Peace to you!
The most important daily activity Jesus engaged in during his life on earth was teaching. True we love the stories about Jesus healing the lame and the sick, giving sight to the blind, cleansing the lepers and raising the dead but more important than all of those miracles is his teaching.
In the Gospel, we pick up from where we left off last weekend and all the people were amazed at the gracious words that Jesus spoke. But suddenly, things changed—drastically! By the end of the account, they wanted to kill him! Why? Because Jesus knew they didn’t believe what he taught them and that a miracle would only fascinate them. Sincere faith however, doesn’t need a miracle. The miraculous events for the widow of Sidon and Naaman the Syrian were given because sincere faith was already there.
This week we pay attention to Catholic schools—and Catholic education. I was educated in a Catholic school by Dominican Sisters from first to twelfth grade. Then later, my college undergraduate and graduate level studies were completed with the Benedictines at Mt. Angel Seminary. Looking back, I believe that the greatest gift I have ever received in my life has been an education and more importantly, a Catholic one. What makes it distinctive? It’s not just learning to read, write, do math or play sports. A Catholic education is first of all grounded in belief and practice. The Catholic values that form the whole person travel into whatever activities we engage in and become part of our institutional structures including business corporations, city hall and national policies. This ensures honesty; not corruption, justice; not inequality, compassion and care for others; not cruelty and cold indifference, love; not hate.
The value that the Catholic school environment brings to our places of activity is virtually inestimable! It is beyond an earthly price and it leads to an eternal reward for the individual and society!
Not many of our families are able to attend a Catholic school these days. We know that this increases the importance of our religious education programs in the parish setting. I am very impressed and proud of our families that volunteer and make the effort to teach the faith to our children and adults. Teaching and learning the faith is the top priority in the mission of the Church.
As the Annual Catholic Appeal draws near, keep in mind that the support we give is needed and a large percentage of the Appeal income supports Catholic education. God bless you all! +++ Fr. Peter
May the Good News lift you in joy and peace!
The historical context of the first reading indicates that the people are just returning to Jerusalem where the Temple had been desecrated and is badly in need of repair while the people themselves suffer ignorance of God’s covenant and law because of their captivity in the Babylonian exile. The focus of Ezra and Nehemiah is twofold: repair the Temple building and teach the people to live the law and covenant. The people need to be restored physically and spiritually to reclaim their identity as God’s holy people.
In the Gospel, Jesus has just returned from the desert where he struggled against the temptations of the devil. By overcoming all the temptations, Jesus does not succumb to the captivity of sin and maintains his identity as God’s Beloved Son. Jesus comes in the power of the Spirit to announce the good news of salvation and a promise of favor from God.
The combination of both readings beckons us to evaluate ourselves before God and identify the things that hold us captive. But we are not to punish ourselves with negative thoughts about ourselves, our failings, weaknesses or past sins. Rather we are invited to trust Jesus’ promise of God’s favor ever more deeply and rejoice! This is a time of liberation and deliverance! God’s goodness and mercy are not just for a day or a year, but from the moment Jesus announced it until the end of time. When Jesus said “Today, this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” he meant that this fulfillment is in him from now on.
St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians reminds us that we have a special relationship with other people of the church—spiritually we’re members of Christ’s own body. The gifts that all the members have received are for service and the good of others—just like the ones Jesus announced. Giving of ourselves and receiving from others are the concrete forms of the communion we have as members of the one body and it is the concrete expression that strengthens us spiritually and brings joy. As God’s beloved child, how do you experience this good news today? How do you proclaim this good news to others each day? God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter
Peace be with you!
The readings this weekend draw us to contemplate the deep, passionate love that God has for the human race— especially for the people he calls his own, the Church. These readings enhance the meaning of the covenant relationship of baptism that we enter with God through Jesus’ baptism.
In the first reading from Isaiah, the people are just returning from exile—a place of servitude and slavery. It is a time of transition which includes the mix of feelings that always accompany change but the message is overall one of great hope and bright promise! This first reading serves as a spring board for the Gospel.
The Gospel story of the wedding at Cana is the first of Jesus’ signs that announce God’s presence among us and that the fulfillment of all promises is taking place!
The wedding is symbolic of the marriage of mankind with God. This union of two natures is present in the water and the wine and the person of Jesus as Son of God and Son of Man. Mary appears in the story as one who understands the needs of the people and as one who speaks or intercedes on their behalf before God. Mary knows that Jesus is the Savior and the source of all grace for the human race. When she tells Jesus “they have no wine,” she is asking Jesus to remember the love and compassion he has for humanity and to fulfill his promise to save them by letting his divine love and grace flow upon them to heal the division between men and women and restore harmony and peace to the human race by reconciling them with God: to free them from sin. Jesus responds that his “hour has not yet come” because the consummation of the new covenant is not until he offers his body and blood on the cross for his bride the Church. Jesus must accomplish the expiation of our sins at the appointed hour. Mary understands what Jesus means but she also knows that she is the first among the redeemed. Because she was given this favor from God at the beginning of her life, she also asks a share in this grace for the people that God was preparing to be his bride. Mary’s words to the servants are also directed to us: “do whatever he tells you.” At Mary’s request, Jesus generously shows his love by giving them a foretaste of the new covenant symbolized by the best wine.
When I think of Cana, I am awed by the interplay between Jesus and Mary and the attentive care they have for every person. In my brief reflection, I have only hinted at some of the deep realities contained in this scripture passage. I hope that you find yourself rejoicing as you savor the new wine of God’s gifts of love that are yours. I hope that you can be awestruck when you look at your spouse and children and contemplate how great the gift of a human life is. I also hope that you are even more awestruck at how the gift of divine life comes to us through the sacraments! God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter
Peace and grace to you!
This weekend we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord in which God reveals Jesus as The Beloved Son. This event always calls us to reflect first upon John’s baptism of repentance (turning-to-God) and why Jesus was baptized by John. Even John questioned it. Jesus expressed his desire to fulfill righteousness, which means to fulfill God’s plan— to do God’s will and sanctify people of faith in Christ who are baptized. Jesus entered creation and was born a man so that human beings could share divine life with God.
Today upon his baptism, we see something new: Jesus is anointed with the Holy Spirit! In this event, Jesus makes the waters of baptism holy so that those who experience Christian baptism are reborn, cleansed from sin and re-created as children of God, united to God as members of Christ’s own body and sharing in the life of the Holy Spirit. As Christians we are enabled to live and love as God’s beloved sons and daughters and we are empowered to carry on the saving mission of Jesus in the world. We are called and sent to work for justice and peace and share the Gospel message so that other people may be free from error, darkness and sin. For many of us who were baptized as infants, we have never fully understood or embraced the radical character of our baptism. That is why Feasts like today’s and the renewal of our baptismal promises are so important. They help us to understand more fully what baptism really means. Such occasions also help us recommit ourselves to living more deeply the covenant of love as Jesus Christ taught us. The baptism of Jesus was the starting point of his public ministry when he taught the people about God and the moral life. He worked many miracles of healing to show that God’s power comes as love and mercy for the person who desires salvation. This was Jesus’ mission and ours too. Jesus still works miracles through those who do good works in his name. I hope that many of us have a sense of renewal and a spring in our step knowing that we share in such a beautiful and important work. May God bless all your efforts! +++ Fr. Peter
May the light of faith guide you to eternal life!
We celebrate the Epiphany this weekend, which means “manifestation.” It refers to the events around Christ’s birth that show how God has revealed his plan of salvation for the whole human race; not just the Jewish people. The first reading prophecies that a ruler shall arise from the assembly of faith who will truly be like a great light in the heavens! This ruler will establish true justice, peace, and he will govern with heavenly wisdom and be recognized by all nations as a gift from God. St. Paul speaks of a stewardship of divine grace that was given him by God in order that he may continue guiding all nations in the light of the Gospel: God’s love and mercy shown toward the human race in Jesus.
The Gospel story depicts Wise Men from the East. They saw a light in the heavens that they had never seen before and they believed this star signaled that a very important and great king had been born. The journey of the Magi speaks of the yearning for peace, justice, love and mercy in every human heart through history. The Magi represent everyone who seeks the truth in hope of healing, peace and salvation. Herod, on the other hand, represents those who feel threatened by an authority greater than their own, those opposed to accountability to truth and justice and those who are selfish to the point of evil. This also pertains to the fallen part of human nature and selfish inclinations to seek only after our own desires with little or no regard for God or others. We are given an example of the forces at work within ourselves through the characters in the story. We seek the truth and are guided by God’s heavenly wisdom which leads us to peace through serving God first and others. This is the path by which we discover the joy of knowing the truth, acting in justice, mercy and love. We have a choice to follow the wisdom of God or we can turn away. The conclusion of the story is that the Wise Men experienced Jesus in humble simplicity and were enriched by him in a profound, mystical way. They went away in a new direction because they had been changed by the light of God’s love and goodness. Herod remained hardened at heart and dark in selfishness. Let us pray that we too will seek God’s wisdom so that we will shine more brightly with the joy and peace found only in Jesus and his cross. Let us ask Jesus to touch others with his light through us. God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter