On this page, you will find homilies preached by the priests who celebrate the English Mass in our church. Homilies will usually be posted a few hours after Sunday Mass. For the Homily Archive in other years, open a tab above.
The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven
Reading I: Revelation 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab
Responsorial Psalm: 45:10, 11, 12, 16
Reading II: 1 Corinthians 15:20-27
Gospel: Luke 1:39-56
It may be surprising that on the Solemnity of the Assumption, we read the gospel about the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth.
This is because our belief that Mary was assumed into heaven body and soul, doesn’t come from biblical tradition. We can’t find this event in the pages of scripture, but we can find a very strong tradition in early Christianity that Jesus took his mother to be with him in heaven, and this belief was formally defined as a dogma of the Church in the mid-twentieth century.
Nevertheless, today’s gospel is appropriate for this solemnity, because Mary being taken by her Son into heaven is a the fitting end of her entire life. The Assumption confirms and completes the Annunciation.
Mary, who was uniquely united by faith and grace to the Redemption of Christ, is the first fully redeemed person, the first to participate in his Resurrection.
The Assumption of Mary into heaven shows us our own Christian destiny. By anticipating us in bodily resurrection and life in heaven, Mary shows us what awaits those who are faithful to her Son.
Mary’s bodily presence in heaven helps us to look at heaven through three lenses.
Firstly, by pondering Mary’s bodily assumption, we can rediscover the beauty and goodness of our own bodies. The Assumption helps us appreciate God’s creation. After our present weakness and illness our bodies will be restored to fullness of health and beauty. In our bodies, we will praise God in eternity.
Secondly, the Assumption of Mary helps us appreciate our redemption through Christ Jesus. Because of Christ’s saving action, the words of Revelation are true for us: “Now have salvation and power come, and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed One.” The Redemption that started with Mary’s ‘Fiat’ and concluded with her Assumption is for everyone: right now, each of us has the hope of salvation.
Finally, when we look at heaven through the lens of the Assumption of Mary, it changes our way of seeing our neighbors. The lyrics of a new song by the Franciscan group Fioretti sums it up: We all have a common home, we all have a place where the good Lord is waiting.
It is beautiful that God created us and saves us in community with other people. Our lives and our salvation are not just about “me and Jesus”; there is no private heaven. Here and now, we need to open our hearts — even to people we don’t like — and get used to their presence, because we are all hoping for the same heaven, where we will dwell together as sons and daughters of God.
Mary is therefore the guide for us – the Church. She is the creature in whom God’s creation is most completely and beautifully manifested. She is the first to enjoy in full the fruits of her Son’s redemption.
Contemplating the Assumption of Mary can transform our lives on earth and strengthen our faith, as we journey toward our common home and the promise of resurrected glory. Amen.
Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Reading I: 1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a
Responsorial Psalm: 85:9, 10, 11-12, 13-14
Reading II: Romans 9:1-5
Gospel: Matthew 14:22-33
Today’s liturgy of the word can be consolation for all those who feel tired of their life or whose lives don’t seem to make sense.
Today’s first reading is about the prophet Elijah. To understand the reading, it helps to have some context. The people of Israel were worshipping a false God, Baal. When Elijah showed them the power of the Lord, the people turned back to the Lord, and killed the prophets of Baal. As a result, Elijah’s life was in danger from the followers of Baal so he fled to Mount Horeb to pray. He was in despair over what had happened, and he just wanted to die.
In the gospel we see the Lord’s disciples, out in their boat, in a strong wind, and tossed about by the waves. Again, we have followers of the Lord, afraid of losing their lives.
Maybe you find such adversity in your life. Maybe you are tired from all your efforts, or you are not sure that you are doing the right thing: your life doesn’t make sense right now.
It should not surprise us that in the most difficult times, God enters into our lives. We comes to reveal himself, to assure as that he is close to us. Sometimes God comes to us in a tiny whispering sound and brings us the peace and strength to keep going. Sometimes God comes to us to say “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Every difficult situation can be an unexpected encounter with God. Moreover, God not only comes to comfort us, but also to call us to stronger faith.
We can see clearly it in the episode with Peter walking on the waves. This is an image of every believer, because faith means walking over our doubt, uncertainty, fear. If we keep our eyes on Christ, we have courage even in the midst of the stormy seas of our lives.
Sometimes we are saddened by our lack of faith. But the goodness of God is revealed in those situations when Jesus stretched out his hand and caught us.
Brothers and sisters! We can be tired, frustrated, disappointed by our life. We may doubt many times. But aren’t those the best moments to experience God’s love and closeness? God who comes in a tiny whispering sound and stretches out his hand to us.
Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.
The Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, Year A
Reading I: Deuteronomy 7:9-10, 13-14
Responsorial: Psalm: 97:1-2, 5-6, 9
Reading II: 2 Peter 1:16-19
Gospel: Matthew 17:1-9
The Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, celebrated on Sunday this year, is connected my mind to the mystery of the Resurrection on every Sunday.
The event that took place on Mount Tabor,the revelation of Christ’s divinity, prepared selected Apostles for the scandal of the Cross.
Jesus showed them his glory, so that they would not despair when they saw his suffering and death on the mountain of Calvary.
For us the annual celebration of the Transfiguration of the Lord, is a reminder of everything we are awaiting in faith.
I suppose that each of us here, is waiting for something. Some people look forward for graduation, finding a job, starting a family. We also wait for ordinary things such as meeting with loved ones, a vacation, even cooler or warmer weather. As an avid reader looks forward to the next chapter in a novel, we await something new, something better in our lives.
But are we as eagerly awaiting the Resurrection, the last chapter in our own life’s story?
The Transfiguration gives us a true perspective on life, shows us our final end. So maybe from time to time, we should prayerfully climb this mountain and delight in the vision of God’s glory; gaze on the transfigured Lord, and enjoy the prospect of heaven.
This vision also calls us to conform our lives to the holiness of God, to try to make our lives as pure as light.
Today, try to do these two things: keep your eyes focused on eternal things, and resolve to conform yourself to God, to make your life radiant with his light. Because God wants to share His glory with you; you too are his beloved sons and daughters.
Can we simply appreciate and enjoy the glory that awaits us?
Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Reading I: 1 Kings 3:5, 7-12
Responsorial: Psalm 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130
Reading II: Romans 8:28-30
Reading II: Romans 8:28-30
The picture in today’s Gospel shows us the values of the kingdom of God. Salvation and the richness of God’s love are the greatest treasures, but this is a treasure we have to find. It is not difficult. This treasure is hidden in each of us and our task is to discover it.
So is it worth it to ask what is the most important treasure in my life? Certainly in our hearts we have many other precious treasures. But what is the really precious treasure Jesus is asking us about?
First of all, we must look very deeply into our hearts and life. If we reject all that is only temporary, which is valuable only for a short time, not a long time, we should find the profound treasure faith – which is not only a beautiful pearl, but the key that unlocks the kingdom of God.
But the discovery of this key is the beginning of our adventure. Finding a good pearl not only gives us happiness, but an awareness that we must open our eyes in a totally different way in this world, because in comparison with this treasure, everything else loses its value. This is why Jesus says today that in our lives, we must choose the correct option. We must decide which side we are on, and when we find this faith, we must be sure which side we should take.
Just as the bread of the Eucharist belongs to Christ and is continually divided as spiritual food, so we too can share what belongs to us – goodness and love – because nothing else is ours. The Eucharistic bread does not just give us physical strength, but spiritual strength. We need to understand that thanks to the Eucharist, we can exceed anything that money can buy.
The people of today’s gospel discovered the truth not in the hustle and bustle of life, when they were busy, but in the quiet and empty countryside. They understood the need for Jesus.
Do we not still need Him today, when we are so disconnected from our natural environment, to help us understand the same thing?
Fr Tomasz Puslecki, Dioceses of Wroclaw and Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Reading I: Wisdom 12:13, 16-19
Responsorial: Psalm 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16
Reading II: Romans 8:26-27
Gospel: Matthew 13:24-43
A week ago we were listening to another parable of Jesus, the one about the sower: ‘A sower went out to sow….’ We discovered that the seed sown by our Savior is no more only His teaching, His words, His moral appeal. No, the seed turns out to be people! We are sown into this world to bear fruit: a hundred or sixty or thirty-fold.
Today Jesus says the same in an even more open way: ‘The good seed means the sons of the kingdom.’ We are invited to be those sons of the Kingdom. In different words St Paul expressed the same thought: we are a new creation, new men. But does that apply to everyone? Among us, the sons of the Kingdom, is there a remnant, the sons of the evil one? Are we to look around to find this remnant? Sometimes. But often it is better to look into a mirror.
And in the mirror, we discover a sinful Christian. In the field of our life wheat abounds, but worthless weeds are not rare.
There are extremes when it comes to coping with this unpleasant reality. Both are extremes, and both are false. At one extreme, God’s justice means that if you have behaved yourself, God is good to you. If not, beware of God! God will take vengeance. All you need is morality. You need to be good. Or, in biblical terms, just.
And if you are not just? Well, you only have yourself to blame. You’re out of the game. Yes, God loves you, but there is a great if – if you are just.
At the other extreme, is the idea that God loves you as you are. Whatever you do, you’re OK. As a preacher who was well-known about 20 years ago famously – and falsely – said, the main message of Jesus was ‘I’m OK; you’re OK.’ Morality is irrelevant; You can do what you want. God loves you! God is just, so you do not need to be just. The wheat, the weeds – anything goes.
The narrow path of biblical truth passes in between those two extremes. Yes, God loves you as you are, and His love is like a ray of sun in the spring time. Why do the rays of the sun fall on small, tiny plants, just starting to grow? Is it a reward for the success of the plant? No. It is not a reward. It is help. God loves you as you are, so you may be better than you are. This is called ‘grace.’
As with plants, so it is with us. God’s love is like the heat of the sun from the sky: its rays fall on everyone. They do not depend on our merits. In this sense God really loves you as you are.
But the rays of His love do not fall on you without reason. They fall on you to make you grow. ‘Let both grow together until the harvest.’ Even if I am wheat – I have to grow.
‘He makes His sun rise on the good and the bad’ (Mt 3). What for? In order to make good grow even better, and to make the bad turn good. This is called conversion – accepting the grace.
We need to be just, but it is God who makes us just, with His almighty help: ‘give Thy strength to Thy servant’ (Ps 86).
With even more clear words it is described in Psalm 38. The whole dynamic of salvation is there:
‘I waited, waited for the Lord,
then He stooped to me and heard my cry for help.
He pulled me up from the desolate pit,
from the mud of the mire.’
The mire – an area of wet, soggy, muddy ground. You go into it, and you sink and or become stuck in the mire. It entraps you – you are lost forever – you are not just.
But then — the rays of His grace fell upon me:
‘He set my feet on rock, and made my footsteps firm.
He put a fresh song in my mouth, praise of our God.’
This Sunday liturgy is a good opportunity to give thanks for this:
‘How much you have done, O Lord, my God –
your wonders, your plans for us – you have no equal.
I will proclaim and speak of them; they are beyond number.’
This is the great meaning of the promise: God has care for all of us; He is a God of justice. Even those who defy and disbelieve Him may hope for His mercy if they turn to Him in repentance. Yes, there is a big if in our faith. But it is not attached to God’s love: ‘God will love you if….’ No, the if is attached to us, to every one of us: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.’ Do not keep on being sinful weed. Grow as worthy wheat.
God is slow to anger and abounding in kindness. But by His patience, God is teaching us that above all He desires repentance, and the gathering of all nations to worship Him and to glorify His name.
The kingdom’s growth is hidden. It’s improbable, unexpected, as in the way the tall mustard tree grows from the smallest of seeds.
Two young priests-to-be served in this parish more than 25 years ago. In this church, one of them was ordained deacon and the other was ordained priest: Fr Zbigniew Strzałkowski and Fr Michał Tomaszek. Some years later, in 1991, they were martyred in Peru, killed by the Shining Path communist terrorists. The wheat of their lives continued to grow until the harvest.
Because the kingdom’s growth is hidden and unexpected, we don’t know how to pray as we ought. But then, ‘The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us.’
So we should not be deceived or lose heart when we see weeds among the wheat, truth and holiness mixed with error, injustice and sin. But the harvest draws near. Let us work that we might be numbered among the righteous children, in the kingdom of the Father.
Bp Andrzej Siemieniewski, Diocese of Wrocław
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Reading I: Isaiah 55:10-11
Responsorial: Psalm 65:10, 11, 12-13, 14
Reading II: Romans 8:18-23
Gospel: Matthew 13:1-23
‘Jesus sat down by the sea.’ This ‘sea’ is what we rather call today a ‘lake.’ When pilgrims go to the Holy Land, oftentimes they are led to a special place at the shore of the Lake of Galilee. There is a small inlet or bay. It is close to the city of Capharnaum, one mile away. The land slopes down like a Roman theater. The acoustics here are exceptionally good. Jesus’s voice could have easily been heard from the boat by the crowds on the shore.
And so the parable begins.
In the first moment, we are tempted to think, ‘Everything seems rather obvious in this parable. A short story using familiar images of life on a farm – to illustrate the truth about spreading the Kingdom of God. And the tool used to spread it is the seed: ‘A sower went out to sow’ seed. And the seed? Well, it must be the teaching or some pious text or some moral appeal. As God said in Isaiah, ‘My word goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I want.’
When the word of God is received, it brings grain to the harvest, as the Psalm also taught us: ‘The valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.’
Yes, indeed, it all seems to be obvious, plain and simple: ‘A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path…. Some fell on rocky ground… Some seed fell among thorns….’ Finally, ‘some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit.’
When you teach someone, the results differ depending on the attitudes of the hears of the hearers. The meaning seems to be, when you come to church, listen carefully and behave yourself afterwards. The seed is the text, read aloud and explained by some commentary.
That certainly is true – but is it all?
Maybe not, because there is a surprising twist in the Gospel. Something astonishing happens. The disciples ask Jesus for an explanation. And this explanation is somewhat strange: ‘The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom…. The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word… The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word….’
This seed is no longer only a teaching, a spoken text, a moral appeal. The seed turns out to be… people! The seed sown by the sower is no longer words coming from outside or sentences or teaching. To be sure, the seed is still the word of Jesus, but the sower seems to be sowing people. What kind of people are these?
Many years later, the Apostle Paul understood this well and explained it to us in his letter to the Corinthians: ‘You are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts’ (2 Corinthians 3:1).
The letter sent by God to mankind is… us. Strange as it may sound, this is true. The unbelievers do not read the Bible, they do not listen to sermons. In this way, the seed of the Word does not reach them.
But there is a letter they do read: the Christian community. They read us; that is, our testimony. ‘You yourselves are our letter, known and read by everyone’ (2 Corinthians 3:1).
This testimony of ours may be rejected, but in the depths of hearts it is awaited: ‘The creation awaits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God’ (Romans 8:19). And those sons of God are Christians: ‘So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ’ (Galatians 3:26-27). ‘We have the first fruits of the Spirit, we wait for adoption as sons (Romans 8).
When our Sunday service is ended, when the Eucharist is over, we do not simply ‘go away’ or ‘go out.’ We are rather sown by the Divine Sower: ‘The seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit – and yields a hundred or sixty or thiry-fold.’
Bp Andrzej Siemieniewski, Diocese of Wrocław
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Reading I: Zechariah 9:9-10
Responsorial: Psalm 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13-14
Reading II: Romans 8:9, 11-13
Gospel: Matthew 11:25-30
Dear brothers and sisters,
Let us focus on one part of today’s Gospel. I will read the sentences again so that we may consider them together: ‘Take my yoke upon you … for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’
First, let’s go back two thousand years to when Jesus said this. Imagine that we are in Palestine listening to Jesus with Peter, Andrew, Mary Magdalene and others. For them the Good News preached by Jesus was a joyous deliverance, liberation from a heavy ‘yoke.’ We heard about this “yoke” in the words of the Gospel. What was this yoke? It was the weight of the Jewish laws and prohibitions, recorded in the Old Testament and other writings; it was the burden of many petty rules that made life difficult, and were of no importance to life, to faith.
For example, laws about food – whether something was kosher or not; the necessity of circumcision; prohibitions against travelling on the Sabbath, touching the dead, and mixing with unbelievers…. There were six hundred and thirteen of these laws. Moreover, a person’s salvation depended on observing all of them. This yoke was heavy and bitter. Jesus himself said that it was a burden that was ‘hard to carry’ (see Luke 11:46). It was inevitable that everyone would fail, at least several times in life.
Jesus says: Cast off that yoke. Take my yoke upon you; it is easy and light. No more 613 commandments, but only 3 principles: love God, love people, love yourself.
For his Jewish listeners, this invitation was like a mountaineer throwing off a sixty-kilo pack and going forward with only a small bottle of water.
What a relief! No wonder that for the followers of Jesus, it was a joyous deliverance.
But now let’s return to our own day. Are we experiencing the words of Jesus the same way Peter, Andrew and Mary Magdalene did? Probably not. We do not have to carry the heavy and bitter burden of the Old Testament Law, so we do not feel this joyful liberation. We are used to Christian freedom, so it is difficult for us to appreciate it.
But that doesn’t mean we have no reaction to this teaching. Maybe we think: Why do we have any yoke at all? Why take on the yoke of Jesus? It may be easy and light but it still weighs a bit! Better to bear nothing, better to live without the yoke of Jesus, without the yoke of His law.
And now an important fact: life without guiding principles is an illusion.
You cannot live without rules for behavior. Everyone follows some rules – even the anarchists in Hamburg, who at one moment are protesting like an organized group, and the next moment are setting fires and smashing windows. From their example, we see that a lack of clear principles leads to violence; people without principles do not become better and happier. The idea that we can live without principles is an illusion and a lie. If a person does not set his own rules for how he will live, then the rules will be set for him by some outside force – sin, politicians, television. These yokes are bitter and heavy.
That is why the yoke of Jesus — His three commandments of the love of God, of neighbor and of oneself — is a yoke of easy, light, joyous deliverance.
ks. dr Maciej Małyga
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Reading I: 2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16a
Responsorial: Psalm 89:2-3, 16-17, 18-19
Reading II: Romans 6:3-4, 8-11
Gospel: Matthew 10:37-42
‘Coming’ and ‘welcoming’: these are two very important words from today’s readings. Jesus is the God who comes – He comes gently, delicately. He does not impose Himself on us.
On the Cross, Jesus prayed, ‘I am thirsty.’ What is He thirsty for? He wants to be accepted. He wants us to have ‘the imagination of mercy.’
Jesus said that ‘whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ And Saint Paul taught us, ‘Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ.’
Jesus receives us, before we receive Him. He accepts us with our limitations; He accepts us in spite of our sins; He accepts us in our weakness.
Why? Why does Jesus accept us as we are?
Jesus accepts us because he wants us to welcome him in other people. Sometimes welcoming other people may be a cross. But do not judge! You do not know everything about the lives of other people. Jesus told us, ‘Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. And do not fear! Jesus is with you to help you.
Jesus is coming. Jesus is coming now, during this Eucharistic celebration. Jesus is coming to us and wants to be accepted by us.
To receive Jesus is to meat God who comes to us in every person, every situation of our lives.
Mary was the first to welcome Jesus. From her, we can learn how to be open to Jesus when we meet Him in other people. Mary bore Jesus in her womb; she carried Him under her heart, and brought Him into the world. Now we receive Jesus into our hearts in the Eucharist so we can carry Him to others, by welcoming others into our hearts.
Fr Zbigniew Kowal, Diocese of Wrocław
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Reading I: Jeremiah 20:10-13
Responsorial: Psalm 69:8-10, 14, 17, 33-35
Reading II: Romans 5:12-15
Gospel: Matthew 10:26-33
A young lady was dating a businessman. The relationship developed, and the man was considering marriage. To make certain that there was nothing in the woman’s past that would embarrass him, the man hired a detective agency to run a check on her. The agency assigned an agent who was not told the client’s identity. When the agent reported back, he said, ‘The young lady is a splendid person, except for one unfortunate blemish. Lately, she’s been dating a businessman of questionable reputation.’
This story has a point: We see things not as they are, but as we are. Isn’t that true?
In other words, hypocrisy is very natural in our behaviour. We have two standards of measurement, one for ourselves and other for other people. We can see this in history. Once a delegation of German officers went to the French Marshal Foch, the Supreme Allied Commander during the First World War. The war had ended, and the German officers wanted to know the terms of the armistice.
Marshal Foch opened a file and began reading. He had hardly begun with the terms for the armistice when a German officer interrupted him: ‘There must be some mistake. These are terms no civilized nation would impose on another!’
‘I’m glad to hear you say that,’ Foch replied. ‘These are not our terms. They are the terms imposed on the French city of Lille by the German commander when Lille was forced to surrender.’
As this example shows, we not only judge, but we do that very unjustly. When we are late for a meeting, it’s because of circumstances – the tram was late. When someone else is late, it’s because he is unreliable. Two different standards – one for myself and another for others.
Dr Gerald Jampolsky wrote a book a few years ago entitled, Love Is Letting Go of Fear. In his book, Jampolsky asks the question, ‘Have you ever given yourself the opportunity to go through just one day concentrating totally on accepting everyone and making no judgements?’
He goes on to say, ‘Everything we think or say reacts on us like a boomerang. When we send out judgements in the form of criticism, fury, or other attacking thoughts, they come back to us. When we send out only love, it comes back to us.
I suggest that you – and I – try this once a month (I don’t think we can rally handle more than that): for one day, say the first Sunday of the month or whenever, suspend all judgements. Spend one day in acceptance. Pull back from judging and just look and accept. See the difference it makes in our lives.
Fr Janusz Śliwa, SJ
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Reading I: Exodus 19:2-6a
Responsorial: Psalm 100:1-2, 3, 5
Reading II: Romans 5:6-11
Gospel: Matthew 9:36-10:8
One week ago, a group of people from the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in our parish gave me a gift. It was a small copy of the cross that Cardinal Bergoglio used to wear as bishop in Argentina, and which he continues to wear as pope.
The cross has an image of the ‘Good Shepherd’ who leads his flock to the sheep-fold and carries the lost sheep on his shoulders. The shepherd is thin and simply dressed; there is nothing dignified or majestic about him. The design can be interpreted as a symbol of the poverty of Christ among the poor of the world. But it can also be read as an image of a twenty-first-century Christian – a person who is himself weak, but carries the gospel to others; one who receives mercy, and so can be merciful to others.
In today’s gospel, Jesus’s heart was moved with the pity for the crowds, because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. It’s the same today. We often feel ‘troubled and abandoned’ in our lives these days. We may feel too weak in our own faith or spiritual life to share faith with others.
But in fact, it’s weak people whom Jesus calls to be shepherds to others. When you think about it, weakness is the precondition of any preacher of the Gospel: first, you need to hear the Gospel yourself; first you have to receive the undeserved gift of mercy and healing.
St Paul reminds us of a beautiful truth in today’s second reading: ‘Christ, while we were still helpless, died at the appointed time for the ungodly.’
This truth must be understood and accepted by anyone who is called to be a shepherd. When I say ‘shepherd,’ I’m not speaking about a particular vocation – I’m speaking of every Christian, because we are all called to lead others to Christ.
As soon as we acknowledge our own position – the fact that we are only alive because of God’s mercy – we are equipped with what we need to share the Good News with others. We are able to tell others what Christ has done in our life.
This is a lesson learned by the sons of Israel whom we read about in the first reading. All their wandering in the desert taught them the crucial truth of their dependence on God. It was the precondition for those wandering Israelites to become ‘a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’
Dear Brothers and Sisters, when you look back on the wounds of your life, do not see them as a meaningless tragedy or pointless pain. Instead, see them as the source of the most convincing testimony. Where was Christ in your suffering? Did you receive comfort from anyone? Did you survive the trial? Did the suffering make you stronger? Did it humble you and make you aware of your need for God’s help through the hands of other people?
When you share your own story, you take part in the harvest that Jesus mentioned in today’s Gospel.
You do not have to know everything about the Catholic faith. You do not have to approach others like an unconquerable, self-confident shepherd. You can approach others with the meekness of the wounded one whom God himself comforts in all his tribulation that he may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which he himself has been comforted by God (cf. 2 Cor 1:3).
Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.
Holy Trinity Sunday, Year A
Reading I: Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9
Responsorial Psalm: Deuteronomy 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56
Reading II: 2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Gospel: John 3:16-18
What do we mean when we say that God is Trinity? God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit? This question is best answered not by a theological theory, by a book, a manual. The best answer will be suggested to us by someone who discovers for the first time in his life the meaning of what it means – when he meets God in Three Persons.
Two years ago I went to Berlin. We started our journey from Wrocław early in the morning, four of us in a car. We were heading to Germany, to Holy Trinity church in Berlin.
The church was packed with people. Most of them were new in Germany, arrived in the last 2-3 years. And what is most important, they originally came from a different religion – from Islam. In Germany they discovered something new.
First of all, they met Jesus of Nazareth. They understood that He is a prophet like no other prophet. And that He is more than a prophet. That He is just what He says He is: the Son of the living God.
Then they discovered that this Jesus invites us to pray in the Holy Spirit, that we can really talk to God, be near Him. ‘We have confidence of access through our faith in Him’ (Eph 3:12).
And finally the greatest discovery of all: that God is our Father, that we can talk to Him, and that He listens to our prayer.
After making this discovery, hundreds of them were being baptised in this parish of the Holy Trinity in Berlin. They stopped professing Islam. They started to believe in Jesus. They became Christians.
Those people in Berlin know what we mean when we say ‘Holy Trinity.’ They were touched by Jesus as by one hand of God, then by the Holy Spirit as by God’s other hand. And finally they saw in prayer the face of the living God, God the Father. They discovered the very heart of Christianity, of the Gospel. They entered the tabernacle of the Trinity.
For us this discovery is not new, but it should be as life-giving as it is to those new Christians in Berlin.
Today we give thanks for the Wrocław Pastoral Centre. This great spiritual adventure started 10 years ago: we can call it a small Jubilee.
In the Word of God we find a biblical tradition about Jubilees; let us see what it tells us. What is a Jubilee according to the Bible? ‘And the Lord spoke to Moses…: “You shall count…seven times seven years…. And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year:… each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family”‘ (see Leviticus 25).
The original, biblical Jubilee of fifty years was a Great Jubilee. In our pastoral Centre we have only a small Jubilee.
But God’s invitation is the same: ‘each of you shall return to his [spiritual] possession, and each of you shall return to his [spiritual] family.’
Our spiritual family is the Catholic Church, the family of our parish, the family of the Wrocław Pastoral Centre for English-Speakers in our city.
Our first Mass here in English was held on Divine Mercy Sunday, in April, 2007. I was present then at the Eucharist. Over the years, English-speakers attending the Mass have come from many countries, both from Europe and from other continents.
Our spiritual possession is our one, apostolic and catholic faith. Today we rediscover the very cornerstone of this Faith: the mystery of the Holy Trinity. That we have access to the Father, through the Son of God in the Holy Spirit.
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 259) we read: ‘Everyone who glorifies the Father does so through the Son in the Holy Spirit; everyone who follows Christ does so because the Father draws him and the Spirit moves him.’
In the Scriptures, too, we find this indication. For example, in today’s second reading: ‘The grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.’
We have noticed this also in today’s gospel: ‘God sent his Son so that through Him the world might be saved.’ This sending is the way through which we share in the Trinitarian Community.
The Trinity is a reality which is to be believed and lived. The Trinity is a community, the communion of three in one, the family in whose image we build up our own human community.
In appreciation of this fellowship and communion let us give praise to the Most Holy Trinity: “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen!
Bishop Andrzej Siemieniewski, Diocese of Wrocław
Pentecost, Year A
Reading I: Acts 2:1-11
Responsorial: Psalm 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34
Reading II: 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13
Gospel: John 20:19-23
The mystery of the Holy Spirit is connected with breathing. We have to keep breathing, if we want to live. Air is essential to life, and yet breathing comes so naturally that we do not even think about it. The only time we think about breathing
is when we are short of breath.
The Holy Spirit is necessary to our spiritual life, but we often forget about him, too.
The Holy Spirit’s most important dwelling-place is not inside a church building, it is inside each one of us. We are the temples of the Holy Spirit in this world.
Twice in Scripture, we read of God breathing. When God formed man from the dust of the ground, he breathed the breath of life into his nostrils. The second time God breathes, is when Jesus breathed on his disciples, as we read in today’s Gospel.
In our lives, we also experience a kind of spiritual inspiration: Jesus breathes his life into us and makes us free from sin and death. His Spirit brings us to life. We receive this breath of life in Baptism and Confirmation.
Sometimes people are eager to get special gifts and graces for ourselves, while forgetting that we have the Holy Spirit himself dwelling within us. But this in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit is not something personal and private; the Holy Spirit, present in each of us, unites us to the body of Christ in the Church. The Holy Spirit is present in the Church through his presence in each of us.
Saint Irenaeus used the analogy of dry flour, which cannot be made into bread unless you add water. Without the Holy Spirit — the ‘water that comes down from heaven’ in Baptism — we could not be set free from sin and death. But through the Spirit, we become one in the Body of Christ; we become one in soul.
The Holy Spirit is the ‘soul’ of the Church, Christ’s mystical body. In him we have unity in our diversity; the Holy Spirit bonds us together. We can see this here, in the English Mass, when we look around and see people of so many different backgrounds, and yet there are real bonds among us, thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit makes each of us holy; the Holy Spirit makes the Church holy.
We have received him in the sacraments, but we still need to cry out for him to come, especially in times of weakness or spiritual dryness. Like a man struggling for breath, we need to make a conscious effort to sustain our with the life-breath of the Holy Spirit.
Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.
Ascension of Our Lord into Heaven, Year A
Reading I: Acts 1:1-11
Responsorial: Psalm Ps 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9
Reading II: Ephesians 1:17-23
Gospel: Matthew 28:16-20
In today’s ‘Gospel, we read two things that might seem contradictory. First we read, “as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.” But then we also have Jesus’s assurance, ‘I am with you always, until the end of the age.’
How is Jesus dwelling in heaven still present on earth? One of my pupils once asked me about heaven as though heaven is just a neighborhood in another part of the city. But it is not only a childish mistake. In this world, we are limited by time and space. We know it’s not possible to be in two places at the same time.
Or do we?
Aren’t there times when we are physically present in church, but our hearts and thoughts are far away? And conversely, two people can be right next to each other, members of the same household or family, and be far apart emotionally.
We tell our loved ones that we keep them in our hearts. And we know that it is not an empty phrase. When there is an authentic relationship between two people, they really do dwell in one another’s hearts. Their relationship transcends time and space.
In his human nature, Jesus was limited to being in a particular place and time. His Ascension marked the end of his time walking among us. We can no longer see him moving from place to place, preaching and healing.
His presence is an interior, spiritual presence, an indwelling that can be difficult to discern, but is most definitely real.
Jesus’s promise to be with us always is linked to his final commission to his followers, to go and “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them”.
When a person is baptized, God dwells within him; Jesus is with him; he carries each baptized person in his heart.
Through his word and his sacraments, God brings his hidden but real presence into the hearts of people throughout the world. We have to remember this in times when, like the Apostles, we feel like we are gazing into the sky looking for an invisible, distant God, because we have lost the sense of his closeness to us.
The Solemnity of the Ascension reminds us to open our eyes to the presence of God in our hearts and our lives. It also shows us the direction and purpose of every human life. Jesus ascended into heaven in his human body; he lives in heaven in his human body. And this gives us a solemn assurance that heaven is our destination, too.
But what is heaven? Where is it? Heaven is the presence of God; heaven is where God is present. And the presence of God is where we belong.
Our lives should be a constant process of entering more and more closely into God’s presence, through the sacraments, through listening to his word, and through the intimacy of prayer.
And then in response to Jesus’s promise, we can say back to him Lord, I am with you until the end.
Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.
Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year A
Reading I: Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
Responsorial: Psalm 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20
Reading II: 1 Peter 3:15-18
Gospel: John 14:15-21
In today’s Gospel, we again heard Jesus’s words at the Last Supper. At this critical and difficult moment, Jesus does not think about himself. As he faces his own death, his concern is all for his disciples. Jesus promises them that he will send them an advocate, or comforter, because those are two meanings of the Greek word ‘Paraclete.’ He says that he will send ‘another’ Paraclete, because Jesus is our Advisor and comforter as well.
Jesus promises not to leave his disciples orphans, he will not abandon them or leave them alone. The last words that Jesus said before leaving this world are recorded in Matthew’s Gospel. He re-assures his disciples, saying,
‘surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’ (cf. Mt 28:20).
Jesus was speaking to his Church, assembled together before his Ascension. But he was also speaking to each disciple there. And since he says, ‘to the end of the age,’ we know that he was speaking to each of us, personally – to you and to me.
So we know that Jesus is with us, but how is he present in his Church? And how can we know his presence ourselves, in our daily lives?
Dear Brother and Sisters, I would like to ask you to dwell for a moment on Jesus’s promise, ‘I will come to you.’
‘I will come to you.’
What kind of emotions does that promise arouse in you? How does it make you feel to realize that Jesus wants to be with you?
We want Jesus to come to us, but it seems to me that sometimes we do not feel his presence, simply because we do not take his words seriously when he says, ‘I will come to you.’
We need to stir up our desire to experience Jesus close to us. We need to cry out for the Holy Spirit. This is the way to experience the action of the Holy Spirit in your life, to walk in His Spirit, to be sure of His presence.
We are two weeks away from Pentecost. During these two weeks we can ask God for a clear and unmistakable experience of His presence. These two weeks should be a time to pray and wait as the disciples waited for the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room.
What do you expect when Jesus says that he will come to you, that he will send his Spirit to you? Judgement? Peace? Comfort? An answer to a question or the resolution of a difficult problem?
Whatever it means to us, when we hear Jesus say, ‘I will come to you,’ we must not be afraid to invite Him into every area of our lives. For he promised that if we love him we will be loved by his Father, and he will love us, and reveal himself to us.
Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.
Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A
Reading I: Acts 6:1-7
Responsorial: Psalm 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19
Reading II: 1 Peter 2:4-9
Gospel: John 14:1-12
Today’s Gospel reading comes from the Last Supper. Jesus is preparing his disciples for the terrible events that are about to take place, and he says to them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” He also tells them that he is leaving them, and that they know the way to the place where he is going.
Thomas asks, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” It might be surprising that the disciples are confused and misunderstand Jesus. This is the Last Supper; they have been living in daily intimacy with Jesus for three years. Although they have been with him for so long, there is much they still do not understand.
Is this not similar in our relationship to Jesus? We know that on the one hand, our faith should be firm and confident. But on the other hand, even as we follow Jesus, we do not always understand everything. Sometimes, like the Apostle Thomas, we wonder, ‘Lord, where are you leading me?’ There are many things we do not yet know; many things happen that we do not understand.
St Paul summed up our present condition when he wrote that ‘At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known’ (1 Cor 13:12).
God does not answer all of our questions; he does not explain everything to us, step by step. He teaches us how to live with our questions and still move forward with Him, following him in humility, trying to live as he lived. Answers are revealed in time, and when we look back over the journey of our lives, we often discover the meaning of events that puzzled us before; we understand better what the Lord was doing in our lives. But when we look ahead, many things are still unclear. This is the meaning of ‘faith.’
Philip said to Jesus: “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” We, too, seek the Father, for who does not want to see God? But like the Apostles, we often seek Him where he is not to be found. We think of God as being far away, inaccessible, while He is closer to us than we think.
Jesus replies: ‘Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.’
These words are addressed to us, too. How many years have we been Christians? How many confessions, communions, sermons, retreats, prayers, inspirations have we experienced, and missed seeing God’s presence in them? Perhaps like Philip, we are waiting for an extraordinary revelation, so we do not recognize that God is with us in our everyday life.
Like the Apostles, we are walking through life with Jesus. We are on the way. We are constantly moving toward the fullness of truth, the fullness of life. In this way we become Christians throughout our lives. But Jesus is not only God with us, he is also God before us. He is leading us to the Father’s house, where there is place prepared for everyone.
At the end of our earthly journey, we will probably still be saying, like Thomas or Philip, ‘Lord, I don’t understand. Please, show me the Father. Give me more light.’ For now, the most important thing is never to stop following Jesus to the place where he is leading you.
Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.
Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year A
Reading I: Acts 2:14a, 36-41
Responsorial: Psalm 23: 1-3a, 3b4, 5, 6
Reading II: 1 Peter 2:20b-25
Gospel: John 10:1-10
Today we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday.
Jesus is the only Shepherd of his sheep. He knows them, and they know Him and follow Him when He calls them, to lead them where they will find abundant fodder. His sheep are characterized by instinctively sensing a true shepherd. ‘They will not follow a stranger,’ as we heard in today’s Gospel, ‘because they do not recognize the voice of strangers’ (Jn 10:5).
A tourist wanted to see for himself that sheep won’t follow a stranger as Jesus said, ‘because they do not know his voice.’ He arranged with a shepherd to put on the shepherd’s outer cloak and turban. Then he went outside to the flock. He called, ‘Manah!’ – Arabic for ‘Come!’ But not a single sheep budged. Impressed, the tourist asked, ‘Will your sheep ever follow anyone other than you?’ ‘Yes,’ said the shepherd. ‘Sometimes a sheep will get so sick, it will follow anyone.’
The instinct that tells a sheep who is the true shepherd is that they know the sound of the voice of the Good Shepherd – the unique sound of the voice of the Word of God that they recognize in Jesus. This word has a completely different tone from the tone of purely human worldviews, opinions and ideologies. As Peter answered Jesus after his difficult Bread of Life discourse at Capernaum, when many disciples left Jesus, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life’ (see John 6). In this way people sense the true voice of the Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus. His voice is even more convincing, since the Good Shepherd gives his life for the sheep. Nothing exceeds this truth.
How do we learn to recognize Jesus’s voice?
The best place to come to know his voice is in prayer, understood as a dialogue from heart to heart. This intimacy with Jesus makes us more sensitive to his voice. Also listening to His word in the Gospel makes us more receptive to the voice of Jesus. By these means, after some time a ‘discerning heart’ is formed within us. This discerning heart enables us to recognize the unique voice of Jesus among many other voices which we hear every day in our lives. When we remain attuned to his voice, we are able to follow Jesus more closely. Amen.
Fr Janusz Śliwa, SJ
Third Sunday of Easter, Year A
Reading I: Acts 2:14, 22-33
Responsorial: Psalm 16:1-2,5,7-11
Reading II: 1 Peter 1:17-21
Gospel: Luke 24:13-35
We just heard about two disciples who were on their way to Emmaus. The road to Emmaus is a road that leads away from Jerusalem. In leaving Jerusalem, the two disciples were running away from ‘the things that [had] taken place there in [those] days.’ They were running away from Jerusalem, the center of their faith, away from everything they had believed about Jesus just a few days before. They had lost faith and hope.
But even as they leave behind their faith and hope in Jesus, he meets them on the way. He listens to them patiently, and slowly heals their hearts of unbelief, interpreting to them the Scriptures, and revealing himself in the Eucharist.
Dear brothers and sisters, this story is for us, because it shows that Jesus accompanies us on every path we take in our lives; he is not with us only when our faith and trust are strong. He is close to us even when we are blind to his presence. He is close to us in our frustration and disappointment. He is close to us when the truths of the faith seem to be nonsense.
Moreover, he patiently listens to us no matter what we have to say — when we complain about our lives, when we are in pain or anxious; he is close to us and he listens, even when we are seeking the fullness of life in the depths of deadly sin.
But notice that Jesus did not impose himself on his disciples on the road to Emmaus. And he does not force himself on us, either. He just quietly and patiently listens to what we have to say as we walk through this worldly life.
God usually makes himself present in our lives in discreet, gentle ways. He reveals himself in his Word, and hidden in the Eucharist. But he also comes to us sometimes in the presence of another person, an inspiring book or film, or a commonplace event in our lives. God is always seeking entry into our lives, our hearts.
The story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus shows us as well that the journey of faith can be unpredictable. There will be crises, doubts and losses along the way. Sometimes we will have to work at strengthening our relationship with God. Other times, we may be the ones who accompany those who are doubting their faith, and running away from God. Taking our example from Jesus in today’s Gospel, we need above all to listen to them patiently, respecting the state of their hearts, minds and souls.
We will all have ‘Emmaus moments’ in our lives. Many of the great saints in the history of the Church discovered God when they were deep in doubt and confusion. But wherever you are, whatever your path, God is always close to you. Can you put yourself in his presence during your day? Can you feel him walking beside you at every moment? If you place yourself in his presence, you will discover that Jesus has been walking with you all the time.
Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.
Divine Mercy Sunday, Year A
Reading I: Acts 2:42-47
Responsorial: Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24
Reading II: 1 Peter 1:3-9
Gospel: John 20:19-31
The story of Doubting Thomas is so familiar that we may be tempted to dismiss it as not having any relevance to our own lives. We are told that Thomas was called Didymus in Greek – a name that means ‘Twin.’ And this gives us a clue about how Thomas relates to each of us: is not Doubting Thomas the twin of all of us who have not seen the Lord, who are called to faith only through the testimony of others? After Christ’s Ascension, all generations of Christians are twins to the doubting Apostle Thomas.
Today, we celebrate the Feast of Divine Mercy. The image of Divine Mercy is an excellent icon of our Lord when he appeared to the Apostles after his Resurrection. He comes to those who are afraid and doubtful and says, ‘Peace be with you!’ He waits to hear us respond, ‘Jesus, I trust in you.’
When Jesus appeared this way to Saint Faustyna Kowalska, her response was total trust. But our response is more like that of Thomas – the deeply human desire to experience God personally, to touch him. Even the most beautiful image is not enough to satisfy this desire. So how do we respond to Christ’s offer of peace with an act of perfect trust in his mercy?
Again, we have a clue in the Gospel and in the image of Divine Mercy. Jesus appeared to his Apostles and showed them his wounds; in the image of Divine Mercy, we see the same wounds that Jesus still bears in his glorified body in heaven. Why does he show us his wounds? Because it is through his suffering and death that Christ’s mercy comes to us. He accepted in his body the suffering and death that we merited by our sins.
If we do not acknowledge that Christ’s wounds were caused by our sins, we cannot receive his mercy.
Saint Anthony of Padua associated the wounds of Christ with words from the prophet Isaiah: ‘Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands’ (Is 29:15-16).
Each one of our names is written indelibly on the palms of Jesus: the ink is his blood, and the pen is a nail. We may forget or reject Jesus, but he cannot forget us. His wounds that are the gates of mercy will never be closed.
The wounds of Jesus hold another mystery: he shows us his wounds, so that we may freely reveal our wounds to him. All of us are wounded. All of us have suffered from misunderstanding, rejection, humiliation. Each of us is scarred by the damage we’ve done to ourselves and others through our sins. The mystery of Christ the Wounded One is that through his wounds, he can heal our wounds. As the prophet Isaiah wrote, “by his wounds we are healed” (Is 53:5).
Our faith is not a set of beliefs or ideas; our faith is not a set of commandments.
Our faith is belief in a Person; our sins are real wounds with which we crucify a real Person. But all of his suffering is worthless if we do not acknowledge our sins and accept his saving sacrifice on the Cross.
But Christ does not want to limit his mercy to a personal encounter between ourselves and him. Consider the words which we repeat in the Chaplet of Divine Mercy: “For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”
Christ commissioned and sent forth his Apostles, saying, ‘As the Father sent me, so I send you.’ He also commissions us to share the good news of his mercy with everyone. Jesus explained this to Saint Faustyna:
My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the Fount of My Mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.… Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy (cf. Diary of Saint Maria Faustyna Kowalska, nr 699).
Today above all days, Divine Mercy Sunday, God is pouring out his mercy to anyone who looks on his wounds, trusts in his mercy, and dares to give to him the sins that cause us the most shame, the sins that have become ingrained habits. When we confess our sins and say with Thomas, ‘My Lord and my God,’ we will hear those blessed words of pardon as Christ says, ‘Peace be with you.’
Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.
Easter Sunday, Year A
Reading I: Acts 10:34a, 37-43
Responsorial: Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
Reading II: I Corinthians 5:6b-8
Gospel: John 20:1-9
Today, the day of the Lord’s Resurrection, we are confronted with the essential mystery of Christian faith. As St. Paul says, “if Christ has not been raised our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (cf. 1 Cor 15:14). The news of the Resurrection of Jesus obviously answers the question of what happened to his body. But it seems to me that the Resurrection raises a more important question, about our own lives. In the second reading today, we heard, “If…you were raised with Christ, seek what is above” (Col 3:1). So as Christians, the Resurrection applies to all of us, because we, too, will rise to new life.
All the events that we have commemorated in the liturgy in the past three days, everything we have seen and heard,leads us, with Simon Peter and John, to the empty tomb. Today, like the Apostles, we can also enter the tomb: we can see and believe.
Because we believe in Christ’s Resurrection, we also look forward to our own resurrection. The two are inextricably connected. As Jesus comforted his disciples at the Last Supper, “Because I live, you also will live” (Jn 14:19).
And St Paul says to us today: “you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” As Christians, we are hidden in Christ; by our baptism, we were immersed in His death and Resurrection. So our eternal life starts here, in this world. This new life is something more, a different way of life than just life after death, such as Lazarus experienced when he was returned to bodily life.
For his followers, the time between Christ’s death and his Resurrection was a time of doubt, darkness, and fear. Simon Peter and John ran to the tomb expecting to find nothing – emptiness – even the body of their Lord taken away from them. But instead, their faith was affirmed in a miraculous way.
We, too, go through times of darkness, pain and loss. It may seem to us that the tomb is empty; God is gone, and we are alone. But we who have been baptized into Christ’s death have also been baptized into his Resurrection. So in our darkest times, if we raise our heads from our earthly trials, and seek what is above, we will see Christ seated at the right hand of God. With our eyes fixed on Christ, and our hearts set on the resurrection that is to come, even in when all seems lost, we will be able to proclaim with the psalmist: “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD.”
Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.
Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year A
Reading I: Ezekiel 37:12-14
Responsorial: Psalm 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8
Reading II: Romans 8:8-11
Gospel: John 11:1-45
The story in today’s Gospel is both dramatic and mysterious. Jesus’s friend Lazarus is dead. His body has been sealed in a tomb for four days. Jesus arrives, and simply by saying, ‘Come out!’ Lazarus is raised from the dead.
We don’t find out what Lazarus thought about all of this. We don’t know how – or if – his experience after death affected the rest of his life. We don’t know if he was grateful for being brought back to life.
Many people think that our resurrection will be just like the resurrection of Lazarus. But our resurrection will be very different from his.
Lazarus returned to normal, earthly life – to the worries, troubles and struggles of a life that ends in physical death. Lazarus had to wait for a second death, and so his renewed life was very much like ours.
When we are resurrected, however, we will not be resurrected into this worldly life, but into the life of God. We will enter into a new life where there will be no death. The resurrection will take place in a new creation, and nothing of the forms of mortal life will exist there. We will be resurrected into a wonderful community of people who live in love with each other and with God.
The resurrection of Lazarus, which we read about today, and the Resurrection of Jesus, which we will celebrate in two weeks, give us the conviction that death is not the end of human life. Since God takes us beyond the grave to new life; death is not the end.
Today is a good day to examine our feelings about death, to put aside any fears, and to have confidence that since Jesus rose from the dead, we will live forever if we live in friendship with him.
Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.
Third Sunday in Lent, Year A
Reading I: Exodus 17:3-7
Responsorial: Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9
Reading II: Romans 5:1-2, 5-8
Gospel: John 4:5-42
I remember a time when I was extremely thirsty. It was summer, and I was hiking in the mountains with my brothers. In our enthusiasm, we decided to extend our hike for a couple of hours – a couple of hours, in high summer, hiking on mountain trails – without water.
At one point, we were so desperately thirsty that we tried to scoop stagnant water from a cleft in a rock.
Today’s Gospel story of Jesus’s conversation with the woman of Samaria is all about thirst. Jesus had been walking the hot, dusty road from Judea to Galilee, when he arrived at Jacob’s well. It was about noon. He was thirsty. Naturally he would want to drink at the well. But when he asks the Samaritan woman for a drink, she is surprised, because there was a hostile relationship between Jews and Samaritans. Nevertheless, Jesus’s request opens up the possibility of a conversation, and we learn that the Samaritan woman’s personal relationships are irregular. We also learn that she is well aware of the promise of the Messiah, and she seems to be actively waiting for him to appear.
When Jesus asked for a drink, the woman naturally focused on the literal meaning of water. But when Jesus said, ‘Give me a drink,’ there is a more important, spiritual purpose in his request. His request shows us that God is always seeking to initiate a deeper relationship with each of us. God knows that each of us, whatever the state of our personal lives, whatever the level of our spiritual development, still needs his invitation and his help.
This help that God offers is a ‘spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ That is, it is no less than the Holy Spirit poured out to satisfy our thirst for the deeply fulfilling life that we all long for.
But are we interested in what God wants to give us? Notice, brothers and sisters, that the woman at the well only asked for or expected practical help in her daily life. Going to the well several times a day was a chore. So she asks Jesus for something practical: ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty, or have to keep coming here to draw water.’ When she asked this Jewish stranger for relief from her burdensome chore, the Samaritan woman had no idea how her life would be changed.
And what about us? We are created with a profound spiritual thirst for God, but we can ignore this thirst because we are too pre-occupied with all the practical things we need and want to do in daily life.
We thirst for God; God thirsts for a deeper relationship with us.
Today, let’s ask ourselves if we are as open to Jesus as the Samaritan woman was. Are we ready to acknowledge what our hearts are truly thirsting for? Are we ready to let Jesus quench our spiritual thirst?
Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.
Second Sunday in Lent, Year A
Reading I: Genesis 12:1-4a
Responsorial: Psalm 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22
Reading II: 2 Timothy 1:8b-10
Gospel: Matthew 17:1-9
During Lent, Jesus invites us to climb three mountains with him. Today, we go up the first mountain. Along with three favored Apostles, we are taken to Mount Tabor, the Mount of the Transfiguration, where Christ’s divinity is revealed. This vision assures us of the glory that lies beyond his death on the Cross.
The second mountain that we climb in Lent is the Mount of Olives, where we witness the evil that plagues mankind, and discover the power of prayer.
The final, and most arduous ascent is on Palm Sunday, when we follow our Lord to Calvary, where he “offered Himself in death as a prelude to His glory and [the glory] of all who would believe in His name” (Fulton J. Sheen, Life of Christ, p.158).
It is easy for us to look back on these events in the full knowledge of Christ’s divinity. But we have to remember that at his incarnation, the Divinity of our Lord Jesus was hidden behind his humanity. Before his Transfiguration, his disciples did not know what we know today. Jesus showed his future glory to three of them, to give them strength and courage, so they would not lose their faith and hope during the difficult events that lay ahead. They needed the vision of his glory, if they were to endure the scandal of the cross on Good Friday.
While we reflect on what happened to Jesus and his Apostles at the Transfiguration, it is important to remember that the Transfiguration came immediately after the first announcement of His passion. His prophetic words indicated to His followers that they would also have to carry his Cross. He was letting them know that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
Dear brothers and sisters, what does this mean to us?
It means that we need to take this time in Lent,to prepare ourselves to enter into the Passion of Christ. It helps us to reflect on the fact that the Christian life consists in the steady ascent of those two mountains:the ascent that leads to the Cross, is also the ascent that leads to Glory. Tabor prepares us for Calvary; Calvary prepares us for Tabor. Every suffering, every cross in our life, leads us to the final glory. There is no alternative route;there are no short-cuts along the way.
This Sunday, let’s ascend to Mount Tabor with the Apostles,and once there,let’s take the opportunity to look over our lives, taking in both the broad perspective and our ultimate goal. Let’s hear the heavenly Father’s voice declaring Jesus his beloved Son, and hear what the Father has to say about each of us, personally, as his beloved children.
And when we have done this, we will be prepared to descend from the Mount of the Transfiguration, return to our daily lives, take up our crosses and faithfully follow Jesus wherever he is leading us.
Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.
Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Reading I: Isaiah 49:14-15
Responsorial: Psalm 62:2-3, 6-7, 8-9
Reading II: 1 Corinthians 4:1-5
Gospel: Matthew 6:24-34
A few months ago, I went to see the film Hacksaw Ridge. The film is based on the experiences of Desmond Doss, who served as a medic in the United States Army during World War II. Doss was a patriotic man, and he was willing to serve his country during the war. But it was against his Christian principles to kill anyone,
so he refused to use a weapon. Despite refusing even to defend himself during the Battle of Okinawa, Doss not only survived, he saved the lives of seventy-five wounded soldiers and was given a medal by his country.
Doss was a man of prayer and total trust in God. Through-out his military service, he relied entirely on God. He got his strength from personal prayer and reading the Bible. Every time he saved another soldier, he prayed aloud, “Lord, please help me get one more.” His fellow soldiers were convinced that Doss survived one of the worst battles in human history only because of his faith.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that it is not possible for us to serve two masters. He exhorts us to trust only in Him. If we do this, then like Desmond Doss, we will not worry about our lives, because we know that our heavenly Father will take care of all our needs.
Because he placed all his trust in God; because he sought first “the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” Doss was able to save the lives of his friends and his enemies. And God himself protected the life of Desmond Doss.
Jesus tells us that we cannot serve two masters, because there is always a struggle going on inside us, between reliance on God and reliance on oneself.
So let’s stop and remember that we only have the present moment; the past and future are in the hands of God. So live in this moment, enjoy the beauty of creation, and remember that unless we rely on God, all of our efforts will be like chasing the wind.
Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Reading I: Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18
Responsorial: Psalm 103:1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13
Reading II: 1 Corinthians 3:16-23
Gospel: Matthew 5:38-48
Children naturally imitate their parents. Daughters like to try on their mother’s clothes and play with their mother’s cosmetics. Sons want to use their father’s tools or sit behind the wheel of the car and pretend to drive like Dad.
Children know that they are supposed to grow up and become like the adults around them. Acting like adults leads to being treated like adults, and parents praise their children for signs of maturity. But nobody ever has to teach a child how to be a child.
St John tells us that because of God’s love ‘we may be called the children of God’ and we are the children of God (1 Jn 3:1). Truly, God created us as His children and He sustains us with His love.
On the other hand, in today’s Gospel, Jesus urges us to “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, that [we] may be children of [our] heavenly Father.”
So paradoxically, we need to learn how to be children of our heavenly Father: being children of the heavenly Father is both a state of being and a process.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us about the love of the heavenly Father. This love is absolute, total, complete. It is the very fullness of love. Like the sun that gives its light to all and the rain that falls on the just and unjust alike, the Father’s love for his creatures has no barriers or limits.
As children imitating our heavenly Father, our love for one another must also be without barriers or limits.
So we grow and develop as God’s children as we imitate our Father in love. We will only reach the fullness of love when we are in heaven with the Father.
Children imitate their parents for a time; but eventually children begin to see that their parents are merely human and faulted. However, unlike our human parents,
who are not perfect, and can never be perfect, our heavenly Father is perfect.
And only God can give us the perfect love that our hearts desire. As children of God, we are called to imitate our heavenly father, to “be perfect, just as He is perfect.” This means recognizing that God loves us just as we are, with all our faults and imperfections.
When we accept His love with the simplicity of children, we are able to love others with all of their faults, and even to love our enemies.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, in calling us to love one another without limits, Jesus does not leave us without an example to follow. His earthly life provides the model for us to imitate. In his death on the Cross, Jesus showed us a love that is poured out for everyone; love that perseveres to the end. And we get our capacity to love from the same source that Jesus did: the love of the Father.
Yes, we are always God’s beloved children, because by His love God made us. But like children, we have to grow and mature. We can be childish and selfish, demanding an ‘eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ when someone offends us. Or we can be child-like and simple, imitating our heavenly Father and loving everyone as brothers and sisters in Christ.
We are God’s beloved children, but we are children who are far from our Father’s house. It depends on us if we wish to be acknowledged as God’s children on earth, and to make our way home to our Father in heaven.
Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Reading I: Sirach 15:15-20
Responsorial: Psalm 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34
Reading II: 1 Corinthians 2:6-10
Gospel: Matthew 5:17-37
Have you ever met a person who inspired you? What was it in him or her that you liked? What qualities attract you to someone, and make you like the person? Maybe it is a pleasant face, or a good personal attitude.
Last time I visited my community at Jasna Góra monastery in Częstochowa, I met a religious sister named Elizabeth Włodarczyck. Sister Elizabeth founded a home for orphans and poor children who are victims of war and conflicts in the Holy Land. The home that Sister Elizabeth established is called the House of Peace.
Sister Elizabeth definitely inspired me! What inspired me the most? Her faith; her personality.
Sister Elizabeth was very open to sharing her stories with people. She is a simple person, and she makes people happy. She teaches us not to worry too much about our lives and our mistakes, but to have our sights set on God. God is the answer in our lives.
For the past two Sundays, the gospels have been about the Sermon on the Mount, also called the Beatitudes. Two weeks ago, Jesus taught us that we are blessed. Knowing that we are blessed, last Sunday we received instructions to go out into the world and be salt and light.
Like every country, Poland has its share of problems; and like all people, we can be bad or good.
But in Church, we receive inspiration from Jesus, who knows all of the world’s problems. The Gospels of these three recent Sundays are challenging, but they are also inspiring: in them, Jesus tells us the kind of people we need to be to inspire the world. There’s one more thing I’d like to share with you: We often don’t really like ourselves, do we? Especially when we do something wrong.
I’d like to challenge you to change this kind of thinking, starting today. Instead of being down on yourself, I think you need to send yourself a different kind of message.
Start saying to yourself
- ‘To God, I am a good person.
- ‘God knows me.’
- ‘God knows my sins.’
- ‘I am free.’
- ‘I can inspire my friends; I will have time for them.’
- ‘I will be simple in what I do.’
- ‘My “yes” will be “yes” and my “no” will be “no.”’
- ‘I am free in Jesus.’
We are blessed! Forgive yourself for your mistakes. And live your life so that everyone can see you are living a blessed life. Amen.
Fr Michał Kurzynka, OSPPE
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Reading I: Zephaniah 2:3; 3:12-13
Responsorial: Psalm 146: 6-7, 8-9, 9-10
Reading II: 1 Corinthians 1:26-31
Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12a
“You are the salt of the earth.”
“You are the light of the world.”
Jesus used those two images to describe His followers: salt, which preserves, gives flavor and is necessary for life; and light, without which we stumble in darkness.
In short, this passage calls us to hold fast to the mission given to us at baptism. We are to “be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world” (Phil 2:15).
The text is also talking about two kinds of holiness: our personal holiness and the holiness of the Church.
It is not uncommon to hear charges against the Church. Often, those who represent the Church do not appear to be the salt of the earth or a light to the world. In the eyes of many, the Church seems to have little to do with holiness. And when it comes to the actions of sinful people who belong to the Church, too often the Church’s critics are right: too often each of us fails to be salt and light.
But the Church is holy. The Church is made holy by the sanctity of God, because God who is all-holy and the source of all holiness, is in the midst of the Church. We sinners do not make the Church holy, nor can our sinfulness corrupt the Church. No. We sinners come to the holiness of the Church so that through her, God might make us holy.
God gave us the Church to make us holy, but it requires our cooperation. So Jesus’s words about being salt and light should be a kind of examination of conscience for us: as members of the Body of Christ in the Church, are we doing our part to protect and renew the deposit of faith that has been given to us? Are our lives a light that “shines before others, so that they may see our good deeds and glorify our heavenly Father”?
Dear Brothers and Sisters, if you are here today, it means that the holiness of the Church is available to you. It means that you can be sanctified – made holy – by the sacraments of the Church. Because of the grace that God gave you at Baptism, you have been set on a lamp-stand, to shed light on all your brothers and sisters in the household of this world.
Bringing other people to the knowledge of God depends on you, on how you live your life. Ponder Jesus’s words today and examine your heart. Does the ‘salt of faith’ still preserve and provide the flavour of your life? Does the flame of your faith burn brightly and bring light to the lives of others?
Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Reading I: Isaiah 8:23-9:3-1
Responsorial: Psalm 27:1, 4, 13-14
Reading II: 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17
Gospel: Matthew 4:12-23
In today’s Gospel, we heard that Jesus ‘left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali.’ He did not go to some great city like Jerusalem or Rome, but to a small border-town. Today we see Jesus call two simple fishermen to be His Apostles. And today, we stand before Jesus, who will be present among us in the Eucharist.
God always seems to choose the least and last in the eyes of the world. As Saint Paul said, ‘God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something’ (1 Cor 1:27-28a)
When Jesus went to the region of Zebulun and Naphtali he not only went to a geographical border, he went into pagan territory. This shows us how far God is willing to go to enter into our lives. It shows us that the time when we should most expect to find Jesus is when our faith is stretched to its limits, when we are afraid, suffering, overwhelmed or in despair.
Maybe you feel stretched to the limit in your life. Maybe you feel lost or neglected. Perhaps it seems to you that no one cares about you, your troubles and struggles. Jesus has already been there, where you are. He’s waiting for you when you reach your limit, when you feel that you are on the brink of disaster, because he “came to seek and to save the lost’ (cf. Lk 19, 10).
When you think you have reached the limits of your strength, have no fear, because your limits can always be exceeded by the Unlimited One, who in His merciful love became limited, so he could meet us in our own limitations. He wants to enlighten your life: He is light for the people sitting in darkness. Just as Jesus called Peter and Andrew to leave behind their nets, he wants us to leave behind the cares of the world that entangle us, so by our witness, we can be apostles to a weary and suffering world. God draws us out of our entanglement in our own cares, buy putting on our path other people who need our help. We find joy and meaning in our lives when we help others, show them the light, and enlighten their darkness with our love.
So where are you today in your journey of faith? Have you reached the limit of your faith, hope and strength?
If so, Jesus is especially close to you in your suffering, because he is ‘the great light, which has arisen on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death.’
Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Reading I: Isaiah 49:3, 5-6
Responsorial: Psalm 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10
Reading II: I Corinthians 1:1-3
Gospel: John 1:29-34
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!”
In today’s Gospel, we witness John the Baptist’s profession of faith. John – who prepared people for the coming of the one ‘who ranked ahead of him’ — leaves the stage, after drawing our attention to the One ‘who takes away the sin of the world,’ the One who ‘existed before him.’ John acknowledges that Jesus is the Christ, and he recognizes Jesus as his Lord.
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
To me, it is a beautiful to consider that the single gesture of pointing out Jesus as the Lamb of God sums up John’s entire life. The meaning and significance of John’s life is crystallized in this moment: John is the voice that announces the Word; John prepares the way for the One who is to come; John, who is like a finger, pointing out the sun.
Through his ascetic life, John learned the difficult art of receding into the background, being unnoticed, who does not place himself before God. After all, John COULD claim some right to participate in the glory of Jesus, to be someone important, someone significant. But right to the end, John serves only as a sign: even his martyr’s death proclaims that Jesus is the Lord.
Because I am a priest, people often ask me for advice. And there is a temptation to feel strong and proud when one has been able to advise another person. But if I let that happen, then the glory that belongs to God, is blocked by the assertion of myself. When I want myself to shine, I obscure the glory of God.
I find inspiration in something that Pope Francis said in his first interview after being raised to the Chair of Peter: “I am a sinner…. I am sure of this. I am a sinner whom the Lord looked upon with mercy. I am…a forgiven man.… I still make mistakes and commit sins, and I confess every fifteen or twenty days. And if I confess, it is because I need to feel that God’s mercy is still upon me” (Credere, Dec. 2, 2015).
It is a challenge to our human pride to be only a sign, only a finger, pointing to God; only a herald who proclaims someone else’s greatness. Because if we proclaim our faith in Jesus Christ, so that others only see us, this means that we do not really recognize Jesus as God. But every time we are willing to decrease so that God might increase we grow in humility,and this is a measure of the maturity and authenticity of our faith.
And so the example of John the Baptist invites us to examine ourselves:
- Are we able to stay in the background and let someone else take centre stage?
- When we do a good deed, do we congratulate ourselves or give the glory to God?
- Do we humbly accept our talents as a gift from God?
- Are we quick to correct others while over-looking our own faults?
- Are we ready to turn over our entire lives to God, echoing Job, who declared, ‘The Lord has given, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord’ (cf. Job 1:21)?
John the Baptist was a holy man, and because of his holiness, he did not take attention away from God. John knew who he was. But more important, he knew who Jesus was. John fulfilled his mission by stepping aside so Jesus could fulfill his.
The words of John the Baptist are repeated at every Mass, throughout the world: “Behold, the Lamb of God, behold Him who takes away the sin of the world.” These words should be our prayer in every little thing we do for God or for others. Each one of our good acts should be a small gesture that points others to the Son of God.
Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.
The Baptism of the Lord
Reading I: Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7
Responsorial: Psalm Ps 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10
Reading II: Acts 10:34-38
Gospel: Matthew 3:13-17
Today, on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we see the first and most important illumination of the mission of Jesus: ‘[B]ehold, the heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”’
When we set forth on a difficult path, we need to have strength and support. If we have a companion who encourages us, someone who says, ‘I love you;’ ‘I’m here beside you;’ ‘I’m pleased with your efforts;’ ‘I will always help you’ — then we can carry on. Even though we walk through ‘the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil’ (cf. Ps 23).
This is what it means for the Spirit to descend on Jesus at his Baptism in the Jordan: He was completely suffused with the presence of the Father and the Holy Spirit — their eternal love, their heavenly serenity and peace.
Jesus set forth on his public ministry so that others could share in his happiness – and share it eternally. Now we share in the Lord’s Baptism, and so HIS mission has become our mission: like Jesus, from the moment of our baptism we no longer live for ourselves, and we no longer die for ourselves (cf. Rom 14:7).
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
Someone may have told you once – or even many times – that you are good for nothing. When we hear these messages, we can feel attacked, degraded, and hopeless.
But those voices are silenced by God’s voice from heaven; God’s words at your baptism resound, and drown out the negative voices around you: ‘You are my son; you are my daughter; You serve a great king; You are beloved; and I require from you gentleness and patience.’ The only criterion for assessing our lives is our standing before God, not the opinion of other people.
When you were baptized in the name of Christ, you were immersed in his mission — the most important mission in the history of the world.
Whatever you do today, remember that as baptized Christians, you have a commission from God, who reminds you: ‘I, the Lord, have called you for justice, I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you, and set you as…a light for the nations… (Isaiah 42:6).
It can be discouraging and frightening to think about our baptismal calling when we contemplate the state of today’s world. But it depends on us where we will immerse our hearts, minds, wills and humanity. We are like sponges that can be immersed in the murky waters of inhumane words, or in the words of God that were spoken when we were immersed in the pure waters of baptism.
Only sons and daughters of the heavenly Father are able to resist the temptation
to succumb to the distractions of this world, which would keep us from fulfilling our baptismal vocation.
Only servants of the Lord who hear the voice of the Father and accept the power of the Spirit of Love, can set forth with confidence on the Christian path because they know who they are, they know Who loves them and they know Who gives them strength.
As we meditate on the Baptism of the Lord, let us remind ourselves of our own baptism, and have the confident assurance that every day, in every situation,
we can fulfill our mission as children and servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, who holds each of us by the hand, and has commissioned us to be a light to the nations.
Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.
The Epiphany of the Lord
Reading I: Isaiah 60:1-6
Responsorial: Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13
Reading II: Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6
Gospel: Matthew 2:1-12
‘We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.’ These words, which were sung as the Alleluia verse, introduce us to today’s Gospel.
‘We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage’— this sums up the story of the three Wise Men.
They saw the star, and they set forth on their journey – for the Wise Men, these two steps comprised a single act.
The Wise Men had no doubts. Their faith was strong and certain. They were not afraid of the difficulties they would face along the way because their hearts were generous. They did not hesitate to set out on their arduous journey because their hearts were open. They were ready to go.
Dear Brothers and Sisters: If our hearts are open, we know that often in our lives, a star appears on the horizon – that is, we experience the inner inspiration of God.
This inspiration calls us to go forth and do a great deed, to leave something behind, to live in a deeper intimacy with God.
We should then follow this inspiration, with the same faith, generosity and openness of the three Wise Men.
When we do this, it will lead us to an encounter with God, we will find the One who is the goal of all loving hearts.
The Wise Men never turned back, even though they did not know precisely where they were going. They are an example to us: when God calls us to some action or sacrifice, we need to step out in faith and persevere in faith as the Wise Men set out in faith when they observed the star.
The Wise Men were guided by a star – they travelled, then, by night, in the darkness. As we journey in faith, our hunger for God illuminates our inner darkness, and helps us persevere on the path when we are not sure where God is leading us.
Our spiritual darkness is enlightened by a spirit of pure and humble faith, which relies on God alone. If I am sure that God asks something of me; if I know that he has called me out of my current way of living; that should be enough for me:
I cannot doubt him.
The faith of these pagan Wise Men, is a surprise to us believers. It should also be a challenge.
Heeding the call to seek and encounter Jesus transformed their lives. As the Gospel says, ‘they departed for their country by another way.’
A person who has had an encounter with Christ is changed forever. He can no longer live his life the way he did before. A true meeting with Jesus must change a person’s life.
So today, we are challenged to ask ourselves, ‘Do I have the faith of those pagan sages?’
Am I able to persevere in my walk of faith, even during the darkest times? Am I ready to offer God the best gifts I have to give – that is, my faith, hope and love?
Has my life really changed – is my life always changing – because of my relationship with Jesus?
Today, as we come to church to commemorate the visit and the faith of the three Wise Men, will we return to our homes ready to live our lives in a different – and better – way?
Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.
Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God
Reading I: Numbers 6:22-27
Responsorial: Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
Reading II: Galatians 4:4-7
Gospel: Luke 2:16-21
People often complain that they don’t have enough time. Sometimes I feel the same way. We don’t have time for prayer, to be with family, to help other people, or get enough rest.
Deep down, we know it’s not supposed to be this way. These are the most important things in life: prayer, family, our neighbors, our own health. People justify neglecting these vital issues by saying ‘I don’t have enough time.’
But does dismissing them in this way justify us in the eyes of God? Whose fault is it that we do not have enough time? Did God make the day too short?
No. God gives us plenty of time to do everything that he expects from us. He equips us for anything that life brings, and he gives us all the time we need to do it.
Obviously we cannot do all the good that we would like to do, even if we worked twenty-four hours a day. But God does not want us to do all the good things that we can think of doing; he only wants us to do the good that he asks of us.
So what is the key to using our time well? The answer is simple: Love always has enough time. When we act in love, we always have enough time to take care of ourselves, even with the heaviest workload. A husband who loves his wife, always has time for her. A mother who loves her children, always has time for them. A friend, no matter how busy he is, always has time for a sick friend.
But those who have no love, also have no time for God or neighbor – they don’t even really have time for themselves.
As we begin a new year, it is good to reflect on how we use our time. Time passes so quickly, and we have so much to do. The next twelve months are a new opportunity for each of us and for all of mankind. Keep in mind that every day you will have enough time, only if you use your time in a spirit of love. Love alone can transcend the boundaries of time and eternity.
Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.
Homily 25 December 2016: The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Year A
Reading I: Isaiah 52:7-10
Responsorial: Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4, 5-6
Reading II: Hebrews 1:1-6
Gospel: John 1:1-18
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.’
The Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, became a man and is born for us today. He is the Word of the Father, in whom he reveals himself. The mystery of His nativity also says something important about us, about mankind.
When God became man, ‘nothing human was alien to Him.’ His incarnation shows us that human life is a great and holy thing. In this way, at Christmas, we celebrate God’s love for us, but we also once again recall the beauty of our own humanity.
St. Athanasius wrote that ‘the Son of God became man so that we might become God.’ (cf., De Incarnatione or On the Incarnation 54:3, PG 25:192B; CCC 460). This does not mean that we will take God’s place, but rather ‘that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God” (St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 19, 1: PG 7/1, 939; CCC 460).
The humility of Christ’s incarnation is a reversal of the choice of Adam and Eve, who wanted to take for themselves God’s wisdom and power.
As a consequence of the sin of Adam and Eve, we all harbour in our hearts a desire for God-like authority: every sin is a failed attempt to supplant God, to put ourselves in his place.
But now we can give up the fruitless, pointless struggle to make ourselves into God. Why? Because God became man; because God has put himself in our place.
Today – Christmas – puts this reality front and centre: God became one of us. God, who seemed distant and inaccessible, reveals himself to us now in a way that everyone can understand, by sharing in our human experience. How could he possibly come closer to us?
In the weakness and innocence of an infant, Jesus calls us to transform our lives completely. The Word became flesh and dwelled among us so that we might become divine and live a new life in God.
I know that this transformation is easier said than done. It will always be a challenge for us to conform ourselves to Christ.
But Christmas gives us new hope, because God became human, and he shows us the perfection of what it means to be human.
Saint Irenaeus is often quoted as saying, ‘The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man, is the vision of God.’ This profound insight applies both to God and to us. We see God’s glory, when we see him as a man, fully alive. And when we see God, we are fully alive. As one of my professors put it, ‘it is good for God and man to be together.’
Brothers and Sisters! Christ is born in us each day if we are open to His divine actions. Today we sing the Gloria, and our hearts rejoice because the Father has loved us so much. May we share God’s love each day of our lives, even as we rejoice in His salvation.
Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.
Homily 18 December 2016: Fourth Sunday in Advent, Year A
Reading I: Isaiah 7:10-14
Responsorial: Psalm 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
Reading II: Romans 1:1-7
Gospel: Matthew 1:18-24
In today’s Gospel on the last Sunday of Advent, we hear about Saint Joseph who is an unusual saint, because we have no record of him saying anything.
He is a silent saint, someone whose actions speak louder than words.
In the Bible, Joseph is described as a righteous man, but perhaps thanks to overly sentimental religious art, we can often think of him as a sweet, doddering old man instead of a man who courageously protects the vulnerable and innocent.
Let’s try to imagine Joseph’s dilemma. In his time, in his society, under Mosaic law, his situation seemed impossible. He was betrothed to a woman who was pregnant, and he knew he was not the father of her child. Some men might have a breakdown or simply wash their hands of the whole situation – walk away; disappear.
But in keeping with his character as a righteous man, Joseph wanted to find a just, honorable and charitable solution. He was ‘unwilling to expose [Mary] to shame,’ so he ‘decided to divorce her quietly.’
In the very next verse, we find that Joseph went to sleep.
Did he sleep the peaceful sleep of a man who knew he had made the right decision? Or was it the troubled sleep of a man who has decided, but is unhappy with his decision? Or perhaps it was a kind of desperate escape into sleep – an attempt to stop thinking, to forget his trouble, to end it all in the oblivion of sleep.
But then Joseph had a dream. The dream offered him a kind of escape – not from Mary and her child – but from Joseph’s own ideas about what he should do and what his life should be like.
Joseph’s whole life would be shaped by what he did next: ‘When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.’
In that brief sleep, Joseph died to his own ideas and plans and embraced God’s will.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, the story of Joseph shows us that the entire course of our lives can depend on being willing to die to our own vision of how our lives should be. So often, we prefer to do what we think is wise, to follow our own plans, rather than to allow God to lead us in the way he wants us to go. We fight so hard to hold onto what we want to be and to do, even when God offers us something better, something that we cannot shape and decide and control.
Saint Joseph is a patron saint for each of us when we face seemingly impossible dilemmas in our lives. He shows us how to surrender ourselves and our plans to God. This silent, holy man shows us that when we let go of our plans for a comfortable, easy life, we open ourselves to our role in God’s plan for the salvation of the world, which is far greater than anything we can imagine or predict.
Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.
Homily 11 December 2016: Third Sunday in Advent, Year A
Reading I: Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10
Responsorial: Psalm 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10
Reading II: James 5:7-10
Gospel: Matthew 11:2-11
The homily on this Sunday was offered by Fr Joseph Baker from the United States, who especially invited us to ‘Rejoice’ by dwelling on the gratitude that we owe to God, especially after receiving our Lord in Holy Communion.
Homily 4 December 2016: Second Sunday in Advent, Year A
Reading I: Isaiah 11:1-10
Responsorial: Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17
Reading II: Romans 15:4-9
Gospel: Matthew 3:1-12
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
How hopeful those words sound! They remind us that God is about to come to us, both in the commemoration of his birth at Christmas and at the end of time when he comes again in glory.
In today’s gospel, we see John the Baptist, who is ‘a voice of one crying out in the desert.’ He calls us to ‘prepare the way of the Lord, make straight [our] paths.’
I wonder how many of us really hear and listen to the voice of the prophet John. Or do we tune him out, comforting ourselves with the idea that we’re OK — maybe not perfect or sinless — but good enough that we don’t need to change anything in our lives.
But the fact is, the kingdom of heaven has come, and John is still calling us to repentance, so that we can conform our lives to the law of God’s Kingdom.
In every generation, we need this prophetic voice, calling to us as we wander in the desert. Because maybe this will be our last chance to celebrate Christmas not as just another reason to shop and have a party, but as a time to prepare for the real birth of God in our hearts.
Advent is a time to listen and take seriously the calls to change and repentance that we may be hearing in our lives. Maybe the call is coming from a parent, spouse or friend. Maybe today is the last chance to repent.
This Advent, let’s take the time to stop and listen to God’s call in our lives. Maybe spend a few minutes every day reading the scriptures from the daily liturgy. They are full of hope and consolation, and can bring God’s light to your life. Or maybe find a homily or Advent reflections on YouTube that will help you take some time out of the daily rush and meditate on God’s action in your lives.
The kingdom of heaven is at hand — for you, today.
What are you going to do about it?
Fr Arkadiusz Żelechowski, OFM Conv.
Homily 27 November 2016: First Sunday in Advent, Year A
Reading I: Isaiah 2:1-5
Responsorial: Psalm 122: 1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Reading II: Romans 13:11-14
Gospel: Matthew 24:37-44
Our homilist on the First Sunday in Advent was a visiting Franciscan, Fr Marcin Buntow, who was in Wrocław this Sunday to speak at Masses concerning the need for more vocations to the Franciscan Order, to ask for prayers for Franciscan priests, brothers and sisters and for prayers for young men in formation to be Franciscan priests and friars.
Fr Marcin asked especially for prayers during Advent, which is a time both of waiting for the Lord’s coming, and for preparation for the Lord’s return. In this time of preparation, we all have something in common with the young men in formation in the Franciscan Order, who go through as much as eight years of preparation for their vocation: a year as postulants, the novitiate – in which they are guided by our former Pastoral Centre Rector, Fr Dariusz Sowa – and six years in seminary, if they will be ordained as priests.
It is always good and necessary to pray for vocations – for those discerning a vocation to priestly or religious life; for those in active preparation, and for those who have taken final vows or been ordained, and are devoting their lives to serving the people of God. If praying for those with religious vocations is not something you do regularly, Advent is a good time to begin.
A prayer for more people to be open to religious vocations:
O Father, you desire all of us to be happy.
Stir up the grace of a religious vocation in the hearts of many men and women.
Grant to them the willingness and generosity to give of themselves, their lives, their time and their talents to the service of Jesus Christ, Your Son, Our Lord and Savior, and to His Holy Church.
May more men and women go forth as Franciscan priests, brothers and sisters to bring the truths of our Catholic faith to all others so that soon they, too, may know You better and love You more, and in serving You, be truly happy.
A prayer for all of us to live out our vocations faithfully:
Father in heaven, you sent us your only Son to redeem us and to build your kingdom on earth.
Please give us the wisdom and strength we need to follow His call.
Grant to the faithful a spirit of generosity, that Church vocations may flourish.
Bless our priests with holiness and courage, that they may lead your people to Christ.
Help all sisters and brothers to fulfill their sacred promises and so be effective signs of your kingdom.
Lord, invite more men and women to your service.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
More such prayers can be found on the website of the United States Council of Catholic Bishops.