Focus on God, not on yourself

Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A) Feb. 3 (Zephaniah 2:3; 3:12-13; Psalm 146; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31; Matthew 5:1-12)

In the animal world there are many ways to impress and intimidate others: colourful plumage, the ability to inflate one’s appearance, displays of ferocity and various forms of body language. Human beings have their own ways of dominating and oppressing others: possessions, titles and marks of respect, fancy dress and ways of life, as well as power and aggressive competitiveness. The “bad” news is that God is definitely not impressed with any of this.

Despair can be beaten by God

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A), Jan. 27 (Isaiah 9:1-4; Psalm 27; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17-18; Matthew 4:12-23)

It is very difficult to give hope and encouragement to those who have lost everything. What does one say to the victims of natural disasters or wars who have no homes to live in and only the rubble of their cities? Any words of comfort seem like empty platitudes.

Ignorance of God is our sin

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) Jan. 20 (Isaiah 49:3, 5-6; Psalm 40; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3; John 1:29-34)

What is it like to be singled out by God for an important task? As any prophet or person of God can tell you, it is not always fun and games.

God’s path or the path of self?

Baptism of the Lord (Year A) Jan. 13 (Isaiah 42:1-4, 5-7; Psalm 29; Acts 10:34-38; Matthew 3:13-17)

The careless and loose manner with which we use the word “Spirit” in everyday speech often obscures the sense of the Spirit’s dynamism and power.

Dividing wall won’t reach to heaven

Somehow over the Christmas holidays, I become more aware of world conflicts and turmoil. Maybe it’s because our world slows down and I have time to notice. For example, in 1989, the Berlin Wall fell starting Nov. 9, with the Brandenburg Gate opened on Dec. 22 of that year. Over those Christmas holidays the changes in the Eastern bloc dominated the news, especially with the demise on Dec. 25 of Ceaucescu in Romania. 

Christians can be guided by God’s light to walk in peace

Epiphany (Year A) Jan. 6 (Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72; Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12)

The image painted of the world in Isaiah’s vision seems all too familiar. The peoples of the Earth are imprisoned in darkness and they stumble about in a spiritual and intellectual stupor. There is precious little light in our own time, but an abundance of hatred, violence and fear. And to compound the problem, the very existence of God is an open question to many and a settled one, in a negative fashion, to many others.

Holy Family gave Jesus a home

Holy Family (Year A) Dec. 30 (Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14; Psalm 128; Colossians 3:12-21; Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23)

So many of the teachings in both the Old and New Testaments are intended to preserve and enhance the quality of human community. Care and honour of one’s parents is an important element of that, for it is a concrete way of expressing gratitude for the gift of life. It also forms a firm link between past generations and a nation’s future.

Jesus’ birth proof of God’s presence

Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year A), Dec. 23 (Isaiah 7:10-14; Psalm 24; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-24)

Great written works have many lives and this is especially true with biblical texts. The original audience for Isaiah’s prophecy was Jerusalem in the eighth century BC, and the sign of encouragement was meant for Ahaz the king. Jerusalem was under siege, and Ahaz was close to despair. Should he make foreign military alliances in order to lift the siege? The word that came through Isaiah was a resounding negative. All that was needed was trust in God.

Patience is queen of all spiritual skills

Third Sunday of Advent (Year A) Dec. 16 (Isaiah 35:1-6, 10; Psalm 146; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11)

People can bear almost any negative situation if they believe that it will come to an end. And if they are being oppressed, this hope for deliverance is tinged with fantasies of revenge and retribution, especially at the hands of a heroic liberator.

Child of God understands love, compassion, justice

Second Sunday of Advent (Year A) Dec. 9 (Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72; Romans 1515:4-9; Matthew 3:1-12)

The people of the first millennium B.C. were no different than we are. They had seen — and experienced — their share of tragedy, violence, war and natural disaster. They were certain that there was a tragic and dreadful flaw in the world, and they longed for the arrival of someone who would fix everything.

Baby Jesus points us to our humanness

How do you prepare for Christmas? One year, when I was working in parish ministry, we decided to hold an Advent retreat. Many parishioners were eager for such a time of reflection. We arranged it well in advance, made posters, booked rooms and soon had abundant pre-registered participants.