December 19-26, 2016Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, Jan. 1, 2017
The church has found many reasons to mark the importance of today’s feast. Aside from marking the calendar’s turn to the new year, an appropriate time for prayer and thanksgiving, this day is also the eighth day after the birth of Christ. Older Catholics can probably remember a time when this feast celebrated Jesus’ circumcision, which according to Jewish law took place on the eighth day after his birth. At various times in history, today’s feast...
December 19-26, 2016The Nativity of the Lord, Mass during the night, Dec. 25, 2016
The right word at the right moment can transform a person, for good or for ill. Hollywood knows the dramatic value of these moments. In the movie “Jerry Maguire,” Dorothy sums up falling in love with “You had me at ‘hello.’” In “As Good as it Gets,” Melvin’s rambling apology for insulting Carol’s dress ends with the emphatic “You make me want to be a better man.” The words strike Carol like lightning, and her heart softens toward him. In “Good Will...
December 5-12, 2016Fourth Sunday of Advent (A), Dec. 18, 2016
‘Joseph was a righteous man.” Modern readers likely do not hear the ominous undertones of this description. The Greek word for righteous, dikaios, could also indicate that Joseph was a “law-abiding” man. This meant that he considered submitting Mary to the penalties given in Deuteronomy for women found to be pregnant before marriage. “If evidence of a young woman’s virginity is not found, they shall bring the young woman to the entrance of her...
December 5-12, 2016Third Sunday of Advent (A), Dec. 11, 2016
Not long ago I called an Uber. The driver’s photo was striking. She had a peacock-blue mohawk, a pair of sunglasses with mirrored lenses and a barbed-wire neck tattoo. When the car arrived, I was surprised to find the driver conservatively dressed, tattoo-free and a brunette. “You’re not the person I was expecting,” I told her. “I keep forgetting to change my photo; that was me 10 years ago,” she said. I was skeptical, so I held up my phone and...
November 28, 2016Second Sunday of Advent (A), Dec. 4, 2016
Anyone who has studied music knows the need for repetition. The days before a performance include countless attempts to give voice to the notes on the page. First attempts are fraught with errors in technique and interpretation. Only after many tries can a musician bring to life something that had, until then, existed only in the mind of a composer.
In different ways, our readings this week describe a similar...
November 21, 2016First Sunday of Advent (A), Nov. 27, 2016
The message of this week’s Gospel reading is simple: “Stay awake! Christ is on his way.” Be prepared like Noah, who alone of his generation believed God’s promises to be true. Be prepared, even if your preparation mystifies your friends and family. Be prepared, even in the midst of mundane activities. Be prepared like a householder who knows that thieves prowl the night, but not when they will be at his door.
The Gospel of Matthew addresses a crisis. The generation for which it was...
November 14, 2016Christ the King (C), Nov. 20, 2016
There is no Catholic civil war, regardless of what certain Catholic political pundits tell you. In fact, there cannot be. Our citizenship as Christians is a shared citizenship in the kingdom of God, what is called in Colossians the “kingdom of his beloved Son,” and here there can be no war. Perhaps this is politically naïve, but it is theologically true. Among us in the city of man, there are disagreements, arguments and worse, but if we believe that these threaten...
November 7, 2016Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time (C), Nov. 13, 2016
There is probably nothing more attractive for some people about the Bible than the apocalyptic narratives. Some of them are found in the Old Testament, but many more are woven into the fabric of the New Testament. The mythic language of great conflagrations, nature in chaos, the division between the righteous and the wicked, and the final judgment speak deeply to some about God’s justice and the final end of evil. There is a reason why movie makers...
October 31, 2016Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (C), Nov. 6, 2016
St. Augustine defined martyrdom in this way: “It is the reason why, not the suffering that constitutes the martyr.” The “reason why” is the martyr’s “witness” (Greek martys ) to the truth, regardless of the consequences, strengthened and guarded by God to remain faithful. The Christian understanding of martyrdom does not require that one must die, though at various times throughout history, including our own, Christian witness has led to death....
October 24, 2016Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time (C), Oct. 30, 2016
Since there are so many books in the Bible, each coming from a particular time and place, it can be difficult to make generalizations about what the corpus of biblical literature states. Given the historical conditions and cultural and political realities of each book, not to mention developing theologies, what “the Bible says” often depends on the time period in which a book emerged. Each text was written by human authors who “made use of their...