Believe As You Pray

Believe As You Pray

Enter deeply into your spiritual journey this Advent • December 4, 2017

 By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

Second Sunday of Advent Is 40: 1-5, 9-11 Ps 85: 9-10, 11-12, 13-14 2 Pt 3: 8-14 Mk 1: 1-8

When you begin a journey, it is good to know from where you begin and to where you are headed. Advent is a season of reflection on our spiritual origins as God’s people and an anticipation of where God ultimately desires to regather us.

Advent is also the beginning of a new liturgical year. As part of that new year, we shift our focus to the Gospel according to St. Mark. Last week we read from the middle of that Gospel, but this week we read from its beginning.

The first chapter of Mark is his entire Gospel in summary. If we look carefully at these densely packed verses, it helps us understand the spiritual journey we will take with that Gospel this year.

Mark begins by linking Jesus’ story to the creation account, “The beginning of the gospel. . .” brings us back to, “In the beginning . . .” This is the Gospel – “the good news” we have been waiting to hear.

To a person of Mark’s time the word gospel usually was reserved for a victory announcement of a king or emperor. This victory announcement is of a certain Jesus, whose name means “Yahweh saves.” This Jesus is also given the titles of Christ and Son of God.

The Christ was the anointed one who would restore all of Israel, and Christians would come to understand that Jesus was the Son of God in a unique and transcendent manner. In just the first line of the first chapter we have a significant understanding of what the rest of Mark’s Gospel will tell us about Jesus.

This new beginning in Jesus begins with a cry from the desert, just as the people of God cried out to God in the desert. The desert was the place where God formed a people so that he might bring them out of their sins and into a promised land.

God is doing a greater thing in Jesus as he brings us out of the desert of our sins in a definitive way and opens up not just a promised land, but a new way of living in God.

The baptisms by John the Baptist invited the people of Israel to go through the Jordon River again, but this time not to leave slavery behind but to leave sin behind. Immediately after the portion of Mark’s Gospel that we read today is the account of Jesus’ baptism by John.

Like Moses in Exodus, Jesus stands with the sinful people of God and identifies himself with them, even though he himself had no need of repentance. In doing so, and as he comes out of the water, “. . . he saw the heavens torn apart.”

At the end of Mark’s Gospel, the end of the separation of God and man is symbolized by the curtain in the sanctuary being torn from top to bottom. Because of Jesus, we are no longer cut off from God, but can have access to a new kind of relationship with God in the person of Jesus Christ.

In just a few verses of Mark’s Gospel, we have our spiritual origins and our spiritual destination in Christ laid out. Advent is an invitation to enter more deeply into this journey.

Msgr. Timothy Keeney is pastor of St. Bede’s Church, Williamsburg


Corporal works of mercy are path to salvation • November 20, 2017

  By Genevieve M. McQuade

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (also known as the Feast of Christ the King) Ez 34:11-12, 15-17 Ps 23:1-2, 2-3, 5-6 I Cor 15:20-26, 28 Mt 25:31-46

Ezekiel prophesies, “Thus says the Lord God: ‘I myself will look after and tend my sheep. As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so will I tend my sheep.’”

Realize that we are sought out, gathered, and secure in the care of Shepherd Jesus. Don’t we prefer to be part of a family where our bonds are strong and life-giving? Our Shepherd brings us these  benefits and more, including  companionship and connection to something bigger than our solitary self.

We like this belonging. We’re not abandoned. We became integrated as family in the Body of Christ when we were baptized. We feel special. We are loved by God.

At the same time we need autonomy to make decisions freely in a supportive environment with the gift of free will.

Belonging satisfies us, imparting a sense of self-worth and purpose. We have a mission to spread the love and saving knowledge of God.

We appreciate our identity for who we are. We grasp that we are the beloved son or daughter of God.

The heart of the matter is that our Shepherd tends us. Thus united, we change through a   deepening companionship with Jesus who shapes our being so we can be tender to others. Since we feel cared about, we can freely reciprocate.

The rationale is this: Transformation is not about pressuring us to do the “right thing.” Rather, his Holy Spirit impels us forward, creating the compelling desire in us for “good works” done in true faith. Jesus told us that when we give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the ill or those in prison, we do so for him!

In this way, the corporal works of mercy help bring about our salvation. To his followers in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus said, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” A kingdom!

We validate our bonds when we serve with tender yet dynamic love. We are one. What we do to others sums up our symbiotic lives in our    reckoning at the last judgment.

“Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?”

Where do you encounter the smallest, the least, the disheartened, the broken, the unloved, the needy, the lost, the poor or those deprived of the love of Jesus?

Look carefully and prayerfully at those in all your surroundings. Who might have obscure ways of being bare and defenseless; hungering for joy; thirsting for peace; suffering in desperation; not welcomed with dignity as a “somebody”; or imprisoned by unforgiveness or circumstances? These are lives you could ease.

Acting with mercy, we will have little fear of being cast into an eternal fire as an accursed “goat,” for we will be recognized among his flock.

What has all this to do with this Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe? This is the zenith, the hope of salvation, concluding the liturgical year. No one else but the Lord of the universe is qualified to pass judgment.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory… he will sit upon his glorious throne. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

This is definitely something greater than being a solitary, scattered sheep.

Genevieve M. McQuade, M.A.Theology, has moved recently and is a member of St. Jude in Fredericksburg

Be prepared for Jesus — today and at the end of time • November 6, 2017

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A Wis 6:12-16; 1 Thes 4:13-18 Matt 25:1-13

Our Gospel reading for this weekend is about being prepared for Jesus’ coming. Jesus tells us, “Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” On the surface, it is about being prepared when Jesus comes for the final judgment, but Jesus is telling us that it is not only the end of time for which we need be prepared, it is also about being prepared for him to come to us in the here and now.

Throughout his ministry Jesus gives us examples of different times and places at which we need to be prepared. In the parable of the tenants in the vineyard, which we heard a few weeks ago, the landowner sends his servants and his son at harvest time. In the parable for next week, the master comes back “after a long time.”

The land owner in the parable of the workers in the vineyard comes out numerous times during the day. In the parable of the 10 virgins, the bridegroom was delayed and arrives at night. If the bridegroom had not been delayed and came back early in the evening, perhaps the five “foolish” virgins would have been prepared.

The message is to be prepared for the second coming of Jesus at the end of time, but also to be prepared for him to come into our lives today. Jesus tells us, “Stay awake,” that is “Be prepared.”

In the Gospel, having sufficient oil represents being prepared. What does it mean for us to be prepared? The answer is in the ministry of Jesus. If we look at his ministry, we see Jesus focused on the people whom he encountered.

His teaching included the Beatitudes and the two Great Commandments to love God and neighbor. In the context of spiritual practices, we have the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy, which have their foundation in Jesus’ ministry.

We can also look at the early Church to see how we can be prepared to welcome Jesus into our lives. For the previous three weeks and again this weekend, we hear from St. Paul’s Letter to the Thessalonians in which we get a glimpse of the early Church. The early disciples accepted the Gospel with their whole being and as the word of God not of men.

In the words of Msgr. Timothy Keeney (Believe as You Pray, 30th Sunday, (Catholic Virginian, Oct. 23), they were living the twofold commitment. They accepted the message of love from God and responded to everyone they encountered with that same love and great joy. They were even concerned about the people who had already died before the second coming of Jesus, which Paul addresses in the reading this weekend.

Responding to the Gospel, being prepared to welcome Jesus, begins in the here and now and involves our whole being. It continues each day until the moment we are called into God’s full presence. It means accepting the Gospel message and sharing this message — by what we say and do — with all whom we encounter.

Trying to do this for rest of our lives can be a daunting task. Trying to do it just for today might be easier. What can I do to be ready to welcome Jesus into my life, whenever he shows up, today or at the end of time?

Deacon Christopher Colville is a permanent Deacon assigned to Redeemer Parish in Mechanicsville

Living Golden Rule requires twofold commitment • October 23, 2017

 By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

30th Sunday Ordinary Time Ex 22: 20-26 Ps 18: 2-3, 3-4, 47, 51 1 Thes 1: 5c-10 Mt 22: 34-40

The Golden Rule is so familiar that the surprising challenge of it is not immediately apparent. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind…The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

It sounds straight forward. So how is it a surprising challenge?

If we hear the Golden Rule merely as an ethical norm, it doesn’t sound surprising but rather as a burden. Maybe as Americans we viscerally react every time we hear the words, “You shall…”

How can we hear these commandments differently? By remembering that the first commandment does not begin with our obedience to this commandment. It begins by being the recipient of the infinite love of God.

We are brought into being through the creative love of God who gives us life; we are being held in existence every moment through the continuing loving care of the Father who wants to share the life of the Trinity with us; we are loved in our brokenness by Christ’s gift of himself in his cross and resurrection so that what is broken in us might be made whole in God.

In the face of this kind of love, the command to love is not a burden, but the natural response for which our hearts are made. In the face of this kind of love, to withhold our response of love with all our heart and soul and mind would not only be unnatural, it would cause damage to ourselves. To withhold this response of love would be to embrace death as the counterpoint to the life-giving love offered to us in Christ.

It is not a burden to respond in love to the one who offers us overwhelming love. Okay, where then is the surprising challenge? The challenge is in the second part of the Golden Rule: “The second is like it …” The second commandment to love our neighbor is intimately connected to our fulfillment of the first.

God’s overwhelming love for us is not like spokes in a wheel with every relationship being singularly between God and each individual. Rather God’s desire for communion with us is to draw us into communion with each other; otherwise we would be isolating ourselves from embracing the fullness of the one who loves us. God’s unique and overwhelming love for every human being calls us to respond to the presence of God, the presence of our loved one, in the person of every human being.

In our time, we see so many people as “other”: the ones that think differently than I do, the ones who speak differently than I do, the ones who seem to want to cause me harm. It is more challenging than ever before to see every human being as my neighbor with a command to love them as I love myself.

But to exclude from the scope of our response of love any group, any person, is ultimately to fail in our response to the God who loves us and them, and who through his mysterious love desires to draw us all together in his love.

Does that mean my neighbor can be the one I see as my enemy? Yes. Does that mean my neighbor is the one who looks at the world entirely different than me? Yes. Does it mean that my neighbor is the illegal immigrant living in my community? Yes, and yes again for as many categories of “the other” you can list.

My response to the second part of the commandment of love is a necessary and irreplaceable part of my challenge in responding to the first part of the commandment of love. Surprise!

Msgr. Timothy Keeney is pastor of St. Bede’s Church, Williamsburg

 Make sure you’re ‘dressed’ for the great banquet • October 9, 2017

  By Genevieve M. McQuade

28th Sunday Ordinary Time Is 25:6-10a Ps 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6 Phil 4:12-14, 19-20 Mt 22:1-14 or 22:1-10

How do you feel when you receive an invitation, considering you were thought about and included? Do you see it as an obligation? If it’s a “gift-expected” occasion, are you glad to spend your time, effort and resources to find a suitable present or not?

Often an RSVP is required, especially if seating and food are involved. The invitation might get misplaced or, worse, forgotten entirely.

Your response to any invitation might well be determined by your relationship with the person who asked you. It’s likely you’d be prepared to go, at least minimally.

Jesus relates a parable in this Sunday’s Gospel about the Kingdom of God being like a wedding feast a king throws for his son. The other readings speak of abundant feasts of peace, goodness, kindness and more.

When the king sends his servants to summon the guests, many refuse to attend. He sends out more servants, but he gets another poor response. The invitees have one excuse or another as to why they can’t come and enjoy his hospitality. Some don’t even acknowledge his invitation.

Then he tells his servants go out a third time to seek those on roads and streets in order to fill the reception to capacity. This time, all come and are prepared — all except one. He is expelled because he is not “dressed” right. Considering the circumstances of his invitation, it doesn’t sound fair. So what’s wrong with this picture?

The clincher is the lack of preparation! This parable is speaking to us about preparation. Could there be a parallel to our personal faith? Do we presume that we are prepared when we answer our invitation to attend church, even if regularly?

Let’s not take our invitation to the heavenly banquet for granted because we’ve done a minimum of what we’re supposed to do. To coin a phrase, could we have a sort of “pew-presumption”? Perhaps one who sits in the pew believes that because of basic compliance to the faith, he or she is OK to feast at the ultimate great banquet.

Do we think “the other guy needs to hear this”? All of us could use a bit more preparation. Jesus said, “Many are invited, but few are chosen.” (Some versions use the verb “called” instead of “invited.”)

Repentance, the call to mission, and strengthening our relationship with God through prayer time are good ways to prepare. Further the effect of God’s grace by giving way to God as best we can and not restrain our response.

We would do well to spend time, effort, and resources to reinforce our relationship with Jesus by prayerful Scripture reading and study, finding good Catholic spiritual literature, periodicals, and daily reflection/prayer aids, and by attending parish offerings or programs.

The greater our relationship with God is developed, the greater will be our response, the greater our enthusiasm, and the greater our preparation. Remember, those first invited, the favored ones, refused. They ignored the second request. Then all others were summoned. We are all called, summoned, and invited. Preparation is for all.

How are you “dressed”? Become the gift.

Genevieve M. McQuade, M.A.Theology, has moved recently and is a member of St. Jude in Fredericksburg

God’s love is evident in the ‘do-over’ • September 25, 2017

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

26th Sunday Ordinary Time,  Ezek 18:25-28; Ps 25:4-9 Phil 2:1-11 Matt 21:28-32

When we were children, sometimes we would play a game and when things didn’t go as well as we thought they should, we might call a do-over. This would enable us to correct whatever we did wrong. Golfers know this as a mulligan.

In the movie “City Slickers,” three friends go out West for a cattle drive to see if they can get their lives back on track. Arriving home, one declares his life can be a do-over. Whatever he did wrong in his life up to that point, he can change.

This is the situation presented to us in the readings. The first reading and the Gospel speak to us about new beginnings, changing our lives, and saying yes to following Jesus. The psalm speaks about God’s mercy when we make that change, and how God leads us to follow his way of justice and mercy. Through this mercy we are able to begin again, to start over.

In the parable of the two sons, the first son says no when asked to work the vineyard. After a while he changes his mind and goes into the vineyard and does what his father has requested.

The second son doesn’t go to the vineyard even though he said yes to his father. Jesus tells the Jewish leaders they are like the second son. They said yes to God; however, they are not doing what God wants them to do. They are not sharing the love of God with the people.

Through baptism, Jesus calls us and sends us into the vineyard daily to share God’s love with his people. Sometimes we are like the first son. We say no but ultimately go and do what God asks. Sometimes we are like the second son; we say yes and then don’t follow through.

Every day we are given the opportunity to say yes to this call, and Jesus is our chance for a do-over when we fail. The Lord shows us the way and guides us to justice that we might be like him in sharing the same love and having the same attitude as Jesus.

This attitude of Jesus was that his godliness was not something to grasp. The original understanding of this term was not so much trying to reach out to grab something as it meant holding on to something and not letting it go.

Jesus didn’t see his divinity as something to be kept to himself; it was something he freely shared with his disciples and shares with us so we might be like him. If Jesus was about sharing his life with others, then sharing in his divine life means sharing it with others. Being like Jesus means we empty ourselves out for others so they can experience the same peace, love and joy we encounter in following Jesus.

For reflection: In what ways have we said no to God to be his presence in the world this past week?

In what ways can we say yes and make the Kingdom of God present in our world in the coming week?

Deacon Christopher Colville is a permanent Deacon assigned to Redeemer Parish in Mechanicsville

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time • September 11, 2017

 By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

Sirach 27: 30-28: 9 Psalm 103: 1-2, 3- 4, 9-10, 11-12 Romans 14: 7-9

Commercials have made us cynical consumers.  We are so used to hearing exaggerated claims as someone on television is trying to sell us something or trying to get our vote that we might not know what to believe.  The use of exaggerations make the claims unreal to us.Commercials have made us cynical consumers.  We are so used to hearing exaggerated claims as someone on television is trying to sell us something or trying to get our vote that we might not know what to believe.  The use of exaggerations make the claims unreal to us.

That is why we might find the admonition of Jesus to Peter on forgiveness so hard to make a part of our lives.  When we look at the actual circumstances of our lives, the hurts that we have experienced at the hands of others, we can struggle with forgiving in the limitless way Jesus calls us to with the phrase, “not seven times but seventy-seven times.”

We can rationalize that the exaggeration of Jesus is not really meant for us.  Besides, haven’t we learned about enabling behavior, and doesn’t the kind of limitless forgiveness about which Jesus speaks simply enable the hurt to continue? No!  Just the opposite.  This kind of forgiveness is ultimately the only thing that changes hearts.

Jesus didn’t just pull his response to Peter out of nowhere.  In Genesis 4: 23-24 Lamech, the descendant of Cain, has followed the example of his ancestor in murdering a man.  He warns that if someone should seek vengeance on him, that limitless vengeance would be visited on them.  “If Cain is avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”

God’s response to a world in which there is limitless vengeance is limitless mercy.  But how do we make it real in our lives?  Identifying our self with the circumstances of the unforgiving servant is a good way to start.

Often in Confessions I hear people say something like this, “Well, Father, I really haven’t done anything that bad.”  Although that may be subjectively true, they may not have committed the gravest of sins, but what that attitude can mask is the idea that I don’t really need much in the way of mercy from God either.

By identifying ourselves more closely with the situation of the unforgiving servant, we begin to understand differently the balancing scales of our own need for mercy and the forgiveness we are asked to give others.

What the servant owed the master is expressed as a myriad of talents.  A myriad was the number 10,000 and a talent was the equivalent of 6,000 denarii, the daily wage.  It is an immense amount.

Every offense against God is an infinite offense whether the matter is grave or lighter.  When we see our sin through this lens all of a sudden we understand how much we need God’s mercy.

There is nothing we can ever do to remove that offense.  Mercy can only be given by the free act of God, who willingly and generously responds to our cry for compassion.

Yet there is a condition to God’s mercy.  It is that in our reception of it, it transforms us into vehicles of his mercy as well.

From the original Greek of the passage, we know the amount of the fellow servant’s debt – 100 days wages.  A large amount, but not insurmountable.

In comparison to our offense against God, every offense against us personally pales in comparison.  Justice is not ignored in the request for mercy (the fellow servant is willing to pay back the debt).

But without a true understanding of the quality of mercy we have received, we cut ourselves off from the source of that mercy – until our hearts are softened.

Msgr. Timothy Keeney is pastor of St. Bede’s Church, Williamsburg

22nd Sunday Ordinary Time, Year A • August 28, 2017

  By Genevieve M. McQuade

Jeremiah 20:7-9 Psalm 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9 Romans 12:1-2 Matthew 16:21-27

Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” We will find life!

This sounds like a contradiction. Lose our lives? Deny self? And yet, be able to “find” life? How can this be? Don’t we seek life by treating ourselves to the good and the goods we perceive in life?

The verb, deny, is a seemingly negative word. And more so, to deny oneself, well, it sure doesn’t sound like a comfortable idea. As a child I thought it meant deprivation, avoidance, prevention. I didn’t like the idea, period! I thought that anyone would think as I did. It’s a struggle against one’s instincts to have, to hold, even to be in control.

One definition of “deny” is to “restrain (oneself) from gratification of desires” or “to not allow one to enjoy things or have the things one wants.” Perhaps we believe that it is selfish to enjoy, that one must be stringent and dour to be holy and useful.

Ah, but Jesus didn’t quite mean it that way. On one hand, it was a far greater denial….but on the other, one that would set us totally free, giving us the joy and freedom to be all we’re meant to be in God’s plan for each of us – freedom, not libertarianism or licentiousness. The latter would only bind us up.

Every reading of Scripture proclaimed this weekend speaks strongly of one action and one consequence: namely an action of letting go, and its consequence, that is, freedom – in God’s plan.

The first action appears in the three readings but is depicted in quite different ways: first, in Jeremiah, as being overcome by God’s powerful love; second, in the Psalm, thirsting for the fullness of God; third, in Romans, as “not conforming to this age,” offering ourselves to God to be transformed; and lastly, in Matthew, as surrender of our spiritual lives, even our physical lives. All are ways of denying oneself, one’s ego, one’s body, one’s spirit, giving back to God the only things with which we were born.

These are the only things we truly own and have to give, our very selves yielded to God.

When that yoke of God’s companionship occurs through our surrender, this letting go helps us and does not bind. We will be filled with a compelling joy like the psalmist proclaims: “As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied, and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.”

This is a driving force. As Jeremiah phrases it: a “fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.” This is a freedom for which we were created, to glorify and praise the Lord, not by obligation but by a great compelling desire welling up within to let out the exhilaration and desire to share God’s work within us. That disclosure is fulfilled in a bold humility, not in self-interested pride.

So go ahead. Be overcome by the Lord. Be transformed. Thirst for God. Have courage. Take up your cross. And live.

Genevieve M. McQuade, M.A.Theology, has moved recently and is a member of St. Jude in Fredericksburg

Twentieth Sunday Ordinary Time • August 14, 2017

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

Isa 56:1, 6-7; Rom 11:13-15, 29-32 Matt 15:21-28

Change in our lives is inevitable. One of the areas in our lives where change presents a particular challenge for us is in our faith life. I think those of us who lived through the change from pre-Vatican II to post-Vatican II can relate to this very closely. The leaders of the early Church also dealt with change as well. At the beginning of their ministry the Disciples were intent that the Gospel message was meant for the Jewish people, not the Gentiles. After much discussion about this, Peter addressed this issue in Acts 10:34-35; “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.” The Scripture readings for this weekend illustrate this idea that salvation was not just for the Jews and challenges us about our willingness to change.

In the Gospel, Jesus, confronted by the Canaanite woman, changes his response to her based on the give and take of their conversation. Jesus says it is her “great” faith that has brought about the cure of her daughter, even though she was not a member of the Chosen People of God. In the second reading, St. Paul tells the Gentiles that because Israel had rejected the Gospel, the gift of salvation is now offered to them. He also says that the Gentile’s acceptance of the Gospel message might cause the Jewish people to accept this message and thus be saved.

The Scripture readings also bring to mind the acceptance of others and their points of view, not putting up barriers to separate them. In his discussion with the woman in the Gospel passage Jesus listens to her and accepts her faith in him. Jesus doesn’t require her to join the Jewish community, he accepts her where she is in her faith journey. In all his encounters with people who are truly looking for the Kingdom of God, Jesus meets them where they are, accepts their faith and journeys with them. Jesus was not into building walls to separate people, he was into tearing down the walls that existed. Pope Francis in his daily meditation on May 22, 2013, as quoted by L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly ed. in English, n. 22, 29 May 2013, cautioned about building walls and not accepting all people. He asserts that Jesus died for all people not just members of the Catholic Church. He said, “It is this blood that makes us children of God.” This sentiment is echoed in the first reading from Isaiah: “Thus says the Lord: …The Foreigners who join themselves to the Lord … and hold to my covenant, them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer.”

Salvation through Christ is for all people. Just like the Canaanite woman in the Gospel, Jesus accepts them based on their faith. We can do nothing less. It is not for us to judge or put up barriers for those who are searching for God in their lives. We should accept all people because they are children of God and by our words and deeds, we can lead them to accept salvation. As members of the Church, we should ask ourselves how we can lead others to accept salvation. We might also ask ourselves if we create obstacles for others in their faith journey.

Deacon Christopher Colville is a permanent Deacon assigned to Redeemer Parish in Mechanicsville

The Transfiguration of the Lord • July 23, 2017

 By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 2 Pt 1:16-19 Matt 17:1-9

Sometimes we have the temptation to say to ourselves, “Why doesn’t God just make everything clear to everyone, and then we would be able to just get on with our lives on the same page.” But we know it doesn’t work that way. We know that as adults we can explain clearly and explicitly why a certain action would be dangerous for them to do, but we are not really all that surprised when they go ahead and do it anyway. They just don’t have enough life experience to really hear what we have told them.

The Feast of the Transfiguration is celebrated each year on August 6th, and this year it takes the place of our usual Sunday celebration. It is an opportunity we are given each year to enter more deeply into the command of the Father, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.”

The Transfiguration also has a context that helps us to understand what God is saying to us more clearly. Matthew frames the events of the Transfiguration with the two Jewish feasts of Yom Kippur and the Feast of Tabernacles. Yom Kippur is the one day of the year that the High Priest spoke the unspeakable name of God, YHWH. The feast of Tabernacles celebrated God’s care for His people in the desert and, on the last day of the feast, the gift of the Law.

The events on Mount Tabor happen immediately after the confession of Peter that take place on Yom Kippur, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus has been named as God. As the glory of God shines forth in Jesus and is revealed to Peter, James and John on Mount Tabor, they hear the voice of God identify Jesus as the living law, the living Torah, to whom they are to listen at a more intense level.

Yet, as we hear from Peter’s reaction, they still did not get it. The vision of the Transfiguration was given to them so they might understand the events of Jesus’ passion and death, and the resurrection that was still to take place. The Transfiguration did not change anything about Jesus who always possessed the glory of God, but rather changed his disciples’ ability to understand who Jesus is.

The feast of the Transfiguration is given to us for the same reason. We have received the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We have received the Word of God into our hearts through Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. Yet, we still do not understand, as evidenced by the fact that our lives have not yet been fully transformed by the gift of Jesus Christ.

God is so patient with us. He continues to walk with us through our own share in the cross of Christ; so that we might come to understand that the Paschal Mystery of his love transforms all of creation. We need the yearly reminder that every experience we have of the glory of God is given to us so that we might in turn listen more intently to the one who has been given to us.

Msgr. Timothy Keeney is pastor of St. Bede’s Church, Williamsburg

16th Sunday Ordinary Time Year A • July 23, 2017

  By Genevieve M. McQuade

Wisdom 12: 13, 16-19 Psalm 86: 5-6, 9-10, 15-16 Romans 8: 26-27 Matthew 13: 24-43 or 24-30

Do you have a lawn? Then you know all about the relentless assault of weeds scattered in the grassy carpet. Just take a look at the array of products on the shelves of box stores and garden centers. Some weeds almost look like the real thing but don’t be deceived. Do nothing and they take over the yard, suffocating the true grass roots. The weeds steal water, sunlight and soil nutrients.

Matthew’s gospel depicts Jesus telling parables to the crowd. In one of them, the parable of the weeds among the wheat, the slaves ask their master, “Where have the weeds come from?” They wonder how this problem of weeds could have arisen when they believed only good seed had been planted in the first place.

Don’t we have similar difficulties today, not literally as weeds, but as a corrosion of sound ethical values and even distortions of our Catholic faith?

Looking back over decades, it’s quite probable that only the older among our readers may perceive this state of affairs.

Values of ethics, decency, modesty, kindness, wisdom and more have been watered down to a disturbing extent. Sound values have undergone a kind of choking, replacing with imposters, like weeds, slowly increasing pace so as to become acceptable, even the norm.

This is not to say that decent standards do not exist, but they are hardly the public consensus or custom of multitudes.

It could seem “old hat” to say that malformed secular norms have infiltrated thinking in virtually every aspect of the population. What is not old is the extent that this has happened in small and large ways.

Consider such things as revealing clothing; provocative, titillating entertainment; children and adult violent games; crude speech; a sense of victimization when it is not so; loss of integrity among public leaders; and even cavalier attitudes towards morality, religion, and God. Unfortunately, much more could be added to that list.

Some of these mindsets have peppered our behavior in the practice of our faith, adherence to the commandments, and Church laws, diminishing them. Again, don’t be deceived. Weeds are scattered within us. We may not be as spiritually healthy as we think we are.

Part of it is that pride has entered in a “me-myself-and-I” mentality, so much so that there can be little restraint for self-control, limits, the realization of outcomes down the road, and damaged or destroyed relationships.

“Where have the weeds come from?” Jesus responded, “While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds.” Just who is that enemy? What would you answer?

It’s worth saying that gross assumptions exist that a Catholic has received the Good News and appropriated it. However, a lack of inner conversion can be self-evident despite good works. If one remains closed off from deeper or true conversion, unwilling to yield to divine will for abundant quenching of thirst, the light of absolute truth, and the nutrients available through the sacraments and deep prayer, the weed of pride squelches faith.

“Where have the weeds come from?”

Jesus said, “The weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil.”

Realizing where the weeds have come from, invading our lives, we’ll see what weeds are present in us and likely to reemerge for the rest of our lives. Nevertheless, we can do something restorative about them from time to time. Keep your weed killer handy!

Romans comforts us, “In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness.” Let us pray for conversion, strength, insight, wisdom, and humility to conquer our weeds.

Genevieve M. McQuade, M.A.Theology, has moved recently and is a member of St. Jude in Fredericksburg

14th Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle A • July 3, 2017

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

Zech 9:9-10; Rom. 8:9, 11-13 Matt. 11:25-30

Today’s Gospel is about the Father knowing the Son and the Son knowing the Father. One of the big things today about knowing yourself and family is DNA testing. We don’t always need a DNA test to know someone is related to another person. Sometimes we can tell because they look alike. When my wife and I first started dating, one of her suitemates at college saw me and asked if I had a brother named John because I looked just like him. Sometimes people who are related might have some of the same behavioral characteristics. Sometimes I find myself doing something that is exactly like my father or mother or open my mouth to speak and out comes something my father or mother would say.

After reading the Gospel I began wondering about this whole of idea of family characteristics as it pertains to being sons and daughters of God. Jesus, as the Word of God incarnate, revealed the Father and Spirit to us and in doing so revealed characteristics of the Father and the Spirit. He did this in how he lived and died. Jesus tells us in the Gospel “no one knows the Father except the son and anyone to whom he wishes to reveal the Father.” Jesus revealed the Father to us and told us that anyone who lives in him lives in the Father. We know that God dwells in all of us and if we let this God who resides within us shine forth, there are certain characteristics that make it evident that God is alive within us. What are those characteristics? If we were to meet someone who claimed to be Christian, what characteristic might he or she display? How would you know that God was alive in him or her? How would others know that about you?

I think the answers to these questions are found in Scripture. Our Scripture readings this weekend revealed two characteristics. One of the characteristics that reveals God is alive in us is Joy. The first reading from Zechariah tells us to rejoice heartily and to shout for Joy. There are hundreds of texts in Scripture that call us to be happy, to be glad or to rejoice. A person who has God alive in them is filled with Joy. A second characteristic is the focus on things of heaven, things of the Spirit. St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans tells us that if Christ dwells in us, we are alive in the Spirit and not focused on things of this world.

The second place we find answers is specifically in the person of Jesus Christ, how he lived his life and how he suffered and died. Jesus’ ministry was focused on the lowly people of the world. He lived the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. He fed the hungry, forgave sinners, visited the sick and even raised the dead. He showed mercy to the woman caught in adultery and encouraged the Samaritan women at the well. At his death he asked the Father to forgive those who were crucifying him and promised paradise to the repentant thief. His life was about bringing peace to people and raising up the lowly.

Each of us should ask ourselves what characteristics people see in us as evidence that Jesus has revealed the Father to me. What evidence is there in our life that God is alive in us?

Deacon Christopher Colville is a permanent Deacon assigned to Redeemer Parish in Mechanicsville

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time • June 19, 2017

 By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

Jeremiah 20: 10-13 Psalm 69: 8-9, 14, 17, 33-35 Romans 5: 12-15 Matthew 10: 26-33

On June 3, 2007, Trinity Sunday, the Sunday after Pentecost, Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni had just finished celebrating the Sunday evening Mass at Holy Spirit Chaldean Church in Mosul, Iraq, where he was the parish priest.

Three deacons had recently decided to accompany Fr. Ragheed because of threats against his life. After Mass as he was walking away from the church with Deacon Daud and as Deacon Isho, Deacon Bidawed, and Isho’s wife followed by car, the group was stopped by unknown armed men.

One of the gunmen shouted at Fr. Ragheed that he had warned him to close the church, and demanded to know why he didn’t do it. Fr. Ragheed replied asking, “How can I close the house of God?” The gunmen ordered the woman to flee. Then, after the gunmen demanded that the four men convert to Islam and when they refused, they were shot down.

As we read as a community the Scriptures given to us by the Church for this Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, it is important that we read them in the context of stories such as these. This would not be a new practice. It is a way of reading the scripture as a Catholic community as old as the Church itself.

The early Church was a community beset by persecutions and watered by the blood of martyrs who gave witness to their depth of faith in Jesus Christ. Persecution was tried because the enemies of Christ saw it as a way to wipe out this deep faith in Jesus. Yet, counterintuitively, stories of the martyrs did not drive people away in fear, but strengthened the infant community as its members faced their own encounters with persecution.

In the early Church almost every Christian knew someone who had suffered martyrdom. Can you imagine how, in that light, they would have heard the text of Jeremiah, “Terror on every side! . . . But the Lord is with me like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph.”

Or consider the power of the psalm chant as they lifted up their voices in prayer, “For the Lord hears the poor and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.”

It must have seemed like Christ was talking directly to them when they heard proclaimed from the Gospel, “And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.”

The age of martyrs has not passed. We are living in its midst. Just as at that time, persecution varies from place to place and in its intensity, but we are naïve if we think that the forces opposed to the Gospel will not use every means to undermine a deep, active, and consequential faith in Christ Jesus. Whether that means is brutally direct as with Fr. Ragheed, or to subtly undermine the faith as hopelessly out of step with our modern culture.

That is why we should still share stories of people like Fr. Ragheed. We still need to be strengthened by witnesses such as him as we face the big and small obstacles to our witnessing of our own faith.

Msgr. Timothy Keeney is pastor of St. Bede’s Church, Williamsburg

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Year A • June 11, 2017

  By Genevieve M. McQuade

Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9 Daniel 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56 2 Corinthians 13:11-13 John 3:16-18

Do you believe wholeheartedly in the Trinity? This ancient truth is difficult to grasp except in love.

Let me highlight that the Trinity is a mystery. This mystery cannot be totally explained nor solved as if it were a best-selling novel. Yet, the truth of the Trinity is evidenced by Scripture and human experience of God’s love working in us and in the world for eons. The Trinity is all about Love. That IS a reality. Knowing God is revealed through God’s self-expression in salvation history.

The Trinity is not only about God’s inner dynamic life. How could we know anything about God but through God’s expression in history? What I mean is that this mystery of God is shown to us by God’s activity in creation throughout time and in us now.

How do our readings fit into this?

Exodus proclaims that the Lord is “merciful, gracious, slow to anger, and rich in kindness and fidelity.” Isn’t this love? And the writer rightly asks for pardon for a “stiff-necked people.”

Second Corinthians speaks of the grace, love and fellowship of Jesus Christ, God and the Holy Spirit. Love again. That’s also expressed by how we live: “Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.”

The Trinity is life with us, life with each other, a communion of love with God because of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling in us, God in us, we in God – grace, love, fellowship, communion.

God communicates concretely in Jesus and the dynamic activity of the Holy Spirit in the world. The Holy Trinity is not some abstract theory, but a living reality, a reality shared in all creation.

Love indicates relationship with another. God’s love as Father, Son and Holy Spirit is a passionate relationship and that relationship is bestowed on us.

Did I say passionate? Yes!

A true love relationship brings about a birth of more love, a fertile relationship that radiates outward towards receivers, intended to generate more expansion and more fruit in love. That’s why God’s love in the Trinity is shared with us. God’s life becomes, and is, our life too, created to be a vibrant life within us and extended outward through us. (Think of children born in a loving marriage, a living expression of the love of their parents.)

The gospel of John also speaks of God’s expansive love in sending the Son of God in the perfect God-man, Jesus, to save us, to offer full life with the Trinity’s circle of love. Moreover, we have the Holy Spirit given through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

What can these historic, cosmic actions be but love?

There is but one purpose for this phenomenon, our salvation, namely to live eternally with the Trinity in this circular love. The sending of the Son of God was never for our condemnation but for sharing our life with Him. “Everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

What is our response? How can we be united to God forever? Will we accept or deny our opportunity to believe–fully? Would we bring condemnation upon ourselves by our choice? Think about that.

Our salvation is at stake here. God desires our love in return. Ponder your sincere offering of self as Jesus did. That’s all we really have to offer back – our very selves. Yielding to God is the greatest gift we can give in return to God. Nice as anything may be, all the rest is on loan, borrowed for a short lifetime.

By our return of love, we become all we are created to be in God’s plan for each of us, and a great joy arises!

Genevieve M. McQuade, M.A.Theology, has moved recently and is a member of St. Jude in Fredericksburg

Feast of the Ascension • May 22, 2017

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

Acts 1:1-11 Ephesians 1:17-23 Matthew 28:16-20

Maybe you’ve faced a situation in your lifetime which you thought was so daunting, so difficult that you weren’t sure how you were going to accomplish it. In that situation you probably needed some reassurance from a parent, spouse, coach or someone else that you could in fact accomplish that task, and their presence was a reassuring symbol of their faith in you and in your ability to succeed.

Well this is a situation the disciples may have found themselves in the Gospel reading this weekend. Jesus has come to the end of his public life and he knows it will be up to this small group of his followers to spread the Good News.

Therefore he sends them out with the command to make disciples of all nations by baptizing them and teaching them what they have been taught.

What was their reaction to this great command of Jesus? Would they have needed some reassurance that this was possible?

Jesus knew they would need this reassurance, so he follows this command with the statement, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” I am not sure that this statement would have convinced me, especially if in a few minutes I would see Jesus lifted to Heaven as we hear in the reading from Acts. How did this statement help reassure this small band of Jesus’ followers so they would go out and change the world?

If we put ourselves in the disciples’ place, not only on that mountain, but in that time and place of faith and history, it might help us to understand this last statement and how it helped them and helps us to also go out and change the world. When Jesus called the twelve, in addition to being fishermen, tax collectors and in other occupations, they were devout Jews, descendants of Abraham.

As such they would have heard and remembered the stories of their Jewish heritage. They would know that even before the coming of the Messiah, the Jewish people were told that God was with them. They saw and experienced it time and time again throughout their history. They were probably familiar with the third chapter of Exodus where Moses asks God his name so he can tell the Israelites who sent him. They probably could recite from memory that God said, “I am who am. This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you.” They were also probably familiar with the Prophet Isaiah and the predictions of Isaiah about the Messiah such as the one in Chapter 7, verse 14: “Behold a virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel.” Matthew quotes this passage and gives the translation of that name, “God is with us.”

Jesus tells them and they would understand that Jesus identifies himself with the God of their Fathers, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is “I AM,” he is “Emmanuel.” Jesus is “I AM God with you.” Jesus whom they had professed to be the Messiah, the one sent by God, will be with them just as God was with the Israelites throughout their history. This Jesus who promised to be with them always, promises us as well that no matter what he calls us to do, he is with us always.

Deacon Christopher Colville is a permanent Deacon assigned to Redeemer Parish in Mechanicsville

Fifth Sunday of Easter • May 8, 2017

 By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

Acts 6: 1-7 Psalm 33: 1-2, 4-5, 18-19 1 Peter 2: 4-9 John 14: 1-12

One of the great privileges of visiting Jerusalem is that that you see things that make you read the Gospel in very different ways.

At the time of Jesus, the city walls did not include a large stone quarry that lay just outside the northwest portion of the city. That quarry had been the source of stone for the great Temple. In the center of the quarry, one section of stone had not been used. It had not been thought worthy of use for the Temple because it had a great crack. The builders of the temple thought it was only fitting to use stone without flaws for its building. So the builders let it remain in place. An ancient tradition connected with this mound of stone is that beneath it was the place of burial of Adam’s skull.

At the time of Jesus, the Romans saw this mound of stone just outside the gates of the city and thought that it would be a fitting place of punishment. So they set up vertical posts on the spot. The condemned prisoners would carry the horizontal beams upon which they would be affixed during their crucifixion. When Jesus was crucified upon that spot his body was taken only a short distance to one of the many tombs that had been carved out of the remaining stone in the quarry.

When the early Christians read Psalm 118 how could they not but hear the voice of the Spirit in the words, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” These two spots are now enclosed in the stone church of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher.

The text of first Peter is not just directed at the circumstances of Jesus’ death and resurrection, it also is a call for us to become living stones. As a diocese, many of our parishes have been involved in a great deal of building of churches and church structures in these last couple of years. The call of this epistle is not that we build churches of dead stone, but as living stones we build up a world where each of us make of our lives a living sacrifice of praise to the Father. We join our gifts with the ultimate gift of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.

It is not a mere figure of speech that Saint Peter reminds us that we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own. . . Stones were used to construct the first temple, where sacrifice was made to God. Jesus was crucified, and buried, and rose on stone that had been rejected by the builders of the temple for its construction. In doing so he became the temple and the sacrifice that never needed to be repeated. By becoming configured to Christ as a Church we become living stones and a community of priests called to build up the Kingdom of God by joining the sacrifice of our lives in thanksgiving to God.

Msgr. Timothy Keeney is pastor of St. Bede’s Church, Williamsburg

Third Sunday of Lent • April 24, 2017

  By Genevieve M. McQuade

Third Sunday of Easter April 30, 2017 Acts 2:14, 22-33 Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-11 1 Peter 1:17-21 Luke 24:13-35

I’m amazed how much I discover when I take the time to walk, s-l-o-w-l-y.

When I’ve been on eight-day silent retreats at the Jesuit Center for Spiritual Growth in Wernersville, PA, and elsewhere, without exception I’ve found many signs of God’s wisdom and inspiration that “speak” volumes to me. These times reintegrate my drained spirit back into a peaceful wholeness.

For instance, sunlight piercing shadows in my life; passage of time in the slow paced movement; weeds growing through sunlit, tiny pavement cracks, seeking life; morning dew glistening brilliantly like a milky way of stars strewn on the grassy hill in early morning; gnarled yet healed wounds on tree trunks; the evasive swarm of flying insects, visible and disappearing as it arcs in and out of sunbeams; and so much more. Each holds a lesson to ponder. Scripture adds even more.

Luke’s gospel tells the story of two disciples walking a seven mile journey from Jerusalem on the road towards Emmaus. Following a devastating event, the now risen Christ advances towards them, engages them, and questions, walks and talks with them.

They are crestfallen. They thought this stranger was unaware about what happened in Jerusalem to a Nazarene called Jesus, whom they greatly admired. Curiously, they did not know the One speaking with them was indeed the risen Jesus. Their disillusionment gave way to fascination as He explained the scriptures connecting to what they described.

The disciples then asked this intriguing man to stay with them because it was nearly nightfall. Eating together, they suddenly recognized him, the resurrected Messiah, as “he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.” Vanishing from their sight, they were astonished, for their hearts were burning with joy as they reversed their trek back to Jerusalem to share their good news.

That’s what an encounter with the Lord does! We become fully alive! That experience reveals the Lord’s reality, affirms our belief, dispels our doubts, and builds up our belief, our hope available today to us.

Jesus moves in first, perhaps without our knowing it. He draws near. For our part, we can invite Jesus to dine with us, consciously welcoming his imminent Presence. Jesus gives us understanding and blessings. Our hearts can burn with deep joy.

Our Lord reveals the path of life when we take the time to walk with him and sense what He has provided all around us. Our hearts can burn with the intense fire that celebrates his manifestations, his truth. Spending time to perceive God’s presence expands our lives in so many ways. It reconciles our disordered spirits.

Look. Hear. Touch. Smell. Listen. Pray. Ponder. Spend time. Walk your special path. Jesus Christ will make known the path for your life and he will fill you with joy in his presence.

Lord Jesus, open the Scriptures to us; make our hearts burn while you speak to us, says the Alleluia verse, as Christ the Lord breaks the bread of his living Spirit with you.

Oh, one more thing. As we continue to rejoice over Jesus’ wondrous resurrection in this Easter season, return to tell the others in your life, just like the two disciples, what God has revealed to you, the truth of his ever presence and victory over death.

Why not go on a retreat yourself? It’s better than a vacation. The cost is worth it!

Genevieve M. McQuade, who has a master’s degree in theology, is a member of St. Olaf in Norge

Easter Sunday  • April 16, 2017

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Col 3:1-4; John 20:1-9 or Mark 28:1-10

When we experience something many times there is the temptation to just go through the motions, to witness what is happening but not be full participants. We may have witnessed the mystery of our regular Sunday Liturgy or the Easter Vigil so often that it is easy to go through the motions, to just watch and be a spectator, not fully involved.

During the Triduum, the three most holy and magnificent days of our Church Year, we are called to celebrate God’s saving act and to become full participants in the life of faith, not just bystanders.

We are reminded that following God is not a spectator sport. During his life, Jesus set the example for us and the Scripture readings for Easter Sunday morning bear this out.

Paul tells us in Colossians to seek what is above and in the reading from Acts, Peter tells the people how Jesus went about doing good and healing. Both Gospel readings for Easter Sunday morning speak to us about being fully involved, becoming more than spectators.

In the Gospel reading from John, Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb, discovers the rolled away stone and empty tomb and runs to tell the two Apostles. They in turn run to the tomb.

In the reading from Mark’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary walk to the tomb and quickly run to the Apostles. At the tomb, the angel bids Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, “Come and see.” When the two Apostles get to the tomb they first look in, and then they enter the tomb. They don’t just stand outside the tomb, looking in.

Our life in Christ is not really lived if we stand outside looking in. We must enter into the tomb, the death of Jesus, so we can experience the Resurrection.

Easter is about entering fully into the life of the Church, not standing outside watching. We pray to the Holy Spirit, “Fill the hearts of the faithful and enkindle in them the fire of God’s love.” That fire of God’s love should set us in motion. James asks us what good is our faith without works and Jesus gives us an example on Holy Thursday and tells us to follow his example.

Richard Rohr says that we must “cooperate with this universal mystery of the Resurrection” and Matthew Kelly tells us in, “Rediscover Catholicism” that Catholicism is a dynamic way of life.

From the secular world we are told “Life is not tried, it is merely survived, if you’re standing outside the fire” (Garth Brooks). Cooperating with God in bringing about the Kingdom of God requires us to enter into the fullness of our faith and be consumed by the fire of God’s love.

At times it means to pray and at times it means to go forth from the tomb and find the risen Jesus in the lives of others and let others experience the risen Jesus in us.

How can we enter fully into the life of Christ, his passion, death and resurrection? The tomb beckons to us. When we find it empty and realize Jesus has truly risen, we must go and spread this Good News that Christ is alive, Christ is truly risen. Alleluia, Alleluia!

Deacon Christopher Colville is a permanent Deacon assigned to Redeemer Parish in Mechanicsville

Fifth Sunday of Lent • April 2, 2017

 By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

Ezekiel 37:12-14, Psalm 130:1-8; Romans 8:8-11, John 11:1-45

If we went out to our local cemetery and saw graves opening up and the dead emerging, we might not quite experience the joy in the scene as expressed by Ezekiel and Paul.

I think that is for two reasons. One, our imagination, for good or ill, has been affected by the images produced by Hollywood for decades.

Second, our imaginations have not fully taken up the promise of God in Ezekiel, “I will put my spirit in you that you may live,” or the assurance of Paul, “But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is alive because of righteousness.”

The famous scene of the dry bones in Ezekiel reminds us that the creation of human beings was a two-step process.

The bones first come together and are formed again with sinew and muscle and skin just as the man was formed from the clay of the earth.

Then Ezekiel is called to prophesy to the breath, that is the Spirit of God, and that breath enters the people and they rise up alive.

But the promise of Ezekiel goes on because it is not just the breath of life that was breathed into the first Adam, but it is a promise of a sharing of God’s very life.

We all have dealt with the loss of loved ones and of friends. We may even now be dealing with our own mortality.

The vision of Ezekiel and the assurances of Paul are more than a salve to our fears of death.

It is the express promise that God will not let death be the final word.

How can we experience the kind of joy Ezekiel and Paul elicit and Martha and Mary experience?

It is the invitation to make the same act of faith in Jesus that He requested of Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, he will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”

It is the act of faith that the apostles made on Easter Sunday; it is the act of faith made by the martyrs and saints throughout the centuries; it is the act of faith made by our parents and forbearers who shared the faith with us; and it is the same act of faith that our catechumens will make when they are baptized this Easter.

“Do you believe this?”

The question is straightforward and boldly put to us.

It is a question that does not accept qualified answers.

It is a question on which everything hangs.

It is literally a question of life and death.

Msgr. Timothy Keeney is pastor of St. Bede’s Church, Williamsburg

Third Sunday of Lent • March 19, 2017

  By Genevieve M. McQuade

Exodus 17:3-7 Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9 Romans 5:1-2, 5-8 John 4:5-42 (or John 4:5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42)

The people grumbled against Moses,” we hear in our Exodus reading. Why?

They thirsted for water. They would not believe God’s closeness and care in their time of trial in the wilderness, until Moses satisfied them with proof of flowing water.

In this era of science and verification, unbelief and cynicism about faith dominate our culture.

People still grumble about religion’s fruits and peoples’ faults and then disavow faith. Many are suspicious of the available answer to their distresses or discomfort.

A similar happening occurs in John’s gospel passage about the Samaritan woman at the well —more easily understood if the entire passage is proclaimed.

It is generally known that the woman exhibits a growing awareness of Jesus’ identity when she and Jesus meet and converse at the town’s public well.

First, she identifies this stranger as a Jew. Then as she’s drawn in, she acknowledges him as a prophet.

Uncannily, Jesus knows all about her wayward and repetitive quest for satisfaction, for life.

Finally, she accepts his word that he is the Messiah that she knows through scripture. He’s now in her presence.

Jesus had asked her for a drink, an astounding event in itself. Jews did not interact with Samaritans, and much less, a woman.

She had tried to hide her disrepute by going out in the hot midday sun to get water, knowing its source would be unoccupied by townspeople.

Jesus saw beyond that searing light into her being, promising her eternal water. She would never thirst again.

The conversation goes well. Jesus showed authority and the forthright woman asked reasonable questions.

Allow me to take some liberty with the tone of her voice. (I’m not saying that it occurred this way.)

For a moment, imagine that she asks mockingly, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”

It’s like saying, “Are you serious? Leave me alone.”

Jesus responds with a “do-you–know–who–I–am?” challenge. He declares that he can provide a spring of living water that will last forever.

Again, she might have answered with incredulity, saying, “You do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water?” Her retort might have sounded like a dare.

Jesus reveals to her his knowledge of her past and present relationships, saying that true worship comes through “the Father in Spirit and truth.”

She knows her scripture well enough to comment “that the Messiah is coming. He will tell us everything.”

The clincher comes when Jesus says, “I am he.”

Even with her candid words, whether spoken in naive curiosity or in superior skepticism, Jesus remains with her, drawing her to himself as the everlasting source of life-giving water.

It’s no wonder that she rushes off, leaving her jug, and perhaps her errant life, to testify to her neighbors about this wonder-man, the Messiah.

Moses listened to God and so did the Samaritan woman. She sought out all those she had been dodging.

They all listened and came to believe.

Do you try the same thing repeatedly and grumble that nothing’s changed?

What gets in the way of sating your thirst, your understanding, and your acceptance?

Moses trusted God. The woman knew the scripture, and in the transforming well of Jesus. She came to believe and to witness.

Don’t be suspicious. “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

Genevieve M. McQuade, who has a master’s degree in theology, is a member of St. Olaf in Norge

First Sunday of Lent • March 5, 2017

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7, Romans 5:12-19, Matthew 4:1-11

In the three synoptic Gospels we have the account of Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist and a proclamation that Jesus is the Son of God and God is pleased with him. Immediately after his baptism Jesus goes to the desert. While in the desert, Jesus is tempted by Satan.

Today’s reading from Matthew, like Luke’s, identifies three specific temptations Satan uses to challenge Jesus. When Jesus is victorious in resisting these challenges, Satan leaves and the angels come and minister to him. The story of Jesus being baptized, affirmed as God’s Son and tempted by the devil is our story as well.

In our baptism we are claimed for Christ and welcomed into God’s holy people, the Church. Once we have received the sacrament, once God claims us for his own, we become targets of Satan and his temptations. Unfortunately we aren’t as successful in resisting temptation and we fail.

We are given this wonderful period of Lent to help us prepare for the celebration of our salvation during the Easter Triduum. To be able to celebrate redemption there must be a recognition of our failures and our need for reconciliation.

Paul addresses this in our second reading. He calls us to focus on our need for reconciliation so that we might fully experience the gift of redemption through Jesus. If my wife was talking to me about this she would say “Focus Daniel-san” trying to draw my attention to what we are supposed to be about during Lent.

As we anticipate the gift of the Easter Triduum which lies ahead, we need to reflect on the areas of our lives where we fail God as his children.

Lent is a time to challenge ourselves to improve and take care of our relationship with God. If we take care of our relationship with God and experience him more fully in our lives, we can help others experience God more fully in their lives. Taking care of our relationship with God means improving our communication with God, finding ways to strengthen our faith and finding more opportunities to experience God’s joy and love in our lives.

By improving our relationship with God, we also improve our relationship with other members of God’s family. Lent should be a time for this, a time of developing a deeper relationship with God.

In the Gospel, Jesus is tempted three times. Many commentaries identify the three temptations of Jesus as the three areas with which the Jewish people were tempted as they journeyed for forty years in the desert. They are our temptations as well. Satan tempts us in the areas of power and position, material possessions and wealth, pleasure and satisfaction.

During Lent we should ask ourselves some questions. Do position and possessions dominate my life? Do I use my position in life to rule people and set harsh expectations on them? Do I need to have the newest and greatest of everything? Does the Devil tempt me to be stingy with the gifts God has given me? Am I generous in giving my time with my family, parents, grandparents and other members of God’s people?

What would happen if we all worked on overcoming one temptation and a greater sharing of one gift each week during Lent? How much closer will our relationship be with God? How much better will our relationship be with our families and the rest of God’s people?

Deacon Christopher Colville is a permanent Deacon assigned to Redeemer Parish in Mechanicsville

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time • February 19, 2017

 By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18, Psalm 103:1-4, 8, 10, 12-13, 1 Corinthians 3: 16-23, Matthew 5:38-48

As someone who sits in the confessional, a priest hears and counsels people with the struggles of the human condition. To these privileged conversations he hopefully brings not only the sacramental power of God’s love, but also an awareness of his own struggles and need for God’s merciful love.

Week after week and year after year, one of the most common struggles that people bring to the sacrament of reconciliation is their own tendencies toward anger and holding grudges.

This anger can be directed to those in their own families, or can be directed at those who lead our nation or church. Sometimes people are able to control this anger for a period of time, but seething below the surface it can erupt when unexpectedly triggered. They come to the sacrament because they feel their anger and grudges control them rather than the other way around.

Political commentators and politicians talk about the need to restore a “civil society.” Yet the very ones who lament the loss of the ability to have civil discourse in society, are the ones who always seem to blame those they disagree with as being the primary offenders —seeing the other as the enemy.

Christianity does not want to establish or restore a “civil society,” where the highest value is merely tolerance. The challenge of divine revelation and especially of the Gospel is enemy love.

The reading from Leviticus connects love of neighbor with love of self. Jesus teaches that the love of neighbor does not end with your family, friends, neighbors, fellow citizens, or those who agree with you.

We are called to love those who see us as enemies, who would persecute us. Why? Because to love in this way is to take on the person of Jesus himself, who loved in this way. This is the very essence of being a disciple to be able to say, “I live no more, but it is Christ that lives within me.”

The quick response to this call is that it is impossible, and that quick call would be correct. How can I “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” “For man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

One of the theologians who I was privileged to study under was Fr. John Fuellenbach, S.V.D. One of his insights is that Jesus was rejected and ultimately died for the “God image” of the Father in which he lived and taught – the forgiving Father.

Fr. Fuellenbach extended that analogy by saying that those who have a difficult time with the faith or with living out the faith should look at what “God image” out of which they are working.

Looking at the political and international discourse that is happening around us, imagine how it would be transformed if all of us lived out of an image of God who personifies “enemy love.”

Msgr. Timothy Keeney is pastor of St. Bede’s Church, Williamsburg

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time • February 5, 2017

  By Genevieve M. McQuade

Isaiah 58:7-10, Psalm 112:4-9, 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, Matthew 5:13-16

Are you an introvert, extravert…or an ambivert? (That’s a new word to me, too!)

An ambivert has some traits of both personalities. Many are uneasy when they extend too much of themselves.

Others absolutely thrive in interaction with others.

Jesus tells his disciples, “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything.”

Then he adds, “You are the light of the world.”

What do these images about salt and light really mean for us spiritually?

They identify us as extending and transcending ourselves in a variety of ways to glorify the Father, regardless of our personalities.

Obviously, light allows us to see and discover, and we are enlightened when we discover the truth and truly encounter Jesus who said “I am the light of the world.”

We first must have his light shine upon us in in a personal relationship with Jesus, just like his disciples experienced.

Joining Jesus by being baptized meant transcending our human limitations.

Our light is to shine through our various personalities with the grace of the Holy Spirit, so others may be more open to that light for themselves. The light cannot be hidden or denied.

To say that one is called the “salt of the earth” usually means that a person is habitually decent in kindness, reliability, or honesty.

If their character should change, that’s like salt losing its characteristic flavor. The character of a Christian must be sustained.

There’s more. Salt doesn’t only season food so itís not bland.

The thoughts of a favorite scripture theologian follow (Fr. Eugene LaVerdiere, S.S.S.).

He wrote that salt had many functions in biblical times. It symbolized life itself. It helped retain water in the arid desert climate; and it was a preservative. It was valuable in these ways, and so it was even used as barter. Moreover, it was also related to the ever important sacrifices to God. Sacrifice represented communion with God, and salt, a known preservative, was thought to sustain that relationship.

If we are called the salt of the earth, we certainly don’t want to be considered “no longer good for anything!” We want to be “preserved” as Christ followers.


The disciples gathered and ate together with Jesus, literally “taking salt” with them repeatedly after his resurrection.

By being a committed follower, by taking on the personal responsibility of the mission of Jesus, and by calling others to this meal sustained them and sustains us today in our Mass.

Ministry and mission are not to be mere imitations of actions but are to be anointed endeavors, that is, enflamed by Jesus’ Holy Spirit. Now, as in St. Paul’s day, once the anointing of the Holy Spirit transforms a person, a Christian is impelled to serve God.

One’s very being becomes energized, missioned, and receives direction and purpose for both life and death.

Isaiah names some ways, “Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them…if you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday.”

These deeds can be done in a spiritual way as well when you share the light and life of Jesus’ good news in addition to the more recognized material ways, but always “with a demonstration of Spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”

No matter what your personality, let it be a tool to shine brightly and flavor the world around you!

Genevieve M. McQuade, who has a master’s degree in theology, is a member of St. Olaf in Norge

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time • January 22, 2017

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

Isaiah 8:23-9:3, 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17, Matthew 4:12-23

The Gospel this week has the two familiar scenes of Jesus calling four of his disciples: first Peter and Andrew; then James and John. There are three things we should consider about these two events: how Jesus called the Apostles, the circumstances in which he called them, and their response.

Mary and Zechariah had an angel appear to them. The shepherds saw angels and the Magi had a star appear in the heavens. For the Apostles there were no visits from angels or dreams involved.

There wasn’t a burning bush like the one Moses saw or miracles or signs by Jesus to draw their attention. There wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. Jesus just said, “Come follow me” and he called them in the ordinary activities of their lives. They were working with their fathers to provide for their families, doing the work of fishermen.

Although Jesus probably walked by them intentionally and promised to make them fishers of men, they didn’t really know who he was at the time or what that meant.

In these respects there is no difference in the call of the Apostles and our call today. Jesus simply calls us and this call comes in the vocation we have chosen to follow in our lives and in the events of our everyday lives. Members of the clergy, priests and deacons, live out this call as ordained ministers. Permanent deacons also live out this call with the laity in their vocation as parents, lawyers, accountants, educators, students, work at home moms or dads, construction workers, doctors, nurses, counselors, auto mechanics, architects, engineers, etc.

Young people live out their call as students, siblings, athletes, etc. In the everyday, regular events of our lives, God calls us to follow him and to bring his presence to the world. Although how we respond to this call may change over time, the call is still the same, to bring God’s presence to the world through the vocation of our lives.

The other extraordinary thing about this episode is the reaction of the four men. “Come follow me,” Jesus says and they immediately drop their nets, leave their family behind and follow Jesus. I have often wondered about Peter’s wife’s response to him leaving the source of the family income to follow an itinerant preacher. What would we say if our spouse came home and said, “I was called by God to go out and preach the Gospel, so I left my job today?” For most of us Jesus doesn’t want us to quit our jobs. He does however, want the same type of response from us: to follow him today, not next year or when the children are grown. He doesn’t want us to wait until we graduate, retire or get a better job. He wants us to say yes to his call now.

Last week we heard from Isaiah, “the Lord said, I will make you a light to the nations that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”  This week we hear from Isaiah and in the Gospel, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” There is no doubt Jesus is that great light or that Jesus calls us to be his light to the world. We must be ready to recognize the call and respond when it comes.

Where in my life does God call me? How can I answer that call?

Deacon Christopher Colville is a permanent Deacon assigned to Redeemer Parish in Mechanicsville

Epiphany of the Lord January 8 • January 2, 2017

 By Msgr. R. Francis Muench

Isaiah 60:1-6, Psalm 72:1-2,7-8,10-13, Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6, Matthew 2:1-12

Now when Jesus was born…there came from the East WISE MEN.”

Few words in Scripture have provoked the speculation of that one term, “MAGOI,” which the New American Bible, and others, render “wise men.”

The idea that they were kings seems to have gained popularity during the Middle Ages, in part due to the fact that the gifts they brought correspond to those mentioned by Isaiah and in Psalm 72.

Even the notion that they were “astrologers” stretches the point a bit, though it is known that such people journeyed from Babylon to Naples to honor the Emperor Nero in 66 A.D.

The best that can be said is that the “magoi” were a class of Persian priests whose task it was to read the “signs” of this world because of their consequences for a “world” as yet unseen. And to that degree, however perplexing their pedigree, the “magoi” are a critical part of this feast.

Because on the feast of the Epiphany we are invited to read not only the “signs” that Nature sets before us, but to examine all the images and insinuations of God’s presence, not only to us, but through us.

Whether we will be misread, misnamed, or otherwise misunderstood, we must be ready to stand among the “magoi”: –ready to manifest the message of the Messiah even in the presence of hostility; –ready to offer homage to Jesus Christ howsoever humble His circumstances; –ready with the “wise” to exalt before the whole world its Savior and to welcome at its rising, His star.

Msgr. Muench is the Judicial Vicar for the Diocese of   Richmond.

Nativity of the Lord, Mass During the Day • December 25, 2016

  By Genevieve M. McQuade

Isaiah 52:7-10, Psalm 98:1-6, Hebrews 1:1-6, John 1:1-18

News alert! God is in our midst! Major witnesses have been given to all media. They’re all about the boundless and undeserved gift of full life to us in the birth of one baby boy, Jesus.

It’s Christmas!

Fittingly then, we have many rich testimonies from which to choose. Did you know that the Lectionary (from which we hear the reader proclaim at Mass), has different readings for different times during Christmas? They include the Nativity of the Lord Mass during the Night; the Vigil Mass; Mass at Dawn; and Mass during the Day, plus the possibility of individual readings selected from them.

The focus is on the birth of God as the holy Infant. At home, we probably set up the sweet crèche scene with the holy family, at least one angel, a shepherd, animals, straw and all, and perhaps prematurely, the gift-giving magi with their camels, and of course, a sparkling tree. Do we create this merely as a fanciful impression of history, or is its depiction understood earnestly as the awesome event affecting our entire lives?

Nowadays, many families attend the afternoon and evening masses before Christmas Day on the Eve before. Those readings describe the setting around the birth of Jesus from the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The readings from the gospel of John are heard only on Christmas morning, heard far less than the others. Those are the readings I’ll reflect on here.

Before the Incarnation, this Holy Infant had spiritual being in the Trinity first and foremost, not as a baby, but as the Son of God, as the Word, always and forever. He was “the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God,” proclaims John’s gospel. What intimacy with God the Father and the Holy Spirit! No other “god” has ever done so or can do so – never, ever!

On this very planet, God’s supreme self-revelation entered through a humble family, with a vulnerable baby, all insignificant in the Roman-ruled times. In heaven it was quite the opposite.

Because of the fanfare we give to gift buying, decorating, meal preparation, and more, might we devalue the reality of almighty God coming to meet us, his creation? Do we grasp the meaning of the superlative verses of many glorious Christmas hymns? This feast day expresses the revelation of God’s one and only Son, eye to eye, face to face, in the humanity of the Christ Child.

This, the crucial event of history, initiated God’s loving intervention to reverse the human condition of sin-separation from God, who ultimately saves us through Jesus’ passion and resurrection. The overarching event is Jesus’ entire life bringing us the opportunity for our salvation. For “those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God.” For us, what is necessary to fulfill God’s plan is to receive and believe. This is why God came to Earth that we might sing “Hallelujah!” forever. This is a cosmic event!

It’s no wonder that Luke’s gospel, proclaimed at midnight, says, “And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” May “all the ends of the earth…behold the salvation of our God (Isaiah 52:10).

May you have a blessed and a “Hallelujah” Christmas!

God is in our midst! Spread this new alert!

Genevieve M. McQuade, who has a master’s degree in theology, is a member of St. Olaf in Norge

Third Sunday in Advent • December 5, 2016

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

Isaiah 35:1-6, 10 James 5:7-10 Matthew 11: 2-11

Advent helps us call to mind the coming of the Word of God in three different ways. The first was as the Messiah whose birth we celebrate. St. Cyril of Jerusalem comments that this coming was marked by patience. The Jewish people were very patient waiting for their Messiah; they waited for centuries.

However, when the Messiah finally appeared the majority of the people didn’t recognize the Chosen One of God. Jesus was not the military Messiah for whom the Jewish people had been waiting.

This week we encounter John again. He is in prison and probably knows he is near the end of his life. Knowing this, he sends some of his disciples to Jesus to ask if he is the one. I think there may be two reasons why John sent his disciples.

Maybe John, like so many others, was also looking for a military messiah. When he hears of Jesus preaching love and peace, he questions if this is what the scriptures meant and wants to make sure. The disciples come back and report what they see and what they hear: the lame can walk; the blind can see; lepers are healed and the dead are raised to life.

More importantly, people are set free from within by the good news. John would have been very familiar with the scriptures that Jesus quotes and when he hears Jesus’ reply, maybe he leapt for joy again, like he did in his mother’s womb.

Maybe he thought, “Yes, this is what the scriptures mean, the Messiah will set people free from within.”

The other reason John might have sent his disciples to Jesus was for their benefit.

Maybe John needed his disciples to hear what Jesus had to say and see what he was doing. John tried to tell them he wasn’t the Messiah and went so far as to tell them that Jesus must increase and he must decrease.

John didn’t want his death to detract from Jesus’ ministry. He wanted his followers to understand that Jesus was the one.

The challenge from the Scriptures this weekend is to recognize the true meaning of what we celebrate. So much of the world looks upon Christmas as the time from Thanksgiving until December twenty-fifth and fails to recognize the true meaning of Christmas and the presence of God in our lives.

Luckily for us, the Church helps us remember the true meaning of Christmas, helps us prepare for it during this season of Advent.

We are reminded Jesus is the one; he must increase and we must decrease. Like John we are called to let others know this important message and understand what it means for us as Church, as community, and as individuals.

We are called to set prisoners free, help the lame walk, help the blind see and give hope to the world. How can we do this you might ask? We know where people are imprisoned by loneliness or sickness. We know where people hunger for companionship and respect.

We know where people need help to walk in faith. These are the people to whom we are sent.

Before we can serve others and help them see and walk and have hope, we need to do the same for ourselves.

What do we hunger for in our lives and how can we satisfy that hunger? Where are we imprisoned in our lives? How are we blind or lame?

Deacon Christopher Colville is a permanent Deacon assigned to Redeemer Parish in Mechanicsville

First Sunday in Advent • November 21, 2016

 By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

Isaiah 2: 1-5 Psalm 122: 1-9 Romans 13: 11-14 Matthew 24: 37-44

At the end of the movie “Fiddler on the Roof” after the Jewish community has been disbanded in a pogrom, Yenta the match-maker asks, “You know how every year we say, ‘Next Year in Jerusalem?’ Well guess where I am going?” Tevya’s wife responds, “Jerusalem?” Surprised Yenta says, “You guessed!”

Next year in Jerusalem was a phrase used by the Jewish community, especially before the re-establishment of the “State of Israel,” as a way of giving a message of hope that God had not abandoned His people. It was a phrase meant to lift up hearts that seemed burdened by the weight of present troubles. With the establishment of the Jewish state, the phrase has been re-interpreted within Judaism to express hope in the definitive coming of the Messiah.

As Christians reading the prophet Isaiah we also see the heavenly Jerusalem as the definitive Kingdom of God, and inaugurated by Jesus Christ – the very messiah for which His people longed. We have the image from Isaiah of the New Jerusalem with all the nations climbing the Lord’s mountain to encounter the living God. There is a palpable sense of excitement that exudes from this vision.

It is tied to another vision of the Second Advent of the Savior coming at an unexpected hour. This second image could be received not with expectant joy, but rather with some good amount of trepidation. Part of this switch in mood can be seen though an emphasis on the Second Coming of Christ as inaugurating the Final Judgment.

Advent is a season of joyful preparation, not of fearful anticipation. How do we marry the two? The answer can be in something that we have lost from how the early church celebrated the Eucharist. They saw every Eucharist—not primarily as Jesus coming down upon the altar – but as the Trinity’s invitation for all to ascend to the Heavenly Jerusalem, by joining themselves to the sacrifice of Christ offered upon that altar. That final coming of Christ is not something that is reserved for the end of days, but with living hope we experience even now.

“Next year in Jerusalem” is a phrase to encourage future hope. During our Eucharist we have a different phrase which is meant to do the same and more, “Lift up your hearts.” We lift up our hearts that the very purpose of God’s plan for the world is made present at Mass, as all creation is joined with the gift of Jesus Christ offered up to the Father in the Spirit. We lift up our hearts that in the midst of our present struggles, doubts, and fears that the coming of Christ in power is made real in our lives. We lift up our hearts in hope – a hope that will not be disappointed—that the One who has come, is now present among us, and will come again.

If you want to prepare your Advent as a season of expectant hope I suggest, as part of your preparation for Mass, that you regularly recall and pray the words, “We lift up our hearts.”

Msgr. Timothy Keeney is pastor of St. Bede’s Church, Williamsburg

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time • November 13, 2016

 By Genevieve M. McQuade

Malachi 3:19-20a Psalm 98:5-6, 7-9 2 Thess. 3:7-12 Luke 21:5-19

Fresh beginnings often present themselves with hope for good outcomes, but sometimes endings can be less than we had hoped for. Together, beginnings and endings can enlighten us if we take a second look.

Soon we will have an opportunity to begin our liturgical life anew with Advent arriving before we know it!

Nearing the end of this liturgical year, it’s a good time to look back to see if we have spent our time well or not since its beginning last year.

Luke’s gospel describes elements of the “end times” which are in our Lectionary’s scripture readings towards the end of every liturgical year.

You might hear end times described as “eschatology” (es’katahl’ogee). Taking the mystery out of such an odd word, it simply means a period of time dealing with the return of Christ and the events that follow.

In Luke’s era (and even to this day), many attempted to predict an exact time of that arrival based on “signs,” whereas our aim is simply to continue to live wisely regardless of deceptive or frightful predictions.

Luke wrote for his contemporaries who believed that Jesus’ second coming was near.

He refutes this idea by portraying Jesus warning his disciples not to follow those who say that the time has come, and for them to not be terrified by the threatening scenarios he described.

The same goes for us as well so many centuries later. We too could be dismayed at these alarming images considering that we see and hear about such distressing news broadcast every day.

Unfortunately, we see a growing climate of destructive hate at home and worldwide.

We too need to be wise and discerning. The ETA, that is, the estimated time of arrival, can be soon or eons off in the future.

It doesn’t matter!

What does matter is that we need to realign our direction towards the kingdom of God, understand our purpose in life, pray for stronger faith, live honorably, cooperate with God’s plan for each of us, and remain firm in our trust in God.

Jesus told his followers that “by your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

In second Thessalonians, Paul declares that “we wanted to present ourselves as a model for you, so that you might imitate us,” meaning that he and his companions lived with integrity and honor.

They did not freeload off the Thessalonian disciples for food. The Thessalonians had started to let go of their work.

Some were living in a “disordered” way and meddling in other people’s business based on false predictions of the parousia (pah-roo-see’-uh, the second coming of Christ).

And so our readings prompt us to consider the past year, how we spend our time, and how we can be strengthened.

We are to care for, and if necessary, reform ourselves according to God’s plan. We can end this year in a solid and upright way.

In Malachi, it says “the proud and all evildoers will be stubble,” but “for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.”

What a way to end and enter into a new beginning on course for healing rays!

Genevieve M. McQuade, who has a master’s degree in theology, is a member of St. Olaf in Norge

31st Sunday Ordinary Time • October 24, 2016

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

Wisdom 11:22–12:2 2 Thessalonians 1:11-22 Luke 19:1-10

Have you ever literally been out on a limb? When I was a young boy I climbed up a tree to avoid someone. I went as high up and as far out as I could safely go. I took a chance climbing that high and this person ended up right behind me. This was a person who meant me no harm and who only wanted to be with me and whom I wanted to avoid. This weekend we hear about Zacchaeus who took a chance leaving his house and climbing a tree, not to get away from anyone but to see Jesus. He too became trapped. Once up there, he couldn’t come down. He was a chief tax collector and wasn’t well liked. Jesus recognized him, called him by name, and invited himself into Zacchaeus’ house. This made a difference; Jesus had called him by name and wanted to spend time at his house.

Immediately before this Gospel passage is the story of the blind man who takes a risk. He calls to Jesus and when rebuked by those around him to stop, he takes a greater risk and calls out even more. He took a risk and his sight was restored. Zacchaeus took a risk and was rewarded with seeing Jesus and Jesus’ presence in his house. He responded to Jesus’ call and makes a proclamation about how he is going to change his life. These stories are really not about physical sight but rather faith. The blind man went out on a limb figuratively speaking. He was rewarded with sight. Zacchaeus went out on a limb, literally and figuratively, and was rewarded with Jesus’ presence in his life.

Jesus calls us to take risks; to leave our security and become changed people. He invites himself into our lives. Bidden or not bidden, whether he is asked or not, he wants to be part of our lives. He gives us this opportunity in Sacraments, liturgy, scripture. He also gives us this opportunity by being in the people we encounter in our world and in those we avoid. Zacchaeus responded to Jesus’ invitation to come to his home. Jesus makes that same invitation to us, “Today I will come to your house.”

It is important to remember that the early Church expected Jesus to return anytime. Paul warns the Thessalonians not to be ‘shaken out of their minds’ by statements that the day of the Lord is at hand, not to be deceived by others about his return. The day or the time of the Second Coming was not known then and is not known now. Paul tells the Thessalonians and us that all have been called through the Gospel to possess the glory of the Lord Jesus. Jesus calls us in this time and place to help bring about that glory of God in our world.

We are challenged to come out of our comfort zones, to go out on a limb; not to avoid people, but rather to look for Jesus and share Jesus in the lives of those around us. When was the last time we left our comfort zone to find and share Jesus? When was the last time we went out on a limb to share Jesus with our world, to see Jesus in the lives of others?

Deacon Christopher Colville is a permanent Deacon assigned to Redeemer Parish in Mechanicsville

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time • October 10, 2016

 By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

Exodus 17:8-13 Psalm 121:1-8 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2 Luke 18:1-8

We hear stories in the news of families who have persevered in seeking out new evidence to free a loved one who they believe has been wrongly convicted of a crime.

After years of hard work or sometimes new technology applied to the evidence, they are able to convince the judge that the facts were different than those presented at the original trial.

The wrongly convicted man or woman is set free.

Is this the kind of perseverance that we are being asked to practice in the readings today from Exodus and in the parable from Luke?

Are we being asked to change God’s mind with our prayer?

Doesn’t God know what he is going to do from all eternity?

How can we change his mind, and why should we pray if our prayers have no effect?

It would seem, however, that we “influence” God when we are in his will. In other words, if we are walking in the will of God and we ask God for something in prayer, then we are more likely to receive an answer because we are doing what he wants.

In contrast, if we are out of the will of God and we ask him for something, he will not give it since it is not in his will.

So, if we are walking in the will of God and we pray, we are praying according to his will and our prayers are answered in the affirmative.

However, if we are not in his will, they’re not answered in the affirmative. Therefore, the issue isn’t if God answers our prayers, because he does. The issue is whether or not our prayers, and ourselves, are abiding in God’s will so that our prayers will be answered.

We are a fickle people and especially in this new century we have the very real temptation to move on if our needs are not met quickly.

We zap from one program to another as we watch television. We surf the internet as entertainment—learning the headlines but rarely going into any depth on any subject.

Is it any wonder that we struggle with being faithful in prayer over the long haul?

Prayer does not change God, but it does change us. Like Moses we need the assistance of others to help us persevere in prayer.

We easily tire and become weary, but perseverance in prayer make us open to hearing the will of God and giving us the grace to cooperate with the graces given in answer to those prayers.

We do not need to change God’s mind, because he already wants to give us everything we need to meet all our true needs.

Help one another to pray without becoming weary. When you see someone struggling, ask them if you can pray with them.

When you come to Mass make sure that one of the petitions you carry with you into the Eucharist is to pray for those who no longer pray.

Cultivate family prayer as the school of faith that allows us to hear and follow the will of God.

Msgr. Timothy Keeney is pastor of St. Bede’s Church, Williamsburg

Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time • September 26, 2016

 By Genevieve M. McQuade

Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4 Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9 2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14 Luke 17:5-10

You’re certainly familiar with the common traditions of our faith like attending Mass, doing good works, and praying. Is this “having the faith?” Our prayer often seeks help yet we may get few results. Why? Let’s take a look at relationships.

Could the measure of a rewarding return for intentions or good deeds affect the depth of a relationship? We ask God for so many things. Isn’t it likely that we also ask God for more faith?

Our Catechism says that faith is a gift of God. We can’t earn faith. It is a supernatural virtue imparted by God. God invites and awaits our response as an assent, a yes, in “the obedience of faith.” Faith means that we submit freely to the truth we’ve heard.

In our gospel this week, the Apostles were not getting the results they wanted either. These dedicated men, who walked with Jesus no less, asked him for more faith to do the works Jesus himself had called them to do.

Jesus admonishes them saying that their faith had not yet grown even to the minimal size of a mustard seed. Jesus’ puzzling answer was not exactly what they wanted to hear.

Jesus also used an example of a servant who only does mere requirements which would make him an “unprofitable” servant! That seems harsh, doesn’t it? After all, asking seemed the right thing to do. Jesus is saying that obedience is a necessary base line but more is desired.

Do we look to our faith as if we must strain for it as if we started it? Since we don’t create faith by our efforts, we can nevertheless deepen our bond by expanding our reception of God’s grace. Again, the Catechism helps us saying we can strengthen our faith with scripture, act in charity, have hope, and, of course, ask the Lord to increase our faith. We can always ask for more faith but not demand it, be grateful, and wait on God’s timing.

In “Novo Millennio Ineunte,” an Apostolic Letter, Pope St. John Paul II emphasized that we are to recognize the primacy of grace in our prayer and to renew our attitudes towards grace and prayer in a personal way. How? He wrote that faith needs the aid of the Holy Spirit to grow through contemplation, study, and pondering of our own glimpses of God’s action in our lives.

In other words, we can deliberately foster our sensitivity so our faith can increase in tune with God’s grace, the grace which is present within us even before we respond. We need to be immersed ever more fully into the life of God. We can’t allow today’s world to erode our belief. It is more urgent than ever that we pray, letting God be our companion always. Seek the Giver of faith.

Pope St. John Paul II wrote: “It is prayer which roots us in this truth. It constantly reminds us of the primacy of Christ and, in union with him, the primacy of the interior life and of holiness. When this principle is not respected, is it any wonder that pastoral [and our] plans come to nothing and leave us with a disheartening sense of frustration?”

How’s your relationship doing?

We have three things to remember: our prayer, our response towards God, and our expectations. Do we expect a return or to be humbly graced in purer action or intention?

“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”(Psalm 95:8)

Genevieve M. McQuade, who has a master’s degree in theology, is a member of St. Olaf in Norge

Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time • September 12, 2016

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

Catechetical Sunday  Amos 8:4-7 1 Tim 2:1-8 Luke 16:1-13

The economy of Jesus’ time was very different from today’s. In today’s economy, goods are passed from the producer to the consumer through at least one and maybe two or three middle men. Each one adds to the price the consumer pays for the goods.

In the economy of Jesus’ time the steward was the middle man. He took the master’s goods and sold them at a price to make a profit for the owner and himself, much like the tax collector who added to the tax imposed to make his living.

Tax collectors were notorious for adding much more to the tax. That is how they got rich and one of the reasons the Jewish people disliked tax collectors so much. So it may have been with the steward in the Gospel reading. He may have overcharged customers for the goods so that he and his master made a good profit.

Many of Jesus’ stories or parables, like the parable of the dishonest steward, have a twist in it, something that goes counter to what the people of Jesus’ time would expect. Last Sunday it was the prodigal son, two weeks ago it was hating mother and father to be a disciple and just before that it was “the first shall be last and the last shall be first.”

We may at times have problems understanding or even agreeing with parables. The difficulty we might have with this parable is that at the end the master commends the steward. We need to remember it is not the dishonesty of the steward but rather his prudence in providing for himself for which the master praises him.

The Gospel tells us, “The master commended the dishonest servant for acting prudently.” Some scripture scholars think that the master kept the steward on after showing this resourcefulness.

The steward in the parable has tremendous authority and ability in selling his master’s goods; he was a shrewd businessman. Like many examples we could cite today, he misused this authority and talent.

Amos addresses the same type of people in the first reading. We are told they couldn’t wait for the feast and Sabbath to be over so they could cheat the people. Amos warns them that God will not forget the actions of those who “trample the needy and destroy the poor.”

Like the dishonest steward, they are called to task for misusing their gifts. Is Amos also addressing us for misusing the gifts and talents God has given us? Do we lord it over others and take advantage of them?

This weekend we celebrate Catechetical Sunday and are reminded of our baptismal call to pass on our faith to others. God has given each of us gifts and talents to do this work he calls us to do.

The message for us in these readings is to be cautious in how we use these gifts and to use them as God intended. So we must ask ourselves if we use our gifts for the betterment of God’s people, for our community and the larger community of the world, or are we like the steward who used his gifts for his own personal welfare?

Do we squander our gifts or misuse them to the detriment of those we are called to serve? Amos challenged the rich for abusing the poor rather using their wealth to help them. How do these scriptures challenge us to use our gifts?

Deacon Christopher Colville is a permanent Deacon assigned to Redeemer Parish in Mechanicsville

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time • August 29, 2016

 By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

Wisdom 9: 13-18b Psalm 90: 3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14-17 Philemon 9-10, 12-17 Luke 14: 25-33

In Ronald Rolheiser’s book “Sacred Fire: A Vision for a Deeper Human and Christian Maturity” Rolheiser offers a scriptural challenge, using the Emmaus story, to help us stretch our imaginations in order to understand the cross. He suggests that the reason the disciples were walking away from Jerusalem on Easter Sunday was a failure of imagination. A failure to comprehend how the shame of the crucifixion could end in any way other than a complete loss of faith in Jesus – even though they had heard the news of the empty tomb. Jesus’ conversation with them on the way as he opened the scriptures to them was to show these faltering disciples that those scriptures could only be understood properly in light of that same cross.

Our three scripture readings this Sunday ask similar questions – Wisdom questions – do we have the imagination to even conceive of what the Lord intends? Paul asks Philomen to stretch his imagination to see in Onesimus, not the slave he owned as property, but the brother he had become through incorporation into Christ.

Jesus stretches his disciples to the point of breaking by insisting that no one could be his disciple unless that disciple came to Him hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters and even his own life.

This was not how they were taught to think; and, although we have heard the gospel proclaimed for over two millennium, it is not an easy fit within the parameters of our own thinking either.

How do we stretch our imaginations? How do we invite the Lord to similarly open up the word as we walk along the way, and to have our hearts begin to burn within us? The evangelization of the imagination was one of the projects of Saint Ignatius of Loyola when he was inspired to develop “The Spiritual Exercises.” My own experience of the 30 day retreat is a spiritual well that I go back to again and again.

Not everyone will have the opportunity or be so inclined to do a 30 day retreat, but there is an exercise you can try that stretches your imagination to open up the deeper meanings of scripture. Take any of the three readings offered by the Church this Sunday. After you have read one of them slowly, close your eyes.

Put yourself in the place where this reading was first spoken or written. Imagine your surroundings, the sky, the landscape, the plants and people around you. In your imagination, talk to the disciples, the crowd, Paul, Philomen, Onesimus, or Solomon.

What is their reaction to what they are hearing or reading? Then imagine Jesus quietly sitting next to you – looking directly into your eyes. Then you hear His voice, “This is what I want you to hear from what you have just read.” And then let the Holy Spirit play with your imagination.

My bet is that your imagination will stretch your ability to hear the scripture at a deeper level – stretched for glory. The gospel is meant to evangelize our whole person, our minds, our hearts, our actions. Why not also our imaginations?

Msgr. Timothy Keeney is pastor of St. Bede’s Church, Williamsburg

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time • August 15, 2016

 By Genevieve M. McQuade

Isaiah 66:18-21 Psalm 117:1-2 Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13 Luke 13:22-30

When I was in high school, I remember my biology teacher encouraging me to persevere with my lengthy experiment for a science competition. I was to make the effort and follow through. Her coined word was “stick-to-it-ice-ness”! I started something and had to complete it and do it well.

What about you? Are you compliant or resistant with your responsibilities?

Do you stick with it? Do you do what seems to be necessary, and that’s it? In other words, you might put a limit on your attempts.

You work or do homework or pay bills or get regular health check-ups, etc. You expect good paybacks. After all, you show up at work, but is that job done conscientiously? A student hands in homework most of the time, but is it really understood? You pay bills on time, but is the debt reasonable? You see your physician now and then, but how’s your exercise and diet?

How does this relate to Luke’s gospel? Jesus is on the way to his destiny in Jerusalem to save all. Someone asks him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” to which Jesus replies about striving “to enter through the narrow door,” and many “will not be strong enough.”

Then, Jesus tells a rather chilling story about a master and one who wishes to enter his house: The master of the house will say “I do not know where you are from.” And you will say, ”We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.” Then he will say to you [a second time], “I do not know where you are from. Depart from me.”

We too have a destiny towards union with God to which we must be sincerely faithful. If we think that if we do the drill, pray once in a while, go to Mass even every week, don’t murder, steal, or interact unsuitably with others lives, we’ll have it made. Whoa! That attitude is real cause for reviewing one’s spiritual stance.

The Catechism speaks about the sin of presumption whether we may be overconfident of God’s mercy without requiring true conversion or if we try to accomplish salvation on our own without the need for God’s grace. Presumption sins against the virtue of hope. The Catechism says that each one of us should humbly hope, with the grace of God, to persevere to the end.

As the gospel exhorts us, we need to strive to surpass our chosen limits by asking God’s grace. How? We can ask Jesus to be the Lord of our lives and ask for the Holy Spirit to enable us to give our lives to God. Sign up for adult formation offerings at your parish.

Leave no stone unturned in strengthening the Spirit within. The rest is God’s gratuitous grace coupled with that striving stick-to-it-ive-ness.

You may have encountered a faithful Christian who asks, “Have you been saved?” I’ve found this wonderful answer acknowledging God’s providential action: “I have been saved from the penalty of sin by Christ’s death and resurrection. I am being saved from the power of sin by the indwelling Spirit. I have the hope that I shall one day be saved from the very presence of sin when I go to be with God” (from St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, Picayune, Mississippi).

We can complete what we’ve started through God’s grace helping us with our compliance to change and grow…without limit. Press on.

Genevieve M. McQuade, who has a master’s degree in theology, is a member of St. Olaf in Norge

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time • August 1, 2016

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

Wisdom 18:6-9 Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19 Luke 12:32-48

We hear about Abraham this weekend in both the second reading and the Gospel. We are told of his tremendous faith in God and in God’s promise, so much so that he and Sarah left their home and traveled to a distant place. He and Sarah lived in tents, becoming strangers in the land in which they traveled. In answering God’s call, they became homeless and refugees. The Gospel tells us he did this out of faith and because of that he was richly rewarded. Because of his faith he was blessed with sons even though he and Sarah were beyond child-bearing age.

So the scriptures are about God’s call in our lives, being ready and answering that call. By virtue of our baptism, we are all called to serve God. However, he may call us in different ways throughout our lives. This summer young adults have answered the call to travel to work camps to serve those in need. My wife and I recently listened to a young adult who has just graduated from college and like Abraham is answering the call to leave her home and travel to a college campus with FOCUS, to help bring Christ’s presence to college students. Another young adult made a presentation about committing to a year of service through NET Ministries, traveling from place to place putting on retreats and serving young people in parishes. God calls us as husbands and wives, and as parents when our children are born. Men and women are called to travel to a foreign country to minister to God’s people and to be ministered to by them. Some of us are called to serve others in our daily work and some of us retire from one career and are called to serve in different ways.

The Gospel reading also tells us to be vigilant, to watch for the coming of the Lord, to be prepared. We are told that we don’t know when God will come to us and call us. The scriptures tell us to be like servants awaiting the return of the master.

God will come and call us in our peace and security to serve him. We celebrate that Jesus came to us in time and history; we celebrate that He will come again, and we celebrate that He comes to us in our daily lives. We just don’t know when or how He will come and call us. God will come to us when we are young, middle-aged and in the eve of our lives. God will come to us through people, through events, and through things in our lives. The Gospel lays the challenge before us to be ready to answer the call whenever and wherever it comes.

The question that is left to us is how we prepare. I think we prepare ourselves by putting ourselves in God’s presence. Through prayer and the sacraments we place ourselves in God’s presence and open ourselves to God. We can prepare by reading the scriptures and other spiritual reading. We also prepare through experiences in our lives. We heard in the last edition of the Catholic Virginian how Fr. Jonathan Goertz prepared himself to find God in the homeless by spending a night with them in a shelter.

How can we be vigilant in listening for God’s call and how can we be prepared for it when it comes? How can we respond to that call in our lives?

Deacon Christopher Colville is a permanent Deacon assigned to Redeemer Parish in Mechanicsville

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time • July 18, 2016

 By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

Genesis 18:20-32 Psalm 138:1-3, 6-8 Colossians 2:12-14 Luke 11:1-13

When you go to a Barnes & Noble Bookstore, perhaps you shop something like I do. I usually go to the “just released” table first and then to the “best seller” shelves.

Then I go to sections where I have a general interest like history or biography. When I’m about to check out I often check the bargain shelves for a deal on a book that I might have missed when it was first released or a classic about which I had forgotten.

I would like to point you to the bargain table today for your spiritual reading. On the bargain shelves is one of those forgotten spiritual books that is available for free on the internet – The Great Means of Salvation and Perfection by Saint Alphonsus Ligouri.

Today’s readings lead us to the practice of intercessory prayer or the prayer of petition, and Saint Alphonsus is still one of the best expositors of the power of the prayer of petition.

The prayer of petition has been belittled by some in the spiritual life as a lesser form of prayer that can stop us from growing in the deeper communion with the God who loves us.

There is a danger in relating to God as a spiritual vending machine and in judging my relationship with God by whether my prayers are seemingly answered or not. There is, however, a greater spiritual danger, and that is to stop asking God for what we need because everything we truly need comes from God.

In The Great Means of Salvation and Perfection Saint Alphonsus puts it bluntly – those who pray will be saved, those who do not pray will be lost.

He goes on to say that we should pray for everything, especially the gift of prayer because that too is a gift. Saint Alphonsus is called the doctor of prayer.

His method of prayer, which has led uncountable numbers of people closer to God, always begins and ends with some period of the prayer of petition. In doing so, Saint Alphonsus is really just offering commentary on the prayer Jesus teaches his apostles and us the Our Father.

The Our Father is made up primarily of seven petitions. Those seven petitions are a summary of Jesus’ mission and the mission of the Church that He sends out to continue His deeds and actions in the world.

If the prayer of petition was used by Jesus, it is probably a good idea to make it a central part of our own prayer life.

Which brings me back to the bargain table; we might think that a book written in the 18th century might be too out of date or out of touch with our lives to be of much help in our spiritual growth.

But unlike science or fashion that can be outdated, the perennial wisdom of the Gospel means that those in the past may have remembered much we have forgotten.

Consider reading The Great Means of Salvation and Perfection. It is free on the internet and that is a real bargain.

Msgr. Timothy Keeney is pastor of St. Bede’s Church, Williamsburg

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time • July 4, 2016

 By Genevieve M. McQuade

Deuteronomy 30:10-14 Psalm 69:14, 17, 30-31, 33-34, 36, 37 or Psalm 19:8-11 Colossians 1:15-20 Luke 10:25-37

We want to be law-abiding. What is the law anyway?

One of several definitions says: “any written or positive rule or collection of rules prescribed under the authority of the state or nation, as by the people in its constitution.”

Without being lawful, society loses peace and falls into turmoil. Us too!

And are we justified by our actions and attitudes related to laws? To justify means to show an act, claim, or statement to be right; to be well-grounded; and one more significant definition –  to be innocent or guiltless. And that brings peace.

Perhaps the last, namely, being guiltless, was a big concern of the law-abiding scholar of the law in the gospel of Luke.

Seeking to do the right thing, he asked Jesus, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He wanted to be honorable and obedient in his actions.

Even if we like the command to love God in all ways, and to “love your neighbor as yourself,” we may not exactly behave justly if we do what we feel like regardless of higher authority.

Luke’s passage hones in on the law of God and commandments which can appear to be rigid on the one hand, and love and compassion which may seem to be without structure on the other.

How do these relate? Does one negate the other?

While the scholar correctly quoted the law of love, he then asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”

Jesus deepens the law of love by relating the parable of the Samaritan, an enemy of the Jews, who treated a wayside victim with compassion.

His actions were in complete contrast to the behavior of those who knew the law very well, namely a Jewish priest and a Levite.

They acted in conformity to the letter of the law but they restricted it for those in their circle of faith.

Love of neighbor was intended for their own kind, not extended to all, regardless of even severe need.

Established laws come from without to which one must conform, but the law of love arises from deep within one’s heart and Jesus indicates love takes precedence when it comes to expressing mercy, compassion, and service.

To live the commandments is to understand that they are meant to be inscribed on our living hearts as instruments of God’s love so as to not intend harm in our relationship to God, ourselves or to others.

In our first reading in Deuteronomy, love is not “too mysterious and remote” but “very near.”

Acting with compassion and love is not the same as being a “law unto yourself,” with your own benefit in mind. Common expressions provide other ways to look at law and its aim.

Do you imperiously “lay down the law” without sufficient thought as to its consequences?

Do you normally “take the law into your own hands,” disregarding authorities?

Probably not intentionally, but these phrases may help look at how we go about our lives in light of the gospel. Over all, mercy, compassion, and love towards ourselves and then mirrored towards others take first honors in living the law of love revering God.

Where law can limit and rightly so, there is no constraint on love. Together, law with love is a blend.

Our Gospel Acclamation assures us of the best purpose of God’s law, to bring us to inherit eternal life, “you have the words of everlasting life.” Peace be to you!

Genevieve M. McQuade, who has a master’s degree in theology, is a member of St. Olaf in Norge

Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time • June 20, 2016

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

1 Kgs 19:16b, 19-21 Gal 5:1, 13-18 Luke 9:51-62

Do you know someone who is always upbeat, someone who always has a positive attitude about everything? If that person becomes very sullen or starts complaining about things one day, would you think something was wrong? You might ask yourself if the person was okay. That is my reaction to Jesus in today’s Gospel reading. We hear Jesus’ reaction to the man who wanted to bury his father and the one who wanted to say goodbye to his family. This does not sound like the person whom St. Paul quotes in the second reading as saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Was Jesus having a bad day? Was he aggravated about something that made him react differently than he normally did?

Jesus may have been a little frustrated with the disciples. Luke’s Gospel tells us that Jesus’ time here was reaching an end and yet they still don’t seem to get it. Just before this in Luke’s Gospel the apostles were arguing about who was greatest among them, they want to stop someone who is not part of their company from casting out demons, and now James and John, the sons of thunder, want to call down lightning on the people for not welcoming them. The two activities the men want to do are very human activities, burying our dead and saying goodbye to family. What could be so wrong about these activities? Regardless of whether Jesus was having a bad day or not, I think he was trying to tell them and us two extremely important facts about being servants in the Kingdom.

Jesus is telling us and his disciples that being one of his followers is serious business. It isn’t a nine-to-five or a Monday through Friday calling. Rather, being a Christian is something that requires our full being 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. Wherever we go, whatever we do, we live for the Lord.

Jesus is also telling the Apostles and us that once you accept new life in him, don’t look back. When you have made the decision to follow Jesus keep moving on the path set before you. Paul expresses this another way in the reading from Galatians, cautioning us not to regress into the life of slavery to sin. We have been freed from that life by grace and are not to go back to the yoke of slavery. The analogy of the plow serves to remind us that if we look back, we go off course. Most of us don’t have the experience of plowing a field, especially with oxen. However, we may have the experience of driving a vehicle. We know that if we turn our head and shoulders to look back while driving, the car can veer off the road or out of the lane. If we look back to our old way of life, we cannot keep our eye on being faithful servants of the Kingdom.

The reading from Kings reminds us this in still another way. Upon hearing the call of God through Elijah and deciding to follow that call, Elisha does away with his old way of life. He takes the elements of his life as a farmer, the oxen and the plow, boils the oxen using the plow as fuel, giving it to his people to eat. There is no turning back, no returning to his old way of life. Does another way of life or elements of that life distract us from being faithful Christians?

Deacon Christopher Colville is a permanent Deacon assigned to Redeemer Parish in Mechanicsville

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time • June 6, 2016

 By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

2nd Samuel 12:7-10, 13 Psalm 32:1-2, 5, 7, 11 Galatians 2:16, 19-21 Luke 7:36-8:3

Why are we afraid of God’s mercy? It may seem like a silly question, and you might be protesting, “I’m not afraid of God’s mercy.” Before you write off the question, let me ask each of you to consider whether you have tried to hide a sin. Have you tried to hide a sin from others, from yourself, from God? I know I have.

We make excuses. We pretend that it is not really a sin, or a serious one. We may have become so calloused in our moral thinking that we no longer can admit that the action we want to do is fundamentally opposed to God’s will.

King David is a classic example for all of his. He tried to hide his sin of adultery, and in turn committed the sin of murder. When no one called him on this, he took his murder victim’s wife as his own. He tried to go back to normal and forget that his sin had ever happened.

God sees our secret sins, and he will not let us stay there. Secret sins will fester and rot the soul. The effort to run from God’s mercy is one that leaves us spiritually dead. Yet Jesus died on the cross not so that we might die of our sins, but that we might have life and have it to the full.

In David’s case he allowed the King to overcome his fear gradually. Just before Nathan’s explicit call to David for conversion, Nathan told a parable of a man rich with land and flock who nevertheless steals the only lamb of a poor man. David is incensed and condemns the injustice. The parable allows David to stop hiding his sin when Nathan makes clear that David has committed just such a crime and more.

David can now ask for mercy. He is no longer afraid of his sin. He can see that God’s mercy is his only resort. God can and wants to forgive every sin. His mercy is the only path for all of us to restore our relationship with him.

Callousness, hard-heartedness, self-satisfaction, or the simple but deadly attitude that what I do just doesn’t matter – are walls that we put up against God’s mercy.

Tear down these walls! Of what are you afraid? We can’t hide our sin from God. We can’t really hide our sin from ourselves. It catches up with us in one way or another. We can’t even really hide our sins from each other. If they are not laid out before each other in this life, they will be in the next.

The only answer is God’s mercy. The only way out is God’s mercy. The only path to healing is God’s mercy. The good news is that it is ours for the asking, a full measure, packed down, and flowing over.

Msgr. Timothy Keeney is pastor of St. Bede’s Church, Williamsburg

Corpus Christi • May 23, 2016

 By Genevieve M. McQuade

Genesis 14:18-20 Psalm 110:1-4 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 Luke 9:11b-17

Who among us can conceive of an endless treasure?

Well, maybe the treasure part, even an abundant treasure, but an endless one? Dream on.

Unfortunately, some may have what seems like unending lack of treasure or ongoing hardship instead. We might think of great need for food, clothing, shelter, and health deprivations that continue without sufficient relief.

And others, despite having plenty, may have an endless craving for more goods thinking that will fill up their inner abyss.

All are real physical and mental sufferings or discomforts aching for peace and safety.

That ache can be unrelenting, a soul-hunger that craves sustenance, vitality, and hope.

In our gospel this week, we hear that Jesus spoke to the enormous crowd about the kingdom of God. As a sign of the kingdom arriving in him, he healed those in need.

Might there be ever so small a link between a need for a cure and dreams of perpetual treasures?

Aware of the large multitude’s growing hunger and distance from their homes, the Twelve asked Jesus to disperse the people from this “deserted place” in order to obtain lodging and food.

Jesus told his disciples: “Give them some food yourselves.”

But there was a problem. Only five loaves and two fish were available, hardly enough for a few, let alone the five thousand men (plus women and children, no doubt).

Even so, Jesus proceeded to bless the paltry amount, and gave it to the disciples to distribute to the crowd. Thousands ate; they were satisfied. Satisfied!

And when the leftovers were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets with so much more than what they had at the start.

Many of us have heard this account of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, and are perhaps desensitized by its repetition.

This weekend, listen with a vulnerable humility and amazement.

God cannot be outdone in his generosity and the abundance of his care and provision for us, feeding our spirits, making us one with his Body and Blood.

In our first reading, Abram gave a tithe, a tenth of all he had. After the feeding of the thousands, there were baskets of fragments.

Our God gives us all He has. All.

The Son of God in the Body and Blood of Christ, though broken and shared among us, is not a fragment of Christ, nor a tenth, nor a leftover, nor diminished, but wholly given, every time.

The Eucharist is the cure for the deepest needs of our souls.

The more fragmented we are, the remoteness of our inner desert place, the greater the cure of our soul-hunger.

As we celebrate this day of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, let us grasp how phenomenal this gift is, a gift without equal.

Genevieve M. McQuade, who has a master’s degree in theology, is a member of St. Olaf in Norge

Pentecost Sunday • May 9, 2016

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

Acts 2:1-11 1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13 John 14:15-16, 23b-26

In all cultures there are milestones in a person’s life that symbolize the coming of age. We celebrate graduation from high school and college. In high school we celebrate when we get a driver’s license. At eighteen we celebrate that we are old enough to vote and the ability to participate in the political process in our country. In the Hispanic tradition there is the Quinceanera, which celebrates the coming of age of a young lady, her transition from childhood to adulthood. In the Jewish tradition, when a boy reaches the age of thirteen he has become a “bar mitzvah”, a “son of commandment,” and is recognized as having the same rights as full-grown men. For a Jewish girl, she becomes a “bat mitzvah,” “daughter of commandment,” at age twelve. All these milestones are instances that celebrate a special time in a person’s life, the beginning of a newness in their lives, a passage from one stage to another, a coming of age.

For the Apostles, Pentecost was their coming of age. In John’s Gospel we hear how Jesus appeared to the Apostles on the first day of the week after the Resurrection, the only record of this appearance in the Gospel. When he appeared to the Apostles, Jesus said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” What impact did this gift have on them? After this appearance and the end of John’s Gospel they are found on the beach fishing, and the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles finds them returning to Jerusalem and to the upper room after the Ascension. It was in this upper room where they were gathered on the day of Pentecost. The account of Pentecost describes tongues of fire descending on the Apostles and filling them with the Holy Spirit. Maybe it wasn’t so much the movement of the Spirit descending on them, rather it was the Spirit they received on that evening after the Resurrection welling up and coming alive within them. Maybe the Spirit given to them by Jesus that evening of the Resurrection was awakened, brought to life by the tongues of fire. Whatever it was, on Pentecost the Spirit comes alive within them and the Apostles boldly begin preaching the Gospel and baptizing as Jesus commanded them.

Through our Baptism we all receive the Spirit of God in our lives. In Confirmation that Spirit is strengthened, and Pentecost can be a renewal or a reawakening of that Spirit in our lives.

Pentecost marks the end of our celebration of the Easter Season and the beginning of Ordinary Time. Jesus came to show us how to live and called us to follow Him. Before He returned to the Father, He left us His Spirit so we might live as He lived. That Spirit calls us to be servants to one another, to tend the least of God’s children in the world, and to love.

On the Feast of Pentecost, we ask the Spirit of God to well up inside us so we are filled with the Love of God. Then filled with that love we might go into the world and boldly proclaim the message of God’s salvation and bring that Spirit to our world.

Deacon Christopher Colville is a permanent Deacon assigned to Redeemer Parish in Mechanicsville

Sixth Sunday of Easter • April 25, 2016

 By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

Acts 15:1-2, 22-29 Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8 Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23 or 22:1-14, 16-17, 20 John 14:23-29 or 17:20-25

We have all seen wedding pictures, and one of the highlights of a wedding is when we first see the bride.

A common compliment at weddings is telling the bride that she is one of the most beautiful brides we have ever seen.

That compliment is always true because a bride on her wedding day is seen through the eyes of the love of her bridegroom and the happiness of those around them, as the bride and groom form a new family. A wedding photo helps us to recapture that moment and continue to have that reality live on.

The Book of Revelation today gives us a picture of a bride. It is us, the Church of Christ, the New Jerusalem.

Our wedding dress is the idealized city of Jerusalem, brought to perfection and fulfillment by the bridegroom. The gates, the jewels and the angels all speak of God bringing to fulfillment his convenant love for his people, the twelve tribes of Israel.

There is no longer a temple in this New Jerusalem or a need for one. A temple was needed in a city of fallen people, a place of encounter but one that was mediated. Even in the temple the place of the most intimate encounter “The Holy of Holies” was reserved only for the priests.

Now the perfected city, the bride in her entirety, is the place of that encounter, and all God’s people are now a priestly people.

The Bride is the Holy of Holies who is united with her Bridegroom – Jesus Christ the Lamb of God.

In part of the reading from Revelation, not read today but connecting the two parts we do read, is a description of the dimensions of the city. It is a perfect cube, as was the Holy of Holies in the temple. This leads us to see that as the Bride of Christ, the Church is now the Holy of Holies. Because of Christ’s Spirit living in us, Christ now encounters us directly in our lives and as the Church.

This is the true picture of who we are. We still live in time and are still affected by our sins. But that does not make this picture of us as the Bride of Christ any less true.

We are His most beautiful bride. We are perfected by His love and mercy, not because of any merit of our own. So we need to pull out our wedding album regularly to remind ourselves of how Jesus sees us.

Seeing that picture of who we are also calls us to live out our lives in that image.

Msgr. Timothy Keeney is pastor of St. Bede’s Church, Williamsburg

Fourth Sunday of Easter • April 11, 2016

 By Genevieve M. McQuade

Acts 13:14, 43-52 Psalm 100:1-3, 5 Revelation 7:9, 14b-17 John 10:27-30

Our gospel passage this week is short yet extraordinary. It is very existential. Come with me on a flight of thought today.

John’s gospel proclaims that the Father and Jesus are one. No one can take us, his sheep, out of Jesus’ hand, and therefore not from the Father’s either, since the Father and the Son are not two but One.

Think about it. It’s like being enfolded like being in an embrace of God. In the hand of God, we are protected and pervaded by God’s love.

What is most important in your life? You’d likely say your relationships with family and friends. We want to be connected with them.

Yet, isn’t relationship more crucial with God who is more precious than anything or anyone? Although hidden and mysterious, God is near in his touch and within you as his temple of the Holy Spirit and wants your heart as his dwelling place. You are embedded in his sacred heart, too.

In personal prayer, we can pray in so many ways. We can adore, praise, trust, petition, repent, yield, give thanks, and more, within his indescribable love for everyone.

What is our life, our very existence, about? We exist in time and space in which we move and have our being. It’s a given we don’t think about much, but why not? Isn’t it like living each day as though it were a divine passageway of God’s love towards an eternity beyond time and space?

Why ought we acknowledge being surrounded by the hand of God and being aware of this gift of existence? One explanation is found in our reading from Acts: I have made you a light to the Gentiles, that you may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth.

We exist to be one with God, to be holy. We exist to be in profound relationship with Jesus through his Holy Spirit and in the Father’s love. We exist surrounded by the love of God even in our dark times. We exist to take joy in living the gospel truths. We exist to be a light to the world, transparently revealing God’s light.

We exist to spread this good news. All this comes about through relationship with and surrender to God through prayer, sacraments, spiritual community, and deliberation of the living Word in scripture.

Then someday, we will be taken out of time and space into eternity. As Revelation describes it, there we shall never perish. We will be among those who have survived the time of great distress. We won’t hunger or thirst anymore, nor will the sun or any heat strike us. The Revelation reading continues: for the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd us and lead us to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from our eyes.

Someday, we will fully experience the visible, obvious, and dynamic way in which we are connected to the complete and everlasting Oneness, the embrace of God. You are beloved in his hand.

Genevieve M. McQuade, who has a master’s degree in theology, is a member of St. Olaf in Norge

Second Sunday of Easter • March 28, 2016

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

Acts 5: 12-16 Rev 1: 9-11b, 12-13, 17-19 John 20: 19-31

I think Thomas gets the short straw in the Gospel reading. We don’t know where he was that first night after the Resurrection, maybe they needed food or drink because they were planning on hiding out there for a while. Maybe he just needed some time alone to sort out all the events of the past four days. Regardless of the reason, he wasn’t there. It could have been one of the other twelve. It could be us.

Put yourself in Thomas’ position and forget we have the Gospels and other New Testament writings. You traveled with Jesus for three years, he performed all these great miracles, talked about peace and love and preached that the Kingdom of God is at hand. You had come to believe that he was the one to save Israel. Then it all began to unravel for you. Thursday night after the Passover meal, like a servant he washed your feet and everyone else’s in the room. Then he told you to do the same in service to others. After the meal you all went to the garden to pray and that is when it went horribly wrong. While he was praying a group of temple guards came and arrested him, the next day he was tried, tortured and then crucified. Then he was placed in the tomb.

On the first day of the week you need time by yourself so you go off alone. When you get back, the group tells you that he is alive and that he appeared to them, stood in their midst. How would you react? I wonder how many of us would have reacted the same way Thomas did. I wonder how many of the other eleven would have reacted the same way. I dare say that our reaction and those of the other disciples would have been the same as Thomas’. In calling him “Doubting Thomas” we are really calling him “Human Thomas.”

There is nothing wrong with doubts. The Scriptures are filled with people who doubted. Doubting leads to questioning and questioning leads to faith. We initially come to faith because of others. However, our faith is developed and strengthened through questioning and searching out the answers. We discover answers to many of our questions in the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles and other Scriptures.

It is important for us to realize that just like we initially came to faith through people in our lives, others can experience God through us. Like Peter and the Apostles, others can experience God in our presence, in our words, in our faith. They can also experience God in our doubts and our questioning.

The Apostles were troubled, grieving, and scared; Jesus came to them and his opening words were “Peace be with you”. They experienced God’s mercy through Jesus and as we hear in Acts, others were able to experience God’s mercy through them. The celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday this weekend reminds us that we also experience God’s mercy in our lives. Just as others experienced God’s mercy through the Apostles, people in our lives can experience God’s mercy through us. As followers of Jesus Christ we are called to share that mercy with our world.

Deacon Christopher Colville is a permanent Deacon assigned to Redeemer Parish in Mechanicsville

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion • March 14, 2016

Fr. Timothy Keeney - BELIEVE - COLOR By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

At the Procession of the Palms Luke 19: 28-40

At the Mass Isaiah 50: 4-2 Psalm 22: 8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24 Philippians 2: 6-11 Luke 22: 14 – 23: 56

One of my fears is that at some point in my life I might be so debilitated that I could no longer act.

The life of a priest is one of almost constant action ­– preparing for and praying the liturgy, meeting with parishioners, and managing staff or parish projects.

I get a great deal of joy in all these activities and everything else that is part of the life of a priest. The reality is that all this could be taken away through illness and I could be rendered utterly passive.

Yet it would be in that passivity that I potentially could be most configured to the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus was active for His entire ministry ­– ­from the wedding feast of Cana until the Last Supper.

He is the one who is at the center of all the action in the Gospel. Everything changes beginning with the Garden of Gethsemane through the Garden Tomb.

During the reading of the Passion we hear and live with Jesus what was done to him, but Jesus’ passivity is not passive. Jesus takes all the humiliation, suffering, evil, rejection, and sin of those who carry out his execution into himself.

Then he transforms all of it, all the negativity, all the sin, into a gift of self-surrendering love to the Father.

In a world where hate begets hate and sin begets sin, Jesus’ passion is about ending that cycle.

In the Garden, Jesus is confronted with what will happen to him over the next several hours. How will He die?

Will the rejection and misunderstanding of those He came to love leave bitterness and disappointment in Him? The struggle that leads Him to sweating blood is not fear of what will happen, but the experience of a lover who bears the crushing weight of His true love’s rejection.

Out of this agony Jesus hands himself over to the Father’s will ­– “. . . not my will but yours be done.”

This allows Jesus to forgive those who do not know the love they are rejecting from the cross – “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

It allows the one who is powerless to open up the gates of paradise that day to the repentant thief – “. . . today you will be with me in Paradise.”

His passivity allows Him the one act that allows Him to lay down His life in love – “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit . . .”

Jesus’ passion challenges each of us to take on the same type of passivity. In conforming ourselves to the pattern of Jesus’ passion we are asked also to absorb the humiliation, rejection and sin of the world, and allow it to be transformed in us into a response of love, forgiveness and mercy.

Msgr. Timothy Keeney is pastor of St. Bede’s Church, Williamsburg


Fourth Sunday of Lent • February 29, 2016

 By Genevieve M. McQuade

Joshua 5:9a,10-12 Psalm 34:2-7 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

Is food an obsession for you? Do you think about it a lot, what to buy, its cost, preparation, nutrition? Do you have enough?

Personally, I at least attempt to eat healthy foods. Yet, far too often I succumb to what looks delicious and is staring me in the face (especially at parish functions). Oh, the temptation! The result can be anything such as weight gain or feeling ill.

In Luke’s gospel, we hear the powerful story of the prodigal son and his forgiving father, imaging God our Father, and all of us who desire to return to God for reconciliation.

When the Pharisees and scribes complain to Jesus that he eats with sinners, Jesus tells them this beautiful parable packed with significance about forgiveness, generosity, love, mercy, casual repentance, and a welcoming hospitality and food.

I’d like to zero in on the lesser ingredient, food. Some form of nourishment is mentioned in each scripture reading.

In the book of Joshua, when the Israelites ended their forty years in the wilderness, they finally entered the land of Canaan. Then, on the day after the Passover no longer was there manna for the Israelites. They had survived on a kind of bread from heaven. Now they were to eat of the yield of the land of Canaan. It was certainly good enough but it wasn’t that bread from heaven.

In second Corinthians, we hear that in Christ the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. What is among these new things? We have the heavenly food of the Eucharist, every day, throughout time. Even more is the fact that Jesus sat down with sinners. That’s us as we feast on the Eucharist.

In Luke’s parable, the younger, prodigal son squandered his inheritance, was bereft of food, and in dire need. He longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed. Coming to this point of desperation, his store of pride was devoured.

Chastised by his circumstances, he journeyed home to ask his father to take him back as a lowly servant. Upon seeing his willful son, the father embraced him without hesitation, even though the son had less than perfect humility and was not without sin. There was no need for his prepared confession.

The father ordered a feast! The older brother balked at his perceived injustice, yet his father stood by him too, in love. “Everything I have is yours,” the father told him.

Doesn’t our Father do the same for us in Christ? Waiting for us, embracing us, forgiving and feeding us, clothing us with his power?

What kind of “food” do you eat? What do you consume day by day for spiritual nourishment? Is it prayer? Scripture? Sacraments? Good spiritual literature?

Is it like heavenly manna or the produce of the land of Canaan that looks delicious? Does it sustain you? Which one ‘fills’ you?

Does a worldly produce consume you instead? And what is the fruit of your life resulting from your menu?

Lastly, when the psalmist exuberantly declares, “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord,” he means exactly that! That is a sensed sweetness, a very special gift of the Lord that he experienced, but so can you. In this time of Lent, repent and believe. Come home and be satisfied.

Genevieve M. McQuade, who has a master’s degree in theology, is a member of St. Olaf in Norge

 Second Sunday of Lent • February 15, 2016

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

Gen 15:5-12, 17-18 Phil 3:17-4:1 Luke 9:28b-36

In the Gospel reading for this Sunday we have the familiar story of the Transfiguration. Peter, James and John go up the mountain with Jesus to pray. They fall asleep and upon awakening see Jesus in his glory. I think this is a metaphor for our lives as Christians. God is always around us, always near to us, yet for most of us we fail to realize or acknowledge his presence.

Like Peter, James and John, we let things of this world overcome us and prevent us from experiencing the glory of God. We have moments of “transfiguration” in our lives and become fully aware of God, when we metaphorically awake from sleep and suddenly become fully aware of his presence. We have mountain top experiences: a College Encounter, Cursillo, Christian Awakening, Discovery, other retreat experiences, even ordination or consecration into religious life; yet we find it difficult to always be aware of God in our lives.

Recently I was reminded of Thomas Merton’s transfiguration moment. It didn’t happen in the monastery or chapel. He was standing on a corner in Louisville, Kentucky on his way to a doctor’s appointment and suddenly became aware of the glory of God that was around him. He wrote “There is no way of telling people they are walking around shining like the sun—the gate of heaven is everywhere.” He had become more fully aware than ever before of the presence of God in the world.

If God is ever-present, always with us, then we are presented with a challenge. This challenge is not to inject moments in our day when we experience God, rather it is to be transfigured, to see the glory of God present in our lives, every day, all day.

As Merton fully realized on that street corner, God is within us and all around us. We can turn from him, forget about him, and yet he is still there. We are called to be transformed and recognize God’s presence in our lives. Paul is doing this in his letter to the Philippians. He is exhorting them to be imitators of him and be Christ-like.

Paul’s conversion experience was so dramatic and his transformation so complete that he was convinced that it was Christ who lived in him. We all want this conversion and herein lies the problem. We want it now and fail to realize that, much like the conversion of an inquirer, it takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight.

In the Rite of Acceptance, which my wife and I witnessed recently at Star of the Sea in Virginia Beach, we heard that the inquirer has encountered Jesus, begun to change his life and be transfigured into the life of Christ. We have all begun this transformation and must continue it.

The Apostles were called to conversion and saw the glory this conversion leads to in the Transfiguration. They needed to come down the mountain, continue their journey of conversion and experience that glory in their daily lives.

Jesus offers us the same life of glory and the realization this glory can be found in our daily lives. It takes time to recognize this and reach the point where, like Paul it is Christ who dwells in us, and like Merton we see the glory of God all around us. What can we do during Lent to be more Christ-like, see the glory of God all around us and share this glory with others?

Deacon Christopher Colville is a permanent Deacon assigned to Redeemer Parish in Mechanicsville

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time • February 1, 2016

Fr. Timothy Keeney - BELIEVE - COLOR By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

Isaiah 6: 1-2a, 3-8 Psalm 138: 1-5, 7-8 I Corinthians 15: 1-11 Luke 5: 1-11

“I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips.” “I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Altogether now with Isaiah, Paul and Peter, let’s beat our breasts as we say with feeling “I am not worthy, I am not worthy, I am not worthy.”

And God’s response to each of them and to us can be likened to a certain English nanny we might remember, “Pish-posh, whoever said you were my dear.”

Of course we are not worthy, and that is the soul-searing and yet soul-healing truth of the human condition. It is only when we can accept this truth that we can accept the healing love that is offered to us by Jesus just as Isaiah was healed by the burning ember placed on his tongue; Paul healed by the removal of his blindness after the fall from his horse; and Peter healed by Jesus asking Peter if he loved him three times to overturn Peter’s three time betrayal.

Each of us is healed and sent. Not just prophets like Isaiah or Apostles like Peter and Paul.

We are sent to proclaim the Good News that we received. We have received Good News of how the life, death and resurrection of Jesus upended every prior understanding of our relationship with God because Cephas (Peter), the twelve, the five-hundred, James and Paul allowed themselves to be healed and not trapped by a sense that they were unworthy to be proclaimers of the message that they had received.

It is such Good News that it is meant to call everyone who receives it to become its proclaimer. Jesus wants to take us out into deeper water, beyond our comfort zone. We can get very comfortable with admitting we are not worthy because it can become a very convenient excuse not to do the risky thing that we might suspect God is calling us to do. It must be someone else’s job like Isaiah, Peter or Paul, the bishop, our priests or the folks at the parish who seem to be doing all those ministries. They can do it all without me.

That is when Jesus and the Spirit change the ground rules. “See, now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.” “But by the grace of God I am what I am and his grace to me has not been ineffective.” “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”

God is still asking us “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” You have been healed by your Baptism, Confirmation and reception of His Body and Blood. All together now and with feeling, “Here I am; send me.”

Msgr. Timothy Keeney is pastor of St. Bede’s Church, Williamsburg

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time • January 24, 2016

By Genevieve M. McQuade

Nehemiah 8:2-6, 8-10 Psalm 19:8-10, 15 1 Corinthians 12:12-30 or 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27 Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21

Isn’t it difficult enough to get on in our world without being misled?

We absorb so much via the headline hungry media. Even common social chit-chat often contains someone else’s point of view along with rampant distortions.

The problem? We devour it without checking it out. It’s easier.

No one really desires to be deceived. Deception is making somebody believe things that are contrary to truth. One dictionary defines truth as the “quality of freedom from error,” but how might we recognize truth?

It helps to seek two dependable sources. You may find out facts, but better yet, and not so easy, is to seek the truth behind facts.

For both spiritual and temporal truths, one dependable source is the Bible. Looking at our gospel this week, Luke opens with a statement about his testimony “this gospel” regarding Jesus.

Luke tells us that he first examined eyewitness accounts and other imparted stories about Jesus. Then he declares strongly, “I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you. . . so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received.”

I repeat, the: “certainty of the teachings you have received!”

Think of when you receive Holy Communion at Mass. You say “Amen,” meaning “it is so,” “it is true,” expressing that you believe the host and wine are really the precious Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

So too, here in Luke’s gospel, Jesus’ actions are recorded and are true. Luke declares as free from error that Jesus did fulfill the prophet Isaiah’s words in the unrolled scroll.

Jesus had indeed enacted Isaiah’s words by delivering glad tidings to the poor, proclaiming liberty to captives, and recovering sight to the blind, and letting the oppressed go free.

In Nehemiah, our first reading, “all the people listened attentively” to Ezra, the scribe. All the people saw the wisdom and magnitude of what he was doing in opening the scroll of the law of God.

In awed response, they raised their hands, knelt down, and bowed before the Lord with faces to the ground. They believed.

Wow! What a sense of reverence towards and credence of scripture!

How do you respond to God’s Word and Jesus’ actions towards our salvation?

Do you listen attentively at liturgy as they did at theirs?

In the second reading, 1 Corinthians presents the truth that all the baptized, collectively, have received a diversity of divine gifts to serve the Body of Christ.

True! Do you believe that, too? Have you developed yours?

If you are impoverished by lack of faith, captive to others’ words, blind to truth, or oppressed by deceit, then listen attentively, believe, and trust this good news. It’s been checked out.

And use your gifts to serve Christ’s Body.

Genevieve M. McQuade, who has a master’s degree in theology, is a member of St. Olaf in Norge

The Baptism of the Lord • January 10, 2016

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11 Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7 Luke 3:15-16; 21-22

This weekend’s readings are probably familiar to us. The middle part of the reading from Isaiah is quoted by John the Baptist in the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Advent.

We hear parts of this reading at other times during the Church Year and parts of this reading are also the basis for a number of popular hymns we sing at Liturgy.

The reading from Titus is two of the second readings for Christmas, the first part in the Mass at Midnight and the second in the Mass at Dawn. The readings are repeated because they contain two important messages that we need to heed to remember, especially as we move into Ordinary Time of the Church Year.

The messages are about living in God’s presence: living temperately and justly and rejecting worldly ways; caring for God’s people and helping them live in the presence of God.

Isaiah uses valleys and mountains, crooked and rough ways to symbolize obstacles to God’s presence. Isaiah tells us to get rid of the valleys and mountains, the rugged and crooked ways in our lives.

Jesus tells us to not only remove the obstacles in our lives but to remove those obstacles in other people’s lives.

In Chapter 25 of Matthew’s Gospel account, Jesus tells us that we will be judged on how we took care of God’s people. He tells us to remove the mountains of hunger and thirst; raise the valleys of loneliness and illness; enable people to experience the joy of Christmas, the Kingdom of God in their lives.

James reminds us that we can’t just have faith, we need to act on it. Throughout his ministry, Jesus calls us to care for God’s people. We are sent forward to bring the great news of Christmas into our world through acts of love.

The reading from Titus reminds us to live temperately and justly. Living temperately with our blessings means we have more to share with those who are less fortunate.

Living justly makes us aware of the needs of others and what we can do to respond to those needs. The reading also reminds us that this gift of God’s salvation is free, it comes to us not by any righteous deeds on our part but through God’s grace, which has been richly poured out.

The reading also tells us it is for all people. It is the same message the angel proclaimed to the shepherds on that first Christmas night that the great news of Christ’s birth was for all people.

The readings begin with the request, “Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God” and the Gospel ends with the words, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Between these two lines we are told it is through this grace that has been so richly poured out that we become sons and daughters of God, heirs to the Kingdom and that we are called to live as heirs of the Kingdom. Jesus came to share the good news of God’s love and to share it with all people.

When we fully accept our baptismal call we live it out in our lives. When we do so and then stand before God, he will say to us, you are my beloved son, you are my beloved daughter; with you I am well pleased.

Merry Christmas.

Deacon Christopher Colville is a permanent Deacon assigned to Redeemer Parish in Mechanicsville

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph • Dec. 27, 2015

Fr. Timothy Keeney - BELIEVE - COLOR By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

Sirach 3: 2-7, 12-14 Psalm 128: 1-5 Colossians 3: 12-21 Luke 2: 41-52

There are alternate readings for today’s feast, and I will be looking at the first set for this reflection. On one level the readings from Sirach, Colossians, and Luke could be seen as giving a faith basis for establishing proper relationships among family members.

Sirach reminds us that fathers’ and mothers’ authority over children is given by God; and, therefore, when we honor our parents we are showing gratitude and faith in God.

Colossians sees the interweaving relationships of wives, husbands, children and parents through the lens of interpenetrating the dwelling of Christ in each of us.

Luke recounts Mary and Joseph’s finding Jesus in the temple when they thought him lost. He seems surprised that they did not know where he was because he thought they knew he must be in my Father’s house . . .

Yet after this encounter the Gospel states that Jesus went down to Nazareth and was obedient to Joseph and Mary.

The Gospel seems to set up a hierarchy of obedience. We are to honor our parents but we honor God first.

In the Gospel it seems as if Mary and Joseph have forgotten that hierarchy. However, the point is that Jesus was not obeying God the Father rather than Mary and Joseph, but he was obeying God the Father precisely because he was obeying his parents in giving honor to God first.

Jesus was God, but he also learned of God from the parents under whose authority he had been given by God the Father, Mary through the virgin birth and Joseph through a spiritual fatherhood.

The Feast of the Holy Family gives us the occasion to remember that relationships of families are not just given to us by God, but they are the vehicle by which He wants us to come and know Him.

It is not enough if we get the relationships right without God, and in fact, that really is a practical impossibility. We will never get the relationships of husbands and wives, parents and children right if God is not part of the living out of our daily family lives.

The Feast of the Holy Family also shows us that the family is not just created for its own benefit; it was given to us so that faith might be shared with each new generation. Therefore, as families rooted in the image of Christ, we might give needed witness to the world of God’s intimate care of us through the intimate relationships within families.

Msgr. Timothy Keeney is pastor of St. Bede’s Church, Williamsburg

Third Sunday of Advent • December 13, 2015

 By Genevieve M. McQuade

Zephaniah 3:14-18a Psalm 12:2-6 Philippians 4:4-7 Luke 3:10-18

There are times in our lives that we practically wring our hands at what to do when confronted with a dilemma. Maybe it’s a serious change, an unforeseen event for which we are not prepared or haven’t a clue how to be ready in the first place.

We don’t know how to respond, bewildered as to what an answer might be. Or maybe, we don’t like the answer. It’s too difficult.

As we celebrate this third Sunday in Advent, our readings show that we are turning away from trepidation over end times, hope, and preparation towards an even greater sense of hope and joyful anticipation for the Savior of the world to be born again within us. How?

With the remembrance of the Savior’s coming and along with our first reading from Zephaniah that tells us that, “the Lord will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love.”

Rejoicing over us and renewing us are what God will do, but we have our part to fulfill as well.

We can’t be passive when it comes to following the Lord. Having given us gifts and the power to execute them, we humbly receive and respond with gratitude, praise, and joy.

The crowds, tax collectors and the soldiers all asked John the Baptist, “What should we do?” Luke’s gospel records that exact question three times! Those who listened wanted an answer.

Do we seek the same way? We can take a lesson from their desire to eagerly find out more.

Others, the self-righteous ones, had elevated themselves above these ordinary people and the despised. They were not so interested in the Baptist’s answers. The sanctimonious were set in their ways. John told all to share, to be fair and honest, and to not use excessive power over the less fortunate. Make straight the path to the kingdom!

John had the attitude of humility, saying “I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.” He desired with all his energy to prepare hearts for the One who was to come, Jesus.

For us, now is the time of preparation: to examine our thoughts, desires, motives, and actions; a time to prepare our spirits and souls to receive the greatest gift ever, Jesus Christ himself, in a way greater than ever before.

Now is the time to divest ourselves of selfish attitudes, root out what rules our insensitivities, not be holier-than-thou, and repent. We can make a decision to open up to what God has in mind for each of us, the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire, helping us to be his needed heralds like John.

As a young child, I remember singing this children’s hymn: “Happy birthday, Jesus! You’re our God we know. See the gift we bring you, our souls as white as snow.”*

We can be reborn in God’s Spirit. We can sparkle with luminescent souls.

Could you possibly be “holier-than-thou?” Or do you echo the crowds, the tax collectors, and the soldiers, asking yourself, “What shall I do?”

No wringing of hands should be needed. You do know what to do. Remember, “The Lord, your God, is in your midst.” (Zeph: 14:16). The Holy Spirit is with you. The Baptist promised.

What gift will you bring to our Lord?

*Composed 65 years ago by Fr. Owen McEnaney from my first parish in the Bronx, St. Helena.

Genevieve M. McQuade, who has a master’s degree in theology, is a member of St. Olaf in Norge

 First Sunday of Advent • November 23, 2015

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

Jer 33:14-16 1Thess 3:12-4:2 Lk 21:25-28, 34-36

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Here we are again at the beginning Advent and a new liturgical year. We know it is Advent because two weeks ago they started playing Christmas music on the radio and in the stores. We also know it is Advent because we see purple instead of green vestments and we begin reading the Gospel according to Luke. At the Church of the Redeemer we know it is Advent because it is time for our “No Room at the Inn,” event. We also know it is the beginning of Advent because we hear in the Gospel about the signs of anxiety, confusion, fear and dread. We hear that the powers of heaven will be shaken. Say, what!

Wait a minute, you might say, I thought the coming of Jesus was about peace and love. This isn’t a pretty or inviting way to start the New Year and prepare for Christmas. Many people would be with you in this wondering. We need to remember that there are three things we celebrate at Christmas and for which Advent helps us to prepare. All three of these are captured in our Scripture readings this coming weekend.

The first and most evident is the preparations to remember and celebrate the coming of the Word of God as an infant at Bethlehem. The display of nativity creches, the decorations and Christmas songs certainly help us remember and celebrate this event and it is the main emphasis of our Christmas celebration. Jeremiah is telling the people that the coming of the Messiah will bring safety and security and a time of peace and justice. To a people who were living in exile he says‚“he shall do what is right and just.” “Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure,” Jesus proclaimed in his ministry the message of love and peace.

Advent is also a time of looking toward the Second Coming of Jesus. The reading from Jeremiah was to the Jewish people who were awaiting the first coming of the Messiah. It is also a message to us who await the Second Coming. Luke tells us that before that Second Coming there will be times of trial and tribulation and he exhorts his readers to be vigilant and be strong if they are to survive and stand before God. Advent help us prepare to be vigilant and strong.

We also prepare to celebrate the coming of Jesus into our hearts, our lives, our families, and our communities every day. I submit that this is the most important aspect of Christmas we need to remember. Paul does two things in the reading from the Thessalonians. He prays that the Lord strengthen them and exhorts them to increase their efforts in living out the Gospel message. Paul is telling the Thessalonians they are doing okay but they need to do better. He is calling the Thessalonians and us to ongoing conversion. If God truly lives in us, in the community, and in our hearts, our lives must improve because of that presence. The Advent season is a chance to look for ways we can make Christ present in the world, in the lives of others. Those who suffer from injustice, insecurity, fear, or anxiety about their lives wait for the coming of God in their day. We are called to bring that presence, that great day of rejoicing to them.

Deacon Christopher Colville is a permanent Deacon assigned to Redeemer Parish in Mechanicsville

 Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time • November 9, 2015

Fr. Timothy Keeney - BELIEVE - COLOR By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

Daniel 12: 1-3 Psalm 16: 5, 8, 9-11 Hebrews 10: 11-14, 18 Mark 13: 24-32

An umbrella has always been one of my favorite images of time. We live under the umbrella of time. We experience every moment as past, present and future.

As we move through time, the now of the umbrella limits our deeper understanding of past and future. This means that we do not always understand the deeper meaning of our past, and we can get caught up worrying about a future reality that may never come to pass.

God is not limited by time. He created the umbrella, and therefore, every moment to him – past, present, and future – is just as present to him as the now is to us.

Jesus lets us into a glimpse of that God kind of time in today’s gospel. It is an interpretation of the events of the present that can only be understood in light of what God has done for his people in the past and what He will do for them in the future.

On this penultimate Sunday of the liturgical year we have Jesus’ farewell discourse in the Gospel of Mark. It has also been called the apocalyptic discourse of Mark.

We have only a portion of that farewell discourse for today’s Mass, but it has to be read in the context of the entire thirteenth chapter of Mark. These include Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of the temple, warnings about those who will claim to be the messiah and who say that this is now the end, strengthening his followers regarding coming persecutions, and giving warning to flee in the face of the great tribulation trusting in God to preserve them and not on any human powers.

We might be tempted to focus on the future great tribulation and not on the message of consolation and hope that Jesus gave his disciples in these end time warnings.

Jesus is preparing his disciples for his death and resurrection. He reminds them of the great crisis of faith for the people of Israel when Solomon’s temple was destroyed.

Jesus has already told his disciples, quoting Daniel, “that the temple would be destroyed again.” However, this time there need be no crisis of faith, because Jesus has replaced the temple. The enemies of God would try to bring down that temple as well (the temple of His body), but God would vindicate Jesus in the Resurrection and His future coming in glory.

Our watchfulness is not of wariness or fear, but of expectation. We do not have to have fear because Jesus has let us have a glimpse of the whole story, past, present and future. We can see that as we anticipate what God will do at the end of time, it will be consistent in bringing to completion what He has already done in the past for Israel, and in the gospel present of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Msgr. Timothy Keeney is pastor of St. Bede’s Church, Williamsburg


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