Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. Proverbs 19: 20-21
December 10, 2017
Mark’s Gospel begins by introducing us to John the Baptist, who prepared the way to Jesus by calling people to acknowledge their sins and receive a Baptism of repentance. Are we prepared to welcome Jesus into the world? To do so properly, we need to acknowledge our sins and receive forgiveness for the wrong we have done. As we celebrate today’s liturgy, let us keep in mind our failings and resolve to keep Jesus in our minds and hearts as we interact with others. It may be difficult to fully appreciate the extent of the suffering that the Jewish people underwent during the years of their exile in Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar’s army had defeated Judah, the temple was destroyed, and the people were deported from the Promised Land. It would have been easy to lose hope, not knowing how long they would be without a home. The author of this section of Isaiah wrote during this bleak time. It would have been natural to write a diatribe or a lament. But he wrote a message of hope, a book of consolation as it is often called. One can hope that it consoled the faithful, giving them a vision of redemption. Such a vision can sustain us as we suffer trials in or own time. In order to prepare for the coming of Jesus, John the Baptist invited them to repent and be forgiven. The water of the Jordan River symbolized the cleansing of sin that Baptism brought to the believer. It also symbolized the renewal of life after being parched in the desert, as John was, as Isaiah was, as the people in exile were, as we still can be today.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK: In what way do I feel parched, spiritually or emotionally? How can Jesus’ presence satisfy my thirst? How can I prepare myself for Christ’s presence? (Permission granted - World Library Publications 2017)
December 3, 2017
Today, we begin the season of Advent, preparing for the day when we celebrate God becoming flesh, becoming Incarnate, becoming one of us. In doing so, we are called upon to prepare our hearts for Christ’s presence in our lives. Every Christian’s goal should be to reveal Christ to those we encounter. As we celebrate the First Sunday of Advent, let us think of how we can make His presence Incarnate in what we say and do. The Old Testament reading today is a prayer thought to have been written during the time that the Chosen People were exiled in Babylon. The writer--not Isaiah, but writing in the tradition of Isaiah--acknowledges their sinfulness and expresses their repentance. He longs for God to “rend the heavens and come down,” to redeem them from their sin. What he cannot know is that God will do exactly that in the person of Jesus. Though he could not imagine God’s Son coming into the world, he prophesied that God could do awesome deeds for those who place their trust in the Lord. The writer of this passage from Isaiah uses this wonderful image of God as the potter. Think of a potter throwing the clay on a wheel and shaping a pot or vase. The potter’s hands immediately get messy with the wet clay. We who are the clay have this image of God actively shaping us through a hands-on, messy process. Perhaps this sense of intimacy enables the writer to plead with God the way he does. The caution in today’s Gospel—“you do not know when the time will come”--is reminiscent of a pop quiz in school or a surprise inspection at work. The only assurance of being prepared, then, is to be prepared always. But Jesus does not only come at Christmas or at the end of time. Jesus also comes to us every day. Let us prepare our hearts to receive Him always. QUESTION OF THE WEEK: As we begin the season of Advent, how am I preparing a place for Jesus in my life? (Permission granted-World Library Publications 2017)
November 26, 2017
Often when we think of Christ with His title of “King” we think about the Last Judgment. At our celebration today we will indeed hear about Christ at the end-times. Yet the purpose of our gathering here is not to become fearful about what is to come, but rather to support one another in the tasks at hand, encouraged by our good and faithful Shepherd. This way, when judgment time comes, we can be ready and rejoice over the good deeds that have built up God’s kingdom. Today, Jesus teaches what the real judgment will be about— simple, straightforward observations about practical charity: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, and visiting the homebound. In fact, at this judgment there isn’t even a “sentencing”. The King will simply assign us then the place we’ve already chosen by our decision to perform or to neglect such charity. The only surprise is that care extended or refused to “these least sisters and brothers of mine” turns out to have been care extended or refused to the King Himself. Note too how our present attitude will impact our eternal beatitude. In Jesus’ story, the unjust imply that they would have helped, if only they had known who that needy person really was! The just, however, did good for goodness’ sake alone, serving others from the heart, instinctively, spontaneously, like Jesus, with no self-serving ulterior motive, no thought of any reward. But thankfully, even on Judgment Day, there will be more than reward and punishment. Ezekiel proclaims that the King who comes to judge is still our Good Shepherd--to the very end, intent on “rescuing the scattered, seeking out the lost, bringing back the strays, binding up the injured, healing the sick”. Today’s story of the Last Judgment then is less a frightening vision of the future and more a practical program for the present. QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Having myself been found by divine mercy, what will I do during Advent to seek those in need? Are they already right here in front of me? (Permission granted-World Library Publications 2017)
November 19, 2017
Jesus in today’s Gospel tells the parable of the three servants and how they dealt with the talents given to them. Perhaps it is just a coincidence that our world “talent”, which means a gift or skill, is used in this story to refer to a very large amount of money. But the connection works for us. As we continue our prayer together today, this may be a good time to reflect on the talents that we have been given and how we have used them in the service of God’s reign. Our reading from Proverbs paints a picture of what is expected of us. It was written in a far different time, but its point is that the ideal for all of us--men as well as women— are to be generous in our behavior, thus expressing our love of others. Our other two readings explain this. Remember that this generosity is expected of all of us. Those of you who are in some position of authority over others--as parents, teachers, employers, managers and so on—listen carefully! In today’s parable we see that a man is going away on a journey. He entrusts to his servants his possessions according to their ability. Those more capable are given more. The two who are more capable go out and double what they have been given. The third servant buried his talent to keep it safe but gained nothing. Naturally the two servants who doubled what they were given were rewarded for their good work. The fearful one who gained nothing more was punished and called a wicked, lazy servant and was thrown out into the darkness. This almost sounds cruel, doesn’t it? But what is the point that Jesus is making. It is our responsibility today to proclaim the Gospel, to reach out to others, and to accept others as our brothers and sisters today, here and now. Pope Francis encourages all of us to live our faith and not to bury it. In one of his homilies Pope Francis says, “All the goods that we have received are to be given to others, and thus they increase, as if he were to tell us, ‘Here is my mercy, my tenderness, my forgiveness; take them and make ample use of them.’” QUESTION OF THE WEEK: How do we share our faith, our joy, our hope, and our love with others and how am I investing the talents entrusted to me by the Master?
St. Brendan's Catholic Church of Clearwater, FL, located on Island Estates, is a loving, vibrant Catholic Church seeking for each and every member a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church.