Fr. Kelly

Our Sunday Journal is a brief reflection on the scripture readings of the day by Father Kelly, a senior priest in the Diocese of Saginaw.

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Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 1:1-4; 4:14-21
January 23, 2022

These past Sundays have been a time of “capital R” Revelation.

God is constantly, and in many different ways, pulling back the veil so that we can catch a glimpse of The Divine Self. But our Readings, especially the Gospel selections, have offered us particularly vivid and dramatic disclosures of The Father’s plan to heal Creation through The Son.

The Christmas Season peaked with the Feast of the Epiphany. Through the successful search of three wise persons, we have come to understand that God’s Word became Flesh for the purpose of gathering all nations together in harmony and peace.

We then traveled through time some 30 years. The Season came to a close on the shores of the Jordan. The Lord, now a grown man, humbled Himself by accepting baptism at the hands of John. The veil was literally pulled back. The Holy Spirit, taking on the visible form of a dove…a sign of peace… came down and hovered over Jesus of Nazareth.

Then God spoke words of introduction: You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.

What could be more REVELATORY?

From there, we moved quickly to the dusty little village of Cana. During a wedding reception, Jesus revealed His powers to transform the ordinary into something extraordinary. We resumed Ordinary Time this year with an image of change…transformation…and the assurance that “the best is yet to come.”

And now, we find ourselves at a Sabbath service.

Using the Old Testament, The Lord revealed that, through Him, healing has begun. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are unburdened of our poverty and we are strengthened with hope. We are liberated from the slavery of sin. Our eyes are opened so that we might see and come to believe all that The Father has revealed through the Son.

These past Sundays have really offered us some powerful revelations, but now, the focus shifts to us.

As we move deeper into Ordinary time, we should not lose sight of the truth that, through our Baptism, we have been anointed with the same Spirit that The Father sent to act in concert with the healing mission of The Son. Through our Baptisms, we have been transformed into an extraordinary people. We are God’s children in whom God is well pleased.

So, it is now on us to continue to reveal God’s plans to change…transform…heal our world by doing our best to live what we hear proclaimed. We are called to be as transparent as our Creator. It is our duty to “push back the veil” and be an image of Christ to those we meet.

It is left to us to proclaim a year pleasing to the Lord! Do we dare remain silent.

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jn 2:1-11
January 16, 2022

These days, what the world seems to have run out of is common courtesy, civility, and mutual respect. It is impossible to enjoy a gathering when everyone is arguing. And there is definitely no shortage of topics to turn a pleasant conversation into a heated debate, absent of all common courtesy, civility, and mutual respect, which causes me to wonder if, just possibly, one of the many lessons to be drawn from the Cana miracle of transformation is the need to respectfully listen to and consider the thoughts and opinions of others. If water can change to the finest of wine, why can’t we change as well? Today’s Gospel offers some inspiration.

The drama begins that Mary, by the simple act of listening, has become aware of a need that has arisen. She considered the consequences of the shortage of wine to the bridal couple as well as to the success of the gathering. Then she proposed a solution.

Initially, Jesus did not agree with His mother’s suggestion that He get involved. He didn’t feel ready to begin His public ministry. Still, He listened to her. After giving voice to His initial reaction, He weighed the consequences of acting against staying quiet.

How likely is it that Mary simply brushed aside Jesus’s objections? Surely, she also respectfully listened and gave respectful consideration to His reluctance. Her discernment led her to conclude that the situation demanded action and that His time had come.

There is no record of further discussion between them.

Possibly, Mary simply gave Jesus one of those extremely persuasive looks that mothers are known for. What we know for certain is that The Son deferred to His mother’s opinion. However, it came to be that Jesus respectfully listened to His mother, accepted her point of view, and then acted.

This pattern of “respectful listening” continued as the servants listened to Mary…who instructed them to listen to Jesus. And so, a crisis was averted. Water was transformed into wine. The bride and groom were not embarrassed by the shortage. The party continued.

Still, there was another transformation that came about. Because of what they had witnessed, curious followers were transformed into true believers. And so began the public ministry of Jesus Christ. It is interesting to note that the disciples began to believe and listen to Jesus after He listened to and followed His mother’s bidding.

Who can argue with the suggestion that there is a shortage of common courtesy, civility, and mutual respect in our world? The result is a near total breakdown in dialogue and a dramatic escalation of violence.

People are simply not listening to one another. As a result, we are not finding solutions to all kinds of problems that are bombarding us from every direction. This tendency to dig in and tune out others’ thoughts, feelings, and opinions has even crept into our Church.

Pope Francis has convened a Church Synod under the title: For a Synod Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission. This is an opportunity for us to really listen and become aware of the many needs that have arisen in our world, consider the consequences of inaction, and then propose, agree upon, and implement viable solutions.

Phase I of the process is half complete and the differing opinions have begun to surface. There is no reason to be embarrassed by the fact that we are not like-minded in all things. Still, we risk great embarrassment and failure should this Synod proceed without the “respectful listening” that was evident at a wedding feast so many centuries ago. If we are to transform the world, which is, of course, our mission as disciples of Jesus Christ, then we must fill the jars we draw from with civility, mutual respect, patience, charity, forgiveness, and love. Only then will people come to believe that we are, in fact, The Body of Christ.

If the world is to listen to the Gospel, we must begin to listen to and respect one another…even as Jesus Himself listened to and respected Mary.

But this “Cana approach” to a shortage is not reserved for the institutional Church. We can use “respectful listening” in our home church…our family. We can attempt to transform our workplaces and respond to a lack of civility with a look of patience and forgiveness. We can send a signal to our nation’s leaders that: YOUR TIME HAS COME! It is time to change the shortage of kindness into love. With Jesus’s help, we can transform our world.

The Baptism of the Lord
Lk 3:15-16, 21-22
January 9, 2021

When I was half the age I am today, I saw a movie called Cocoon. In spite of the many years that have passed, it came to my mind as I was reflecting on today’s Feast of The Baptism of The Lord.

The film is considered “science fiction/fantasy.” The setting is a retirement village in Florida. The leading characters are all senior citizens; played by older actors who had long disappeared from the covers of the tabloids. I recall being amazed that these actors were still alive…let alone still making movies.

The plot involves “extra-terrestrials” …aliens from another planet. They somehow infused the water in a residential swimming pool with a “life force.” When residents of the assisted living community snuck in for a dip, they found themselves recovering from age related ailments, rejuvenated and energized. Gradually, it dawned on them that they had literally jumped into a fountain of youth.

No need for a “spoiler alert.” Having seen the movie in 1987, I recall little more than I have already shared; except for this.

Faced with the potential of “living forever” one of the wives explained to her husband that she was not at all interested. His reply is very memorable… something to the effect of: I’d rather live for only 6 more months with you…than “forever” without you!

Really? You don’t see the connection between the movie and The Baptism of the Lord?

Let me begin my explanation with a quote from Vatican II theologian Fr. Karl Rahner SJ.

“In the days ahead, you will either be a mystic (one who has experienced God for real) or nothing at all.”

In the (many) days since I saw the movie Cocoon…a science fiction/fantasy…what back then was regarded as science fiction has become reality. (The internet, cell phones, robots and artificial intelligence, space tourism…etc. etc.) But what was commonly understood and appreciated to be truth…pure reality…has by many, been pushed into the realm of fantasy. (Eternal life!)

Why is this?

I would suggest because with the passing of time, fewer and fewer people are “mystics.”

You don’t have to be a saint to be a mystic. Every ordinary person, who commits to seeking a deeper and personal union with God, is already dipping their toe into mysticism. And a very good place to begin the adventure into what is above and beyond us in this world, is the Baptismal Font.

You see, our all-loving God preferred not to “live forever” without sharing the joys of the Eternal Kingdom with the creatures called into being for that very purpose. We exist so that God can share perfect and endless love with us.

To make this plan a reality, God sent Jesus into our world to invite humankind into a “deeper and more more personal union” with The Father. And so, The Son, through teaching and preaching, and by way of example, showed us how to become mystics. A dramatic and profound lesson in mysticism took place in the Jordan River. With the Baptism of The Lord we have a brilliant example of the perfect union between God and Jesus.

Moreover, by stepping into the water of the Jordan River for Baptism, God the Son infused our Baptismal waters with the most powerful Life Force…The Holy Spirit. Through our own Baptisms, The Holy Spirit calls into life, that part of us which is intended to “live forever” in the Kingdom of God. On the day of our Baptism, the heavens do open…and God gazes down with love and introduces us to the universe even as The Father introduced The Son. HERE IS MY BELOVED CHILD WITH WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED!

We bring the Christmas Season to a close today. Next week, we begin Ordinary Time. But, when we enter our churches and dip our hands into the Living and Spirit filled waters …we have the opportunity to see how “Extraordinary” our earthly lives can be. When we touch the Living Water of our Baptismal Fonts, the Life Source rejuvenates, refreshes and energizes what was awakened within us through Baptism. When we “bless ourselves” we begin to recover from “sin related ailments” that blind us to who we truly are: CHILDREN OF GOD!

So, enter Ordinary Time this year as a mystic…seeking a deeper and more personal union with God…Who is eager to be in an eternal relationship with you. Very quickly you will come to see as reality, what others tragically have declared to be fantasy.

The Epiphany of the Lord
Mt 2:1-12
January 2, 2022

At 7:20 a.m. EST, on December 25, 2021, as Christians were celebrating the Birth of Jesus Christ, scientists around the world were rejoicing over the successful launch of the rocket carrying NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope into deep space. They were so focused on their work, some of them might well have been oblivious to the fact that it was Christmas morning. The project that held their attention was certainly all consuming.

It has taken 10 billion dollars, and the efforts of countless contributors from numerous countries, working over a period of 30 years, to realize this ambition. When it arrives at its destination in about one month, the world’s largest and most powerful telescope, will have the capacity to look through both distance and time.

I am not a physicist or mathematician, so I admit that I don’t have a clue how all this is supposed to work. We lay people are told however, that this telescope will literally operate as a “time machine”. Somehow it will be able to transmit images from the very beginning of the universe.

Scientists will also be using this highly sophisticated instrument to search for the existence of life on other planets. They hope to discover a treasure trove of information from this great venture.

The fact of the matter is, these brilliant people have an infinite amount of wisdom readily available to them in today’s Readings. Actually, I wonder if the circumstances which delayed the much-anticipated launch to the early hours of Christmas morning, weren’t an invitation from The Holy Spirit, to the scientists, engineers, physicists, mathematicians…all the great minds involved in the project, to learn from the three unnamed seekers described in Matthew’s Gospel proclaimed on this Feast of the Epiphany.

The dramatic story of the Three Magi is an example of what human beings can accomplish by working together. The multi- national and generational NASA team is already aware of that. But their colleagues “from the East, who arrived in Jerusalem having seen a special star at its rising” were most likely aware of a truth, that our modern explorers might be ignorant of.

The very desire, as well as the skills and abilities required for exploration are gifts from The Creator. God does not keep secrets. God is continually revealing The Divine Self in countless ways; providing the inspiration and the knowledge for humanity to forge ahead towards a deeper understanding of our origins and our destiny.

Truly “wise people” understand this to be true. Truly “wise people” will appreciate that whatever is to be learned through human efforts is actually God’s Revelation…not just scientific accomplishment.

The goal science has set for itself by sending a powerful telescope into deep space, is to look back in time, to what is referred to as “The Big Bang.” The Mag were far more ambitious. They were eager to look through time, so that they might explore Eternity. Truly wise seekers…those who allow the Holy Spirit to guide their research, are eager to explore “the last frontier” …THE ETERNAL KINGDOM OF GOD!

NASA is hoping that this great effort of the 21st century will lead to discovery of life on heavenly bodies other than Plant Earth. The Three Wise Persons, who embarked on their journey after the Birth of Jesus, by contrast, were longing for an encounter with Divine Life. If successful, it was their intention to prostrate themselves and pay Him homage.

They were successful in their venture. And, when they did encounter the Christ-child, in the most humble of circumstances, they humbled themselves. They knelt before a baby in a manger.

The story of the Epiphany is a reminder that all advances in knowledge should be used for the good of all humankind. Still, at the same time, there is an element of warning in this chapter of the Christmas story. Herod plays a key role. Herod had evil intentions.

Tragically, Herod is still alive and well. The world must be vigilant and resist any and all efforts to use the fruits of this venture for any other purpose than the good of all humankind.

At the conclusion of their visit to Bethlehem, these visitors from a far-off land, returned home “another way.” I wonder if this means something more than charting a different route home. Is it possible that this detail tells us that they returned home changed? Enlightened? Filled with wisdom not just knowledge? Hopeful for the future of humankind?

If the “seekers” involved in the expedition into space accept the invitation to the Holy Spirit to look at creation…not simply through a telescope…but through the lens of today’s Gospel as well…they will discover something beyond their most ambitious expectations. Like the Magi, they will be rewarded with an encounter with God.

A final thought.

The 3 Magi should be a source of inspiration and guidance…not just to scientists. The Epiphany should be an inspiration to all of us. After all, we are all “seekers” …searching for an encounter with Christ.

We don’t need to travel to the far side of the universe to discover what we seek. God is within each of us, eager for us to turn inward and enjoy a visit with The Source of infinite peace and love.

Accept His invitation.

Come Let us Adore Him!

The Nativity of the Lord
Lk 2:1-14
December 26, 2021

…there was no room for them in the inn… (Luke 2:7)

That simple detail allows our imagination to visualize the Birth of Jesus Christ in the most humble yet peaceful of settings. When we reflect on the Nativity, very often we can almost hear a choir of angels singing Silent Night. And somehow, we overlook the deprivation, hardship, uncertainty, even fear that Mary and Joseph must have been experiencing that night in Bethlehem.

This year, as I read and reflect on all the Scripture passages that foretold and then describe the birth of the Christ child, that line…there was no room for them in the inn…seems to demand special attention. However, it does not cause me to hum…O Holy Night…or Hark the Herald Angels Sing. Instead, that very significant detail about Jesus’s birth…there was no room for them in the inn…has caused me to look back over the past year and recall all the deprivation, hardship, uncertainty, fear, violence, civil unrest, sickness, and death that the world has endured. As I ponder the recent past, what disturbs me the most is that it is happening again…>there is no room for them in the inn.

By that I mean that fewer and fewer people…in spite of all the fearsome things that are happening around us each and every day…are looking to Christ as our Savior. So many seem to have forgotten that the Father sent The Son to reign as Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:5).

God intended that The Eternal Word should take Flesh and dwell among us so that “His dominion would be vast and forever peaceful.” Tragically, however, we live in an age when The Lord’s dominion seems to be rapidly shrinking. More and more people seem to be saying…there is no room in our lives. And so, there is less and less peace!

These thoughts are clearly disturbing and might well seem totally inappropriate to a Christmas message. But these are challenging times. And the challenge for those of us who continue to make room in our lives for the Lord are very much the same as the challenges to The Incarnation.

Like the sheep, donkeys, and oxen…we are called to use our life’s breath to warm this fragile Child.

Like the angels…the heavenly choirs…we must continue to give Christ glory and praise.

Even as the shepherds responded to The Good News…we are summoned to leave our cares and concerns and doubts and fears behind, and to travel to the place where we will encounter Our Savior. There, we, too, can be witnesses to this miraculous new beginning that, after all these centuries, continues to unfold.

If we are wise and courageous, we will follow the example of the Magi and watch for signs…and when we see them, go where The Light guides us. If we are wise, we will ignore the “modern day Herods,” who hope to destroy the amazing opportunity to find Who we seek and pay Him homage. If we are courageous, we will open the treasure of our hearts and offer our gifts in the service of this “newborn King.”

Drawing on our faith as St. Joseph did, we will respond to the urgent call to protect Jesus. Finally, in our own way, each of us can “give birth” to The Christ…certainly not like The Blessed Mother…but, rather, by bringing Christ into the world by the manner in which we live our lives.

While the secular world celebrates a holiday with the sentimental song…I Wish Every Day Could be Like Christmas…good people know with certainty that it can be! Every day can be like Christmas if only every person were to >make room in their lives for the Lord.

So…>Come, All Ye Faithful…joyful and triumphant, we must show the doubters how it is done. We will face the prospect of another year of deprivation, hardship, uncertainty…even fear, with ever stronger faith and unshaken hope. We can and will meet the challenges of our time because we know that this Child whose birth we remember with great joy and love will return as the Christ, and His dominion would be vast and forever peaceful!

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