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2nd Sunday of Advent

December 9, 2018

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


The evangelist Luke situates the call of John the Baptist within history. So his audience might know John the Baptist was a real person with a concrete role in salvation history, Luke places the Baptist’s call to prepare the way of the Lord in relation to the leaders of government and religion at the time. There is the Roman Emperor, Tiberius Ceasar, worshipped as God, and there are his underlings who promote his power: Pilate and Herod, Philip and Lysanias. There are the high priests ruling from the temple in Jerusalem, Annas and his son-in-law Caiphas.

But Luke not only situates the call of the Baptist within the pages of history but also makes a strong point about where the Word of God is spoken and where it is received. Not in gleaming palaces or temples, not in places of power, but to a guy living in the desert, far from the center of the universe, far from the noise of the wealthy and the powerful.

The word of God, the call of God, comes to a nobody, who has no wealth nor power nor standing in his world. He alone hears what God has to say, that the Messiah is near, that the Promised One is now present, and that he, John, must prepare a people blinded by their sins to see him. That he, John, must prepare a people whose hearts have become deaf to the voice of God to hear the Living Word of God who is near.

John calls us as well to repentance so we might see the coming Son of God in our lives. He invites us to enter into the desert of silence in order to hear the Word made Flesh.

In the midst of the cacophony of Christmas preparations, the Church gifts us with Advent and the prophet of Advent, John the Baptist preaching from the desert. In the midst of the secular noise of consumerism and materialism, the Church blesses us with John the Baptist who invites us to enter into silence. He challenges us to remember that SILENCE is the LANGUAGE of GOD! In the desert there is no cell reception, no Wi-Fi, no 24 hour news cycle. In the desert, there is no constant background noise of the TV chattering all the time. In the desert there is silence, and in that silence we can more readily hear the word of God.

We can create our own “desert spaces” during the clamor of these days that we might be able to hear what God wants to say to us. We have to create our own “desert spaces” with a daily time for prayer, which includes opening up our Bibles every day and listening to what God has to say. We can do this by reading the Gospel reading for daily Mass listed in the bulletin or find the daily readings on the U.S. bishops’ website. We can listen during Advent by reading each day a chapter in the Gospel of Luke, which is the Gospel for this Liturgical Year, and the Gospel particularly for Christmas. A mother and father can help each other out by one watching the kids while the other retreats for 10-15 minutes of silence to listen to the word of God. Or for single parents and some other parents, it may mean rising early before the kids awake or entering into a “desert space” after they are asleep. Even driving too and from work can be a time to turn off the radio and podcasts and talk to the Lord as if he were riding co-pilot, for he truly is.

Many people today, particularly the younger generation, have not been taught the importance of silence in order to pay attention to what God wants to say to them. What are young people taught to do today: to scan and browse, to quickly consume digital technology and then scurry along to the next flashy thing. It’s never-ending noise, even if one uses only one’s eyes to consume.

If you scroll down a Twitter feed, the feed of messages goes on and on, endlessly. The way to survive or even thrive in an environment like this is to gobble up information and gobble up more information as it keeps coming and coming. In this information age where we are inundated by words through all sorts of non-stop media, but what is missing is discerning what is of value. To discern what is of value, we have to be nourished by a daily desert time, by silence in the presence of the Lord who comes to us through his Word, and as the Living Word.

By this practice of a daily desert time, we develop a Biblical imagination. Listening daily to the Word of God helps us welcome Him in our daily life and persevere in the race of faith. What does developing a Biblical imagination look like? It’s not about memorizing verses in the Bible but becoming familiar with the stories of how God has acted in the past so we can see how God is acting now.

Look at how the Virgin Mary’s listening is shaped and formed by sacred memory, by the way she recalls God’s actions in the past. As Mary ponders the news of the Archangel Gabriel that she will be the Mother of the Son of God, as she wrestles with how this can be, she is given a sign by Gabriel. Her kinswoman, Elizabeth, who is sterile and way beyond the age of childbearing, is in the 6th month of her pregnancy, for nothing is impossible with God.

When Mary hears this news from the Archangel Gabriel, she immediately hears “Sarah.” Mary is transported into the past and how God blessed Sarah, Abraham’s wife, with a child when Sarah was too old to bear a child.

The God who was doing the impossible way back then in Sarah’s life is even now working in Elizabeth’s life, and now this faithful God wants to do what seems impossible in Mary’s life. Like Sarah, Mary is being invited to step out in trust. To say “Yes.” Because she remembers the great things the Lord God has done in the past, she can trust that God can and will do the impossible here and now through her, if she but surrenders in trust.

When we rest in silence each day, we are able to remember the great things the Lord has done for us and surrender our lives in trust to Him and His mission for us. As we enter the desert for a short time each day, we hear more clearly how we are being called like John the Baptist to prepare the way of the Lord, so He might come to others through us.

John the Baptist, the prophet of Advent, visits us today and will do so next Sunday as well, challenging us to prepare the way for the coming of the Word made flesh!

As we are nourished by the Living Word of God at this altar, he takes our flesh, so others might experience the presence of God and the love of God in our lives.

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

December 8, 2018

Fr. Joseph Jacobi

Carlo Maria Martini, a deceased Italian Jesuit cardinal and former Archbishop of Milan, once described grace as knowing that “you have been loved for a very long time.” Cardinal Martini, who died in 2012, defined grace in this beautiful way: knowing that “you have been loved for a very long time.” So, take your age plus nine months and then add in eternity— that is how long you have been loved by God. Grace is knowing this everlasting love of God and living out of that love.

St. Paul states the same truth in a different way, saying that God the Father chose us in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in his sight. From the beginning of Creation, God knew each one of us and intended us to be born. So that we are loved not so much for what we do, but for who we are, because we have been chosen in by the Father in His Son.

Pope Francis teaches that each one of us “is a mission, planned by the Father to reflect and embody…the Gospel”

Being chosen by God also means God has a plan and a purpose for our life. You matter, I matter, and so does our mission in this life. Pope Francis teaches that each one of us “is a mission, planned by the Father to reflect and embody…the Gospel” (On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World, #19 ).

Since Mary was chosen from the beginning of time to be the Mother of the Son of God, Mary’s Mission is a unique one. So much so that God prepared her to be the Mother of the Son of God by freeing her from sin and the effects of sin from the very first moment of her existence in the womb of her mother, Anne. Mary is full of grace, free to allow God who is love to take her flesh, to say a complete and full Yes to God’s plan to live in her womb and be born into the world through her.

The archangel Gabriel’s greeting is our greeting as well to Mary on this great Solemnity of her Immaculate Conception: “Hail Mary, full of grace.” For this humble virgin from the backwoods town of Nazareth was indeed full of grace. To be full of grace is to be filled with life and love and light. To be full of grace is to live out the marks of holiness described by St. Paul VI in his great encyclical, “Evangelization in the Modern World.” This saintly pope said: “The world calls for and expects from us simplicity of life, the spirit of prayer, charity towards all, especially towards the lowly and the poor, obedience and humility, detachment and self-sacrifice.”

To be full of grace is to yearn for peace in the world, to do acts of kindness every day, to have an inclusive heart, to be able to laugh and cry, to feel deeply the sorrows and joys of the world. To be full of grace is to accept what God gives and to give what God takes, a lesson that St. Teresa of Calcutta taught her sisters and the world.

But you and I are not full of grace. Something blocks us from completely embracing the mystery of God’s love and mercy in Jesus. Call it pride, call it ignorance, call it fear, something holds us back from uttering the fully obedient “YES” that Mary proclaimed the Annunciation.

From the beginning, our first parents chose not to believe in God’s love for them. Instead of saying “YES” in obedience to all that God offered them, they disobeyed, failing to trust in God’s goodness, trusting only in themselves and their desire to be God. Thus sin and the affects of sin entered the world. Instead of standing erect and raising their heads to bask in the light of God’s love, our first parents hid in their shame and passed the blame.

We, too, still wrestle with sin and the affects of sin in our lives, but by Mary’s “YES” which reversed the “NO” of our first parents, we have been given a Savior who frees us from the obstacles in our lives which prevent us from living out of the love of God for us. So, one of the cries of Advent is, “Come O Lord and set us free.” Set us free from the sin which binds us, the fear which enslaves us, heal us of our blindness.

When we embrace the truth which Mary knew, that we have been loved for a very long time, our lives are transformed. Knowing how much we are loved by God sets us free to give love away.

In the giving away of God’s love, more space is created for a new influx of divine grace.

It is this rhythm that defines the life of discipleship. It is this rhythm of receiving and sharing God’s love that Mary, the 1st disciple, teaches us.

1st Sunday of Advent

December 2, 2018

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


Most Americans at this time of year are focused on celebrating the coming of the Son of God in history, as a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger. But the Church in her wisdom gives us the Season of Advent to remind us that there are actually two comings of the Son of God. Not many noticed his first coming in history, but there will be no way to miss his 2nd Coming when he is clothed in light and as radiant as the sun. Jesus in Luke’s Gospel uses a favorite title for himself, “Son of Man”, in speaking of His 2nd Coming: “…and they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with great power and glory.” (Luke 21:27)

The first part of Advent focuses on this 2nd Coming of the Lord Jesus and challenges us to a conversion of heart and mind to prepare for His return. For we find ourselves in an in-between time, living after the 1st coming of the Son of God and awaiting with hope his return in glory. Advent is not about acting like Jesus has not been born. Rather, because the Son of God has become one with humanity by his birth and life and death, we are to become more aware of how He visits us today in this world, which he has forever changed by becoming part of it. Because the Son of God has come in history we also know that he comes in mystery today by the working of His Spirit. This “ongoing coming” of the Lord can only be seen with the eyes of faith.

By becoming more attentive, more alert to the working of the Holy Spirit we can receive the Lord as he visits us each day and thus be ready to receive Him on the surprising day of His return in glory. The most common and most challenging way the Lord Jesus visits us today is through other human beings who call us out of ourselves to love them and care for them. St. Paul in his 1st letter to the Thessalonians gives us the perfect prescription for Advent: we need to “increase and abound in love for one another and for all.” (1 Thess. 3:12)

The challenge of increasing our love for each other, and especially the challenge of loving all people, is that instead of being turned outward toward others, we are often turned inward. Because of the anxieties of daily life, we are tempted to become self-absorbed. Instead of being loving toward the person who we pay for our Christmas gifts as we exit a store, we can either be rude to them or not even really acknowledge their existence.

The anxieties of daily life can cause us to be drowsy, to sleepwalk through our days and to not even notice the mysterious visits of the Lord of Life. The extreme effect of anxiety, when it turns into crushing worry and then hopelessness can even cause some to despair of life itself, to think the only solution is to take their life.

The Center for Disease Prevention and Control recently released a report on deaths in the United States for the year 2017. A startling statistic in this report is that the suicide rate is the highest it has been in at least half a century. More and more people are being destroyed by despair, swallowed up by hopelessness.

The antidote to despair is hope, and for Christians, we place our hope not in something, but in someone. Our hope is rooted in the person of Jesus Christ. We believe that he has come to set us free from attitudes which lead to despair. We believe that he was born that we might live life to the fullest and be set free from activities which enslave us.

Knowing Him and being loved by Him makes all the difference in the world, because he not only saves us from our sins but he reminds us that God our Father continues to give us another opportunity to love Him. Even more than that, that by the Son of God’s life, death and resurrection we are invited into life in God, that through baptism we have become adopted sons and daughters of God. United to the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit, we share in God’s life now. So that no matter how bad things may seem, no matter how long we walk in darkness, we are never alone—God is with us in Christ Jesus.

Our stance toward life in this world is not a turning inward but rather we stand erect and raise our heads because we know our redemption is at hand. Instead of falling into the deep, dark hole of self-absorption, we look outward and upward, noticing how God is at work in the world even today.

If we were not self-absorbed in our own little world this past week, then we noticed something remarkable happen out there in the world of our universe. The NASA spacecraft InSight completed a successful landing on the planet of Mars. To send a spacecraft through space over the course of almost 100 million miles without it being destroyed and then to be able to land it in one piece on another planet is absolutely amazing. The mission of this spacecraft is to explore the interior of Mars by drilling down beneath the surface of Mars to conduct a variety of tests.

Because of the enormous distance between Earth and Mars, it takes about 8 minutes from any communication from the spacecraft to reach Earth. So, at command central everyone knew that InSight had already passed through the atmosphere surrounding Mars and had landed on Mars, but they did not know whether the landing was a success or a disaster for 8 long minutes. All the years of hard work, of engineering and problem-solving and building of the spacecraft came down to a “waiting in hope,” in expectation that the impossible would become a reality.

That is what Advent “waiting” looks like. Knowing that we have done all we can do to prepare for the coming of the Son, we wait in joy-filled expectation for him to come to set us free, to renew our hope, to increase our love, to deepen our faith.

As we enter into this holy time of waiting, what we begin to realize is that all of our life is holy waiting, is driven by hope of something more that is just beyond our grasp, a world beyond our world. When we drill down below the surface of our lives we discover a deep longing for God. That’s the gift of these days, to explore the often unexplored terrain of our own souls and get in touch with this deepest longing of the human heart, which is for union with God.

What we end up discovering may surprise us, for God longs for us even more than we long for God.

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

November 18, 2018

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


Some Christians use a passage like this one in Mark’s gospel to predict the end of time. But that is not what this Scripture passage is about. In fact, Jesus in Mark’s Gospel even humbly states no one knows the day nor the hour, only the Father. So it is a waste of time looking for signs to predict the end time.

Rather this poetic, symbolic passage is a message of hope to Mark’s Christian community in Rome who are struggling to believe in God’s goodness while undergoing great trials. They feel as if their world is ending because of the terrible persecution they are suffering at the hands of the Roman Empire. So Mark shares the message of Jesus that even when you feel like you are walking in darkness—as if the sun and the moon and the stars have lost their light— that God still reigns, that God will save his faithful people.

It would do us well to remember where this powerful teaching by Jesus is located in the context of Mark’s Gospel— immediately before he enters into his passion and death. Jesus is on his way to the cross where he will enter the chaos and the darkness of human existence, plunge into suffering and loneliness, and transform it by his self-giving love.

Jesus wants us to remember, as those first Christians Mark addressed in Rome were challenged to recall, the truth of how God works and where God dwells. Not in someplace removed from the trials and tribulations of our world, but here in this world in the midst of senseless death, God is found. Not distant and far away, but here in the center of hopeless chaos and injustice, God is found. Not in some heaven far away from our struggle of feeling abandoned and all alone, but in the moment of total loneliness, God is found. God is not changing any of these painful experiences nor taking them away, but by simply being present in them, changing the people who experience them. The God of Jesus Christ is not a magician who waves his magic wand and all suffering—poof, disappears. The God who Jesus Christ reveals is a Passionate Lover who goes with us into the darkest place and most painful moment of our life to transform us by his Light and His Love.

Acknowledging the presence of Jesus with us by the power of His Spirit, we are daily transformed to live each day in hope and to bring others to the One who is the Source of our hope. Faith gives us the eyes to see that tribulation and trial can be birth pangs in the hands of a midwife God bringing about a further flowering of His kingdom in and through us. For we know, having journeyed this year with the Jesus of Mark’s Gospel, that he is present with us in suffering, that we are never alone even there, especially there.

Many people are tempted to believe that in the midst of suffering and trial God is not present, that God has abandoned them. Mark’s Jesus teaches us otherwise. That despite appearances, God still rules the world, and His Son, who suffered out of love for us is present with us in our suffering. That despite what things appear to be, God still reigns, and His Son who died out of love for us can transform every death into new life. Faith gives us the ability to see clearly, to focus on what is important, to enable us to notice where God is at work, even in darkness and difficulty.

So that instead of being swallowed by despair, we can grow in hope. So that instead of responding to hatred with hatred, we can respond with love. So that instead of responding to violence with more violence, we can overcome evil with good. So that instead of being tortured by doubt, we can rest in the peace of faith.

Then we notice the life-giving signs of God’s kingdom blooming in our midst.

Such as the 7 adults desiring to join our community of faith who went through the Rite of Acceptance at the 5 p.m. Mass this Saturday. They see signs of the Kingdom of God here, in our midst, and want to be a part of it. And they, too, become signs to us of the in-breaking of God’s reign.

The parents who present their children for baptism at the Sunday Masses also notice signs of the Kingdom of God here, so they trust that we will help them raise their child in the faith.

Even though the signs of the Kingdom be as small as a leaf budding from a tree at the end of winter, they are there.

By the bright, shining virtue of hope we have eyes to see the fruits of the Spirit coming to life all around us in the goodness and generosity of others.

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

November 11, 2018

Deacon Bill Hough


There are times when the Scripture readings really speak to me. For instance, today – “Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept … seats of honor in synagogues” – next to the priest. It is a good reminder that in today’s self-centered secular world, we will only find true satisfaction when we keep our focus on God.

And that’s what our readings are about today – faith and trust in God who will always provide. This faith and trust are present in our two poor widows, one in our first reading from the first book of Kings and the other in the gospel reading from Mark.

You may remember this Old Testament story of the prophet Elijah. The king of Israel at the time, Ahab, had married Jezebel, who worshipped the god Baal. She made the people of Israel worship her god and was out to destroy any prophet of the God of the Israelites. Elijah went into hiding, but before that, God had him announce a period of drought on all who worshipped Baal.

In our reading today, God has sent Elijah to the widow in Zarephath. She has nothing and is at the point of death from famine. However, Elijah guarantees that her flour and oil will not run dry until the drought is over. She believes and her trust in the word of God through Elijah is her salvation.

In our gospel reading, Jesus is in Jerusalem. His criticism of the scribes will soon lead to His death. But He has something to teach us. The poor widow is an example to His disciples. She has given everything she has and trusts that God will provide for her.

He contrasts the widow with those who are only concerned with their own wealth and honor.

It is not a bad thing to be rich or famous (or wear long robes). It becomes a problem when riches and fame become more important than the love of God and neighbor. I had a boss who once estimated that ninety percent of people who were rich and famous were not happy because they always wanted more. It is hard to argue with that when you look at the distance in today’s world between those who have and those who do not.

Jesus accused the scribes of this self-centeredness. However, we all must beware of this. Even the Apostles at times had a difficult time understanding the message of Jesus. Just a few weeks ago, we read about James and John who wanted to sit at the right hand of Jesus. The others were angry – because they didn’t think of it first.

The late Jesuit priest and scripture scholar Daniel Harrington pointed out the minor characters in Mark’s gospel who do respond to the message of Christ. Not only the widow in today’s reading, but he also includes the woman with the hemorrhages, the Gentile woman with the sick child, blind Bartimaeus, and the friendly scribe in last week’s gospel.

Father Harrington said that these minor characters remind us that genuine holiness resides in a humble and generous spirit that loves and is totally dependent on God – something that the Apostles eventually did learn.

Advent begins in just three weeks, so we are just a few weeks from the end of this liturgical year when we have been reading from the Gospel of Mark. Mark has given us some special parting gifts these past two Sundays. Last week we heard the entire meaning of Christian life – to love God and neighbor. This week we have the lesson of humility and trust in God alone.

Our challenge is to go out and to live these lessons.

With the grace we receive today from Jesus in His Word and in His Body and Blood, let us offer our lives to God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength. Then, as we go throughout this week, let us share this grace with all we meet.

All Souls

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

November 2, 2018

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi

Of the three Theological Virtues—faith, hope, and love— we focus most of our attention on faith and love and neglect the vitally important virtue of Hope. The celebration of All Souls Day brings back into focus the centrality of hope in our lives of faith, a hope which leads us to love more joyously and generously.

Christian hope is not an abstract wish, and it is not a worldly optimism that somehow things will get better in the future. The hope we share in Christ is concrete and real. It confronts the wrenching reality of death and does not run away from sorrow.

It is a life-giving hope which the Good Shepherd protects and nourishes in us as he leads us through the dark valley of the death of our loved ones, and through the dark valley of our own death.

Every time we make a Profession of Faith at Mass, we express this hope to receive the gift of life beyond this life. “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.”

This is a hope which no one can snatch away from us, an anchor in the stormy seas of this life, a hope which does not disappoint.

St. Paul in his letter to the Romans speaks powerfully of this hope which does not disappoint. Why is this so? Paul is crystal clear: “because the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” So the virtue of hope, so important for us in today’s world, flows from the love of God given to us—it is a divine gift.

God’s love which sustains and strengthens our hope is given to us in abundance, for it has been poured into our hearts through the gift of the Spirit first given at baptism. Not a drop here and then a drop there, but this water of new life, this love which energizes hope, has been poured into our hearts.

Christian hope roots itself in a person—in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Son of God is sent by the Father into the world, not when people in our world have turned away from sin and are worthy to receive such a great gift, but He comes before anyone is worthy to receive such a great gift.

There is more good news to enrich hope, because as St. Paul states so clearly, that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. The love which sustains our hope is undeserved, unearned, complete gift. The One who is Love enfleshed gives himself to us before we are ever worthy of him, to reconcile us to the Father and to one another, to be the source of our hope forever.

The one day in history which tilted our lives and the world forever toward hope and away from despair was that first Easter Sunday when Christ Jesus rose from the dead. From the place where hope dies—the tomb—life blooms again. So now even the place of death becomes a place where hope lives.

The will of our Heavenly Father who sent His Son into the world as the living symbol of hope is that the Son should not lose anything of what the Father gave him. In Jesus, nothing and no one is lost to us. Everything and everyone can be found in Him who is the source of all hope.

We often use the word “loss” when we speak of death. We tell others we are sorry for your loss, and we pray for those who have suffered through the loss of a loved one. When we encounter the reality of death in the searing sorrow over the death of a loved one, we can feel like we have lost them, that they are lost to us. We also feel lost, for everything in life is different without them. We feel disoriented in our daily routine which used to include our beloved dead. Nothing seems to be same—even food tastes different salted with sorrow. Little things happen throughout the day which remind us of them, and we feel even more deeply the loss of their physical presence.

It is right there, in the midst of great grief, in the middle of searing sorrow, that the Lord of all hopefulness finds us. To remind us that nothing and no one is lost to him, that he came to seek out and find those who are lost. That because everything, that’s right every thing, has been created through Him and for Him, that even our beloved animal companions, our favorite blooming plants and golden leafed trees, are not lost—they are found in Him. St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians says of Jesus Christ, “He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creatures. In him everything in heaven and earth was created, things visible and invisible. All were created through him, all were created for him.” (1:15-16)

Our beloved dead linger with us, and continue to bless us, even when their physical absence bewilders us and breaks our hearts still. For in Jesus, all of them are still alive. In Him who is the Resurrection and the Life, they still live, just in a different way. Life for them, and for us, has changed, not ended.

Today’s Gospel passage from the evangelist John assuring us that nothing is lost in Jesus is taken from the middle of Chapter 6 in what has been called the Bread of Life discourse. It is the chapter in John’s Gospel where he lays out a powerful teaching on the Eucharist, as Jesus teaches that those who eat his flesh and drink his blood will have life in Him.

Thus, every time we come to the table of the Lord, we are found by the One who is the Resurrection and the Life and joined to Him who is the Source of our Hope. We also find those we thought we had lost here with Him, for he brings them with Him.

So we are joined to them, our beloved dead, at this sacred meal, and they to us, in the One who is the reason for our hope, in this banquet pointing us to the heavenly feast.

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

October 28, 2018

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi


You and I are invited to take the place of Bartimaeus in order to learn how to be better disciples of the Lord Jesus. For you see, this encounter between Jesus and Bartimaeus happens at the end of the central part of Mark’s Gospel where Jesus has been teaching his followers how to become his disciples. Bartimaeus shows us the way.

His cry: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” becomes our cry. The New American Bible translation which we use for our Mass readings uses the word “pity” but the word closer to the original Greek is actually, “mercy.” “Jesus, have mercy on me!” For with this blind beggar, we first need to realize our complete and absolute dependence on Jesus.

That we are broken beyond repair and only he can heal us. That we are sinners who do not do the good we want but the bad we desire not to do. That we are stuck along the roadside of life, stuck there because of some hurt or pain or suffering, known or unknown, which prevents us from getting up and going forward with Jesus. So, we cry out, “Jesus, have mercy!”

Note that Jesus responds to this urgent plea of great need, that even with all the noise and commotion around him, Jesus hears the cry of great need. For Jesus is always alert to those who cry out to Him for the gift of His life-giving mercy, a divine gift which saves and renews and restores.

Then when we are called to Jesus’ side with Bartimaeus, we also have to throw aside our cloak, whatever it is that we wrap around us as our security. We are invited to leave behind the things that we rely on for “warmth” and instead be warmed to the core of our being by the loving gaze of Jesus. We throw aside our cloak, those things we use as our “security blanket” and go quickly to Him in whom we are protected from the power of sin and evil and everlasting death.

So, we take courage with this blind beggar and go to Jesus with our every need, from small to great and discover not only that he hears us but wants to help us with everything that burdens us.

Next comes Jesus’ question, “What do you want me to do for you?” It is the same question he addressed to James and John in last Sunday’s Gospel, and their desire was for the best seats in his coming kingdom, for power and glory. Note that Bartimaeus has a different desire, a deeper desire, a more profound desire. “Master, I want to see.”

Now in the Gospels, sight is something much more than light striking one’s retina and an image forming in one’s brain of what is right in front of one’s eyeballs. In the Gospels, seeing is always connected to faith, an insight into who Jesus is and what Jesus teaches. To see in this way means admitting that one is blind, that one does not recognize Jesus or understand completely his challenging teachings.

This is why once Bartimaeus “sees” the first thing he does is follow Jesus on the way. Jesus is on the way from Jericho to Jerusalem, where out of love for the world, he will suffer and die, giving his life so that all might be able to live forever in the light of God’s love. For those who see who Jesus is and understand that his words are the words of everlasting life, the daily call is to die with him to whatever in us that is not of God and rise with him to newness of life.

In the 3 predictions of His Passion preceding this encounter with Bartimaeus, Jesus has been teaching us how to see who He is and thus see our life and others through his eyes. Mark uses this pattern of Jesus telling his disciples about his upcoming Passion, which they then respond to with blindness (misunderstanding), so Jesus follows up with a teaching meant to open their eyes and ours.

The 1st prediction of His Passion in Chapter 8 of Mark is followed by the first teaching: “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34 )

So many are blind in our culture because they do not deny themselves but instead are self-absorbed, looking out only for what’s best for them and them alone. Disciples of Jesus see that the only way to fullness of life is to direct our lives outward toward others, to move from selfishness to self-giving with Jesus.

So, we cry out, “Jesus, help us to see where we are still blinded by our selfishness!” This blindness can be seen not only in those who make the choice to abort the new life growing within them because it will be too much of a burden, but also this blindness afflicts those who choose to make “gun rights” an absolute right, more important than the foundational right of others to life itself. I am still haunted by the words of a father whose son was killed in one of the many mass killings over the past decade, “You say you have a right to own a gun. Well, my son has a right to life.” It is selfish to believe that one has the right to own whatever kind of weapon one wants, especially when that weapon can be used to kill many people in a short time. This particular blindness has devastating effects, so that no place of worship is safe, not a synagogue, Christian church, nor mosque, and the places of education where are children need to feel safe in order to learn are now places where they fear for their lives. “Lord, help us to see where we are still blinded by our selfishness!”

Jesus’ 2nd prediction of His Passion in Chapter 9 is followed by the 2nd teaching: “Whoever welcomes a little child such as this welcomes me.” (Mark 9:37 )

A heart of hospitality—welcoming the “other” as if they were Christ himself— is an essential characteristic of being a disciple of the Son of David, Jesus Christ. Jesus challenges us to see Him in the most powerless, the poorest, the stranger from another land, the one who can do nothing for us. To see Jesus in them and by welcoming them, to receive Jesus himself.

Some political leaders, including our president, play on our fears of the “other,” and this fear blinds us to Christ in them asking us to welcome Him, to help him. So we cry out: Jesus, help us to see where we are blinded by our fears of the other.”

The 3rd Prediction of His Passion in Chapter 10 of Mark is followed by the 3rd teaching: “The one among you who serves is the greatest of all.” (Mark 10:43 )

This teaching addresses a blindness of which so many of us suffer, thinking we are better than this or that person because of their race or color of skin or sexual orientation or political ideology. When we have a heart of service, we see what we all share in common—our humanity. When we bend our knee to wash the feet of others, we cannot stand over them in condemnation or anger or hatred.

Rhetoric encouraging violence against those who are different from us or disagree with us has consequences, as we have seen in the pipe bombs being sent through the U.S. mail this week. Words which demonize another person or group, spoken by the leader of our nation or by any one of us, have consequences because these words inevitably lead to violence.

When we have a heart of service, we join our lives to the Son of David, the King of Kings, the one who came not to serve but to serve & to give his life that we might be reconciled to God & to one another and live in peace. So we cry out: “Jesus, help us to see where we are blind to the violence we encourage against others.”

A healthy self-denial, which leads us out of ourselves into a life of hospitality & service, helps us to see who Jesus is and who we are called to be with him.

We desire to see Jesus more clearly, so we might follow him more nearly, joining our lives to his more fully.

We desire to see Jesus more clearly, so we might love him more dearly, and thus love Him in every word we speak and in every deed we do.

Jesus, we want to see you! Hear us and have mercy on us!!

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

October 14, 2018

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi


Two men appear in the verses of Mark’s Gospel we have just proclaimed; one at the beginning another at the end. One of them has no name, and the other is called, Peter. They are both men who have been looked at love.

In the case of the first man, it is the only time in all the Gospels that Jesus is said to have looked with love on an individual. It is the gaze of divine love that should have completely overcome this man and moved him to give up everything at that moment. Yet, it does not happen. The reason why is worth our thought and some reflection. We could learn from him.

In the case of Peter, the Gospel doesn’t ever say that he was looked at with love, but we can only hope that this was what Peter saw as he sat there in the courtyard of the High Priest when a cock crowed the third times. The Gospel tells us that Jesus turned and looked at him. Why would we think that look would have been anything other than the look of love? Unless our lesser selves imagine a look of reproach, like, “I told you so”, or a “how could you?” We know what that looks like don’t we? We also know how to give look, but that is not what he saw.

That man with no name could easily be us. He seems to have been so preoccupied with his own thoughts, that he does not notice how Jesus looks at him, and that’s a shame. The story might have ended up differently had he just looked up into that loving gaze.

But no, he has too many possessions to look after. In reality, they possess him. He can’t imagine his life without them. What Jesus asks of him is not just to help the poor, but to become poor. Judging from his question, that man thinks that there is something he can do to gain eternal life, and here we see the difference between him and Peter.

Having given up everything, Peter and his companions begin to discover that this “eternal life” is a free gift given by the loving Father to those who do not deserve it. At the moment of his greatest shame and sorrow, Peter looks at the face of the friend and master he has just denied and he sees the look of love.

Jesus demands the best of us. That is what he asked of that man and of Peter and the Twelve. The challenge: “If you want to be perfect” is issued to all of us as well.

However, the thing we might be called upon to sacrifice in order to take up that challenge could vary for each of us. We have to look into our own hearts to see what it is that we would have to give up in order to respond. We are reminded like the nameless man and Peter that we are invited to come along with Jesus, that life is a pilgrimage to God’s eternal kingdom.

To accept the invitation of Jesus means we must travel lightly and remember that salvation is always what God accomplishes in spite of us. Eternal life is not something we can earn, buy, or accomplish on our own.

Those who trust in themselves and their possessions have it all wrong. Only those who trust in the saving power and redeeming love of God can enter freely into salvation.

What he asks is sacrifice. It is the sign language of love. What Jesus knows is that there is no point in forcing people to make sacrifices. If you take things from people, they are impoverished; but if you can get them to give them up, they are enriched.

With these 2 men before us today, we have a choice to make and a model to follow. One leads to sadness. The other leads to the joy of forgiveness and eternal life.

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

September 23, 2018

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi

“What were you arguing about along the way?” (Mark 9:33 ) Jesus’ question is met by silence, because the disciples have been arguing about who is the greatest. But now, under the loving yet challenging gaze of Jesus, it all seems so foolish. What can James or Peter or Andrew or Matthew say?

Jesus has been teaching them that dying to one’s selfish inclinations is the way to life, that the way to a more abundant life is to turn away from self-centeredness and live for others. They’ve spent the whole day focusing on self and who is the most important. How could they have wasted so much time or been so foolish?

In Jesus’ presence we see so clearly how putting “me first” is not His way nor the way to follow Him. When we pray, which is simply being conscious of Jesus’ presence and entering into a conversation with him, we discover that we are passionate about things which are not of lasting value. That in our desire to be right all the time, we hurt others.

Each day we are invited to answer the question Jesus poses to us as we walk along the way of discipleship with Him. What were you arguing about with your spouse? Your response could be: Oh, how foolish I was. How selfish I am, thinking my needs are more important than my spouse, that I am more important. What were you arguing about with one of your friends? Oh, how foolish I was, how self-centered, trying to prove the superiority of my position. What were you arguing about with your co-worker? Well, my coworker is of a different political persuasion than I, but I showed her and cut her down a notch or two. But how foolish I am, lording myself over her and making her feel so small.

Three times in the very center of Mark’s Gospel Jesus tells his disciples that he will suffer, die and rise, and each time they don’t get it. So, each time he uses their “misunderstanding” as an opening to teach them even more clearly what it means to follow him along the way of the cross. Today’s teaching follows the 2nd prediction of his Passion along the way to Jerusalem. His teaching—the greatest among you will be the servant of all. Not just by serving a few select people, but by being a servant to all people.

In Jesus’ 3rd prediction of His Passion in Chapter 10, it’s as if James and John don’t even hear what he says, because they ask for the best seats in His Kingdom, and then the others get upset at the brothers for doing so. So, Jesus teaches them again that in his Kingdom it is not about glory and honor and making one’s importance felt, but about service, using himself as an example, Jesus refers to himself as Son of Man, his favorite title for himself, as he states: “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45 ).

He will reinforce this teaching at the Last Supper, getting on his knees to wash their dirty, stinking feet.

Just like those first followers of Jesus, we struggle to hear his words and to remember his example of life-giving service. Instead of washing feet we are tempted to take the opposite perspective, to stand over others, to look down on others from our perch of self-righteous judgment. From this perspective, we see ourselves as better, as more important, as being always in the right.

Getting down on our knees to wash others feet gifts us with a totally different perspective. We have to look up at others, and as we do so, we realize we are not better than them, more important than them. Rather we see what we share in common—that all of us have feet that sweat and stink because that’s part of the human condition. From the vantage point of service, we see that we are all human beings.

In fact, from the perspective of being a servant to others, we realize something even deeper, that we are all children of God.

One of the penances I often give to children when they come to Confession is to go home and ask their parents: “What can I do for you?” I picture their mom or dad, upon hearing this question, initially being speechless, their jaws dropping open in amazement.

This kind of attitude within a family—“What can I do for you”— transforms family life by building each other up and strengthening the life of the family. Those who used to be self-centered widen the circle of their concern to include the needs of other family members.

This kind of attitude also transforms the human family into being what it has been made to be—the family of God. When we daily ask of others, “What can I do for you?” there is no time nor energy for arguing about who is the most important.

Instead of judging people only on what they can do for us, we ask what we can do for them. Then our eyes are opened, and we see that we are serving Christ himself.

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

September 16, 2018

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


Over the last several weeks we“Whoever wishes to save his life loses it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the sake of the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:35) This is what St. John Paul II called the “law of the gift.” Pope John Paul II stated it this way: “Man can only find himself through the sincere gift of self.” This teaching of the 2 nd Vatican Council, repeated incessantly by St. John Paul II, unmasks the deception of a life focused on self. If I seek only to preserve myself—my interests, my comforts, my preferences— I lose everything. But, if I learn to sacrifice myself, if I learn how to be a gift to and for others, I not only bless and affirm the God-given dignity of others, I find myself and “save” my life in the process.

The “law of the gift” helps us better understand the mystery of the cross and what it means for us to carry the cross. Instead of focusing solely on ourselves, we deny ourselves and follow Jesus, who is the example of what self-giving love looks like. We participate in carrying HIS cross, not just any old cross. For the cross is simply an instrument of torture that was used not only to kill Jesus but other condemned criminals. BUT Jesus’ cross is different for on it he gives himself completely to the Father out of love and for us out of love. The innocent One dying for the guilty, the Son of God for the sons and daughters of men, emptying his life that we might share in divine life and death destroyed.

So, to carry the cross does not mean suffering through illness, because that is self-focused. Besides, everyone at one time or another suffers from sickness, whether they are Christian or not. Instead, to carry the cross means to help others in their time of illness, to be the healing hands of Christ to them.

To deny oneself and follow Jesus in carrying the cross does not mean when disaster strikes my life, this is my cross to carry. Every human being faces and deals with disaster at one time or another in their life. Instead, to carry the cross means reaching out to help carry people who are impacted by disasters in their life. Just as well, to carry the cross does not mean struggling through the burden of sorrow over the death of a loved one. Once again, that is self-focused, not other-directed. To carry the cross instead means to lift up others who are being crushed by the weight of their sorrow, to dry the tears of those who weep, to bring them the hope of new life by our self-giving love.

What you are willing to give up for someone reveals your love for them more than words can ever say. Real love and sacrifice are never far apart. Love which is the real deal is always connected to the gift of self. In fact, it’s not what we take and have which makes us rich, but rather what we give up. St. James in his letter proclaims the same truth in a different way by stating that faith without works is dead. True faith is faith put into practice. Real faith acts on behalf of others, especially those in greatest need. Faith Works! Today we are given an opportunity to put our faith to work, to love in a sacrificial way, by responding generously to the annual Catholic Charities Appeal. Our sisters and brothers who need our help will receive it through the many excellent service programs of Catholic Charities. I invite forward Molly Bernard to speak with us about the good works Catholic Charities does in our name and with our sacrificial support.