1st Sunday of Lent – Homily (Fr. Smith)

Mark is a minimalist. He can tell a powerful story in very few words. In today’s three verses he will show us what Jesus will do and how we should respond. He will also hint as to why we should do it.

The wilderness is a place of revelation. God not only reveals himself to his people but they – we – reveal ourselves in return to Him. It is thus is a place of testing. The faith of the Israelites was tested for 40 days when Moses was on Mt Sinai and indeed for 40 years after their failure. The generation that left the captivity of Egypt were given the opportunity for freedom, but they rejected it and entered a long period of training in the school of the desert.

Jesus is now also tested. Mark is very clear that it is by Satan. Originally, Satan was seen as an official in the heavenly court. He tested creatures to see if they were loyal to the LORD. For Mark, however, he is the prince of daemons, invisible spirits who oppose God’s plan. Mark, of all the gospel writers, most clearly presents Jesus as confronting Satan and destroying his hold on humanity. We have already seen Jesus’ exorcisms and in several key moments in the Gospel and he will tell us very clearly how Satan was defeated. We see today the first defeat. Mark is not interested in Satan’s strategies or deceptions, only that Jesus was stronger and prevailed over him. We know that he succeeded because he escaped alive. Mark emphasizes that Jesus was with the wild beasts. They are often associated with Satan, yet Jesus is unharmed. We remember that Satan appeared to Adam and Eve in the garden as a serpent. They did not pass the test and the animals with whom they lived in peace in the garden became wild and turned against them. But always there was the promise that the LORD would bring all things back to harmony again. That Jesus lived in peace with the wild animals is the first sign of this harmony would come with what Jesus calls the Kingdom. Jesus’ ministry would be a re-creation of the world. Jesus is in the desert because the Spirit literally drove him there. This is the same spirit who appeared as a great wind at the beginning of creation. It is in the power of the spirit that re-creation begins. When Adam and Eve are cast out of the garden angels are stationed outside to keep the gates locked. Now angels are dispatched to help Jesus open them again.

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6th Sunday Ordinary Time – Homily (Msgr. LoPinto)

Think Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit community.

Right. Is that how you approach scripture?

The best way to approach it is not in some intellectual form, in the sense of researching and all of the different pieces that go with it.

But he said the best way to approach scripture is to put yourself in the story.

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5th Sunday Ordinary Time – Homily (Fr. Smith)

Gospel means good news. And as it was usually an edict of or command of an emperor, did not have particularly religious connotations.

Christ means anointed one in Hebrew.

Messiah, a person much desired, but also much to be feared. And again, would have many tasks that we would consider not even remotely religious.

“Son of God” is a bit ambiguous and could mean merely a good Israelite. But this ambiguity is removed in a few verses when, after Jesus’s baptism, the Father calls him his beloved son. An unprecedented statement of intimacy.

Like the first readers of St. Mark, we know how this ends. Jesus is executed, but rises again. Those who heard him live and in person did not know the conclusion. Mark will use the apostles to show us what these people thought and experienced throughout the gospel. He will always emphasize that they were mostly clueless and needed to have everything explained to them, and sometimes have the best dragged out of them. Think of Dr. Watson from Sherlock Holmes – but without the good manners.

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4th Sunday Ordinary Time – Homily (Fr. Smith)

As we read St. Mark’s gospel this year, it will be important to recognize that his audience is not getting new information. They have heard many stories about Jesus, and Mark’s intention is not tell them more, but to help them understand what they already know. This is the first gospel, and its author deserves to be considered a major literary innovator. Indeed, he uses sophisticated literary devices to help his congregation make the decision to follow Jesus, and he can help us as well.

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2nd Sunday Ordinary Time – Homily (Fr. Smith)

The call of the Apostles in the Gospels seems artificial and contrived. Despite some differences in the individual Gospels, the Apostles give up everything to answer a call from someone they have only just met. It seems very unlikely as a journalistic account, but it very accurately describes if not the moment when the call is first heard the moment when it is understood. I can relate to this myself and can also see it in the life of Martin Luther King, but here with one enormous difference.

The Apostles were the first leaders of the Church, but we see them today as disciples, followers of Jesus like the rest of us. They were not of the poorest class, Peter and Andrew seemed to be rather prosperous and some may have been better educated than the average Jew. We see in today’s Gospel that the immediate group had some connection with John the Baptizer, so they were knowledgeable and interested in religion. Being the disciple of a famous rabbi would have allowed social and most likely financial improvement. Yet there was significant risk, Jesus’ message was as strange then as now. There is a kingdom coming, but it will not be brought by war and power, but by love and nonviolence. No matter when or how a person hears this, realizing what it really means is always a revelation and always requires a firm decision. Today we read the Apostles’ “yes”.

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Baptism of the Lord – Homily (Msgr. LoPinto)

Mark’s gospel, as so I know many of you are aware, is the shortest of the presentations. And it begins with a very simple line. That he is telling you from the beginning, the story of Jesus Christ, the son of God. He then goes into a very brief piece of presentation about John the Baptist being out in the desert. But the highlight of that first chapter is this scene.
When Jesus comes to the River Jordan. And is baptized or submits to the baptism of John, despite John’s objections.

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