Offers food for thought
Readings: Zephaniah 2:3; 3:12-13; Psalms 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10; First Corinthians 1:26-31; Matthew 5:1-1
It’s much more difficult to approach the Beatitudes in that way, because they are not so much things to be done or rules to be kept as they are a new fundamental orientation entire being. Living a beatific life of love is only truly possible when the increasingly and radically transformed hearts and minds of Christs disciples gives rise to thoughts and actions that are borne of a deep love of God and of other people.
They call for a very particular kind of interior disposition toward God and others. They involve a deep concern to be involved in the salvific mission of Christ, helping to increase truth, love, compassion, justice, freedom and peace. This is what the Kingdom is all about.
The Beatitudes must be understood in the context of the Kingdom. The kingdom that Jesus proclaims infiltrates the present, breaks into the world through the ministry and mission of Jesus, and transforms it. It is a complex of relationships that exists between God and those who have totally accepted him as the Lord and guide of their lives and who share God’s vision of what life is about. That transformation takes place first in the disciples, whose character is described by the beatitudes, and makes the kingdom manifest as they “make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). That is why to enter the Kingdom requires metanoia, a radical change in the way we see life and its values.
This fortunate state of life, lived in the Kingdom is the meaning of ‘Blessed’. We could summarize this life by saying the citizens of the kingdom are those who never cease to turn to God, not only in their own need but also in sorrowful solidarity with the victims of ‘man’s inhumanity to man’, and who increasingly radiate God’s love through their words and actions. They are driven by an insatiable need and desire to live with undivided hearts, a life that is a full expression of their dignity and fulfillment of their purpose. It is a kingdom of disciples who overcome the obstacles to real compassion for others, seeing them as they are and with the kind of empathy that moves them to serve and thereby make peace through promotion of unity and reconciliation. They are prepared to be persecuted and they are certain of the reasons for their persecution. They are willing to sacrifice for the greater good.
St Augustine said that the three most important virtues are Humility, Humility, and Humility! In order to live the Beatitudes, humility is essential.
Readings: Isaiah 8:23--9:3; Psalms 27:1, 4, 13-14; First Corinthians 1:10-13, 17; Matthew 4:12-23 or 4:12-17
With the unprecedented awareness that we have of the challenges that face the Body of Christ the Church, we can imagine ourselves to be living in an age of terrible division. It’s essential however, to maintain perspective through knowledge of the history of the Church, which is a history of varying types of crises. Looking merely at the first century of Church history, through the scriptural record of Paul’s ministry, we see that a great deal of his focus was in response to crises of faith, morals, or church discipline.
There has never been a time, since the formation of the Church, when it has not been engaged in spiritual warfare. In as much as the Church is human it is also weak and at risk. In as much as the Church is divine, the ‘gates of hell shall not prevail’.
If we are to be united in Christ we must believe, embrace and allow the power of God to fulfill in us the words of Isaiah.
Isaiah speaks prophetically of the moment of complete freedom for the Israelites and ultimately for anyone who comes to believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah and that through his self-sacrificing love, he delivers us from the darkness of ignorance and the oppression of sin that we have suffered because of infidelity to our nature and our maker. The darkness is overcome by the great light that leads us out of the despair of alienation into the joy of divine union. Isaiah reminds us and our history affirms that it is God and God alone who can accomplish this; that there is no skill, no strength and no human wisdom that can soothe the cry from the depths of our souls for the mercy and love that forgives and restores.
In our daily lives, we witness the evidence of just how fragile our world is and how problematic our circumstances. Things we took for granted 10, 20, 50 years ago as stable structures, such as countries, ideals, civil institutions, social structures, cultural norms, truth, family, human dignity; they all seem to have shallow roots and limited commitment when they are not authoritatively rooted in God. Much that goes on in the world around us serves to weaken the human spirit and increase animal instincts for survival. We become increasingly like lone ranger utilitarian individuals beating our chests about how awesome we are and all the while knowing feeling lost and alone. In the darkness of isolation and confusion we can succumb to a culture where values have only transitory meaning and our convictions are as stable as a house built on sand.
It’s especially in those moments that Christ wants to be your light, if you let him. When we live our own lives, our own way according to our own truth as opposed to God’s, we become starved and a tension grows within us as the knowledge of God, placed in our hearts increasingly strains for the something more satisfying for which we were made. Let him light the way and give meaning to even the most apparently meaningless things in your life. The Saints are the lights in this darkness, that give us hope of victory in the struggle against temptation. They are the evidence that we can become the more we were made to be, and refuse sacrifice our souls on the altars of the enemy; but rather go with courage into that light and live freely in that amazing grace and united in Christ.
The proclamation of the Good News by the prophets, John the Baptist, by Jesus and by the disciples of Christ, to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near,” is a Gospel that is not readily or easily received by many as the ‘truth that sets us free’. It’s not that we have a major issue with being or saying sorry for the ‘wrongs’ we do, but the call of repentance is not just to be sorry for sins and not to do them anymore, it’s an invitation to a radical change in the way we understand ourselves, our life and an uncompromising participation in the mission.
God created us to be saints. All of us. But, when it comes to the most important aspect of our mission in life, growing in virtue and holiness, too many of us never get out of the comfort zone. Becoming a Saint doesn’t necessarily mean that we will have to spend twelve hours a day on our knees, eating bugs and living in voluntary poverty. But it does mean that we are supposed to grow in the key virtues that will make us saints. Virtues like wisdom, courage, justice, and self-mastery. Virtues like faith, hope, and Christ-like, self-forgetful love. Too often we forget even to think about these virtues. And even less do we think seriously about how to grow in them.
It is not always easy to respond to Christ's call. Life is already hard. When he asks more of us, our first reaction is usually to hesitate, or even to rebel. That's when we must remember it is only when we embrace and engage in the radical change that we are able to understand things the way God intended, and our behavior changes accordingly as we increasingly progress toward greater holiness.
Business leaders use their heads to come up with effective business plans. Sports leaders use their heads to come up with effective game plans. We Christians are supposed to use our creativity and intelligence to pursue a much worthier goal: the true happiness and fruitfulness that comes from following Christ more closely. We should use our heads - and Christ's teaching - to come up with a business plan for our soul, a game plan for our life.
At the moment of the handing over of John for a martyrs death, Jesus begins his full-time ministry. Jesus calls the first apostles from among the disciples. His light drew them to him when they were still followers of John the Baptist and they came to believe that he was the Messiah. So, when he called them to take their part in His mission, they followed immediately. The Holy Family and Jesus himself set the example for them. Jesus was born in Bethlehem and then His whole family had to flee into Egypt until it was safe to return, although instead of returning to Bethlehem, they went to Nazareth. All of this fulfilled the prophesies about him and were never rooted in human will. The Holy Family never chose comfortable and safe, according to their own wisdom.
Creation has always been about community and the Church has always reflected this reality of the Trinity in that it has always been about being family. Christ did not fully take up His mission until he established the community of believers and began the work of salvation with the help of the apostles. From them was formed his mystical body the Church. Every disciple, as a member of His Body, is invited to share the Gospel always and everywhere, and from among us He is still calling those He chooses to send.
Our response ought to always be “here I am Lord, send me’. We ought to become eager to leave behind all that the Lord may have blessed us with and follow Him into the mission field. If our will and God’s will have increasingly become one in desire, we will be ready. If our prayer life is healthy, our reception of the sacraments is frequent; if we are actively serving others and sharing the Good News; if we are continually growing in relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit… we cannot fail to hear and understand His voice when He calls.
we have an opportunity for a real encounter with Christ in many ways, but most intimately and profoundly in the Eucharist.
Jesus will be present in body, blood, soul and divinity every single time… so, if we are not encountering Christ at least once a week, it won’t be because He isn’t showing up!
John saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and how it remained on Jesus. He heard the voice of the Father speak a powerful declaration about His only begotten Son. We tend to gage our ‘encounters’ with Christ according to these sorts of amazing moments in the lives of Saints and others, and what happened to John when he baptized Jesus, is something we all might desire to happen in our lives. There’s no doubt that God does move and act in these sorts of powerful ways. I could testify by giving a number of accounts! But these powerful encounters through signs and wonders are not the norm. Most of us, most of the time, are going to ‘encounter’ Christ in ‘small’ ways throughout the ordinary passing of our day. I could tell you about an endless stream of these kinds of encounters.
However, if we are going to meaningfully encounter Christ in the everyday activities of life, we need to be certain or our and His identity and mission. Today’s scriptures speak about both.
Disciples know their teacher, and that knowledge leads to an understanding of and desire to participate in the work of the teacher. We see an example of this in the way in which Religious Communities build on the faith experience of new members in their formation as novices. As the Holy Spirit inspires them to discern their vocation, they begin to be attracted to the charism and work of particular Saints who founded communities. As this attraction grows, so too does their desire to get to know the community and even more so, the founder. When they become initial members of the community, a major portion of their time is spent in prayer, deepening their relationship with Christ, as well as in study of the life and charism of the founder. This spiritual journey helps the men and women to understand themselves and their mission through greater intimate relationship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and how God has moved in the life of a particular Saint and the community which gathered around him or her.
This is really, the same journey for all us. By the actions of the Holy Spirit we understand ourselves better, through coming to understand the Son who fully reveals the Father. Who is the Son?
Central to the identity of Jesus, is that He is “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” That’s why John the Evangelists favorite title for Jesus is "the Lamb of God." Not only does he use it in today’s Gospel, he used it twenty-nine times, in the Book of Revelation.
Christ became the sacrificial Lamb. The Passover Lamb whose body became food for the journey toward freedom for the Israelites, was and is a sacrifice of the moment, but Jesus, at the Last Supper, became the new Lamb who offers himself in sacrifice once and for all, by whose blood we are saved from permanent separation from God and by whose body we are fed and sustained for the journey of our freedom. The journey during which we become what we touch, in the Eucharist.
God is Love, and having been created in the image and likeness of God, we are to be icons of Love. As the Son reveals the Father, we are to reveal the Son. In baptism, we enter the eternal covenant and become the children of God and temples of the presence of the Glory of God on earth. This is what St Paul means when he writes to the Corinthians, "you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy." As the Son is begotten of the Father, we are remade in baptism as brothers and sisters in Christ and are formed into the Body of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
To be ‘Holy’ is to be set apart from all else in creation, especially reserved for God. We could imagine ourselves to be like the large stone Churches of the North East and small chapels of Adoration, where you have had the experience of being enveloped by the mysterious presence of God. Where your soul is exhilarated by the clean aroma of incense and the comforting silence of prayer, respect, and reverence. Everything about the sacred space humbles and inspires. As you go deeper and ‘breathe in’ all the details, the Spirit of God stirs within and guides your eyes to the presence of God manifested in the tabernacle, the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. This is one way of describing the way in which each of us is meant to be encountered by others in the world, aiding the Holy Spirit working in them to encounter Christ.
Another way of describing our identity, is to say that we are Gods children who are to live in the ‘Imitation of Christ’, as we too become Lambs of God - sacrificial offerings of love. Because this self-sacrificial, self-forgetful love is so central to the identity of Jesus, it becomes central to ours. During every Eucharistic Celebration as we pray, "Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us” we are reminded of our fall in Adam and our rise in Christ. We are reminded that our actions are to bring the light of Christ into the world by choosing the good, the true and the beautiful which helps to take away the darkness of sin in the world and multiply the number of the saints of God on earth.
The Gospel message takes on flesh in us, making us a living Word of God through which others encounter Christ.
Disciples must know and participate in the mission, in His mission. According to the first reading, it is not enough to bring just the Jews back to God. “It is too small a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel…” Much more, as Isaiah continues: “I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
Jesus is the Light of the whole world, whose mission it is to bring all the members of the human family back into divine union. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit don’t want anyone to miss out on being able to enter the Kingdom of God; to experience the truth, the love and the freedom of the Gospel.
We are bearers of the message we have received. The mission of Jesus is our mission. We are called and empowered to evangelize the world around us and to re-evangelize the baptized who have fallen away in faith and practice. Our deepest and most passionate desire ought to be to share our faith with others, help them to know Jesus and his Gospel, and to experience directly the love of God. We are called to help others have ‘real encounters’ with Christ, through us.
Worthy brothers and sisters of our Savior Jesus Christ demonstrate in thought, word, and action the willingness to give up their lives to love God with all their hearts and to love their neighbors as themselves.
Meeting a Christian amid a noisy world, ought to be like finding refuge in a desert. It ought to be like finding someone who doesn’t need to explain virtue, Faith, Hope or Charity because they embody these things and by them they are inspiring and mysteriously attractive. Others feel drawn to them. Eventually you discover their source - Jesus Christ. This is holiness. This is the holiness we are called to - we are God's living Temples, and he wants to make us into beautiful, inspiring, and lasting monuments to his glory.
Jan 1 – World Day of Peace
January – Poverty awareness Month
Jan 8 to 14 – National Migration Week
Jan 18th to 25th – Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
Jan 21st to 29th – Novena for Life, March for Life
Our example, our words, our actions should reflect Christ – always and everywhere. We each should ask God, ourselves, our friends and family, how can we be more like Christ? There are so many people, who live right beside us, who are searching, and if we let Christ shine through our lives, we will help them, as the star helped the Magi, to find true joy.
(Audio version of Gospel Reading and Homily)
(Video of the Eucharistic Celebration)
Peace doesn't just happen; it's made.
CampusPadre is a college ministry Priest Chaplain with 30 years experience in youth and young adult ministry, who strives to let the Holy Spirit lead and challenges students to seek holiness above all.