Fr. Tom’s Reflections

March 11, 2018: Giving and Lifting Up

On this fourth Sunday of Lent the gospel uses two important verbs to describe God's way toward us through Jesus Christ: God "gave" us the only Son and "lifted up" this Christ for us. In typical fashion for the gospel writer John, both of these words have a double meaning.

 God gave us the Son in the sense of the incarnation and in the sense of being given up to death for us. The lifting up refers to Jesus' being lifted up on the cross as well as being raised from the dead and lifted up to heaven as our glorious intercessor. This giving and lifting up on God's part is for us, for our good, for our salvation. God does this so that we might know and appreciate God's love and mercy.

As we move deeper into this Lenten season, spend some time being prayerfully present to this marvelous way of God toward us (see John 3:14-21). How does this mysterious truth move your heart?


March 4, 2018: The Path of Life

Most of us can recite the ten commandments from memory. They are as imprinted in our minds as they were first chiseled in stone on the tablets given to Moses. Today we hear them in their Biblical context when the people were freed from the bondage of slavery. These commandments are vital for us today so that we can live our lives freed from the slavery of sin.

The ten commandments provide a path of life for us. They provide instruction and guidance regarding our love of God and neighbor. In the psalm we acclaim them as "words of everlasting life."

As a prayerful Lenten exercise, take your Bible and go to Exodus 20, the source of today's first reading. Read the ten commandments and think about them with this question in mind: How is God calling me to grow in love of God and neighbor?


February 25, 2018: A Glimpse of Glory

Each year on the Second Sunday of Lent we hear the gospel story of Jesus’ transfiguration on a mountain top. It is a key Bible passage that portrays the true identity of Jesus. With glorious light surrounding him, he is identified as the beloved Son of God to whom we are called to listen attentively. It provides a glimpse of his status as the Risen One. The transfiguration of Jesus is a way of highlighting the resurrection as an integral part of the mystery of Christ.

This gospel is paired with the story about Abraham whose deep devotion to God is demonstrated by not letting anything come between himself and God, not even his beloved son, Isaac. So our devotion to God must be complete and demonstrated.

How does the truth of Jesus’ resurrection sustain you in your Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving?                                                             


February 18, 2018: The Way of Lent

This season of Lent has a two-fold focus. It helps us to go deeper into the meaning of being baptized persons. It also helps us to experience ongoing conversion and repentance. Both of these Lenten themes appear in the Liturgy today.

Noah's ark prefigures baptism. Being baptized persons puts us in a kind of ark. Because we are baptized into the saving mystery of Jesus' death and resurrection we experience saving effects from the grip of sin and death. The gospel today gives us a synopsis of Jesus' proclamation: "Repent, and believe in the gospel."

As we begin this season of Lent, reflect on these two themes: How is God inviting you to be appreciative of the saving effects of being a baptized person? How will deeper repentance and conversion (turning to God) be part of your Lent this year?


January 7, 2018: Born Into a Family of Faith

Today we celebrate the feast of The Holy Family within the Christmas season. The Liturgy begins with part of the story of Abraham and Sarah. Isaac is born to them. This is the beginning of the family of faith that continues to our day.

The gospel narrates the story of the presentation of the child Jesus in the temple by Mary and Joseph. In the temple they encounter two elderly wisdom figures -- Simeon and Anna. This canticle in put on the lips of Simeon. It appears in the Night Prayer of the Church.

     Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word,

     for my eyes have seen your salvation, 

     which you prepared in sight of all the peoples,

     a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.

Reflect on how your experience of the family of faith helps your eyes to "see" God's salvation.


December 31, 2017: Born Into a Family of Faith

Today we celebrate the feast of The Holy Family within the Christmas season. The Liturgy begins with part of the story of Abraham and Sarah. Isaac is born to them. This is the beginning of the family of faith that continues to our day.

The gospel narrates the story of the presentation of the child Jesus in the temple by Mary and Joseph. In the temple they encounter two elderly wisdom figures, Simeon and Anna. This canticle in put on the lips of Simeon. It appears in the Night Prayer of the Church.

          Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word,

          for my eyes have seen your salvation, 

          which you prepared in sight of all the peoples,

          a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.

Reflect on how your experience of the family of faith helps your eyes to "see" God's salvation.


December 24, 2017: The Dwelling Place of God

This year the fourth week of Advent is only part of one day (Sunday) since Christmas eve falls on Sunday evening. The readings on the fourth Sunday of Advent illustrate the development of the sense of the divine presence in salvation history. In ancient Israel the ark of the covenant was housed in a tent that traveled with the people as they migrated. Then the temple was built in Jerusalem where the ark was kept. The gospel tells us of how God becomes incarnate in the virgin Mary for all of humankind.

The Mass on Christmas day proclaims that "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." A more literal translation says "He pitched his tent among us." This mystery of the incarnation is what we celebrate throughout the Christmas season. Let us rejoice and delight in this marvelous mystery!


December 17, 2017: The Stirring of the Holy Spirit

On this third Sunday of Advent the first part of the Word of God we hear is, “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor…” This passage from Isaiah (chapter 61) is the one Jesus quotes when he begins his public ministry in Nazareth. The stirring of the Holy Spirit is always an indication of God doing something new. It is how our Bible begins with the Spirit of God hovering over the waters at the moment of creation. Today it signals the significance of the one whose birth we prepare to celebrate.

Today we also hear St. Paul say, “Do not quench the Spirit.” Our Advent hope includes being careful not stifle or shut down the stirring of the Holy Spirit within us and among us. Our Christian living is to be Spirit-led. These Advent days are a good time to pray the prayer to the Holy Spirit: “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love.”

How do you experience the stirring of the Holy Spirit to bring glad tidings in your life?


December 10, 2017: A Way for Christ to Come

During this liturgical year we hear from the gospel of Mark on most Sundays. Today’s gospel reading is the very beginning of Mark’s gospel. He begins by quoting the prophet Isaiah regarding our need to prepare the way of the Lord, to make straight a way for God to come into our lives.

In this Advent season we prepare to celebrate the coming of Christ at the first Christmas. We also reflect on how we can make preparations in our lives for Christ to come more clearly to us in the sacraments, the Word of God, in the least of our sisters and brothers, and as we gather in the name of the Lord Jesus. This demands openness and humility on our part as a welcoming spirit.

How is this Advent season helping you to prepare for a more profound coming of Christ into your life?

December 3, 2017: Devout and Expectant Delight

Each year the first Sunday of Advent focuses our attention on the second coming of Christ as we prepare to celebrate the first coming of Christ during the Christmas season. The introduction to the Roman Missal describes Advent as “a period of devout and expectant delight.”

I am reminded of one of my high school teachers who spoke of the three eras of Christ as history, mystery, and majesty. Christ was born into our human history two millennia ago. Christ is present and active in mystery today, including in our experience of the Eucharist. Christ will come in glory and majesty for the rest of eternity. On this first Sunday of Advent we are exhorted to be attentive and watchful. Christ comes to us again and again and in varied ways. Realizing this grace lifts up our minds and hearts in joyful praise.

How will this Advent season foster expectant delight in you? How can you bring this Advent spirit to others?


November 26, 2017: The Two Sides of Christ

Today we celebrate the feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday in this liturgical year. Two different dimensions of Christ’s reign are put on the Table of God’s Word for us today. Christ embodies the words of the prophet Ezekiel: “I myself will look after and tend my sheep.” This is reinforced with Psalm 23. Christ is the Good Shepherd leading us to what is life-giving. The gospel portrays the Risen Christ as the presiding judge who separates those for care for the needs of the least of our sisters and brothers and those who neglect to reach out in compassionate care.

Both images of Christ are part of our experience. We know first-hand the divine compassion and love that comes to us through Christ Jesus. Our own self-examination and the direct feedback of people around us help us to experience the discerning judgment of Christ regarding our behavior toward those who are in any kind of need.

How do you experience the shepherding love of Christ? How are you called to accountability in loving service of people in need?


November 19, 2017; Beware of the Thief

St. Paul gives us some good imagery to ponder in the Liturgy this Sunday. “You are not in darkness for that day to overtake you like a thief. For all of you are children of the light and children of the day.” It is a scary experience to have a thief break into our home or car or bank account. We are left with a feeling of being violated.

Pope Francis uses the imagery of a thief in his letter The Joy of the Gospel. He repeats a refrain again and again: “Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed.” He cautions us not to let the “thief” rob us of the joy of the gospel, hope, Christian community, love, and the thrill of the gospel message. There are all kinds of thieves around us and within us that can rob us of what we hold dear as followers of the Risen Christ.

How would you name some of these thieves? What helps you to be aware of the thief in the dark of night? What helps you to keep living in the light of Christ?

November 12, 2017 : Being Known By The Lord

Today we hear Jesus' parable about five wise bridesmaids and five foolish bridesmaids who are part of a wedding. The foolish ones are not prepared. They do not have oil for their lamps. When they finally obtain the necessary oil the door is locked and they hear the haunting voice of Christ from inside, "I do not know you." 

Sometimes we summarize our journey of faith as knowing, loving, and serving the Lord. But there is another side of the coin. We must also allow ourselves to be known and loved and served by God. This is what the five wise bridesmaids did. This is what we must do.

How do you let God know and love and serve you?

November 5, 2017: Our Actions Speak

Once in a while we hear someone say, “Monkey see, monkey do.” Parents especially know that children are good observers and imitators. Children become a mirror for their parents to reflect back their words and actions. In today’s gospel Jesus criticizes the Pharisees who had a teaching role for the Jewish people: “Do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.”

Our actions speak loudly. That is why we must be mindful of our actions. We must do a self-examination regularly. We must also listen to what people “mirror” back to us about our speech and actions. This attentiveness and self-reflection will help us to grow in Christ-like virtues.

What helps you to be self-reflective about your behavior? Who is a good mirror for you?


October 29, 2017: It Comes Down to Love

The Liturgy this Sunday highlights the vital role that love is to have in our lives. The Greek word used in the Biblical texts is agape, which means a giving of self for the good of others. St. Paul reminds us that the Lord Jesus himself is the supreme model of this love. We are to imitate him.

Jesus summarizes all of God's expectations for us with the two-fold commandment to love God and our neighbor. Everything we are to do in a Christ-like manner hangs on these two faces of love.

Today we reflect on an act of love that is very important in our life as a parish -- our commitment of financial support. The portion of our financial resources we offer is an act of love of God and an act of love of neighbor. Through what actions do you demonstrate your love of God and neighbor?


October 22, 2017: Belonging to God

“Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” It wasn’t the response the Pharisees expected. Their question to Jesus had to do with whether it was lawful to pay the census tax to the Romans. Jesus steers away from their trap and takes them to another level.

Jesus made them, and makes us, think about what and who belongs to God. We belong to God because we are created by God in God’s own image and likeness. We belong to God because we are baptized and confirmed into the people of God. And everything we have can be traced to God, the Source. The posture of a faithful follower of Christ is to see everything as gift from God.

What does it mean for you to belong to God? How do you show that everything you have in the end belongs to God?


October 15, 2017: Responding to God's Gracious Love

Every once in a while we will hear some acclaim, “God will provide!” It is a bold statement of faith regarding God’s provident way toward us. This truth rings through the Word of God in the Liturgy today. The prophet Isaiah describesa magnificent feast of rich food and choice wines that God provides. Jesus tells a parable about a lavish wedding feast that a king provides for his son. These feasts symbolize God’s gifts of life, faith, saving grace, and love given for us.

But this is only half of the story. The other part of the story involves us. We must respond. We must engage with God’s saving and provident way toward us. Our response entails joyful thanksgiving (which is at the heart of our celebration of the Eucharist). We also help other people to benefit from God’s providential love by what we say and do. We express our gratitude to God by humble loving service toward our sisters and brothers.

When are you especially aware of God’s gracious and provident love? In what ways do you respond to this way of God toward us human beings?


October 8, 2017: The Vineyard of the Lord

For the third Sunday in a row we hear imagery about a vineyard in the Liturgy of the Word. Today we hear about all of the necessary care for the vineyard – spading the earth, clearing away stones, planting the choicest vines, building a watchtower and a wine press. All of this care and attention is necessary for the vineyard to produce abundant fruit.

The vineyard is one of the images of the Church. Here is what the Vatican II document on the Church says: “The Church has been planted by the heavenly farmer as a choice vineyard. The true vine is Christ who gives life and fruitfulness to the branches, that is, to us, who through the Church abide in Christ without whom we can do nothing” (n. 6).

In your journey of faith, how have you experienced the strong and tender care of God as a member of God’s people? What is your part in helping this vineyard to be fruitful?


October 1, 2017: Saying "Yes" and Doing It

It is clear that Jesus knows human nature very well. Today's gospel can easily play out in families. One child tells a parent, “Yes. I will do what you want.” but then doesn't do it. Another child says, “No. I will not do what you want.” but then has a change of mind and does.

So in our Christian living we may promise to do what God wants us to do but we do not do it. Other times we may stubbornly refuse to do God's will at first, but then eventually come to see the right thing to do and personally own it and finally actually do it. 

What helps you to know God's will? What helps you to do God's will?


September 29, 2017: Entitlement or Grace

Today’s liturgy helps us to see that we can get caught into a silly trap as we journey in faith.  We can think that we are entitled to God’s grace and favor and mercy and love because we have earned it.  We have worked hard for a long time at being good and virtuous people.

I am reminded of a story of four adult children of multi-millionaires sitting before a judge. The older two children were contesting the will because they were 11 and 12 years older than their siblings.  “We feel that since we were our father’s children longer, we ought to get a higher percentage of his estate.” The judge denied their case, pointing out that they all got very generous and equal share of their father’s wealth.

Similarly, today’s gospel parable has a landowner give the same pay to laborers in the vineyard whether they worked one hour or twelve hours in the hot sun.  They are given what is just.  They are treated as equals.  The parable teaches us that we cannot transfer a sense of entitlement or merit in our workplaces onto the ways of God in the kingdom of heaven.  God’s ways are not our ways.  God’s thoughts are not our thoughts.

None of us earns God’s mercy and compassionate love and salvation.  These are God’s gracious gifts to bestow, not because we are entitled to them as a result of being good. But because God is God and this is how God is toward us. Have you ever resented the mercy shown others even when they don’t seem to “deserve” it?  When have you been grateful for the graces and forgiveness God gives even when you don’t “deserve” it?





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