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All posts by Holy Spirit Catholic Church

Homily for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Tim

February 7, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi

When Jesus reaches out to touch someone, they are healed. By the compassionate touch of Jesus, human beings are made whole.

He speaks no words to Simon’s mother-in-law, who is laid low by a fever, bedridden, and unable to welcome Jesus and his friends to her home. Jesus simply reaches out and lifts her up from her bed, and the fever flees at his touch.

In next Sunday’s Gospel as we continue our journey with Jesus through the 1st Chapter of Mark, Jesus will reach out to touch the untouchable one—a leper— reuniting him with his family and community, making him whole. Jesus could have stayed at a distance and spoken a word to heal the leper, but instead he reaches out to touch a man no one touches for fear of catching his contagious disease.

By touching those who are ill and whose illness isolates them from others, Jesus shows God’s concern to not only cure the body but to heal the sick person from the effect of their illness by reuniting them with their loved ones and community. And to let them know by his touch that they have not and never will be cut off from God.

Curing deals with only the physical malady while healing makes the person whole again, as Jesus heals broken hearts and crushed spirits resulting from physical illness.

Later in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus’ touch will restore life to two children thought to be dead. He strides into the room of the 12-year old daughter of Jairus and takes her hand, saying, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you arise”. (5:41) He then lifts her up from what was thought to be her death bed and gives her back to her parents.

Then, when coming down from the Mountain of his Transfiguration, Jesus encounters a boy possessed by a demon, whom he sets free. However, it appears the exorcism has killed the boy, as he lays lifeless on the ground. But Jesus takes his hand, raises him, and the boy stands up, his life restored. (9:27)

The healing, life restoring touch of Jesus reminds one of the Creation scene crafted by Michaelangelo into the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, where God reaches out his finger to touch Adam’s finger and voila— the human being is given life and created in the image and likeness of God. The way Jesus raises up Simon’s mother-in-law, the 12 year old girl, and the little boy in Mark’s Gospel is echoed in the words of the priest in the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. As the priest makes the sign of the cross with the holy oil on the palms of the sick person, he says, “May the Lord who frees you from sin, save you, and raise you up.”

These words refer not only to the ultimate hope of being raised up from physical death resulting from illness but the power of Jesus’ touch in the present moment, raising up the sick person to a new life now.

Raising them up from the death of despair to a new life filled with hope. Raising them up from the death of isolation that sickness causes to know they are never separated from the love of others or from the love of God.

Jesus longs to heal whatever is broken in us, to make us whole. All of us need to experience his healing touch in one way or another.

Some of us need to be healed of the despair caused by this pandemic, to be able to trust again in God’s goodness. We open ourselves to the Lord’s healing touch when we express honestly to the Lord the hurt in our heart in the form of a lament, like Job does.

If we didn’t know Job’s backstory, we might assume he is suffering the effects of a pandemic. Listen again to his words: “Life is a drudgery, months of misery, troubled nights, I shall not see happiness again.” Who among us have not felt what Job feels, especially during the past 11 months! But Job has it worse off than we do, because he has lost everything, and I do mean everything: all of his vast riches, his entire family, and even his health.

The words we hear Job speak today are actually spoken to his friends, but if we continue on to the next verses in chapter 7 in the Book of Job, we would hear Job turn to God and addresses God: “Why have you set me up as a object for your attack, or why should I be a target for you?” (7:12) These are strong words to address to God, but they are honest words. Job is not afraid to lament, to tell God directly about his suffering and to question God about the reason for his suffering.

The book of Job is actually one long prayer as this man of faith addresses God from the depth of his pain and ultimately encounters God, receiving not answers but healing, not a solution to the mystery of suffering but an assurance that God’s presence is more than enough.

For others of us, the healing we seek from the Lord might not be from despair in the face of human suffering, but rather the longing for the Lord to touch and heal a broken relationship. Or we might need to ask the Lord to touch the memory of a hurt, which is still like an open, festering wound. Or sometimes we carry hurts from our childhood which are buried so deeply, we are not even aware they are there, but the Lord is, and longs to touch them, if we give Him permission. Others among us live in the shadow of deep sorrow which impacts every part of life, a bed of sadness which only the Lord can lift us from and restore us to joy again.

Whenever we experience the healing touch of the Lord restoring us to life, we respond as Simon’s mother-in-law did by serving others.

As the Lord raises us up to new life, we want to serve him in others. We desire to reach out and touch those who are hurting and share the healing love we have experienced.

To bring hope to the hopeless, joy to the joyless, and peace to troubled hearts.

As we touch others with the compassionate touch of the Lord, something remarkable happens.

We experience not only his healing love flowing through us but also surrounding us, strengthening us to love even more.

Homily for the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 31, 2021

Fr. Joseph Jacobi

Mark’s Gospel has just begun and already Jesus is facing resistance. Though the brothers Andrew and Simon, and the brothers James and John, are open to his call to follow him, there are others who resist. That resistance happens from the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

With today’s Gospel passage we are only 21 verses into Mark’s Gospel and right away there is a man with an unclean spirit who rises up to resist Jesus and his message. Where does this take place? In the synagogue. In a place of prayer, a place where Jesus is teaching about God’s word proclaimed in a holy place.

The resistance which Jesus faces from the beginning is only a prelude to the resistance he will encounter to His person and to His message from many others. The opposition which Jesus encounters from the start of his ministry will continue on a regular basis from a number of different groups and people.

As soon as Chapter 3 in Mark’s Gospel, the Pharisees and Herodians will start to plot his death. (3:6) The Gospel Jesus proclaims and the actions he takes threaten the religious and civil leaders of his day so much so that from early on in his ministry they plan to get rid of him. Later on in Chapter 3, as the religious scribes witness Jesus casting evil spirits out of people, they will make the claim that he is possessed by Beelezbul, the prince of devils. (3:22)

In the same chapter, some members of Jesus family, seeing the crowds surround him and seeking his help, so much so that he cannot even eat, come to take him home, claiming he is “out of his mind.” (3:20-21).

So it is not a surprise when Jesus faces opposition in his hometown of Nazareth (6 : 1-6), those who think they know him so well and think he is too “full of himself.” Their resistance to him and his message is so strong that he cannot even work a single miracle in his hometown.

This resistance comes from all places, even from the inner circle of his disciples, from one of those closest to him. When Jesus shares with his inner circle of followers that he is going up to Jerusalem to suffer and die, Peter, the leader, takes him aside and rebukes Jesus, almost as if he is saying that Jesus has an unclean spirit. Jesus’ words to Peter are some of his strongest in the Scriptures: “Get behind me, Satan.” (8:32-33)

What is important to note is that Jesus identifies the source of his opposition, that like the man in the synagogue Peter is being controlled by an unclean spirit. What Peter is thinking and saying is not from God, but from the evil spirit.

It is important to remember where Jesus encounters resistance from the very beginning— in a place of worship where the word of God is being proclaimed. It is important to remember when Jesus encounters resistance from the very beginning— on the sabbath day, the day set aside for worship. Therefore, that man being controlled by unclean spirits is US!

For all of us come to this place of prayer struggling in some way with “unclean” spirits. All of us, in one way or another, resist Jesus and his message of conversion. Each and every one of us have parts of our heart that are hardened that need be softened. “If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart.”

Every one of us has part of our heart that is hardened, telling Jesus: “I’m not going to let you in here.” For each of us in our own way resist Jesus’ command to love God with all we have and are and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

This unclean spirit manifests itself in many different ways, but most often in the lives of Christians it shows its face in the form of pride– pride in the sense that we give thanks to God that we are not like all those other people out there who are great sinners. We are so quick to judge and so quick to condemn.

Pride can also show itself in the refusal to forgive ourselves for the things we have done, that we still hang onto out of shame or guilt. The Lord is ready to forgive but we out of pride, thinking we should have been better, still hold onto the sin out of pride.

The unclean spirit shows its face in many different ways of selfishness. Selfishness manifests itself not only in self-centered actions but also in the attitude energizing those actions: “I will do what I want!” or “I will do my own thing,” forgetting that to do the will of God is where we experience the greatest freedom of all.

Each of us need Jesus to free us from these unclean spirits continue to control us and which prevent us from responding more fully to the love of God. For some that takes the shape of “unforgiveness.” Some need to be freed of “grudge-crete,” that hardening of the heart resulting from a pride-filled refusal to forgive. Only the jackhammer power of Jesus’ authority can free such a person from this malady.

Others knowingly choose sin, over and over again, even though they know this action is leading away from God. Only the authority of Jesus can free one from such an unclean spirit.

Others find themselves enslaved to the meanness of some social media and denigrate those who think differently from them.

For all of us there are parts of our hearts that are hardened of which we are not aware at all.

In this time of pandemic it so easy to listen to the evil spirit, to be tempted to despair, to hopelessness, to throw up our hands and say, “There is nothing I can do.” That is not the voice of God.

The voice of God which we hear through Jesus is always a voice of hope, calling us deeper and deeper to trust in his promises and in the power of his love. We have been so accustomed to listening to the voice of the evil spirit that we are not even aware we are walking in darkness.

So we come like that man in the synagogue, crying out in our aching need:

Come, Lord Jesus, shine the light of your love wherever there is darkness! Expose the darkness and expel it from me! Come with the fire of your love and purify me, melt what’s grown hard in my heart, and help me to love!

Jesus has the authority, the power to set us free if we but turn to Him in trust and hope.

Homily for the Baptism of the Lord

January 10, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi

With today’s feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we come to the end of this Christmas Season.

During the past 2 weeks we have gone from the manger to the Jordan River, from encountering Jesus as the babe of Mother Mary to seeing him as the Beloved Son of God His Father, sanctifying the waters of the Jordan.

With the magi, we adored him as the newborn King hidden from the world, to now we see him beginning his public ministry at the age of 30, bursting forth onto the world scene after his baptism by John.

This feast concludes the Christmas Season as a very strong reminder that the Son of God became the Son of Mary not only to save us from sin and death but also to share divine life with us.

The Son of God takes on our human nature so we can share in his divine nature. The 2nd person of the Most Holy Trinity, the Eternal Word, comes into the world as the Son of Mary so we human beings might become sons and daughters of God.

It is mind-boggling— God’s burning desire is to share God’s life with us. God’s love for us seen in Jesus is a love inviting us into Communion with the divine.

God’s sends His Only Beloved Son into the world is not out of pity— look at these poor, pitiable creatures that need saving— but out of love, longing to share divine life with all humanity.

For joined to God’s Son in the waters of baptism, we have indeed become daughters and sons of God.

The meaning of all baptisms can be found in this one baptism in the River Jordan. If you want to understand the beauty and the power and the mystery of your own baptism, plunge deeply into this account of Jesus’ baptism. As the fully human Jesus comes up from the waters of the Jordan, the Spirit comes down. Through that hole in the heavens flies the Spirit like a dove, the Spirit of love, which rests upon Jesus and upon all who are baptized into Him.

Then comes the Father’s tender voice, “You are my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Though we may not have been aware of this voice of the Father at our baptism, the same voice whispers in the ear of our soul every time we bless ourselves with holy water. “You are my beloved son, my beloved daughter.” Every time we shower or swim or drink, water calls forth the Father’s voice, resounding from the center of our being: “You are my beloved daughter, my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.”

Beneath the surface disturbances of our life, beneath all the failures and the sins, beneath the doubts and the fears is this current of divine life, the water of life, from which we drink and from which we hear how we always will be children of God in whom God delights.

At our own baptism, we were immersed into this saving truth— because of the Incarnation of the Son of God and because of His baptism in the Jordan River, there are no longer any barriers between humans and God, between the human and divine.

With Jesus’ baptism, God has aligned God’s self forever with sinful humanity. Remember John’s baptism is for sinners, and even though Jesus is without sin, he allows John to baptize him. By this act of loving union with humanity, the heavens are no longer closed, but torn open forever.

Jesus’ baptism signals the beginning of his public ministry. He will rise up from the waters of the Jordan and go into the world to teach others about God’s love and how to love God and neighbor. He will heal those who are broken and free those imprisoned by the power of evil. He will announce good news to the poor, open the eyes of those blinded to God’s goodness, and in him and through him others will learn of God’s favor, God’s pleasure.

Jesus’ mission is our mission. Our baptism signals the beginning of this mission, which is ongoing until our last breath. For those of us baptized as infants, we come to this mission gradually as we learn from parents, godparents, and the Christian community what it looks like to love God and neighbor.

At the beginning of the baptismal ritual, the parents of the child to be baptized are addressed by the minister: “You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him/her in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring your child up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and neighbor.” The duty of Christians parents, with the help of godparents and the Christian community, is to initiate their newly baptized children into the mission of transforming the world by loving God and neighbor.

Baptism is our birth into the family of God, our being joined to the Son by the Holy Spirit in order to become a child of God. The weekly celebration of the Eucharist strengthens that identity. As food gives strength to the physical part of our being, so this food come down from heaven strengthens the life of the Spirit within us. With every celebration of the Mass, we are invited to grow more and more into this life with the Lord Jesus. We are to become more and more open to the Holy Spirit, the dove who is love, who conquers the world through us with the humble power of love.

For we have been given a mission by God, who calls each of us by name, to be in a world beset by so much chaos and cruelty: instruments of peace, advocates of mercy, and bearers of joy and reconciliation, We have been given this mission by our Heavenly Father, who keeps calling us His beloved.

For Jesus, his baptism not only propelled him into his public ministry but assured him that he would not be on mission alone. Rather, the Father would accompany Him with his love and good pleasure and the Spirit would empower Him in loving. Jesus would never be alone, even at the cross.

I recently blessed a crucifix which revealed this truth. It had the tortured body of Jesus on it supported by the Father’s embrace and the Spirit flowing out of that tender embrace at the cross.

So it is true for us, as we go through our life living from this deepest, most real identity of ours as God’s beloved daughters and sons.

We are never alone, though we may feel alone at times.

We are sustained by the Father’s love, forever joined to Son, & empowered by Spirit.

Homily for the Epiphany of the Lord

January 3, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi

The Epiphany story is a favorite of just about everyone, what with the star of wonder and the mysterious visitors from the East and their gleaming gifts. But beneath the glory of this story is the reality of the magi being faithful to something others did not see. They had a vision which guided them through unknown and dangerous territory. They saw something which others dismissed as unimportant.

Surely as they struck out on their journey they would have been ridiculed by others. Following a vision that few others share is a very hard thing. Surely others who did not see what the magi saw mocked them, thinking the magi to be silly or worse, just plain stupid. Remaining faithful to the vision is a difficult decision. The journey is long and full of challenges.

If it would have been easy and obvious, there would have been more than just a few wise men making the journey. If the vision would have been so readily believable, then all the folks in Jerusalem would have been going with the wise men on the short trek down to Bethlehem. But the magi saw something others did not see, in the darkness a light to guide them, a star speaking to them of something of great importance happening in the world.

It had to have been a hard decision to remain true to their vision, to remain faithful to what they felt called to do, especially when no one else saw what they saw.

Being faithful to your life, following the path onto which you have put your feet with fidelity and confidence, is a very hard thing. To set out on a journey that does not make much sense to many others is difficult. To respond to a call that no one else hears is challenging.

Being in church every time the community assembles to make your commitment to its mission and life is a very hard thing. To do so during a pandemic is even more challenging. It is even challenging for those who because of health issues or advancing age, choose to join Sunday Mass by way of livestream. There are so many other more “productive” or “fun” things to be doing with our valuable time on a Sunday morning.

Remaining faithful to the vision is a hard decision.

It can be hard to choose marriage in a culture which mocks commitment. Or, after earning a college degree, and then answering the call to work with the poor in a 3rd world country, one can be looked upon as crazy. Or, you want to be a priest—are you out of your mind? To choose a lower-paying job that gives one more time with one’s family—loco! In a culture which views children as a burden rather than as a blessing, to decide to have more children or to adopt a child is looked upon with disbelief. Or when a nurse or doctor chooses to come out of your retirement during the middle of a pandemic others look upon them as if they have lost their mind.

Remaining faithful to the vision is an ongoing hard decision.

Holding on to the vision of the kingdom of God that our Church proclaims and wanting to share that vision is a hard thing, too. To choose mercy over vengeance, to choose forgiveness over resentment, to choose peace instead of violence is challenging in today’s world. To choose to respect and honor all life from conception to a natural death— that’s a difficult journey of faith.

What keeps us going on the journey, following the star of faith? What keeps us faithful to the One who is calling us to walk to the beat of his drum? How do we keep our head up and focused on the light instead of being swallowed by the darkness?

Having the support of other “wise” sojourners makes all the difference. Notice that there were several “Wise Men” who followed the star. If there was only one, then the Scripture text would have read, “behold a magos from the east” but instead the text reads,”Behold magi from the east appeared in Jerusalem.”

The wise men had each other’s support and encouragement to remain faithful to the vision, to keep putting one foot in front of the other on the long journey. Remember they had to journey at night, in the dark, in order to see the star. They did this together, as lights to each other in the midst of the darkness.

Really, there is no such thing as a “wise man” or a “wise woman” because as human beings we are only wise together. We can only see the way ahead and find the strength to keep moving toward our goal with the help of others who are wise in the ways of faith, hope and love.

To make important decisions and keep them, we need the support of other people of faith.

Together we accept and respond to the calling of a star which others tell us is folly, impractical, or old fashioned. When we are tempted to give up on what we have seen and hope for, others are there to encourage us to overcome the temptation. And we are called to support them, to urge them on, to hold them to their commitments which seem like foolishness to a secular world.

Because together we are called to bear God’s glory to the world. One light shining in the darkness is not much. But when we join the light of our lives to others’ light we shine like the sun, bringing the Son of God’s love to the world.

Do you see what I see? A star, a star shining in the night. Do you see what I see? The child of promise, the child of hope, the source of love, the source of all light laying in a manger. Do you see what I see? The king of kings nailed to a tree. The Lord of Life coming to share his life with us in this sacred meal!

Homily for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

January 1, 2021

Fr. Joseph Jacobi

The Scripture readings for this 8th day of Christmas begin with a blessing prayer from the Book of Numbers, acknowledging the truth that God is always blessing his people, whether they are aware of it or not. On this Solemnity of Mary as Mother of God, Mary teaches us how to recognize and receive God’s blessings.

A quick glance at Mary’s life would seem to reveal not blessings from God, but trials. She goes through an unexpected pregnancy like none other. She lives under occupation. She is poor. Her beloved Joseph dies. Then her only son suffers terrible torture and dies a horrific death. Blessings? She would appear to be cursed by God.

But because Mary ponders what is said about her son, she sees blessings in the midst of trying times. Because Mary reflects on all that her son says and keeps these things safely guarded in her heart, she receives God’s blessings even in times of suffering.

For her unexpected pregnancy is a blessing, bringing her a child like none other. She lives under Roman occupation but experiences the blessing of profound freedom because of her faith. She is materially poor, but rich in God’s love shown her by Joseph and Jesus. Even Joseph’s death bring blessings back to light, as she recalls how he provided for her in Bethlehem a place to give birth, protected Jesus and her from King Herod’s murderous wrath, and provided and protected for their family as refugees in Egypt.

Because Mary pondered and treasured all that her Son said and did, because she meditated on his life and held him in her heart just as surely as she had held him in her womb, she was even able to trust that God would bring blessings from his death. Though even Mary could not have imagined the great gift of Jesus’ resurrection.

As Mother of the Church, as our mother, Mary teaches us how to recognize and receive the blessings of God. As mother of gratitude, she teaches us how to be grateful for all God has done for us.

In order to move into 2021 with hope, we need first of all to give thanks to God for the blessings of 2020. Many people would like to take the Year 2020 and toss it in the trash can. However, Mary teaches us that we need to ponder what God has done for us in and through Christ in this past year, even to take a second or third look below the struggles to the blessings hidden there. She teaches us that even from the sorrow of the loss of a loved one we can experience anew the blessings of God that flowed into our life through them.

As we worship today, we are enjoying one of God’s blessings from 2020— the gift of this holy place raised up for the glory of God. God provided this building in a nick of time, or what faith-filled people would call “Kairos” time—the fullness of time.

We began celebrating Mass in this building at the end of May a week or so after the Catholic Church in Oklahoma had reopened for communal worship in the celebration of the Eucharist. We could not ask for a better place to worship safely during a pandemic— a large, airy building with plenty of space for physical distancing that can seat almost 300 people. It would have taken three Masses in the old church building to allow for all the people who come to one of our Sunday morning Masses to safely distance. In addition, the blessing of having the newest technology to livestream our Masses to people who could not attend for fear of their safety, and to be able to do it in high quality, to make it the best experience possible to connect those not physically here with us.

If we join Mary in meditating on the blessings of God, we will begin to see many of these blessings hidden underneath the struggles of 2020, such as creatively finding new ways to connect with others, new ways to reach out and share the love of God. We now recognize as daily blessings all those whose work is essential to our life together, people who we most likely took for granted before the pandemic. But it takes time in solitude in silence, time alone with our Blessed Mother, to recognize and receive these blessings from God.

Gratitude expressed to God propels us into 2021 as a hope-filled people. Instead of making resolutions for this New Year, we can instead dare to dream with Jesus about God’s Kingdom. Mary, as Mother of God and our mother, also teaches us how to first receive Jesus as God’s dream in order for us to dream with him about the transformation of our world.

Pope Francis says it this way in his post-synodal exhortation to young people in 2019 entitled, “Christ is Alive:”

“Jesus can bring all the young people of the Church together in a single dream, a dream whose name is Jesus, planted by the Father in the confidence that it would grow and live in every heart. A concrete dream who is a person, running through our veins, thrilling our hearts and making them dance” (#157).

These very words could have been spoken by Mary, the one who gave birth to the dream of the Father, the one who experienced Jesus thrilling her heart and making her heart dance for joy.

These words of Pope Francis, directed to young people, are actually directed to all of us who are spiritually young enough to remain open to imagining a future full of hope. So, we reflect with Mary upon the words of actions of her Son which reveal his dream of the Kingdom of God. Joined to Mary’s Son and filled with the Holy Spirit at baptism, we now dare to call God, “Abba, Father” and to rejoice in the truth that we are adopted sons and daughters of God. By baptism, we are now as close to God the Father as God the Father is to his very own Son whom he sent into the world. By baptism, we are able to see how all people on the face of the Earth are brothers and sisters to each other, with one Father.

With Mary’s help, we can enter more profoundly into the dreaming of her Son, which moves us into a life lived in relationship to others, not to things or to “screens.” Turning away from the “passive” watching of TV together, couples can spend more time talking and listening to each other, especially sharing their dreams and acting on them. Parishioners can share their dreams for our parish, rooted in Jesus’ dream of God’s kingdom. Citizens can move away from spending way too much time in social media “echo chambers” and instead participate in ways to make their communities better.

By dreaming in Jesus and with Jesus, we can move from the virtual to the real, to real encounters with Him living in those who are on the margins, who are different from us.

We can dream with Mary, His Mother, about a world transformed, where God lifts up the lowly and fills the hungry with good things.

Homily for the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas Day)

December 25, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi

Words make a difference. Words have power!

The old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is actually not true. Words have the power to hurt, especially when they come from the mouth of a loved one. Words have the power to diminish and demean, especially when spoken with hatred. Words have the power to wound, as gossip does so easily.

But words also have the power to heal— “I forgive you.” Words have the power to bind one to another in a lasting promise— “I will be true to you until death do us part.” Words have the power to create new worlds—talented novelists do this all the time.

Words spoken at the right time and in the right way bring us together. Words inspire us to step out of our small, self-centered world into the larger, more beautiful world of self-giving service.

Words can lead us to forsake selfishness, to sacrifice for others, and to do this together. Words challenge us to ask not what my country can do for me but what I can do for this country of mine. The right words remind us that the gift of our freedom is not given so we can do whatever we want to do but rather what we ought to do!

Because of the power of words, John’s Gospel gives the Son of God the title: “THE WORD.” John is clear—the eternal Son of God is not just any word, but THE WORD. THE WORD is God, and through God’s Son, life comes to be.

God the Father creates everything in the universe through HIS WORD, with His Son. Not just life on this round blue sphere circling round the sun, but everything in the cosmos.

John’s Gospel is the last of the 4 gospels to be composed. Unlike Mark’s Gospel, which is the first written and focuses more on the humanity of Jesus, John’s gospel focuses more on Jesus’ divinity. Unlike Matthew and Luke, who begin their story on earth with the birth of the babe Jesus, John begins in heaven, before time begins. John wants to emphasize the seriousness of the Incarnation, to move our focus beyond just a baby in a manger to the eternal desire of God to become one with God’s creation.

John’s Gospel may seem less than warm and fuzzy but that’s because this evangelist does not want us to limit Christmas to simply the celebration of Jesus’ birth. When Christians only celebrate the birth of this child, nothing changes in our world. It’s easy to do this for one day and then get on with the rest of our lives.

John, whose words take us on the wings of an eagle to soar above the earth, gives us a different perspective on Christmas. The gospel of John proclaimed today reveals why the Church celebrates this feast for more than one day but every day for eight days as if each of the eight days were Christmas Day.

John’s majestic words which open his gospel remind us that this babe in a manger is the Eternal Son of God, THE WORD OF GOD spoken to all humanity. Through Him all life came to be and in him all life is sustained in being.

That’s why when John says, “THE WORD BECAME FLESH” it’s like an earthquake, an earth-shattering, history-changing event. The eternal Word of God, through whom every-thing has been created, humbles himself to become part of His Creation. The one who is limitless now forever limits Himself to a human body and the frailty of the human condition.

When human beings turned their back on God, God could have simply snapped God’s almighty fingers and said “Saved” and been done with that. But God did not desire to save wayward men and women from afar, but wanted to have a human finger to reach out and wipe away the tears of those who weep.

The Son of God, the eternal word of love spoken by the Father, takes our flesh in order to come as close as possible to us, to save us from inside the human experience of joy and sorrow, suffering and delight.

Yes, God could have said the word, “Saved” and saved us from sin and everlasting death, but instead the Word of God became flesh in order to be our SAVIOR.

To taste the salt in our tears and have his heart broken like ours. To be tempted as we are tempted and still remain faithful to His Father. To suffer and to plunge into the abyss of death.

To experience every-thing human in order to redeem humanity.

The Son of God, the eternal Word of God, becomes flesh in order to speak these words to us: I LOVE YOU! This is not love in a general sense, as in “God loves the world” but in a very specific sense: God loves you, irrepeatable, one in a hundred million billion YOU!

This is not the sentimental, syrupy, sappy love of some Christmas songs or movies but the strong, relentless, stubborn love of the divine Son of God for you.

God loves you and burns with an infinite desire to be with you in everything you do and everywhere you go.

For the Son of God became human so that we could become one with God.

Homily for the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas Eve)

December 24, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi

In Bethlehem, the Roman soldiers stationed there for security for the census do not pay much attention to the Jewish man and his young wife, pregnant with child. All they see is a couple who are not a threat to them or to the Roman Empire.

The innkeeper looks at this couple as a nuisance, for because of the census bringing so many visitors from out of town, he has no place to put them. They are but a problem he has no way of solving, and so he slams the door in their face.

The owner of the humble little shelter for the animals sees a couple in dire need for a place to be out of the elements, so the woman can give birth to her child. He gives them a place to lay their heads.

Only the lowly shepherds, the smelly outcasts of society, see a bit deeper, beneath the appearances to the reality that this newborn child is the Promised One, the Christ. Of course, they have the help of the angels. How appropriate that shepherds are the first to receive and believe the news of Christ’s birth, because the child of Promise is a direct descendant of the shepherd-King, David.

With the eyes of faith, we see that this humble carpenter searching frantically for a place for his wife to give birth has royal blood running through his veins. Joseph, a direct descendant of King David, would be king if the Romans were not ruling Israel.

With the insight of faith, we notice something more than a pregnant teen giving birth, for we see Mary as Mother of God and future Queen of Heaven!

Through the sharply focused eyes of faith, we see in this child, who comes into the world like any other child in a rush of blood and water, the Savior of the World and the King of the Universe. He is God dwelling among us in the flesh!

When we “prettify” the birth of the Son of God, we forget that the Son of God came in the flesh into our world at a very difficult time: a time when His people suffered from Roman oppression, a time when His earthly parents were far from home, a time when the only place available for Him to come was a place where animals lived.

Just as He came in a time of discomfort and challenge for Joseph and Mary, so he comes today into our world of turmoil and struggle.

Into this broken world, Jesus the Christ comes: a world where many cannot gather with family or attend Mass, or are experiencing income loss, or whose loved ones are sick with COVID-19, or are mourning the death of loved ones.

In this land of gloom a light shines which pierces the storms of sorrow and drives away the shadows of fear. Christ is born today and the whole world rejoices!

What can we do to sharpen our sight, to enable us to see and welcome Him now?

By staying immersed in the Word of God on a daily basis and at the celebration of Mass, our eyes are opened to see the Word made Flesh in our midst and to hear His Voice. Our hope grows as we hear how our ancestors in faith persevered through much tougher times than ours, and how God remained faithful to His promises to them. Listening and drinking in the stories of salvation history, our hope strengthens that God will remain faithful to us, too. Sunday after Sunday we are nourished by the stories of how God never tires in searching for his people, who are often lost and need to be found by his love. But in order to hear this saving word of love, we need to cease listening to all the hateful and divisive words on social media, which drown out His Word.

The Eucharist strengthens our trust that “God-is-with-us, Emmanuel.” Being fully human, Jesus understands the temptation to doubt God’s presence and care, especially in tough times. That is why he left us the Eucharist as a solid reminder that He is God with us. As He joins his life to ours in this sacred meal, we see how He is always coming to bring us abundant life here on earth and the promise of life eternal.

The joyful reception of the Living Word of God and the Living Bread come down from Heaven happens most powerfully in the midst of a Community of believers. We need one another, especially in tough times, to be Christ to and for each other. The Church exists because we need others to love us with the heart of Christ and to challenge us to expand the circle of the ones we love. Our brothers and sisters in Christ help free us from slavery to a rugged individualism, reminding us we are only going to make it through this pandemic together, and that we always need others to help us on our journey of faith.

We are a little over 9 months into this pandemic with the celebration of Christmas. 9 months in, and now, more than ever before, we need to give birth to the Christ who lives in us by faith. He is the Hope of the World, the Love of God enfleshed, the Source of our Faith!

With 20-20 vision, we see Him as he comes to save us today from ourselves. With the sharp insight of faith, we see Him as he comes to save us from our isolation from one another and from God. With the eyes of our faith renewed by this celebration of His birth, we see Him coming to set us free from our sin and from the consequences of sin, eternal death.

Jesus Christ, son of Mary, son of God, is the source of our Joy! In Him and with Him and through Him, we rejoice in God’s goodness and Love!!

Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

December 20, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi

How humble is God! God asks for a human body in order to save the human race, and then waits for Mary’s response.

How humble is God! While nothing is impossible with God, it would have been impossible without Mary. God will not force her consent, but asks and waits for her reply, and the whole world holds its breath.

Salvation is from above, the gift of heaven, yet it springs from human soil, from a particular human being cooperating with God, being open and receptive to God’s plan.

Mary freely chooses to exchange her limited imagination for the promises of God. She chooses to trust that God can do more for her and for the world through her than she can even imagine.

God the Father longs for His Son to be born by faith in us today by the power of the Holy Spirit. God longs to come more fully to life in us and asks for our bodies to do His saving work.

Imagine for one moment the trust God places in each one of us to do this. God keeps asking for our consent and waiting for our reply, humbly and with great patience.

For the way Christ Jesus comes into the world today is through particular human persons, through specific human bodies.

Too many Christians tend to think of God’s plan in a general way— that God has a plan for the earth and the people of the earth and is working out that plan out there somewhere.

But the Incarnation, God taking human flesh, reveals the “scandal of particularity.” There is nothing “general” about it.

God chooses a particular time (in the 6th month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy) and a particular place (tiny Nazareth in the back country of Israel) and a particular person (Mary, a virgin betrothed to Joseph).

So, God chooses you at this time (Dec. 20, 2020) in this particular place (Mustang, which is kind of like Nazareth, an out of the way place) to continue his saving work. God has a plan for you to bring his Son into the world to people and places where no one else can do so—only you can. But God will not force this mission upon you, or me, but daily, with great humility, waits for our “Yes”.

From the beginning of salvation history, God has been a “traveling” God, a “companion” to people of faith who surrender to Him in love. The God of Israel, the God of Jesus Christ, cannot be relegated to this or that “holy” place, to a house of worship, but desires to dwell with his people in their houses.

God goes with Abraham and Sarah on their long journey of faith. God accompanies Moses and the rag-tag bunch of freed Hebrew slaves, picking up and going with the people day-by-day on their travels through the desert to the Promised Land.

When David wants to build a “house” for God, God reminds David that God cannot be contained in a house, locked away in a holy place. God reminds David how God had been with David tending the sheep, helped him slay the giant Goliath, accompanied David on his many forays into the field of battle, and been with him as he ruled Israel day by day.

We come to this place to renew and deepen our relationship with the God who walks with us in our daily life. This beautiful place is a waystation along the journey, a place to be fed by Word and Sacrament and Community in order to be strengthened for our mission. For we are to bring the Lord we encounter and receive here into the many nooks and crannies of our daily life. So that the Lord who feeds us with his love on Sunday morning can feed others with his love through us on Monday thru Saturday.

The way the God of King David, the God of the Virgin Mary breaks into our world anew is through each one of us. But the God of power and might can only do this with our consent, with our YES! As Mary’s “Yes” changed the world forever, so the world will be forever changed by our “Yes.”

Can we say YES:
To living simply
To giving generously
To caring deeply
To speaking boldly
To walking by faith and not by sight
To saying courageously with Mary:
“May it be done to me according to your word.”

Homily for the Third Sunday of Advent

December 13, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi

Rejoice always. We hear those words from St. Paul and immediately disregard them as being unrealistic. As the end of 2020 draws near, we struggle to rejoice for a minute or two each day, much less always. How can we rejoice as more people in our country are getting sick and dying from COVID-19 than ever before? How can we rejoice when so many people are losing jobs or have lost them? How can a doctor or nurse rejoice when they are worn out by hospitals overflowing with patients gasping for their next breath?

Then there are those other realities of 2020 which cause sadness, like not being able to physically touch or be touched by vulnerable family members. Or because of the vital importance of wearing a face covering, not seeing a smile on the face of another which might stir up some joy in our heart.

Before this pandemic began, we would have had a hard time putting Paul’s command to “rejoice always” into practice, but now it seems absolutely impossible.

But we should not discard the living word of God coming to us from St. Paul today that quickly.

One reason we Americans struggle to rejoice always is we equate joy with happiness. Happiness is not joy. Happiness is fleeting, it is not lasting, because it depends on transitory things: our emotions, the state of our health, our material well-being. Happiness is like the calm on the surface of the ocean, easily disrupted by the wind or boat traffic. Joy is located deep below the surface that cannot be disturbed by what goes on above. Ultimately for believers, joy is found in God. That’s right, joy is rooted in who God is. Joy also flows from recognizing what God has done, is doing, and will do! This 3rd Sunday of Advent is named, “Gaudete Sunday”, and that Latin word “Gaudete” means “to rejoice.”

The quote from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians from which this Sunday receives its title is quite clear about the source of joy: “Rejoice in the Lord always.” (Philippians 4:4)

Why rejoice? Not only because the celebration of the Lord’s birth is near, but because by the power of His Spirit He is near to us right now, coming to us right now. Why rejoice? Because our trust lies in the Savior of the World, not in the passing things of this world.

Because we know how much we are loved by God the Father who has given us life, we rejoice even now in these difficult days. Because of what the Son of God has done, taking our flesh and becoming human like us in all things but sin, we know how much we are loved and rejoice in that knowledge.

Because of what God is doing even now in our midst, feeding us with the Body and Blood of His Son, strengthening us by the support and love of others, bringing us to the light of another day, we rejoice. We are filled with expectant joy because we believe the Lord Jesus by the power of the Spirit is present among us even now in ways we do not recognize, that He will come to us in surprising ways today if we are but alert and ready.

Because of what God will do in the future, faithful to his promise to bring us through death to life forever with Him, we rejoice. Because of his glorious promise to send His Son in glory to bring an end to this world and to bring about a new heavens and new earth, where there will be no more sorrow anymore, where death will be no more, we are filled with joy.

For what God has done, for what God is doing, for what God will do, our hearts overflow with joy.

Because we are aware of the suffering of others, our joy is a clear-eyed joy. Precisely because we rejoice always in the Lord, we see what causes sadness in His heart, what is not right in this world, the injustices that others suffer, and we do something about it.

Working to make right what has gone wrong deepens our joy, because we embrace the mission of the Lord Jesus, which is a mission he has entrusted to each of the baptized.

With him and in Him, we have been anointed to proclaim glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to bring liberty to captives, and release to prisoners. The Spirit given us in baptism and sealed in Confirmation empowers us for this mission to the marginalized of our world.

The world does not recognize the Lord Jesus present in the powerless, those who hearts are broken with sorrow, those who suffer discrimination and are not treated as equal, even those behind prison bars. But for we who are Christian, it is in these people and in these situations that we encounter Christ coming to them in his broken, suffering body, and so we receive Him with joy.

The other joy-filled result of allowing Christ living in us to serve Christ living in the least of our sisters and brothers is that those who are poor & powerless are often the ones most filled with joy. Why? Because every day they depend on their Heavenly Father to provide their daily bread, knowing that everything they have been given, especially the gift of another day, comes from God. Their joy is infectious gift to those who serve them.

If we want to rejoice always in the Lord, we need remember St. Paul’s instruction that joy is connected to gratitude and prayer. If we desire to welcome the Lord of Joy, we recall that prayer and gratitude give birth to joy.

Prayer, that ongoing conversation we have with the Lord, awakens gratitude, which then leads to joy. Joy leads back to prayer, causing us to lift up our minds, hearts, and voices with the Blessed Virgin Mary in praise of the God who keeps doing great things for us.

We sing with Mary, “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior … who has done great things for me!”

With Mary’s help, we give birth to the Son of God by faith in our lives of joy-filled service.