Homilies for 2021

January 2021

2nd Sunday of Ordinary time, January 17th, 2021 (Year B)

1Sm 3:3-10; Ps 40:2, 4, 7-10; 1Cor 6:13-15, 17-20; Jn 1:35-42

Homilist: Deacon Doug Farwell

Through Baptism, We’re Joined With the Lord

This past week began our return to Ordinary Time in the Church. It began on Monday after the final Feast Day of the Christmas season, The Baptism of the Lord.  The weekday readings are read from Year 1, and Sunday Gospels concentrates on Mark. However, our Gospel reading today comes from John as this reading makes a smooth transition from the Feast of Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord to the beginning of the ministry of Jesus.

John begins his Gospel using the first words of the Bible, “In the beginning,” referring to when God created the Heavens and the Earth, so also did the Son exist. John’s Gospel doesn’t specifically talk about the baptism of Jesus but implies it through the introduction and encounters with John the Baptist. We’re introduced to the Baptist after the opening prologue that presents the main themes John’s Gospel wishes to focus on: life, light, truth, the world, testimony, and the pre-existence of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Logos, meaning Word

John the Baptist is encountered three times leading to the identification of Christ as the “Lamb of God.”

The first encounter is when the Jews from Jerusalem approach John to question his testimony of repentance and baptism. They inquire, “Who are you?”

To which John identifies himself using scripture from Isaiah (40:3), “I am the voice of one crying out from the desert, make straight the way of the Lord.”

The second encounter comes the next day, when John is baptizing in the Jordan. He sees Jesus approaching and draws the attention of the people to Jesus, who John identifies as “the Lamb of God.”  How does he know this? Because the one who sent him told him, “On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, He is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” John proclaims Jesus as the “Son of God” because he has seen and testified.

The third encounter comes on the third day as John—this time with a couple of his disciples—watches Jesus walk by and proclaims, “Behold! The Lamb of God!”

Immediately two disciples, identified as Andrew, brother of Simon Peter, and John, the son of Zebedee, begin to follow, thus beginning the ministry of Jesus by the calling of His first disciples.

John the Baptist’s main purpose in the Gospel of John isn’t so much concentrated on repentance and the forgiveness of sin, but the revelation of Jesus to Israel. This is what ties our Gospel to the first reading from Samuel.

How Well Do We Listen to His Voice?

Samuel had been consecrated to God by the promise of Samuel’s mother, Hannah, being barren, prayed to God that if she conceived a son, she would give him to the Lord. Keeping her vow, Samuel is under the care of the priest Eli when Samuel first encounters God calling his name. Whether occurring in a dream or whether it woke Samuel from his sleep, God calls Samuel three times before Samuel understood and spoke the words for those wishing to become followers of the Lord should likewise utter: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

Today’s readings should cause us to reflect on three thoughts:

  • Through our baptism, we are joined to the Lord, who calls us to be His disciples.
  • How well do we listen to His voice?
  • How willing are we to do His will?

 

With the Lenten season beginning in a little over four weeks, perhaps these questions should become the theme of our Lenten journey this year. Especially with what’s going on in our world today and specifically within our own country—something we probably never thought would occur within our borders.

Our baptism is the promise of our sharing in the inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom, bringing us into a kinship with Jesus as brothers and sisters—children of God. Jesus voluntarily submits to baptism as a manifestation of his self-emptying (CCC 1224) and sets an example for us of our own self-emptying. It’s our incorporation to the Church, the Body of Christ, calling us to be priests, prophets, and kings. Baptism makes us “living stones” to be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood (CCC 1268). By Baptism, we are to share in the priesthood of Christ, in his prophetic and royal mission (CCC 1268). The person baptized belongs no longer to himself, but to Him who died and rose for us (CCC 1269).

Taking a part in this mission, we must ask ourselves: “How well do I listen to the Lord’s voice?” His voice comes to us in many ways: in dreams (as we hear today from Samuel), in prayer, in scripture, or even through another person. Regardless of how it comes, are we listening closely or too preoccupied with the world’s material distractions and all its empty promises? We need to block this out and listen to the instructions of Jesus as He tells us to go to our inner room, close the door, and pray in secret to your Father, who sees in secret will repay you (Mt 6:6).

How Willing Are We?

His voice will lead you on the path that He calls you to, but how willing are you to do His will?

In today’s Gospel, we should focus on the conversations between Jesus and the disciples to reflect on: how did the disciples receive these discussions, and correspondingly, how do we receive them?

 First, John the Baptist identifies Jesus: “Behold the Lamb of God!”

Immediately, Andrew and John follow Him, believing John’s title for Jesus indicated that Jesus would be the “sacrificial lamb” who would take upon Himself our sins and bring forgiveness to all.

It’s that same title that we profess three times in our liturgy:

In the Gloria: Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father . . .

During the Communion Rite: Prayer before Communion: Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world . . .

And our profession just prior to receiving the Sacred Body of Jesus: Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world . . .

So, believe in what you’re professing!

What Are You Looking For?

This isn’t really so much a question but an invitation by Jesus to His disciples. They respond positively, accepting Christ’s invitation, when they in turn ask, “Rabbi, where are you staying?”

Jesus extends the invitation, “Come, and you will see.” This same invitation extends to us to come and seek Him, and He will show us.

Finally, the last phrase to contemplate: “We have found the Messiah!” This bold statement is the revelation we seek. These exchanges with Jesus show the progression of His first two disciples from John the Baptist to the discipleship of the Lord. This is the same progression we are called, to, and it begins with Baptism.

So, are you receptive to hearing His voice and ready to do His will? Are you ready to listen for God’s call?

Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.

January 3, 2021, Feast of the Epiphany

Homilist: Deacon Dave LaFortune

The Darkness in Our Times

If this past Christmas marks the end of a very dark year, Epiphany starts 2021 with light.

Pope Francis, in his encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, writes about the “Dark Clouds over A Closed World” and names the darkness in our time: COVID-19, damaged economies, social distancing, racism, climate issues, political divisions, lost homes and evictions, and unnatural death. Nonetheless, Pope Francis invites us “to dialogue among all people of good will,” reminding that all are siblings in Christ.

Epiphany calls us to keep our eyes on the Light of Christ and move confidently out of the darkness of 2020 into this new year.

 Our Guiding Star.

The Magi travelled from afar in darkness, but they saw the promise of light and acted with hope.

Jesus is our Guiding Star. Jesus the Christ is the Light of the Universe, our true star in every situation, especially in the middle of a pandemic.  We must keep our heads up and our eyes on the Light, trusting the Gospel’s roadmap as we go forward. Whenever we see darkness, we can look for the Light and act to make our times brighter and our lives better.

A Study in Contrasts

In today’s Gospel, we are presented with two contrasts. The pagan astrologers, also known as three kings or wise men, are contrasted with the leaders of the Temple.

The pagan astrologers were searching. While they studied the stars, their field of study was much broader than astrology. These wise men from the East had studied many ancient texts in their search for wisdom. Within that assortment of texts would be what we call the Old Testament, the Jewish scriptures. They would have been familiar with the writings of the prophet Isaiah and intrigued by the Jewish belief in the Messiah. When these pagan astrologers saw a star rising in the heavens where they had never seen that star before, they believed some god, somewhere, was announcing something through that star.

So, they embarked on a journey to see, “the newborn king of the Jews because they saw his star at its rising and ha[d] come to do him homage.” When they first arrived in Jerusalem, they looked for a political figure, the King of the Jews, which is why they went to Herod first.

But when they arrived at the house where Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were staying, they fell down in worship. They became the first gentiles to experience the presence of the Messiah. Their journey of life, their journey to find God, was complete. They were sincere in their search and indeed “wise men.”

The scholars in the Temple—who devoted their lives to the Sacred Word and traditions of the Jewish people—were, however, not so wise. They knew the Messiah was coming as foretold in Scripture. They even knew He was to be born in Bethlehem. But the political mood then was such that it just wasn’t a good time for a Messiah. They were motivated by worldly events instead of seeking God. As a result, they missed entering into the presence of the Messiah.

The contrast is clear: the wise men who did not know God, but nonetheless searched for Him, found Him. The Jewish scholars, despite the help of Scripture, were not searching for Him and subsequently missed His presence on earth.

What Does the Epiphany Mean to Us?

The Solemnity of the Epiphany celebrates Jesus, showing Himself to those whose faith lead them to Him, for those who wish to see Him. Today’s feast leads us to ask about our own attitudes in life: Are we really searching for God? Do we really want to find Him?

Those are very important questions, because finding God necessitates changes in our life.

Every experience with God demands a change in how we live. If during Christmas we feel drawn closer to the Lord, then we must refine our lives so we can enjoy His presence. If we’re unwilling to move closer to Christ, then Christmas was just a week full of empty sentiment.

My friends, Jesus calls us to come before His Presence. This Presence is not just in Bethlehem but in many places of our everyday lives.

He is present in the members of our family who are hurting, depressed, or going through difficult times in their lives. We’re called today to be the Light of Christ to our family members who are in need. We can be that light by picking up the phone and giving a family member a call to just say hello.

We need to remember Jesus is present in all who struggle to get by in difficult times. He is present in each of us as we stop and listen to our consciences rather than just going with our emotions.

Finding Christ

If we really want the Lord in our lives, we’ll continue the journey toward a new experience of His Presence:

  • Deepen our search for the Lord by starting with daily prayer and meditation, setting aside private time to just be with God.
  • Read the Bible or books on spirituality to help us draw closer to God.
  • Participate in the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation, to keep us centered on our search to deepen our relationship with Christ Jesus.

As we go forward in 2021, one of the best ways to deepen our relationship with Jesus Christ, and bring the Light of Christ to others, is by practicing the Corporal Works of Mercy. Let’s resolve to:

  • Look for ways to feed the hungry
  • Give drink to the thirsty
  • Visit the sick, and
  • Shelter the homeless.

Send a card to someone who is lonely.

Offer a Mass for someone who has died.

Donate to shelters, pantries, charities.

Often the most precious gift is simply the gift of time. Spend an hour with someone who is hurting or needs help. Buy flowers for a lonely neighbor to let them know they are loved and remembered.

Help people know they have dignity. They matter. It can be a beautiful way of carrying out the second greatest commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself. In doing so, you bring the light of Christ to those in need.

On this Feast of the Epiphany, God calls you and me to be the Magi of 2021. We’re called to constantly search for God, to deepen our relationship with Jesus Christ and be the Light of Christ to all in need.

Next week, we will celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which brings the Christmas Season to an end before we enter into Ordinary Time. As the Lord went forth from His Baptism to His Gospel mission, we will go forth with our ordinary lives.

Ordinary perhaps, but a life “by another way” and following Jesus Christ as His mission continues in us.   

Have a blessed week! Amen.

Solemnity of Mary Mother of God, January 1st, 2021

Nm 6:22-27; Ps 67: 2-3, 5-8; Gal 4: 4-7; Lk 2: 16-21

Homilist: Deacon Doug Farwell

We Should Seek God’s Blessings as Mary Did

“May the Lord bless you and keep you. May He cause his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace.”

This is an appropriate way to begin the New Year, maybe more this year than year’s past.

Today, we observe the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, as a Holy Day of Obligation. This is the oldest devotion to the Blessed Mother. Although it wasn’t adopted as a Holy Day of Obligation in the universal calendar until centuries later, it was recognized by Christians as early as the 4th and 5th centuries.

“All generations will call me blessed.”

One of the earliest titles given to the Blessed Virgin was “theotokos” which means “God-bearer,” as a celebration as the “Mother of God.” In conceiving and bearing Christ, she also bore the fullness of the Godhead within her.

“The Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship.” The Church rightly honors “the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of ‘Mother of God,’ to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs. . . . This very special devotion . . . differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration.” The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, are an “epitome of the whole Gospel,” express this devotion to the Virgin Mary.

Referring to Mary as the theotokos was popular among Christians, but Nestorius, patriarch of Constantinople, objected by suggesting Mary was the mother of Jesus’s human nature but not his Divine nature.

However, Nestorius’s ideas were condemned at the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. and at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D. Because of these condemnations, the Church determined Christ was fully human and fully divine, and these natures were united in the one person of Jesus Christ.

Therefore, Mary could be proclaimed the “Mother of God” since she gave birth to Jesus, who is fully human and fully divine! Since that time, Mary has been honored as the Mother of God by Catholics, Orthodox, and many Protestants.

Calling Mary the Mother of God is the highest honor we can give her. Just as Christmas honors Jesus as the “Prince of Peace,” the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, honors Mary as the “Queen of Peace.” This solemnity, falling on New Year’s Day, is also designated the World Day of Peace.

Mary’s Role

Mary’s role in our salvation history is so important to the Church that it devotes three days throughout the Church year as Holy Days of Obligations; the other two are The Assumption and the Immaculate Conception. These are in addition to sixteen other Feast Days committed to Our Blessed Mother, along with the entire month of May dedicated to Mary, and October dedicated as the “Month of the Rosary”.

Looking back to the first line of the Catechism that I read: Mary’s response to God’s calling, within her “Magnificat”—i.e., “ All generations will call me blessed”.

What are blessings after all? They are God’s favor or gift upon someone. It is something special. The main theme from the reading in Numbers is about God’s blessings entrusted and bestowed upon the Israeli people. It’s called the “priestly blessing.” This blessing rewarded the people by keeping the covenant and assured that the blessed promise God made through Abraham to all nations would be fulfilled.

That fulfillment would come centuries later to a virgin, herself consecrated to God by her parents, and by keeping her promise, God gives her His Blessing, something special she would do and become.

Not coincidence.

Perhaps the reading from Numbers today is no coincidence as we celebrate the civil holiday of New Years. That’s God’s Mercy in action. “These words of blessing will accompany our journey through the year opening up before us. They are words of strength, courage and hope. The message of hope contained in this blessing was fully realized in a woman, Mary, who was destined to become the Mother of God, and it was fulfilled in her before all creatures.” (Pope Francis, 2015).

Through Mary, we are led to Christ in an intimate way where God becomes more than the Creator. God becomes for us “Abba” and an intimate expression of Father in the form of “daddy”.

Through the birth of Christ in flesh and blood, all peoples become adopted children of God, and we can approach God in a more intimate way, begetting trust, peace, and love.

Through Mary, we’re led to an intimate union with Christ in the Eucharist, a thanksgiving for the blessings, and the gift of God’s salvation.

Traditionally at New Years, we make resolutions for the upcoming year. These resolutions are to improve ourselves. This year, how about a resolution of faith, maybe a re-commitment to the Church and to Christ? Maybe a re-commitment to the Blessed Mother of God who can lead us to Christ?

To help boost into re-committing ourselves, let’s recite the Hail Mary.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.

Blessed are thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.