SUNDAY, MAY 28, 2023


Human life begins at conception. That life then develops and grows in the womb of its mother. After a period of nine months, a child is born. Parents rejoice in the baby that enters into their family, a new member who has the potential to transform society.


That process of conception and birth can help us understand the scripture readings that we hear on the Solemnity of Pentecost, the final day of the Easter Season.


In our Gospel passage (John 20:19-23), the Risen Lord appeared to his disciples on the first Easter Sunday. As we are told, “On the evening of that first day of the week…Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’”


After he assured his astonished disciples of his identity, the Risen Lord “breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’”


The Spirit that came down upon Jesus at his baptism and guided his ministry was then shared with those disciples. We might say they experienced within them the “conception” of the Holy Spirit.


According to our First Reading (Acts 2:1-11), the presence of the Holy Spirit was not seen until 50 days later. We might say the Holy Spirit was in the “womb” of the disciples waiting to be born.


That happened on Pentecost when the presence of the Holy Spirit was made known in the sound of a driving wind, in tongues of fire, and in the disciples who came forth from the place where they were gathered and boldly went onto the streets of Jerusalem. There they “began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.”


As Peter announced, “Therefore let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36).


Those disciples allowed themselves to be moved by the Spirit and in doing so the Church, which is the Body of Christ, was born into the world.


The same process of conception and birth happens in us. At our baptism and confirmation, the Holy Spirit came into our lives. As Saint Paul tells us, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God” (1 Corinthians 6:19).


That Spirit remains with us, and its influence grows within us as we devote ourselves to prayer and the study of the scriptures, as we receive the Sacraments, and as we participate in the life of the Church. By these actions, we allow the power of the Holy Spirit to develop within us and be seen in our lives.


Unfortunately, many Christians fail to nourish their spiritual lives. They allow the sin and darkness in society to deaden the gift of the Holy Spirit that was given to them at their baptism and confirmation.


This Pentecost Sunday, we are challenged to let the Holy Spirit become visible by our Christian way of life. We are to allow the Holy Spirit to be born into our world just as it was on that first Pentecost.


© 2023 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski

Sunday, May 21, 2023

The Ascension of the Lord

The scripture readings found in the Lectionary for Sunday Mass were chosen in relationship to the feast being celebrated or the liturgical season.


For example, on Easter Sunday, the scripture readings for the feast are about the discovery of the empty tomb, Peter’s proclamation of the death and resurrection of Jesus, and our being raised to new life because of our faith in the Risen Lord.


During Lent, the readings for that liturgical season are about sin, repentance, conversion, penance, and the mercy of God.


Two of the scripture readings for the feast of the Ascension of the Lord that we celebrate this Sunday certainly fit that pattern.


In the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles (1:1-11), we read that after Jesus told his disciples that they were to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth, “he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.”


In the Second Reading (Ephesians 1:17-23), we learn of the mighty power of God that was exercised “in Christ, raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens.”


However, the Gospel reading (Matthew 28:16-20) does not reference the Ascension. In that passage, Jesus instructs his apostles to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”


Jesus then says something that seems to contradict the two other scripture readings that were about his being lifted into the heavens and seated at the right hand of God. Jesus says, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”


The Lord certainly was with his disciples after his Resurrection. He appeared to them, showed them his wounded body, spoke with them, ate with them, prepared a meal for them on the beach, continued to teach them, strengthened their faith, and assured them of the coming help of the Holy Spirit.


So how could Jesus continue to be with them until the end of the age if he was going to be taken into the heavens?


Obviously, the Ascension is not just about Jesus returning to his Father in heaven, it must also be about his remaining with his disciples in some way.


The Risen Lord does remain with us. He is with us in his Church where we hear his voice as the Scriptures are proclaimed, where we grow in holiness and grace as we receive the Sacraments, and where we experience his care and compassion through faithful Christians who touch our lives.


The Lord remaining with us is felt most powerfully in the Eucharist where we are united with him in a “holy communion,” where we experience his “real presence” in consecrated bread and wine and in the tabernacles of our churches.


The Ascension proclaims that the Lord is no longer with us as he was 2,000 years ago, but he is with us in a new way not constricted by the limits of space and time.


The readings about Jesus being lifted to the heavens fit the common understanding of the feast. However, the most important reading is the Gospel that announces the Risen Lord remains with us in wonderous ways. “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”


© 2023 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski


Sunday, May 14, 2023

The Sixth Sunday of Easter

Anyone who speaks to the public—government officials, candidates for public office, priests, ministers, rabbis, teachers, social activists, salespeople, motivational experts—faces the challenge of catching and holding the attention of an audience.


Initially, people are attentive to a speaker. If the speaker does not meet their expectations or arouse interest within a few minutes, the attention of the audience begins to fade: people start glancing at their phones, whispering to their friends, and thinking about what they will do later in the day.


In this Sunday’s First Reading (Acts 8:5-8, 14-17), we hear of a speaker who truly held the attention of his listeners.


We are told that Philip, one of the first deacons of the Church, “went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Christ to them.” He must have been a wonderful speaker for “with one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip.”


Philip held the attention of the people of Samaria because what he said about Jesus caught their interest, revealed the Lord’s love, and offered them the hope of having a place in God’s kingdom.


The people of Samaria paid attention to Philip and “there was great joy in that city.”


Today, people are not like those Samaritans. They are not so ready to pay attention to those who are speaking about Jesus and proclaiming the message of the Gospel. Even many members of the Church seem less attentive to their relationship with Christ. That is certainly apparent in declining Mass attendance.


Considering this situation, we might ask how we can be more like Philip and be effective “speakers” who catch the attention of people as we share the message of Jesus.


We might begin by listening to the concerns of people before we start speaking. When we know their questions, we can then share the relevant answers that Jesus offers.


Those answers need to be in words that people can understand, not in “churchy terms” that are often not understood. Our answers also need to flow from our personal faith in Jesus; otherwise we will just repeat words we have heard from others.


Philip’s message flowed from both his faith and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. That same Spirit is available to inspire us if we call upon him. As Jesus tells us in Sunday’s Gospel (John 14:15-21), “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth….he remains with you, and will be in you.”


Philip also held the attention of the Samaritans because they “saw the signs he was doing. For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice, came out of many possessed people, and many paralyzed or crippled people were cured.”


We might not be able to drive out unclean spirits or perform miraculous healings, but we can fight against the unclean spirits of sin and immorality that infect society. We can perform works of mercy, kindness, compassion, and self-sacrifice. We can live our faith so that we attract the attention of others and lead them to ask us about our beliefs. As Peter tells us in our Second Reading (1 Peter 3:15-18), “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.”


Today, the Church needs more people like Philip; good speakers who catch and hold the attention of people as they share the message of the Gospel.


© 2023 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski



SUNDAY, May 7, 2023

The Fifth Sunday of Easter

Wood, cement, metal, insulation, brick, plastics, and glass are among the materials used by contractors to build a house. They measure, shape, cut, form, and manipulate those building materials to make an architectural plan a reality.


Working with construction materials may present a challenge at times. Ultimately those inanimate items yield to the will of the builder or they are discarded and replaced with more pliable material.


In this Sunday’s Second Reading (1 Peter 2:4-9), Saint Peter speaks about a “spiritual house” made of living stones.


The materials used in the construction of a physical building are under the control of the contractor. However, the living stones used to construct this “spiritual house” need to cooperate with the builder and allow themselves to be used as the builder wishes.


At baptism, we are chosen by God to be living stones and joined to Christ, who was “the living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God.”


We need to let ourselves be molded, shaped, and placed where the Lord wishes. As Peter tells us and our fellow Christians, “let yourselves be built into a spiritual house.”


Unlike wood or brick, living stones can rebel and frustrate the plans of the divine builder.


In Sunday’s Gospel (John 14:1-12), Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” He tells us that in him we learn how to be “living stones” who are faithful to God, who can discern the truth from the lies of this world, and who realize the meaning and purpose of life.


Today, many people, perhaps even ourselves, can be critical of the Church. We notice its sins, failings, and imperfections.


We need to remember that the flaws in our spiritual house are not the fault of the builder but of the materials he has to work with.


As Peter tells us, “like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”


© 2023 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski



SUNDAY, APRIL 30, 2023


Imagine your employer sends you to represent the company at a national conference. You have to go alone since the company can pay for admission, transportation, and lodging for only one employee.


You check into the hotel and then go to the banquet hall for the opening social event. The immense room is packed with a thousand people representing major businesses from across the country. You feel disconnected and wish that someone had come with you.


As you stand by yourself and watch other people engage in conversation, what one word, if you heard it, would lower your anxiety and change your impression of the event?


For most of us, that word would be the sound of our first name. Hearing someone call us by name lets us know we are not just an anonymous member of a crowd—we are known and recognized, and connected to the person who has spoken our name.


In this Sunday’s Gospel (John 10:1-10), Jesus speaks about a shepherd who sees more than a group of sheep. This shepherd sees and recognizes each animal that is part of the flock under his care.


In fact, this shepherd has given each member of his flock its own name. Jesus tells us that “the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”


Jesus tells us he is like that shepherd. “I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me” (John 10:14).


We can understand how Jesus knew the sheep who were among his flock when he walked this earth. He had called the 12 apostles to follow him. He had chosen the 72 disciples whom he sent out to heal the sick and proclaim the coming of the kingdom. He had looked into the eyes of those who heard his words and sought his help.


However, the flock of Jesus has increased tremendously beyond the few thousand people who encountered him during his ministry. Today, there are more than 2.3 billion Christians in the world.


We believe that the Lord loves us all, but does he know us all? Does he know our names? Or are we just nameless members of a vast flock?


Today’s Gospel assures us that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, knows us and he knows us by name. That is possible because in the Resurrection, the Lord Jesus broke the constraints of space and time. He is now present whenever the Church gathers in his name and present to each one of us when we turn to him in prayer.


We might remember this by taking some moments of silence when we begin to pray and imagine Jesus speaking our first name. After all he told us “the shepherd calls his own sheep by name.” Hearing Jesus speak our name can lift our hearts and remind us of his personal love for us.


Listen, Jesus is speaking your name!


© 2023 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski


Sunday, April 23, 2023

The Third Sunday of Easter

 The Gospel passages shared at Sunday Mass are about the life and ministry of Jesus. They reveal how he changed the lives of the people who heard his words and witnessed his actions.


However, those readings are not just about the past.


For example, in this Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 24:13-35), we hear the story of the two disciples who encountered the Risen Lord as they walked to Emmaus. At first, they did not recognize him. They spoke to him about the events in Jerusalem and how Jesus, whom they thought “would be the one to redeem Israel,” was put to death. In response, Jesus explained what referred to him in the Scriptures.


When the two disciples arrived at their destination, they invited Jesus to eat with them. As he blessed and broke bread, they recognized that their companion was the Lord, who then vanished. The two disciples raced back to Jerusalem to report what had happened.


That Gospel proclaims what occurred some 2,000 years ago and helps us recognize what is happening today in the Church and in our personal lives.


What took place on the road to Emmaus happens each Sunday when we come to Mass. We gather with our fellow disciples and the Lord comes to be with us. As he promised, “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”


During Mass, we speak to the Lord in prayer, and we listen as the Lord speaks to us as the scriptures are proclaimed. After this “conversation,” we gather at the table where we recognize the Lord in the breaking of bread and encounter him in Holy Communion. We then go forth, like the two disciples, to tell others that the Lord is risen and alive.


Sunday’s Gospel can also help us to see how the Risen Lord meets us in our personal lives.


We do not walk through life alone. We are accompanied by our parents, relatives, and friends who show us love, encouragement, and support and introduce us to the Lord. They show us what it means to love God and to walk in his ways.


The Lord also interprets the scriptures for us as he did for the two disciples. Each time we are at Mass, the scriptures are proclaimed and then explained in the homily. The Lord speaks not only through those who preach at Mass, but also through the people we meet in our everyday lives who “explain” the scriptures by the witness of their lives.


The Lord, who revealed himself as he blessed and broke bread before the two disciples, reveals himself to us in our parish church where bread and wine become his Body and Blood. The Lord also reveals himself at other tables where loving relatives and friends call upon God to bless their food as they share a meal that nourishes their bodies and strengthens their relationships.


The Risen Lord, who dramatically affected the two disciples whom he met on the road to Emmaus, impacts our lives as well. If he did not, we would not be Christians, nor recognize his voice in the scriptures, nor acknowledge his presence in the Eucharist, and we would not be willing to tell others about him.


This Sunday’s Gospel, like all the Gospels, tell us not just what Jesus did, but what he continues to do in the Church and in our lives.


© 2023 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski




Sunday, April 16, 2023

THe second Sunday of Easter

The hymns that we sing at Sunday Mass are usually chosen by parish music directors who use a variety of methods to make their selections.


Some consult different liturgical resources to see what is recommended or they look at their files and repeat what was chosen in the past.


Others ask the pastor or the liturgy planner to make the selections or they consult with other musicians to discover what they are choosing.


Some music directors take a more prayerful approach. They review the readings weeks in advance. They reflect on the message in the scriptures, the liturgical season, and what is happening in the world. Then, after prayerful reflection, they choose the hymns to be sung.


A music director who took that last approach would likely select the hymn WE WALK BY FAITH by Marty Haugen for this Sunday’s Mass, which includes the following words:


We walk by faith, and not by sight; No gracious words we hear.

Of him who spoke as none e’re spoke, But we believe him near.


We may not touch his hands and side, Nor follow where he trod;

Yet in his promise we rejoice And cry, “My Lord and God!”


These lyrics are based on this Sunday’s Gospel (John 20:19-31).


That reading tells us that Thomas refused to believe Jesus had risen from the dead. Thomas told his fellow disciples, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”


The following week, the Risen Lord appeared again. This time Thomas was in the room, and the Lord invited him to do what he demanded before he would believe. In response, Thomas made his profound profession of faith, “My Lord and my God.”


The Risen Lord then spoke words that echo down through the ages, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”


Peter expresses that same thought in Sunday’s Second Reading (1 Peter 1:3-9), “Although you have not seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him.”


We believe that the Lord is risen because we have been blessed with the gift of faith. That faith is strengthened when we do what the first Christians did. As Luke tells us in Sunday’s First Reading (Acts 2:42-47), “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.”


We devote ourselves to the teaching of the apostles when we listen to their words proclaimed in the scriptures and preached by the Church.


We devote ourselves to the communal life when we join our fellow Christians to perform works of charity, to encourage one another, and to work for the coming of God’s kingdom.


We devote ourselves to the breaking of the bread when we gather for Mass. There we receive the Body and Blood of Christ that unites us with the Lord and our fellow Christians and empowers us to live the Gospel.


We devote ourselves to prayer when we dedicate time each day to speak to the Lord and to listen in silence for his gentle voice.


When we do those things, we open ourselves to the presence of the Risen Lord.


We walk by faith, and not by sight; No gracious words we hear.

Of him who spoke as none e’re spoke, But we believe him near.


We may not touch his hands and side, Nor follow where he trod;

Yet in his promise we rejoice And cry, “My Lord and God!”


© 2023 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski


May you experience the Peace and Presence of the Risen Lord this Easter!



Sunday, April 9, 2023


Saint John’s account of the Resurrection, which is read this Easter Sunday (John 20:1-9), includes a detail not found in Matthew, Mark, or Luke.


All four Gospels mention that after Jesus died on the cross, Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate and asked permission to take charge of the body of Jesus.


Once permission was granted, Joseph took the body, wrapped it in linen cloth, and placed it in a new tomb hewn in the rock. The tomb was then sealed (Matthew 27:59-60, Mark 15:43-46, Luke 23:50-53, John 19:38-41).


Yet in the accounts dealing with the Resurrection, only John’s Gospel mentions the linen cloths that had enrobed the body of Jesus.


He tells us that “Peter and the other disciple” (most likely John himself), immediately ran to the tomb when Mary Magdalene reported that the stone sealing the tomb had been moved. 


When they arrived, John peered in and saw the linen burial cloths. Peter then entered the tomb and “saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.”


John must have mentioned that detail for a reason.


Perhaps he wanted to provide evidence that the body of Jesus had not been removed by grave robbers, Roman soldiers, or even by followers of Jesus. People moving a dead body would not have taken the time to unwrap the cloths encasing it nor put the head covering in a separate place.


John also may have mentioned the burial cloths to indicate the Resurrection was not a reanimation. It was not a dead body being restored to life, as was the case with Lazarus described by John in chapter 11 of his gospel.


In that passage, John tells us that Jesus approached the tomb of Lazarus, ordered the tomb opened, and then commanded Lazarus to “come out!”


Lazarus came forth, but John makes the point of saying that, “the dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth.” Lazarus had to be freed from those wrappings.


That was not the case with Jesus. His glorified, resurrected body was free of any earthly constraints. We might say it simply passed through those burial cloths and left them behind.


That was true of the tomb itself. The stone across the entrance to the tomb of Jesus was not moved so that Jesus could walk out. It was moved so Mary Madelene, Peter, and John could see that the tomb was empty.


In his Gospel, Matthew tells us just that. “An angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it…the angel said to the women… ‘I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.’” (Matthew 28:2, 5-6)


In the Resurrection, Jesus overcame the power of sin and death and was raised beyond the limits imposed by this physical world. John indicates that fact by mentioning the burial cloths found in the tomb.


But our faith in the Resurrection is based on far more than those burial cloths, or on the testimony of Peter, John, Mary Magdalene, and the other disciples. We believe because we have experienced the presence of the Risen Lord in the liturgy, in the reading of scripture, in personal prayer, and in unexpected moments in our lives.  


The tomb is empty, the burial cloths have been left behind, the Lord is Risen! Alleluia!


© 2023 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski


May you experience the Peace and Presence of the Risen Lord this Easter!


Sunday, April 2, 2023


Imagine for a moment that you had no knowledge of Christianity or of Jesus Christ. Then someone gave you selected passages from the Gospels and asked you to read them.


Those passages were about Jesus preaching his Sermon on the Mount; feeding five thousand people with five loaves and two fish; making the crippled walk, the blind see, and the deaf hear; changing water into wine; curing people afflicted with leprosy; calming a storm; walking on water; being transfigured in glory; and raising Lazarus from the tomb.


The last passage you were given was the one that will be heard this Sunday as the palm branches are blessed (Matthew 21:1-11). There you read about Jesus being joyfully welcomed to Jerusalem as the crowds cried out, "Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord."


After reading that scripture passage, you are asked to imagine what Jesus would have done in the days that followed his arrival at Jerusalem.


You might guess that Jesus continued to preach and to demonstrate his miraculous powers to those who so joyfully welcomed him.


As Jesus did so, his fame would have increased and more people would have come to believe that he was the long-awaited Messiah, the Son of David. Perhaps even the chief priests would have recognized Jesus as the one for whom they waited.


But could anyone have conceived of the events described in the Gospel Reading for this Palm Sunday (Matthew 26:14-27:66)?


That scripture passage would make no sense.


Why would someone who only did good and helped others be betrayed, rejected, tortured, and executed as a criminal?


Why would someone who had miraculous powers and was even acclaimed God’s Beloved Son when he was transfigured in glory, allow himself to be nailed to a cross? Why would God allow events to unfold in this way?


What we commemorate this Passion Sunday reminds us that God acted in a very unexpected way some 2,000 years ago. As Saint Paul tells us in Sunday’s Second reading (Philippians 2:6-11), God sent his Son who “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”


This Passion Sunday reminds us of a fact we often forget. God does not always act the way we would expect. No one would imagine that God would have come among his creatures and allowed himself to be rejected and nailed to a cross.


Yet this most unexpected action reveals the unforeseen and amazing love and care that God has for us!


© 2023 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski


May this Holy Week bring you closer to the Lord!


Sunday, March 26, 2023

The Fifth Sunday of Lent

“I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”


Jesus spoke those words, found in this Sunday’s Gospel (John 11:1-45), when he arrived at the home of Martha and Mary after the death of their brother Lazarus. These words are often quoted by priests and deacons during a funeral liturgy or when they are comforting a family coping with the unexpected death of a loved one.


These words of Jesus also appear on the cover of funeral booklets and on memorial cards. They are often inscribed in the stain-glass windows of churches and etched on cemetery monuments, and make up some of the most well-known verses in all the New Testament.


But there is another set of words that appear three times in Sunday’s Gospel that are not seen on memorial cards or the cover of funeral programs.


Those words are, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Martha said this to Jesus when he was approaching her home after the death of Lazarus.


When Martha informed her sister Mary that Jesus had arrived, Mary went to him and said the very same thing, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”


When Jesus went to the tomb of Lazarus, some of the people gathered there expressed the same sentiment as Mary and Martha; “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?”


Mary and Martha and those grieving with them wanted to know why Jesus had not arrived sooner and done something to save Lazarus from death. After all, Jesus was so close a friend that he was brought to tears outside the tomb of Lazarus.


That question raised by Mary and Martha and their neighbors is also heard today at funerals and when people are dealing with the unexpected deaths of loved ones. The question may be expressed differently, but basically asks the same things, “Why didn’t God do something to keep them from dying? Why didn’t God save them? Why didn’t God answer my prayers?”


As much as we might wish that it were not the case, death comes to everyone. Even Lazarus who walked out of the tomb when Jesus shouted, “Lazarus come out,” eventually was carried back into that same tomb when death came to him a second time.


The Lord does not keep people from dying. The cross that hangs in every Catholic church and in the homes of Christians is a vivid reminder that suffering and death come to us all.


Rather than saving us for a time from natural death, Jesus saves those who are faithful to him from eternal death. As Saint Paul tells us in Sunday’s Second Reading (Romans 8:8-11), “If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit dwelling in you.”


While restoring Lazarus to life for a time was an amazing miracle, even more amazing is the promise that Jesus makes to those who put their faith in him. “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live.”


© 2023 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski


SUnday, March 19, 2023

Fourth Sunday of Lent

The process of seeing begins with light entering our eyes. That light hits the retina in the back of our eyes, then special cells turn that light into electrical signals that travel through the optic nerve to our brain. The brain then transforms those signals into the images that we see.


Our eyes need light to function. No light, no sight.


People at the time of Jesus did not “see” things that way. They believed human vision operated in reverse. They thought that there was “light” within a person. This invisible light came out from the human eye and gave people the ability to see.


In this understanding, people who were blind were those who had no light within them. We get some indication of that notion in the Gospel of Luke where Jesus says, “Take care, then, that the light in you not become darkness. If your whole body is full of light, and no part of it is in darkness, then it will be as full of light as a lamp illuminating you with its brightness.” (Luke 11:35-36).


In this Sunday’s Gospel (John 9:1-41), Jesus meets a man born blind. It was thought he was unable to see because he was born with no light within him. As the disciples asked Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"


Jesus replies that the man was without sight not because of sin, but so “the works of God might be made visible through him.”


Jesus then reveals he is the source of light, “the light of the world.” Jesus smears the blind man’s eyes with clay and sends him to wash it off. The man returns able to see.


With the light that is now within him, the man can see the world around him. He is also able to recognize Jesus not just as a miracle worker, or a prophet, or a man sent from God, but as the Lord whom he begins to worship.


At the very same time, the religious leaders who claim they can see are unable to identify who Jesus truly is. They lack the true inner light.


Today, we do not view the working of the human eye the same way as people did at the time of Jesus. However, what they thought still holds true in some ways. What we see depends on the “light” that is within us.


Those whose hearts and minds are filled with the light that comes from the Gospel and a relationship with Jesus can see clearly. They can see others as fellow children of God and as neighbors whom they are called to love. Those who lack that light view others as potential enemies and as people whom they can harm, use, and exploit.


We certainly have an example of that in the acts of violence, crime, war, genocide, and abuse in our world. Those who have no light within them are blind to the humanity and dignity of those they attack and degrade.


Those who truly see are like the man given sight in this Sunday’s Gospel. They have been enlightened by Jesus Christ, the light of the world.


© 2023 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski


SUNDAY, MARCH 12, 2023

The Third Sunday of Lent

One thing that distinguishes humans from animals is our ability to talk. We can make a tremendous range of sounds and tones that can form hundreds of thousands of words.


We speak those words to convey wants and needs, express feelings, impart information, expound complex ideas, profess hopes and beliefs, strengthen relationships, etc.


We talk to all kinds of people: relatives and friends, coworkers and peers, store clerks and professionals. We even talk to strangers.


In this Sunday’s Gospel (John 4:5-42), we have an account of two strangers talking to one another.


Jesus, tired from his journey, sits alone by Jacob’s well. It is noon and his disciples have gone to a nearby village to buy food.


Unexpectedly a Samaritan woman approaches the well to draw water. Morning and evening were the normal times for drawing water.


The woman is surprised to see a man at the well. She is even more surprised when this man, whom she recognizes to be Jewish, asks her for a drink of water. “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” Jews and Samaritans did not talk to one another, and men did not talk to women in public.


The interaction between Jesus and the woman does not end with his request for water and her expression of surprise.


Jesus begins to talk to her about the water that he can provide. He says that the person who drinks of his water “will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”


As the conversation at the well continues, Jesus reveals that he knows the woman’s past. “You have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband.”


The woman begins to suspect that Jesus is more than just a thirsty man and that he is a prophet. This leads the woman to question him about where true worship of God should take place. Jesus responds that such worship is not a matter of being in the right place but rather worshipping “the Father in Spirit and truth.”


The woman then expresses her hope that the Messiah is coming, to which Jesus replies, “I am he, the one speaking with you.”


Those words reveal the reason Jesus began to talk to the woman. It was not to get a drink from the well, but as he later told his disciples, it was “to do the will of the one who sent me.”


It was the Father’s will that Jesus offer that woman, and all people, the water of a life-changing relationship with him that would lead to eternal life. As Jesus himself tells us, “This is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 6:40)


Jesus talked to the stranger he met at the well, and today he continues to talk to all sorts of people.


The Lord talks to people each time the scriptures are proclaimed and the sacraments are celebrated, and as quiet time is spent in prayer and as the faith is passed on from one generation to the next. 


Like us, God likes to talk to everyone, even those who may be estranged from him by sin.


© 2023 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski



The Second Sunday of Lent

“And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.”


This, according to Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 17:1-9), is what Peter, James and John witnessed when they were on the mountain with Jesus.


But there might be another way to understand what took place that day. Rather than saying Jesus was transfigured or changed, we could say that Jesus allowed Peter, James, and John a momentary glimpse of who he truly was. Those apostles saw his glory as the Son of God who had taken on flesh and come among his people.


The signs that revealed the divinity of Jesus were affirmed when a voice from the heavens declared, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him."


Such a revelation of the glory of Jesus would not be seen again until the Resurrection, when the Risen Lord burst forth from the darkness of the tomb and appeared to his disciples.


These revelations of the glory and identity of Jesus remind us that at baptism we were made sons and daughters of God, enlightened by Christ, and became dwelling places of the Holy Spirit.


That means we have the power within us to shine forth as God’s beloved children.


The season of Lent is an appropriate time for us to examine if we are shining as followers of Christ by our acts of mercy, kindness, and charity. Are we working for peace and justice and striving to live according to the words and example of Jesus? Are we making a positive difference in a society that is increasingly turned inward and away from the Lord?


Or has sin, pessimism, despair, greed, and an attachment to the values of this world, dimmed our light and marred our identity as God’s beloved children?


That day on the mountain, Peter, James, and John were overwhelmed and amazed when Jesus allowed them to see who he truly was.


If each and every one of us lived according to our identity as children of God and allowed the Holy Spirit to guide our actions, the Church would be seen as the Body of Christ shining with a light of goodness that would amaze people and draw them to the Lord. As Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount, “Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.


In the Transfiguration, Jesus revealed who he truly was. May we do the same in our lives and reveal ourselves as beloved children of God.


© 2023 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski



Sunday, February 26, 2023

The First Sunday of Lent

On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. During the past 12 months of this continuing conflict, the government of Ukraine has asked the United States and other NATO nations for military weapons to help them repel the Russian invasion.


These countries have supplied Ukraine with anti-aircraft systems, missiles, drones, armored vehicles, helicopters, tanks, and more. Without these weapons, Ukraine would be in a very precarious situation.


Armies need weapons, and in any conflict the army with the better weapons has a greater chance of victory.


But warfare is not limited to opposing armies. There are also spiritual conflicts, battles between good and evil.


This Sunday, the First Sunday of Lent, our Gospel reading (Matthew 4:1-11) is about such a spiritual battle.


After being baptized in the Jordan River, “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” There a spiritual battle took place.


The devil launched three separate attacks. First, the devil enticed Jesus to use his power to satisfy his hunger by changing stones into bread. Then the devil challenged Jesus to prove that he was the Son of God by throwing himself down from the parapet of the Temple. And finally, the devil attempted to seduce Jesus with a promise of worldly power.


The devil had his lies, cunning, and deceit. Weapons that he successfully used in Sunday’s First Reading (Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7), when he tempted the first man and woman and led them to disobey God.


Jesus was able to resist the devil’s temptations since he was armed with the Spirit and the Word of God.


The Spirit, who came down upon Jesus at his baptism and led him into the desert, remained with him as a source of strength.


Jesus was also equipped with the Word of God. He countered each temptation of the devil with the truth of God’s word. “Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword.” (Hebrews 4:12)


This season of Lent, we need to realize that we are also in a spiritual battle.


The devil tempts us through the media that extols promiscuous behavior and portrays abortion as a positive good. The devil speaks his lies through celebrities who mock religion and proclaim that all truth is subjective—each person decides what is true or false. The devil cunningly raises up the “woke” to persuade people that standards and moral codes, biological differences, and nuclear families are outdated concepts. The devil brings forth atheistic influencers who sow doubt as they deny the existence of God, the final judgement, and everlasting life.


If we are to resist the temptations of the devil and win the battle over evil. We need to be armed with the weapons used by Jesus in his conflict with the devil.


Lent is a time to pray for the strength and guidance of the Holy Spirt. “Lord, by the light of the Holy Spirit you have taught the hearts of your faithful. In the same Spirit help us to relish what is right and always rejoice in his consolation.” (Traditional Prayer to the Holy Spirit)


Lent is a time to study the scriptures so that God’s truth will come to mind when we are confronted with the devil’s lies and deceit. As Jesus tells us, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)


In any conflict, the one with the better weapons wins the battle.


© 2023 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski


Sunday, February 19, 2023

The Seventh Sunday in ordinary Time


Father Tom Iwanowski, the writer of Looking to Sunday, has co-authored a new book of reflections for the coming season of Lent. It is titled, OPEN OUR HEARTS. It has been published by RENEW INTERNATIONAL, for more information or to order a book, please go to

The existence of God is denied, and his commandments are ignored.

Money, power, and pleasure are loved rather than God, and his saving word is drowned out by the roar of the media.


Human life is aborted and disvalued, and religion and moral virtues are ridiculed.


Believers are persecuted, and churches are vandalized and desecrated.


Paganism and satanic rituals mock goodness, and the Son of God, who took on flesh and lived among his creatures, is nailed to a cross.


All this goes on, and God does not lash out. God does not send down fire from the heavens to consume those who scorn and ignore him. God does not preform astounding miracles to prove his existence. God does not boom his message throughout the universe so it cannot be ignored. God does not annihilate those who have brought destruction and death to the innocent.


What does God do?


God continues to keep this sinful world in existence. God continues to care for his creation. God continues to reveal himself in Word and Sacrament. God continues to show mercy and love to saints and to sinners. As Jesus explains in this Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 5:38-48), “Your heavenly Father…makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.”


Jesus teaches us that as children of our heavenly Father we are to act as God does. That means we are to “offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand over your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.”


Then Jesus sums up what is expected of believers who wish to follow the example of the Father by saying, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”


Just as God loves and does good for the deserving and undeserving, we are to do the same. “Love your enemies…be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect."


There will come a time, when God will judge those who denied his existence, broke his law, fell into sin, injured and killed their brothers and sisters, and darkened this world with their selfishness, evil, and hate.


Jesus tells us that at the final judgment, the Son of Man will send his angels to “collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (Matthew 13:41-43)


Until that time, God shows love and care to saint and sinner alike. As God’s children, we are to do same. We are to love even our enemies.


© 2023 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski


Sunday, February 12, 2023

The Sixth SUnday in Ordinary Time


Father Tom Iwanowski, the writer of Looking to Sunday, has co-authored a new book of reflections for the coming season of Lent. It is titled, OPEN OUR HEARTS. It has been published by RENEW INTERNATIONAL, for more information or to order a book, please go to

Outside of creating us and giving us life, the most surprising gift that God granted humanity may be free will—the freedom to make choices.


That freedom is highlighted in this Sunday’s First Reading (Sirach 15:15-20). There Sirach, the wise teacher, speaks of the freedom to choose that God gave men and women. “He has set before you fire and water to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand. Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him.”


Our freedom to choose is unlimited. Humanity’s freedom to choose good or evil, life or death, has led to wonderful acts of mercy, charity, self-sacrifice, love, and kindness. It has also led to violence, war, unspeakable brutality, genocide, corruption, and all the other sinful behaviors that destroy people and darken our world.


Humans even have the freedom to deny the existence of their Creator, to defy God’s laws, and to close their hearts to the message of the Gospel. The Cross, the greatest sign of God’s love for humanity, is also the most glaring sign of humanity’s decision to reject God.


God, who gave us free will, also gave us guidance so we can make good choices and become the men and women he created us to be.


That divine guidance is found in the commandments. As Sirach tells us, “If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you.”


Those commandments were revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. They were also confirmed and amplified by Jesus. As he tells us in this Sunday’s Gospel reading (Matthew 5:17-37), “Do not think I have come to abolish the law…but to fulfill.”


In that passage, which is part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus speaks about three of those ten commandments and the choices we need to make if we are to fulfill and obey God’s law.

Jesus tells us that if we are to follow the fifth commandment that condemns murder, we need to choose the way of reconciliation and mercy not the way of anger and vilification. We need to realize that a right relationship with God requires a right relationship with our brothers and sisters.


Jesus teaches us if we want to obey the sixth commandment that forbids adultery, we must avoid viewing people only as sexual objects. We need to choose to shut our eyes and our minds to the pornography that permeates society and glorifies lust.


Jesus warns us that if we are to be faithful to the eighth commandment that prohibits perjury and lying for personal gain, we first need to decide to be honest in small things. As Jesus tells us, “Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’”


God gave us free will. God also blessed us with the commandments and the teaching and example of Jesus Christ, which can direct us from self-centered, short-sighted, sinful choices that add to the suffering and evil in the world.


As we pray in this Sunday’s Responsorial Psalm, “Instruct me, O LORD, in the way of your statutes, that I may exactly observe them. Give me discernment, that I may observe your law and keep it with all my heart. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!


© 2023 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski

"OF" or "FROM"

Sunday, February 5, 2023



Fr Tom Iwanowski, the writer of Looking to Sunday, has co-authored a new book of reflections for the coming season of Lent. It is titled, OPEN OUR HEARTS. It has been published by RENEW INTERNATIONAL, for more information or to order a book, please go to

The United States Constitution guarantees freedom of religion. That freedom is enshrined in the First Amendment that reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”


Today, the scope of religious freedom enshrined in the Constitution is questioned by some people. For them, freedom of religion means that believers are free to practice their faith in their houses of worship, but they are not free to bring their religious beliefs into public life.


Rather than freedom of religion, these people advocate for freedom FROM religion. They believe that the concept of separation of church and state means that religious ideas and beliefs must not be allowed to influence society.


Those who hold this understanding are not comfortable with invocations at public events, with religious displays in town squares, with affirmations of belief in God, or with government leaders basing their decisions on Biblical principles, religious teachings, or moral codes. Some even seek to prohibit religious organizations from performing works of charity if those organizations hold beliefs that do not conform to the opinions and ideas of today’s “woke” society.


This hostile, secular attitude has made many Christians hesitant to speak about their faith in Jesus Christ, to oppose behaviors and policies that contradict the Gospel, or to defend the Church against unwarranted attacks in the media.


But our Christian faith is not to be a private affair practiced within the walls of a church with no effect beyond our homes and families.


God has blessed us with faith in Christ not only for our own sake but for the sake of the world. Jesus certainly makes that very clear in this Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 5:13-16).


There Jesus tells us, "You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world.”


Just as salt preserves and flavors, so Christians are to preserve and defend all that is good and righteous in society and to flavor it with acts of kindness, mercy, and forgiveness.


Just as light dispels the darkness, so Christians are to light up society by sharing the message of the Gospel and by living as followers of Jesus Christ who love God and neighbor.


Such love of neighbor is described in this Sunday’s First Reading (Isaiah 58:7-10). “Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn.”


Christians are to be salt and light not to draw attention to themselves, but rather, as Jesus tells us, so that people “may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father."


However, to keep from losing our “Christian flavor” in a world filled with self-centered blandness and to keep our light visible in a society seeking to “put it under a bushel basket”, we need more than ever, to stay connected with Jesus Christ and his Church through daily prayer and Sunday Mass.


It takes effort and courage to be what we became at baptism, "… the salt of the earth…the light of the world.”


© 2023 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski


Sunday, January 29, 2023

The Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Many people are not future-oriented. They are focused only on the present moment—concerned only about today, not tomorrow.


Such people do not put money away for unexpected expenses and live from paycheck to paycheck. They do not plan for their future retirement. They fail to consider how poor health choices today will affect their enjoyment of life in years to come. They go to work or school each day, but have no long-term career goals in mind that motivate their efforts. They make no attempt to form new relationships, forgetting that current friendships may fail the test of time.


As Christians, we are to be interested in more than just the present moment. We are to be concerned about the future, our eternal future. As we profess in the Creed, “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.”


In this Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 5:1-12a), Jesus goes up on a mountain and there he begins to instruct his disciples. He begins this “Sermon on the Mount” by teaching them what we now refer to as the “beatitudes.”


Those beatitudes are future oriented. They tell us what we need to do today if we hope to be blessed with a future place in the kingdom of heaven.


Jesus explicitly refers to that kingdom three separate times in the first verses of his sermon.


He says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven… Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven… Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you… be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven."


The other beatitudes also indicate that there will be a blessed future for those who endure suffering in their lives, who are dismissed as unimportant, who work for justice and goodness, who show mercy to the undeserving, who seek to live in accord with God’s law, and who strive to put an end to the violence and hate that darken our world.


For those who have no belief in God and reject the notion of eternal life, the beatitudes make little sense. For them, living according to the beatitudes would be like planning for a future retirement that they will never enjoy.


Only those who believe in eternal life recognize the wisdom and guidance found in the words of Jesus.


Blessed are they who live according to the beatitudes today, for tomorrow the kingdom of heaven will be theirs.


© 2023 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski


Sunday, January 22, 2023

The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Before COVID, waiting rooms in medical offices had a table or a display rack filled with magazines for patients to read as they waited to be seen by the doctor. Often those magazines were a year or more beyond their date of issue.


Wait times could be long and looking through a two-year-old issue of TIME or SPORTS ILLUSTRATED was preferable to watching the clock and wondering if appointment schedules were works of fiction.


As the scripture readings are proclaimed at Sunday Mass, we may feel like we are in a waiting room thumbing through articles in outdated magazines until we come to the next part of Mass and our scheduled “appointment” with the Lord in Holy Communion.


For example, in this Sunday’s First Reading (Isaiah 8:23-9:3), we listen to a story dealing with events dating back some 2,800 years when the Northern Kingdom of Israel was under the domination of the Assyrians.


In the Second Reading (1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17), Saint Paul refers to divisions and disunity that were present in the Christian Community at Corinth some 1,950 years ago.


Then in the Gospel (Matthew 4:12-23), Matthew recounts the start of the public ministry of Jesus. “Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” This Gospel passage is certainly familiar. In fact, as we work our way through the Gospel of Matthew during this current liturgical year, nothing will be new. We will hear passages that we have heard before.


However, the scripture readings at Mass are not just old stories. God’s inspired word has something to say to us.


For example, Isaiah’s prophecy that the people who walked in darkness and lived in a land of gloom would see a great light, offers a message of hope. It tells us that the doom and gloom in our world caused by sin and immorality, cynicism and pessimism, hopelessness and despair will be overcome by the light that shines forth when we allow Christ to come into our lives. As Jesus tells us, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)


Saint Paul’s plea to the Christians at Corinth that there be no divisions, disunity, and rivalry among them certainly parallels the polarization and suspicion in today’s Church.


Some Catholics believe that only people who think like them, pray like them, and vote like them, are truly on the road to salvation. Parishioners sometimes have little faith in the leadership of their pastors and think of them as self-absorbed or ambitious. A recent study reveals that many priests have little faith and trust in their bishops.


Paul tells us, as he told the Corinthians, that we must remember that we were baptized into Christ, and Christ is not divided. We need to keep our fundamental unity in mind, a unity we are reminded of each time we receive the Eucharist at Mass and become a “holy communion.”


The message of Jesus in the Gospel to repent and embrace the kingdom is always new. Turning away from all that is sinful and selfish and opposed to the Gospel is not a one-time event. It needs to happen daily as we resist temptation and seek to faithfully follow Jesus like Peter, Andrew, James, and John.


Unlike magazines in a waiting room, God’s inspired word is constantly current. The readings at Mass always have something to say to us today!


© 2023 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski


sunday, January 15, 2023

THe Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

In a criminal trial, a prosecuting attorney tries to prove that an accused person has broken the law, while the defense attorney attempts to show that the accused is not guilty.


In a civil case, a person seeks to hold an individual or institution liable for some alleged harm or injury, while the person or institution being sued attempts to disprove the allegation.


In both criminal and civil trials, each side brings forth evidence, presents testimony and summons witnesses to persuade the jury to rule in its favor.


This Sunday’s scripture readings might lead us to imagine a trial in which the Church tries to make the case that Jesus is the Messiah, in contrast to those hostile to Christianity who view Jesus as a mere man whose ideas make little sense in their world.


In the Gospel (John 1:29-34), John the Baptist presents the case for Jesus being the Savior and Messiah. As he sees Jesus approaching, John says, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”


John further testifies that he “saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him.” John then sums up his testimony about Jesus by declaring, “Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”


In the Second Reading (1 Corinthians 1:1-3), Saint Paul speaks of himself as someone chosen by God to testify to the truth about Jesus. He describes himself as “called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.”


Then in the First Reading (Isaiah 49:3, 5-6), the Church sees the words spoken about Isaiah as applying to Jesus. “You are my servant….I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”


During the Christmas season, further testimony was presented about Jesus: the angels of heaven testified to the shepherds that “in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.”

Those shepherds not only went to Bethlehem, “they made known the message told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed.”


By their arrival in Jerusalem and by the gifts they presented to the infant Jesus, the magi gave evidence that this child of Bethlehem was the newborn king of the Jews. He was the Christ.


In addition to using this testimony from the Scriptures to make its case for Jesus, the Church calls upon us to stand as witnesses and to testify.


As Saint Paul tells us, “You have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy.” By our lives of holiness and service, we give evidence of our belief that Jesus is Savior and Lord. If we fail to live such lives and fall into sin, we weaken the case for Jesus and unwittingly become witnesses for the opposing side.


In our increasingly secular society, Jesus Christ is on trial. The Church proclaims him to be Savior and Lord, the Son of God, while society denies those truths and rejects Christianity.


How each person on the jury decides that case depends upon the evidence presented and the testimony given about Jesus. By our words and actions may we serve as powerful witnesses to our Catholic faith so that people will decide the case in favor of Jesus and recognize him as their Savior and Lord.


© 2023 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski



The Epiphany of the Lord

Teachers often assign students a novel or short story, then ask them to write essays answering questions related to what they have read.


Imagine for a moment, that a teacher requires his or her students to read this Sunday’s Gospel for the Solemnity of the Epiphany (Matthew 2:1-12), then directs them to answer the following questions:


1. Why did the magi, who were not Jewish, make the journey from the east to seek out “the newborn king of the Jews?” Why would they be interested in what was occurring in a distant land occupied by the Romans?


2. Why did the religious leaders and the people of Jerusalem, who were “greatly troubled” after hearing the magi’s report, not go to Bethlehem to see this newborn king?


Those are good questions for us to consider as we celebrate the Epiphany. Often, this feast is only associated with the magi presenting gifts to the infant Jesus. Obviously, the magi had a stronger motivation than just gift giving to make the arduous trip to Bethlehem.


The magi must have gone because they believed this child, whose birth was signaled by a shining star, would become more than the king of a distant land under the domination of Rome.


They must have also thought that meeting the child would positively change their lives. That certainly happened, for after they saw the infant Jesus, they changed their plans and decided not to return to Herod as he had requested.


Perhaps that encounter with the child of Bethlehem also caused them to stop searching the heavens, for they had come in contact with the “light of the world.”


The people of Jerusalem were initially excited when they heard the report of the magi, but that excitement and curiosity quickly waned.


Perhaps they suspected the news was too good to be true. Or perhaps they thought that the presence of a newborn king would disrupt their lives or bring down the wrath of the occupying Romans.


The chief priests and scribes, who informed Herod that Bethlehem would be the birthplace of the Christ, also showed no inclination to see if those prophecies had been fulfilled.


Possibly those religious leaders were jaded after hundreds of years of waiting for the promised Messiah. Or perhaps, like King Herod, they felt the child born in Bethlehem might be a threat to their power and position.


Notice the contrast: When a shining star announced the birth of the newborn king of the Jews, the magi made every effort to encounter him. The people of Jerusalem, the chief priests, and the scribes made no such effort.


Today, the proclamation of the Gospel that announces that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Light of the World continues to elicit the same opposing reactions.


Some people, like the magi, are touched by the message of the Gospel. They seek out Jesus Christ, who is as present in His Church as he was present as an infant in the town of Bethlehem. In the Church, these people listen to his words, share his life, and come to know the truth about themselves and their purpose in life


Other people are like the inhabitants of Jerusalem: They just go on with their lives. They reject the message of the Gospel and put no faith in Jesus Christ. They see Christianity as a threat to their values and their understanding of life.


The Solemnity of the Epiphany is not about the gifts offered by the magi. It is about the two possible reactions that people can have toward Jesus Christ, whose coming we celebrate this Christmas Season.


© 2023 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski


Sunday, January 1, 2023

SOLEMNITY OF Mary, the Holy MOther of God

This Sunday is January 1, the first day of the new year of 2023.


There are other calendars where January 1 is not the first day of the year. For example, the Federal Government marks October 1 as the first day of its Fiscal Year.


Academic institutions usually schedule the first day of the School Year in September near Labor Day.


The Catholic Church begins its Liturgical Year on the First Sunday of Advent, which was this past November 27.


It is a happy circumstance that two calendars intersect on January 1. In addition to being New Year’s Day, the Church’s calendar designates January 1 as one of the great feasts of the Christmas Season: the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God.


The scripture readings for that day relate to the feast and also to New Year’s Day.


In the Gospel for that day (Luke 2:16-21), we learn that Mary was a person who reflected on the events in her life. After she and Joseph were visited by the shepherds, we are told, “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”


Mary also must have reflected on everything that had happened to her since she was visited by the angel. Mary had dealt with Joseph’s confusion and then his acceptance of her pregnancy. She had gone to assist her cousin Elizabeth, who was also expecting. Mary and Joseph had traveled some 90 miles to Bethlehem to be counted in the census, and it was that town that she had given birth to her firstborn son. “She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).


Mary must also have considered what the future would hold for her, for Joseph, and for the infant she was caressing in her arms.


Mary’s thinking about her life reminds us of the importance of personal reflection and January 1 is a perfect day for it.


Sunday’s First Reading (Numbers 6:22-27), which contains a Jewish prayer of blessing, might help us in our personal reflection.


We might ask ourselves how has the Lord blessed us and watched over us in the past year? In what ways has the Lord let his face shine on us and been gracious to us in the past 12 months? How has the Lord shown us unexpected kindness and granted us peace in our lives?


January 1 is not only a day to reflect on what has happened in the past and how God has touched our lives; it is also a day to reflect on the year ahead.


In Sunday’s Second Reading (Galatians 4:4-7), we are reminded that “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”


God has made us his adopted sons and daughters not only to show us his love and mercy, but because God has expectations of us.


Just as Mary was favored by God because she had a role to play in God’s plan of salvation, so God has favored us and made us his children for we have a part to play in proclaiming the Gospel and bringing his Kingdom of love, justice, and peace into our troubled world.


Society celebrates January 1, New Year’s Day with family gatherings, parades, parties, sporting events, and hopes for the future.


In celebrating the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, on January 1, the Church tells us this is also a day of reflection. It is day to think about how God has acted in our lives and a day to consider what God may expect of us in the coming months of 2023.


© 2023 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski




Merry Christ-Mass

Sunday, December 25, 2022

THe Nativity of the Lord, Christmas DAY

Christmas” is a joyful word. It brings to mind family gatherings, special foods, decorated trees, houses bright with lights, shopping for and exchanging presents, carols and seasonal music, pageants, church services, and holiday parties.


That joyful word recalls Santa and his reindeer, excited children, greeting cards, visiting friends and relatives, snow-covered streets and hot chocolate, warm memories of past celebrations, and treasured stories featuring characters like Ebenezer Scrooge and Charlie Brown.


We use the word “Christmas” as a noun to refer to December 25.  We also use the word as an adjective to describe the things associated with that special holiday. Sometimes the word is even used as a verb as in the song “I’m Christmasing With You.”


This December 25, it would be good to also consider the origins of word “Christmas” that we use so freely this time of year.


The word has its origin in the eleventh century from the old English term “Cristes Maesse.”


“Cristes” comes from the Greek word “Christos,” meaning “anointed” and was used to translate the Hebrew word for “messiah.”


The word “Maesse” is from the Latin word “missa” that means Mass.


“Cristes Masese,” which later became Christmas, therefore means Christ’s Mass, or the Mass of Christ. It was the name given to the liturgy that celebrates the Nativity of the Lord.


Therefore, each time the word “Christmas” is used, people are employing a word of religious origin that references the Mass used to celebrate the birth of Christ, the long-awaited Messiah.


The religious meaning of Christmas is found in the very word itself. Perhaps that is why our increasingly secular world is more comfortable with “Happy Holidays” than with “Merry Christmas” which implies a joyful celebration of the Mass of Christ.


The fact that the word Christmas is associated with the celebration of the liturgy can also remind us that the Mass itself can be seen as a continuation of Christmas.


At the first Christmas, the Son of God who had taken on flesh in the womb of Mary was born into the world. As Saint John tells us in his Gospel that can be used on the Nativity of the Lord (John 1:1-18), “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”


Each time Mass is celebrated, that Christmas event occurs: The Son of God continues to come among us and like the shepherds and magi of old, we recognize his presence.

Christ comes to us as the bread and wine are consecrated and transformed into his Body and Blood. We acknowledge his “real presence” as we proclaim “Amen” when the minister of Holy Communion says, “The Body of Christ. The Blood of Christ.”


Christ, whose infant voice was first heard in the stable of Bethlehem, comes and speaks to us during the Mass. We acknowledge his voice as we respond “Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ” after the priest or deacon has proclaimed his words in “The Gospel of the Lord.”

Christ, who showed himself to the little community that came to the stable that first Christmas night, reveals himself to us through the people who come and assemble around the altar for the celebration of Mass. We acknowledge that community to be the Church, to be the Body of Christ.


Each time Mass is celebrated, the Son of God comes and reveals himself to us as our Savior and Lord—just as he did that first Christmas.


“Christmas” is a truly joyful word, made even more joyful when we recognize its connection to the Mass – to Christ’s Mass!


© 2022 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski


Prayers and Best Wishes for a Joyful Christmas Season,

Filled with the Lord’s Presence and Peace!


Sunday, December 18, 2022

The Fourth Sunday of Advent

Decisions have consequences.


For example, a husband and wife buy their first home. Even though they will be living near water they ignore the advice to buy flood insurance. They feel it would be foolish to spend some $1,500 in annual premiums to insure their home against flooding that has not occurred for the past 80 years.


Another couple in the same situation makes a very different decision. They take the advice of their realtor and purchase flood insurance. They faithfully pay the annual premium, believing it prudent to be prepared for the unexpected.


A major flood comes and the homes in the neighborhood are made unlivable. The couple who declined the flood insurance realize they made a terrible decision.


The other couple is delighted that they took the advice they were given. Their insurance coverage will provide them with money to restore their home and move forward with their lives.


The Old Testament and the New Testament each begin with a story about a couple confronted with a decision and the consequences that flow from their choice.


In the first pages of the Old Testament, we read about the first man and woman created by God. They were placed in the Garden of Eden and told by God, “You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:16-17).


God gave that first couple a command and the free will to obey or disobey his instructions.


Confronted with that choice, they decided to ignore the commandment of God and to do what they thought best.


Their decision to disobey God led to dire consequences: They were expelled from Eden and their lives became difficult. Their “original sin” affected them and their children and set loose a flood of consequences that has continued to wash down to this very day.


At the start of the New Testament, we learn of another couple, Mary and Joseph, who were also faced with a decision.


Mary, who was betrothed to Joseph, was asked by God to give birth to the long-awaited Messiah. She was told that she would conceive through the power of the Holy Spirit.


Mary realized that doing what God requested would likely lead to negative consequences. Her betrothal to Joseph would be nullified, she would be publicly humiliated, and she even risked being stoned for immoral behavior. Yet Mary decided to do as God asked. As she told the messenger from God, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).


That decision by Mary led to Joseph being confronted with a choice. His first reaction was to end his impending marriage and to move on with his life. But as we hear in Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 1: 18-24), God gave him other advice.


Joseph was told in a dream, “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.” Joseph decided to do as God asked, even though he realized his relatives and neighbors would consider him hopelessly naive to believe Mary’s explanation of her pregnancy.


The decision of Mary and Joseph to do as God requested led to a wonderful consequence that has positively impacted all humanity: Christ the Savior was born.


Our decisions also have consequences. The more our decisions are based on good advice, particularly “Godly” advice, the better the consequences will be for us and for our world.


© 2022 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski


Sunday, December 11, 2022

The Third Sunday of Advent

Faith, hope, love, forgiveness, generosity, judgement, heaven, hell, prayer, and discipleship are among the topics we would expect to hear mentioned in a Sunday homily.


The Gospel for this Sunday (Matthew 11:2-11), which focuses our attention on John the Baptist, might lead a preacher to consider an unexpected topic: doubt.


John the Baptist had announced Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. As we are told, John was “with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God”” (John 1:35). Moved by that testimony, those disciples became followers of Jesus.


Yet in Sunday’s Gospel, John the Baptist appears to be having doubts about Jesus.


While he was in prison for condemning the unlawful marriage of King Herod, John received reports about Jesus. John was troubled by what he heard because Jesus was not acting as he expected the Messiah to behave. So, John the Baptist “sent his disciples to Jesus with this question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?””


Most likely John the Baptist expected the promised Messiah to come with power and glory and to call down the wrath of God on sinners and on the oppressors of Israel.


Jesus tried to put John’s doubts to rest by telling his disciples to report to him "what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.”


Whether that account completely resolved the doubts of John the Baptist, we will never know.


It is interesting that Jesus ended his report to John by saying, “And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me."


What John the Baptist experienced in his relationship with Jesus can also happen in our lives.


There are times when our relationship with Jesus Christ is strong and unquestioned. Like John the Baptist, we are more than ready to proclaim our belief that Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God, he is our Savior and Lord, and he is the Messiah.


Our faith in Christ guides our lives and informs our decisions. United with our fellow believers, we strive to make Jesus Christ present in our world.


But there can also be times when, like John the Baptist, we have our doubts about Jesus Christ.


We may begin to doubt when our prayers for suffering family members seem to go unheard.


We may start to doubt the Lord when we plead for his help with a personal problem or a health issue, and the situation only worsens.


Doubts may enter our mind when we implore the Prince of Peace to calm our troubled world, but wars rage on and innocent people continue to die.


Doubts may arise when the Lord, who fed the crowd with a few loaves and fish, seems to ignore the plight of the hungry, the homeless, the poor of our day.


We may find ourselves asking, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”


At those times we need to remember what Jesus told the disciples sent to him by John the Baptist: “And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me."


Our relationship with Jesus Christ needs to be based on our faith in him, not on his meeting our expectations. There is no doubt about that!


© 2022 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski


Sunday, December 4, 2022

The Second Sunday of Advent

During the early part of December, most of us start thinking about Christmas cards and questions come to mind.


“Should I send out cards this year now that postage is up to sixty cents?”


“Should I forego actual cards and instead send an e-card, or perhaps a text message or a short video greeting?”


“Should I mail cards only to those relatives and friends I will not see over the holidays?”


“Should I send cards to people from whom I have not received a card for the past few Christmases?”


“Should I just wait and only mail cards to those who first send me one?”


Once we decide that we will send out Christmas cards, another decision must be made: “What kind of card should I send? Should I send a religious Christmas card, one with a nativity scene or perhaps an image of Mary and the Child Jesus?”


“Should I send a more secular card, one with a Christmas tree or perhaps an image of Santa Claus and his reindeer?”


We also need to consider the text on each card. Some people would be happy to read, “May Jesus who came as our Savior that first Christmas draw you ever closer to him.” A non-believing friend might be more comfortable with a card that reads, “Happy Holidays.”


This Sunday’s First Reading (Isaiah 11:1-10) presents us with an image that would be appropriate on a Christmas card for believers and non-believers alike. “Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.”


That image on the front of a card, with simply the word PEACE as its text, would be suitable for anyone.


For the person without faith, the card presents a charming scene where natural enemies are together in peace. The text offers the hope that such “peace” will be with the recipient and with our troubled world.


For the person of faith, such a card has a truly religious meaning. The image of all creatures dwelling together in harmony recalls the Garden of Eden in the Book of Genesis. There all creation was at peace. “God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good” (Genesis 1:31).


Unfortunately, that peace and harmony came to an end when humanity chose to go its own way rather than God’s way and sin entered the world.


The peace that was lost, and that we long for today, will only be restored when humanity follows the way of the Lord.


That message was proclaimed by John the Baptist, and even more powerfully by Jesus. As we read in Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 3:1-12), “John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!’”


While repentance is usually understood as turning from sin, we might better understand it as allowing the Spirit of God to guide and direct our lives. As we pray in the Our Father, “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”


The more people allow God’s Spirit to guide their lives, the more God’s kingdom of peace comes into our world.


The perfect Christmas card for all people, believers and non-believers alike, shows the image that beautifully portrays the peace that we all long for in our lives and in our world. “Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.”

Such a Christmas card is worth sending to everyone.


© 2022 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski



Sunday, November 27, 2022

The First Sunday of Advent

Imagine for a moment that you liked reading novels in which you were kept in suspense wondering how the story would end.


Would the distraught parents be reunited with their lost child? Would the signals from space herald the arrival of aliens? Would the underrated team win the championship? Would the detective ever find the evidence to clear the defendant?


However, imagine you picked up a novel and rather than holding the reader in suspense until the last few pages, the author revealed the conclusion of the story on the first page. Yes, the child is found. The signals are a mistake. The underrated team wins. The defendant is found guilty.


This Sunday, the start of the new liturgical year of 2023, we begin a series of Gospel readings that will tell us the story of Jesus from his birth in Bethlehem to his death and resurrection. In the course of those readings, we will hear of his teachings, his miracles, his interaction with the disciples, the response of the crowds, and the hostility of the religious authorities. We will come to know Jesus as the Son of God and as our Savior and Lord.


On the First Sunday of Advent, we would expect the story to begin at the beginning, but it begins at the end. In the Gospel Reading for this Sunday (Mathew 24:37-44), Jesus tells us he will return in glory. He will come to usher in the long-awaited Kingdom of God where, as we learn in our First Reading (Isaiah 2:1-5), “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.


Jesus warns us not everyone will be judged worthy of a place in that kingdom. As he says, “Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left.”


Jesus tells us if we wish to be the one taken into the kingdom, we must “stay awake!” Saint Paul in our Second Reading (Romans 13:11-14) proclaims that same message. He tells us “to awake from sleep…throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy.”


The Church does not keep us in suspense. It starts the story of Jesus with the “conclusion” so that we will realize the importance of our being awake and ready to welcome the Lord.


As we make our way through the “pages” of the Gospel during this new liturgical year, we need keep that ending in mind. We need to be ready for the return of the Lord “for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come."


© 2022 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski