Part 1 of the series, “Growing in Faith: Our Identity in Christ.” As we emerge from his pandemic, we do not want our parish just to survive but to thrive. Remaining steadfast in fulfilling our mission from Christ is dependent upon remaining secure in our identity in Christ. This is done in cooperation with God, including the graces that we are receiving in the Sacrament of Baptism. We are preparing to renew our baptismal promises on Easter Sunday. Growing as disciples of Christ within His Church is a lifelong process. It influences the choices that we make and the course in which our lives will take. Today, we learn anew that we can triumph over temptation. Jesus does not engage in a debate with the devil. Jesus does not give any consideration about accepting the invitation to sin. Jesus is secure in His identity. In response to the devil’s temptation, Jesus immediately states what is the truth. When we resist temptation, we remember that we are beloved children of God. We are refusing to be seduced by lies because we rejoice in living according to the truth that God has revealed.
"Jesus said to his disciples: 'Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father'" (cf. Matthew 6:1). It is important to understand our purpose for participating in the imposition of ashes on our foreheads. We want people to be drawn to God through us. On Ash Wednesday, we remember the commitment of God toward us as the ashes are imposed with the sign of the cross. In His love for us, God does not abandon us to sin and death. Receiving the ashes is a penitential action. We resolve to undergo conversion because we have not fully loved God and our neighbor. We renew our cooperation with God to follow though on our commitment. If we engage in this action without being conscious of its purpose, then we are just parading around with ashes on our foreheads.
Hearing the challenging teaching of the Lord may tempt some Christians to conclude that they do not have the capacity to live according to it. However, the Lord Jesus would never command us to do something and not enable us to do it. Jesus knows about the human condition. During his ministry on earth, he engaged in conflict with religious and secular leaders. People lied about what He said so they could bring up charges against Him. One Apostle betrayed Him. Other Apostles and disciples abandoned Him when He took up His cross. The Chief Apostle denied knowing Jesus at one point. As He was being crucified, Jesus asked the Father to forgive. As He suffered on the cross, He was ridiculed. The Lord Jesus bore the wounds of rejection but overcame them in His Resurrection. It is the Lord who enables us not to become prisoners of past and present hurts. As recipients of God’s kindness and mercy, we must reflect God’s kindness and mercy toward others. What are the practical ways of loving our enemies? Due to this sensitive subject, Father Harris repeat several points.
The call to follow Christ within the fellowship of His Church is the context is which Christ forms us to be His disciples. We cannot say that we are inadequate to fulfill this calling when God provides us with the same grace as He did for Isaiah, Saint Paul, Saint Peter, along with men and women across the centuries. The call to follow Christ is His initiative. He invites us to trust that as we cooperate with His grace, it will not ineffective (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:10a). Following Christ cannot be separated from living in fellowship with His Church. Those who claim that they can do that are not fully following Christ. It is important to remember the fundamentals of being a disciple of Christ. Following Christ within the fellowship of His Church is the context in which Christ is forming His disciples.
Since 2020, the universal Church has observed the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time as the "Sunday of the Word of God." Pope Francis instituted this celebration to emphasize the importance of Sacred Scripture in the life of the Church, helping to make disciples and mature disciples of Christ. This universal observance is being held during the Archdiocese of Baltimore's Year of the Eucharist. The theme, "Encounter Christ's Presence," looks at the four ways in which our Lord Jesus Christ is present during Holy Mass. One of these ways is the Word of God. We show reverence by listening to the Word of God intently, learning its meaning intimately, and striving to live according to it with integrity. [Father Harris regrets the error of stating that Assyria liberated the Jews from the Babylonian exile. It was the Persians and Medes led by Cyrus.]
Prayer must be a priority as a disciple of Christ within His Church. Good communication contributes to the building of good relationships. At a wedding feast in Cana, the dialogue between the Blessed Mother and Our Lord teaches us about prayer. Trusting in God is first action. This means to have confidence in God and never putting God to the test. Following the teaching of Christ is the next action. Mary told the servers to do whatever Jesus told them to do. Transformation by God is the action that happens as we pray and act. God will respond in a way that is better than we have expected These intentional actions by God and ourselves are expressions of a relationship, not a mere formula. The bond of life and love with our God is our motivation to persevere in prayer. The gift of faith enables us to approach a situation from God’s point of view before we can see it. When God enables us to see it, we must never forget it, and thank God for it.
This is the fifth and final part of the series, "The Gift of God: Presence for Christmas." During the Christmas season, Jesus is revealed to be the Christ, who is the Savior and the Lord, in several event: To the Blessed Virgin Mary, during the Annunciation; to Joseph, during a dream; to Elizabeth and her baby John the Baptist, during the Visitation; to the shepherds, during the Nativity; to the magi, during the Epiphany; and to the assembly near the Jordan River, during the Baptism of the Lord. While the baptism of Christ is not the same as our baptism into Christ, there are similarities. They help us to renew our resolutions as beloved children of God. We will continue living in solidarity with Christ, experiencing salvation in Christ, and being servants of Christ. If we fail in these resolutions, then we repent and renew our resolve with the help of God. God has never given up on us. This is part of the good news of Christmas.
(Only a glitch in the first minute or so.) Part 4 of the series, “The Gift of God: Presence for Christmas.” Epiphany means, “manifestation” or “revelation.” Once again, the Lord Jesus Christ is revealed to be the Savior of all. We worship the Lord in response to the Lord’s command to remember what He has done and is doing for us. We rejoice in the God of our salvation. Holy Mass is a participation in the one eternal sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ who was crucified and died, and has risen from the dead, and ascended into heaven for our salvation. To be solemn does not mean to be sullen or gloomy. The magi teach us about having joy in worship. In the Gospel reading, the star that the magi, “had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage” (Matthew 2:9b-11). Rejoicing in our worship of God includes: (1) anticipation to meet the Lord; (2) adoration of the Lord; and (3) action in the name of the Lord.
Part 3 of the series, "The Gift of God: Presence for Christmas." A new year has begun for us. The same God is with us. "And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart" (Luke 2:19). The Blessed Virgin Mary became the Holy Mother of God when the eternal Son of God was conceived in her womb by the Holy Spirit. This happened after she accepted her unique vocation from God. The Blessed Mother had much to reflect upon about what God was doing in her life and for humanity. It is good to reflect on how God is at work in our lives.It renews our confidence as we begin a new year. The same God is with us. We are resolved to be with God.
Part 2 of the Christmas series, "The Gift of God: Presence for Christmas." Asking for the favor of God on our families and on Holy Family Parish, it is important to keep Christ at the center of family life and parish life. After thinking that they had lost Jesus, the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph found Him in the Temple at Jerusalem. The conversation that the Blessed Mother and Our Lord have led her to reflection. Following the example of our parish’s patron saints, we strive to live according to the Word of God. Lectio divina (sacred reading) is a traditional way to receive the Word of God. Father Harris summarizes the process of read, reflect, react, and resolve.