Sunday, January 29, 2023

Blessed Are They Who . . . Homily for the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Zep 2:3, 3:12-13

Ps 146:6-7,8-9, 9-10

1 Cor 1:26-31

Mt 5:1-12a


Sometimes the only response to the editors of the lectionary, the book of  readings and gospels for every day of the year, is why?  What is the rationale for editorial decision that cut out the middle of a particular text and change its meaning? Today's first reading is a case in point. 


The reading from Zephaniah is not continuous.  The editors joined chapter 2 verse 3 to chapter 3 verses 12 and 13.  The result is consoling.  It is almost idyllic.  That is the problem.  The twenty-three deleted verses comprise a long list of prophecies of doom, death, destruction and punishment.  Only when much of the world is destroyed do we hear of the protected remnant, only then do we learn of the promised consolation.  Peace doesn’t just happen.  It is preceded by turmoil and strife.  


Peace and comfort preceded by turmoil and chaos  is an accurate description of life as we live it, of life as it was lived during the writer's time, and of life as it will always be lived. Turmoil followed by consolation.  One hopes post-covid consolation gets here soon. 


Psalm 146, the responsorial, is the first of the five hymns that bring the magnificent Book of Psalms to an end.  Psalms 146 to 150 are unlike anything 

that precedes them.  Nothing follows them.  We do not hear "Why, O Lord?" 

We do not hear  “How long O God, how long?” or “Out of the Depths I Cry to You.” The last five psalms are songs given to praise.  


Each begins and ends with Hallelujah: Praise the Lord; the Lord who keeps faith forever, who gives sight to the blind and who sustains the widow; the Lord who promises that those who mourn shall be comforted . . . . 

This, after 145 psalms lamenting the past and praying for a better future. Psalm 146 prepares us for the Gospel. 


One challenge when preaching on Matthew's Beatitudes is the common misperception that the beatitudes are the entire Sermon on the Mount.  They are not.  They are only part of  a very long and wide-ranging teaching.  The beatitudes are as ambiguous as anything ever written. 


They have been used and misused, interpreted and misinterpreted, updated and bowdlerized to push social agendas by both the left and the right.   One can justify almost anything through skillful use of words and concepts in relation to the beatitudes. . . . With one exception.  


The exception is the beatitude that is mostly ignored by preachers, activists, and social revolution types. “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” 


Poverty, peace, hunger, and persecution are headline grabbers. They offer a chance to mount the political soapbox, or politicize the pulpit,   so as to rail, rant, or speak in bumper sticker language.  They are an opportunity for inflammatory and passionate sermons in the manner of Elmer Gantry.


Mourning does not garner headlines.  Grieving doesn't make it to the front page 

unless the ridiculous concept called "closure" is included somewhere in the story.  

Mourning doesn't get headlines because it is personal, private, and solitary. 


Those who are mourning make those who are not uncomfortable.  People are poor together.  Groups suffer injustice.  Persecution is systematic.  Mourning is solitary. Mourning is solitary even when the loss is shared.  No two people grieve in the same way, even for the death of the same person.  


Those who do not mourn will say or do anything to push aside the pain the other is experiencing.  "There, there, you'll get closure real soon.  Let's go out for dinner and a movie.  It’ll help you get there." 


Mourning is among  the most lonely and isolating of human experiences.  While most people who hear the words mourning or grief will ask “Who died?,” mourning and grief are triggered by any loss:  The loss of friend through death,  

the loss of a spouse or parent through Alzheimer’s disease, the loss of independence upon moving from home into a nursing home. The loss of one's driver's license can trigger severe mourning given the secondary losses a sudden inability to drive. 


Grief and mourning can be triggered by the loss of a part of oneself,  either a physical loss such as a breast or a limb, or a more abstract loss such as retirement or one’s health.  


The difficulty with mourning and grieving is that no one can do the work of mourning for another. There are no substitutions or pinch-hitters allowed. 

Oftentimes attempts to comfort those who mourn fall somewhere between clumsy and damaging.  


There is no rallying cry for those who mourn.  There is no social justice solution for mourning.  There is no preferential option for those who mourn.  There is no answer except compassion and willingness to listen on the part of the other.


Mourning is the great leveler. It brings both peasants and dictators 

to their knees in pain, rage, fear, and sorrow.  It sets off  deep hunger in the one who can barely afford bread as well as the obese celebrity chef  on TV.  


Those who mourn do not know peace.  Unlike the poor or persecuted who can be challenged to act there is nothing for those who mourn except to hope for comfort while trying to get from day to day. Those who mourn are alone. Those who weep in sorrow are isolated from the rest of society.  


No writer ever described grief and  mourning as effectively as C.S. Lewis  when he wrote the opening sentence of A Grief Observed, the small journal he kept 

after his wife’s death from bone cancer .


“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.  

I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid.  

The same fluttering in the stomach, 

the same restlessness, the yawning.  

I keep on swallowing.”


Lonely.  Hungry.  Isolated.  Overwhelmed.  


Blessed are they who mourn. 

May they be comforted. 


The photos are from Loyola, Spain in the summer of 2019.  I presented two talks at the conference on Ignatian Spirituality.  Loyola is almost visually overwhelming.  

Shape, pattern, shadow, and texture are among the characteristics is look for, particularly in black and white.  This fulfilled all criteria. 

The stained glass in this particular chapel is non-figurative, composed of irregular shapes of blue, purple, and magenta.  The sun splashed the walls with color. 

A delicate blossom.  Amazingn how a camera can capture such details so quickly. 

See texture, shape, and so on criteria.  Nothing like the weather to create beauty. 

I took multiple shots of the roses growing  adjacent to this wall. 

The Basilica

Mass.  I chose not to concelebrate.  

+ Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Saturday, January 21, 2023

There Never Was a Golden Age: Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Is 8:23-9:3

Ps 27:1,4,13-14

1 Cor 1:10-13,17

Mt 4:12-23


In its introductory essay to the Book of Isaiah, the Jewish Study Bible notes: 

"Isaiah is perhaps the best-loved of the prophetic books.  It is cited more than any other prophetic text in rabbinic literature."  The same is true of the importance of Isaiah for the Catholic Church.  


There are questions. Was Isaiah speaking of Christ?  Was he speaking of someone or something else entirely?  Biblical scholars are all over the place on the answer. Agreement is unlikely.    


The same introductory essay explains two important things about Isaiah. The first his name.  Semitic names often consisted of sentences that described God; In Hebrew the name Isaiah means "The Lord saves." Secondly, it clarifies why the reading we just heard was in the past tense.  Recall:


"The people who have walked in darkness, 

have seen a great light; . . . 


You have brought them abundant joy . . . ."  


The use of the past tense in prophecies is an example of the  "the prophetic past tense."  The prophetic past predicts future events using the past tense to signify that those events are already as good as done.  The prophetic past tense

is rooted in the faith and hope that what we ask of the Lord and what the Lord has promised, is as good as done, even if the present is not as we would want it to be, even if the present bears no resemblance to what God has promised.  


Paul was unhappy with the Corinthians when he wrote in response to reports about abuses in the Church at Corinth.  He addressed those abuses in the first six chapters of his letter. They included: divisions among the faithful, a case of incest, lawsuits among Christians, and sins against chastity.  Apparently, the more things change, the more they stay the same.


"I urge you . . . in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that . . . you agree in what you say . . . that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose."  Paul is not suggesting that Christians cannot disagree on earthly affairs:  say politics, covid vaccinations, or the merits of the Patriots vs. the Jets.  


Paul is referring to the unity of Church teaching and the belief of her members.  He is decrying the divisive sectarianism that today is oftentimes driven

by idiosyncratic attempts to fashion a Jesus who fits the speaker’s or group’s desires and personal agenda. The letter is an important corrective to myths of a golden age of agreement and concord even in the earliest days of the Church

and the unrealistic, if not delusional possibility, of agreement and concord in the future. 


Jesus’ call  “Come follow me”  seems simple on the surface. It is terrifying in its implications.


In his Dictionary of Biblical Theology Jesuit scholar Xavier Leon-Dufour writes:  "A calling supposes a change in being. . . . God's call catches a man at his ordinary work, interrupts him in the midst of his friends, and involves him in a project known to God alone."  


Think about it. There they were, Peter, Andrew, James and John, hauling in the nets, perhaps grumbling about the catch or the weather. Their backs were sore. 

Their fingers ached. They were cold and wet.  And then they heard Jesus words: 

“Come follow me.  And I will make you fishers of men.”  


That last is not a very specific job description either for them or for us today. When we heed Jesus' summons we enter into an open-ended project without much of a description.  But through this call to follow Him Jesus surrounded himself first, with the apostles and then with other disciples, Some accepted immediately and without equivocation.  Some rejected the call for the flimsiest of reasons. Others initially followed but then said “I’m outta’ here.”  


To be called by Jesus is to be called into His mission.  That mission is mediated and supported by the Church  It is not supported or helped by the feelings of the cafeteria Catholic who picks and chooses what he or she will believe while rejecting other dogma, the type who may invoke vague generalities about Jesus and love to push an agenda but assert, “I really can't get into that Real Presence stuff.” The type who will rationalize the meaning of thou shalt not kill. 


The call to follow Jesus does not mean insisting, in the manner of the former speaker of the house, that I am a good Catholic on one hand while proselytizing abortion on the other, the same former speaker who hysterically protested the recently passed Born-Alive Act that ensures that infants born alive following an attempted abortion receive the same protection of law and same degree of care as any newborn, rather than having the execution completed  outside the womb.


March for Life two days ago on Friday—the 50th since Roe—was a needed reminder of how far we have to go before life, particularly vulnerable life at its very beginning in the womb and at the very end in old age, is protected from premature and intentional termination.  Alas, a 51st march will be necessary next year.


Paul’s letter reminds us that the Church is not perfect.  It never was and never will be perfect.  It is, after all, made up entirely of sinners from top to bottom. However, it is what has come down through two millennia by preaching the salvation found in Jesus, the same Jesus who is present in the midst of the assembly, who is found in the words of Scripture, the same Jesus whose Real Presence in the Eucharist is a gift offered to us daily. 


We heard in the psalm:

"One thing I ask of the Lord, this I seek: 

to dwell in the house of the Lord

all the days of my life, 

that I may gaze on the loveliness of the Lord

and contemplate his Temple"


Sit with that prayer. Meditate on its those images. They will yield much fruit. 


After finishing tertianship in Australia I had the opportunity to visit Vietnam for ten days.  Indeed, I turned 62 in My Tho in the Mekong Delta not too terribly far from Saigon.  It was a remarkable and, in some ways, transformative experience.  The heat and humidity were killers.  I was a bit concerned about the camera but I had no problems.  The photos below were taken along to coast south of My Tho at what I think was Go Cong beach.  

At low tide the distance from shore to waterline was enormous.  

Scanenging for mussels at low tide.  I had instant flashbacks to picking mushrooms in the woods with m dad as a child.  

The colorful fishing boats alone made having the camera a blessing.  Don't know when the tide was to come in but they were going nowhere at the moment.  

More of the fishing boats

It was a Saturday.  I assume school was in half-session.  As soon as he saw my camera this young boy began mugging for it.  Wonder how tall he is now?  What is he doing? 

This was at my place at breakfast on birthday morning.  Fr. John and I concelebrated Mass for the sisters at 5:30 AM.  It was relatively cool then. 

A "monkey bridge."  Note, I crossed first. which was the only way to get this shot. 

Only drivers have to wear helmets in Vietnam. 
Today is lunar New Year.  Have a good one. 

+ Fr Jack, SJ, MD

Sunday, January 8, 2023

What Kings? Homily for the Feast of Epiphany

 Is 60:1-6

Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-13

Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6

Mt 2:1-12


One of the challenges to getting through the Christmas season is the amount of sickly sweet imagery that clings to the celebration of Jesus' birth.  These challenges include images of a toddler-sized newborn and depictions of Mary dressed in blue and white watered silk 

encrusted with pearls and rhinestones. Morbidly obese Santas, reindeer, and elf cards are beneath contempt. Overall, the images imposed on Jesus' birth are frequently painful and embarrassing.  Much too often we hear about "The Magic of Christmas" or how "Christmas is for Children."  


Christmas is not a holiday for children.  

Christmas is a holy day for all peoples of the world.


Christmas is not magic. It is not a panacea for sorrow.  No one is required to be happy at Christmas.  Too often the sorrowful, the dying, and those who are struggling with the realities of life,  are told that if they surrender to the magic of Christmas they will feel better.  Families, friends and neighbors of those grieving the death of another 

oftentimes insist that a large dinner at someone else’s house will make all cares disappear, or, at the very least, begin the pseudo-psychological non-existent process called closure.  Unfortunately,  

Epiphany is not exempt from the gooey sweetness.  


Epiphany derives from the Greek:  epi:  forth and pheinein: to show.  

Thus Epiphany:  to show forth.  Among the dictionary definitions one finds, "a sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something, . . .a sudden intuitive realization."  An intuitive realization of Jesus as Messiah is the perfect description of this feast. But, then there is the problem of "the kings."  


The word "kings" does not appear in Matthew's Gospel.  Those who bore the gifts are called magi.  Some translations use wise men.  No matter the translation, they were not monarchs. The word kings did not come into use until the sixth century.  


Matthew used the plural but did not give a number. There could have been as few as two or many more than three.   Because the gifts were described as gold, frankincense, and myrrh, tradition holds that there were three magi.  Despite the custom of Kasper, Melchior, and Balthazar their names are not included in scripture. 


In the end, the number of magi, their names, and their kingly or non-kingly status, are irrelevant distractions to understanding epiphany. The true significance of the magi is their journey, their pilgrimage in search of Jesus.  


Pope Benedict XVI described the significance of that journey:


“The journey of the wise men…is just the beginning of a great procession that continues throughout history. With the Magi, humanity’s pilgrimage to Jesus Christ begins. It is a journey toward God who was born in a stable, who died on the Cross and who, having risen from the dead, remains with us always, until the end of the world.” 


The Magi are important not because they brought symbolic gifts 

of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They are important because they were the first Gentiles to worship Jesus.  They were the first Gentiles 

to recognize Jesus.  That epiphany, that moment of recognition

was not exclusive then nor is it exclusive now.


We will hear of more epiphanies in the cycle of readings throughout the year. There will be many epiphanies scattered throughout our own lives if we are willing to notice them. The true meaning of Jesus’ incarnation and birth is found in a verse in today's Gospel. 


"When King Herod heard of this he was greatly troubled and all Jerusalem with him."  


Herod's jealousy and the duplicity underlying his conversation with the magi gets closer to the reality of Christmas than do the lyrics of  "O Little Town of Bethlehem"   or "We Three Kings of Orient Are." 

We see the first shadow of the cross in Herod's  jealousy and evil desires. We see the path from Bethlehem to Calvary in Herod's malevolence. "Go and search diligently for the child.  When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage."  This, from a crazed cruel megalomaniac. 


The first reading from Isaiah assured Jerusalem that the glory of the Lord would shine upon her.  In the context of Isaiah’s prophecy, the reading from Ephesians is consoling because it assures the Gentiles 

that they are included in the promise, that they are part of a new covenant.  We are reminded of that daily in the words of consecration 

that you will hear in a few minutes: 


"This is the chalice of my Blood, 

the Blood of the new and eternal covenant 

which will be poured out for you and for many 

for the forgiveness of sins."  


"poured out for you and for many." 


Once we wash away the treacle, once the sloppy sentimentality is discarded, once the word magic is forever disassociated from Christmas, we can begin to understand its true meaning.  Once we get rid of all the gooey stuff we can begin to understand that what we call the  "Christmas story" did not end when the magi returned home, 

wherever that might have been.  It does not end when the tree is kicked to the curbon December 26 or, at the latest, January 2.


Dag Hammarskjold, the second secretary general of the U.N., was murdered in 1961 while on his way to what was then Northern Rhodesia.  A small journal discovered in his apartment after his death  

has been in continuous print since it was published under the title: Markings.


A number of the later entries are haiku, the Japanese poetic form 

limited to twelve words totaling seventeen syllables.  One haiku captures the true meaning of Christmas. There is nothing gooey, sticky, or treacly about it.  There is no magic in it. It does not suggest a celebration of food, booze and consumer insanity.  It has nothing to do with a holiday. It has everything to do with a holy day.


"On Christmas Eve 

Good Friday was foretold them 

in a trumpet fanfare."


We cannot and must not separate the wood of the manger from the wood of the cross.  Neither event was magical.
The photos below are black and white reworkings of some taken in Ba┼ílej, Slovnia at a mountain farm.  All were taken in the span of a few hours on the same day.  

Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Homily for the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God

 Nm 6:22-27

Ps 67

Gal 4:4-7

Lk 2:16-21 


The ball dropped in Times Square despite Dick Clark no longer being alive to supervise it. The calendar shows a year that is one digit higher than it was yesterday.  By now a few people have written the wrong year on a check.  Resolutions announced with great fervor and determination yesterday 

have already been broken even though it is not yet noon. Toasts have been drunk and sappy songs have been sung. 


It is now Anno Domini 2023


Christmas is over for the secular world.  Indeed, for most people it was over 

once the gifts were opened.  For the Church however, the Christmas Season 

continues for twelve more days.  Unlike the secular world of Happy Holidays the Church is unwilling to abandon her joy at the coming of the Savior into the world

as quickly as the glitzy gift-wrappings that were ripped off gift boxes and dumped into the trash. 


The New Year on the Calendar begins today.  The New Year of the Church  began on November 27, the First Sunday of Advent.  The Church's Holy Season of Christmas--note, it is a HOLY season NOT a holiday season--will continue until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord on January 9, whereupon we will return to Ordinary Time until Lent begins on Wednesday February 22. 


With the end of the secular holidays we have the opportunity to bask in the joy of Christmas without the retail dimension or the treacly sentimentality of TV movies that strip all religious associations from Christmas. The tree, the fat guy in the red suit, and the anthropomorphized animals, have been relegated to the closet until next year. Now we have the opportunity as church to contemplate the event that began our ransom from sin and death. 


We have the opportunity to contemplate Jesus' incarnation, fully God but also fully man, sharing completely in our human nature.  That sharing began in Bethlehem and ended on Calvary, the wood of the manger led directly to the wood of the cross. The Church's prolonged celebration of Christmas gives us the opportunity to look back to the past and forward to the future.


"The LORD bless you and keep you!

The LORD let his face shine upon
you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly 

and give you peace!"


The blessing Moses was told to impart on the people is a model of simplicity and profundity. It is a blessing that continued despite the people's attempt to reject it.

It is a blessing they repeatedly forgot whenever it was expedient to do so, whenever they chose to ignore the covenant.  But, it was a blessing that God never forgot despite the frequency with which it the people did. 


Paul's Letter to the Galatians contains an exquisitely evocative phrase of haiku-like brevity. Indeed, it is shorter than a typical haiku,  Just eleven words. A mere dozen syllables. Only one of the words has two syllables. Yet, this simple phrase 

could consume days of contemplation.


"When the fullness of time had come God sent His Son."


It is difficult to grasp the meaning of  "the fullness of time," particularly in light of yesterday's gospel: 


“In principio erat Verbum, 

et Verbum erat apud Deum

et Deus erat Verbum”


"In the beginning was the Word, 

and the Word was with God

and the Word was God."


With just a little reflection on the meaning of 'the fullness of time' or the meaning of eternity we become inarticulate.  We become inarticulate as we struggle to express that which is inexpressible. We can no more explain  or comprehend the meaning of God's existence before time than we can  comprehend the idea of God transcending all time.


In the coming months of the liturgical year we will encounter many things that, 

like Mary, Mother of Jesus, whose solemnity we observe today, we can only hold in our hearts.  We can only hold them in our hearts because they are impossible to describe in words.


Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. 

Mater Dei, the Theotokos whom we venerate in a special way.  While I was in Slovenia a few years ago, I attended—and photographed—an Eastern Church ecumenical liturgy  It included a prayer that perfectly explains the reason for this Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and what it means for the world. 


"More honorable than the cherubim 

and by far more glorious than the seraphim, 

ever a Virgin, 

you gave birth to God the Word.  

O true Mother of God 

we magnify you!"


Photos are from the ecumenical Roman-Orthodox-Eastern Uniate service. 

+ A Blessed New Year

Fr. Jack, Sj, MD

Monday, December 26, 2022

Feast of St. Stephen

 The Feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr, is a necessary balance to the joy of Christmas.  It is necessary because it brings us back to the reality of the past two millennia, a reality that Jesus described in the today's gospel: ". . . they will hand you over to courts. . . . they will scourge you . . . .brother will hand over brother . . . . you will be hated by all because of my name . . . 


It is quite a shift from angels and shepherds.  It is a harsh contrast to a Charlie Brown Christmas and the racks of sappy Hallmark cards.  We pray for peace on earth but it never comes. The persecution of Christians simply because they are Christians continues up to the present throughout the world. Stoning is not a significant risk in the U.S. But ostracism, being ‘canceled’, or a bogus lawsuit for saying the truth are risks. The effects can be as devastating as a few rocks to the cranium. 


Stephen was martyred by those to whom he preached Jesus crucified and risen from the dead.  Stephen's willingness to preach the truth despite the cost had an astonishing impact on one man who was a silent witness to that stoning.  It is an easy-to-miss detail in the first reading. "The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul."  


This young man was a firebrand.  No one knows what went through his mind 

as he watched life extinguished from Stephen's body, watching as stone after stone hit its mark. Stephen's execution was not unique. Stoning was the punishment for many sins and crimes.  


That young man would become radicalized. He sought permission to become a bounty hunter, to round-up Christians and get them to Rome for execution. But then, something changed within this man. He was transformed from a man whose desire was to persecute Christians into one  who helped spread the faith after his own conversion, He went from persecutor of Christians to a martyr for preaching Jesus crucified and risen from the dead. Today we call him St. Paul of Tarsus. 


Jesus warned in the gospel that following him would not be easy.  Those who choose to follow him will encounter objections, hostility, family divisions, and hate because of his name.  Persecution and martyrdom of those who follow Christ have marked all of the twenty centuries since Jesus preached his prophetic words.  "You will be hated by all because of my name."  The consolation comes in the second half of that statement, "but whoever endures to the end will be saved."


A very busy Christmas though one in which I was able to find periods of quiet and solitude.  After Mass this morning time to get some preparation done for a number of upcoming conferences. The photos below are from the chapel in St. Mary's Hall, the Jesuit residence on campus.  I'd hoped to go down into Boston along the Charles River to shoot cityscapes but temperatures in the teens nixed that plan.  I don't generally mind the cold but it is draining in light of having myasthenia gravis.  The MG is reasonably well-controlled with medication but there are some realities to deal with and the effect of temperature extremes is one of them.  So, I grabbed tripod, camera bag (a converted wheel-on suitcase) and went over to the chapel on Christmas Eve.  

There is a small tree on a table at the end of the hall that catches the morning sun.  

Same tree different angle.

Flower arrangements in the dining roo

Just before going from the sacristy to celebrate 8 AM Mass on 24 December

The main altar

The creche.  Light was a problem in the creche itself so . . . .

I moved the empty crib and put an iPhone underneath with the light on.

Which is how the rays emanating from it appeared through the roof.

Have a Blessed New Year
Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Gaudete in Domino Semper: Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Advent

 Today, the third Sunday of Advent,  is known by its Latin name Gaudete Sunday. The name comes from the first word of the entrance antiphon in Latin: Gaudete: Rejoice. 


“Gaudete in Domino semper, 

iterum dice gaudete.  

Dominus enim prope est.” 


“Rejoice in the Lord always; 

again I say rejoice! 

The Lord is near.” 


Rejoice because our redemption is at hand.  Rejoice because the time of the Messiah has drawn near. Rejoice because, as we were reminded three days ago, Mary, the Immaculate Conception, responded to the message of the angel that she was to be Mother of Jesus with the most perfectly enunciated yes in history:


“Ecce ancilla domini, 

fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.”


“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  

May it be done to me according to your word.”


With that ‘yes’ a universe that had been holding its breath sighed in relief and rejoiced.


Gaudete in Domino semper, 

“Rejoice in the Lord always; 


The world is told to rejoice because


Dominus enim prope est

The Lord is near,


Jesus entered into time and space he came to the earth, 

so as to save it.  He entered into our lives to save us from sin. Fully God and fully man He was sent to redeem us from the sin of Adam and Eve

and from our sins. 


The joy of this third Sunday of Advent is apparent in the readings:


Isaiah describes how the desert will exult blooming with abundant flowers on the steppes and rejoicing with joyful song.  The psalmist affirms the joy. 


'The Lord God keeps faith forever

secures justice for the oppressed

He gives food to the hungry

and sets captives free.' 


Anyone who is familiar with Handel's Messiah will recognize multiple verses from Isaiah throughout the oratorio.  That includes some of the verses  that were just proclaimed.  They form the recitative: 


"Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, 

and the ears of the deaf unstopped. 

Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, 

and the tongue of the dumb shall sing."


The simple recitative is followed by the exquisitely beautiful aria “He Shall Feed His Flock."  The aria includes an important directive for all:


"come unto Him all you that labor, 

come unto Him that are heavy laden, 

and He will give you rest."


As was true last Sunday, the gospel narrated more about John the Baptist, 

the herald who announced the news of Jesus, the voice of the one crying out in the desert, the kinsman who felt unworthy to untie the sandal of the one who was to come.  When John sent messengers to inquire if Jesus was indeed He who was to come, Jesus instructed the messengers, 'tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.'


On the 17th of December, just six days from today, the Church holds her breath in anticipation as she sings the “O” antiphons that introduce and end the Magnificat at evening prayer.  The antiphons prepare us more fully

for the ad venire, the coming of our Lord into and onto this earth.  It is so near that we cannot help begin rejoicing. Soon.  Very soon. 


Gaudete in Domino semper, 

iterum dice gaudete.  

Dominus enim prope est. 


“Rejoice in the Lord always; 

again I say rejoice! 

The Lord is near.” 



The photos are of the 18th century Neapolitan Creche at the Abbey of Regina Laudis.  Rather than write about it, this is from the Abbey Web site.  After being closed due to covid, it is now open to the public.  It will close again after the new year and reopen in the spring. Note, there is no admission charge for the creche.  


This is the web site for the Abbey.  It is worth a visit if in Connecticut.  The abbey is about 20 minutes from Waterbury.  Use GPS.  The last few miles are tricky.  I’ve been going there periodically since 2014 and still need the directions.

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD