Sunday, January 19, 2020

Jesus baptizes us – John 1:29-34

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A; Holy Infant parish.


When do we celebrate the baptism of Jesus? Well, that depends what “of” means. If we mean the baptism of Jesus in the sense of the event of Jesus being baptized, Jesus’ baptism in that sense, we celebrated it last week. This week, our gospel gives us another possibility for ‘of,’ though. This week, we celebrate the baptism of Jesus in this sense: the event of Jesus baptizing. In our gospel we hear John the Baptist report that he heard a message from God that this Jesus, whom he baptized, would one day baptize with the Holy Spirit. And he has.  The promise has been fulfilled.  Brothers and sisters, Christ has baptized us.  That’s what makes us sisters and brothers! There’s something amazing because each of us were baptized by someone else. Someone else poured the water and said the words, but it’s still true that Christ baptized us.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

God grasps us by the hand – Isa 42:1-7; Matt 3:13-17

Baptism of Christ, Year A; Holy Infant parish.


As an undergrad, I was involved in student politics, and I once received some advice from someone who was much more successful than me in that area, and a generous mentor in a lot of ways, and she told, “Never run for anything, unless you truly believe that the job is important, and that you’re the best person to do it.” As grateful as I am for her generosity, I’ve come to conclude that this is terrible advice. The first part is OK as far as it goes, we should do things we think are important, though we also need to do things sometimes just because they’re fun, or relaxing, or sometimes we just need to trust that something might be important because others assure us it is, even if we can’t see that yet. But I want to concentrate more on the second half – the idea that you shouldn’t put yourself forward to do something unless you’re already convinced you’d be the best at it.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

God reveals joy to us – Matt 2:1-12

Epiphany; St. Joe parish.


I don’t know if any of the rest of you had this experience this morning, but as I was driving along a tree-lined street, I looked at the bare tree branches each with their little white overline of snow, and stopped and thought, “Wow; isn’t this beautiful.” I remember one time in seminary, one Spring, walking round the lakes at Notre Dame and stopping by one of the trees outside Moreau seminary that was in full pink bloom. One of our priests was also stopped by it, looking at it, and commented (to God, but possibly conscious of my overhearing), “You didn’t have to give us this too.”

Sunday, December 29, 2019

God raises us – Matt 2:13-15

Holy Family, Year A; St. Joe parish.


Sometimes, the origins of a word have little or nothing to do with what the word means now. “Malaria,” for instance, means “bad air,” because people thought the disease was airborne, and we’ve kept the word even though we now know that’s not how it spreads. But other times, the origin of a word is really worth sitting with and wondering if it can actually illuminate the concept for us. I think that a good example of this is the word “educate.” Our English word “educate” comes from the Latin “to lead out,” ex + dūcere. And I think that that’s actually a rather beautiful image of what education is, the idea that education consists not of stuffing people’s brains full of as many facts as possible (the so-called “banking model” of education), but of leading them out of somewhere. The image, I think, is of leading people out of somewhere that is narrow and confining. An educator walks with students, equips them to walk on their own two feet, but keeps on guiding them, not abandoning them, and leads them from a place of narrowness, of being shut in, into a world that is suddenly larger, a world they can now navigate.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

God feeds us – Luke 2:1-14

Christmas; St. Joseph parish, Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

The image of the baby in a manger. It’s on a huge number of Christmas cards, it’s part of our nativity set here in church that we blessed at the beginning of Mass, it’s popular among artists, it’s just part of Christmas for us. Which maybe means that we never stop to think about quite how odd it is. I think that maybe one thing that obscures that is that we use the word “manger,” which we pretty much only ever use in relation to Jesus, rather than a more prosaic, but equally accurate, term like “feeding trough.” I mean, I’m not going to claim to be the expert here on neonatal care, but I don’t know how many of you ever put your babies in your dogs’ food dish.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

God is with us – Matt 1:18-24

4th Sunday of Advent, Year A; St. Joe parish.


I used to be associate pastor at Holy Cross parish, and while I was there, I taught the confirmation class for the grade school kids. The first mini-essay I’d assign each year would be to ask them to explain which virtue they most wanted to grow in over the course of their confirmation prep. Each time I assigned that essay prompt, a full half of them would choose courage. The rest, by the way, would be split roughly evenly between faith, hope, and love. I was somewhat disappointed that none of them ever chose prudence, which I think is something many twelve to fourteen-year-olds could probably do with growing in… But, courage, that was the most popular choice for virtue they most wanted to grow in. And they were able, in general, to write about big bold displays of courage, but they concentrated in their responses on little things, on resisting peer pressure, standing up for someone being picked up, or defending what they believed was right.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

God makes the deserted bloom – Matt 11:2-11, Isa 35:1-6a, 10

Advent, 3rd Sunday, Year A; St. Joseph parish.


“Here is your God.”  Behold, your God.  These are some of the words we heard from the Isaiah.  He has more to say about God: that He comes with vindication, with divine recompense, he comes to save you.  It goes on, talking of all the miraculous healing that will happen, all great cause for rejoicing on this Gaudete Sunday, the Sunday of rejoicing.  Advent is a lot about waiting for the future. It’s also about remembering the past, building up our trust and hope that Christ will come again by remembering that he came. But the readings we heard today shift our focus from both past and future to present. “Here Is your God.”  Not, here’s the spot where he will be, just hang on; certainly not, there’s where he will be, but he’s distant now, so don’t bother Him.  No. Behold Him.  Here is your God.  The cry might go up… “where?”