KEEPING RESOLUTIONS

SUNDAY, February 18, 2024

The First Sunday of Lent

We are now seven weeks into the year 2024. At the beginning of the year, many of us made New Year’s resolutions. We might have resolved to better our physical health, strengthen our relationships, work on developing a particular skill, lessen our time on social media, or do something else that would improve our lives and the lives of others.

 

Such resolutions are easy to make but hard to keep. How many of us may have already broken the resolutions we made in January? In fact, some of us make the same resolutions every year because those resolutions never move beyond good intentions.

 

The individuals who succeed in keeping their resolutions are those who make it a point to recall them each day. Perhaps the most successful are those who tell a friend about their resolutions and ask that friend to check on them, to encourage them, and to hold them to account.

 

The start of Lent is a time for Christians to make resolutions. On Ash Wednesday, we were marked with ashes and told, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” We hear those same words in this Sunday’s Gospel (Mark1:12-15). After his baptism and time of testing in the desert, Jesus began his public ministry by proclaiming, “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel."

 

In response to that call to “repent,” we are encouraged to resolve to do something specific during Lent to help us move away from sin and grow in our spiritual life.

 

Those Lenten resolutions can include allocating a certain amount of time each day to prayer or scripture reading, attending an extra Mass or two each week, spending more quality time with our family, becoming involved in some charitable activity, making an effort to overcome a particular sin or negative habit, being more patient and forgiving, avoiding a favorite food or activity as a sacrifice for our sins, etc.

 

We will likely keep our Lenten resolutions during the first weeks of Lent but by the fourth or fifth week of Lent we may find those resolutions being forgotten just like those we made in January.

 

If we want to remain faithful to our Lenten resolutions, we should follow the example of those who succeed in keeping their New Year’s promises.

 

We should write out what we have resolved to do for Lent and put that paper in a place that will catch our attention each day. We might make reading that paper part of our daily prayer. We might even recall our resolutions during the Penitential Rite at Mass as we thank God for our successes and seek his mercy for “what I have failed to do.”

 

Most importantly, we might tell a family member, friend, or even our parish priest what we have resolved to do for Lent and ask that person to check on our progress. We all do better when we are held to account.

 

Finally, we should ask God’s help in keeping our Lenten promises. In Sunday’s Gospel, we hear that during the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert “the angels ministered to him.” We might ask the Lord to “minister” to us during these 40 days of Lent as we seek to “repent, and believe in the Gospel.”

 

Like the start of a new year, the start of Lent is a time for making resolutions, but even more importantly, Lent is a time for keeping those resolutions and growing in holiness.

 

© 2024 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski

JUDGED "UNCLEAN"

Sunday, February 11, 2024

The Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Unclean, unclean.” According to this Sunday’s First Reading (Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46), these are the words that individuals afflicted with skin diseases had to cry out when people were nearby.

 

Those diseases, often referred to in the scriptures with the term “leprosy,” were seen not only as contagious physical ailments but also indications that the afflicted person was in the grip of sin and evil.

 

Those judged to be “lepers” had to warn the public of their presence, for if others came too close they too would become unclean and unable to participate in the community’s life and worship.

 

“Lepers” were shunned and avoided. Requiring them to shout “unclean” not only announced their presence, it was also a constant reminder to them that they were no longer a father or mother, a son or daughter, a neighbor or friend. They were simply the “unclean.”

 

Thankfully, we do not live in a society where people with certain diseases are required to announce their ailments. There are privacy laws that prohibit the disclosure of an individual’s medical condition. Those who are ill must give explicit permission for information about their health to be shared with others, even family members.

 

While our society does not demand that people with certain diseases cry out “unclean, unclean,” it has no problem declaring that certain persons are “unclean.”

 

At the time of Jesus, it was the Jewish priests who determined which individuals had to announce they were unclean.

 

In our day, it is the influencers of the moment, the anointed celebrities of social media, the cultural trend setters, and the politically powerful who decide which people are unclean.

 

The unclean are those persons whom they judge to be “infected” with beliefs, opinions, morals, and convictions that do not fit the prevailing culture and values of the day. The unclean are to be pushed aside, ignored, and shunned as were the lepers at the time of Jesus.

 

Those judged as unclean in our day can include persons who:

 

- believe in the existence of God and recognize people as creations of God subject to his commandments;

 

- recognize Jesus Christ as the Son of God and as the one who reveals the truth and the way to everlasting life;

 

- appreciate human life as a precious gift to be safeguarded from the moment of conception to the moment of  

   natural death;

 

- believe in the sanctity of marriage and see its basis in the Book of Genesis, “a man leaves his father and mother and

   clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body”;

 

- profess that individuals are endowed with unalienable rights that come from God and not from the state;

 

- base their opinions on the Word of God and not on the politically correct belief of the moment; and recognize they

   are ultimately answerable to God and not to themselves or the culture.

 

We live in a society that is more than ready to call such persons, such Christians, “unclean” and willing to do all it can to silence and isolate them as dangerous “lepers.”

 

If we remember that, like the leper of Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 1:40-45), God has touched us with his grace made present in Jesus, then society’s shouts of “unclean” will mean nothing.

 

If fact, we might say the label and shouts indicate that we are doing what Paul advises in Sunday’s Second Reading (1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1), “Do everything for the glory of God…be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

 

© 2024 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski

 

UNEXPECTED QUOTATIONS

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2024

The Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Most churches have outdoor signs that display the Mass schedule and sometimes include a biblical quotation.

 

Imagine seeing a church sign that displays the following scripture quote: “Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?” Or seeing another sign with the words “I have been assigned months of misery.” Or noticing a third outdoor sign with the quotation “I shall not see happiness again.”

 

We might wonder why a parish would choose to put such words on its signage. Yet those are among the words chosen by the Church to be proclaimed at Mass this weekend.

 

These quotations are from Sunday’s First Reading from the Book of Job (Job 7:1-4, 6-7). There Job expresses how he feels after enduring unbearable sufferings. Despite his righteousness and fidelity to God, everything went wrong in Job’s life.

 

His children died. He lost all his wealth, property, and social status. He was afflicted with horrible physical ailments. He was scorned by his wife and thought a sinner by his friends since such evils had come upon him.

 

For Job, life had become a drudgery, a series of months filled with misery, hopelessness, and troubled nights. He felt abandoned by God who seemed to ignore his prayers and pleadings.

 

Though we will not endure all the suffering that came upon Job, our lives do have their periods of drudgery, sickness, worry, and anxiety.

 

We may endure the loss of employment, the end of a relationship, or the death of loved ones. We have moments when happiness and God seem far away. In addition, we live in a world filled with misery, war, violence, suffering, turmoil, polarization, and distrust. We can feel beaten down like Job.

 

Despite his pain, suffering, and humiliation, Job did not lose faith in God. In the end, Job was healed and rewarded for his faithfulness. God eventually made all things right. “Thus the Lord blessed the later days of Job more than his earlier ones” (Job 42:12).

 

Certainly, Job would have preferred that God acted immediately as happened in this Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 1: 29-39). In that reading, when Jesus entered the home of Peter and Andrew, he was told that Peter’s mother-in-law was suffering from a fever, and Jesus immediately responded. “He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her.” God acts when and how God chooses.

 

We might not be attracted by church signs with biblical citations about drudgery, misery, and unhappiness. But as we learn from the story of Job and from human experience, suffering is part of life. It comes, at one time or another, to everyone, even the innocent. Certainly, the cross of Jesus is proof of that.

 

© 2024 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski

WITH AUTHORITY

SUNDAy, JANUARY 28, 2024

The fourth Sunday in ordinary Time

Police officers, military leaders, government officials, judges, employers, and parents all have something in common. They all have authority and can require people to act in certain ways.

 

For example, a police officer can compel a driver to pull over, an employer can order an employee to complete a job by a deadline, and a mother can tell her children to turn off the TV and do their homework.

 

Doctors, professors, lawyers, and scientists also have authority. Their authority comes from having a recognized level of knowledge and expertise beyond that of most people. For example, when we are looking for information concerning cancer treatment, we seek advice from an authority in the field of oncology and do not rely on medical websites.

 

Overall, people with authority are individuals with knowledge or power.

 

In this Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 1:21-28), we see Jesus exercising authority.

 

On a sabbath day, he comes into the synagogue at Capernaum and there he teaches the people. Jesus does not imitate the scribes who based their sermons on what had been taught by experts who had come before them. Jesus teaches on his own authority.

 

We are told, “the people were astonished…for he taught as one having authority and not as the scribes.” Jesus was the light of the world. He did not need others to verify his words and endorse his teaching.

 

The authority of Jesus was even acknowledged by the unclean spirit that was possessing a man in the synagogue. The demon recognized Jesus to be “the Holy One of God” with power over him. Simply by his words, Jesus drove out that demon and left the people amazed. “What is this? A new teaching with authority: he commands even unclean spirits and they obey him.”

 

What the people came to understand in that synagogue 2,000 years ago is something we need to remember. We live in a society filled with all kinds of people offering their vision of life, proclaiming their understanding of the truth, selling their personal philosophies, promoting their codes of morality, and endorsing ever-stranger ideas. In such a world, it is easy to become confused, lost, and uncertain of how to live and what to believe. Like the people in the synagogue at Capernaum, we need to recognize the authority of Jesus.

 

His words and his teachings reveal the truth and have the power to free us from the “unclean spirits” that seek to possess us.

 

That authority of Jesus is even recognized by a society that is increasingly hostile to Christianity. If our society did not recognize the authority of Jesus, it would not be fighting so hard to silence his words and negate his influence.

 

The people in the synagogue recognized the amazing authority of Jesus. Today, we might ask ourselves if Jesus truly is the authority we look to and recognize in our lives.

 

© 2024 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski

 

SPECIAL NOTICE

Father Iwanowski has co-authored a new book of Lenten Reflections called

OPEN OUR HEARTS, published by Renew International.

It is available at   https://store.renewintl.org/

WHERE IS IT?

Sunday, January 21, 2024

The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Where is the kingdom of God?

 

That question could inspire the following responses:

 

The kingdom of God is in heaven, the place that awaits all those who live according to the commandments of God.

 

The kingdom of God is the society that comes about when all people obey the will of God and turn from sin. As we pray in the Our Father, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”

 

The kingdom of God is the world that will blossom forth when Jesus Christ returns in glory at the end of time.  

 

The kingdom of God is the “peaceable kingdom” illustrated on Christmas cards and sung about by choirs, where all people live together in love, justice, and peace.

 

However, this Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 1:14-20) may lead us to think of the kingdom of God in another way. In that Gospel Jesus does not speak of the kingdom of God as something that we wait for, work for, wish for, or hope for. Instead, Jesus speaks of the kingdom of God as a present reality.

 

Saint Mark tells us that after the arrest of John the Baptist, Jesus began proclaiming, "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand.”

 

Jesus could say that the kingdom of God was at hand because he was the kingdom of God made visible in the world. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his book, Jesus of Nazareth, “There is a growing tendency to hold that Christ uses these words to refer to Himself: He, who is in our midst is the Kingdom of God…Through Jesus’ presence and action, God has here and now entered actively into history in a wholly new way.” (page 60)

 

The presence of the kingdom in our world that began when Jesus took flesh and came among us continues today. We encounter Jesus Christ in his Church, in the reception of Holy Communion, in the celebration of the Sacraments, in the proclamation of the Word, and in the action of the Holy Spirit.

 

In Jesus Christ, we come in contact with God and are invited to have a relationship with him and are drawn into his kingdom.

 

In Sunday’s Gospel, we learn that after proclaiming the presence of the kingdom, Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, and John to join him. They immediately left their nets and followed him. How could they refuse an invitation from the One who embodied the kingdom and was the very presence of God?

 

We can view the kingdom of God as something yet to come and something to be hoped for, or we can view it as a present reality made visible in Jesus. As he himself tells us, "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand.”

 

Like Peter, Andrew, James, and John, may we recognize the presence of Jesus and follow him. In doing so, we will find the pearl of great price, we will find the treasure in the field, we will find the kingdom of God!

 

© 2024 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski

 

SPECIAL NOTICE

Father Iwanowski has co-authored a new book of Lenten Reflections called

OPEN OUR HEARTS, published by Renew International. 

It is available at   https://store.renewintl.org/

MY BODY?

Sunday, January 14, 2024

The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

If a woman wants to terminate her pregnancy at any time, she should be able to obtain an abortion. “My body, my choice.”

 

If people want to “rent out” their bodies to satisfy the sexual desires of others, they should be free to do so. “My body, my choice.”

 

If a boy comes to believe that he is really a girl, or a girl concludes that she is a boy, they should be able to alter their bodies to match their thinking. “My body, my choice.”

 

If people want to use heroin, fentanyl, marijuana, or any other chemical substance, they should be allowed to take such drugs without legal jeopardy. “My body, my choice.”

 

If individuals are overwhelmed with problems, no longer find meaning in their lives, or suffer from physical or psychological pain, they should have the liberty to bring their lives to an end. “My body, my choice.”

 

Such attitudes are prevalent in our society that increasingly denies the existence of God, elevates egoism, deifies choice, and views the human body as simply a personal possession to be used as desired. “My body, my choice.”

 

However, Saint Paul would reject such thinking. He would refute the idea that the human body is ours to use as we please.

 

This is certainly apparent from his words in this Sunday’s Second Reading (1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20). There Paul tells us, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?”

 

In the waters of baptism, we not only became children of God and brothers and sisters in Christ, we were also made dwelling places of the Holy Spirit. As Christians we have a moral responsibility to care for our bodies, our “physical temples.”

 

Furthermore, our bodies not only house the Spirit, they are also the way we give glory and praise to God and demonstrate our love for him and our neighbor. As Paul reminds us, “Glorify God in your body.”

 

Our bodies are also the way we make Christ present in our world. “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” As members of the Church, as part of the living Body of Christ, we are to take care not to weaken the body of Christ by behavior not in keeping with the Gospel. “Avoid immorality.”

 

In Sunday’s Responsorial Psalm, we will proclaim, “Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.” One way we do the will of the Lord is by using the body that God has given us in accord with God’s law.

 

“My body, my choice” may be the cry of today’s society but those words are a lie. Our bodies are not our creations to treat as we choose. Our bodies are gifts given us by God to use to glorify him and to become the good and holy people God made us to be.

 

As Saint Paul told the Corinthians, and as he tells us, “The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord … Therefore glorify God in your body.”

 

© 2024 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski

 

SPECIAL NOTICE

Father Iwanowski has co-authored a new book of Lenten Reflections called

OPEN OUR HEARTS, published by Renew International. 

It is available at   https://store.renewintl.org/

 

THERE FROM THE START

January 7, 2024

THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD

During this Christmas Season, almost every Catholic parish has a nativity scene on display inside its church and sometimes outside the building as well.

 

The scene was set up sometime in Advent and remains in place throughout the Christmas Season that concludes with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

 

The nativity display contains the figures associated with the Gospels of Christmas. Following tradition, the figure of the Christ Child was most likely put in place during the first Mass of Christmas Eve.

 

Often the figures of the magi are not added to the creche until the Epiphany of the Lord that is observed this coming Sunday. The Gospel for that day (Matthew 2:1-12) describes how magi from the east were led by a star to Jerusalem. From there they were directed to Bethlehem where they found “the newborn king of the Jews.”

 

Some parishes place the figures of the magi in the church from the start, but they are located at a distance from the creche. The figures are gradually moved toward the nativity scene a little each day until the magi are finally placed before the statue of the Christ Child on the Epiphany of the Lord. This movement symbolizes the quest of the magi to find the one whose birth was announced by a shining star.

 

Even though the actual figures of the magi may not be added to the nativity scene until this Sunday, the “magi” really were there from the moment the display was placed in the church—because we are those magi. 

 

The magi spoken about in Matthew’s Gospel were Gentiles, non-Jews, who were led by the heavens to Bethlehem. Their eyes were opened, and they recognized that the child with Mary and Joseph was not just another infant. They were given the same insight that the Jewish shepherds received that first Christmas night when they were told by angels that “in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.”

 

The gifts that the magi offered to the infant showed they knew who the child was. Incense implied his divinity, gold indicated his royalty, and myrrh hinted at his future sacrificial death.

 

Like those magi, we know who Jesus is, for God has blessed us with the gift of faith and revealed him as our Savior and Lord.

 

As we look at the manger scene, we need to realize that there are not just Gentile magi and Jewish shepherds gazing upon the Christ Child. We are also looking upon the Lord who revealed himself to us in the Sacrament of Baptism and who continues to reveal himself to us as his Word is proclaimed, his Sacraments are celebrated, and his Church gathers at his Altar.

 

The Epiphany of the Lord continues as Jesus Christ continues to reveal himself to us, the “magi” of today.

 

© 2024 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski


May God Bless You in This New Year!

May You Spread the Love, Mercy, and Peace of the Lord!

HOLINESS RECOGNITION

Sunday, December 31, 2023

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

Facial recognition software is one of the newest methods used to identify people. It maps facial features from an image, video, or in real time, and then compares the information with a database of known faces to find a match. Just as we have fingerprints, we now have faceprints.

 

Facial recognition software is used by businesses, schools, police departments, security firms, and government agencies to confirm a person’s identity. It is also used by individuals to unlock their smartphones or other digital devices.

 

However, facial recognition is not new. Humans have been using it since people began to populate the earth. We can look at a large crowd and we can identify the faces of our relatives, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and people we have met.

 

We may not remember the names of all the people we have encountered, but we usually remember their faces. 

 

In this Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 2:22-40), we hear how Simeon and Anna recognized that there was something special about a certain couple who came to the Temple to present their child to the Lord.

 

When Mary and Joseph carried the infant Jesus into the Temple, Simeon recognized God had fulfilled his promise “that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.”

 

We might say the Holy Spirit had given Simeon the data needed to identify the face of the one who would be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”

 

The prophetess Anna, who after she had become a widow “never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer,” was also given the grace to recognize the child Jesus. When she saw him, “she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.”

 

Simeon and Anna recognized the Holy Family from among all the families who came into the Temple that day and all the days and years before that moment.

 

They saw the faces of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph radiant with the presence of God. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, they identified who this family was.

 

The ability to identify holy people is not limited to individuals like Simeon and Anna. We all recognize holy people. Their faces convey peace, gentleness, and kindness. Their eyes shine with an inner light and their lips give praise and thanks to God and speak words that build others up rather than pull them down. We also see such people pass on their faith to their children, just as Mary and Joseph did.

 

This Sunday’s Feast of the Holy Family would be a perfect time to identify the holy families we know.

 

Like Simeon and Anna, we can praise God for them and perhaps like Simeon and Anna, we can let those families know that we appreciate the goodness we see in them.

 

Just as facial recognition helps us identify who people are, holiness recognition helps us to identify people striving to do what Paul advises in Sunday’s Second Reading (Colossians 3:12-17): “Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another.”

 

© 2023 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski

 

Best Wishes for Happy and Holy Christmas Season,

Filled with the Peace and Presence of Christ the Lord.

ARE WE SAYING YES?

Sunday, December 24, 2023

The Fourth Sunday of Advent

Paul Harvey was a well-known radio personality who had a popular program that was on the air for about 30 years. During each broadcast, he would tell a short story that revealed surprising but largely unknown facts about famous contemporary or historical figures.

 

During one program, he spoke about the Virgin Mary. He told the story of the annunciation that is found in the Gospel for this coming Fourth Sunday of Advent (Luke 1:26-38).

 

He mentioned how the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced she had been chosen to give birth to Jesus. This would happen through the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

Mary responded to this amazing announcement by saying, “May it be done to me according to your word.”

 

Paul Harvey ended his commentary by asking, “I wonder how many women God asked to give birth to his Son before one finally said YES.”

 

For us Catholics, that question would make no sense. God never sent the angel Gabriel to ask other women to give birth to the Savior.

 

Mary had been chosen to give birth to the Messiah even before she was born. We celebrated that belief on December 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

 

On that day the Church prayed, “Almighty and eternal God … you preserved the most Blessed Virgin Mary from all stain of original sin, so that in her, endowed with the rich fullness of your grace, you might prepare a worthy Mother for your Son” (Preface for the Immaculate Conception).

 

That is why the angel Gabriel could call Mary “full of grace” and say she had “found favor with God.” With such grace and favor, Mary responded without hesitation to what God asked of her and the incarnation took place. God was born among us. We will celebrate this event on Christmas Eve just hours after this Gospel is proclaimed on the morning of the Fourth Sunday of Advent.

 

The question asked by Paul Harvey was not theologically correct, but it does raise an interesting question, not about Mary, but about us.

 

How do we respond to what God asks of us?

 

God asks his people to live as his faithful children and to follow the example of his Son. We are to make God’s kingdom visible in our world by working for justice and peace, caring for the hungry and the hurting, and acknowledging all we have is a gift from God.

 

God asks some people to live in a particular way by serving him as priests, deacons, religious, and lay ministers in his Church.

 

Yet how many of us ignore those divine challenges and invitations that come to us not through messages delivered by angels but through what we may hear at Mass, by inspirations that cross our minds in prayerful moments, by what we may hear or see in the media, or by an unexpected comment from a friend or even a stranger.

 

How many times do we respond NO to God, or perhaps ignore the question, or think that someone else will step forward. This may explain the current vocation crisis in our Church. God is still asking, but individuals are saying NO.

 

When we were baptized, God favored us with his grace so that we might be strengthened to live as his people and to say YES to what he asks of us.

 

Today, a Paul Harvey might ask, “I wonder how many people God has to keep asking to live as his faithful children before enough finally say YES, and God’s kingdom comes into this world?”

 

© 2023 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski

 

Best Wishes for Happy and Holy Christmas Season,

Filled with the Peace and Presence of Christ the Lord.

Q & A

Sunday, December 17, 2023

The Third Sunday of Advent

Why am I here? What is my purpose in life? Many people would have difficulty answering these questions.

 

They find little purpose or meaning in their lives. They think their existence on earth makes no difference to anyone.

 

In this Sunday’s readings, we meet people who did find and realize their purpose in life.

 

In our First Reading (Isaiah 6:1-2a, 10-11), we learn that the Prophet Isaiah knew the reason he was on this earth. He says, “The Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord.”

 

Isaiah was aware that God had commissioned him to proclaim a message of hope and salvation to the people of Israel. 

 

In fact, Jesus quoted those very words of Isaiah when he spoke in the synagogue at Nazareth. Then Jesus added, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). With those words, Jesus explained his purpose and mission in life.

 

In Sunday’s Gospel Reading (John 1:6-8, 19-28), John the Baptist tells the priests and Levites who questioned his identity that he was not the Christ, or Elijah, or the Prophet. He was “the voice of one crying out in the desert. Make straight the way of the Lord.” John knew his purpose.

 

John the Gospel writer highlighted that mission of John the Baptist by saying that he came “to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.”

 

Isaiah, John the Baptist, and Jesus would have no difficulty answering, Why am I here? What is my purpose in life?

 

In light of our readings, this Third Sunday of Advent might be a good time to ask ourselves those two questions.

 

A good answer might be found in the Baltimore Catechism, a well-known catechetical text that many older Catholics might remember.

 

That Catechism contained a series of questions and answers. One of the first questions was, “Why did God make me?” The answer was, “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven.”

 

Those few words tell us that our existence is no accident. We were created for a purpose.

 

God made us so that we might know him, not as a distant, impersonal force, but rather as a merciful and loving Father who desires a personal relationship with the people he formed in his image and likeness.

 

God made us so that we might love him, so that we might invite him into our hearts. We do that when we speak to him in prayer, listen as he speaks to us in the scriptures and through the Church, and when we share his life-giving Body and Blood in the Eucharist.

 

God made us so that we might serve him in this world. We do that by following the example of his Son, by caring for those in need, and by striving to make God’s kingdom of love, justice, and peace present in our world.

 

God made us so that by knowing, loving, and serving him we might find purpose in our lives today, and find joy and happiness in the eternity of tomorrows.

 

QUESTION Why am I here? What is my purpose in life?

 

ANSWER God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven.

 

© 2023 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski

PART OF A PLAN

Sunday, December 10, 2023

The second Sunday of Advent

Some people are careful planners; other people are wildly spontaneous.

 

When planners arrange a party, nothing is left to chance. The date is chosen well in advance so as not to conflict with other events. The guest list is carefully considered. A comfortable and impressive venue is booked. The menu items are selected in light of the occasion and the diet restrictions that guests may have. Planners even contemplate unforeseen circumstances they might face.

 

Spontaneous people are very different. They suddenly think that it would be great to have a party. So, they text their friends and tell them to meet at a certain location that evening. They tell those invited to come with their favorite drinks and to feel free to bring other people. They arrange for food to be delivered. They hang up a few decorations, set up a Bose Sound Machine, and the party is on!

 

The world is made of planners and spontaneous people. Thankfully, the planners are the ones usually in positions of authority. We would not want spontaneous people making decisions without forethought and consideration of possible consequences.

 

This Advent Season reminds us that God is a planner. God’s actions to save us from the power of sin and death and to bring us into a loving relationship with him were divinely planned. We see that illustrated in the scripture readings for this Sunday.

 

In the First Reading (Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11), the prophet Isaiah speaks of the deliverance God arranged for his chosen people. The God who had led his people out of slavery in Egypt would bring them out of exile in Babylon and back to Jerusalem. As Isaiah proclaimed, “Here comes with power the Lord God… Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care.”

 

In the Gospel (Mark 1:1-8), Mark begins his account of “Jesus Christ, the Son of God” by introducing John the Baptist, the one sent by God to proclaim “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” and to announce “one mightier than I is coming after me.” John was to ready the way for the arrival of Jesus, whose coming had been planned and foretold.

 

In our Second Reading (2 Peter 3:8-14), Peter tells us not to lose hope as we cope with this sinful world for in the future “there will be new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” But that will happen according to God’s plan and timetable, for as Peter reminds us, “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day.”

 

These readings, and the ones we will hear on the Third and Fourth Sundays of Advent, show God’s plan of salvation being worked out. God did not suddenly decide to send his Son into this world. God had a plan in mind that included Isaiah, John the Baptist, Peter, and all who would follow after them – that includes each one of us. We are not the result of a spontaneous decision; we are part of God’s plan of salvation.

 

© 2023 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski

A PREMATURE QUESTION?

Sunday, December 3, 2023

The First Sunday of Advent

What’s your New Year’s Resolution? If someone asks us that question this coming weekend, we will think the question is a little premature. New Year’s Day is still four weeks away. Our minds are on the coming celebration of Christmas, not on January 1. After December 25, we might start thinking about what resolutions we might make to improve our lives in 2024.

 

However, the question is not as strange as it might seem. This Sunday, the First Sunday of Advent, is the first day of the liturgical year of 2024. In the Church’s calendar, this coming Sunday is New Year’s Day. On this day, we begin the season of Advent that focuses our attention on how the world waited in hope for the coming of the Messiah and on our waiting for Christ to come again in glory.

 

We then enter the Christmas Season during which we recall how the Son of God was born as the child of Mary and how his coming into the world was recognized by Jewish shepherds and Gentile kings.

 

During the 40 days of Lent, we hear the Lord’s call to turn away from sin and we see how Jesus faithfully embraced the will of his Father.  

 

During the 50 days that make up the Easter Season, we celebrate the victory of Jesus over sin and death. We rejoice that through him, we are freed from the power of sin and death and given the promise of life everlasting.

 

In the intervening weeks between those four special seasons, we listen to the scriptures of “Ordinary Time.” We hear of the life and ministry of Jesus, and we are challenged to love one another as Jesus loved us.

 

We might think this New Year’s Day is nothing more than the start of just another cycle of seasons and feasts that we have gone through before, some of us 20, 40, 60 or even 80 or more times, but it is not.

 

Each liturgical year is different because we evolve and change. We are not in the same place in our spiritual lives as we were 365 days ago. We recognize the continuing change in other areas of our lives: our health improves or declines, our appearance changes as we age, we grow closer to some people and apart from others, our opinions and outlook on life do not remain static, etc.

 

In light of these changes, we often make resolutions as January 1 approaches and resolve to do better in certain aspects of our lives.

 

As the new liturgical year begins, we might resolve to improve our spiritual lives as we move through this liturgical cycle, recognizing that each cycle spirals us forward to the day when we meet the Lord.

 

In this Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 13:33-37), Jesus gives us a perfect resolution to consider. In the reading, Jesus tells us to “Be watchful! Be alert!” Then twice more he repeats that command as he says, “Watch!”

 

What better resolution could we make at the start of the liturgical year of 2024 than to be watchful? To watch for the ways that Jesus Christ is touching our lives through word and sacrament and through the people and events in our lives. We might resolve to take time each day to be alert to opportunities God has given us to grow in holiness and in our relationship with him.

 

What’s your New Year’s Resolution?

 

© 2023 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski