1st Sunday of Advent, November 27

First Sunday of Advent, Year A

Jerusalem was built on the top of a high elevation—Mount Zion, for military purposes to protect it from attack. The Bible tells us that the world will end with all the nations of the world streaming up to the top of Mount Zion. This assembly will mark the ultimate climax of human history, the final encounter of all humanity with the power of God, when God’s cause will gain the final victory.
The prophet Isaiah chose beautiful words to capture this anxiously anticipated moment. The words are engraved today on a wall facing the United Nations building in New York City. Delegates of the world body see those words whenever they exit the UN compound, reminding them what their real work of diplomacy is supposed to be about. This is to be finally the birthplace of world peace—a dream that has inspired every generation throughout human history.
That is why the refrain for our Responsorial Psalm is “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.”
The second reading also directs our attention to the future. It speaks of the hour when our salvation will come. But it sounds a more threatening note. Invoking the familiar biblical imagery of light and darkness and sleeping and waking, St Paul warns us to wake up because the end is approaching. It is time to come into the light. He sends his morally challenging message to the people of Rome.
In our Gospel reading, Jesus addresses the hopes and anxieties with which we anticipate the future. It is the great theme of the beginning of Advent as we pray for God to come to us, to save us and our world from all the disasters that threaten us.
—Walter Modrys SJ

This week’s readings can be found on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.

The New York Times article that Fr. Modrys references, Apocalypse, Now What? by Matthew Thompson, can be found here at nytimes.com.

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, November 13

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

In every one of the three synoptic gospels we find a chapter just before the passion story that recounts Jesus giving a long sermon in Jerusalem. Luke places Jesus in the Temple precincts itself to deliver his message. And it’s a strange message indeed, at least to our modern ears—filled with provocative predictions about the future, with foreboding and catastrophic events that serve as warnings of even greater turmoil to come.
Every year the Church lectionary ends the annual liturgical cycle with such a message and continues the message through the beginning of Advent in early December, before yielding to the readings that prepare for the Christmas celebration. Every homilist bears the burden of making these strange sounding passages relevant to modern experience, a burden that everyone bears who wants to enter into the spirit of the readings. Despite the challenge, we all should recognize the important faith-filled proclamation that these readings actually represent.

Our first reading from the prophet Malachi serves as the first introduction of this theme of courageous witness to the faith in time of persecution and distress. Note the high level of emotion that Malachi injects into his account, a feature so ingrained in the Scripture readings of coming weeks.On an entirely different track, our second reading is another instance of St Paul’s message of encouragement and admonition. He points to his own behavior as a model to follow and scolds those who are disruptive in the community.
—Walter Modrys SJ

This week’s readings can be found on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.

The New York Times article that Fr. Modrys references, Apocalypse, Now What? by Matthew Thompson, can be found here at nytimes.com.

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 30

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The first reading is difficult to understand, taken out of context. The author wants to draw a contrast between God’s providence for his people on their journey to the Promised Land and the afflictions imposed on their enemies. We’re not supposed to moralize, but just concentrate on one side of this equation. “You have mercy on all,” the reading insists, “and you overlook people’s sins.” 
In the gospel, we find Jesus acting in precisely this way in his encounter with the tax collector, Zacchaeus. Jesus has mercy on Zacchaeus and seems to overlook his sins.
From our second reading we can conclude that there is a lot going on in the Greek city of Thesalonica. This passage is taken from Paul’s second letter to this community, early in his ministry. Paul is trying to counteract the pagan influences that are causing so much confusion and anxiety among the people. One of these misconceptions, possibly communicated in a forged letter purported to be from Paul, speaks of the imminent second coming of Christ. Paul is writing to calm the disturbance and reassure the congregation of the authentic truths of Christian belief.
—Walter Modrys SJ

This week’s readings can be found on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.

The New York Times article that Fr. Modrys references, Apocalypse, Now What? by Matthew Thompson, can be found here at nytimes.com.

29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, October 16

Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Our first reading and the gospel passage reinforce one another. But the two settings couldn’t be more different.
In the first reading, the people of Israel are on their journey to the Promised Land. Moses needs God’s help to defeat one of Israel’s implacable enemies. But he also needs the help of others. It’s a powerful symbol that calling upon God does not preclude our reliance on the community of faith to support our prayers.
In the gospel, we meet a poor widow. In the bible, a widow almost always symbolizes a powerless person. The harsh economic realities of the time made the symbolism obvious to all. Jesus tells the story of such a widow, whose only chance for survival is to appeal to a power that is utterly beyond her influence or control. She can rely only on her unrelenting persistence. For Jesus, her behavior stands as a symbol for the role of faith in approaching God when we pray for what we need. Jesus contrasts the unjust judge with the compassion of a loving God towards us.
Our second reading is a beautiful reminder of the central place of Sacred Scripture in our life of faith. Proclaiming the Word God is a fundamental duty that must characterize everything the Church does and the way we spend our own efforts in our place in the world.
—Walter Modrys SJ

This week’s readings can be found on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.

The New York Times article that Fr. Modrys references, Apocalypse, Now What? by Matthew Thompson, can be found here at nytimes.com.

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 2

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Habakkuk was a biblical prophet who lived about 600 BC. His writings in the bible consist of just three short chapters, written for the most part in poetic form. If you read his prophetic words, you would think he was describing our contemporary world.
For Habakkuk, the world was falling apart, going to pieces. He rightly foresaw that his nation of Israel was on the verge of utter defeat before the onslaught of the powerful Babylonian empire. And he couldn’t understand how God could allow that to happen to his own people. 
So it’s the problem of faith that deeply troubles Habakkuk.
How long, O Lord?  I cry for help
but you do not listen!
I cry out to you, “Violence!”
But you do not intervene.
So how does Habakkuk meet the problem of believing in an all-powerful God in the face of approaching catastrophe?
In today’s gospel, Jesus responds to this challenge when he insists on the power of faith. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus claims that faith can move mountains. Luke’s image is just as striking to anyone who knows the colossal size of a mulberry tree which in those days was so common in the Mideastern environment.
In the second reading, Timothy encourages his audience to put all their confidence in this power of faith and trust. So the three readings this Sunday all fit together under that unifying theme of the power of faith. The outlier, if you will, is the rather obscure parable that is included in the gospel.
—Walter Modrys SJ 

This week’s readings can be found on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.

The New York Times article that Fr. Modrys references, Apocalypse, Now What? by Matthew Thompson, can be found here at nytimes.com.