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Monday, February 27, 2017

8th Week in Ordinary Time, Year I

Mark 10:17-27

The Rich Man.
17
As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
18
Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good?* No one is good but God alone.
19
You know the commandments: ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.’”
20
He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.”
21
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
22
At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
23
* Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”
24
The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!
25
It is easier for a camel to pass through [the] eye of [a] needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
26
They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, “Then who can be saved?”
27
Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.”

Friends, in today’s Gospel a rich young man asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. There is something absolutely right about the young man, something spiritually alive, and that is his deep desire to share in everlasting life. He knows what he wants, and he knows where to find it.

Jesus responds to his wonderful question by enumerating many of the Commandments. The young man takes this in, and replies, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my childhood.” So Jesus looks at him with love and says, “Go and sell what you have and give to the poor. After that come follow me.”

God is nothing but love, straight through, and therefore the life of friendship with him, in the richest sense, is a life of total love, self-forgetting love. Jesus senses that this young man is ready for the high adventure of the spiritual life: he is asking the right question and he is properly prepared. But at this point, the young man tragically balks. The spiritual life, at the highest pitch, is about giving your life away, and this is why having many possessions is a problem.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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2/25/17 11:51 A

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Saturday, February 25, 2017

7th Week of Ordinary Time, Year I

Mark 10:13-16

Blessing of the Children.
13
And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them.
14
When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
15
Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child* will not enter it.”
16
Then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them.

Friends, in today’s Gospel Jesus declares that the kingdom of God belongs to children. “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

How so? Well, children are like stars or flowers or animals, things that are what they are, unambiguously, uncomplicatedly. They are in accord with God’s deepest intentions for them. The challenge of the spiritual life is to realize what God wants us to be and thereby come to the same simplicity and directness in our existence. To find out what is in line with the deepest grain of our being.

Let me put this another way: children haven’t yet learned how to look at themselves. Why can a child immerse himself so eagerly and thoroughly in what he is doing? Because he can lose himself; because he is not looking at himself, conscious of the reactions, expectations, and approval of those around him. The best moments in life are when we lose the ego, lose ourselves in the world and just are as God wants us to be.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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2/24/17 8:12 P

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Friday, February 24, 2017

7th Week of Ordinary Time, Year I

Mark 10:1-12

Marriage and Divorce.
1
He set out from there and went into the district of Judea [and] across the Jordan. Again crowds gathered around him and, as was his custom, he again taught them.
2
* The Pharisees approached and asked, “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” They were testing him.
3
He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?”
4
They replied, “Moses permitted him to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.”
5
But Jesus told them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment.
6
But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.
7
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother [and be joined to his wife],
8
and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh.
9
Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.”
10
In the house the disciples again questioned him about this.
11
He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her;
12
and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

Friends, in our Gospel today, Jesus defines the fundamental sacredness of marriage. I’m convinced that the deep sacramental and religious meaning of marriage—even within the Church—has been, in recent years, dramatically compromised. We say that marriage is a vocation, but do we mean it?

We can look at human sexual relationships at a number of different levels. Two people can come together purely for physical pleasure, for economic reasons, or for psychological companionship. And we might witness two people coming together out of authentic love. But none of these levels level is what the Bible means by marriage. When I was doing parish work I would invariably ask young couples, “Why do you want to get married in church? Most would say something like, “Because we love each other.” But I would reply, “Well, that’s no reason to get married in church.” Usually, they looked stunned, but I meant it.

You come to church to be married before God and his people when you are convinced that your marriage is not, finally, about you. That it is about God and about serving God’s purposes, that it is, as much as the priesthood of a priest, a vocation, a sacred calling.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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2/23/17 7:00 P

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Saint Polycarp, Year I

Mark 9:41-50

Temptations to Sin.
42
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe [in me] to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.
43
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna,* into the unquenchable fire.
[44]
*
45
And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.
[46]
47
And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna,
48
where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’
The Simile of Salt.
49
* “Everyone will be salted with fire.
50
Salt is good, but if salt becomes insipid, with what will you restore its flavor? Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another.”

Friends, in our Gospel, Jesus speaks, with incredible bluntness, about cutting off one’s hand and foot and the plucking out of one’s own eye. If these things are a block to your salvation, get rid of them, for it is better to enter life maimed than to enter Gehenna with all of your limbs and members. The hand is the organ by which we reach out and grasp things. The soul is meant for union with God, but we have, instead, reached out to creatures, all of our energies, grasping at finite things.

The Lord also speaks of the foot. The foot is the organ by which we set ourselves on a definite path. We are meant to walk on the path which is Christ. Do we? Or have we set out down a hundred errant paths, leading to glory, honor, power, or pleasure?

We are designed to seek after and look for God. Have we spent much of our lives looking in all the wrong places, beguiled by the beauties and enticements of this world? And are we willing to pluck out our eye spiritually, to abandon many of the preoccupations that have given us pleasure?

Edited by: RHOOK20047 at: 2/23/2017 (19:00)
Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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2/20/17 10:41 P

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Monday, February 20, 2017

7th Week in Ordinary Time, Year I

Mark 9:14-29

The Healing of a Boy with a Demon.*
14
When they came to the disciples,f they saw a large crowd around them and scribes arguing with them.
15
Immediately on seeing him, the whole crowd was utterly amazed. They ran up to him and greeted him.
16
He asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?”
17
Someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I have brought to you my son possessed by a mute spirit.
18
Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive it out, but they were unable to do so.”
19
He said to them in reply, “O faithless generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you? Bring him to me.”
20
They brought the boy to him. And when he saw him, the spirit immediately threw the boy into convulsions. As he fell to the ground, he began to roll around and foam at the mouth.
21
Then he questioned his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” He replied, “Since childhood.
22
It has often thrown him into fire and into water to kill him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
23
Jesus said to him, “‘If you can!’ Everything is possible to one who has faith.”
24
Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!”
25
Jesus, on seeing a crowd rapidly gathering, rebuked the unclean spirit and said to it, “Mute and deaf spirit, I command you: come out of him and never enter him again!”
26
Shouting and throwing the boy into convulsions, it came out. He became like a corpse, which caused many to say, “He is dead!”
27
But Jesus took him by the hand, raised him, and he stood up.
28
When he entered the house, his disciples asked him in private, “Why could we not drive it out?”
29
* He said to them, “This kind can only come out through prayer.”

Friends, today in the Gospel Jesus demonstrates the power of the prayer of faith. Have you noticed how Jesus, time and again, says to people before working a miracle, "Do you believe I can do this?" Once, Matthew tells us, Jesus was unable to perform many miracles because he met with so little faith among the people.



Lots of people today, especially in the healing ministry, seem able to reproduce what Jesus did, precisely because of the purity of their faith. Is part of our problem simply a lack of faith? We allow our skepticism to get the better of us; we're just a little embarrassed by asking God for things, or we're convinced that he is a distant power only vaguely connected to our lives.

Can you hear the simple faith in the opening line of Jesus' great prayer: "Abba in heaven…"? Another astonishing line of Jesus in this regard is this: "I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours." Even before you receive it, believe that it is yours and give thanks for it, blithely confident that you will receive it.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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2/19/17 8:02 P

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Sunday, February 19, 2017

7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Matthew 5:38-48

Teaching About Retaliation.
38
* “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’
39
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on [your] right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.
40
If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well.
41
Should anyone press you into service for one mile,* go with him for two miles.
42
Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.
Love of Enemies.*
43
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
44
But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you,
45
that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
46
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors* do the same?
47
And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?*
48
So be perfect,* just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Friends, our Gospel today is taken from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. It is one of the puzzling texts in the New Testament. It speaks of loving our enemies. Not tolerating them, or vaguely accepting them, but loving them. When you hate your enemy, you confirm him as your enemy. But when you love him in response to his hatred, you confuse and confound him, taking away the very energy that feeds his hatred.

There is a form of oriental martial arts called aikido. The idea of aikido is to absorb the aggressive energy of your opponent, moving with it, continually frustrating him until he comes to the point of realizing that fighting is useless.

Some have pointed out that there is a great deal of this in Jesus’ strategy of nonviolence and love of the enemy. You creatively absorb the aggression of your opponent, channeling it back against him, to show him the futility of violence. So when someone insults you, send back a compliment instead of an insult. When someone conspires against you, work to help hi

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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2/17/17 6:54 A

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Friday, February 17, 2017

6th Week in Ordinary Time, Year I

Mark 8:34-9:1

The Conditions of Discipleship.
34
He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said* to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.
35
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel* will save it.
36
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?
37
What could one give in exchange for his life?
38
Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

Friends, in today's Gospel we discover the true cost of discipleship. The Lord says that whoever wishes to come after him must "deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." Notice please that this is not simply a question of accepting suffering that happens to befall us. This is not simply a Stoic resignation. Jesus is telling us to actively take up our crosses, to seek them out, to carry them as Jesus willingly carried his.

What Jesus did on the cross was to bear the burden of the world's sin. He bore others' burdens in love. And this is what we must do too, actively seeking out ways to lighten other people's loads. And then the great paradox: "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel* will save it."

When we cling and grasp, we lose; when we let go in radical love, we find. Close your fist on your life and it crumbles to the dust; open your hand and let it go, and it grows tenfold.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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2/16/17 7:55 P

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Sorry, Life has gotten in the way this week!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

6th Week in Ordinary Time, Year I

Mark 8:27-33

Peter’s Confession About Jesus.*
27
Now Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Along the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”
28
They said in reply, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.”
29
And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Messiah.”
30
Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.
The First Prediction of the Passion.
31
He began to teach them that the Son of Man* must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.
32
He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
33
At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Friends, today’s Gospel reports Peter’s confession of faith. In the midst of his disciples, Jesus asks that strange question: “Who do people say that I am?” What he gets by way of response is, first, a public opinion survey: some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.



Then Jesus turns to those closest to him, and he asks them, “But who do you say that I am?” They are silent, afraid, unwilling to speak. Finally it is Peter who says: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And he gets it right. Does he get it right because he is the most intelligent? Please. Because he is holy and close to Jesus? No. We know the whole story of Peter’s weakness, which is marked by betrayal and stupidity.

Jesus explains why Peter got it right: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.” It couldn’t be stated more simply and directly. It is the Father who has given Peter this insight—not Peter’s clever mind or searching heart. It is a supernatural gift, a special charism. And it is upon Peter and this inspired confession that the Church is built.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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2/13/17 5:32 P

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Monday, February 13, 2017

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Mark 8:11-13

The Demand for a Sign.
11
* The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with him,b seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.
12
He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”
13
Then he left them, got into the boat again, and went off to the other shore.

Friends, in today’s Gospel, the Pharisees demand Jesus give them a sign in order to prove his authority, perhaps a miracle. But I’d like to draw your attention to the final line in the passage: “He left them, got into the boat again, and went off to the other shore.”

Whose boat was this? Well, the previous verses confirm it belonged to his disciples. Him entering the boat calls to mind his first encounter with Peter. One day, Peter was going about his ordinary business, washing his nets and preparing for a catch. Then without warning, without asking permission, Jesus got into his boat. Now the boat was everything for Peter; it was his livelihood, his security. But Jesus just got in and began giving orders.

So it goes in the order of grace. The true God cannot be manipulated, determined by us, or controlled through our efforts. We can’t act like the Pharisees in today’s Gospel, demanding that God behave for us. Rather, he comes, often unbidden and unexpected, into our lives and determines us, controls us. His presence is pure grace. Don’t demand signs from God. Instead, do what the disciples did and let him enter your boat.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Sunday, February 12, 2017

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Matthew 5:17-37

Teaching About the Law.
17
* “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.
18
Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.
19
Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.*
20
I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Teaching About Anger.*
21
“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,n ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’*
22
* But I say to you, whoever is angry* with his brother will be liable to judgment,o and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
23
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you,
24
leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
25
Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him.q Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.
26
Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.
Teaching About Adultery.
27
* “You have heard that it was said,r ‘You shall not commit adultery.’
28
But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
29
* If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.s It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna.
30
And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.
Teaching About Divorce.
31
* “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.’t
32
But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.u
Teaching About Oaths.
33
“Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow.’
34
But I say to you, do not swear at all;* not by heaven, for it is God’s throne;
35
nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.
36
Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black.
37
* Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one.

Friends, today’s Gospel passage is an excerpt from the Sermon on the Mount. If we are to begin to understand Jesus’ staggering teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, we have to keep ever in our minds the little tag line, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”



Jesus is the Son of God, and his purpose is not primarily to construct a smooth-functioning human society; it is to establish the Kingdom of God, that is to say, a body formed by those who participate in him, who share his relationship to the Father. What is the Father of Jesus Christ like? The Father of Jesus Christ is love, right through. That’s all God is; that’s all he knows how to do. He is not like us: unstable, changing, moving from one attitude to another. No, God simply is love.

Why should you go beyond simply loving those who love you? Because that’s the way God operates: he loves the saints and he also loves the worst sinner in Hell. Now is that easy to do? Of course not. But that’s what Jesus call us to: be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Saturday, February 11, 2017

5th Week in Ordinary Time, Year I

Mark 8:1-10

The Feeding of the Four Thousand.*
1
In those days when there again was a great crowd without anything to eat,a he summoned the disciples and said,
2
“My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat.
3
If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will collapse on the way, and some of them have come a great distance.”
4
His disciples answered him, “Where can anyone get enough bread to satisfy them here in this deserted place?”
5
Still he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” “Seven,” they replied.
6
* He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then, taking the seven loaves he gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to his disciples to distribute, and they distributed them to the crowd.
7
They also had a few fish. He said the blessing over them and ordered them distributed also.
8
They ate and were satisfied. They picked up the fragments left over—seven baskets.
9
There were about four thousand people.

He dismissed them
10
and got into the boat with his disciples and came to the region of Dalmanutha.

Friends, today’s Gospel tells of Jesus feeding the four thousand with seven loaves and a few fish.

An awful lot of contemporary theologians and Bible commentators have tried to explain away the miracles of Jesus as spiritual symbols. Perhaps most notoriously, many preachers tried to explain the multiplication of the loaves and fishes as a “miracle” of charity, everyone sharing the little that he had.

But I think it’s hard to deny that the first Christians were intensely interested in the miracles of Jesus and that they didn’t see them as mere literary symbols! They saw them for what they really were: actions of God, breaking into our world.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Friday, February 10, 2017

Saint Scholastica, Year I

Mark 7:31-37

The Healing of a Deaf Man.
31
Again he left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis.
32
And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him.
33
He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue;
34
then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”)
35
And [immediately] the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.
36
* He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it.
37
They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and [the] mute speak.”

Friends, our Gospel for today has to do with Jesus’ healing of a deaf man with a speech impediment. As always, we have to look at the surface and at the depth. Jesus is performing a physical miracle. But every one of his actions should be read symbolically so as to uncover a deeper spiritual meaning



So what does Jesus do? He “put his finger in the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue.” Jesus establishes, as it were, an electrical current, running from God the Father, through him, to this man. He, almost literally, plugs him into the divine current, compelling him to hear the Word. He says “Ephphatha,” be opened. When he does, his speech impediment is immediately overcome. Now he is able to speak the Word of God clearly.

So this deaf man stands for all of us who do not hear the word of God, who have grown oblivious to it. And what is the result of this deafness? A speech impediment. At the spiritual level, if you don’t hear the Word of God clearly, then your capacity to speak it is also severely compromised.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

5th Week in Ordinary Time, Year I

Mark 7:24-30

The Syrophoenician Woman’s Faith.
24
From that place he went off to the district of Tyre.* He entered a house and wanted no one to know about it, but he could not escape notice.
25
Soon a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him. She came and fell at his feet.
26
The woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter.i
27
He said to her, “Let the children be fed first.* For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”
28
She replied and said to him, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.”
29
Then he said to her, “For saying this, you may go. The demon has gone out of your daughter.”
30
When the woman went home, she found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.

Friends, our Gospel for today, the story of Jesus’ conversation with the Syro-Phoenician woman, is one of those famously problematic passages in the New Testament. This poor woman, a Canaanite, a foreigner, comes forward and tells Jesus of her daughter who is troubled by a demon and the Lord just ignores her. When she persists, Jesus says, “I have come only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” When she prostrates herself at his feet, Jesus says, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”

Of course, the woman gets off one of the best one-liners in the Scriptures, almost all of which otherwise belong to Jesus himself: “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters. At which point, Jesus praises her for her faith and cures her daughter.

What’s going on here is really interesting and provocative. The Syro-Phoenician woman is being invited into the life of discipleship, into the following of Jesus. She is resisted, not because Jesus is having a bad day, but because he wants the strength of her faith to show itself.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

5th Week in Ordinary Time, Year I

Mark 7:14-23

14
He summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand.
15
Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.”
[16]

17
When he got home away from the crowd his disciples questioned him about the parable.
18
He said to them, “Are even you likewise without understanding? Do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile,
19
since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.)
20
“But what comes out of a person, that is what defiles.
21
From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
22
adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
23
All these evils come from within and they defile.”

Friends, in today’s Gospel Jesus explains that sinful behavior flows from within our hearts. How often the Bible speaks of the “heart.” By that it means the core of the self, the deepest center of who we are, that place from which our thoughts and actions arise. God wants to penetrate that heart, so that he is the center of our souls. But there is something terribly black in the human heart. We are made in the image and likeness of God, but that image can be so distorted by sin as to be barely recognizable.

Our faith clearly teaches the awful truth of the fall, and we see the evidence of it in the mystery of sin, which is not to be ignored, not to be trifled with, not to be rationalized away. We are all capable of dark and evil acts. I’m not OK and neither are you. We see the tangled web which is sin. It grows like a fungus or like a cancer.

Have our hearts become hardened, so that God cannot get in? Is there a deep resistance in us to grace?

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

5th Week in Ordinary Time, Year I

Mark 7:1-13

The Tradition of the Elders.*
1
Now when the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him,
2
they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands.
3
(For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands,* keeping the tradition of the elders.
4
And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles [and beds].)
5
So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders* but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”
6
He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:

‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
7
In vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines human precepts.’
8
You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”
9
He went on to say, “How well you have set aside the commandment of God in order to uphold your tradition!
10
For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and ‘Whoever curses father or mother shall die.’
11
Yet you say, ‘If a person says to father or mother, “Any support you might have had from me is qorban”’* (meaning, dedicated to God),
12
you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother.
13
You nullify the word of God in favor of your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many such things.”
14
He summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand.
15
Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.”

Friends, in today’s Gospel Jesus exposes the hypocrisy of the Pharisees who have imposed their interpretation of the Law on the Israelites. Keep in mind that the first Christians and the writers of the first Christian documents were all Jews, or at least people formed by a Jewish thought world. They made sense of Jesus in terms of what were, to them, the Scriptures.

Jesus himself was an observant Jew, and the themes and images of the Holy Scriptures were elemental for him. He presented himself as the one who would not undermine the Law and the Prophets but fulfill them.

All of those social and religious conventions that had effectively divided Israel, he sought to overcome and expose as fraudulent. He reached out to everyone: rich and poor, healthy and sick, saints and sinners. And he embodied the obedience of Israel: “I have come only to do the will of the one who sent me.” “My food is to do the will of my heavenly Father.”

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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2/6/17 4:19 P

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Monday, February 6, 2017

Saint Paul Miki and Companions, Year I

Mark 6:53-56

The Healings at Gennesaret.
53
After making the crossing, they came to land at Gennesaret and tied up there.
54
As they were leaving the boat, people immediately recognized him.
55
They scurried about the surrounding country and began to bring in the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was.
56
Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak; and as many as touched it were healed.

Friends, today’s Gospel reports Jesus healing many people at Gennesaret. We hear that people brought the sick from all over the region and all of them were cured. “Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak; and as many as touched it were healed.”

It’s hard to deny that Jesus was known as a healer and a miracle worker. And there is also abundant evidence that the performance of miracles was a major reason why the first preachers were taken seriously.

In addition to miracles, we also have the witness of martyrs. Today marks the feast of St. Paul Miki and companions, who died in fidelity to Christ. But their deaths weren’t in vain. Their witness continues to shine throughout Japan and across the world. Miracles and martyrs: two beacons of light that illuminate the truth of Jesus Christ.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Sunday, February 5, 2017

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Matthew 5:13-16

The Similes of Salt and Light.*
13
“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.*
14
You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.
15
Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house.
16
Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.

Friends, in today’s Gospel Jesus uses the images of salt and light to show how we are to bring salvation to the world. In our rather privatized and individualistic culture, we tend naturally to think of religion as something for ourselves designed to make our lives richer or better. Now there is a sense in which that is true, but on the Biblical reading, religiosity is like salt, light, and an elevated city: it is meant not for oneself, but for others.

Perhaps we can bring these two together by saying that we find salvation for ourselves precisely in the measure that we bring God’s life to others. The point is that we followers of Jesus are meant to be salt, which effectively preserves and enhances what is best in the society around us. We effectively undermine what is dysfunctional in the surrounding culture.

We are also light by which people around us come to see what is worth seeing. By the very quality and integrity of our lives, we shed light, illumining what is beautiful and revealing what is ugly. The clear implication is that, without vibrant Christians, the world is a much worse place.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Saturday, February 4, 2017

4th Week in Ordinary Time, Year I

Mark 6:30-34

The Return of the Twelve.
30
The apostles* gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught.
31
* He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat.
32
So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.
33
People saw them leaving and many came to know about it. They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them.
The Feeding of the Five Thousand.
34
When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

Friends, today’s Gospel shows Jesus’ compassion for the multitude in the desert. “When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.”

There is the motif of the people Israel in the desert after their escape from Egypt. Isolated, alone, afraid, without food, they clamored for something from Moses. Here we see people who are dying to be fed, and a prophet who is under threat of death. This crowd around the threatened Jesus is a metaphor for the Church. We have come to him because we are hungry, and we stay even when things look bleak.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Friday, February 3, 2017

4th Week in Ordinary Time, Year I

Mark 6:14-29

Herod’s Opinion of Jesus.*
14
King Herod* heard about it, for his fame had become widespread, and people were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work in him.”
15
Others were saying, “He is Elijah”; still others, “He is a prophet like any of the prophets.”h
16
But when Herod learned of it, he said, “It is John whom I beheaded. He has been raised up.”
The Death of John the Baptist.*
17
Herod was the one who had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married.
18
John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”
19
Herodias* harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so.
20
Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him.
21
She had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee.
22
Herodias’s own daughter came in and performed a dance that delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you.”
23
He even swore [many things] to her, “I will grant you whatever you ask of me, even to half of my kingdom.”
24
She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the Baptist.”
25
The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request, “I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist.”
26
The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her.
27
l So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head. He went off and beheaded him in the prison.
28
He brought in the head on a platter and gave it to the girl. The girl in turn gave it to her mother.
29
When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

Friends, today’s Gospel is a prelude to Jesus feeding the multitude in the desert. There is a darkness at the beginning of this famous account. We hear that John the Baptist has just been murdered and that Jesus has withdrawn into a remote and deserted place, fearing probably that the same fate might be his.

His charisma and reputation are such that thousands come seeking him out, even in this out of the way and dangerous locale. There are many overtones and undertones for the Biblically-minded reader. For example, there’s the prophet who is under threat—as were Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Jeremiah, and Elijah. This is the terrible fate of the one who speaks for God: hunted down, forced into exile, not at home in this world.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Presentation of the Lord, Year I

Luke 2:22-40

The Presentation in the Temple.
22
* When the days were completed for their purification* according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord,
23
just as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,”
24
and to offer the sacrifice of “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,” in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.
25
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel,* and the holy Spirit was upon him.
26
It had been revealed to him by the holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord.
27
He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,
28
he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:
29
“Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word,
30
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
31
which you prepared in sight of all the peoples,
32
a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”
33
The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
34
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted
35
(and you yourself a sword will pierce)* so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
36
There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage,
37
and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.
38
And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

The Return to Nazareth.
39
When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.
40
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

Friends, today the Gospel celebrates the presentation of the Lord in the temple. Why was the temple so important for ancient Israel? In the temple, divinity and humanity embraced, and the human race was brought back online with God.

In the account, we hear of Simeon, the old seer, who is a symbol of ancient Israel, watching and waiting for the coming of the Messiah. Simeon knew all of the old prophecies; he embodied the expectation of the nation, and the Holy Spirit had given him the revelation that he would not die until he had laid eyes on his Savior.

Now there is more to this story than the return of the Lord to his temple, for he comes to his temple precisely in human form, indeed in the form of a little baby. The Son of God, having taken to himself a human nature, is presented to the Father, and thereby the human race is brought back online. God himself is forming us in the right worship of God. This little baby is the reconciliation of divinity and humanity, is the very essence of temple sacrifice.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

4th Week in Ordinary Time, Year I

Mark 6:1-6

The Rejection at Nazareth.
1
He departed from there and came to his native place,* accompanied by his disciples.
2
* When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!
3
Is he not the carpenter,* the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
4
* Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.”
5
So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there,* apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.
6
He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Friends, today’s Gospel develops a theme that is uncomfortable. It tells how the people of Nazareth rejected Jesus. Authentically religious people, authentically spiritual people, will almost always be opposed. The logic behind this is simple and unanswerable: we live in a world gone wrong, a world turned upside down; therefore, when someone comes speaking the truth to us, we will think that they are crazy and dangerous.

Think for just a moment what would happen to you if you consistently and publicly spoke the word of God to our culture. If you spoke out against abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, human trafficking, rampant materialism, and ideological secularism, what would happen to you? If you presented, in a full-throated way, the full range of Catholic social and moral and spiritual teaching, what would they do to you? Today’s Gospel offers a clue.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Saint John Bosco, Year I

Mark 5:21-43

21
When Jesus had crossed again [in the boat] to the other side, a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea.c
22
One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward.d Seeing him he fell at his feet
23
and pleaded earnestly with him, saying, “My daughter is at the point of death. Please, come lay your hands on her* that she may get well and live.”
24
He went off with him, and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him.
25
There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years.
26
She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse.
27
She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak.
28
* She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.”
29
Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.
30
Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?”
31
But his disciples said to him, “You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”
32
And he looked around to see who had done it.
33
The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth.
34
He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”e
35
* While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?”
36
Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.”
37
He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.
38
When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.
39
* f So he went in and said to them, “Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.”
40
And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took along the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was.
41
* He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”
42
The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. [At that] they were utterly astounded.
43
He gave strict orders that no one should know this and said that she should be given something to eat.

Friends, the centerpiece of today’s Gospel is Jesus healing the hemorrhaging woman. Having a flow of blood for twelve years meant that anyone with whom she came in contact would be considered unclean. She couldn’t, in any meaningful sense, participate in the ordinary life of her society.

The woman touches Jesus—and how radical and dangerous an act this was, since it should have rendered Jesus unclean. But so great is her faith, that her touch, instead, renders her clean. Jesus effectively restores her to full participation in her community.

But what is perhaps most important is this: Jesus implicitly puts an end to the ritual code of the book of Leviticus. What he implies is that the identity of the new Israel, the Church, would not be through ritual behaviors but through imitation of him. Notice, please, how central this is in the New Testament. We hear elsewhere in the Gospels that Jesus declares all foods clean,and throughout the letters of Paul we hear a steady polemic against the Law. All of this is meant to show that Jesus is at the center of the new community.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Monday, January 30, 2017

4th Week in Ordinary Time, Year I

Mark 5:1-20

The Healing of the Gerasene Demoniac.
1
* They came to the other side of the sea, to the territory of the Gerasenes.
2
When he got out of the boat, at once a man* from the tombs who had an unclean spirit met him.
3
The man had been dwelling among the tombs, and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain.
4
In fact, he had frequently been bound with shackles and chains, but the chains had been pulled apart by him and the shackles smashed, and no one was strong enough to subdue him.
5
Night and day among the tombs and on the hillsides he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones.
6
Catching sight of Jesus from a distance, he ran up and prostrated himself before him,
7
crying out in a loud voice, “What have you to do with me,* Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me!”
8
(He had been saying to him, “Unclean spirit, come out of the man!”)
9
* He asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “Legion is my name. There are many of us.”
10
And he pleaded earnestly with him not to drive them away from that territory.

11
Now a large herd of swine* was feeding there on the hillside.
12
And they pleaded with him, “Send us into the swine. Let us enter them.”
13
And he let them, and the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine. The herd of about two thousand rushed down a steep bank into the sea, where they were drowned.
14
The swineherds ran away and reported the incident in the town and throughout the countryside. And people came out to see what had happened.
15
As they approached Jesus, they caught sight of the man who had been possessed by Legion, sitting there clothed and in his right mind. And they were seized with fear.
16
Those who witnessed the incident explained to them what had happened to the possessed man and to the swine.
17
Then they began to beg him to leave their district.
18
As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed pleaded to remain with him.
19
But he would not permit him but told him instead, “Go home* to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in his pity has done for you.”
20
Then the man went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis what Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed.

Friends, today’s Gospel shows Jesus driving the unclean spirit from the Gerasene demoniac. What we see here on vivid display is Jesus the miracle worker. Modern thinkers tend to be wary of this dimension. For instance, Thomas Jefferson took a straight razor to the pages of the Gospels and cut out everything that smacked of the supernatural—miracles, exorcisms, and so on. The problem, of course, is that he had to make an absolute mess of Mark’s Gospel, which is positively chock-a-block with such things.

Jefferson’s contemporary, the great modern philosopher David Hume, wrote a powerfully influential text against miracles. He claimed that since the laws of nature were set, miracles were, strictly speaking, impossible. Accounts of them, he concluded, were the result of the foggy or wishful thinking of primitive people.

But though God typically lets the universe run according to its natural rhythms and patterns, what is to prevent God from shaping it and influencing it occasionally in remarkable ways, in order to signal his purpose and presence? God can’t do the impossible; but he can certainly do the unusual.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Sunday, January 29, 2017

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Matthew 5:1-12A

The Sermon on the Mount.
1
* When he saw the crowds,* he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.
2
He began to teach them, saying:

THE BEATITUDES*
3
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,*
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4
* Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5
* Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
6
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,*
for they will be satisfied.
7
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8
* Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
9
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,*
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me.
12
* Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Friends, our Gospel for today is one of the most beautiful and important in the New Testament: the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, the eight beatitudes. Why is it so important? Because it is the Son of God telling us how to be happy. It is the one who can’t be wrong telling us how to achieve that which each of us most basically wants. What could be more compelling?

At the heart of Jesus’ program are these beatitudes: “Blessed are the merciful” and “Blessed are the peacemakers.” These name the very heart of the spiritual program for they name the ways that we participate most directly in the divine life.

One of the most important words to describe God in the Old Testament is chesed (tender mercy). The New Testament version of this is found in the first letter of John: God is agape (love). Everything else we say about God should be seen as an aspect of this chesed and this agape. Chesed is compassion; agape is willing the good of the other. Therefore, if you want to be happy, desire to be like God. Do it and you’ll be happy.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Saint Thomas Aquinas, Year I

Mark 4:35-41

The Calming of a Storm at Sea.
35
* On that day, as evening drew on, he said to them, “Let us cross to the other side.”
36
Leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him.
37
A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up.
38
Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
39
He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!”* The wind ceased and there was great calm.
40
Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”
41
* They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”

Friends, today we celebrate the feast of the great St. Thomas Aquinas. As a young student, Thomas famously asked of his theology teacher, "But Master, what is God?" The story of this question has always struck me as plausible, for the question sounds so much like Thomas: clear, simple, spiritually searching.

Thomas asked questions because the natural curiosity of his mind was hooked onto the most fascinating of mysteries. He loved God with his whole mind. It led him to interrogate with critical respect pagan scientists, Jewish rabbis, Muslim scholars, and the greatest masters of our own Christian tradition. Thomas's friend and confessor, Reginald of Piperno, commented that the saint owed his great wisdom much more to prayer than to study. He would spend hours late at night resting his head on the tabernacle, begging for knowledge of the sacred mysteries.

We all know Thomas's title as the Doctor angelicus, the Angelic Doctor, but perhaps we should reflect more today on his title Doctor communis, the Common Doctor. In his relentless love of God with his whole mind, in his consistent analogical imagination rooted in creation and the Incarnation, in his Christocentrism—Thomas is the touchstone!


Let Go and Let God!

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Friday, January 27, 2017

3rd Week in Ordinary Time, Year I

Mark 4:26-34

Seed Grows of Itself.
26
He said, “This is how it is with the kingdom of God;* it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
27
and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.
28
Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
29
And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”
The Mustard Seed.
30
He said, “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it?
31
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
32
* But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
33
With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.
34
Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

Friends, today's Gospel compares the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed that "when it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants." It seems to be a law of the spiritual life that God wants good things to start small and grow over time.

We're tempted to say, "You're God. Just get on with it. Do it!" But why would God work the way he does? We might attempt a few explanations. It is a commonplace of the Bible that God rejoices in our cooperation. He wants us to involve us, through freedom, intelligence, and creativity, in what he is doing. And so he plants seeds, and he wants us to cultivate them.

Consider what God said to St. Francis: "Francis, rebuild my Church." God could have rebuilt his Church without Francis, but he wanted him to get involved. When things start small, they can fly under the radar while they gain strength and heft and seriousness. Also, those involved can be tested and tried. Suppose you want to do something great in the life of the Church and you pray and God gives you massively what you want. You might not be ready, and your project will peter out. So be patient and embrace the small invitations.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Saints Timothy and Titus, Year I

Mark 4:21-25

Parable of the Lamp.
21
e He said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lampstand?
22
For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible; nothing is secret except to come to light.
23
Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear.”
24
He also told them, “Take care what you hear. The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you.
25
To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

Friends, today’s Gospel shows how the light of Christ affects our lives. Well, light is wonderful in the measure that it illumines and brightens and delights. But light can also be disconcerting. Think of how bad most of us look in direct light! I discovered this while filming the CATHOLICISM series. I much prefer the indirect light that you can produce indoors. The full glare of the sun reveals every flaw, imperfection, and peculiarity of your face.

Think of what happens when you suddenly shine a light into a dark corner in your basement or down a lonely alley. The bugs and the vermin reveal themselves. Unsavory things scurry about for cover, afraid of the light.

When you invite Jesus into your life, you are inviting the light into your life. Again, this is wonderful, but it is also frightening. Jesus will shine his light in every corner of your life, in every room of your house. Things that look okay in the dark or in the indirect light will suddenly stand out in all of their unpleasantness.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Year I

Mark 16:15-18

15
He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.
16
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.
17
These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages.
18
They will pick up serpents [with their hands], and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

Friends, today we reflect on the significance of the conversion of St. Paul. Paul’s encounter on the road to Damascus was an answer to this question: when through Israel, would God gather the nations and bring his rule to the whole world? When Paul met Jesus he realized that the promises of God had been fulfilled, that the expectations of the prophets had been met—but in a most unexpected and extraordinary way.

He knew from his tradition that God, through Israel, would deliver the world from sin, gather the nations, and establish peace and justice everywhere. That was the hope. The usual version of that hope was something like an avenging military/political ruler like Solomon or David, or a great law-giver/leader like Moses.

What Paul saw in Jesus was someone greater than Moses, Solomon, or David—and someone wholly unexpected. God is establishing his justice, his right order, his way, through a crucified and risen criminal, and now returned from the dead? Forgiveness, compassion, nonviolence, having no truck with the ways of death? This is God’s justice, and it judges all of the fallen powers and kingdoms of the world.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Saint Francis de Sales, Year I

Mark 3:31-35

31 His mother and his brothers arrived. Standing outside they sent word to him and called him.
32
A crowd seated around him told him, “Your mother and your brothers* [and your sisters] are outside asking for you.”
33
But he said to them in reply, “Who are my mother and [my] brothers?”
34
And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers.
35
[For] whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Friends, in today’s Gospel Jesus identifies us as his disciples. So what do we discover about ourselves? First, that we are a chosen race. As I’ve said many times, our culture puts a huge premium on choice, our choice, personal choice. We care, above all, about freedom, self-direction, and autonomy.

But the Bible is eminently clear that what matters above all is not our choice, but God’s choice. We Christians, we followers of Jesus, have been chosen by God for God’s purposes. And this choice is not a matter of reward, as though we are being singled out because of our gifts. Just the contrary.

Your life is not about you. Your will nestles in an infinitely higher will. Your mind is ingredient in an infinitely more capacious mind. And so the primary question of your life is not, “What do I want?” but rather, “What does God want?”

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Monday, January 23, 2017

Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children, Year I

Mark 3:22-30

22
The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,”* and “By the prince of demons he drives out demons.”
Jesus and Beelzebul.
23
Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables, “How can Satan drive out Satan?
24
If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
25
And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.
26
And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him.
27
But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder his house.
28
Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them.
29
But whoever blasphemes against the holy Spirit* will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.”
30
For they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Friends, today’s Gospel speaks plainly of Satan and sin. And in light of today’s anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade decision, we still feel the echoes. When we look realistically at the society around us, we can become pretty discouraged. The conservative estimate regarding the number of abortions since Roe v. Wade is 54,000,000. That’s nine times Hitler’s holocaust. Assisted suicide was recently made legal in the state of California. The death penalty remains a blight on many of our states. And most people in our culture now feel that these states of affairs are simply a fact of life. The culture of death, as St. John Paul called it so bluntly, seems to be on the march.

But I want everyone to attend to what the prophet Habakkuk tells us: “Write down the vision clearly on the tablets…for the vision…will not disappoint.” What is he talking about? He’s describing the arrival of salvation to a people who had grown weary and desperate, convinced that God had abandoned them. And he is urging them to have faith, to trust.

And so on this somber anniversary, we continue to raise our voices and to walk according to faith. Our vision will not disappoint.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Sunday, January 22, 2017

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Matthew 4:12-23

The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry.*
12
When he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee.
13
He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali,
14
that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled:
15
“Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles,
16
the people who sit in darkness
have seen a great light,
on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death
light has arisen.”
17
* From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say,k “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
The Call of the First Disciples.*
18
As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.
19
He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
20
* At once they left their nets and followed him.
21
He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them,
22
and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him.
Ministering to a Great Multitude.*
23
He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues,* proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.

Friends, today’s Gospel records Jesus calling his first disciples. “As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.” In Genesis, we are told that God used to walk with Adam in the cool of the evening. This signals the easy intimacy God had with his human creatures.

“He said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’” We notice the way that God acts. He is direct and in your face; he does the choosing. “Come after me,” Jesus says. He is not offering a doctrine, a theology, or a set of beliefs. He is offering himself. Walk in my path; walk in imitation of me.

“And I will make you fishers of men.” This is one of the best one-liners in Scripture. Notice the first part of the phrase: “I will make you.” God is the creator, the one who makes us from nothing. To live in sin is to live outside of the creative power of God, to pretend that we can make ourselves. How wonderful that he tells us that he will make us—none of us is self-made.

Edited by: RHOOK20047 at: 1/22/2017 (16:30)
Let Go and Let God!

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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Saint Agnes, Year I

Mark 3:20-21

20
* He came home.* Again [the] crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat.
21
When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
22
The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,”* and “By the prince of demons he drives out demons.”

Friends, in today’s Gospel, relatives of Jesus claim that he is mad, and scribes blaspheme him, charging that he is possessed by Beelzebul. You know, in cases like this, the basic problem is always the fearful ego. Ego-addicts know that sometimes the best defense is a good offense. If you want to protect the ego and its prerogatives, you must oppress and demoralize those around you.

There is a very unsubtle version of this method: you attack, put down, insult, undermine those around you. This is the method of the bully. But the religious version is much subtler and thus more insidious and dangerous. It takes the law itself—especially the moral law—and uses it to accuse and oppress. “I know what’s right and wrong; I know what the Church expects of us; and I know that you are not living up to it.”

And so I accuse you; I gossip about you; I remind you of your inadequacy. Mind you, this is not to condemn the legitimate exercise of fraternal correction or the office of preaching. But it’s to be sucked into the slavery of ego addiction. We must stay alert to this and avoid it at all costs.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Friday, January 20, 2017

2nd Week in Ordinary Time, Year I

Mark 3:13-19

13
He went up the mountain* and summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him.
14
He appointed twelve [whom he also named apostles] that they might be with him* and he might send them forth to preach
15
and to have authority to drive out demons:
16
* [he appointed the twelve:] Simon, whom he named Peter;
17
James, son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James, whom he named Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder;
18
Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus; Thaddeus, Simon the Cananean,
19
and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.

Friends, today's Gospel recounts Jesus selecting and appointing the apostles.

Bible scholar and theologian N.T. Wright has explained why Jesus commissioned twelve disciples as apostles. Wright tells us that when a first-century Jew spoke of the arrival of God's kingdom, he was taken to mean something very specific. He was announcing that the temple was going to be restored, that the proper worship of Yahweh would obtain, that the enemies of Israel would be dealt with, and that, above all, the tribes of the Lord would be gathered and through them the tribes of the world.

Recall the great vision from the second chapter of Isaiah: "The mountain of the Lord's house shall be established as the highest mountain… All nations shall stream toward it." This is why Jesus chose twelve disciples, evocative of the twelve tribes. They would be the prototype and the catalyst for the gathering of Israel and hence the gathering of everyone. They would be the fundamental community and sign of unity.

Let Go and Let God!

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

2nd Week in Ordinary Time, Year I

Mark 3:7-12

7
* Jesus withdrew toward the sea with his disciples.c A large number of people [followed] from Galilee and from Judea.
8
Hearing what he was doing, a large number of people came to him also from Jerusalem, from Idumea, from beyond the Jordan, and from the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon.
9
He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him.
10
He had cured many and, as a result, those who had diseases were pressing upon him to touch him.
11
* And whenever unclean spirits saw him they would fall down before him and shout, “You are the Son of God.”
12
He warned them sternly not to make him known.

Friends, in today's Gospel we read about crowds coming to Jesus for healing and deliverance from unclean spirits. We hear that people brought the sick from all over the region, as well as those troubled by unclean spirits—and all of them were cured.

Now I realize that we today might be a bit skeptical of such miraculous healings. But it's hard to deny that Jesus was known as a healer and a miracle worker. And there is abundant evidence that the performance of miracles was a major reason why the first preachers were taken seriously.

Have there been miracle workers and miraculous places up and down the centuries? Yes indeed. But the Church has customarily done this work through its hospitals and clinics, through figures such as John of God, Catherine of Sienand Teresa of Calcutta. But the Church also serves through its sacraments, which heal sin-sick souls. This is the apostolic dimension of the Church's life, and without it, it would no longer be the Church. Parishes, parish priests, missionaries, servants of the poor and sick—the whole apostolic life of the Church is represented here.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Tuesday, January 18, 2017

2nd Week in Ordinary Time, Year I

Mark 3:1-6

A Man with a Withered Hand.
1
* Again he entered the synagogue.a There was a man there who had a withered hand.
2
They watched him closely to see if he would cure him on the sabbath so that they might accuse him.
3
He said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up here before us.”
4
Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” But they remained silent.
5
Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out and his hand was restored.b
6
* The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death.

Friends, today’s Gospel shows an angry Jesus healing a man with a withered hand. Whenever the Bible speaks of the divine anger, which it does a lot, it is talking poetically about God’s passion to set things right. God doesn’t go in and out of emotional states. He doesn’t fall into snits. He longs to establish justice on the earth and stands athwart those forces opposed to his purpose. This is precisely what Jesus does toward the Pharisees in today’s Gospel.



The episode concerns the idea of justice. Now what is justice? I love Plato’s simple definition: justice is rendering to each his due. It is fairness, or to use more biblical language, “righteousness.” It means doing the right thing. To state it negatively, it is not to cheat, not to take advantage of, not to deny someone his rights.

A steady teaching of the Bible is that God stands for justice and wants us to stand for it, too. Jesus says, “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” These are words that have inspired social reformers from William Wilberforce to William Lloyd Garrison to Martin Luther King to John Paul II. Let’s reflect on them today.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Monday, January 16, 2017

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Mark 2:18-22

The Question About Fasting.*
18
The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were accustomed to fast.e People came to him and objected, “Why do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”
19
Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests fast* while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast.
20
But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.
21
No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak. If he does, its fullness pulls away, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse.
22
Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins are ruined. Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins.”

Friends, in today’s Gospel people ask Jesus why he doesn’t encourage fasting among his followers. Jesus’ answer is wonderful: “How can the guests at a wedding fast while the groom is still with them?” (That’s a typically Jewish style, by the way, answering a question with another question.)

This great image of the wedding feast comes up frequently in the New Testament, most obviously in the wedding feast at Cana narrative. And it is echoed in the Tradition. Jesus is the wedding of heaven and earth, the marriage of divinity and humanity; he is the bridegroom and the Church is the bride. In him, the most intimate union is achieved between God and the world.

Could you imagine people fasting at a wedding banquet? Could you imagine going into an elegant room with your fellow guests and being served bread and water? It would be ridiculous! So says Jesus: “As long as the groom is with them, how could they fast?” The mark of the Christian dispensation is joy. Exuberance. Delight. God and the world have come together. What could be better news?

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Sunday, January 15, 2017

2nd Sunday in ordinary Time

John 1:29-34

John the Baptist’s Testimony to Jesus.
29
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God,* who takes away the sin of the world.
30
* He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’
31
I did not know him,* but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.”
32
John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove* from the sky and remain upon him.
33
I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the holy Spirit.’
34
* Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

Friends, todays Gospel contains the first biblical presentation of the Trinity. “After he was baptized, he came directly out of the water. Suddenly the sky opened and he saw the Spirit of God descend like a dove and hover over him. With that, a voice from the heavens said, ‘This is my beloved Son. My favor rests on him.’”

This is the first time in the Bible that the tri-personhood of God is on display, making it one of the most important theophanies in Scripture.In love, the Father sends the Son into god-forsakenness, into the muddy waters of our own sin, and the Spirit is the love which connects the Father and Son, the love in which the Father sends and in which the Son is sent.

So now we see that the God who is just and demanding (and those both remain in place) is, at bottom and through and through, love.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Saturday, January 14, 2017

1st Week in Ordinary Time, Year I

Mark 2:13-17

13
* Once again he went out along the sea. All the crowd came to him and he taught them.
14
As he passed by,* he saw Levi, son of Alphaeus, sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.
15
While he was at table in his house,* many tax collectors and sinners sat with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many who followed him.
16
* Some scribes who were Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors and said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
17
Jesus heard this and said to them [that], “Those who are well do not need a physician,* but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

Friends, today's Gospel reflects on Jesus' banqueting with Matthew and his friends after he calls him to be a disciple. The very first thing that Jesus does is to invite Matthew into intimacy with him, reclining around a table for a meal with friends.

In this account, the Pharisees saw the intimacy of Matthew with Jesus and they comment, "why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" We notice first that it never occurs to them that the influence might move from Jesus to the sinners rather than from the sinners to Jesus.

And then Jesus' wonderful comment: "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners." He is admitting that Matthew and his fellows are sinners. He is not in the least "soft" on sin. But he has come to bring precisely such people into intimacy with him, and he is not proud about how he does it.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Friday, January 13, 2017

1st Week in Ordinary Time, Year I

The Healing of a Paralytic.
1
* When Jesus returned to Capernauma after some days, it became known that he was at home.*
2
Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and he preached the word to them.
3
They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.
4
Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying.
5
* When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven.”
6
* Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves,
7
“Why does this man speak that way?* He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?”
8
Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts?
9
Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’?
10
* But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth”—
11
he said to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.”
12
He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone. They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”

Mark 2:1-12

Friends, today's Gospel focuses on the faith of the four men who brought the paralytic to Jesus for healing. How often the Bible compels us to meditate on the meaning of faith! We might say that the Scriptures rest upon faith, remain inspired at every turn by the spirit of faith.



Faith is an attitude of trust in the presence of God. Faith is openness to what God will reveal, do, and invite. It should be obvious that in dealing with the infinite, all-powerful person who is God, we are never in control.

One of the most fundamental statements of faith is this: your life is not about you. You're not in control. This is not your project. Rather, you are part of God's great design. To believe this in your bones and to act accordingly is to have faith. When we operate out of this transformed vision, amazing things can happen, for we have surrendered to "a power already at work in us that can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine." Even a tiny bit of faith makes an extraordinary difference.

Let Go and Let God!

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Mark 1:40-45

40
A leper* came to him [and kneeling down] begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.”
41
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.”
42
The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.
43
Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once.
44
Then he said to him, “See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.”
45
The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere.

Friends, our Gospel for today has to do with Jesus’ healing of a leper. Leprosy frightened people in ancient times—as contagious and mysterious diseases frightened people up until modern times. But more than this, it rendered someone unclean and therefore incapable of engaging in the act of worship. It is not accidental that the person who should do the examining of the patient in ancient Israel should be the priest.

The man who knelt before Jesus and begged for a cure was not simply concerned about his medical condition; he was an Israelite in exile from the temple—and hence he was a very apt symbol of the general condition of scattered, exiled, wandering Israel. In curing him, Jesus was, symbolically speaking, gathering the tribes and bringing them back to the worship of the true God.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

1st Week in Ordinary Time, Year I

Mark 1:29-39

29
On leaving the synagogue he entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John.
30
Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her.
31
He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.

Other Healings.
32
When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons.
33
The whole town was gathered at the door.
34
He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him.

Jesus Leaves Capernaum.
35
Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.
36
Simon and those who were with him pursued him
37
and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.”
38
He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.”
39
So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.

Friends, in the Gospel of Mark today, we see Jesus in action. We are reading from the section of Mark's first chapter that gives us a sort of "day in the life" of Jesus. And it is quite a day! Our Gospel opens just after the dramatic expulsion of a demon in the Capernaum synagogue. After entering the house of Simon, Jesus cures Peter's mother-in-law.



Notice that he takes her by the hand and brings her to her feet so that she can be of service. What does sickness do to us? It draws us in around ourselves. Once she is cured, Simon's mother-in-law commences to serve, to be for the other. Then the entire town comes to his door. He spends the whole evening curing presumably hundreds who were variously afflicted.

Mark presents Jesus as a healer. Soter, which just means "the bearer of the salus" or health. In him, divinity and humanity have come together; in him, the divine life and divine power are breaking through. God's deepest intentions for his beloved creatures appears—what God plans for us in the Kingdom to come is now historically anticipated.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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1st Week in Ordinary Time, Year I

Mark 1:21-28

21
* Then they came to Capernaum, and on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught.
22
l The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.
23
* In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit;
24
* he cried out, “What have you to do with us,* Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
25
Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!”
26
The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.
27
All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”
28
His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

Friends, today's Gospel finds Jesus encountering a man with an unclean spirit in the synagogue at Capernaum. Isn't it interesting that the first unclean spirit that Jesus confronts is in the holy place, the place of worship? And what marks this man? Though he is a single person, an individual, he speaks in the plural: "What do you have to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?"

The diabolic is, literally, a scattering power: diabalein. Sin separates us from one another—Sunde, related to sundering—but it also divides us interiorly, setting one part of the self against another. We've all experienced this: our minds are divided, our wills are split and our emotions militate against our deepest convictions

The authoritative voice of Jesus brings the man back to himself. And friends, this is precisely the effect that Jesus' voice has had up and down the ages. When you allow his word to reach deep down within you, you get knitted back together. When Jesus becomes the clear center of your life, then your mind, your will, your emotions, your private life, your public life—all of it—finds its harmonious place around that center.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Monday, January 9, 2017

The Baptism of the Lord, Year I

Matthew 3:13-17

13
i Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.
14
* John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?”
15
Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him.
16
* After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened [for him], and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove [and] coming upon him.
17
And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son,* with whom I am well pleased.”

Friends, today's Gospel gives us a stunning account of Jesus' baptism. Jesus came to John the Baptism, seeking a baptism of repentance All four Gospels attest to it, and if there had been any justification for dropping it out they would have. So there it is, and it's a major problem. Jesus seems to be a sinner—but if this is true, all of Christian theology is undermined.



The difficulty is reflected in the Baptist's confusion: "I should be baptized by you; and yet you come to me." When John objects, Jesus says, "Give in for now. We must do this to fulfill all righteousness." Well, what does that mean? Fulfilling righteousness, in the old dispensation, would have meant something like "doing what God wants, or getting right with God." But this was our business.

Now we see that "all righteousness" has to do with God's setting things right with us and for us, in all humility. God bending down under our hand and submitting to us. If that doesn't take your breath away you're not paying attention.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Epiphany of the Lord, Cycle A

Matthew 2:1-12

The Visit of the Magi.*
1
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod,* behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem,
2
saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star* at its rising and have come to do him homage.”
3
When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
4
Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.*
5
They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet:

6
‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
since from you shall come a ruler,
who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”
7
Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.
8
He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.”
9
After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
10
They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
11
* and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
12
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.

Friends, today's Gospel tells of the Magi, Kings, astrologers seeking out a foreign king who somehow belongs to them. We're actually coming close to the heart of the Biblical revelation. Of all the nations of the world, God chose Israel to be especially his own, a priestly people, a holy nation. But the reason for this choice was not to glorify Israel over and against the other nations; rather, it was to make of Israel a beacon to the world, so that through Israel all might be gathered.

Yes, a king would be born for the Jews, but he wouldn't be for the Jews alone. This Messiah would be the King of Kings, a light to all the nations. How wonderful that the sign of the birth of this king should be a star, something that can be clearly seen by every nation and from any nation.

And when the Magi saw it, they were willing to leave their own country behind. And once they had worshipped him, they went back to their own country, but they went back by a different route. They were changed. They would remain Babylonians, but they had become citizens of a higher country.

Let Go and Let God!

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Saturday, January 7, 2017

Christmas Weekday, Year I

John 2:1-11

The Wedding at Cana.
1
* On the third day there was a wedding* in Cana* in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.
2
Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.
3
When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”
4
* [And] Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.”
5
His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.”
6
* Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons.
7
Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the brim.
8
Then he told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.”* So they took it.
9
And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom
10
and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.”
11
Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs* in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.e

Friends, in today’s Gospel we read about the wedding at Cana. Jesus’ mother is the first to speak in John’s telling of the story. “They have no wine.” On the surface level, she is indeed commenting on a social disaster: running out of wine at a party, and she is asking Jesus to do something to make things better

But let’s go deeper. Wine, in the Scriptures, is a symbol of the exuberance and intoxication of the divine life. When God is in us, we are lifted up, rendered joyful, transfigured. Therefore, when Mary says “they have no more wine,” she is speaking of all of Israel and indeed all of the human race. They have run out of the exuberance and joyfulness that comes from union with God.

And this is precisely why Jesus calls her “woman.” We can be easily misled into thinking that he was being curt or disrespectful. But he was addressing her with the title of Eve, the mother of all the living. Mary is the representative here of suffering humanity, complaining to God that the joy of life has run out.

Let Go and Let God!

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Friday, January 6, 2017

Mark 1:7-11

7
And this is what he proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
8
* I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the holy Spirit.”
The Baptism of Jesus.
9
It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John.
10
On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him.*
11
And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Friends, todays Gospel tells the story of the baptism of Jesus. The first thing we must keep in mind about the baptism of Jesus was that it was embarrassing. Here is the one that the first Christians maintained was the Son of God, the sinless lamb who takes away the sins of the world, the Word made flesh. So why the heck is he seeking a baptism of repentance?

There is no way around it: John was working in the country north of Jerusalem, along the banks of the Jordan river. And his theme was unambiguous: repent. Those who came to him were coming to have their sins dealt with; they were admitting their guilt.

As is usually the case with the Bible, there is an irony in the fire. Before ever a word passes Jesus’ lips, he is teaching, in fact communicating the heart of the faith, by this stunning reversal. In this gesture, God lays aside his glory and humbly joins us in our sinfulness, standing with us, assuming our burden.

Edited by: RHOOK20047 at: 1/6/2017 (20:43)
Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Saint John Neumann, Year I

John 1:43-51

JOHN
Chapter 1

43
The next day he* decided to go to Galilee, and he found Philip. And Jesus said to him, “Follow me.”
44
Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the town of Andrew and Peter.
45
Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.”
46
But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
47
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true Israelite.* There is no duplicity in him.”
48
* c Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”
49
Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God;* you are the King of Israel.”
50
Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree?* You will see greater things than this.”
51
And he said to him, “Amen, amen,* I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Friends, in today’s Gospel Nathaniel recognizes Jesus as the Son of God and King of Israel. Like Nathaniel, once we make the decision for Jesus, once we determine that he is the supreme good, then every other claimant to supremacy must fall away. As I’ve argued many times before, every one of us has something or some set of values that we consider greatest. There is some center of gravity around which everything else turns.

Perhaps it is money and material things. Perhaps it is power and position. Perhaps it is the esteem of others. Perhaps it is your country or your political party or your ethnic identity. Perhaps it is your family, your kids, your wife, your husband.

None of this is false; and none of these things are bad. However, when you place any of them in the absolute center of gravity, things go awry. When you make any of them your ultimate or final good, your spiritual life goes haywire. When you attach yourself to any of them with an absolute tenacity, you will fall apart.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, Year I

John 1:35-42

The First Disciples.
35
The next day John was there again with two of his disciples,
36
and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”*
37
The two disciples* heard what he said and followed Jesus.
38
Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?”
39
He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon.*
40
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.
41
He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah”* (which is translated Anointed).
42
Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John;* you will be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).a

Friends, in today’s Gospel Jesus invites his first disciples to come and stay with him. I think that this command of Jesus is a bit like an initiation ritual. In order to prepare themselves for a lifetime of discipleship, his followers must first pass through an intensive period of spiritual formation, much like a novitiate in a monastery or training camp in football or boot camp in the army. During this concentrated time, they were to learn, in their bones, the essentials of this new way of life. So the disciples learn a new way of radical dependency upon God.

Now what does all of this have to do with us? You say, “I’m a fifty-year-old man with a wife and kids and job and responsibility; I can’t very well go drifting off in a boat, trusting in the providence of God.”

True enough, but you can, for instance, go on a retreat every year. Spend a week once a year at a monastery or a retreat center, living the spiritual life intensely; live Lent more severely and more radically next year, perhaps undertaking a difficult fast or giving alms until it hurts.

Let Go and Let God!

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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

John the Baptist’s Testimony to Jesus.
29
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God,* who takes away the sin of the world.t
30
* He is the one of whom I said,u ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’
31
I did not know him,* but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.”
32
John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove* from the sky and remain upon him.
33
I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the holy Spirit.’
34
* Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”


Christmas Weekday, Year I

John 1:29-34

Friends, our Gospel for today contains one of the most important and misunderstood lines in all of Christian Scriptures. Spying Jesus, John the Baptist says, “Behold the Lamb of God.” In a very casual survey, I asked a number of people what this phrase means, and the answer I typically got was this: it means that he is gentle and humble and good, like a lamb.

But for a first century Jew, the phrase had little if anything to do with that: it had to do with sacrifice. It meant that Jesus was someone who was destined to be sacrificed as a sin offering to God.

John the Baptist’s characterization of Jesus as the Lamb of God has to do with temple sacrifice. He will be the one who offers the final and definitive sacrifice which reconciles divinity and humanity. He will offer something to the Father which will deal finally with the problem of sin, and in this we will find our salvation.

Let Go and Let God!

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Monday, January 2, 2017

Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, Year I

John 1:19-28
19
* And this is the testimony of John. When the Jews* from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites [to him] to ask him, “Who are you?”
20
* he admitted and did not deny it, but admitted,o “I am not the Messiah.”
21
So they asked him, “What are you then? Are you Elijah?”* And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.”p
22
So they said to him, “Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?”
23
He said:
“I am ‘the voice of one crying out in the desert,q
“Make straight the way of the Lord,”’*



as Isaiah the prophet said.”
24
Some Pharisees* were also sent.
25
They asked him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet?”r
26
John answered them, “I baptize with water;* but there is one among you whom you do not recognize,s
27
the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”
28
This happened in Bethany across the Jordan,* where John was baptizing.

Friends, in today’s Gospel John the Baptist identifies himself as “the voice of one crying out in the desert.” How often the great heroes of the Biblical revelation have to spend time in the desert: Abraham, Moses, John the Baptist, Paul. Even Jesus himself spends forty days and nights in the desert before commencing his ministry.

They have to wait through a painful time, living a stripped-down life, before they are ready. What does the desert symbolize? Confrontation with one’s own sin; seeing one’s dark side; a deep realization of one’s dependency upon God; an ordering of the priorities of one’s life; a simplification, a getting back to basics. It means any and all of these things.

But the bottom line is that they are compelled to wait, during a time and in a place where very little life seems to be on offer. But it is precisely in such deserts that the flowers bloom. Moses becomes a great leader; Abraham is the father of many nations; Joseph becomes the savior of his people; John the Baptist is the forerunner of the Messiah; Paul is the apostle to the Gentiles—all of this flowering was made possible by the desert.


Let Go and Let God!

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Sunday, January 1, 2017

16
So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.
17
When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child.
18
All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.
19
And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.
20
Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.
The Circumcision and Naming of Jesus.
21
When eight days were completed for his circumcision,* he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.g

Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, Cycle A

Luke 2:16-21

Friends, on this feast of Mary the mother of God, I would like to emphasize specially the word today's Gospel associated with her: treasured. "Mary treasured these things and reflected on them in her heart." She pondered them, turned them over, sought out their causes, saw their implications, allowed them to work their way into the marrow of her bones.

Bl. John Henry Newman said that this treasuring quality of Mary makes her the patroness of theology. He furthermore observed that theology is one of the marks of a healthy Catholicism. Augustine, Aquinas, Bonaventure, Dante, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Newman himself, John Paul II are all Marian figures in this sense.

So when you know your mission; be astonished by what God has done; and never stop treasuring it.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Seventh Day in the Octave of Christmas, Year I

John 1:1-18

1
In the beginning* was the Word,

and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
2
He was in the beginning with God.
3
* All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be
4
through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;
5
* the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.
6
* A man named John was sent from God.
7
He came for testimony,* to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.
8
He was not the light, but came to testify to the light.
9
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
10
He was in the world,
and the world came to be through him,
but the world did not know him.
11
He came to what was his own,
but his own people* did not accept him.
12
i But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name,
13
* who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.
14
And the Word became flesh*
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only Son,
full of grace and truth.
15
* John testified to him and cried out, saying, “This was he of whom I said,l ‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’”
16
From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace,*
17
because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
18
No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God,* who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.

Friends, today we reprise the prologue of St. John’s Gospel, which we read on Christmas. The Word became flesh “and we saw his glory.” All the ways that the Old Testament spoke of God’s involvement with the world come together in this description of Jesus Christ. He is the powerful Word that will not return without accomplishing his purpose.

Now what is his purpose? Look to the prophet Isaiah. “The Lord has bared his holy arm in the sight of all the nations. All the ends of the earth will behold the salvation of our God.” Saying that Yahweh has bared his holy arm means that Yahweh is rolling up his sleeves to get on with the work.

Now take a look now at the manger at Bethlehem. Perhaps we see a tiny arm reaching out at random from the manger. “The Lord has made bare his holy arm.” And this anticipates another baring of that holy arm, when it is stretched out on the wood of the cross, revealed to all nations, just as Isaiah said. God’s power would be revealed in the powerlessness of love unto death. This is what became flesh on Christmas day


Let Go and Let God!

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Friday, December 30, 2016

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Year I

Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

13
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:
14
* “Glory to God in the highestf
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
The Visit of the Shepherds.
15
When the angels went away from them to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.”
16
So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.
17
When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child.
18
All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.
19
And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.
20
Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.
The Circumcision and Naming of Jesus.
21
When eight days were completed for his circumcision,* he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.g
The Presentation in the Temple.
22
* When the days were completed for their purification* according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord,h
23
just as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,”i

Friends, in today’s Gospel we see Joseph receiving the Lord’s direction for his care of Mary and Jesus. Joseph listens to God’s word in a dream. Dreams play a very interesting role in the Bible. In the Old Testament Joseph is an interpreter of dreams and successfully reads the dream of Pharaoh; the wise men in the New Testament are redirected to their homeland because an angel appeared to them in a dream. In one of the psalms, we find this line: “even at night, he directs my heart.”

What does it mean that Joseph is willing to listen to the wisdom of a dream? It means that he is willing to go beyond the strictures of the rational mind. Not repudiating them, but going beyond them, thinking in new ways, entertaining unexpected possibilities, plumbing deeper and richer dimensions of his soul. When Joseph and Mary bring the infant Jesus into the temple, therefore, we are meant to appreciate that the prophecy of Ezekiel is being fulfilled. The glory of Yahweh is returning to his favorite dwelling. And this is precisely what Simeon sees.

Are we stymied sometimes because we cannot think out of the box? We can’t expect the impossible? We can’t dream? And is our openness to God’s direction not dependent upon just this capacity? That God becomes one of us in order to save us from our sins. Who would ever even consider this possibility? What an absurdity! Only dreamers.

Let Go and Let God!

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Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas, Year I

Luke 2:22-35
22
* When the days were completed for their purification* according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord,h
23
just as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,”i
24
and to offer the sacrifice of “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,” in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.
25
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel,* and the holy Spirit was upon him.
26
It had been revealed to him by the holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord.
27
He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,
28
he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:
29
“Now, Master, you may let your servant go
in peace, according to your word,
30
for my eyes have seen your salvation,j
31
which you prepared in sight of all the peoples,
32
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel.”k
33
The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
34
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradictedl
35
(and you yourself a sword will pierce)* so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”


Friends, today’s Gospel tells the story of the presentation of Jesus in the temple. The temple was, in practically a literal sense, the dwelling place of the Lord. In the temple, divinity and humanity embraced, and the human race was brought back online with God.



But the sins of the nation had, according to the prophet Ezekiel, caused the glory of the Lord to depart from the temple. Therefore, one of the deepest aspirations of Israel’s people was to re-establish the temple as the place of right praise so that the glory of the Lord might return. When Joseph and Mary bring the infant Jesus into the temple, therefore, we are meant to appreciate that the prophecy of Ezekiel is being fulfilled. The glory of Yahweh is returning to his favorite dwelling. And this is precisely what Simeon sees.

The old seer is a symbol of ancient Israel, watching and waiting for the coming of the Messiah. Simeon knew all of the old prophecies; he embodied the expectation of the nation, and the Holy Spirit had given him the revelation that he would not die until he had laid eyes on his Savior



Let Go and Let God!

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Feast of the Holy Innocents, martyrs, Year I

Matthew 2:13-18

13
* When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt,* and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.”
14
Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.
15
* He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophetd might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

The Massacre of the Infants.
16
When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi.
17
Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet:
18
* “A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.”


Friends, today’s Gospel describes Herod’s massacre of the boys of Bethlehem, his furious reaction to being deceived by the Magi. Matthew’s account of the visit of the Magi purposely juxtaposes King Herod and the mysterious magi from the east. Herod was the consummate political survivor, a canny realist who had, through threats, murder, and corruption, found his way to the top of the political ladder

While Herod was fussing around, desperately trying to maintain himself in power, figures from a distant country were blithely indifferent to politics and games of domination. They were intensely surveying the night sky, looking for signs from God. Now, as they cross the border into Herod’s country, the magi come onto Herod’s radar-screen. Who are they? Spies? And whom are they seeking? A new born king?! That is a threat. That is treason.

Under the pretense of piety, he calls the Magi to himself and inquires after the star’s first appearance, getting the time coordinate; and then he asks them to go to Bethlehem and find the exact locale. With this GPS system, he can find the king—and stamp him out.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Monday, December 26, 2016

17
* But beware of people,k for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues,l
18
and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans.
19
When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say.m
20
For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
21
* n Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.
22
You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end* will be saved.

Feast of Saint Stephen, Year I

Matthew 10:17-22

Friends, today we celebrate the martyrdom of St. Stephen. The Gospel tells us to expect persecution. Martyrs like Stephen are witnesses who have given their lives for the faith, participating in the bloody death of Jesus himself. They are part of the great chorus that gives praise to Christ in heaven. The Lamb has become their shepherd leading them to springs of life giving water. “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

This is an eschatological hope, one held out for us in God’s definitive future. But a terrible price was paid, and a terrible war was waged. Their robes are washed clean, but in the blood of the Lamb. Please notice the presence of martyrdom up and down the ages, to the present day. The twentieth was the Christian century with the most martyrs ever, in fact more than all the other centuries combined. The most persecuted religion on planet earth today is Christianity.


Let Go and Let God!

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Sunday, December 25, 2016

1
In the beginning* was the Word,

and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.a
2
He was in the beginning with God.
3
* All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.b
What came to be
4
through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;c
5
* the light shines in the darkness,d
and the darkness has not overcome it.
6
* A man named John was sent from God.e
7
He came for testimony,* to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.f
8
He was not the light, but came to testify to the light.g
9
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.h
10
He was in the world,
and the world came to be through him,
but the world did not know him.
11
He came to what was his own,
but his own people* did not accept him.
12
i But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name,
13
* j who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.
14
And the Word became flesh*
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only Son,
full of grace and truth.k
15
* John testified to him and cried out, saying, “This was he of whom I said,l ‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’”
16
From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace,*
17
because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.m
18
No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God,* who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.n

The Nativity Of The Lord (Christmas), Cycle A

John 1:1-18

Friends, our Christmas day Gospel focuses on the Word made flesh. Ancient Jewish thought found all sorts of sophisticated ways to say that God was active in the world without ceasing to be transcendent over it. Above all, they spoke of God’s holy Word, a Word by which all things were made.



Now listen to the Prologue to John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word…” He’s writing a new Genesis—and he is drawing our attention to this word of God, this powerful, musical breath of God that makes and governs the universe and speaks through the prophets, this Word that is the same as God.

And this Word became flesh. The Greek term means “pitched his tent among us,” the very phrase used of God’s Wisdom inhabiting the Temple in Jerusalem. “And we saw his glory…and he was full of grace and truth.” Glory, for he is beautiful to look on; truth, for he is the new Law. All the ways that the Old Testament spoke of God’s involvement with the world come together in this description of Jesus Christ. He is the powerful Word that will not return without accomplishing his purpose.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Saturday, December 24, 2016

67
Then Zechariah his father, filled with the holy Spirit, prophesied, saying:
68
* “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
for he has visited and brought redemption to his people.k
69
* He has raised up a horn for our salvation
within the house of David his servant,l
70
even as he promised through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old:
71
salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us,m
72
to show mercy to our fathersn
and to be mindful of his holy covenanto
73
and of the oath he swore to Abraham our father,p
and to grant us that,
74
rescued from the hand of enemies,
without fear we might worship him
75
in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.q
76
And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord* to prepare his ways,r
77
to give his people knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78
because of the tender mercy of our Gods
by which the daybreak from on high* will visit ust
79
to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

4th Week in Advent, Year I

Luke 1:67-79

Friends, today’s Gospel contains the prayer of Zechariah at the birth of his son, John the Baptist. This prayer is especially precious to priests, religious, and all those who pray the liturgy of the hours on a daily basis. It’s called the “Benedictus,” from its first word in Latin, or the “Canticle of Zechariah.” It’s actually a passage from the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel, the speech given by Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, just after the baby’s birth, when the old man’s tongue had been loosened.

What’s wonderful about this prayer (and why the Church asks its ministers to pray it every day) is that it sums up magnificently the whole history of salvation, putting Jesus and John in the context of the great story of Israel.

John is seen here as the last and greatest of the Old Testament prophets. His role is, like all the prophets, to “go before the Lord, to prepare his way.” His job is to point, explain, indicate—and then disappear.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Friday, December 23, 2016

7
When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son.
58
Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her.g
59
* When they came on the eighth day to circumciseh the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father,
60
but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.”i
61
But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.”
62
So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.
63
He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed.
64
Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God.j
65
Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea.
66
All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.

4th Week in Advent, Year I

Luke 1:57-66



Friends, today's Gospel reflects on the absolutely pivotal figure of John the Baptist. It's fair to say that you cannot really understand Jesus without understanding John, which is precisely why all four evangelists tell the story of the Baptist as a kind of overture to the story of Jesus. John sums up Israel, and without the Israelite background, the story of Jesus becomes opaque.

The story of John's birth brings his parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth, into focus. Both are strongly priestly personages. Elizabeth is a descendant of the family of Aaron, the first priest of Israel, and Zechariah was a practicing temple priest.

What's important for our purposes is that John was of very priestly stock. So why, when we first hear of him in his adult life, is he out in the desert and not in the temple? Well, there was a long prophetic tradition that criticized the temple for its corruption. In John's time, the temple was mired in very messy, vile, and violent politics. So what is he doing in the desert? He is offering what the temple ought to be offering but wasn't, due to its corruption, namely, the forgiveness of sins.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Thursday, December 22, 2016


The Canticle of Mary.
46
v And Mary said:*
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;w
47
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.x
48
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.y
49
The Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.z
50
His mercy is from age to age
to those who fear him.a
51
He has shown might with his arm,
dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.b
52
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones
but lifted up the lowly.c
53
The hungry he has filled with good things;
the rich he has sent away empty.d
54
He has helped Israel his servant,
remembering his mercy,e
55
according to his promise to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”f
56
Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

4th Week in Advent, Year I

Luke 1:46-56

Friends, today’s Gospel explains the significance of Mary’s fiat. By far, the most important Advent figure is Mary of Nazareth, the Mother of God, for Mary sums up in her person the whole of the people Israel, the nation whose whole purpose was to prepare for the coming of the Lord. In the face of the evil, injustice, stupidity, and sin that were marring his beautiful creation, God resolved to choose a people and to form them according to his heart so that they could be the vehicle of his presence to the world. From this people would come, as a sort of flowering, the Messiah.

Thus, Mary recapitulates the story of Israel, the story of redemption. We can, as it were, read the whole Old Testament in her. As the true Israel, she knows what to do and she does it with enthusiasm. No dawdling, back-pedaling, straying or complaining: she moves, she goes. And she goes upon the heights, which is exactly where God had always summoned Israel, so that it could be a light to the nations.

Let Go and Let God!

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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

9
During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah,
40
where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
41
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit,s
42
cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.t
43
And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord* should come to me?
44
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
45
Blessed are you who believed* that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”u

4th Week in Advent, Year I

Luke 1:39-45

Friends, today's Gospel tells of Mary's visit to Elizabeth. I've always been fascinated by Mary's "haste" in this story of the Visitation. Upon hearing the message of Gabriel concerning her own pregnancy and that of her cousin, Mary "proceeded in haste into the hill country of Judah" to see Elizabeth.

Why did she go with such speed and purpose? Because she had found her mission, her role in the theo-drama. We are dominated today by the ego-drama in all of its ramifications and implications. The ego-drama is the play that I'm writing, I'm producing, I'm directing, and I'm starring in. We see this absolutely everywhere in our culture. Freedom of choice reigns supreme: I become the person that I choose to be.

The theo-drama is the great story being told by God, the great play being directed by God. What makes life thrilling is to discover your role in it. This is precisely what has happened to Mary. She has found her role—indeed a climactic role—in the theo-drama, and she wants to conspire with Elizabeth, who has also discovered her role in the same drama. And like Mary, we have to find our place in God's story.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

26
In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
27
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.l
28
And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.”m
29
But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
30
Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
31
n Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.
32
o He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,* and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
33
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”p
34
But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”*
35
And the angel said to her in reply, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.q
36
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived* a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
37
for nothing will be impossible for God.”r
38
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

4th Week in Advent, Year I

Luke 1:26-38

Friends, in today’s Gospel of Luke, we find the annunciation to Mary. Here is what Gabriel said to the Virgin: “Thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus…the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”

No first century Israelite would have missed the meaning here: this child shall be the fulfillment of the promise made to King David.

No first century Israelite would have missed the meaning here: this child shall be the fulfillment of the promise made to King David.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Monday, December 19, 2016

5
In the days of Herod, King of Judea,* there was a priest named Zechariah of the priestly division of Abijah; his wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.c
6
Both were righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly.
7
But they had no child,* because Elizabeth was barren and both were advanced in years.d
8
Once when he was serving as priest in his division’s turn before God,
9
according to the practice of the priestly service, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to burn incense.e
10
Then, when the whole assembly of the people was praying outside at the hour of the incense offering,
11
the angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right of the altar of incense.
12
Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him.
13
But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid,* Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John.f
14
And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth,
15
for he will be great in the sight of [the] Lord. He will drink neither wine nor strong drink.* He will be filled with the holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb,g
16
and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.
17
He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah* to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord.”h
18
Then Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”
19
And the angel said to him in reply, “I am Gabriel,* who stand before God. I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news.i
20
But now you will be speechless and unable to talk* until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.”j
21
Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah and were amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary.
22
But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He was gesturing to them but remained mute.
23
Then, when his days of ministry were completed, he went home.
24
After this time his wife Elizabeth conceived, and she went into seclusion for five months, saying,
25
“So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others.”k

4th Week in Advent, Year I

Luke 1:5-25

Friends, in today’s Gospel, Luke tells us about John the Baptist’s parents. We see with utter clarity that John is a priestly figure. Zechariah, his father, is a temple priest and Elizabeth his mother is a descendant of Aaron the very first priest.

Now flash forward thirty years and see John emerging in the desert. The first question is, “Why is this son of a priest not working in the temple?” And the second is, “Why are the people going out from Jerusalem to commune with him?” The answer to the first is that he is engaging in a prophetic critique of a temple that has gone bad. And the answer to the second is that he is performing the acts of a purified temple priest out in the desert. His baptism was a ritual cleansing and a spur to repent, precisely what a pious Jew would have sought in the temple.

And the picture becomes complete when Jesus arrives to be baptized and John says, “Behold the Lamb of God.” This is explicitly temple talk. He is saying that the one who is to be sacrificed has arrived. He is the fulfillment of priesthood, temple, and sacrifice. The priestly figure has done his work and now he fades away.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Sunday, December 18, 2016

4th Sunday of Advent, Cycle A

Matthew 1:18-24

18
Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,* but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit.
19
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,* yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.
20
j Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord* appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.
21
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,* because he will save his people from their sins.”
22
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
23
* k “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means “God is with us.”
24
When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.
25
He had no relations with her until she bore a son,* and he named him Jesus.l

Friends, today’s Gospel centers on the intriguing figure of Joseph. Joseph is one of the most beloved of the saints, featured in countless works of art and prominent in the devotional lives of many. We know almost nothing about him, yet some very powerful spiritual themes emerge in the accounts of Joseph. He had become betrothed to Mary and this union had been blessed by God. And then he finds that his betrothed is pregnant.

This must have been an emotional maelstrom for him. And at a deeper level, it is a spiritual crisis. What does God want him to do? Then the angel appears to him in a dream and tells him, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.” He realizes at that moment that these puzzling events are part of a much greater plan of God’s. What appears to be a disaster from his perspective is meaningful from God’s perspective.

Joseph was willing to cooperate with the divine plan, though he in no way knew its contours or deepest purpose. Like Mary at the annunciation, he trusted and let himself be led.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Saturday, December 17, 2016

3rd Week in Advent, Year I

The Genealogy of Jesus.*
1
a The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.*

2
b Abraham became the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.c
3
Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar.d Perez became the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram,
4
e Ram the father of Amminadab. Amminadab became the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon,
5
f Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab. Boaz became the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth. Obed became the father of Jesse,
6
g Jesse the father of David the king.
David became the father of Solomon, whose mother had been the wife of Uriah.
7
* h Solomon became the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asaph.
8
Asaph became the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, Joram the father of Uzziah.
9
Uzziah became the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah.
10
Hezekiah became the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amos,* Amos the father of Josiah.
11
Josiah became the father of Jechoniah and his brothers at the time of the Babylonian exile.
12
i After the Babylonian exile, Jechoniah became the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
13
Zerubbabel the father of Abiud. Abiud became the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor,
14
Azor the father of Zadok. Zadok became the father of Achim, Achim the father of Eliud,
15
Eliud the father of Eleazar. Eleazar became the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob,
16
Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Messiah.
17
Thus the total number of generations from Abraham to David is fourteen generations; from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations; from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah, fourteen generations.*
The Birth of Jesus.*
18
Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,* but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit.
19
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,* yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.
20
j Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord* appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.
21
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,* because he will save his people from their sins.”
22
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
23
* k “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means “God is with us.”
24
When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.
25
He had no relations with her until she bore a son,* and he named him Jesus.l

Matthew 1:1-17

Friends, today’s Gospel records the genealogy of Jesus. It was desperately important for Matthew to show that Jesus didn’t just appear out of the blue. Rather, he came out of a rich, densely-textured history. St. Irenaeus tells us that the Incarnation had been taking place over a long period of time, God gradually accustoming himself to the human race.



Look at this long line of characters: saints, sinners, cheats, prostitutes, murderers, poets, kings, insiders and outsiders—all leading to the Christ. Of course, King David is mentioned. He was, without doubt, a great figure, the king who united the nation. But he was also adulterer and a murderer.

From this long line of great, not-so-great, prominent, obscure, saints, sinners, kings and paupers came “Jesus who is called the Messiah.” God became one of us, in all of our grace and embarrassment, in all of our beauty and ordinariness. God had a series of human ancestors, and like most families, they were kind of a mixed bag. And what good news this is for us! It means that God can bring the Christ to birth even in people like us.

Let Go and Let God!

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

3rd Week in Advent, Year I

Luke 7:24-30

Friends, in today’s Gospel once again the fiery and frightening character of John the Baptist bursts on the scene as the forerunner of Jesus. The opening line is important. Jesus asks the crowds, ”What did you go out to the desert to see?” The desert is the place of simplicity and poverty, a place where illusions die, where reality is faced honestly and without compromise.

The Bible frequently employs the desert as the setting for the discovery of bold and simple truths. Advent is, for us, a desert time. It brings us back to the basics. Now what does John say in the desert? “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” That wonderful word, “repent,” implies a change of mind and vision. John is telling his audience (and us) to wake up and be ready to see something. What does he want us to see? The Kingdom, the new order, God’s way of doing things. There is a cleaning and a scouring, a rearranging and a renovation that is going to happen. And we have to be ready for it.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Memorial of Saint Lucy, Year I

Matthew 21:28-32

Friends, today’s Gospel highlights the repentance of a son who changed his mind and obeyed his father. This is the way of Jesus. He wants a total renovation of our lives. He wants us to get to the roots of our sin and dysfunction, addressing not just the symptoms, but the deep causes.

Perhaps your relational life or sexual life are dysfunctional. Jesus wants to root out the problem and not just change the behavior. Perhaps, your professional life has become tainted by sin: Jesus wants to cut to the roots of it, in your pride or your fear or your ambition. Perhaps there is a pattern of violence in your behavior: Christ wants to get to the envy or the greed that lies behind it. Change your heart and turn to God.

Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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Monday, December 5, 2016

2nd Week in Advent, Year I

Luke 5:17-26

Friends, our Gospel for today tells that wonderful story of the healing of the paralytic. People gather by the dozens to hear Jesus, crowding around the doorway of the house. They bring him a paralyzed man, and because there is no way to get him through the door, they climb up on the roof and open a space to lower him down.



Can I suggest a connection between this wonderful narrative and our present evangelical situation? There are an awful lot of Catholics who are paralyzed, unable to move, frozen in regard to Christ and the Church. This might be from doubt, from fear, from anger, from old resentments, from ignorance, or from self-reproach. Some of these reasons might be good; some might be bad.

Your job, as a believer, is to bring them to him to Christ. How? A word of encouragement; a challenge; an explanation; a word of forgiveness; a note, a phone call. We notice the wonderful urgency of these people as they bring the sick man to Jesus. Do we feel the same urgency within his mystical body today?

Let Go and Let God!

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Sunday, December 4, 2016

2nd Sunday of Advent, Cycle A

Matthew 3:1-12

Friends, today St. Matthew compels us to come to grips with the great Advent figure of John the Baptist. It’s really impossible to grasp the significance of Jesus without passing through the cleansing bath of John the Baptist. He provides a lens through which Jesus is properly interpreted.

John, Matthew tells us, made his appearance as a preacher in the desert of Judea. Deserts are places of simplicity and poverty, places where distractions and attachments are eliminated—and hence where the voice of God can be heard. Wealth, pleasure, power, honor—and all of their avatars and priests—are shouting at us, luring us, tempting us. But what is God saying? We have to go to these silent and deserted places in order to hear.

What is the first thing that the prophet says? “Reform your lives!” This word cuts to the heart of every one of us, precisely because we all know that our lives are not where they are supposed to be. We have all fallen short of the glory of God; we have all fallen into patterns of self-absorption and addiction. So let us hear John’s word today: “Repent!”


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Friday, December 2, 2016



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1st Week in Advent, Year I



Matthew 9:27-31



Friends, today’s Gospel passage celebrates the faith of two blind men.To have faith is—to use the current jargon—to live outside of the box, risking, venturing, believing the impossible. When we remain in the narrow confines of our perceptions, our thoughts, or our hopes, we live in a very cramped way. We become closed off to the possibility that sometimes, the power of faith is manifested in spectacular and immediately obvious ways. When someone consciously and confidently opens himself to God, acting as a kind of conduit, the divine energy can flow.



Faith allows someone to live in detachment from all of the ups and downs of life. In the language of St. Ignatius of Loyola: “Lord, I don’t care whether I have a long life or a short life, whether I am rich or poor, whether I am healthy or sick.” Someone that lives in that kind of detachment is free, and because they are free, they are powerful. They are beyond the threats that arise in the context of this world. This is the source of dynamis, of real power.







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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

1st Week in Advent, Year I

Matthew 4:18-22

Friends, today’s Gospel reports the Lord’s calling his first disciples. What is it about this scene that is so peaceful and right? Somehow it gets at the very heart of Jesus’ life and work, revealing what he is about. He comes into the world as the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, a representative from the community which is God—and thus his basic purpose is to draw the world into community around him.”

“He said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’” There is so much packed into that simple line. Well, we notice the way that God acts. He is direct, in your face; he does the choosing. Jesus is not offering a doctrine, a theology, a set of beliefs. He is offering himself. Become my disciple. Apprentice to me.

“And I will make you fishers of men.” One of the best one-liners in the Scripture. God is the creator, the one who makes us from nothing. And what he makes us is always a reflection of himself: a fisher of men.


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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

1st Week in Advent, Year I

Luke 10:21-24

Friends, today in the Gospel we witness Jesus in intimate conversation with his Father. We are being invited into very deep mysteries by this passage. Jesus addresses his Father and thereby reveals his own deepest identity within the Holy Trinity. He says, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, you have revealed them to the little ones.”



It is most important to keep in mind that this is not simply a good and holy man addressing God, but rather the very Son of God addressing his Father. We are being given a share in the inner life of God, the conversation between the first two Trinitarian persons.

And what are the “things” that have been concealed from the learned and revealed to the little ones? Nothing other than the mystery of Jesus’ relationship to his Father, the love that obtains between Father and Son, the inner life of God. From the beginning, this is what God wanted to give us.


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Sunday, November 27, 2016

1st Sunday of Advent, Cycle A

Matthew 24:37-44

Friends, today’s Gospel compares the terror of the end times with that of the flood that destroyed the earth in Noah’s time. Why does the coming of the Son of Man strike fear in us? If he is the Son of God, then he will break into our sinful world like a cleansing fire and like a wild storm and like a violent revolution.

Well, if he is the life, that life which is opposed to him has to give way; and if he’s truth, then false claimants to truth must cede to him; and if he’s the way, then the false ways have to be abandoned. And all of this will hurt. So we must watch, pray, and renounce our sins.


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Saturday, November 26, 2016

34th Week in Ordinary Time,

Luke 21:34-36

Friends, in today’s Gospel Jesus urges us to watch and pray as we await his coming again. In one sense, Christianity is a religion of fulfillment (the Lord has come), but in another sense, it is a religion of waiting, for we expect the second coming of Jesus in the fullness of his power.

We wait and watch and keep vigil. And this is difficult. But what we all know is that great things take time. When a woman becomes pregnant, she has to wait nine long months before the baby is ready.

“How long does this analysis take?” a woman once asked Carl Jung. “Just as long as it takes,” came the answer. Gestation, growth. During any of these processes, the very worst thing one could do would be to pick at it, to force it, to make it operate according to his private timetable. So Jesus calls us to “be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength…to stand before the Son of Man.”


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Friday, November 25, 2016

34th Week in Ordinary Time, Year II

Luke 21:29-33

Friends, in today’s Gospel passage Jesus speaks of the time when the plan of God will be fulfilled. Some philosophies defend a circular or cyclic understanding of time: that time just continually circles back on itself, repeating itself like the cycles of the seasons. The modern philosopher Nietzsche spoke of the “eternal return of the same.” That’s a mythic consciousness, and it can be found all over the world.

But Jews had a very different sense of time, what we might call “linear.” They felt that time was moving somewhere, that it had, under God’s direction, a purpose. The past was not simply there to be repeated endlessly; rather, the past was a preparation for a definitive future. It was an anticipation of what God would do, what God was going to accomplish.

So, the Lord assures us that the Kingdom of God is near and that we must prepare for its coming.


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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving Day

Luke 17:11-19

Friends, today’s Gospel recounts the Lord’s healing of ten lepers, only one of whom comes back to give thanks. Leprosy frightened people in ancient times—as contagious and mysterious diseases frightened people up until modern times. But more than this, it rendered someone unclean and therefore incapable of engaging in the act of worship. It is not accidental that the person who should do the examining of the patient in ancient Israel should be the priest. The priest’s job was to monitor the whole process of Israelite worship, very much including who could and couldn’t participate in the temple.

What is so important about worship? To worship is to order the whole of one’s life toward the living God, and in doing so, one becomes interiorly and exteriorly rightly ordered. To worship is to signal to oneself what one’s life is finally about. It’s nothing that God needs, but it is very much something that we need.


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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

34th Week in Ordinary Time, Year II

Luke 21:12-19

Friends, today’s Gospel passage describes the persecution Christians face before the end of the world. When does the church stop being persecuted? When the Lord returns, and not before.

From the earliest days until the present, the community of Jesus Christ has been the focus of the world’s violence. There is the old principle: “kill the messenger.” And it applies here. The church will announce, until the end of time, that the old world is passing away, that a new world of love, non-violence, and life is emerging. This announcement always infuriates the world of sin. Always. The twentieth century was the bloodiest on record—and the one with the most martyrs.

What do we do in the meantime? We maintain a detachment from the world that is passing away, our eyes fixed on the world that will never end. And we speak. Confidently, boldly, provocatively. The message of the Gospel, the dying and rising of the Lord.


Let Go and Let God!

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Memorial of Saint Cecilia

Luke 21:5-11

Friends, in today’s Gospel Jesus responds to questions about the end of the world. When will it come? What will happen? Why were the first Christians interested in these questions? The simplest and deepest answer is that they had experienced the end of the world—precisely in the dying and rising of Jesus.

Jesus came preaching the Kingdom of God, and the nations conspired against him. The old world seemed to conquer this new world that Jesus embodied. But then, in the resurrection, they saw that the old world—the world predicated upon death and the world that had done Jesus in—was now defeated.

So awed were they by the resurrection—and you can sense it in every book and letter of the New Testament—that they awaited the imminent arrival of the new state of affairs, the return of Jesus and the establishment of God’s kingdom. Though Jesus did not immediately return, the old world was over, broken, compromised, its destruction now just a matter of time.


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Monday, November 21, 2016

Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Luke 21:1-4

Friends, today’s Gospel tells of the poor widow who gave her last penny to the temple treasury. Her behavior makes us consider our possessiveness. What do we tell ourselves all the time? You’re not happy because you don’t have all the things that you should have or that you want to have.

What follows from this? Life becomes a constant quest to get, to acquire, to attain possessions. Do you remember the parable about foolish rich man? When his barns were filled with all his possessions, he decided to tear them down and build bigger ones. Why is he a fool? And we fools like him? Because (and I want you to repeat this to yourself as I say it) you have everything you need right now, right in front of you to be happy.

What makes you happy is always right in front of you, because what makes you happy is love. Love is willing the good of the other, opening yourself to the world around you. Love is not a feeling. It’s an act of the will. It is the great act of dispossession.

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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (Christ the King)

Luke 23:35-43

Friends, today we celebrate the feast of Christ the King. This day reminds us what the Christian thing is all about: that Jesus really is the king, the Lord, of our lives, that we belong utterly to him, that we can say, with St. Paul, “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.”

If we say anything else, we are horsing around with Christianity and not really living it. If we pay lip service to Jesus but do not submit completely to him, we are fooling around and not treating him as the King of our lives. If we let him into one or two rooms of the house and not every room, he isn’t our king; if we sequester him to a corner of our society and not declare him sovereign over every aspect of our society, we are not treating him as king. He is our Dominus, our Lord—or we are missing the point.











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Saturday, November 19, 2016

33rd Week in Ordinary Time, Year II

Luke 20:27-40

Friends, today’s Gospel reports a conversation Jesus had with some of the Sadducees who held there is no life after death. We could practically hear their speech on the lips of secularists today. But Jesus is having none of it. The dead shall indeed rise, he says. Otherwise, how could Moses have spoken of God as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, all of whom were long dead by Moses’ time? But their risen existence, though in continuity, even bodily continuity, with what has gone before, will be transformed, transfigured, raised up.

Those who hold to the resurrection of the body are those who are most effective at working for justice and peace in this world. If you are a complete materialist and secularist, you hold that everything and everybody, in the end, just fades away. But if you believe in the resurrection of the body, then everything in this world is destined for redemption. Everything matters.


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Friday, November 18, 2016

33rd Week in Ordinary Time, Year II

Luke 19:45-48

Friends, in today’s Gospel we see Jesus cleansing the temple. What did it mean for a provincial prophet to come into the holy city of Jerusalem and make a ruckus in the temple? Well, you can probably imagine. To make matters worse, as we heard yesterday, Jesus says something that is as shocking as his actions. He says, “I will destroy this temple and in three days rebuild it.” No wonder that it was precisely this act that led to his crucifixion.

So what was he doing and why? First, in showing his lordship over even this most sacred symbol, he was announcing who he was. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus acts in the person of God. Secondly, he was instituting a new temple, the temple of his crucified and risen body. Jesus himself is the place where God dwells, and we in the measure that we are grafted on to him are temples of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is passing judgment on all of the inadequate, corrupt forms of human religion and is establishing the new and eternal covenant, the new temple, in his own person.

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Memorial of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary

Luke 19:41-44

Friends, in today's Gospel passage, Jesus laments over Jerusalem because it failed to acknowledge him. He said, "Not one stone will be left on another [in the temple], but it will all be torn down." This is a thunderclap, a shock, a highly subversive thing to say. It would be something like a president-elect coming upon the White House in the midst of a crowd of his supporters and saying, "All of this will be destroyed."

But this is precisely what Jesus does here. I know I've said it to you before, but I will say it again, because it belongs to the heart of the Gospel and it is repeated by Jesus over and again: Nothing in this world lasts. Nothing in this world should, therefore, be the object of our deepest longings or our most powerful commitments.

The temple represented all of the glitter and glamor of this world, the best it can offer, and the people standing there entranced by it, stand for all of us down through the ages who stand staring up at the goods of this world. So we must free ourselves from worldly attachments and live for God alone.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

33rd Week in Ordinary Time, Year II

Luke 19:11-28

Friends, in today's Gospel Jesus uses images drawn from the world of business to instruct us in Christian living. And he especially liked the dynamic of investment, risk, and return as a model of the spiritual life. The reason is clear. God exists in gift form. Therefore, if you want his life in you, you have to learn to give it away.

Think of the coins we read about today as everything that we've received from God—life, breath, being, powers, and so on. Because they come from God, they are meant to become gifts. If you cling to them, in the manner of the third servant, they don't grow; in fact, they wither away.

Notice that the first two servants doubled their wealth precisely in the measure that they risked it. This means that the one who truly has the divine life knows how to make it a gift, and that in turn will make the original gift increase. And the opposite holds: "From the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away." This means that if you try to cling to the divine life, you will, in short order, lose it.


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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

33rd Week in Ordinary Time, Year II

Luke 19:1-10

Friends, today’s Gospel declares in the story of Zacchaeus how quickly God responds to any sign of faith. Zacchaeus’ climbing the sycamore tree shows he had more than a passing interest in seeing Jesus. He had a deep hunger of the spirit. His principal virtue was his willingness to go to great extremes. But this is what we do when we know that something of great moment in at stake. When our health is endangered, we move, we act; when our job is threatened, we go to almost any extreme to keep it.

When Jesus spotted him he said, “Zacchaeus, hurry down. I mean to stay at your house today.” Christians, God responds to us readily when we show the least interest in him. He doesn’t play hard to get; he is not coy with us. When we seek him, he responds, because loving us is his entire game.

Notice how Jesus tells Zacchaeus to hurry. Don’t wait, don’t hesitate. Seize the moment of conversion when it comes.





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Monday, November 14, 2016

33rd Week in Ordinary Time, Year II

Luke 18:35-43

Friends, today in the Gospel passage we see Jesus’ mercy toward the blind man as a hallmark of his ministry. Jesus comes as healer, savior, inaugurator of the Kingdom. He is the embodiment of hope. Jesus wanted to connect human suffering to the very source of life and health. The energy of God pours through him to the needy.

Now I realize a question may be forming in your mind: “Well why doesn’t he simply cure everyone then?” The answer is obviously wrapped up in the mystery of God’s will, but the important point is this: Jesus is healer in many senses, but ultimately in the sense that he heals us from sin and death, not only physical maladies. What appears historically in Jesus is an eschatological anticipation, a hint and foreshadowing of what is coming in God’s time and in God’s way.


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33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C



Luke 21:5-19



Friends, today in the Gospel Jesus describes the world’s violent resistance to the establishment of God’s kingdom. From the earliest days until the present, the community of Jesus Christ has been the focus of the world’s violence. There is the old principle: “Kill the messenger,” and it applies here. The Church will announce, until the end of time, that the old world is passing away, that a new world of love, non-violence, and life is emerging. This announcement always infuriates the world of sin—always. The twentieth century proved this by being the bloodiest on record, and the century with the most martyrs.



Jesus promises to give us “a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.” What do we do in the meantime? We maintain a detachment from this world which is passing away, our eyes fixed on the world that will never end. And we speak—confidently, boldly, provocatively—the message of the Gospel, the dying and rising of the Lord.”





Let Go and Let God!

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I just read the reading this morning. What a great added reflection.

Diane - US Eastern Time

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It comes down to one simple thing ...
HOW BAD DO YOU WANT IT ?

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I receive these reflections from Bishop Barron daily and thought I would share them with the team. Let me know if you like them.

Memorial of Saint Josaphat

Luke 18:1-8

Friends, today’s Gospel exhorts us to pray with persistence. This command is everywhere in the Bible. We see it in Abraham’s steady petition on behalf of the people of Sodom. We see it in today’s account of the persistent widow. We hear it in Jesus’ extraordinary teaching: “Knock and the door shall be opened to you; seek and you will find; ask and it will be given to you.”

One reason that we don’t receive what we want through prayer is that we give up too easily. What could be behind this rule of prayer? Augustine said that God sometimes delays in giving us what we want because he wants our hearts to expand. The more ardently we desire something, the more ready we are when it comes, the more we treasure it. The very act of asking persistently is accomplishing something spiritually important. So when the Lord seems slow to answer your prayer, never give up.


Let Go and Let God!

Bob Hook

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