Homilies for January 2015

Homilies for Sunday Liturgies and Holy Days, January 2015

The Birth of Christ, by Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834-1890).

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God—January 1, 2015

Entrusting Our Lives and This New Year to Mary

Purpose: On this eighth day of the birth of the Savior, let us renew our baptismal covenant with Jesus Christ, in his Church, through the intercession of Mary.

Readings: Numbers 6:22-27; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:16-21

Today, as we usher in with blessed hope and joyful expectation the new year, the Church turns our gaze towards Mary. St. Paul tells us that in “the fullness of time, God sent us His Son born of a Woman.” Indeed, Mary is the New Eve, the Woman who, by her total “Yes” of obedience of faith to God, has crushed the head of the ancient Serpent and untied for us the knots of sin brought about by the disobedience of the first Eve. “Flooded” with the Holy Spirit, Mary has become the Mother of God, Jesus Emmanuel, God-with-us.

Through Mary and the Holy Spirit, the Son of God has freed us from the law of sin and made us adopted children of God our Father. As the early Church Fathers boldly proclaimed: “God has become Man so that we can become ‘gods,’ bearers of the Holy Spirit and partakers of the divine nature.” So we can now pray and cry out with Mary, by the grace of the Spirit, “Abba, Father.” In the fruitful virginity of Mary, our eyes are now opened, and we see God as our loving Father who is more intimate to us than ourselves. What a delight to have, thus, Mary as our Mother!

In today’s Gospel, the joy and the amazement of the witness of the shepherds, coming in haste to the manger scene, is contagious. Mary reflects on all these things in her heart. She is the Orans, the Mother who intercedes for us and teaches us how to prayerfully and lovingly meditate on the mysteries of her Son.

On this eighth day of the birth of our Savior, the Son of Mary received, as every male Jew, the circumcision, the sign of God’s covenant to his People. He is given the name, “Ye-shuah,” which means “God saves.” What an amazing grace we have all freely received, as members of the Church, as baptized Catholics, to become sharers of the definitive Covenant that Jesus our Lord, the Author of life, sealed for us by his sacrifice on the Cross! We are indeed God’s people, saved in hope and called to become saints. Mary has become the Mother of the redeemed children of God, the Mother of the Church, our Mother. Through her faith, the grace of eternal salvation has been given to us, and Mary still pleads with her Son, “they have no more wine”! She powerfully intercedes for us and for all those who are still standing on the threshold, awaiting the joy of the Gospel to be witnessed and proclaimed to them.

On this first day of the year, we do not want to fall into naïve optimism. The world is not going to become a better and a safer place to live in. The Church will probably experience greater difficulties and challenges. But through the loving intercession of Mary our Blessed Mother, we will be men and women of radiant hope and holy courage. St. Paul exhorts us to “rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom 5:2-5).

During this year dedicated to those who live the vows of consecrated life, may the loving intercession of the Virgin Mary, awaken in many young men and women the ardent desire to surrender their whole life to Jesus Christ by embracing the call to fruitful virginity! May all of us, too, respond more fully to of our baptismal vocation to be saints and joyful witnesses of the good news of salvation, especially to those members of our own families and close friends who have left the Faith.

Finally, as we approach the Altar of God to receive the Body of our risen Lord Jesus Christ and are intimately united with him, may we humbly ask him to rekindle in us the fire of his divine Love. May he set us ablaze with his Spirit, so that with Mary, our Blessed Mother, we can become a blessing to those whom we encounter and those for whom we pray.

What a great opportunity for us on this first day of the new year, as we gather together as a Eucharistic people, to invoke on one another, our families, the Church, and the whole world, the marvelous blessing of Aaron: “The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!” Amen.

Suggestions for Further Reading: Luigi Gambero, Mary and the Fathers of the Church, Ignatius Press, 1999, especially pp. 51-58


The Epiphany of Our Lord—Sunday, January 4, 2015

Jesus’ Epiphany Is Our Own Experience of the Transforming Grace of the Eucharist.

Purpose: In the mystery of the Eucharist, Jesus’ saving epiphany is made present hic et nunc (in the here and now). Caught up in the radiant gaze of the divine Infant, we experience the same worshipful awe as the Magi and become transformed from glory to glory by the Holy Spirit.

Readings: Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:2-3A, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12

Today, the Solemnity of the Epiphany (traditionally on January 6), is considered the “twelfth day” of Christmas and celebrates in our Roman Catholic Church the coming of the Magi from the East, and their offerings of gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the Infant Jesus. But for our brothers and sisters in the Christian East, Epiphany, or as they call it, “Theophany,” commemorates, first, the Baptism of our Lord, and second, the marriage feast of Cana.

The readings of God’s word and the prayers of the Mass of Epiphany dazzle us with light, radiance, and glory. We are called and invited with the Magi to enter into, and experience, the “mystery” of Christ, the Truth hidden from all ages and now revealed to the Church. The glorious manifestation of the infinite love of God for all peoples and nations is now unveiled before the Magi, and our very own eyes of faith, in this newborn infant, “Yeshuah.”

Isaiah prophesied this saving event by calling Jerusalem to “rise up in splendor” because “your light has come” and “upon you, the Lord shines and over you appears his glory.” “Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance.” “Raise your eyes, and look about. …” These terms that Isaiah uses are already pregnant with the dazzling light of the Transfiguration and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, many centuries after Isaiah’s oracles. The Magi from the East, guided by the star, catch a glimpse of the glory of God hidden in this newborn baby who is carried by his mother Mary. They have a deep intuition that he is the One who will gather all the nations, Gentiles and Jews. They fall prostrate before him and worship him (to “do homage” is a very poor translation of the Greek prosekynèsan auto, meaning “to fall prostrate before someone, in a posture of deep reverence and adoration”).

What is this star, but a symbol of the Holy Spirit who touches and guides all men and women of good will? “The Magi are overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother.” The hearts of the Magi are enlightened by the Holy Spirit who reveals to them that this divine Infant truly is the Fulfillment of all desire, the ultimate goal of all human quests. They offer him gifts of gold, acknowledging his royalty, and frankincense, for his divinity, and myrrh, as a prophecy of his passion and death. Herod had inquired about him and asked the Magi to reveal to him where the newborn King was, so that he can also do him homage. Evil, symbolized by Herod, is always lurking, the Father of lies, the Master of deceit, the ancient Serpent, ready to bite and kill, even the Author of life. However, the Magi “having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, departed for their country by another way.” Notice that after seeing and worshiping the newborn son of Mary, the Magi were never the same after they experienced a transforming encounter with Jesus. Their life was turned around, transfigured by this “awesome” light radiating from this Child of Bethlehem.

Have you personally had a living and a life giving encounter with Jesus Christ? It is truly in the Eucharist, that we can have the experience of conversion, light, and glory, offered to us in this Liturgy of Epiphany. The Holy Spirit, the Star, the kindly Light, the holy Mystagogue, leads us into the mystery of the divine encounter, and the light of the glory of Jesus Christ offers himself to us as the Bread of Life and the “Medicine of immortality.” This divine union with our Lord in the Eucharistic Liturgy, and especially in Holy Communion, is an anticipation of our own resurrection and a genuine experience of transfiguration, flooding us with the grace of the Holy Spirit. In the Christian East, just before the priest gives the Body and Blood of Christ to the faithful, he pours into the chalice some boiling water (the zeôn) and says, “the fire of the Holy Spirit, the fervor of the saints.”

May the Church, People of God, Body of Christ, and Temple of the Holy Spirit, become the complete fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah, the New Jerusalem, where all peoples and nations will, one day, be gathered together by the Holy Spirit into one Faith, one Lord, and one Baptism. May the radiance of God’s glory shine in and through all of us, disciples of Christ, as we receive the Body of our risen Lord Jesus, becoming one spirit and one body with him. May this Solemnity of Epiphany be a powerful and life changing experience of transforming grace and burning love of God for all humanity and for each one of us. Amen.

Suggestions for Further Reading: Jean Corbon, The Wellspring of Worship, Ignatius Press, 2005; Olivier Clement, The Roots of Christian Mysticism, New City Press, 2002


The Baptism of the Lord—Sunday, January 11, 2015

He Will Baptize You with the Holy Spirit

Purpose: Jesus was baptized by John to anoint us with the same power of the Holy Spirit that he himself received from the Father. According to some of the early Church Fathers and writers, our own Christian initiation (baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist) is the “baptism with the Holy Spirit” that our risen Lord confers on us.

Readings: Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7 or 55:1-11; Acts 10:34-38 or 1 John 5:1-9; Mark 1:7-11

Today, with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we come to the end of the Christmas-Epiphany liturgical cycle. Deeply touched by the Word of God proclaimed and preached to us, overjoyed by the Mystery of the Nativity, and spurred on by the angels and the shepherds, we have adored the Divine Infant in the crèche. We have also venerated Mary his Mother, entrusting her with our lives for this new year and have beheld in faith Jesus’ manifestation of his glory, shining on all nations in the worship of the Magi. It is now with Mark the evangelist that we are invited to contemplate the saving event of Jesus of Nazareth being baptized by John in the river Jordan.

It is very striking that in all the Gospels (but in the Book of Acts, it is the risen Jesus himself), John the Baptist announces that “the one mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water, he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” The moment Jesus is immersed in the waters and emerges from them, a vision is seen of “the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, ‘You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.’” This theophany, this Trinitarian vision is repeated towards the end of Jesus’ ministry in the event of the Transfiguration, when Jesus is seen by Peter, James, and John, talking with Moses and Elijah, in the cloud of glory which is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, about his death and resurrection. There again, we hear the voice of the Father saying: “Behold my Son, my Beloved, in whom I am pleased. Listen to Him.”

Jesus then, as soon as he is baptized by John, is anointed with the Holy Spirit and power. The Father confirms the mission of the Son by manifesting the Spirit on him and investing him with power. From now on, Jesus of Nazareth will carry out his mission in the power of the Holy Spirit, fighting the Devil, preaching the Kingdom of God, doing signs and wonders, healing the sick and the brokenhearted, setting the captives free, forgiving sins, multiplying bread, and raising the dead. This is very important because it is Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, who, after his resurrection, will be the source, the baptizer with the Holy Spirit for all those who will come to believe in him.

There lies the essential difference between John’s baptism and the baptism that the risen Jesus confers on us Catholics: we have been baptized in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and have received the forgiveness of our sins, and been filled with the Holy Spirit. The Church therefore graces her children with baptism by water and the Holy Spirit. Through the visible sign of the waters of baptism, we are born again to a new life by the infinite and invisible grace of the Holy Spirit.

“Our baptism is the Holy Spirit,” some of the early Church writers and Fathers spoke about the sacrament of baptism. They affirmed that Christian initiation, the conferral together of the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist, is the real “baptism in the Holy Spirit.” As Jesus of Nazareth carried out his mission in the power of the Holy Spirit, and became, after his resurrection, the source of the Spirit, we, too, who have been baptized in Christ and have put on Christ, have received the anointing and power of the Holy Spirit to carry out the same mission as Jesus himself, witnessing to the Kingdom of God, healing the sick, and setting the captives free.

Pope Francis keeps encouraging us and calling us to become missionary disciples of the joy of the Gospel. The Gospel is Jesus Christ himself, crucified and risen, who fills us with the fire of the Holy Spirit to be “other christs” in our families, work environments, among our friends, and in our parishes, to build up his Body the Church and to cooperate with him in extending his Reign urbi et orbi.

One of the most beloved Orthodox saints, St. Seraphim of Sarov (18th-19th centuries) said that “the goal of our Christian life is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit.” So let us today call on our risen Lord Jesus to fan into flames the Gift we have received in baptism and confirmation, and let us pray: “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in us the fire of your Love.” Amen.

Suggestions for Further Reading: Raniero Cantalamessa, Sober Intoxication of the Spirit, 1 & 2, Servant Books, 2005, 2012; Kilian McDonnell, OSB, and George T. Montague, SM, Christian Initiation and Baptism in The Holy Spirit: Evidence from the First Eight Centuries, Michael Glazier, 1991; Same authors, Fanning The Flame, Michael Glazier, 1991; Ralph Martin, Why Everyone Needs to Be Baptized in the Holy Spirit, DVD, Renewal Ministries


Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (year B)—January 18, 2015

“Speak, Lord, Your Servant Is Listening”—“Come and See”

Purpose: In John’s Gospel, Jesus invites Andrew and the other disciple of John the Baptist to “come and see” and to abide with him. We too will surely be transformed if we respond generously to the call of Jesus and activate our baptismal vocation.

Readings: 1 Samuel 3:3B-10, 19; 1 Corinthians 6:13C-15A, 17-20; John 1:35-42

Today, as we begin the “ordinary time” of the liturgical year, God’s Word never ceases to amaze us and challenge us as we hear the calling of the young boy Samuel, and the “Come and see” of our Lord Jesus to the two disciples of John the Baptist—one of them being Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter.

Samuel is Hannah’s only son, the son whom she bore after she pleaded with God to give her a son in her barrenness, a son whom she would consecrate to God. The Lord indeed answers her prayer, and she calls him “Shmu-el” which means “God has heard.” Hannah gives her son as an “oblate” to the Lord, entrusting her little boy Samuel to the old priest Eli in the temple of Shiloh “where the ark of God was.”

We are very familiar with this wonderful story of the calling of Samuel, and we often tend to apply it to children preparing for confirmation. But have we ever allowed this story to question us as to our relationship with God? Have we ever heard personally the Lord speaking to us? It could happen while we are before our Lord in Eucharistic adoration, or praying the Rosary, or reading the Scriptures, or marvelling at amazing scenery, or listening at Mass to the Word of God, proclaimed and preached to us. Have we ever genuinely said to God: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening”?

Do we pay attention to the urgent invitation of the recent popes to have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ in his Word, especially during the celebration of Holy Mass? Granted, it is far from easy nowadays to listen to God speaking to us in the noisy culture we live in, where television and especially the smartphone are always overused, where distractions and frantic busyness are rampant! In my own life as a priest, I must intentionally commit daily to create those “sacred spaces and moments” in which I give permission to the Lord to speak to me, quieting my inner agitation (the “Martha syndrome”), and responding with a loving surrender of my whole being to the Holy Spirit. If one essential goal of our Christian life is to do God’s will, then it is an absolute necessity for each one of us to allow the Lord Jesus to speak to the depths of our hearts and fill us with his peace. “Speak Lord for your servant is listening.” We need to rediscover the lost but vital art of listening to God!

The Gospel reinforces the importance of the call of God, as John, the beloved disciple, relates in his own way, how Andrew and the other one (most probably John himself) met the Lord for the first time. John remembers vividly the moment of the encounter: “it was about four in the afternoon.” He and Andrew had previously been followers of John the Baptist, who himself pointed to Jesus, saying, “Behold the Lamb of God.” First, they call Jesus “Rabbi” or Teacher, and Jesus invites them to “come and see” and to stay with him. And they remained with him that day.

Again, this begs the question: when we come to Mass as individuals or families, do we come to church, expecting to see the Lord and yearning to abide with him, as we listen attentively to his Word and are united so intimately with him in Holy Communion? Notice that Andrew, right after his stay with Jesus, rushes to tell Simon Peter, his brother, “we have found the Messiah!” Jesus is no longer a mere “Teacher,” but in him, Andrew and John have found the Messiah, the long awaited Savior of Israel!

This is a tangible moment of grace (kairos) for Andrew and John: they had experienced a powerful revelation, an unveiling of their eyes, a conversion of their heart, after responding to Jesus’ invitation to “come and see,” and taking time to abide with him. Andrew cannot contain his joyful eagerness to go and tell his brother about their encounter with the Messiah Yeshuah! Andrew brings his brother Simon to Jesus, who “looks at him” and calls him, “You are Simon, son of John; you will be called Cephas, which is translated Peter.”

When we are at Mass or when we are praying and/or reading God’s Word, do we allow Jesus to gaze at us, calling us by name and sending us on a mission? Everyone of us has a unique mission, for, by baptism, we have been called to be “missionary disciples.”

Do you allow the Holy Spirit to stir up in you this calling to be a joyful and bold witness of the risen Lord Jesus in your own environment, in your family, at your workplace, among your friends, in your parish?

Suggestions for Further Reading: Pope Francis, Apostolic Exhortation, “The Joy of The Gospel” (Evangelii Gaudium)


Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (year B)—January 25, 2015

“Repent and Believe in the Gospel”

Purpose: In Mark’s Gospel, the calling of the disciples is urgent and demands an immediate response. We too are called, as baptized Catholics, to respond generously and courageously to our baptismal vocation and become intentional disciples of Jesus Christ. God’s infinite mercy is offered to everyone. The time of fulfillment is close at hand.

Readings: Jonah 3:1-5, 10; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20

Today, the clear message of the Word of God is the urgency of repentance and God’s infinite mercy and compassion. As Paul says, “the time is running out”! We do not know when Jesus our Lord will be coming in glory to judge the living and the dead, but it may be sooner than we think, and we need to be always waiting for it, expecting it, longing for it in joyful trust.

What a powerful message for us is the Book of Jonah: we see the reluctant prophet finally heeding God’s bidding to go to Nineveh, the “enormously large city,” and to preach repentance in the name of the Lord God of Israel, giving to the Ninevites only 40 days before their great city is destroyed! And to Jonah’s utter dismay and shock, everyone believes in God, the great and the small, repenting in fasting and sackcloth. The Lord God of Israel once again manifests his glory in his hesed we emet, his utter mercy and steadfast love, loving kindness, truthfulness. God indeed strongly desires that his mercy and covenant love be extended not only to his People Israel, but also to all the Gentiles, to all peoples. We can already sense in the Book of Jonah the universality of God’s mercy and love, as fully revealed in Jesus Christ.

Mark’s Gospel, in its very beginning, capitalizes on the urgency with which Jesus proclaimed the good news of God after the arrest of John the Baptist: this is the time (kairos, in Greek) of fulfillment (plèrôma, in Greek). It is the time of grace, the time of salvation, the fullness of time. It is urgent that the response be immediate, complete. “Repent” (from the word metanoia, a deep change of mindset and heart) and “believe in the Gospel.”

This is followed by Jesus calling Simon and his brother Andrew to follow him, and they immediately left their nets as fishermen and heard Jesus’ promise to become “fishers of men.” Likewise, Jesus called James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who left their father and their boats and followed Jesus. Mark the evangelist, unlike John, intentionally dramatizes the urgency of the first disciples’ response to the call of Jesus.

What about us, brothers and sisters? Do we sense any urgency in living out fully our baptismal calling to witness to our Faith and preach the Gospel? Do we hear, with the ears of our mind and heart, God’s plea to repent and believe in the good news? Or do we keep this call only for Ash Wednesday? Do we realize how deeply God wants to embrace us and all peoples in his mercy? Are we aware of the dangers of lukewarmness, routine, and bored practice of our Faith, especially when we come to Mass? We know, from Scripture and the teaching of the Church, that God desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. But tempus fugit (“time is running out,” as the famous Latin aphorism says). Our Lord admonishes us in his mercy and truthful love to “enter through the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and easy is the road that leads to destruction, and many are taking it; and narrow is the gate and hard is the road that leads to Life, and few are finding it” (Mt 7:13-14).

As a tool to help all of us respond to our Lord’s call to repent and believe in the Gospel, I would highly recommend Shelley Weddell’s book, “Forming Intentional Disciples.” If you have not yet read it, individually or in a group, it is a must-read! It highlights, in a very realistic way, the state of our beloved Church today and urges, in a positive way, solutions for all of us to come alive and become “missionary disciples” of the “Joy of the Gospel.”

Brothers and sisters, people around us, our families, our colleagues at work, our friends, our fellow parishioners, have a right to see radiant Catholics, on fire with God’s charity, filled with the Holy Spirit, and witnessing to the transforming power of God’s love! So many around us still do not know that there is a God who is a Father, who loves them madly, who desires to enter into covenant love with them and with every human being in Jesus Christ and his Church! People are still waiting to see in you and in me someone who is radiant with God’s love, aglow with the Spirit! The stakes are high, so will we, today, heed the call of our baptism, the call of Jesus Christ and his holy Church?

Suggestions for Further Reading: Shelley A. Weddell, Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus, Our Sunday Visitor, 2012; Ralph Martin, The Urgency of the New Evangelization: Answering the Call, Our Sunday Visitor, 2013

Fr. Gabriel de Chadarevian, OP About Fr. Gabriel de Chadarevian, OP

Father Gabriel de Chadarevian, OP is a Dominican Friar from Canada. Stationed since 2006 in Vancouver and living in community, he is the assistant parish priest at St. Mary's, was involved in university chaplaincy and taught patristics in Ottawa at the Dominican University College of Philosophy and Theology.