Tag Archives: Pope Franics

2nd Sunday of Advent: The Merciful Way of the Lord


To listen to today’s homily, please select the audio file below:

Last year, CNN ran a series on television called Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery. One of the segments was about John the Baptist. I’m afraid I didn’t like John as he was portrayed. He shouted a lot about the coming judgment. There was something scary and unstable about him and I thought to myself: “I don’t know if I would follow this man.”

In the CNN presentation scholars periodically commented on John and his relationship with Jesus. They seemed to say that Jesus was a copy of John, that he got everything from John; he learned everything from John. That made me wonder if I would follow Jesus, if that was the way he was.

I find the scriptures offer a more reliable picture of John and Jesus. Luke’s gospel sets the stage for John’s appearance. “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,
when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea,
and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee,
and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region
of Ituraea and Trachonitis,
and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene,
during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,
the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.”

“In the desert.” John preached “in the desert,” in the Jordan valley where pilgrims from northern Israel traveled on their way up to Jerusalem. They’ve taken the time off to go up to the temple and then go back home to their work and life as before. They’ve been walking on rough roads in hot days. They’re stopping to get some water before walking the last 15 miles up to the holy city.

John approaches them. “Something is happening, something big is going on. Something that the prophets have promised. We have to get ready for it. God is ready to do something. Someone is coming. ‘Prepare the way of the Lord.’ God is coming to judge us.”

Yes, there’s an urgency about John, but he’s not insane. He sees there’s something great ready to happen. God, the judge of all is coming. Someone is coming to bring God’s judgment.

When Jesus comes, John is certainly not his teacher. He recognizes Jesus and baptizes him in the Jordan. But Jesus is not a copy of John. Later, from he’s in prison, John sends disciples to Jesus who ask “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another.” Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and 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. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” (Matthew 11, 5-6)

Jesus calls himself the face of God’s mercy, the hand of God’s mercy, the gift of God’s mercy. John was waiting for God who is judge, but Jesus reveals God who is kind and merciful.

On March 13, 2015, Pope Francis called for a Holy Year of Mercy, a year to live “in the light of the Lord’s words: ‘Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.’ (Luke 6, 36) The year begins this week, December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and ends on November 20, 2016, “the Sunday dedicated to Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe–and the living face of the Father’s mercy.”

23rd Sunday B: Hearing Creation Groan

Audio homily follows:

When you’re reading the gospels it’s good to notice where Jesus travels, because it usually offers an insight into what he does. Mark’s Gospel today (Mark 7,31-37) says Jesus leaves the district of Tyre “and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee into the district of the Decapolis.” The cities of the Decapolis, east of the Sea of Galilee, were not Jewish areas; they were where pagans lived. That means that the deaf man Jesus cures is most likely a pagan, not a Jew. In a simple way, through these place names, Mark’s Gospel indicates that Jesus brings life to others, besides the Jews; he comes for all people.

Our story also sees an interesting connection between hearing and speech. The deaf man not only can’t hear, he can’t speak either. His deafness affects his understanding; it impedes his connection with the world and reality around him; he can’t say what he has to say.

The miracles of Jesus are about more than physical cures, of course. The deaf man who can’t hear or speak points to the spiritual deafness that can affect the way we hear God and consequently impedes our ability to speak God’s truth.

Pope Francis will be visiting us in a few weeks. He’ll be visiting three different places. In Washington he will be addressing our government, in Philadelphia he will be speaking about family life, in New York he will be speaking to the whole human family at the United Nations. He has important things to say and we should listen to him.

I think we already know some of the things he’s going to say. His recent encyclical “Laudato Si” was about the care of creation. It wont be a surprise if he speaks about that in all those places. But if recent surveys are right, it seems that American Catholics aren’t hearing the message of that encyclical very well. We don’t seem to hear what’s being said, it’s not entering into our ordinary discourse. Certainly we don’t hear too much about it in our present political discourse.

There’s an ecological crisis, the pope said in his letter. It’s a major issue endangering the whole world, all of its creatures, our human family. It’s especially affecting the poor. We have to do something about it.

Some may deny the crisis exists; some may claim it’s exaggerated; some may just throw up their hands thinking it’s too big to deal with. Some may think it can taken care of gradually by the play of “market forces.”

The pope and many others see the ecological crisis as real, it’s endangering the world and it has to be dealt with now. Recently, Francis asked Catholics and people everywhere to come together on September 1st for a day of prayer about the care of creation. We need an “ecological conversion,” he said. An “ecological conversion.” I must confess I don’t understand all he means by that, but my instincts say he’s right. I need to “hear” what that means– an “ecological conversion.”

I don’t think ecological conversion means that we have to immerse ourselves completely in science, although the pope obviously respects scientific conclusions. We should too. I don’t think ecological conversion means that a few quick moves will fix the crisis, like changing a couple of light bulbs in the house–although again, suggestions like that are important. The pope says that as Catholics we need to “rediscover in our own rich spiritual patrimony the deepest motivations for our concern for the care of creation.”

Pope Francis does that in his encyclical. He sees what the scriptures say about creation, from the Book of Genesis to the writings of the New Testament. He sees the respect we have for creation in our sacraments. The water we use in baptism, the bread and wine we take in our Eucharist, the oil we use for anointing the sick. Our spiritual patrimony has a reverence for creation. In the pope’s words, our spiritual tradition reminds us that we’re called “to be protectors of God’s handiwork.” That call “is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience” (Laudato Si, 217). We must love God and our neighbor and creation itself.

Caring for creation and an “ecological conversion” are not going to be easy. It means great changes in the way we look at life and live life. We can’t understand all it means. We have trouble hearing and speaking about it, like the deaf man in the gospel. That’s why we need the grace of God. We need to pray for it. And while we’re at it, let’s pray for the pope.