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”
Good evening everyone, and a very Merry Christmas to everyone!
If you don’t know who I am, my name is Father John. I’m going to be a resident here at St Charles, and I think this is the first time ever doing a 7 p.m. Sunday mass, so I see many unfamiliar faces, so I hope to meet some of you after the end of mass.
That’s great to be here with you this evening and this Sunday, the Sunday after Christmas, is always designated to celebrate the reality of the Holy Family, of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. We celebrate the coming together in a very mysterious way of these three people who make up a family that we called to be holy. I think it’s very providential that we remember the Holy Family during this time of Christmas, because I’m sure most of us, if not all of us, have been spending time with our families over the holidays. And of course for me, I think it’s always a great time to reconnect with my family because, first off I love them very dearly, even though we, you know, I’m not always getting along perfectly, but we’re able to rejoice in each other’s company.
Christmas is always a great time for us to come together, and we’re able to rejoice in the fact that in a very mysterious way God has brought us together to a journey through life and a way to help each other out. But, as you also know, when we celebrate Christmas and other holidays it’s not always as if everything goes right when it comes to our families, especially for those of us whose marriages, the in-laws, not may not always get along with, right? And we know that there are lots of family members estranged from each other and don’t talk to each other anymore, and holidays are also right for a time for arguments and other things like that to flare up. So we have to be honest with ourselves that in this time of family and the joy of the season, so to speak, there could also be tremendous sorrow to go through, to be tremendous times for us to really question, do we really want to be part of the families that we’ve been born into?
Yet, when we look at the Holy Family today, rather than look at them as in placing them on a pedestal as being some type of ideal for us to try to become, we should ask ourselves the question, what makes the Holy Family holy? Now if we were to assess that just by the external realities of what we can see, we probably would not be led to the idea of Holiness beliefs, as we understand it in typical Christian types of categories.
What do we have here? First off, we have a teenager who’s pregnant: Mary – chances are she was 14, and of course the guy that she’s with is not the father of the child, and she has the child outside of wedlock. And Joseph, the guy who’s thought that was going to be her protector bearer, the guy that was going to be able to see, the guy who was going to walk with Mary for the rest of her life, almost feels a little bit slighted by the whole situation – questions what’s going on, so there is a disruption between this relationship of Mary and Joseph. And yet even after the child is born, there’s more trial on the way because they leave. Where the child was born in Bethlehem and go to a foreign country of Egypt to spend time there. Here they are coming from Israel going into another land and treated as aliens . We can’t assume that they were given a warm welcome by the Egyptians. Any of us understand the history between Israel and Egypt: it was a very tense relationship, So on the surface we don’t see anything holy about this.
Arrangements for a pregnant teenager not married, a guy who feels slighted and then they go to a land where they’re treated as aliens. Yet we call this family holy, for something that we may not see based on their external realities, but definitely on how they were able to understand what was happening to them. I think to boil it down, what makes this family holy is that they were able to let go of the need to be in control. Mary and Joseph let go of the need to be in control of what was happening around them. That is what makes them holy, and we have to look at that as being the foundation for what a life with God is all about: the need to let go of being in control.
I’m sure many of us over the course of this past week felt that there were a lot of burdens on us to make sure that things go right, that people got along at the different gatherings we had during the holiday season – that the food in the preparation for the parties and things like that was all put together right, that we showed up in the right way. I’m sure that many of us thinking about buying gifts and presents and things like that were concerned about were we buying the right things, is this person happy with this gift. Clearly this is a time of the year where we feel that the burdens on us to make sure everything works out right: we want to be in control. When we want everything to be perfect, we get frustrated when things aren’t the way that we want them to be. We get frustrated with the dysfunction. Our need to be in control is what ultimately drives us many times to think that this is how we need to live our lives.
But yet, the Holy Family shows us a completely different way of living life. They showed to us that even when things seem confusing and don’t seem to happen at the right time and seem to happen out of order, that this is the time to understand it’s something far deeper and greater is happening within you, within them, than could ever have been orchestrated if we were actually the ones in control.
If Mary and Joseph were not the ones who were actually in control, where do we understand that from? We understand that from God himself: the Christ-child, the Incarnation, God becoming Man reveals that even God himself lets go of the need to be in control. The helpless baby in the manger is God. Yeah, there’s nothing about that that seems to be a God who has it all together, our God is all-powerful. Rather we see a helpless weak child, totally dependent upon Mary and Joseph for everything. Mary and Joseph were able to let go of their need of constantly being in control because the God in their midst, the Christ-child, did exactly that.
Saint Paul says that beautifully when he says that Jesus did not hold onto his divinity – something to be grasped; that rather he emptied himself and became a human being. I often say that it was almost as if you had someone who was the best piano player in the world right in your midst, but you would never know they were because there wasn’t any piano around them play. If that’s who the Christ child is, God himself, yeah, you would never know it because he’s not able to exercise the fullness of his divinity.
And how does he journey through this life in a way to continually let go of the need to be in control, which brings him to the cross where he hangs completely powerless, once again, not in control of what’s happening. Yet what the Christ child teaches us, what Mary and Joseph show to us, what the Holy Family reveals to us is that we do make a decision to let go of the need to be in control. It’s not a spirit of indifference or apathy: it’s a proactive choice in our part to say that God is God. We are not we did not bring ourselves into existence nor do we know when we leave this earth and because that is the pressing reality that we are faced with that every moments there’s no choice other than to say God you’re the one who always my life you’re the one who allows me to be whatever you want me to be you’re the one who will give me the ability to perform not just good things but great things Divine things were called to be the Christ child were called to be God’s presence in our Mists and we come once again to this Mass to receive that Christ child but yet in a different form form of the Eucharist and in the moment that we receive the Eucharist we don’t just reflect upon something that happened 2000 years ago and that’s what happened we reflect on how God actually shares his Incarnation within us to give us the full confidence that we do not do Life by ourselves that we do not need to be in control based on our own vices that were given what we need to become joyful in this world and prepared to accept the reality of being fully loved in the next on the surface the Holy Family looks like a mess and I’m sure that we can look at our lives and you think that look they look messy and I’m sure many of us will judge what other people are doing with their lives, and we could say they’re not living this type of proper life or they’re not doing things right.
But all that matters is that we hand our lives over to the One who handed His life over to us, and we say yes to the Christ-child and that’s how we share in the same Holiness of the Holy Family. May God bless you all.
Permission to podcast/stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #A-730437.
Another round of applause! That was great, now you get to go back to your parents. Christmas is over now. [laughter, applause]
For those of you who may not been to a mass I’ve done before, I’m Fr. John, and I always like to begin by doing a little interaction here, let’s say: God is Good! Say, All the Time!
Let’s try it out: God is Good! All the Time!
All the Time! You say, God is Good! Very smart. So All the Time! God is Good!
One more time: God is Good! All the Time! All the Time! God is Good!
Very good, God is very good today because we’re finally here at Christmas, right? We finally got here. All of the anticipation, all of the asking questions of Santa’s coming. All of the planning of what you’re getting from Santa – so now we’ve arrived. So let’s hopefully hope that everything has worked out right tonight – let’s continue to pray.
You know, one thing I love about the Christmas scene is that we always here of the story, with all of the characters that have become very important to the whole story, but the one character – characters we are going to focus on today are the sheep, the sheep.
Now who were playing the sheep? Oscar and George, did I get that right?
So you are Oscar, and you must be George. Great job, because you did a great job because you did exactly what I was told you were going to do, perfectly. Kind of a little directionless, that is really good! You played the part perfectly!
So how many of you, living here in Brooklyn, have ever been to a farm or somewhere where you actually encountered live sheep? All right. Pretty good. About 10 of you. Great!
Now, it’s so interesting that when you are on a farm and you see sheep, they are kind of a little confusing creatures. They get lost very easily. They hit into poles a lot. And a lot of times, you have to make sure, especially in places like Ireland where there tons of sheep, make sure whose are who – they wander everywhere – they start scraping them back to know whose are who. They wander all over the place. These sheep are unpredictable types of creatures, very much like children, right? Very unpredictable.
And the thing is that though if there is one image that starts at the whole nativity scene and continues through the entire gospel, is this whole image of us, the people, of being sheep, in relationship to Jesus, who calls himself the The Good what? The Good Shepherd. Right? Jesus uses the imagery of sheep a lot. Remember, that in that really beautiful parable that begins, you know if there is a shepherd and there’s one sheep who goes off and runs far away, wouldn’t that shepherd go after that one sheep and leave the other 99 by themselves? Jesus gives us that parable for a very strong lesson, because no shepherd in their right mind would ever leave 99 sheep unattended to go after one. He would have to just cut his losses and say sorry, I can’t get that guy.
But Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, says there is not one sheep that is not important. Every single one is important, especially the sheep that strays the most. If there is ever a reason for why we celebrate Christmas, and why we rejoice in this celebration, is because Jesus who comes to us this night gives us the confidence that we do not do this thing all by ourselves, on our own. We can not do this thing all by ourselves, on our own. If we think we can, we are fooling ourselves.
The great gift of Christmas is that Jesus comes to us as a baby, helpless, but also we know him as the Good Shepherd to help us. He comes helpless in order to help us. What. We have to become helpless just like the baby. We have to become as directionless as the sheep. And what sound does the sheep make all the time? Baah! Someone here knows how to play a sheep well.
The thing is, all that is a sign for help, but the sheep what to know where their mother is, where they are supposed to go. It is a sign for help. And that is what prayer is for us. It is our “baah”. We have to just call out for help. And that‘s what it means to not rely on by yourself, to call out for help.
We celebrate the spirit of this great feast of Christmas, and here we have this pageant with the very innocent children, and the story that we’ve heard countless amounts of times, and we look at it as all kind of very sentimental and pretty, but there is a great divine truth that is revealed to us in this night. The divine truth is that we not do this by ourselves. Jesus wants us to be sheep, He wants to call out to him, especially when we feel directionless, especially when we don’t know where things are going, he wants us to “baah” louder.
That is why we rejoice in this night, and also as you come to this mass, as you come to any mass, you are given a tangible sign that you do not walk through this life alone. We not only celebrate something that happened 2,000 years ago, we are able to enter into that mystery through Holy Communion. When we receive the Eucharist tonight, we are receiving the Christ Child, we are receiving the Good Shepherd, we are receiving what we need in order to leave these doors tonight and realize we have everything we need to face whatever is going on in our lives. Especially waking up tomorrow morning with your kids looking for where’s Santa, OK? and dealing with in-laws and all that other stuff you have to deal with.
So let’s rejoice tonight. Let us rejoice in being the sheep that God has called us to be. Let us rejoice that we have a Good Shepherd who never leaves one sheep by itself. Amen?
That is why God is Good: All the Time. All the Time: God is Good.
God bless you. Let us stand.
[Fr. Gribowich is concluding his studies at U.C. Berkeley, as well as assisting at St. Joseph the Worker Church in Berkeley]
Good morning, everyone!
Happy 4th Sunday of Advent! I was here with you for the first Sunday of Advent, and now I’m here with the last Sunday of Advent. Maybe one of these years I’ll be here at Christmas, too, but that’s not going to happen this year, either, because I leave to go back to New York tomorrow. And I actually, unfortunately, this will come to the end of my time here at Saint Joseph’s, because my program at Berkeley wrapped up this semester, so I will not just be leaving and then coming back. I will be leaving pretty much for good, although I do hope to come back and visit in April, so I ask for your prayers.
And it’s very providential that the last time I will be able to spend with you, we hear this Gospel that speaks of how the birth of Jesus comes about through the lens, if you will, of St. Joseph. Since it’s very providential to be here at the church of St. Joseph and to preach about our patron saint, and of course during Christmas time there are not that many Christmas readings. In fact, the infancy narratives only happen in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew. So we hear them often, and of course, we hear them so often, that we tend to kind of glossed over some of the details. But every single word in the scripture can ultimately be looked upon as being purposeful in some type of way, and if we look at how Joseph is described in this Gospel, I think it gives us some insight as to how we as Christians are called to live our lives.
Firstly, Joseph is known as a righteous man. He was a righteous man and therefore he knew what was right, and the fact that he learned that his soon-to-be wife was pregnant and he knew that he wasn’t the father, he knew that what to be right would be to somehow get out of this arrangements, to get out of this future marriage. He was righteous. Continue reading “4th Sunday Advent – Fr. Gribowich homily”
Permission to podcast/stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #A-730437.
Most preachers have a “Christmas is getting too commercial” sermon in their repertoire. I used mine last year, commenting that no pastor would be able to responsibly spend on a church’s Christmas decorations what a New York department store did on its windows. I also noted that the professional ad men on Madison Avenue had so targeted our children that they could tell us in July what we would be buying in December.
After the Mass I was informed by several parishioners that department stores* are on the decline, and even the ones that still exist don’t do that much with windows anymore. This didn’t surprise me. The last time I tried to buy something in a department store, I felt that I was imposing on the sales staff. What did surprise me was that we now have ad women, the agencies are not on Madison Avenue* and we are really being targeted by algorithms. I was asked if I ever noticed that the advertisements on my screens are for things I might actually want, and that this might not be by accident. Frankly, I thought it was magic.
*(Note for those under fifty: a “department store” is a large store stocking many varieties of goods in different departments and “Madison Avenue” as a term refers specifically to the agencies and methodology of advertising.)
Now my basic point was that there are two Christmases. The Christmas that is our national day of consumption and the Christmas that is the celebration of the birthday of Jesus. One is transactional, the other relational. we cannot use the means of the former to increase the latter. If anything, I think the observations of our parishioners reinforced this. Also, I have gotten a very powerful ally. Continue reading “4th Sunday Advent – 11:15 am (Fr. Smith homily)”
Each year, the children present us with this very beautiful reenactment of the Christmas story, and they do that with great enthusiasm and excitement. Witness the dedication to detail – the preciseness of their costumes, as well as the way they make the whole scene flow. So they remind us that this is a very special time of the year.
But I think, unfortunately, in the midst of the world in which we live, much gets lost of the symbolism, the meaning and significance of this special time. So when the children present the beautiful scene, I ask you to take a moment to reflect, to reflect on the scene, for Luke and Matthew – that’s where the gospel today came from: a combination of Luke and Matthew who the record for us the infancy story – they did that with great deliberation and they wanted in a sense in the scene that they were portraying capture the universality of this event, for it was an event that brought together of the mystery of God’s creation.
Mary and Joseph, come to Bethlehem, because Caesar Augustus has decided he wants to count all the people. He wants you in a sense to build his power, build his power, by saying, look all the people I rule over. How can anyone doubt me, how can anyone challenge me? Continue reading “3rd Sunday of Advent – 11:15 am (Msgr. LoPinto homily)”