simple terms, “I both delivered to you– and received myself from the risen Christ (on the road to Damascus) – the Truth of the gospel.” And here is that Truth. He tells the story of the resurrection. He names those to whom Christ appeared. He reminds them he was not an apostle, but quite the opposite – a persecutor of the Church and of Christ! And yet – just as Christ chose Peter, (who denied him 3 times on the way to the Cross) to lead His Church – He chose Paul for a significant role, too: Missionary. Amazing, isn’t it? Peter and Paul messed up big time, and God saw right through to their hearts and molded them to be His own. He can mold us too, we just need to give him our hearts of flesh to work with and let Him do His work in us; a heart of stone cannot be molded.

What are you chosen to do for God? If you haven’t killed men who believe in Christ, you’re doing pretty well compared to Paul. Never think you are unworthy to take on a task for God. God works through imperfect people. He has built His Church, His beloved Bride, through generations of imperfect people. But in that Church He abides. He can do amazing work through His imperfect children. When He calls us, Let us reply as Isaiah did: “Here I am, Lord, send me!”

GOSPEL – Luke 5:1-11
(The Gospel is the highest point of the Liturgy of the Word. That’s why we stand.
We are about to hear from and be instructed by Christ Himself.)

This week we’re in the early part of Luke. At this point in the gospel, Jesus has just performed 2 healings. Now He’s ready to call The Twelve. God called Isaiah in the first reading, now Jesus calls the 12. In both cases, the one who is called tells God why he shouldn’t be called. Isaiah says he’s not worthy, and here Simon Peter sees Jesus’ miracle of catching an abundance of fish, and he replies: “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Do you give God reasons why He shouldn’t call you? I know I have. How foolish we can be to think we are worth so little to God. How much are you worth to your parents, your spouse, your children? How much more are we worth to our Creator? How He longs for us to respond when He calls.

We all know this reading. Jesus goes out into the boat with the 12. He needs to get away from the crowd that presses against him. He does teach them for some time, but then turns his attention to the 12. Jesus tells Simon (Peter) to lower the nets. What do you suppose Simon Peter was thinking? He was exhausted. He’d been up all night fishing in the dark. They had caught nothing! Sounds like a ridiculous request. But we catch here a glimpse of Simon Peter’s early faith, the mustard seed.  He models for us what Mary said to the servants at the wedding at Cana: “Do whatever He tells you.” Simon then pulls in so many fish that they have to load both boats until they are in danger of sinking. Simon was in shock (“astonished”). Jesus assures him, as He does us: “Do not be afraid.”

What is God asking you to do that seems ridiculous? Unreasonable? Foolish? Can you throw our your net at His command and “do whatever He tells you?” Even if it defies logic? This is difficult indeed. But when Jesus tugs at our hearts to be His hands and feet and voice, we must respond with faith as Peter did.  We must go out, go forth, and even if the proverbial water looks empty of fish and we’ve been up all night … we must cast that net anyway.

Be Not Afraid.

Jesus, I Trust in You.


2.3.19 – 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!

 This week’s readings are here. 
Our mission is simple:
We want to help everyone in “pew-land” get more out of mass.

Image result for love never fails

Fun Fact – The Divided Kingdom:
One of the most important OT events involves the division of The Davidic Kingdom. If you are familiar with this event, reading the bible becomes far more exciting!

  • ~200 years after the Exodus, there was a period of relative peace. The 12 tribes of Israel were united (One Holy Nation).  They asked for an earthly king. God obliged (reluctantly).
  • Israel’s first 3 kings were Saul, David, & Solomon (think “S-D-S” to remember the order). Israel became One Holy Kingdom. This kingdom wasn’t united for long.
  • When Solomon died, his sons (Reheboam and Jereboam) couldn’t agree on who should be king. These 2 sons divided the kingdom. A bad, bad decision.
    • 10 tribes went North and became “Israel.” Assyria conquered them later.
    • 2 tribes went South and became “Judah.” Babylon conquered and exiled them later.

When the kingdom divided, God’s voice on Earth was needed. So He sent prophets. Their job was to 1) reunite the people 2) encourage them to return to God, and 3) warn them about destruction from enemy armies (Assyrians and Babylonians).

When we hear “A Reading from the Book of the Prophet __”, we can answer the question, “Where in the bible are we?” As we keep learning, we’ll better understand the prophet’s message and audience. Some speak to the North, some to the South, and occasionally they speak to the reigning kings of that time. Where does Jeremiah fit? Let’s find out.

1st Reading: JEREMIAH 1:4-5, 17-19

(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel.)

Jeremiah prophesied  to the Southern Kingdom (Judah). He went there to warn them. He was referred to by scholars as “the weeping prophet” because he weeps for his people who are far from God. We’re hearing God’s prophetic “calls” this month. God calls Jeremiah this week, and next week, we hear God call Isaiah. Perhaps, as we start the new liturgical year and approach Lent, this is the Church’s way of “calling” us, too.


The word of the LORD came to me, saying:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I dedicated you,
a prophet to the nations I appointed you.

But do you gird your loins;
stand up and tell them
all that I command you.
Be not crushed on their account,
as though I would leave you crushed before them;
for it is I this day
who have made you a fortified city,
a pillar of iron, a wall of brass,
against the whole land:
against Judah’s kings and princes,
against its priests and people.
They will fight against you but not prevail over you,
for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.

When God first calls Jeremiah to be His prophet, we hear, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.” (Jer 1:5). That verse is enough to ponder and pray on this week. We are each infinitely precious to God, and infinitely important.

Jeremiah has a very hard job ahead of him (“gird up your loins”). He will take on the unpopular role of whistle-blower – he has to tell God’s people that due to their unfaithfulness, Judgement is coming.  God assures him “They will fight against you; but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, says the Lord, to deliver you.”
God says the same to us today – no matter your current struggle, God will deliver you.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM 71 – “I will Sing of Your Salvation”
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

In you, O LORD, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
In your justice rescue me, and deliver me;
incline your ear to me, and save me.

Be my rock of refuge,
a stronghold to give me safety,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
O my God, rescue me from the hand of the wicked.

This sounds like something Jeremiah would have said in reply to God (especially with the reference to birth). It’s also something we can sing to God when we are in a difficult situation: “For you are my hope, O Lord; my trust, O God, from my youth. On you I depend from birth; from my mother’s womb you are my strength.”

2nd READING: 1 Cor 12:31, 13:1-13

(The 2nd reading is usually from Paul’s letters. Speaks to how the early church was built after Christ’s death and resurrection).

This is a common “wedding reading,” but I challenge us to look at it in a new light today.  Remember – Corinth was “The Big Apple” of the time, a place bustling with commerce and social and intellectual growth. Believers there had started to return to old ways. The Church was fracturing. The people were engaging in immoral behavior and had become careless in their treatment of the Eucharist. In sum, they were acting very selfish. The reading aims to unravel their selfishness by talking on Love. Today’s reading is the centerpiece of Paul’s teaching on spiritual gifts.


If I speak in human and angelic tongues,
but do not have love,
I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy,
and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge;
if I have all faith so as to move mountains,
but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away everything I own,
and if I hand my body over so that I may boast,
but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind.
It is not jealous, it is not pompous,
It is not inflated, it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing
but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails…

Last week’s reading comes immediately prior to the start of today’s. The point is, without authentic love, our actions are loud, pointless, and noisy. Actions are not wholly pleasing to God unless LOVE is at the heart of them.  We know God = Love. SO, read another way, actions are not wholly pleasing to God unless HE is at the heart of them.

“These three remain, Faith, Hope, and Love.” I heard an interesting reflection on this. In Heaven, Faith and Hope don’t really exist as on Earth. In Heaven we will be in the presence of God our Father. As such, Faith and Hope are realized by our being there. But Love? It remains, because God IS Love. And in Heaven, we abide with Love and praise God without ceasing.

GOSPEL – Luke 4:21-30
(The Gospel is the highest point of the Liturgy of the Word. That’s why we stand.
We are about to hear from and be instructed by Christ Himself.)

Each gospel writer starts his gospel with a different event to begin Jesus’ public ministry. Matthew, the “teaching gospel,” starts with The Sermon on the Mount. In Mark, it’s Jesus casting out a demon (a key Markan theme is “the spiritual battle”). John begins with the wedding at Cana. In Luke, today’s gospel reading is the start of His public ministry. Jesus preaches in the synagogue and is not welcome in his own native place.


Jesus began speaking in the synagogue, saying:
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
And all spoke highly of him
and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.
They also asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?”
He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb,
‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say,
‘Do here in your native place
the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.'”
And he said, “Amen, I say to you,
no prophet is accepted in his own native place.
Indeed, I tell you,
there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah
when the sky was closed for three and a half years
and a severe famine spread over the entire land.
It was to none of these that Elijah was sent,
but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon.
Again, there were many lepers in Israel
during the time of Elisha the prophet;
yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”
When the people in the synagogue heard this,
they were all filled with fury.
They rose up, drove him out of the town,
and led him to the brow of the hill
on which their town had been built,
to hurl him down headlong.
But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.

Today Jesus uses two significant OT prophets, Elisha and Elijah, to make this point: OT Prophets didn’t just heal God’s people (the Israelites), prophets also went to the outsiders and the forgotten – even to enemies – to heal them and bring them into the fold.
– Elijah went to a widow (an outsider) and healed her.
– Elisha went to Naaman the Syrian and performed healing works.
In other words, God’s love and grace is for all of His children. He wants to bring every stray child back into His fold. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…”

Throughout the gospels, we often see Christ evade death. This is so he can fulfill his purpose and go to the Cross. People in the synagogue try to stone him and throw him over a cliff, but He “passed through the midst of them and went away.” Imagining some cool special effects, I picture Him fading away in the distance. Efforts to hurt Him completely fail. He just walks away. A miraculous move indeed. If only, when faced with “buffets and spitting”, we could do the same. With God’s strength and His voice in our mouths, we can. “Be not afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.”

01.27.19 – 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Welcome back to Banquet of the Word!

Optional resources for today:
Please view this Sunday’s readings by clicking here.
The One-Page Bible Timeline  is available here.

Fun Fact:
Today’s psalm response (that we sing), is not from the book of Psalms, nor from any of the books of Wisdom. It’s from John 6:63.

Image result for we are many parts

First Reading: NEHEMIAH 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10
(Reading 1 is Old Testament; it always links in some way to the Gospel)

Nehemiah’s best friend was Ezra, who is also a prophet and has his own book in scripture. Together, these books center on the return of God’s people and their joy. So who were they, and where in the bible are we? Click on the bible timeline above and look at the title labeled “Return.” Remember how the Israelites turned from God and were then exiled out of their land? In previous weeks, we heard Isaiah tell the people that in time, their light would come, in time, they would be called by a new name (“Epoused,” “My Delight”). Well guess what? Now we’re at that time! The people have returned to their homeland – to which they are “espoused,” and this is cause for great rejoicing – “Delight!” Each figure has a job: Ezra, Nehemiah, and the People.

  • Ezra is the priest. His job is to rebuild the people’s spiritual health. He teaches them how to worship rightly.
  • Nehemiah is like the Site Manager on a major construction site. His job is to rebuild the actual city – to physically rebuild the temple walls.
  • The People are having  their biggest “a-ha” moment in all of Israel’s history. They’ve “seen the light” – they’ve come to terms with their past sinfulness. They vow to turn back toward God’s grace. They realize they are a people of worship. It can be considered a precursor to the New Testament story of the Prodigal Son.  The people are returning to their loving God and Father, crying tears of repentance. Their hearts are less hearts of stone, and more hearts of flesh.

In the reading, Ezra reads the scroll (the law) to the people. Just as the deacon or priest stand up higher in front of the assembly to read God’s word, Ezra “stood on a wooden platform that had been made … he opened the scroll so that all might see it, and as he opened it, all the people rose.” Then he read plainly from the book of the law of God, “interpreting it so that all could understand what was read” (the homily). “There was great joy that day in the assembly and the people were encouraged to ‘go, eat rich foods and sweet drinks!’” This is the basis of feast days – when we celebrate with a great feast!

Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly,
which consisted of men, women,
and those children old enough to understand.
Standing at one end of the open place that was before the Water Gate,
he read out of the book from daybreak till midday,
in the presence of the men, the women,
and those children old enough to understand;
and all the people listened attentively to the book of the law.
Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform
that had been made for the occasion.
He opened the scroll
so that all the people might see it
— for he was standing higher up than any of the people —;
and, as he opened it, all the people rose.
Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God,
and all the people, their hands raised high, answered,
“Amen, amen!”
Then they bowed down and prostrated themselves before the LORD,
their faces to the ground.
Ezra read plainly from the book of the law of God,
interpreting it so that all could understand what was read.
Then Nehemiah, that is, His Excellency, and Ezra the priest-scribe
and the Levites who were instructing the people
said to all the people:
“Today is holy to the LORD your God.
Do not be sad, and do not weep”—
for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law.
He said further: “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks,
and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared;
for today is holy to our LORD.
Do not be saddened this day,
for rejoicing in the LORD must be your strength!”

Responsorial Psalm (19):
Response – “Your words, Lord, are spirit and life.” (John 6:63)

The verses of psalm 19 reflect beautifully what the people might have said or thought as they heard Ezra read God’s law for the first time in generations. At mass, we “answer” the psalm with words from John chapter 6, which echo the feeling of the people. If we were in the audience listening to Ezra, hearing God’s word after a time of  silence and despair, I think we would consider the words in the scroll to be spirit and life indeed!

Let us all grab hold of the last line in the psalmists’ prayer, underlined below. Let it guide us this week. Now, picture the people in Ezra’s audience saying:

“The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul. The decree of the LORD is trustworthy, giving wisdom  to the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart. The command of the LORD is clear, enlightening the eye. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are true, all of them just. Let the words of my mouth and the thought of my heart find favor before you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.“

 2nd Reading: 1 COR 12:18-30
(The 2nd reading is usually from Paul’s letters. Speaks to how the early church was built after Christ’s death and resurrection).

This reading is similar to last week’s 2nd reading, so it will sound familiar (“we have many gifts but the same Spirit”). Paul stayed in Corinth longer than any other city. Corinth was the cosmopolitan center – the “Big Apple” of the Christian world – politically, economically and socially. The letter is thought to be written 5 years after he founded the Church in Corinth. The people struggled to stay united as they faced vices and heresies that threatened to fracture the foundation Paul built. He was deeply troubled by the condition of the Church and wrote this letter to provide instruction and spiritual direction until he could arrive in person.

We’re familiar with this reading (one body made of many parts). It is a metaphor for the Church yes, but how can we think more deeply about this reality?

Paul posits that small body parts are not insignificant – think eyes (sight) or ear (hear), heart valve (life) or ovary, (potential life). Each part, no matter its size, plays a vital role. The same is true for us as people, and also our actions.  None of us are too small to make an impact. No act is too small to help the Church grow or thrive. We all matter. God’s love for each of His children knows no bounds. And what amazes and bewilders me when I stop on this thought, is how God put us each here for a reason. A very specific one. Inside each of us lies a “brick” that will build the kingdom of Heaven in a way only God can design. Much like Nehemiah was the Site Manager to rebuild the city, Christ is our builder, our creator:

Brothers and sisters:
As a body is one though it has many parts,
and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body,
so also Christ.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,
whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons,
and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.

Now the body is not a single part, but many.
If a foot should say,
“Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body, ”
it does not for this reason belong any less to the body.
Or if an ear should say,
“Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body… “

St. Therese of Lisieux lived this beautifully, believing, “If every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness.” To God, “littleness” does not mean “insignificance.” That idea is a human construct. The Lord needs our littleness to complete His glorious kingdom! May we never forget that every small act, every kind utterance, every tiny sacrifice known only to God, MATTERS.

GOSPEL: Luke 1: 1-4, 4:14-21
(The Gospel is the highest point of the Liturgy of the Word. That’s why we stand.
We are about to hear from and be instructed by Christ Himself.)

As you may know, Luke was not an apostle – not an eye-witness to Jesus’ miracles or his passion and death. He was, however, the right-hand man of the apostle Paul, his scribe. In his gospel, we see Jesus through Paul’s eyes. Consequently, Luke has something to prove to his audience- that he knew his stuff. That is the reason for verses 1-4 where he sets the stage and strengthens his credibility.

Here we are with scrolls again! I love it when the connection is so clear. Remember when Nehemiah wrote about Ezra proclaiming the law? How he had found the scroll which had been lost for generations? Here Jesus takes out the scroll and draws the connection to Isaiah 58:6. Isaiah prophesied that God would eventually free them from the bondage of Babylonian slavery. In the gospel, Jesus promises, through his eventual death on the cross, though he does not refer to it directly here, to free the people from their current oppressors (the Romans). If you were in the audience and heard Jesus say these words, don’t you think you’d be able to hear a pin drop?

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down,
and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.
He said to them,
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Let us go forward this week thinking on the themes of “Scroll” and “We are all One Body.” Do we need to return to the scroll – to God’s law – more perfectly? Is there something or someone we’re wrestling with that God could help you understand? He’s ready to walk with us. What part of the Body are you? Forget about size…what is God calling you to be for His kingdom? You are a critical piece to His masterpiece. Consider carrying out one act that will build up the Body of Christ this week.

Until next time!

01.20.19 -2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!

Join us every week for background on this Sunday readings.
Our mission is simple:
We want to help everyone in “pew-land” get more out of mass.

Fun Fact: The Baptism of the Lord (last Sunday) is a “both/and” day. It is both the last day of the Christmas season and the first Sunday in Ordinary Time. As a result, here we are in the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time. Why does the Church use the term “Ordinary?” It doesn’t mean “ordinary” as in – “regular” or “without excitement.”  At its root is the term “Ordinal” or “Order” – as in, going about the year in an orderly fashion of first, second, third, all the way to thirty-third. Now the liturgical color is green, signifying a time of growth in the Church (vs. penance during Lent or Advent, and vs. celebration during Christmas, Easter, or other feast days).

Let’s jump in!

First Reading: Isaiah 62: 1-5
The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel.

Isaiah is broken into 2 major parts: 1) The Book of Judgement (ch 1-39: the people have turned their back on God and Judgement will come) and 2) The Book of Consolation (ch 40-66: God will restore them eventually, and never abandon them).  Despite the people’s stubborn nature, God consistently shows His parental nature, correcting His children repeatedly.  Yes, he allows hardship for them, but always for the sake of restoring them to Him. He never abandons them. He loves them unconditionally. In the same way, when we encounter hardship, we must Trust in His ways, recalling that He will never abandon us either.

We’re in chapter 62 this Sunday – a joyful part of Isaiah’s book of consolation. Isaiah is so filled with joy that he cannot be silent! Despite the darkness the people are in at Isaiah’s writing (we’re around 800-700 B.C. and the Assyrians are knocking on their door, about to conquer and exile them), God will eventually do some truly great things for His people and lead them back to their land, land which God promised them in the covenant with Abraham.

Think for a moment about your name. What is your birth name? Your maiden name? Your Confirmation name? Your married name? When do we receive new names? During life’s big changes when we experience personal re-birth, or re-dedication – either to the Lord (at baptism, confirmation, entering religious life) or to your spouse (women taking on a new last name).

Did you notice Isaiah had some issues with his ‘caps lock’ key? He capitalized words like “Forsaken”, “Desolate”, “My Delight” and “Espoused.” These are “before and after” names for God’s people Israel. What we see here is that God comes, He re-names His people.  God will re-name His people. He will bring them out of the old ways of slavery and sin (when they were “Forsaken” and “Desolate”) and into new life. For the people in Isaiah’s time this means they’ll eventually return to their land; for us it means that through Christ, we are reborn in baptism and referred to as “My Delight” and “Espoused.”

For Zion’s sake I will not be silent,
for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet,
until her vindication shines forth like the dawn
and her victory like a burning torch.

Nations shall behold your vindication,
and all the kings your glory;
you shall be called by a new name
pronounced by the mouth of the LORD.
You shall be a glorious crown in the hand of the LORD,
a royal diadem held by your God.
No more shall people call you “Forsaken, ”
or your land “Desolate, ”
but you shall be called “My Delight, ”
and your land “Espoused.”
For the LORD delights in you
and makes your land his spouse.
As a young man marries a virgin,
your Builder shall marry you;
and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride
so shall your God rejoice in you.

Responsorial: Psalm 96: “Proclaim his marvelous deeds to all the nations.”
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless his name.

Response: The theme here is prophecy, as in the verb “to prophecy”, which is translated as “The act of interpreting divine will or purpose.” This is what the prophets of old did, and it is what we are called to do as well.

How do we interpret God’s will in our lives? Are we good listeners? Do we spend time in the classroom of silence to truly put our own will and desires aside to hear His will and desire? He speaks in the silence. He speaks through people and events. He’s always speaking; but how well do we listen? The psalm calls us to proclaim his marvelous deeds to the ends of the earth, to all the nations.

How exactly are we supposed to proclaim these marvelous deeds? Paul has some words of wisdom for us in the next reading, a guidebook if you will…

 Second Reading:  1 Corinthians 12: 4-11

(The 2nd reading is usually from Paul’s letters. Speaks to how the early church was built after Christ’s death and resurrection).

Paul tells the Corinthians – and us – to prophecy by using our spiritual gifts.  This is how we proclaim His marvelous deeds.

What are your spiritual gifts? Are you a good friend?  Maybe you’re a great cook, or pianist, or artist. Do you bring joy wherever you go? How do you live your faith? In what ways do you set a good example to others? Sometimes the greatest witness can be to simply “know thyself.” That is, figure out what your gifts are and spend your life honing and using them for the glory of God. When you know a person and they’re doing what God calls them to do, isn’t that obvious? It’s refreshing. It encourages others to seek out the inherent joy these people experience every day.  God has so much planned for us. He’s given each of us special and intentional gifts. This Lent, enter into prayer to discover His plan for your gifts.  Think you’re using them pretty darn well? Not sure what to do now? Tell God you need a kick in the rear to reach higher for Him. He will show you the way.

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;
there are different forms of service but the same Lord;
there are different workings but the same God
who produces all of them in everyone.
To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit
is given for some benefit.
To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom;
to another, the expression of knowledge according to the
same Spirit;
to another, faith by the same Spirit;
to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit;
to another, mighty deeds;
to another, prophecy;
to another, discernment of spirits;
to another, varieties of tongues;
to another, interpretation of tongues.
But one and the same Spirit produces all of these,
distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.

Gospel: John 2: 1-11
The Gospel is the highest point of the Liturgy of the Word. That’s why we stand.
We are about to hear from and be instructed by Christ Himself.

We’re in Year C, Luke’s gospel, but we hear from John this week. The Church chooses to start us off in ordinary time in a beautiful way – with Jesus’ first public miracle at the wedding at Cana. This story is only recorded in John’s gospel. Next week, we’re back to Luke.

This gospel is packed with meaning and connections. It can be dissected in myriad ways, from the fact that Jesus performed this miracle at a wedding feast (we refer to Mass as a wedding feast), to the numerology hidden in the six jars, to the meaning in the materials Jesus uses here, turning water into wine, both of which will pour from His side at the cross (Eucharistic blood is consecrated from wine). But today, let’s stick with the conversation between Mary and Jesus.

In those days, weddings were numerous days long and filled with much celebration. To run out of wine was no small issue, but an embarrassing concern for the couple and the family as a whole. Some scholars note that Mary’s concern for the situation may indicate that she is a relative of the wedding party. She goes to Jesus and says, “They have no wine.”

Image result for wedding at cana

Let’s pause here. I heard a beautiful commentary on this. Mary knows what her son can do. She knows He has not yet performed any public miracles, but like a good mother who knows her son in a unique and intimate way, she nudges him. Notice she doesn’t go on and on about why there is no wine. She doesn’t give reasons, place blame, or offer suggestions on how to fix the problem (don’t we sometimes approach prayer requests like this?). She simply states a fact: They have no wine.

In this small act, Mary is a model for us in our prayer. First, she has utter and complete faith in her Son, that He will deliver. Second, she serves as an intercessor for the wedding couple by taking their wishes to Jesus, just like she takes our prayers to Jesus, with full faith that He will deliver. So next time you have a need, consider asking with the kind of faith Mary displayed here, (and ask Mary to take your prayers to Him).

“Jesus, my child is very sick.”
“Jesus, I lost my job.”
“Jesus, I’ve shattered a relationship.”
“Jesus, I’ve lost faith in our world.”
“Jesus, I’m afraid to hear the test results.”

All our hopes, fears, and dreams are already contained in these few words. Can you and should you pour out more to Him? By all means. But never think you must be verbose. Especially during times when we are drained of all energy and maybe even the desire to pray, we can at least tell Him as Mary did: “Jesus, I have no wine.”

This conversation between Mary and Jesus is also the fulfillment of an Old Testament story. As noted in the Ignatian Study bible, “Genesis 3 is the reverse image of the story of the Wedding at Cana. As Eve prompted Adam to defy the Lord and drag the human family into sin and death, so Mary, the new Eve, prompts Jesus, the new Adam, to initiate His mission of salvation.”  I invite you to sit with this statement, to think and pray on this beautiful reality.

Lastly, in John 2:5, Mary tells the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” These are the final words of Mary in the New Testament. She commands the servants in the story – and we in the world – to follow Him, and do whatever He tells us. Those are some powerful “last words.”

So…what is Jesus telling you?

There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee,
and the mother of Jesus was there.
Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.
When the wine ran short,
the mother of Jesus said to him,
“They have no wine.”
And Jesus said to her,
“Woman, how does your concern affect me?
My hour has not yet come.”
His mother said to the servers,
“Do whatever he tells you.”
Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings,
each holding twenty to thirty gallons.
Jesus told the them,
“Fill the jars with water.”
So they filled them to the brim.
Then he told them,
“Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.”
So they took it.
And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine,
without knowing where it came from
— although the servers who had drawn the water knew —,
the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him,
“Everyone serves good wine first,
and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one;
but you have kept the good wine until now.”
Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee
and so revealed his glory,
and his disciples began to believe in him.

January 13, 2019 – Baptism of the Lord

Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!

Join us every week for background on this Sunday readings.
Our mission is simple:
We want to help everyone in “pew-land” get more out of mass.

Fun fact:
This week we celebrate the Baptism of Our Lord, the official end of the Christmas Season (According to the liturgical calendar, Ordinary Time doesn’t officially begin until the Monday after the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which falls on the Sunday after Epiphany.)

Let’s dive in!

Image result for photo baptism of jesus

1ST READING (IS 42: 1-4, 6-7)
(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel.)

Isaiah is a prophet with whom we’re all familiar, even if just by name. In terms of length, Isaiah takes the cake for the Old Testament prophets at a total of 66 chapters. It is often called “The Fifth Gospel” because it bears witness to Christ unparalleled by any book in the OT. He prophesied for close to 79 years, during what is arguably the worst time in Israel’s history. Put simply, the people have turned their back on God in a serious way, for a seriously long time (think idol worship, really bad-behaving kings, and exile). But God gave Isaiah a message to share: Despite the deep darkness in which Israel found themselves, a great light would come.

For Isaiah, the vision of God’s majesty was so overwhelming that military and political power faded in significance. He constantly called his people back to reliance on God’s promises and away from vain attempts to find security in human plans and intrigues.  Isaiah is known for his 4 “servant songs.” This verbiage resurfaces in the New Testament (and in today’s Gospel). Isaiah writes to a people who are familiar with kings being anointed in their land at huge ceremonies. They would have heard this kind of language at one of those ceremonies – for example, when David anointed Solomon. In speaking to them in this familiar style, his message is more likely to stick.

Listen to the theme here of justice – of Divine Kingship vs. earthly kingship. And hear how God tenderly speaks to his people, his audience – with the words “I” and “you.”

Thus says the LORD:
Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
upon whom I have put my spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations,
not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street.
a bruised reed he shall not break,
and a smoldering wick he shall not quench,
until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands will wait for his teaching.

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.

(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

“The Lord will bless His people with peace.”

The psalm is always a response to the first reading. Today’s response assures us that though the people are in darkness, the Lord will bless His people with peace. Interestingly, He doesn’t promise to bless the times and seasons  with peace (look at all the unrest around us today and throughout history), but he will bless His people with peace – peace in their hearts despite what’s happening around them. Take comfort in Christ our Savior. True peace will be achieved at the Second Coming. Until then, be a people of peace, a light to the nations. More verbiage here of kingship in verse 3 (“enthroned).

The Lord will bless his people with peace.
Give to the LORD, you sons of God,
give to the LORD glory and praise,
Give to the LORD the glory due his name;
adore the LORD in holy attire.
The Lord will bless his people with peace.
The voice of the LORD is over the waters,
the LORD, over vast waters.
The voice of the LORD is mighty;
the voice of the LORD is majestic.
The Lord will bless his people with peace.
The God of glory thunders,
and in his temple all say, “Glory!”
The LORD is enthroned above the flood;
the LORD is enthroned as king forever.

2nd READING: ACTS 10: 34-38
(The 2nd reading is usually from Paul’s letters. Speaks to how the early church was built after Christ’s death and resurrection).

In this pivotal scene from Acts, Peter, the Rock on whom Christ built the Church, the first Pope, makes a striking announcement to the people – and to us. Salvation through Christ – which comes through baptism –  is not just available to Jews, but also to the Gentiles! This was a shocking discovery. Let’s pause and consider why this is.

Up until this point, the people who believed Christ was the Messiah were elated to know that all the prophecies of old were now fulfilled. The Messiah had come! But it’s a sticky moment in Church history to a degree. Everyone who was looking forward to the coming of the Messiah – including the Apostles and Jesus himself – were Jewish. So to them, their Messiah had come. The answer promised to them for generations was here. But they didn’t really understand that this was now a New Covenant – an advancement or fulfillment of the Old.  They didn’t know it would mean a “new faith” (Christianity) – new practices, new teachings. The concept of a “new faith” or “a new Church” was not yet established. Many of Paul’s letters are written to clarify these complex, generations-old traditions: “Do we still need to be circumcised? Can we eat ‘unclean’ foods? What are the new rules?”  If I were Peter or Paul, charged with that task, I can only imagine the reliance I would need to put on my prayer life and the work of the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes in our own lives we enter a new chapter. It’s not the same as the old! Going from high school to college. Going from internship to a paid position with benefits. Going from dating to marriage. From married couple to family. From working life to retirement. What are the new ways of doing things, and what are the old? How do we adapt?

Back to the reading: So who’s Cornelius? He’s a Roman Centurian – a Gentile. In the reading, Peter preaches the Gospel to Cornelius and other gentiles for the first time.   Here’s where it gets cool. After preaching the gospel (keep reading in Acts 10), Peter sees the gentiles experience the same things that had happened at Pentecost – like speaking in tongues – and he recognizes this as a “second Pentecost.” Peter proceeds to baptize this group of men. This is Peter’s “a-ha” moment: He knows with certainty that God wants ALL people to receive salvation through His Church, beginning with baptism. From this point forward, Peter takes this message out to the world begins to preach to all people.

Peter proceeded to speak to those gathered
in the house of Cornelius, saying:
“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.
Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly
is acceptable to him.
You know the word that he sent to the Israelites
as he proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all,
what has happened all over Judea,
beginning in Galilee after the baptism
that John preached,
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth
with the Holy Spirit and power.
He went about doing good
and healing all those oppressed by the devil,
for God was with him.”

GOSPEL (LK 3:15-16, 21-22)
(The Gospel is the highest point of the Liturgy of the Word. That’s why we stand.
We are about to hear from and be instructed by Christ Himself.)

The prophets of old said “Before the Messiah comes, look for Elijah.” John the Baptist is acting like “the new Elijah” – who leads the way to Jesus.  John brought words of power to the people to whom he preached, and the people thought he might be the Christ. In the reading, the people are baptized, and Jesus goes last. Jesus puts His people before Him.

Why is Jesus baptized if He’s God? I like this explanation from Catholic Online:

“The Word Incarnate stands in the waters of the earth which was created through Him, and begins the re-creation of everything. Into these waters, through which the people of Israel were once delivered, the entire human race is now invited to follow Jesus. What was once the means of God’s judgment and purification at the time of Noah, now fills the Baptismal font where men and women are delivered from sin and made new.”

Wow. At this moment, for the first time, we see all three persons of God present simultaneously: Jesus is there, the Holy Spirit descends on Him like a Dove, and the voice of God the Father is heard from above quoting the servant song of Isaiah 42: “You are my beloved Son, with You I am well pleased.” Wow again.

Where in our lives do we need to be cleansed? Where do we need to be ‘re-created’ and begin anew? Although we’ve already been baptized, our sacramental life – through Eucharist and Reconciliation – are the tools Jesus left on Earth for us so that we would have access to His Sacramental, Heavenly Grace.

The people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
“I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

After all the people had been baptized
and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying,
heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him
in bodily form like a dove.
And a voice came from heaven,
“You are my beloved Son;
with you I am well pleased.”

May God bless your week!

01.06.19 – Epiphany (Year C)

Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!

Join us every week for background on this Sunday readings. 
Our mission is simple: We want to help everyone in “pew-land” get more out of mass.

Fun Fact:
The book of Isaiah is often called “the Fifth Gospel.”  Isaiah can be divided into 2 main parts.

  1. Chapters 1-39: The book of judgment. (God’s people aren’t listening. They’re worshipping idols.)
  2. Chapters 40-66: The book of consolation. (God is ever-loving. He will never tire from trying to save his people. He will save those who turn back.) We’re in this part today – the first 6 verses of chapter 60.

Isaiah 60: 1-6
(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel.)

Today we hear a beautiful, poetic reading that truly “consoles.” Isaiah wrote this after Babylon was ruined. He “dreams” a bit here, and reminds the people that with the birth of Christ (which, of course, hadn’t happened yet when this was written), salvation would come, too. Dark as it was at the time, this is cause for celebration. In the reading, Christ is equated to images of light and shining radiance. We see the harmony that is to be once Christ comes and we all become one with Him (at the end of time):

This reading prophesies the gospel.  As you listen, picture the 3 kings traveling to Bethlehem:

“Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you (3 kings) the LORD shines, and over you (the star) appears his glory. Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance. Raise your eyes and look about; they all gather and come to you: your sons come from afar, and your daughters in the arms of their nurses. Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow…”

Psalm 72: Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

From Christianity.com: “This psalm belongs to Solomon in part, but to Christ more fully and clearly. Solomon was both the king and the king’s son, and his father wanted the wisdom of God to be in him. Although Solomon’s reign came to an end, Christ’s never will. You’ll hear “father/son” language in the first verse…

O God, with your judgment endow the king,
and with your justice, the king’s son;
He shall govern your people with justice
and your afflicted ones with judgment.

Justice shall flower in his days,
and profound peace, till the moon be no more.
May he rule from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.

EPH 3:2-3A, 5-6
(The 2nd Reading usually comes from Paul’s letters).

Paul makes 2 points in this letter: 1) The fullness of God’s mystery has not been fully revealed until now, (when God revealed it to Paul), and 2) The mystery says that Gentiles – not just Jews – share in the salvation God offers. The 2nd point about the Gentiles having access to salvation? This really gob-smacked the Church. For centuries, gentiles were outsiders – unclean and unfit to experience God’s promises. Paul still “lowers the bomb” with gentleness, knowing it might sting his audience a little.

“You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for your benefit, 
namely, that the mystery was made known to me by revelation. It was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: That the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and co-partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

Gospel: Matthew 2: 1-12
(The Gospel is the highest point of the Liturgy of the Word. That’s why we stand.
We are about to hear from and be instructed by Christ Himself.)

Remember how our psalm talked about Solomon’s kingship, and how it eventually ended? Jesus is seen here as “the new Solomon.” Only HIS kingship never ends.

Today, the magi come to Jerusalem to see the Christ Child – the three kings, or the three “wise men.” But when King Herod heard this, he became irate. “What? Someone else is being praised in MY kingdom? I’ll have none of that, for I am the only King!” The city of Jerusalem was right behind him on this, the reading tells us.

Herod gathered the chief priests and elders. “What say you?” he asked. The chief priests answered with an Old Testament verse in which a prophet foretold this would happen: “And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you (Bethlehem) shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.” King Herod hears this, does not like it, and calls the magi to him. “Go find the child, and send word of where I can find him. I want to pay him a visit too…” Now of course Herod doesn’t want to pay him homage, he wants to kill Jesus. He just needs Jesus’ location. (Sounds like a great CSI episode, doesn’t it?)

The kings travel to Bethlehem, guided by the great star. They arrive, pay homage, and then – because those fantastic, always-on-their-toes angels were doing their jobs well – the Holy Family left on another route. Why? They had been warned to do so in a dream, and they listened.

As we embark on a New Year, let us be like the 3 kings – let us be wise, let us walk by His light, let us pay close attention to our dreams – and however else the Lord speaks to us  – and let us pay him homage day after day after day.

Happy New Year!

12.16.18 – Third Sunday of Advent (Year C)

Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!
Special Alert! In less than 4 weeks, at the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, this blog will have covered the full 3-year cycle of readings! Except for, of course, the weeks I have missed over the past few months as life got a bit crazy. However, I’m thrilled to have made it nearly all the way through years A, B and C. The exciting news is that you will see these posts sooner because I will be able to rely on posts that have already been written. I’ll adapt them a bit to be more timely, and voila. Away we’ll go! Truth? It has been a marathon and I never thought I’d get to the end. But alas, here we are, upon it…

Join us every week for background on this Sunday readings.
Our mission is simple:
We want to help everyone in “pew-land” get more out of mass.

Greetings! Today is the 3rd week of Advent. That’s the pink candle, which stands for HOPE. It is also called Gaudate Sunday. We will hear messages of Hope.

1st Reading: ZEP 3:14-18A

(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel.)

Listen to this reading from the prophet Zephaniah, a “minor” prophet whose small book (just 3 chapters!) is almost entirely a warning of destruction and devastation. Until the very end. Check out the outline given at usccb.org (We’re in part 4 today):

  1. The Day of the Lord: Judgment on Judah (1:22:3)
  2. Judgment on the Nations (2:415)
  3. Jerusalem Reproached (3:17)
  4. The Nations Punished and Jerusalem Restored (3:820)

Zephaniah warned the people of Israel for 3 chapters, but at the end brings them hope. He calls them “daughter” and asks them to “sing joyfully.” He tells them to “fear not…be not discouraged!” The Lord is in their midst. And He is in ours today. He is in our midst through our trials, too. When all seems dark and gloomy, remember to think of that pink candle – light it in your heart and let it remind you to never lose hope, for the Lord is always in our midst!

Sing joyfully, O Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD has removed the judgment against you
he has turned away your enemies;
the King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst,
you have no further misfortune to fear.
On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love,
he will sing joyfully because of you,
as one sings at festivals.

Responsorial Psalm: IS 12:2-3, 4, 5-6
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

Hear the words of joy, strength and courage from the prophet Isaiah (we are not hearing from the actual book of Psalms today).

Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.
God indeed is my savior;
I am confident and unafraid.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
With joy you will draw water
at the fountain of salvation.

2nd Reading: PHIL 4:4-7
(The 2nd reading is usually from Paul’s letters. Speaks to how the early church was built after Christ’s death and resurrection).

Paul’s letter to the Philippians is often referred to “The Letter of JOY,” so it is no surprise that we find it here on the Sunday of JOY. Paul tells us to rejoice! The Lord is near. We’ve turned the corner, now halfway through Advent, and are headed toward the end of this watchful season. Nearing Christmas Day, let us rejoice in our hearts as Paul suggests.

Brothers and sisters:
Rejoice in the Lord always.
I shall say it again: rejoice!
Your kindness should be known to all.
The Lord is near.
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. 

LK 3:10-18

(The Gospel is the highest point of the Liturgy of the Word. That’s why we stand.
We are about to hear from and be instructed by Christ Himself.)

It helps to know that right before this reading, John the Baptist – who prepares The Way for Jesus’s coming – says to the crowds (John is about to baptize them), “Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” He circles back to this point at the end of the gospel reading:

The crowds ask John… “What should we do?” Listen as he foretells that Jesus is coming. He is trying to prepare them for the coming of the Son of God. The people are asking, What should we do to prepare?

And what about us, what are we doing to prepare? I know I’m busy getting things assembled – gifts, tables, have we watched Charlie Brown yet, what about Christmas cards? It’s so hard for us to carve out that extra time to just be still. And yet I am always glad I do when I do. So that’s my job this week! What’s yours? How are you preparing?

“Whoever has two cloaks
should share with the person who has none.
And whoever has food should do likewise.”
Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him,
“Teacher, what should we do?”
He answered them,
“Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”
Soldiers also asked him,
“And what is it that we should do?”
He told them,
“Do not practice extortion,
do not falsely accuse anyone,
and be satisfied with your wages.”

Now the people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
“I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor
and to gather the wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Exhorting them in many other ways,
he preached good news to the people.