Daily Homilies — January 2-7, 2023

Daily Homilies

Daily Homilies

Daily Homilies

Daily Homilies

Daily Homilies
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Memorial of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church

FR. TONY'S GOSPEL COMMENTARY

Context

The news reached the central Jewish religious authorities in Jerusalem that one John, the son of a Jewish priest, was preaching repentance and renewal of life to the Jews and inviting them to receive the baptism of repentance meant only for Gentiles. Hence, the Sanhedrin sent a delegation of experts to Bethany on the eastern bank of river Jordan (different from the Bethany near Jerusalem, where Lazarus lived), to discover whether John was claiming to be the expected Messiah or his forerunner Elijah, the prophet, and to ask why he encouraged the Chosen People to receive the baptism of repentance.

Johns witnessing mission: John frankly declared in all humility that he was not Elijah nor the expected Messiah nor even one of the Old Testament prophets reincarnated. Later, Jesus referred to him as “a lamp “He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light (Jn 5:35). In the spiritual life, the ideal is to become invisible, and our role as Christians is to become salt, yeast, grain, and light.  But John claimed that he was the forerunner of the real Messiah, and that his mission was to prepare the lives of the Jews to receive the expected Messiah and to bear witness to him when he should appear in public. John also explained to them that he was baptizing the Jews with water because they must be made holy through repenting of their sins and renewing their lives if they were to receive the most Holy Messiah in their midst.

Life Messages

1) As Catholic Christians, we believe in the coming of Jesus our Lord and Savior on our altars during each Eucharistic celebration. Hence, we, too, need to repent of our sins and ask God’s pardon and forgiveness on a daily basis if we wish to receive Jesus into our hearts and lives sacramentally.

2) We, too, need to renew our lives with the help of our Lord Jesus living within us, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, so that He may radiate His love, forgiveness, and mercy to all around us.

3) We too need to practice the true humility of John the Baptist.

SOURCE: Fr. Tony’s Homilies
CARMELITE LECTIO DIVINA REFLECTION
  • Today’s Gospel speaks about the witness of John the Baptist. The Jews sent “priests and Levites” to question him. In the same way, some years later, they sent persons to control the activity of Jesus (Mk 3: 22). There is a very great resemblance between the responses of the people regarding Jesus and the questions which the authority addresses to John. Jesus asks the Disciples: Whom do people say that I am?” They answered: “Elijah, John the Baptist, Jeremiah, one of the Prophets” (cf. Mk 8: 27-28). The authority addresses the same questions to Jesus: Are you the Messiah, or Elijah, the Prophet?” John responds by quoting the Prophet Isaiah: “I am a voice of one who cries in the desert: Prepare a way for the Lord”. The other three Gospels contain the same affirmation concerning John: he is not the Messiah, but he has come to prepare the coming of the Messiah (cf. Mk 1: 3; Mt 3: 3; Lk 3: 4). The four Gospels give great attention to the activity and the witness of John the Baptist. Which is the reason that they insist so much in saying that John is not the Messiah?
  • John the Baptist was put to death by Herod around the year 30. But up to the end of the first century, the time when the Fourth Gospel was written, John continued to be considered a leader among the Jews. And also after his death, the souvenir of John continued to have a strong influence in the living out of the faith of the people. He was considered a prophet (Mk 11: 32). He was the first great prophet who appeared after centuries of the absence of prophets. Many considered him as the Messiah. When in the year 50, Paul passed through Ephesus, in Asia Minor, he found a group of persons who had been baptized with the baptism of John (cf. Acts 19: 1-4). Because of this, it was important to spread the witness of John the Baptist himself saying that he was not the Messiah and instead to indicate Jesus as the Messiah. And thus, John himself contributed to radiate better the Good News of Jesus.
  • “How is it that you baptize if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet? The response of John is another affirmation with which he indicates that Jesus is the Messiah: “I baptize with water, but standing among you, unknown to you, is one who is coming after me; and I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandal.” And a bit ahead (Jn 1: 33), John refers to the prophecies which announced the effusion of the Spirit in the Messianic times: “The one on whom you will see the Spirit descend and rest upon 9 him, is the one who is to baptize with the Holy Spirit” (cf. Is 11: 1-9; Ez 36: 25-27; Joel 3: 1-2)..
SOURCE: Carmelite Lectio Divina

Daily Reflections

Courtesy of Presentation Ministries

BODY PARTS

“Who are you?” —John 1:19

Throughout this year, we will be continually challenged with the question: “Who are you?” The correct answer is: “I am a part of the body of Christ” (see Rm 12:5; 1 Cor 12:13). Our true identity is based on our relationship with Christ (see Col 2:17).

An even better answer is to state the specific part of the body of Christ which you are. For example, John the Baptizer said he was a voice in Christ’s body (Jn 1:23). You may be Christ’s feet, hands, ears, or mind. It’s ideal to know not only which part of Christ’s body you are but also how the Lord primarily works through you. A voice can do several things — teach, sell, threaten, encourage, warn, etc. John knew that the main thing the Lord did through his voice was to cry out: “Make straight the way of the Lord!” (Jn 1:23)


LIARS

“Tell us who you are.” —John 1:22

God asks us two questions, “Who is the liar?” (1 Jn 2:22) and “Who are you?” (Jn 1:19) The two questions often go together. Sometimes the liars are us because we lie about who we are. We are tempted to give the impression we’re the Messiah and the center of attraction. However, that’s a false impression and a lie. We are also tempted to answer the question, “Who are you?” with “what we do.” When someone asks, “Who are you?”, we answer, “I worked there” or “I do this.” These too are lies. We are people, not merely employees or workers.


ANOINTING, REMAINING, AND GROWING

“Remain in Him as that anointing taught you.” —1 John 2:27

On the inside front cover of this booklet is the Rescript, the Catholic Church’s Permission to Publish. Before One Bread, One Body is printed, the Church reviews this booklet to ensure it is free of doctrinal or moral error. When the booklet is error-free, “free from any lie” (1 Jn 2:27), the Church grants Permission to Publish. (Until recently, Permission to Publish was called the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur.) At Presentation Ministries, remaining safely under Church authority is how we remain in Jesus as the anointing of the Holy Spirit taught us (1 Jn 2:27).


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SOURCE: Presentation Ministries

jANUARY
TUESDAY


3

Divine
Office

Invitatory

Office of Readings

Morning Prayer

Midmorning Prayer

Midday Prayer

Midafternoon Prayer

Evening Prayer

Night Prayer

Intercessory Prayers

Thoughts
on Today’s
Gospel

Courtesy of EVANGELI.NET
  • “Let us celebrate the feast day, on which the great and eternal Day came from the great and eternal Day into this brief and temporal day of ours. He it is who was made for us redemption.” (Saint Augustine)
  • “The Earth is restored to good order by virtue of the fact that it is opened up to God, it obtains its true light anew. The song of the angels it is an expression of joy over the fact that Heaven and Earth are once more united to God.” (Benedict XVI)
  • “After agreeing to baptize him along with the sinners, John the Baptist (…) pointed Jesus out as the ‘Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’ (Jn 1:29). By doing so, he reveals that Jesus is at the same time the suffering Servant who (…) bears the sin of the multitudes, and also the Paschal Lamb, the symbol of Israel’s redemption at the first Passover (Ex 12:3-14). Christ’s whole life expresses his mission: ‘to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mk 10:45).” (Catechism Of The Catholic Church, Nº 608)

Christmas Weekday

FR. TONY'S GOSPEL COMMENTARY

Context

The central theme of todays Gospel is a challenge to live like the Lamb of God and to die like the Lamb of God. The Gospel passage presents two themes, namely, Johns witness to Jesus and Jesus’ epiphany and identification by John as the “Lamb of God.” Todays Gospel is a personal and corporate call to us to become witnesses to the Lamb of God. John the Baptist gave testimony to Jesus by pointing out that He was the Lamb of God (vv. 29, 36); a man who was before me (vs. 30); the one on whom the Holy Spirit remained (v. 33); and the Son of God (vs. 34). Lamb of God is the most meaningful title given to Jesus in the Bible.   Johns introduction probably brought five pictures of the “lamb” to the minds of his Jewish listeners.

1) The Lamb of yearly Atonement (Scapegoat): (Lv 16:20-22).  Two lambs were brought to the Temple on the Day of Atonement.  Lots were cast, and the high priest slowly led one to the altar to be killed as a sin offering for the people. Then he placed both his hands on the head of the other and confessed the sins of Israel and transferred them to that scapegoat.  It was then sent into the forest to be killed by some wild animal.

2) The Lamb of Daily Atonement (Ex. 29:38-42; Nm 28:1-8). This was the lamb sacrificed on the “Black Altar” of the Temple every morning and evening to atone for the sins of the Jews.  3) The Paschal Lamb (Ex. 12:11ss.).  This was the lamb whose blood saved the firstborn of the Jewish families in Egypt from the “Angel of destruction” as well as the Paschal Lamb killed every year on the Passover Feast.  4) The Lamb of the Prophets. The prophets portrayed one Lamb Who, by His sacrifice, would redeem His people: “The gentle lamb led to the slaughterhouse” (Jer 11:19), “like a lamb to the slaughter” (Is 53:7).  Both refer to the sufferings and sacrifice of Christ.  5) The Lamb of the Conquerors. This was the image of the horned lamb on the Jewish flag at the time of Maccabaean liberation war, used as a sign of conquering majesty and power.

Life Messages

We need to live and die like the Lamb of God.

1) Living like a lamb means: a) leading a pure, innocent, humble, selfless life, obeying Christs commandment of love; b) appreciating the loving providence and protecting care of the Good Shepherd in his Church; c) eating the Body and drinking the Blood of the Good Shepherd and deriving spiritual strength from the Holy Spirit through Sacraments and prayers.

2) Dying like a sacrificial lamb means: a) sacrificially sharing our blessings of health, wealth, and talents with others in the family, parish and community; b) bearing witness to Christ in our illness, pain, and suffering; c) offering our sufferings for the salvation of souls and as reparation for our sins and those of others

SOURCE: Fr. Tony’s Homilies
CARMELITE LECTIO DIVINA REFLECTION

In the Gospel of John, history and the symbol join together. In today’s text, the symbolism consists above all in recalling texts of the Old Testament which we know and which reveal something concerning the identity of Jesus of Nazareth. In these few verses (Jn 1: 29-34) we find the following expressions which contain a symbolical density or depth: 1) Lamb of God; 2) Who takes away the sins of the world; 3) He existed before me; 4) The descent of the Spirit in the form of a dove; 5) Son of God.

  • Lamb of God. This title recalls, brings to mind, the Exodus. The night of the first Passover. The blood of the Paschal Lamb, with which the doors of the houses were 10 signed, was for the people a sign of liberation (Ex 12: 13-14). For the first Christians Jesus is the new Paschal Lamb who liberates his people (1 Co 5: 7; 1 P 1: 19; Rev 5: 6, 9).
  • Who takes away the sins of the World. This recalls a very beautiful phrase of the prophecy of Jeremiah: “There will be no further need for everyone to teach neighbor or brother: “You will know the Lord, they will all know me, from the least to the greatest, says the Lord; since I shall forgive their guilt and never more call their sin to mind” (Jer 31: 34).
  • He existed before me. This recalls several texts of the Books of Wisdom, in which it is spoken about God’s Wisdom which existed before all the other creatures and which was with God, like a master of the works in the creation of the Universe and that, at the end, fixed her dwelling among the people of God (Pro 8: 22-31; Eccl 24: 1-11).
  • The descent of the Spirit in the form of a dove. It recalls the creative action where it is said that the “Spirit of God sweeping over the waters” (Gen 1: 2). The text of Genesis suggests the image of a bird which flies over its nest. An image of the new creation in movement thanks to the action of Jesus.
  • Son of God; this is the title which summarizes all the others. The best comment of this title is the explanation of Jesus himself: “The Jews answered him: ‘We are stoning you not for doing a good work, but for blasphemy: though you are only a man, you claim to be God”. Jesus answered: “Is it not written in your Law: I said: you are gods? So it uses the word ‘gods’ of those people to whom the word of God was addressed (and Scripture cannot be set aside), Yet to someone whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world you say, ‘You are blaspheming’ because I said, ‘I am Son of God’? If I am not doing my Father’s work there is no need to believe me, but if I am doing it, then even if you refuse to believe in me, at least believe in the work I do; then you will know for certain that the Father is in me and I am in the Father” (Jn 10: 33-38).
SOURCE: Carmelite Lectio Divina

Daily Reflections

Courtesy of Presentation Ministries

WE ARE GOD’S CHILDREN NOW

“See what love the Father has bestowed on us in letting us be called children of God!” —1 John 3:1

Something happened to St. John that needs to happen to all of us. Like many of us, John heard he was a child of God. But by the grace of the Holy Spirit, John realized radically what it means to be a child of God. The Spirit cried out in his heart: “Abba” (Gal 4:6; Rm 8:15). It was as if John had heard the voice of God the Father saying: “You are My beloved son, in whom I am well pleased” (see Mt 3:17). After that, John walked and ran through life shocked into life by love as he kept saying: “We are God’s children now” (1 Jn 3:2).


O HOLY NIGHT

“If you consider the holiness that is His, you can be sure that everyone who acts in holiness has been begotten by Him.” —1 John 2:29

One of the main purposes of the Christmas season is to grow in holiness — to become more like God, to take on God’s character. This holy Christmas time begins a holy year in a holy life, which begins a holy, eternal life. The Lord has created us to be holy as He is holy (see 1 Jn 3:3), to be “perfect in holiness” (1 Thes 5:23). We should “hunger and thirst for holiness” (Mt 5:6) and seek first God’s way of holiness (Mt 6:33). We must strive “for that holiness without which no one can see the Lord” (Heb 12:14).


CHRISTMAS ENDS WITH PENTECOST

“When you see the Spirit descend and rest on Someone, it is He Who is to baptize with the Holy Spirit.” —John 1:33

The finale of the Christmas season is not Christmas day or even Epiphany but the Baptism of Jesus. This is more emphasized in the Eastern Church. Christmas is Trinitarian. Christmas is to the Father, through the Son, and in the Spirit. Christmas is focused on Christ and culminates in the Holy Spirit, the only true Christmas Spirit. Thus, we should be looking to conclude the Christmas season by having the Holy Spirit stirred into flame in our lives (see 2 Tm 1:6-7). In a way, the Christmas season ends as Easter does — with a new Pentecost.


PURE GRACE

“Everyone who has this hope based on Him keeps himself pure, as He is pure.” —1 John 3:3

By God’s grace, we can be pure as Jesus is pure. Those who are saved are those “who have never been defiled by immorality…They are pure and follow the Lamb wherever He goes” (Rv 14:4). “Make no mistake about this: no fornicator, no unclean or lustful person — in effect an idolater — has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Eph 5:5). Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount has taught: “Anyone who looks lustfully at a woman has already committed adultery with her in his thoughts. If your right eye is your trouble, gouge it out and throw it away! Better to lose part of your body than to have it all cast into Gehenna” (Mt 5:28-29).

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SOURCE: Presentation Ministries

JANUARY
WEDNESDAY


4

Divine
Office

About

Invitatory

Office of Readings

Morning Prayer

Midmorning Prayer

Midday Prayer

Midafternoon Prayer

Evening Prayer

Night Prayer

Intercessory Prayers

Thoughts
on Today’s
Gospel

Courtesy of EVANGELI.NET
  • “What a blessed day they spent, what a blessed night! Let us also build in our heart, and make a house into which He may come and teach us.” (Saint Augustine)
  • “Three vocations in a man: prepare, discern, diminish ourselves so that the Lord can grow. Christian doesn’t proclaim himself, he proclaims another to the Lord. Christian must be a person who knows how to humble himself so the Lord may increase in the hearts and souls of others.” (Francis)
  • “The theme of Christ as Bridegroom of the Church was prepared for by the prophets and announced by John the Baptist. The Lord referred to himself as the ‘bridegroom’ (Mk 2:19). The Apostle speaks of the whole Church and of each of the faithful, members of his Body, as a bride ‘betrothed’ to Christ the Lord so as to become but one spirit with him (…).” (Catechism Of The Catholic Church, Nº 796)
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Memorial of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, Religious

FR. TONY'S GOSPEL COMMENTARY

Context

In Mathew’s Gospel, Jesus called the fishermen Andrew and his brother Simon from their fishing boat. But John the Evangelist gives a slightly different story. According to him, Andrew and he (John, son of Zebedee) were disciples of John the Baptist. John the Baptist wanted them to join the true Messiah, Jesus, as His disciples. So, one day when Andrew and John (according to tradition) were standing with their master, John the Baptist, Jesus happened to pass in front of them. John the Baptist promptly introduced Jesus to them as the Lamb of God. It was natural for Andrew and John to guess what their master, John the Baptist, wanted them to do.  So, they followed Jesus. Since Sabbath rest was about to begin when travel was forbidden, Jesus cordially invited them to come and stay with Him and learn more about his life and mission till the Sabbath was over.

When the Sabbath rest with Jesus was over, Andrew and John went home. Andrew was so fascinated with Jesus and his contact with him the previous day that he promptly told his brother Simon about Jesus: “We have found the Messiah.” Without wasting time Andrew brought his brother to Jesus. Jesus surprised Simon by calling him by his name, Simon, and changing that Hebrew name to the Greek name, Cephas (Peter), meaning rock, and accepting him as His disciple.

Life Messages

We need to be missionaries like Andrew. Just as a day’s contact with Jesus transformed Andrew into a missionary, leading his brother to Jesus, we are expected to experience Jesus in our lives by Bible reading, personal prayers and sacramental life and acts of charity.

Once we experience Jesus personally, we too must start leading others to the same experience of Jesus as their Lord and Savior, enabling them to surrender their lives to Jesus, too

SOURCE: Fr. Tony’s Homilies
CARMELITE LECTIO DIVINA REFLECTION

In the first chapter of his Gospel, John takes us through a sort time of travel, a week long, punctuated by the repetition, three times, the expression “the day after” (vv. 29, 35 and 43). Our track puts us in the second of these moments, the central one and then the most important one, characterized by physical and spiritual transition of the first disciples of John to Jesus’ “day after” the meeting, the choice of the following. Our scene is crossed and brought to life by a very intense exchange of looks: from John to Jesus (v. 35), from Jesus to the two disciples (v. 38) by the disciples of Jesus (vv. 38- 39); and finally again Jesus speaks to us in his gazing, in the person of Peter (v. 42). The evangelist uses verbs different, but all full of nuances, it does not deal with superficial looks, distracted, transient but rather of deep contacts, intense, that depart from the heart from the soul. Jesus, the Lord looks at his disciples and us, so that, in our turn, we should learn to look at him. The verb that closes the passage is beautiful; “to look” that means literally “to look inside”. Jesus is walking along the sea, along the shores of our lives and John, acts as a photographer, records it. He uses the verbs in the participle to tell us that today, Jesus still is passing by us, and our lives can be visited and crossed by him and our world can welcome the imprints of his footsteps. The center of the passage is perhaps precisely in the movement of Jesus, He walks first, then turns and stops, his eyes, his heart, about the life of the two disciples. Jesus “turns”, that changes, adapts, leaves his position before and assumes another. Here Jesus is revealed as God incarnate, God came among us, man. He turned from the bosom of the Father and turned toward us. It is beautiful to see how the Lord draws us in his movements, in his own life; In fact, he invites the two disciples to “come and see.” You can not sit still, when he met the Lord, and his presence puts us in motion, makes us get up from our old positions and makes us run. We try to collect all the verbs referring to the disciples in this passage: “followed him” (v. 37); “followed him” (v. 38); “they went … they saw … they stayed with him” (v. 39). The first part of the passage closes with the beautiful experience of the first two disciples who remain with Jesus, they later came into his house and they stayed with Him ‘the path of salvation, of true happiness, which is offered to us. only when we accept to remain, to stand still, firm, determined, in love, without turning to and fro, toward one or the other master of the moment, one or the other new love of life. Because when there is Jesus, the Lord, when you were invited by him, nothing is missing.

SOURCE: Carmelite Lectio Divina

Daily Reflections

Courtesy of Presentation Ministries

A CLOSE CALL

“When Jesus turned around and noticed them following Him, He asked them, ‘What are you looking for?’ ” —John 1:38

Andrew and another disciple of John the Baptizer followed Jesus from a distance. Likewise, today there are many long-distance followers of Jesus. Are you close to the Lord? Or are your prayers long-distance calls?


STAR WARS

“It was to destroy the devil’s works that the Son of God revealed Himself.” —1 John 3:8

The purpose of God becoming man, and therefore the purpose of Christmas, is to destroy the devil’s works. That’s why the anti-Christ denies Christ come in the flesh (1 Jn 4:2-3). That’s why Herod “convulsed” in a violent reaction when he heard about the newborn King of the Jews (see Mt 2:2ff). Herod did not overreact but understood the true meaning of Christmas much better than most people.


STAYING POWER

“Where do You stay?” —John 1:38

Two disciples of St. John the Baptist were following Jesus, but at a distance. This is often the way Christians follow Jesus. We try to do God’s will for the most part, but intentionally keep Jesus more than “arm’s length” away. We don’t let Him get close to us. However, Jesus will turn around and challenge us by asking: “What are you looking for?” (Jn 1:38) If we truthfully answer Jesus’ question, we may have to say that we’re looking for blessings, security, or peace of mind, although we should say we’re looking for a deep, personal relationship with Him.


WHAT’S A THREE-LETTER WORD FOR DEATH?

“The man who sins belongs to the devil.” —1 John 3:8

Sin is:

  • rebellion against God,
  • rejecting Jesus, Who loves us so much that He died for us,
  • being deceived, and therefore being manipulated and degraded,
  • slavery and an abuse of freedom,
  • often enjoyable for a while,
  • deadly,
  • pride,
  • denying reality,

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SOURCE: Presentation Ministries

JANUARY
THURSDAY


5

Divine
Office

About

Invitatory

Office of Readings

Morning Prayer

Midmorning Prayer

Midday Prayer

Midafternoon Prayer

Evening Prayer

Night Prayer

Intercessory Prayers

Thoughts
on Today’s
Gospel

Courtesy of EVANGELI.NET
  • “At the moment of the immolation [consecration], at the sound of the priest’s voice, the heavens stand open and choirs of angels are present at the mystery of Jesus Christ. There at the altar the lowliest is united with the most subline, earth is joined to heaven, the visible and invisible somehow merge into one.” (Saint Gregory the Great)
  • “The smile of a family can overcome this desertification of our cities. The Babel project builds lifeless skyscrapers. The Spirit of God instead makes the desert fruitful.” (Francis)
  • “The Father’s only Son, conceived as man in the womb of the Virgin Mary, is “Christ”, that is to say, anointed by the Holy Spirit, from the beginning of his human existence, though the manifestation of this fact takes place only progressively: to the shepherds, to the magi, to John the Baptist, to the disciples. Thus the whole life of Jesus Christ will make manifest ‘how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power’ (Acts 10:38).” (Catechism Of The Catholic Church, Nº 486)
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Memorial of Saint John Neumann, Bishop

FR. TONY'S GOSPEL COMMENTARY

Context

In today’s Gospel of John (John 1:43-51), Nathanael, also called Bartholomew or “son of Tholomay,” is introduced as a friend of Philip. He is described as initially being skeptical about the Messiah coming from Nazareth, saying: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” But he accepts Philip’s invitation to meet Jesus. Jesus welcomes him saying, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!”  Jesus’ comment, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you,” is probably based on a Jewish figure of speech referring to studying the Torah. Nathanael immediately recognizes Jesus as “the Son of God” and “the King of Israel.” Nathanael reappears at the end of John’s Gospel (Jn 21:2) as one of the disciples to whom Jesus appeared at the Sea of Tiberius after his resurrection from the tomb. The Gospels thus present Bartholomew as a man with no malice and a lover of Torah with openness to truth and readiness to accept the truth. Nathanael was the first Apostle to make an explicit confession of Faith in Jesus as the Messiah and as the Son of God.

Life Messages

Let us pray for the grace to love the word of God as Bartholomew did and to accept the teaching of the Bible and the Church with open heart and open mind without pride or prejudice.

SOURCE: Fr. Tony’s Homilies
CARMELITE LECTIO DIVINA REFLECTION
  • Jesus returned to Galilee. He met Philip and called him telling him: “Follow me!” The purpose of the call is always the same: “to follow Jesus”. The first Christians sought to preserve the names of the first disciples, and of some they even kept their family names and the name of their place of origin. Philip, Andrew and Peter were from Bethsaida (Jn 1: 44). Nathanael was from Cana. Today many forget the names of the persons who were at the origin of their communities. To remember the names is a way of preserving the identity.
  • Philip meets Nathanael and speaks to him about Jesus:“We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and the Prophets wrote, Jesus, son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Jesus is the one to whom all the history of the Old Testament refers.
  • Nathanael asks: “From Nazareth? Can anything good come from that place?” Probably, even in his question there was some of the rivalry which existed among the small villages of the same region: Cana and Nazareth. Besides, according to the official teaching of the Scribes, the Messiah would come from Bethlehem, in Judah. He could not come from Nazareth in Galilee (Jn 7, 41-42). Andrew gives the same answer which Jesus had given to the other two disciples: “Come and see for yourself!” It is not by imposing, but rather by seeing that persons are convinced. Once again, the same way: to meet, to experience, to share, to witness, to lead toward Jesus!
  • Jesus sees Nathanael and says: “Truly, he is an Israelite in whom there is no deception”. And affirms that he already knew him when he was under the fig tree. How could Nathanael be an “authentic or true Israelite” if he did not accept Jesus as the Messiah? Nathanael “was under the fig tree”. The fig tree was the symbol of Israel (cf. Mi 4: 4; Zc 3: 10; 1 Kg 5: 5). An authentic Israelite is the one who knows how to detach himself from his own ideas when he perceives that they are not in agreement with God’s project. The Israelite who is not ready to bring about this conversion is neither authentic nor honest. Nathanael is authentic. He was waiting for the Messiah according to the official teaching of the time (Jn 7: 41-42, 52). This is why at the beginning; he did not accept a Messiah coming from Nazareth. But the encounter with Jesus helped him to understand that God’s project is not always as people imagine or desire that it be. He recognizes, acknowledges his deception or mistake, he changes his idea, accepts God as Messiah and confesses: “Rabi, you are the Son of God: you are the King of Israel!” The confession of Nathanael is only at the beginning: The one who will be faithful will see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending over the Son of man. He will experience that Jesus is the new bond of union between God and us, human beings. It is the dream of Jacob which has become a reality (Gen 28: 10-22).
SOURCE: Carmelite Lectio Divina

Daily Reflections

Courtesy of Presentation Ministries

LOVE MEETS THE GREATEST NEED

“I ask you, how can God’s love survive in a man who has enough of this world’s goods yet closes his heart to his brother when he sees him in need?” —1 John 3:17

John points out the obvious connection between love and need. If we love someone, we will want to provide that person’s needs. Otherwise, our talk about love is mere lip service (Mt 15:8; Is 29:13) and not authentic (1 Jn 3:18).

WHAT’S A FOUR-LETTER WORD FOR LIFE?

“The way we came to understand love was that He laid down His life for us.” —1 John 3:16

Love is:

  • “the message you heard from the beginning” (1 Jn 3:11),
  • the meaning of life,
  • the command of God,
  • a grace of God,
  • “based on the truth” (2 Jn 2),
  • the way we know we “have passed from death to life” (1 Jn 3:14),

“AIN’T NOBODY…”

“I solemnly assure you, you shall see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” —John 1:51

There’s an old spiritual song entitled “Ain’t Nobody Can Do Me Like Jesus.” This means that Jesus alone knows, changes, and satisfies the human heart (Jn 2:25). Jesus is the Bread of Life (Jn 6:35). He is our most basic Need, and He satisfies all our other needs. When we’ve got Jesus, we’ve got everything worth having and, when we’ve got everything but Jesus, we’ve got nothing. We may be among “the living dead” (1 Jn 3:14), but Jesus knows how to touch, fill, and fulfill even the most hardened heart.

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SOURCE: Presentation Ministries

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Christmas Weekday

FR. TONY'S GOSPEL COMMENTARY

Context

Introduction: The Baptism of the Lord is the great event celebrated by the Eastern churches on the feast of Epiphany because it is the occasion of the first public revelation of all the Three Persons in the Holy Trinity, and the official revelation of Jesus as the Son of God to the world by God the Father.  Hence, it is described by all four Gospels. It marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.

Importance:The baptism from John was a very important event in the life of Jesus because 1) it was a moment of his identification with us sinners; 2) it was a moment of conviction about his identity and mission: that Jesus is the Son of God and his mission is to preach the Good News of God’s love and salvation and to atone for our sins by becoming the “suffering servant”;  3) it was a moment of equipment:  the Holy Spirit equipped Jesus by descending on him in the form of dove, giving him the power of preaching and healing; and 4) it was a moment of decision to begin public ministry at the most opportune time after receiving the approval of his Heavenly Father as His beloved Son.

Life Messages

1) The baptism of Jesus reminds us of our identity. It reminds us of who we are and Whose we are.  By our Baptism we become sons and daughters of God, members of God’s family, brothers and sisters of Jesus, members of his Church, heirs of Heaven and temples of the Holy Spirit.

2) Jesus’ baptism reminds us also of our mission a) to experience the presence of God within us, to acknowledge our own dignity as God’s children, and to appreciate the Divine presence in others by honoring them, loving them and serving them in all humility; b) to live as the children of God in thought, word, and action; c) to lead a holy and transparent Christian life, and not to desecrate  our bodies (the temples of the Holy Spirit and members of Jesus’ body) by impurity, injustice, intolerance, jealousy, or hatred; d) to accept both the good and the bad experiences of life as the gifts of a loving Heavenly Father for our growth in holiness; e) to grow daily in intimacy with God by personal and family prayers, by meditative reading of the Word of God, by participating in the Holy Mass, and by frequenting the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

3) It is a day to thank God for the graces we have received in Baptism, to renew our Baptismal promises, and to preach Christ’s “Good News” by our transparent Christian lives of love, mercy, service, and forgiveness.

SOURCE: Fr. Tony’s Homilies
CARMELITE LECTIO DIVINA REFLECTION

The baptism: Purification rites by means of bathing or ablutions were quite common as a daily practice among the Jews at the time of Jesus (cf Mk 7:1-4), as well as among the Essenes of Qumran. 15 The word baptism indicates a bath, a complete immersion in water, and comes from the verb baptizo, rarely used in the Greek Old Testament: to immerse or submerge, producing a permanent change. We find this in 2 Kings 5: 14: the healing of Naaman, which comes about by means of a series of baths in the Jordan at the command of Elisha. It is from this event that the positive use of the word comes in later times. • The baptism of John: Is characteristic of this practice (so much so that it becomes known by his name) (cf Mk 1: 4). John works in an unnamed place along the Jordan and baptizes in the flowing water of the river, not in specified places and in waters prepared for the rite. The conversion and penance demanded by him (Mk 1: 4) are more on the moral than on the ritual level (cf Lk 3: 8) and the rite, which signified such an existential change (bath and confession of sins), took place only once in a lifetime. Moreover, John clearly says that his baptism is only the preparation for a more radical purifying event, directly connected with the final judgment of God: “baptism in the spirit” and “in fire” (cf Mk 1: 7-8, Mt 1: 2-3). The people of Judea and Jerusalem greatly welcomed John’s preaching, so much so that large crowds went to him to be baptized (Mk 1: 5) as Joseph Flavius also narrates. • Jesus and John at the Jordan: John knows quite well that he is not the Messiah and is inferior to him, yet he is called to prepare for His now imminent coming (Mk 1: 7-8). All the Gospels speak of this awareness, emphasized by the use of the verb in the past for his baptism and in the future for the baptism of the Messiah. This reflects the care that the first Christian communities took to show that Christian baptism was superior to John’s baptism, as also Jesus, the Christ, was superior to John the Baptist (cf Mk 3: 14; Jn 1: 26-34). • Baptism in the Spirit: It is the eschatological baptism promised by the prophets (cf Joel 3: 1-5), connected with the fire of the judgment or under the form of sprinkling (cf Ez 36: 25). Jesus receives this baptism soon after and His baptism will be the source and model of the baptism of the Christians. Thus the Christian community is founded on the gift of the Holy Spirit. • Jesus came from Nazareth: Jesus stands out among the great crowd of Jewish penitents (cf Mk1: 5) because He comes from an area where only echoes of the penitential preaching of the Baptist had reached in Galilee (Mk 1: 9). For Mark this is an important place: Jesus begins His activities there and is well received. After Easter, it is there that the disciples meet Him (16: 7) and understand Him fully and it is from there that they will leave for their mission (16: 20). In the light of what Mark says immediately after the voice from heaven, Jesus is not only “stronger” than John, but has a nature far superior to that of John. And yet He went down among those who admitted being sinners, without being afraid of suffering any diminution of His dignity (cf Phil 2: 6-7). He is “the light that shines in the darkness” (cf Jn 1: 5). The second Gospel does not report the reasons for which Jesus goes to receive the baptism of penance, even though the event is one of the most historically reliable among those narrated in the Gospels. What primarily interests the Evangelist is the divine revelation that comes after the baptism of Jesus. • He saw the heavens torn apart: This is not a kind of special revelation for Jesus alone. The heavens, literally, “rip themselves open,” in answer to Isaiah’s invocation: “If you would tear the heavens open and come down” (Is 63: 19b). Thus, after a time of separation, a completely new phase begins in the communication between God and humankind. This new 16 relationship is confirmed and becomes definitive with the redemptive death of Jesus, when the veil of the Temple was “torn” (cf Mk 15: 38) as though a hand from heaven had struck it. The Easter of the death and resurrection is the “baptism wished for” by Jesus (cf Lk 12: 50). • The Spirit descending on Him: Jesus “ascends” from the water of the river and immediately after, the heavens open and the Spirit “descends” and rests on Him. From now on the period of waiting for the Spirit is over and the direct way that unites God with humankind is opened. Mark shows that Jesus is the only possessor of the Spirit who consecrates Him Messiah, makes Him fully aware of being God-Son, and dwells in Him and sustains Him in the mission willed by the Father. According to Mark, the Spirit comes to Jesus like a dove. We meet the dove in the story of Noah and the dove is also connected to the waters and the work of God in the world (cf Gen 8: 8-12). Elsewhere, the dove is used as a reminder of fidelity and permanence, and for its faithfulness in returning to the place from which it departed (cf Ct 2: 14; Jn 1: 33-34). The Spirit rests permanently on Jesus and takes possession of Him. In this passage we could also see a reference to the “breathing of the spirit of God over the waters” of creation (Gen 1: 2). With Jesus, a “new creation” really begins (cf Mt 19: 38; 2 Cor 5: 17; Gal 6: 15). • A voice came from heaven: With the coming of Jesus, communication between God and humankind is restored. It is not a matter of what the rabbis called “the daughter of the voice”, an incomplete substitution of the prophetic word, but a matter of direct communication between Father and Son. • Came … saw descending … was heard: We must admire the condescension of the Trinity that “stoops down” towards humankind, descends to the Jordan in Jesus to be baptized like so many sinners, descends upon Jesus in the Spirit for the sake of His self-awareness and His mission and descends in the voice of the Father to confirm His son-ship. • You are My Son, My Beloved; My favor rests on You: Mark may have deliberately wanted to recall several passages of the Old Testament in order to emphasize, at least by allusion, the importance of the many nuances of these divine words. First of all, we recall Isaiah 42: 1 ” Here is My servant whom I uphold, My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have endowed Him with My spirit that He may bring true justice to the nations.” It is JHWH whom introduces His faithful servant. Here, however, the title of “servant” is not used but that of “son”, weaving the prophetic text with a psalm of royal and messianic investiture: “He has told Me, ‘You are My son, today I have become your father’” (Ps 2: 7). The Evangelist (as the other synoptic) allows the nature of the human-divine identity of Jesus to appear. • You are My Son, My Beloved: In the light of the Paschal faith, Mark could not have meant this revelation to be that God was adopting the man Jesus. The voice from heaven is a confirmation of a special relationship already in existence between Jesus and the Father. The title Son of God is attributed to Jesus in the very first verse of Mark and again at the end of the passion when the centurion says, “In truth this man was a son of God” (Mk 1: 1; 15: 39). However, this title recurs in various forms and frequently (cf 3: 11; 5: 7; 9: 7; 14: 61). For Mark, the title “Son of God” is especially relevant for an understanding of the person of Jesus and for a full profession of faith. It is so important that eventually it was the proper name given to Jesus by Christians by which they meant to proclaim the 17 essential elements of their own faith in Him (cf Rom 1: 4): the Messiah king, the eschatological savior, the man who had a special relationship with the divine, the one risen from the dead, the second person of the Trinity. The fact that the voice from heaven calls Him “chosen” and “beloved” (as will be repeated at the Transfiguration in 5: 7 and 12: 6) emphasizes the completely unique relationship of the Father with Jesus, so special that it overshadows the other relationships between human beings and God. Jacob, like Jesus, is the “only and chosen” son (cf Gen 22: 2) and he is not spared the agony of a violent death (cf Heb 5: 7). • My favor rests on You: These words emphasize once more the messianic election of Jesus, fruit of the Father’s benevolence, that thus shows His absolute preference for the Son in whom He finds joy and satisfaction (cf Is 42: 1). While Jesus, obedient to the Father, begins His mission of bringing humanity back to the Father (cf Mk 1: 38).

SOURCE: Carmelite Lectio Divina

Daily Reflections

Courtesy of Presentation Ministries

POSSESSION

“The testimony is this: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever possesses the Son possesses life; whoever does not possess the Son of God does not possess life.” —1 John 5:11-12

St. John puts it very directly and bluntly. Jesus is Life (Jn 11:25; 14:6). If you want life, you need Jesus. “Whoever believes in the Son has life eternal” (Jn 3:36).


VICTOR OR VICTIM?

“Who, then, is conqueror of the world? The one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” —1 John 5:5

We are victors over the world or victims of the world. Only by faith in Jesus as God will we escape being victimized. Unless we pray to the Lord, we will become the prey of the world. Either Jesus runs our lives, or we are manipulated into running our lives into the ground, even into hell. By ourselves, we are unable to protect ourselves from unscrupulous, hateful demons. Of ourselves, our lives are necessarily out of control. Jesus is the only name by which we can be saved (Acts 4:12). He is our only Hope, but the only Hope we need.


THE WORLD WAR

“Who, then, is conqueror of the world?” —1 John 5:5

During the Christmas season, it becomes even more obvious that there is a battle between Christians and the world. The world is focused on selfishness, pleasure-seeking, the lusts of the flesh, and the pride of life (1 Jn 2:16, RSV-CE). Christians focus on Christ, the Father’s will, the gifts and the fruit of the Spirit, and humility. Consequently, the world hates Jesus’ disciples as it hates Him (Jn 15:18). Through the Holy Spirit, we Christians have proven the world wrong about sin, justice, and condemnation (Jn 16:8). Through the cross, we have been crucified to the world, and the world to us (Gal 6:14). Therefore, the world hates us. We are going to conquer the world through faith in Jesus as the Son of God (1 Jn 5:5) or be conquered by the world.


THE BEST FOR LAST

“There are three that testify, the Spirit and the water and the blood.” —1 John 5:7-8

To be baptized in the Holy Spirit means to be immersed in the Holy Spirit and therefore in the Father and the Son (see Mt 28:19). This means we are no longer immersed in our own concerns, feelings, and thoughts but have died to ourselves (see Lk 9:23). To be baptized in the Spirit is to be crucified with Christ (Gal 2:19-20) and to “live no longer” for ourselves but for Him (2 Cor 5:15). Knowing this, will you still pray: “Come, Holy Spirit”?

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SOURCE: Presentation Ministries

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Christmas Weekday

FR. TONY'S GOSPEL COMMENTARY

Context

We are at a wedding at Cana where Jesus reveals his Divine power by his first miracle, transforming water into wine. The Bible begins with one wedding, that of Adam and Eve in the garden (Gn 2:23-24), and ends with another, the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rv 19:9, 21:9, 22:17). Throughout the Bible, marriage is the symbol of the Covenant relationship between God and His chosen people.   God is the faithful Groom and humanity is His beloved bride.

In today’s Gospel, John describes the first of the seven “signs’ by which Jesus showed forth his divinity. When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother told him about it.  At first Jesus seemed to refuse to do anything about it. But later he told the servants to fill six large stone jars with water and take some to the headwaiter.  When they did so, the water had become wine, better wine than that which had run out.

Life Messages

1) We need to, “Invite Jesus and Mary to remain with us in our homes.”  St. John Mary Vianney suggests this as the solution for many of our family problems.   He used to encourage parents to create an atmosphere of prayer, Bible reading, mutual love and respect, and sacrificial service at home so that the presence of Jesus and Mary might be perpetually enhanced and experienced in the family.

2) We need to, “Do whatever He tells you.”   This is the only command and piece of advice given by Mary recorded in the New Testament, and it is a prerequisite for miracles in our families.  The Bible tells us how to do the will of God and effect salvific changes in our daily lives.

3) Just as Jesus filled the water jars with wine, let us fill the hearts around us with love If our families have lost the savor of mutual love, let us renew them at the altar with the invigorating power of the Holy Spirit.  By the miracle of Cana, Jesus challenges us also to enrich the empty lives of those around us with the new wine of love, mercy, concern, and care.

4) We need to learn to appreciate the miracles of God’s providence in our lives. God, often as an uninvited guest in our families, works daily miracles in our lives by protecting us from physical and moral dangers, providing for our needs, inspiring us, and strengthening us with His Holy Spirit. Let us also appreciate the miracle of the Real Presence of the Lord on the altar, where God transforms our offering of bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus.

SOURCE: Fr. Tony’s Homilies

CARMELITE LECTIO DIVINA REFLECTION
  • A Key to the Reading: The Gospel of this second Sunday of Ordinary Time places us before the celebration of the Wedding at Cana, in Galilee. At that time, just as now, everybody liked feasts: the feast for a marriage or for a Baptism, the birthday party, the feast of the patron or patroness of the Church, the feast at the end of the year, feasts, and more feasts… There are some feasts which remain engraved in our memory and which, over time, acquire a more profound significance. Other feasts, we forget. We no longer remember them because they have lost their significance. The feast of the wedding at Cana, as it has been described in the Gospel of John (Jn 2: 1-11), has remained alive in the memory of the Christian people, and for some it has taken on a more profound meaning. To understand this progressive discovery of the significance of the wedding at Cana we must remember that the Gospel of John is different from the other Gospels. John describes the facts of the life of Jesus in such a way that the readers discover in them a more profound dimension, which only faith can perceive. John, at the same time, presents a photograph or an x-ray. This is why, during the reading, it is good to be very attentive to the details of the text, especially to the two following things: (i) to the attitudes and behavior of the people and (ii) to what is lacking and to the abundance which appear in the wedding at Cana. A Division of the Text to Help in the Reading: • John 2: 1-2: Feast of the wedding. Mary is present. Jesus is the one who has been invited. • John 2: 3-5: Jesus and His mother faced with the lack of wine. • John 2: 6: The jars for the ablutions are empty. • John 2: 7-8: The initiative of Jesus and of the servants. • John 2: 9-10: The discovery of the sign by the chief wine steward • John 2: 11: The Evangelist’s brief commentary
SOURCE: Carmelite Lectio Divina

Daily Reflections

Courtesy of Presentation Ministries

CHARGE IT

“What you have done is keep the choice wine until now.” —John 2:10

Most people put things off till the last minute, even Christmas. Jesus, the Reason for the season, desires to come into our lives and be our Lord, but we put Him off. Now we are in the last three days of the Christmas season. Jesus is coming on strong. It’s regrettable we’ve waited until the last minute, spending our Christmas missing out on relationship with Christ. Yet, because He is rich in mercy, He has saved the best until last (Jn 2:10).


FINDING JOY IN DECREASING

“It is the groom who has the bride. The groom’s best man waits there listening for him and is overjoyed to hear his voice. That is my joy, and it is complete.” —John 3:29

I was once a “best man,” at the wedding of a high school friend. I was overjoyed to see my friend marry his sweetheart. As a best man, your thoughts are wholly occupied with the groom. There is no disappointment for the best man when all the attention is being focused on the groom. It is a delight to see the groom’s joy in marrying his beloved bride. In fact, it would be out of place for the best man to attempt to “steal the show” and divert attention away from the bride and groom.


DON’T RUIN YOUR APPETITE

“The Son of God has come and has given us discernment to recognize the One Who is true. And we are in the One Who is true, for we are in His Son Jesus Christ.” —1 John 5:20

We must thirst for and strongly desire to receive the Holy Spirit to have living waters flow from within (Jn 7:37-38). Two baptisms prepare us for the baptism in the Spirit: first, the baptism of repentance, then the Baptism of new life in Jesus. These baptisms should make us more strongly desire the Holy Spirit.


THE HUMBLE SPIRIT

“The Groom’s best man waits there listening for Him and is overjoyed to hear His voice.” —John 3:29

Tomorrow we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus, the last day of the Christmas season. This can literally be one of the most important and precious days of our lives. Throughout this Christmas season, the Lord has given us countless opportunities to let Him transform our hearts. Our hearts may now be open to the Lord in a new and more humble way.

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SOURCE: Presentation Ministries – One Bread, One Body