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Showing posts from January, 2020

Where the Light Gets In: 2nd Sunday OT

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We just heard the same words twice, in the First Reading from Isaiah and repeated by Matthew in his Gospel. Isaiah promised that the Land of Zebulon and Naphtali would see a great light, and six hundred years later Matthew remembered that promise and claimed it had come true when Jesus walked that seaward road and settled in Capernaum. Matthew does a lot of this in his Gospel. As he’s telling the story of Jesus, he throws in these side notes about how Scriptural prophecies are being fulfilled all over the place.

Bishop Fulton Sheen noticed that there’s a beautiful conversion there for Matthew. When Jesus found Matthew, he found him at the tax collectors’ table, collaborating with the Romans and so labelled as a traitor to Israel. But after meeting Jesus, Matthew is the proudest son of Israel! More than any other Gospel, he focuses on, delights in, rejoices over, the way that God has kept His promises to Israel. Maybe because Matthew had been unfaithful to his people, he was especially…

Basics: Baptism of the Lord

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On your way into Church today you probably dipped your hand into holy water and made the Sign of the Cross. I’d bet confidently that most of us did that automatically and without any thought at all, just a sheer act of habit. I don’t mean that as a scold or judgment, it’s just human nature. You do something like that so routinely, your brain tends to slip into autopilot. So if that gesture is typically done unthinkingly, I don’t think you should feel terrible about that. But I do think we should all push back against that tendency, try to keep it real and prayerful.

Because when you do that simple action, you are doing something intensely meaningful. Even the placement of the water is no accident. It’s at the door of the church because Baptism is the door into the Church. Coming into the church, especially for Mass, is a big deal of a thing to do. Jesus is Eucharistically present. We are here to share in a foretaste of Heaven, a little reflection and invasion of Heaven on Earth. That’…

Weirdest Baby Shower Ever: Epiphany 2020

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Williamsport, Pennsylvania, 1857. John Henry Hopkins, Jr. was an Episcopal minister, a church rector, and a seminary music teacher. The seminary college was getting together a Christmas pageant and Hopkins the music teacher was working on a hymn. It was a brief but profound hymn — brief because it consisted only of three soloists representing the Magi with refrains, profound because it invoked the traditional meaning of their three strange gifts.
And they are strange, right? I’ve never been to a baby shower, they are a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, but I don’t think this is what goes on. Hopkins’ great hymn gets at what they’re all about. You can turn to it if you like, at #104.


We Three Kings, it begins. It’s often pointed out that the Gospel doesn’t specify that there were three of them, or that they were kings, but that doesn’t prove they weren’t. Whatever. We Three Kings of Orient Are. I got pretty far in life without a clue what those words in that order even mean…