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Second Sunday of Advent

Scripture Readings

In today’s gospel Luke provides us with some very descriptive historical details. This kind of historical detail is rare in the four gospels, because, in terms of literary genre, they are not historical books. The gospels are a unique genre, and it is meant to inspire faith. Since Luke does give us historical data, we must pay attention to it. Luke tells us who the Roman Emperor was (Tiberius Caesar), who the governor of Judea was (Pontus Pilate), who the regional leaders were (Herod, Phillip, and Lysanias), and who the high priest were (Annas and Caiaphas), when John the Baptist began his ministry. Surely, Luke was being intentional in giving these details. What do these details teach us? I would like to suggest three things:  

Scripture Readings

 A friend of mine was telling me her experience at the stores on Black Friday. A mother was standing at the checkout line. Her two little children were giving her a harrowing time. My friend, who was also in line, decided to help her out. She pointed towards the security camera and said to the kids, “Santa is watching you from there!” The kids’ eyes grew big and they stopped dead! The mother had no further trouble with them.

Scripture Readings

With a contentious mid-term elections barely over,  I am not sure about our appetite for the Feast of Christ the King. Often, we completely de-politicize the gospel. However, think about it. Jesus was brought before the political establishment of the time, by the religious establishment of the time, to be judged, condemned, and finally crucified. Jesus’ condemnation and death as much a political event as it was a religious event. On the other hand, perhaps the feast is a breath of fresh air in the midst of all the political contentions. The Feast of Christ the King tells us that the cross was hardly was the end of the story. The feast of Christ the Kings celebrates the reality that the cross became Jesus’ throne, that strength lies in humility, and that power lies in love. 

Scripture Readings

We have been hit by devastating hurricanes and wild fires this year. Especially, when it comes to hurricanes, people are advised to evacuate. I always wonder why some people do not heed the warnings. I understand that some people do not evacuate for compelling reasons - poverty, health issues, family compulsion, pets. But there are those who could and simply will not. And as they were warned, things end tragically for many of them. As we approach the end of the liturgical year, we are reminded that life itself comes with ample caution. We are all invited to live well. We are invited to strive to be happy. We are all invited to make life meaningful. However, the gospel cautions us - all things will come to an end. The Gospel cautions us that life is unpredictable. As with hurricanes and wild fires, there are those who heed the warning and those that do not.  

Scripture Readings

There are two stories in today’s reading and they both involve poor widows. In the first story, Elijah, as he flees from his murderous enemies, seeks refuge with a poor widow. The story tells us that she and her son had only and handful of flour and a little oil left. They were desperately poor. The second story tells us about Jesus’ admiration of a poor widow who “from her poverty” (Mk 12:44), put in two small coins into the treasury. The two coins were all she had. These two thought-provoking stories. 

Scripture Readings

Here is a tweet from a priest that I follow on twitter: “All liturgy should be celebrated solely by the candlelight of beeswax candles in an enormous, dark church filled with the smoke of incense. All parts should be either chanted loudly and solemnly in Latin or said in such a low voice that no one can hear them.” Here was my reply. “At the Last Supper, on which every Mass is based, none of these eccentricities existed!” What is it about us that we like to take what is accidental to Christianity and bring it center stage? And what is it about us that we take what is center stage of Christianity and relegate it to the boundaries? 

Scripture Readings

Friday morning, just as I was looking for a start to this homily, a mother of a young man who plays for the Carroll High School Patriots sent me an e-mail saying, “We need a Patriot win against CJ Eagles tonight. Say a little prayer!” I replied, “For you I will pray for the Patriots, but for Fr. Bob Jones I will pray for the Eagles.” This way no matter who wins, I can say God heard my prayer. As it turns out the Eagles won! Here is another story. Today, India and Pakistan are playing a very crucial cricket match for the Asia cup. Of course, Jesus is on India’s side, right? How could he not? These are very naïve, harmless examples. However, apply the same rivalry to a job situation, to how the inheritance is shared, to sibling rivalry, to race relations, to the upcoming elections, to international politics; suddenly we have the perfect recipe for serious conflict and war. 

Scripture Readings

“Not my family, not my problem!” On the 26thof September, I am organizing an evening to share my experience with undocumented immigrants at El Paso and Juarez. I posted the information and flyer on my Facebook page. One of the actual responses on my post from someone who identified himself as a Christian was, “Not my family, not my problem!” For all the years I have been on social media, this was my first jaw-dropping, shocking moment. Immaterial of the issue, I cannot believe that a Christian could think this way. What use is faith, if it does not lead to action? What use is action if it does not originate in faith? 

Scripture Readings

Perhaps many of you know that I spent most of last week in El Paso, TX and Juarez, Mexico, on an immersion experience of the immigration crisis, along with 15 other priests. Our goal was to understand the immigration issue in depth, to express solidarity with the immigrants, to visit them at the various refugee shelters in El Paso and Juarez, and to pray at the border with Bishop Mark Sietz of El Paso along with other religious leaders. 

Scripture Readings

I have received numerous e-mails or phone calls from parishioners who have been concerned about the child sexual abuse scandal. The concern is on multiple levels – for the abused, for the faith of God’s people, and also for me. I received numerous e-mails and messages enquiring about my well-being.  Thank you for all this. I would be lying to you if I said that I am not struggling. I am more than struggling. I feel despondent, discouraged, and overwhelmed. The question I am asking myself is – what now? I joined the seminary when I was 17 years old. I am fifty-two years old now. The Church is all I have known. I have loved the Church like a man would love his family. Intentionally, consciously, and even aware of her imperfections, I have given my life to the Church. What now? What does my priesthood mean now? I am wondering if you are asking yourself, “What does my Catholicism mean now?”