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Monthly Archives: January 2020

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 26, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


Recently I went out to eat lunch with a friend. He wanted to treat me to a meal at the Cheesecake factory, along with some of that famously delicious dessert, and then to a movie afterward.

At this meal, my friend immediately made a connection with the young man who waited on our table. He asked the young man’s name and then called him by name every time he came by to fill our tea and water glasses. With a few questions, he found out that our waiter was attending OU and that he was a graduate of Mustang High School.

My friend can come across as a bit gruff and tough. His effort to make a connection with our waiter was intentionalbeing friendly is not naturally pa11 of who he is. It was something he was making an effort to do, because of my friend’s faith. It was his way of showing this young man waiting on our table that he mattered, that he was not just someone working for us and thus “below” us, but that he had an inherent dignity which called forth respect and interest and compassion from my friend.

The connection he made with our waiter probably meant just as much as the generous tip he left on the table for him. My friend also does this with whoever checks him out at the grocery store. He made the same effort, though with a much more limited window of time, with the person who took our movie tickets and directed us to where our movie was showing.

Now this may sound like a small thing, but it is actually huge in the plan of God. Connecting with another person makes all the difference in the world, for such an effort says, “I care. You are important.” Such loving attention & interest is a way of sharing the good news of God’s love in Christ. So often, though, the opposite happens, as we bury ourselves in our cell phones at a restaurant, bank, or store, and don’t even pay attention to the person who is serving us. Often we interact with others w/out even making contact, much less a connection w/them.

Jesus connected with people so they would want to enter into relationship with him. This is what Jesus did over and over again with people.

This loving attention began with the Incarnation, as the Son of God came down to our level, to the human level, because he wanted to connect with us. He burned with a deep desire to enter into a friendship with humanity and with individual persons.

Surely this is what happened with the call of Andrew, Peter, James and John. Jesus lived in Capernaum and most likely encountered these four before he invited them to follow him, maybe at the fish market or elsewhere. He came to know their names and showed an interest in their lives. He connected with them and hooked them by his love for them.

So that when he walked by and simply said, “Come after me,” they were willing to leave the security of their present life behind to be with him. Notice this is first and foremost what Jesus is inviting them to do-to be with him. We can imagine the 2 sets of brothers and Jesus sitting down to break bread later that day and over a meal coming to know each other even better. He is not inviting them into a certain ideology or group, but to his very person! He is not inviting them to do something, but to be with him, to go where he goes.

This was Jesus’ modus-operandi, the way he operated as he established the relationship model of the Kingdom of heaven. He would go out to where people were, meet them where they were at, share a meal with them, get to know them and open his heart for them to know him.

This connection with others happened in the most ordinary of ways, but it was always intentional. He did not sit in the temple in Jerusalem and hope people would come to him to learn about the kingdom of heaven, about the great good news of the Gospel. He went out to them to invite them into a love story, God’s love for the human race.

The way we connect with the Risen Jesus today happens in a multitude of ways, but the easiest and most consistent way is by listening to Him speak to us in the Gospels. By taking time to be with him each day in His Word, we come to know him better. [tis where he comes to meet us and to speak to us. Pope Francis has declared this 3rd Sunday in Ordinary time to be “The Sunday of the Word of God”. In doing so, our Pope wants to emphasize the importance of Scriptures but most especially of the 4 Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Pope Francis carries around a small book with the Gospels in it, and whenever he has a short break, he pulls it out, and listens to what the Lord Jesus is saying through His Word.

By listening to the Risen Jesus speak to us through the Gospels, we connect with him. It is how we can do so easily and naturally, coming to know him better and entering deeper into relationship with him. When many people think of prayer, they think of it as a one-way conversation, of giving God a to-do list for the day. Others complain that God never speaks to them. By daily immersing ourselves in the Word of God, especially in the Gospels, we enter into a two-way conversation with the Lord where he speaks to us if we but listen.

If we have never prayed with the Word of God, there are several basic things which help us listen better. First, find a place that is quite, where you can be in silence, away from the noise of TV, phones, and other devices. Choose a regular time every day when you can take at least 5-10 minutes to read and reflect on the Word of God. The easiest way to choose a Gospel passage is to use the passage that will be proclaimed at daily Mass or at Sunday Mass—the verses for these Gospel passages are listed in our bulletin or you can find them online. When you have the passage marked in your bible, read it our loud, and listen for a word or a phrase that strikes you. Ask Jesus questions about this word or phrase, chew on it. This can then become a way to talk to Jesus about anything and everything going on in your life.

In the person and life of Jesus, we see how God is by nature a fisherman. In Jesus, God searches for us in the deep waters where we hide, baiting and hooking us by his love. He reels us in out of the watery depths of our old life clouded by the darkness of fear, into the light, into the light of a new world. Where he will never ever let us go, for we are caught in a love story that snags us for life. He even gives himself to us as food and drink to live this new life.

So that we can go forth as fishers of men and women, to meet others where they are, and reel them into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Homily for the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 19, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi

When you walked into church, you were probably struck by the barrenness. The Christmas Season ended last Sunday, so the poinsettias and evergreen trees and lights and nativity scene are all gone. But in the barrenness, the green vestments of Ordinary Time worn by the deacon and priest remind us that new life still surges forth in our midst.

For the joyful message of Christmas flows into every day as living water, bringing forth new life in every season. God so loved the world that he sent his only Son. God so loved us that his only Son descends in humility to wherever we are, even into the darkest and messiest places of our life to find us. Jesus, as Son of God, is born in a stinky stable and then as an adult plunges into the dirty water of the Jordan. The sinless one joins his life to sinful humanity, fully human like us, seeking us out wherever we are lost in our sin and separated from God.

Because of God’s love for us in Christ Jesus, we know God has a plan for each one of us. God formed you in your mother’s womb, and God called you from your mother’s womb to be the best version of yourself by sharing in God’s life.

Sin wrecked this plan, but Jesus, as the Lamb of God, comes to take away the sin of the world. He comes to join heaven to earth, to save us from our separation from God by offering his life as the Lamb of God on the cross, dying to redeem us.

By being baptized into Jesus’ saving death, we have been made one with God, and by rising with him from the waters of our baptism, we have been given new life. The Spirit who animated Jesus’ life and his ministry, the Spirit who drew him into Communion with the Father, was poured into our life at baptism, empowering us to fulfill God’s plan for our life.

By our baptism, we were sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy, to be the very best version of ourselves, to be who God has made us to be. We do not earn holiness or even achieve it. It is a pure gift from God as we share in the life of the Risen Christ. We have Christ’s life in us. As a way of response to this great gift of divine life, we act and live in a certain way. We act like Christians, not in order to become holy, but in order to be consistent with the holiness we have already received.

We grow into who we are and have been made to be by remaining in Communion with Christ Jesus, sharing weekly in his Body & Blood. He calls forth from us by his love the very best version of who we are in Him. He teaches us how to live as a child of the Father, as someone empowered by the Spirit. He not only reminds us that we are never alone, but that we have been given brothers and sisters to help us along the way, which is one reason why the Church exists.

When we forget who we are and to whom we belong, when we turn away from Him and choose not to live in holiness, not to be the best version of who God created us to be, the Lord Jesus meets us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation to welcome us back home.

When we stray away from Him, he keeps looking for us, seeking us where we are hiding, and bringing us back home. Because he is not only the Lamb of God but also the Good Shepherd.

We humbly acknowledge with John the Baptist, “I did not know him” which means we did not see him coming to us in the person in need of our love and we turned away. We did not see Jesus nor receive him when we hurt another person with our words or deeds.

When we choose to selfishly do our own will instead of the will of God, our encounter with Jesus in Confession strengthens us to humbly say every day to the Father: “Here am I, Lord, I come to do your will.”

We constantly need to re-orient our life to Christ. Each day we have to choose to live with Him and in Him. Our life of faith is a countless series of conversions, of turning back to Him.

The prophet Isaiah tells us that we will be made a light to the nations, so that the good news of God’s saving love can reach to the ends of the earth. This theme will be echoed a few weeks from now as Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel will remind us that we, his followers, are called to be the light of the world.

By our deeds of self giving love, the love of God shines through us. By our deeds of sacrificial love, we become the light of the world.

This Monday we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr., who spent his life bringing light into the darkness of racial segregation and discrimination. While sitting in a jail cell in 1963 he wrote: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

We can be the light of the world and overcome hate with love by living out with Jesus the Beatitudes he taught and embodied. We can grow in holiness, becoming even more who God has called us to be in Christ, by putting into practice the Beatitudes.

For when we are merciful, instead of judgmental or condemning, then the light of Christ’s mercy not only flows through us into the darkness of a sometimes merciless world, but also abides in us as a great, saving gift for ourselves.

When we are peacemakers, working to bring people together instead of driving them further apart, we experience in ourselves the peace of being who we are—God’s children, and brothers and sisters to every human being.

When we hunger and thirst for righteousness, when we hunger to make right our relation to others, when we thirst to make right our relation to Creation, then our hunger and thirst to be right with God is satisfied.

As we live out the Beatitudes, we grow into who God has made us to be in Christ Jesus. We become a light shining in the darkness for others to find their way to God.

Baptism of the Lord

January 12, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


Until his baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan River, Jesus lives a “hidden life.” Then everything changes. The Father’s voice booming from heaven announces in a very public way, “This is my beloved Son!” In some way Jesus knew this to be true before his baptism, but his experience at the Jordan awakens in him in powerful way who he is: he is more than the Son of Mary, more than the carpenter’s son. Jesus is God’s beloved son in whom God is well pleased.

Thus, his public ministry begins and flows from his baptism, as Jesus goes forth to awaken that identity in others, their ultimate identity as beloved children of God. He will do this with Matthew the tax collector and with Peter the fisherman, with Mary Magdalene and with countless others. Matthew and Peter and Mary came to love what Jesus loved in them, to see and receive their dignity as God’s beloved.

Then Jesus sends them forth to do the same. This is what evangelization looks like: Evangelization, sharing the Good News of God’s love, happens when awakened people awaken others to their true identity as children of God!

The challenge is that we live out our identity as beloved children of God within the limits of our humanity and our struggles with sin. More often than not, instead of experiencing this communion with the Triune God forged in the fiery waters of our baptism, we instead live in alienation from our true identity.

Which is why we need someone to show us the way through our alienation to a life in communion. Which is why we need someone—Jesus–to take away our sin and show us the way to live as a beloved child of God.

This is why a life of prayer is vitally important, because prayer is simply a conversation with One who loves us, who reminds us who we are as a child of God. When we rest daily with Jesus in prayer we remember we are sons and daughters of God in the Son of God.

Jesus wants to teach us the way through our alienation, which is why ongoing study of his teachings form a solid foundation for our identity in Him as beloved children of Father. This year the beloved child of God will teach us these truths through the good news of the evangelist Matthew. Jesus, the new Moses in Matthew, has much to teach us and we have much to learn.

Loved by the Son of God who seeks us out wherever we may be hiding, we want to return that love and live out of our dignity as God’s children by sharing generously the gifts we have been given in service of others and for the glory of God’s kingdom.

We become “evangelists,” sharers of the Great Good News, by awakening others to their child of God identity. Empowered by the Spirit, the living waters of our baptism, the fire of divine life, we love others so generously and joyfully that they awaken to the truth of who they are—God’s beloved sons and daughters.

Toward this goal and to this end, our parish is embarking on a 5-year journey of renewal with the help of Dynamic Catholic, so that each one of us may receive more fully God’s great love for us in Christ Jesus and then share that love more generously with others.

A couple of months ago I was contacted by the Office of New Evangelization and Catechesis at the Archdiocese about a new initiative of Dynamic Catholic. Some of you may know Dynamic Catholic through the books or events featuring its founder, Matthew Kelly. This past Christmas I shared with you another of his books, “Rediscover the Saints.” Dynamic Catholic has been around for 10 years, and this organization has spent the majority of that time researching and developing resources which help people rediscover the genius of Catholicism.

Dynamic Catholic is launching something new called, “Dynamic Parish.” Dynamic Parish is an effort to help every parish in America not just survive, but to truly become a parish on fire with the love of God.

When I met with the team at Dynamic Catholic, they made our parish an offer they would only extend to 5 parishes in our archdiocese. In exchange for being part of a 5-year pilot study, Dynamic Catholic would provide about a million dollars worth of world-class resources in books, programs, parish best-practices, and regular coaching for the parish leadership team.

After discussing it with Deacon Paul, our parish’s pastoral associate, the rest of the members of our parish staff, and our Pastoral Council, I said “yes.”

I did not say yes because I thought taking our parish community to the next level would be easy. It will certainly be challenging at times.

Rather, I said yes, because I believe our future at Holy Spirit Parish can be bigger and even brighter than our past.

I said yes because I want to see, along with a new church building, a renewal of the “living Church,” those who make up this community of faith.

I said yes because I hope that our parish can become everything God intends it to be.

I said yes, because I know that alone as separate individuals we can accomplish little, but together, with God’s grace, there is almost no height we cannot reach.

For more on Dynamic Parish, let’s hear now from Matthew Kelly. (play video)

January 5, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


This beautiful Epiphany Gospel stirs up lots of questions about those on the “inside” who miss the revelation of the newborn King. Why do strangers from the east recognize that someone of great importance has been born in Israel while those in Israel fail to see what is right in front of them?

The ancient peoples believed that the birth of someone important would be mirrored by the birth in the heavens of a new star. But why do those who are closest to the star not see it?

Herod and the people of Jerusalem never notice the star shining bright in the night sky. Surely Herod would have noticed it on a nighttime stroll through the rooftop garden of his royal palace. But Herod is imprisoned in the airless sky of his own mind.

For you have to look up into the darkness in order to see the birth of a new star. You can’t be looking down, weighed down by worries and concerns. Herod’s attitude symbolizes a busy world whose very life consists in exhausting itself with worry.

Also, if you want to see the star, you cannot be looking inward, or be self-centered, thinking only of yourself.

The failure to see the star is a failure of faith, for faith is the ability to see in the darkest of times the light of God’s presence.

But it’s more than being unaware of the star through a failure of faith, it’s also not paying attention to the treasure of Sacred Scripture. The chief priests and the scribes know the prophecy about the promised Messiah coming from Bethlehem, but they have failed to keep their hope alive in God’s promises. Hope does not live in them, otherwise they would have followed the light of Scripture leading them to the child of promise on their back doorstep in Bethlehem, only five and a half miles away from the mighty capital of Jerusalem.

This is a failure of hope, for hope is a lamp lighting one’s path through the darkest of days, strengthening one’s trust that God will be faithful to God’s promises. Rooted in the Word of God, we are able to live in hope.

But the question that should trouble us more than any other is: “Why did Herod and the chief priests and scribes not accompany the magi on the final part of their journey to Bethlehem? Why did they remain behind?” Maybe they were afraid that a new king might strip them of their power and position. Herod definitely is power-hungry and fearful someone will rob him of his power. Fear keeps Herod and others in Jerusalem in the dark.

Fear prevents one from taking the risk to love and be loved; fear blocks one from leaving what one is certain of for the uncertainty “out there”; fear slams the door on welcoming the “stranger” into one’s life.

Fear stands in stark contrast to love. The failure of anyone in Jerusalem to accompany the magi is a FAILURE OF LOVE. Love overcomes fear; love conquers fear. (cf. 1 John 4:18)

The beauty and mystery of the Epiphany story attracts us to accompany the magi in the search for God. We are so fascinated by their story because the magi are us; their story is our story.

We, too, have a deep longing for God, an ache for God, which we cannot ignore. We look for signs in the heavens and in our daily life which will point to God’s presence with us.

We dull this desire for intimacy with God in many different ways— with work or drugs or busyness or the many distractions of modern technology. But we cannot extinguish the flame of desire for God within us, a light which brightens the darkness, because our hearts are restless until they rest in God. Our longing for God is God’s gift to us, drawing us to Himself.

Like the magi, in our quest for God and relationship with God, we are invited into the unknown. We are called away from our comfort zones and into new lands, new places. Faith – our ongoing response to the loving invitation of God to an intimate friendship —is meant to be an adventure.

Maybe some of us have stopped exploring, have stayed put, unwilling to say “YES” to wherever the Lord wants to lead us.

Like the magi, on our journey of faith into the darkness of the unknown, we encounter obstacles, King-Herod-size-obstacles that want to use and destroy us. But we also encounter aids, especially assistance from our companions who urge us on. Our companions on this journey are both those on this earth and those saints who shine like stars in heaven, encouraging us by their prayers and example to keep on keeping on.

So, with the magi, we go forth daily on this adventure of faith, hope and love.

We seek the Lord Jesus. We long for Him. We bring Him all that we have and are in adoration.

He is the King of Kings and brother to us in all things. He desires us to embrace others, especially strangers, as our brothers and our sisters. Jesus invites us to trust that “outsiders” can point out His presence in our midst.

Then we can be His radiant presence to others during times when they walk in darkness.

For the Lord Jesus is the Light of the World, and He longs to shine through us to others who are looking for Him.