A joyful, godly life should be our gratitude to God

Baptism of the Lord (Year C) Jan. 10 (Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11; Psalm 104; Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7; Luke 3:15-16, 21-22)

It is difficult to read this passage from Isaiah without hearing the strains of Handel’s Messiah. These beautiful verses from Isaiah’s “book of comfort” fell on welcome ears — those of the exiles in Babylon. The suffering is over and done with; all of the negativity is in the past. No “blood and thunder” from God here, only tender speech and the image of a shepherd gathering and caring for the sheep. God has not forgotten them and God is not against them.

We must seek the greater light

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

What does Epiphany mean in 2010? Epiphany has been celebrated for more than 2,000 years since the birth of Jesus but each year we must ask again what it means for us in our present situation lest it becomes just another feast on the liturgical calendar.

Strive to be at one with God

Holy Family (Year C) Dec. 27 (1 Samuel 1:20-22, 24-28; Psalm 84; 1 John 3:1-2, 21-24; Luke 2:41-52)

The road to motherhood was a long and painful journey for Hannah as for many of the “barren women” of the Bible. Not only did she have to deal with the disappointment at being childless but the shame and guilt as well, for childlessness was thought to be a punishment or curse from God. Not even Hannah’s prayer to God was without difficulty — she had to endure the snide and contemptuous accusations of public drunkenness from Eli the prophet. But she was a woman of intense faith and her prayers were answered.

Give up self in service to God

Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year C) Dec. 20 (Micah 5:2-5; Psalm 80; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45)

One of the little (some translations say “least”) clans of Judea — not what a city would want to put on its promotional literature or web site. And yet who has not heard of Bethlehem? Great things definitely come from seemingly insignificant origins.

God asks that we be compassionate, just

Third Sunday of Advent (Year C) Dec. 13 (Zephaniah 3:14-18; Isaiah 12; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:10-18)

Prophets seldom make pleasant company, and the prophecies of Zephaniah for the most part do not make for pleasant reading. Writing during the reign of Josiah in the seventh century BC, Zephaniah preached against idolatry and other forms of religious corruption. In his attempts to stir the people to moral and spiritual renewal, he prophesied doom and misery for Jerusalem as punishment. He even expanded his prophecy to include the rest of the world in the coming judgment called the “Day of the Lord.” In their eyes, these warnings and prophecies were fulfilled with the destruction of the first temple in 586 BC by the Babylonians.

Light over darkness

Recently, I was chatting with a friend about many things — the state of Christianity, of the economy, the world, our lives, people we know. Finally my friend remarked, “The older I get, the more I see that there’s far more evil than good in the world.” His comment was quite understandable. Whether you look around, or whether you look within, it’s evident that evil twines everywhere, like a serpent coiling around one’s legs or a vine climbing a stone wall.

We happened to be sitting in front of a display of beautiful Christmas merchandise: wreaths, trees, toys, gifts and a stunning life-size nativity set. The nativity figures were all swathed in flowing clothes of filmy materials that enhanced their beauty, the way clothes should. The figures were artfully arranged so that they seemed to glorify one another, the way people should. The whole effect was a vision of loveliness, without shadow or pain or evil.

Love illuminates the way

Second Sunday of Advent (Year C) Dec. 6 (Baruch 5:1-9; Psalm 126; Philippians 1:3-6, 8-11; Luke 3:1-6)

Clothes make the person — or so goes the old saying. But this very worldly principle is used often in the Scriptures to indicate something much deeper. Clothes in the biblical sense are indicators of one’s psychological and spiritual state — ways of thinking, worldview, values and personal identity.

Advent reminds us redemption is near

1st Sunday of Advent (Year C) Nov. 29 (Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25; 1Thessalonians 3:12-4:2; Luke 21:25-28, 34-36)

It takes real courage and conviction to preach hope and redemption in the midst of disaster and suffering. Any politician doing so would be in serious danger of being thrown out of office after being accused of insensitivity, denial, political opportunism and a host of other political and social sins.

Give way to God's sovereignty

Christ the King (Year B) Nov. 22 (Daniel 7:13-14; Psalm 93; Revelation 1:5-8; John 18:33-37)

Dreams and visions are the food of oppressed and desperate peoples. The Book of Daniel was written during a period of great distress and persecution. The Jewish culture and religion were at stake, and many minds struggled with the question of who ruled the world, the God of Israel or the many divinized tyrants of the surrounding nations.

Sanctification, perfection come through Christ

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) Nov. 15 (Daniel 12:1-3; Psalm 16; Hebrews 10:11-14, 18; Mark 13:24-32)

 

Cosmic battles and rescuing heroes are usually the stuff of action movies and video games. But in the ancient world it was also the fervent hope and expectation of a brutally oppressed people.

The Jews of the second century BC were struggling with an oppressor bent on destroying the Jewish religion and culture. Antiochus Epiphanes was willing to use any method — however bloody and cruel — to achieve his goal.

We must look out for each other

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) Nov. 8 (1 Kings 17:10-16; Psalm 146; Hebrews 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44)

The poor widow of Zarephath probably didn’t know quite what to make of Elijah’s request. She was at the end of her tether — almost nothing to eat and drink and the end loomed all too near. Not only that, she was not even an Israelite nor was she a worshipper of Israel’s God. But she was a humble person with a good heart — the very definition of one who is right with God.