Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

St. Joseph


“Each year Jesus’ parents went up to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover, and when he was twelve years old they went up according to festival custom.” Luke 2,41

At twelve, Jesus entered a new stage in life – his “Bar Mitzvah,” when he took on the responsibilities of the law, which later he summarized as: “Love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart…Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Who led him to that new stage? It had to be Joseph and Mary. Matthew’s Gospel gives Joseph a major role in Jesus’ birth. He provides Jesus with a genealogy going back to Abraham. He’s told by the angel not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife; he shouldn’t divorce her as Jewish law called for, and he should name the child, Jesus, “for he will save his people from their sins.”

After the visit of the Magi, Joseph was directed to take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt. Then, the angel tells him to return to Israel with them after Herod’s death. Finally, he makes a home in Nazareth in Galilee, where his family would be safer away from Herod’s heir, Archelaus, who ruled in Judea.

Clearly, according to Matthew’s gospel, Joseph is an important figure in the birth and early life of Jesus Christ. Then, he silently disappears from the gospels. There’s no record of his role at Nazareth or his death.

The gospel calls Joseph an “upright” man. He was upright because, like his neighbors at Nazareth, he observed all the Jewish laws. But not from lip service. Joseph firmly believed in his heart in the God of Israel, who loved all things great and small, yes, even Nazareth and a humble carpenter.

An inward man, Joseph saw in the simple, ordinary world about him more than others saw. His neighbor casting seed on the family field he loved – wasn’t God’s passionate love for the land of Israel like that? Even as he built a village house or a table, his thoughts sometimes turned to another world: was not God building a kingdom for his people?

An inward man, Joseph saw beyond the fields and mountains of the small town of Nazareth, but he said little about his inmost dreams to others. A quiet man, he kept his own counsel.

Jesus, the Son of God, was known through his earthly life as Jesus, the son of Joseph, “the carpenter’s son.” Growing up as children do, he naturally would acquire some of Joseph’s traits, perhaps the way he walked and spoke.

From Joseph, Jesus first learned about the people of the village, their sorrows and their joys. He saw his love for Mary and the people of his village. As a child Jesus learned from him how to use a carpenter’s tools and began to work at his side. The rabbis said: A father who does not teach his son a trade teaches him to steal.

The two were constant companions at the synagogue in Nazareth. Together they celebrated regularly the great Jewish feasts, listened to the Scriptures, and journeyed as pilgrims to Jerusalem.

Jesus must have seen in Joseph a simple, holy man who trusted God with all his heart. Someone like Joseph, so unassuming, so steady, so quietly attentive to God, was like a treasure hidden in a field. He could easily go unrecognized.

Later, would Jesus remember lessons and tell stories he learned earlier at Nazareth from Joseph, the carpenter?

Following Jesus Christ in Lent

Lent 1

Lent is coming. Let’s join those disciples in our picture above following Jesus. One way to follow him is by reflecting on the lenten scriptural readings recommended for the Sundays and weekdays till Easter. They’re the basic book for lenten reading.

On the 1st Sunday of Lent, this coming Sunday, Mark’s gospel takes us to the Jordan River where Jesus is led into a deserted place by the Spirit and tempted for 40 days after his baptism. Our journey  begins  in a desert. Readings from Mark’s Gospel lead us through the Sundays of Lent this year.

The weekday gospels for the first three weeks of lent are mostly from Matthew, the early church’s favorite gospel for catechesis during Lent. They bring us to Galilee where Jesus began his ministry. Most are from the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus speaks “the words of eternal life.”  (Matthew 5-7) Be faithful to prayer and you will grow in wisdom, Jesus says.  ( Tuesday and Thursday, 1st week of Lent)  Love your neighbor, even your enemies and “the least,” whom we easily overlook. ( Monday, Friday, Saturday, 1st week of Lent)

Peter’s confession at Caesaria Phillipi is the highpoint of the first part of Matthew’s gospel. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Peter says to Jesus. “You have the words of everlasting life.” Lent invites us to join him in that same confession.

But can we possibly love and believe that way, so lofty and challenging? We’re rather weak disciples. The reading for Saturday after Ash Wednesday reminds us, though, that Jesus doesn’t call perfect disciples. He called  Matthew the tax collector and people like him–not very good keepers of the law. Outsiders and sinners like them welcome us to the lenten season. (Luke 5, 27-32)

Matthew’s gospel takes us up the Mount of the Beatitudes. Like most sacred writers, Matthew likes mountains. You see ahead  more clearly from them. On the 2nd Sunday of Lent, we go up to the Mount of the Transfiguration to glimpse the  glory found ahead.

By the 4th week of Lent,  we arrive  in the Holy City, Jerusalem, to the temple mount and  then the Mount of Calvary. Starting with the 4th week most of the weekday lenten gospels will be from the Gospel of John. I’ll say something about them before we get there.

You can follow the lenten readings online here.

Timothy and Titus

Timothy and Titus were companions of St.Paul on his missionary journeys and he saw them continuing his mission. Timothy was given leadership of the church at Ephesus; Titus assumed leadership of the church in Crete. We have Paul’s letters to them: two letters to Timothy and one letter to Titus.

Like Jesus, Paul never saw himself acting alone; he looked for others to share his ministry and continue it; that’s why we celebrate the feast of Timothy and Titus on January 26th, the day after the feast of Paul’s conversion.

Some mistakingly consider Paul the founder of the Christian faith rather than Jesus. He’s not. Yes, he’s a strong personality, as his letters and missionary journeys make clear, but his faith came from the Risen Christ, who revealed himself to him through the scriptures and heavenly signs.
The church isn’t his or Peter’s church or Apollo’s; it’s the church of Jesus Christ, the Word of God, Paul says. 

Serve the church, he urges Timothy and Titus. Be “slaves of Christ,” like him they are “not to be served, but to serve.” ( Philippians 1,1)
Be shepherds to the whole flock in your care, Paul says. The old, the young, men and women, the sick and the well– all belong to the church. Jesus Christ came to love and care for them all. Be like Jesus to them.

Still true for ministers in the church today, isn’t it?

The church given into the care of Timothy and Titus was a church in transition. Paul and the other apostles were ending their work; the roles of bishops, priests and other ministries begin to evolve. The notes in the New American Bible–always worth reading–point to the changing nature of these offices as Timothy and Titus take on the work of Paul, now a prisoner in Rome.

Timothy and Titus were given “apostolic virtues” by God to continue the work of Paul and the other apostles, the opening prayer of their feast says. May we “merit to reach our heavenly homeland” by “living justly and devoutly in this present age.” Now it’s our turn to continue what they did: “Go into all the world, and proclaim the gospel. I am with you always, says the Lord.”

Like the two followers of Paul, we have to hold on to what we were given by the apostles and bring that gift to our world.

I see in American Bible notes that the deacons Paul refers to in I Timothy 3, 8-13 may include women as well as men. “This (deacons) seems to refer to women deacons, but may possibly mean the wives of deacons. The former is preferred because the word is used absolutely…”

Why not today? We need women in roles of leadership. I have some in mind who would fit the role very well.

Feast of the Baptism of Jesus


On the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem  a high tower was built in the last century by the Russian government to allow Christian pilgrims an observation point to see the key places associated with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Looking westward is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher where he was crucified and rose from the dead. Just down below is the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed and was arrested. In the distance to the southeast is Bethlehem where he was born. On the eastern side of the Mount of Olives is the village of Bethany where Jesus stayed when he came to Jerusalem and where he raised Lazarus from the dead. Further east, about 20 miles down the Jordan Valley is where he was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist.

The tower was built, I understand, for pilgrims who couldn’t always get to all of these places because of age, or the pressure of time or perhaps because it was unsafe to travel to one of these destinations. That was especially true for the 20 mile trip to the Jordan River.

The tower attests the importance of  the journey to the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized. The Baptism of Jesus is a mystery that includes all the mysteries of Jesus we celebrate as Christians. That’s why we celebrate it today as we conclude the mysteries of the Christmas season. In our baptism we are brought to share in his baptism and in his life.

In the Jordan River,  God the Father, “a voice from heaven,” proclaimed him “my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1,11) We believe that when we are baptized we become children of God with him, with us he is pleased.

We celebrate that gift today. As we go from church to church, we touch the Holy Water with our hands and bless ourselves, remembering the great gift we have in Jesus Christ. “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”


The Word Made Visible

John evangelist
The Feast of St. John the Apostle follows closely the birth of Jesus because in his writings John answers the great question: Who is Jesus? Who is this child, born of Mary ? Who is this person who lived in Nazareth, preached in Galilee and Judea, died and rose again in Jerusalem?

John was called by Jesus at the Sea of Galilee;  he sat beside him at the Last Supper; he went into the Garden of Gethsemane with him and finally stood beside his cross. John saw the empty tomb and met him risen from the dead.

Tradition says John was the last of the apostles to die. His writing–which circulated among his followers– testify to the church’s firm, mature belief in both the divinity and humanity of Jesus.

“In the beginning was the Word,” John states in the opening verses of his gospel, one of the principal readings for the Christmas feast. In his letters, which we read at Mass most of the days after Christmas until the Feast of the Baptism, the apostle upholds the humanity of Jesus against those who said that God would not possibly take human form.

In a beautiful way, John recasts the sublime words from the prologue of his gospel and testifies that the Word of God became flesh and we know him through his humanity, just as his apostles did.

“What was from the beginning,
what we have heard,
what we have seen with our eyes,
what we looked upon
and touched with our hands
concerns the Word of life —
for the life was made visible;
we have seen it and testify to it
and proclaim to you the eternal life
that was with the Father and was made visible to us—
what we have seen and heard
we proclaim now to you.” 1 John 1-4

Readings here.

Still Wondering

mary 10

We don’t stop wondering at the Christmas crib. The next few days the church wonders at other things that are part of this mystery. On December 26, we celebrate the feast of St. Stephen, one of the first disciples of Jesus to die giving witness to him. (Acts 6,8 ff) We remember that we too “are born for to die.” Yet, Christ who is born to us,came to destroy death.

“The love that brought Christ from heaven to earth raised Stephen from earth to heaven,” St. Fulgentius says of the martyr. We have this same belief in the mystery of Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection.

Tomorrow, December27th, we celebrate the feast of St. John, the apostle, who stood by the cross when Jesus died and then came to the tomb and found it empty. Later, he would write:

“What was from the beginning,

what we have heard,

what we have seen with our eyes,

what we looked upon

and touched with our hands

concerns the Word of life —

for the life was made visible;

we have seen it and testify to it

and proclaim to you the eternal life

that was with the Father and was made visible to us?

what we have seen and heard

we proclaim now to you…” 1 John, 1-4

John’s letters and gospel are read at Mass on the days that follow the Feast of Christmas.

December 28th, we celebrate the feast of the Holy Innocents, those little children killed by Herod the Great in Bethlehem in his evil hope that no rivals would challenge his power and throne. (Matthew 2, 13-18)

We wonder about the mystery of evil and injustice. How powerful and lasting it seems to be, a darkness still challenging the Light that comes into the world. On Christmas the question of evil still causes us to wonder.

Readings here.

Wednesday, 3rd week of Advent


Sacred Heart Church


The angel came to Mary in Nazareth, the last place we might expect an angel’s message. In this little known place, Jesus became flesh. In this young unknown woman, he came to dwell among us.

It wasn’t in Jerusalem, in the temple where God’s Presence was proclaimed. It was in Nazareth, in the quiet hills of Galilee, on a routine day, that He came.

We celebrate the mystery of the Incarnation and pray, “Pray for us, O holy mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.”