The Nativity of the Lord, Mass During the Day, Dec. 25, 2016
Stanley Marrow, S.J., was one of the first professors I encountered when I arrived at Weston Jesuit to study theology in the fall of 2004. He taught New Testament, and the semester I arrived he was offering a course on the Gospel of John. Stanley was beloved by many, not least because of his dramatic personality. His characteristic honesty often subverted any kindness he meant to show his students. Once, as I attempted to make sense of John’s knotty theology, Stanley told me, “Michael, what...
The Nativity of the Lord at the Vigil Mass, Dec. 24, 2016
We wait, and we wait, and we wait. This is the message of tonight’s Gospel. We wait, and we wait, and we wait for the fulfillment of God’s promises. These promises are not just the ones God made in the history of salvation; they are also the ones God makes to us individually. Israel’s history is a map of our own individual salvation. The long periods of time Israel waited reflect the times in our lives when we too must keep hope alive in God’s promises.
The Bible’s many genealogies...
January 23, 2017Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), Feb. 5, 2017
In the movie “Babette’s Feast,” a French chef takes refuge in Denmark after collapse of the Second Empire in 1871. The citizens of her adopted town are mostly Lutheran pietists. They have a powerful work ethic and attempt to live simply, act justly and walk humbly with God in all things. It is an odd place for a brilliant chef; the staple breakfast item is a dish called øllebrød (ale-bread), which is simply stale rye bread, ground up and mixed with a splash of ale into a kind of paste. A...
January 23, 2017Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), Jan. 29, 2017
The beatitudes are promises that God has made to humanity. Some of these promises are fulfilled in every age; mourners are comforted each day. Others will only find fulfillment in the fullness of God’s kingdom: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.”
The beatitudes are eschatological, describing life in God’s kingdom. There will be no mourning, no want, no lack of mercy; grace will abound; and God’s own peace will bring injustice to an end. This was a message of hope...
January 2, 2017Epiphany, Jan. 8, 2017
In today’s Gospel, Matthew introduces us to two types of characters: those who seek Jesus but do not know where to look and those who know where to find Jesus but fail to seek.
No one knows if the story of the magi is historically accurate, but Matthew’s narrative has inspired Christian imagination from earliest days. Lavish Byzantine frescoes in Jerusalem and Ravenna depict them as high-ranking Persian dignitaries...
January 2, 2017Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), Jan. 15, 2017
Some words take on expanded meanings over time. It wasn’t long ago, for example, that only birds tweeted. Other words develop narrower meanings. Consider the word business , for example, which today primarily means “commercial dealings.” Earlier in history, the word meant any kind of “busy-ness” to which one attended—a sense that lives on in the expression “mind your business.”
The Gospel today has several words...
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 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 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...