I have often thought that if I were a Jewish contemporary of Jesus, I would not have recognized him as the Messiah. I am assuming that I would have been educated in my faith and knew the signs of the Messiah, but would not have found them in Jesus. Now through hindsight and the genius of St. Paul, we can see them as plain as day. St. Matthew today tells us that our inability should not distress us – indeed should give us comfort. Let’s look at why. Continue reading “3rd Sunday Ordinary Time – Fr. Smith Homily”
The Calling of Saint Peter and Saint Andrew, James Tissot, 1886-1894, Brooklyn Museum
January 26, 2020
Today’s passage from Isaiah responds to a dangerous time in Jewish history and Isaiah will give us considerable information about it. Yet because of this very identification with a very specific time and place, it reveals the universal and timeless nature of the LORD’S power in history and provides a few very practical observations for us today.
First, Where Are the People?
The distress referred to at the beginning of the passage (Is. 8:23) is the enslavement of part of the Northern Kingdom “Zebulun and Naphtali” by the Assyrians around 731 BC. This process will be completed with the total destruction of Israel in 721 BC. Isaiah is writing from the Southern Kingdom (Judah) and is concerned not only about the Assyrian aggression but the effects of “cultural imperialism.” As we saw several weeks ago, King Ahaz, the reigning monarch, made a treaty with the Assyrians. Its high cost and openness to pagan worship caused serious disruption to the Jewish people. Only a change in leadership could avert disaster. Continue reading “3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time – Accept No Substitute”
The format for the readings for Sunday Mass in Ordinary Time – that is when the priest is in green vestments – is arranged very carefully. The Gospel for the year is either Matthew, Mark, or Luke, and is read straight through week by week. The first reading is from the Old Testament and is chosen to highlight something about the Gospel. The second reading, usually from St Paul, is not connected to the other readings and is also read consecutively over a three-year cycle. It is often neglected, but as we will be reading the 1st letter of Paul to the Corinthians, a true Christian masterpiece, from now until Lent I thought it a good idea to say a few things about it.
Now although it is not chosen to reflect any particular passage of St. Matthew’s gospel which we will be reading these weeks as well, they do share some interesting similarities not only in theology but in the social makeup of their communities.
Both were written to congregations which were composed of born Jews and born Gentiles, but who all considered themselves Christians. Antioch, where Matthew was very likely written, was a very large and cosmopolitan city; Corinth was the wild west. It is situated in the narrowest part of Greece, its waist and a natural transport spot. Travelling by sea was very dangerous and it made financial sense to pull into Corinth, unload the cargo, bring it across the isthmus to another port, put it on anther ship and sail away. This attracted a very rugged group of people, both Jew and Greek and provided a laboratory on how the Christian message can be misheard. Continue reading “2nd Sunday Ordinary Time – Fr. Smith Homily”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivering his “I Have a Dream Speech” at the Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C., August 28, 1963. (National Archives ARC Identifier 542069)
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 49:3, 5–6
January 19, 2020
Today’s reading from Isaiah is undoubtedly beautiful but is often considered confusing. Who is the servant? Is it Israel, Isaiah himself, or someone or something else? All these positions have their defenders. Yet I think we will see that the editors of the final version which we read have produced is something theologically profound and psychologically accurate.
This passage was composed by someone we have named Second Isaiah. He lived in Babylon at the end of the exile of the Jewish people around 540 BC. To be more precise the exile only ended for those who wished to end it. Babylon was conquered by Assyria and the new king, Cyrus, invited the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their country and temple. His reasoning was colonial. He wanted people indebted to him to be in charge of the locals, and be subservient to him. Enough Jews thought there was a higher force involved, accepted the invitation and returned.
We see the consequences with the beginning of this chapter:
Today’s passage does not answer my basic question about the Baptism of Jesus: “What is the difference between John’s baptism and Jesus’?”
There are hints of an answer, but I want clear and distinct ideas and I am not going to get them. What we want to know and what Jesus wants to tell us may not always be the same thing. So, let us try to see what Jesus wants us to know. Continue reading “Baptism of the Lord – Fr. Smith Homily”
The Baptism of Christ, Guido Reni, 1622-1623, Kunsthistorisches Museum (Vienna)
The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
Isaiah 42:1–4, 6–7
January 12, 2020
The first reading for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is the same every year. It allows us to see not only how deeper our understanding of the Old Testament has become but also to demonstrate how the same passage from Scripture can be applied to new situations. We will therefore provide the same commentary as last year, and I would assume next year, but with a different application.
The return of the Jewish leaders to Jerusalem was obviously an important event for the Jews. Isaiah, who has a wider view of history, shows us in today’s reading that we must also see it from the perspective of “world” history, God cannot move without disruption. To understand this, we must begin with chapter 41.
Isaiah is creating a trial scene in which God is the prosecuting attorney and Judge. The first case is “Who liberated the Jewish People?” As we proceed, note that the scriptural passages are listed in the headers, but only a small section is written out. Hebrew poetry is a bit repetitive to our ears. Continue reading “Baptism of the Lord – Blessed, Anointed—To What End?”
Permission to podcast/stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #A-730437.
We have been called “A Nation of Seekers”. Whether by covered wagon or moving van Americans have shown a great willingness to pick up for someplace else. This has been not only physical but spiritual as well. The number of sects and fads that we have initiated and the spiritual practices we have practiced over the years bewilders almost everyone else. As this nation of seekers, the Epiphany should be our national feast and the magi celebrated as our great forbears.
Now we need to get two things out of the way immediately. The first is the star. An extraordinary amount of time and effort has been spent in determining when and how this star appeared. Was it a comet, a supernova or the alignment of planets? I neither know nor care. The important thing is the something got these men so curious that they travelled long and far to find the answer. Continue reading “Epiphany – Fr. Smith Homily”