Believe As You Pray

Believe As You Pray

Living according to God, Spirit results in peace • June 29, 2020

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) Zec 9:9-10; Rom 8:9, 11-13, Mt 11:25-30

There is a big difference in the results of living according to God and the Spirit versus living according to humans or the flesh. In the reading from the Letter to the Romans, Paul talks specifically about this difference.  

He says living in the Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead will give us life – eternal life in God. Living according to the flesh may seem like a fun way to go, but it will ultimately lead to our destruction. The other two readings bear this out as well.

We can discern this difference between living according to the flesh and living according to the Spirit in the Gospel. Jesus has just finished calling to task the cities and people who have refused to turn from sin and follow him. He tells the people who labor and are burdened to take his yoke upon them; that he is meek and humble of heart; and they will find rest.  

Later in Matthew, Jesus reminds the people that all the law is based on just two laws: to love God with all your being and to love your neighbor as yourself. The love of God with one’s whole heart is the basic affirmation of Jewish belief, the Shema. 

It is also the basis of our Christian belief. If we turn from within ourselves and live according to the Spirit, i.e., follow Jesus to a love of God and love of neighbor, everything else falls into place.   

In the reading from the prophet Zechariah, we hear, “He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim, the horse from Jerusalem; the warrior’s bow shall be banished, and he shall proclaim peace to the nations.”   

We might be tempted to interpret Zechariah’s statement to mean that peace is the absence of war. Some people really believe if we could end all war, we would have peace. However, that isn’t the peace found living according to the Spirit.  

Jesus promises a peace the world cannot give, and he demonstrates the way to that peace in his ministry. If you think about Jesus’ ministry, you see him reaching out to the poor, the sick, the disenfranchised, the outcast and the sinner. He came to bring a peace that is the result of justice.  This is what is at the heart of the Catholic ideal of peace.  

On the first World Day of Peace, January 1, 1970, Pope St. Paul VI said, “A peace that is not the result of true respect for man (people) is not true peace.” This respect we have for others, he noted, is what we call justice. Two years later, he stated, “If you want peace, work for justice.”  

This past January 1, Pope Francis, in his World Day of Peace message, urged us to “renounce the desire to dominate others” and see all people as “sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters.”

He echoed Pope St. Paul VI, stating, “Only by choosing the path of respect can we break the spiral of vengeance and set out on the journey of hope.  The world does not need empty words but convinced witnesses, peacemakers who are open to a dialogue that rejects exclusion or manipulation.”

Living according to God and the Spirit is based on love of God and love of neighbor. Living according to God and the Spirit results in a peace based on mutual respect and concern for all people. 

Deacon Christopher Colville serves at Church of the Redeemer, Mechanicsville.

Expect opposition if you live as ‘other Christs’ • June 15, 2020

  By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time Jer 20:10-13 Ps 69:8-10, 14, 17, 33-35 Rom 5:12-15 Mt 10:26-33

Even though we have been in Ordinary Time for the last several weeks, we are celebrating our first Sunday of Ordinary Time since the close of the Easter season. Think of what we have gone through since the last time we celebrated a Sunday of Ordinary Time. It has truly been an extraordinary time.

We have experienced a pandemic, the sudden collapse of our economy and the irruptions of nationwide protests and riots rooted in our country’s original sin of racism that cannot seem to be exorcised.

But in a parallel and deeper sense, we have experienced an extraordinary time of penance and reconciliation, of grace and mercy as we walked as pilgrims within the seasons of Lent and Easter and celebrated the feasts of Holy Trinity and Corpus Christi.

With all this in mind, what does it mean to go back to Ordinary Time? Does it mean we simply go back to normal or the way things were? Regarding what is happening in our secular world, we are not really through all these events and their effects will be with us for months if not years.

It is possible, however, to imagine a time when these events fade into history. But it cannot or should not be possible with the spiritual events described above.

Why are they so different? We celebrate them every year. Yes, but as I wrote, we go through these events as pilgrims. The death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus allow the events and the grace of the Paschal Mystery to permeate every moment of our life. As those who are baptized into the life of Christ, nothing about our life really can ever be ordinary again.

The events of Jesus Christ’s life transform us so that we can live as Christ for the sake of the world so that there will be those whose lives offer hope in pandemics, in recessions and in times of turmoil and protest.

We are not exempted from the struggle of such things because of our faith. We should fully expect to bear the weight of these struggles because, as other Christs, we must walk with our brothers and sisters, accompany them as they bear the effects of such disasters, manmade or natural, and offer them another, an extraordinary way of living in this world.

As we live a different way in the midst of these struggles, don’t expect the thanks of others. Rather, expect to be opposed. If we live as other Christs in the midst of these struggles, we will be opposed because he was opposed. This is why Jesus gives encouragement to the apostles and to us in today’s Gospel:

“Fear no one. … What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim to the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; …” (Mt 10:26-28).

Living as other Christs, offering a different path in the face of the fear and conflict caused by disease, poverty, racism and sin, is not an ordinary way of living. Ordinary Time is the time in our pilgrimage in Christ that we are encouraged and taught how to live as disciples so the world itself might be transformed.

For disciples, there is no going back to the way things were, but only identifying with and growing deeper in love with him who makes everything extraordinary.

Msgr. Timothy Keeney is pastor of Incarnation, Charlottesville.

Heed exhortation to rejoice, mend ways, live in peace • June 1, 2020

 By Melanie Coddington

Trinity Sunday Ex 34:4b-6; 8-9, Dn 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 2 Cor 13:11-13, Jn 3:16-18

This Sunday’s first reading permits us to eavesdrop on a conversation between Moses and the Lord God as they meet inside a cloud hovering at the peak of Sinai-Horeb, the mountain of covenant. 

God has called this meeting and Moses arrives as instructed, carrying a second set of tablets for the inscription of the Commandments since he smashed the first in a temper after finding the Israelites in thrall 

to a golden calf at the foot of the same mountain.

In this brief episode, we hear the divine name (YHWH) proclaimed by the Lord God and followed by a self-description that echoes throughout the psalms: “…a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.” 

Moses himself sets the precedent for recalling this moment of God’s self-communication in subsequent covenant conversation as he brings the Lord’s own words to bear on God’s frustration with his chosen people in Numbers 14:13-19.

The divine name forms a bridge between this reading and the Responsorial Psalm for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, which declares, “…blessed is your holy and glorious name.” 

Today’s selection comes from Daniel chapter three. The term canticle signifies its origin outside the Book of Psalms. Its biblical setting takes me back to my Presbyterian roots, to Sunday school days in the church of my childhood.

As the story goes, three notorious Hebrew youths — Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego — have refused to comply with a direct order from their boss, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, and have been cast into a white-hot furnace for their disobedience.

Instead of burning to a crisp like the servants who threw them in, they walk about in the flames, singing praises to God. Even when the king’s men stoke the fire with brimstone and pitch, it does no harm to the faithful Hebrews. 

“The angel of the Lord went down into the furnace … drove the fiery flames out … and made the inside of the furnace as though a dew-laden breeze were blowing through it” (Dn 3:49-50).

The four verses selected for today’s response come forth from the miraculously unsinged lips of our three heroes and form the introduction to a lengthy canticle, found in our Catholic Bible’s expanded version of the Book of Daniel. (The Catholic canon of Scripture, based on the Septuagint, an early Greek translation of the Old Testament, includes 100 verses of Daniel 3. The Hebrew text, on which the Protestant canon relies, frames the story of the three faithful Hebrews much more succinctly, excluding the long song.)

 We hear variants of the refrain, “…praiseworthy and exalted above all forever,” in today’s verses, which stack one upon the other in a mighty crescendo, framing images of God’s glory that soar upward on an ever-grander scale. One can imagine the three singers walking in time through the fire, taking turns with the call line and responding together.

Today’s brief Gospel connects directly to the image of God presented in Exodus 34, as “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.” This one “so loved the world” that he brings about the salvation of that world through the life, death and resurrection of his Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Reflection on this so-called economy of salvation, over time, brought to expression the doctrine of the Most Holy Trinity that we celebrate this Sunday.

Our second reading from Second Corinthians, chosen, no doubt, for the Trinitarian blessing that concludes it, speaks firmly to our time, exhorting us to rejoice, mend our ways, encourage one another, agree with one another and live in peace. 

In these days of tentative and awkward reopening, still in the deadly shadow of COVID-19, we do well to take these words to heart, and put them into action toward all of God’s beloved, even though the “holy kiss” of greeting will have to wait.

Melanie holds a master’s in pastoral studies from Loyola University, New Orleans.

Fulfill your baptismal commission to share the Spirit • May 18, 2020

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

Feast of the Ascension, Acts 1:1-11; Eph 1:17-23, Mt 28:16-20

In their book “Resurrecting Easter,” John and Sarah Crosson discuss the difference between the Eastern and Western views of the Resurrection of Jesus as depicted in icons and images. The Western view is that of an individual event. All the Western images and icons of the Resurrection depict Jesus coming from the grave by himself.   

The Eastern view of the Resurrection is that of an event that involves many people. The icons and images in the Eastern Church show Jesus bringing people with him from the dead, including Adam and Eve at the front of the line.   

Regardless of which view you hold, the message that Christ has risen from the dead is meant for everyone for all time. Jesus died for all people; he rose from the dead for all people.

Just as the Resurrection of Jesus is for all people, so too is the Ascension. The Ascension has special significance for us because it adds to the message of Jesus’ ministry. Both versions of the Ascension that we hear on this feast — one in the reading from Acts and one in the Gospel — mention the baptism of the Spirit.  

In the Gospel, Jesus says “all power in heaven and earth have been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, in the name of the Son and in the name of the holy Spirit.”

In Acts, Jesus tells those gathered they will be baptized in the Spirit and that when they are born again in the Spirit, they will receive power. This reflects the teaching of Jesus early in his ministry.  In his interaction with Nicodemus, Jesus says that unless a person is born again of water and the Spirit, they cannot have eternal life (Jn 3:3-5).  

The message is clearly a charge for the early followers of Jesus. In the New American Bible, St. Joseph Edition, this section of the Gospel is titled the “The Commissioning of the Disciples.” To commission someone is to give them certain powers or authority. In this passage Jesus commissions his disciples, giving them power to convey this same Spirit, this same new life to not just a few but to the whole world.  

This is a message for us as well. By virtue of being baptized in water in the name the Father, Son and Spirit, we have the same commission. Everyone who has been baptized has received this same Spirit, the same power to lift people up to new life. Those of us who have been confirmed have been strengthened in that Spirit. Just like those early disciples of Jesus we have the power and authority to share God’s Spirit.  

The physical presence of Jesus may not be with us but we need not be afraid. Jesus said, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20). He remains with all of us who have been baptized and he lives within us in the Spirit.   

What can we do with the Spirit and Jesus living within us? How can we help those who are isolated or lonely?  How can we help people who are in need for whatever reason?  

We have been given the command to go out to all the world and share that Spirit of God.  How can we share God’s love which Jesus has shared with us?

Deacon Christopher Colville serves at Church of the Redeemer, Mechanicsville.

Spiritual Communion allows us to be ‘living stones’ • May 4, 2020

  By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

Fifth Sunday of Easter Acts, 6:1-7, Ps 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-191 Pt 2:4-9, Jn 14:1-12

Since parish life has changed so radically, we can really talk about our parishes in terms of B.C. and A.C. — Before COVID-19 and After COVID-19.  

I hear in a whole new context Peter extolling us, “… like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pt 2:5). 

Peter first identifies Jesus as the living stone, the true temple, that the Father has given to serve as the foundation of God’s own house.  He then makes the jump to identify us as living stones as well.  This identity obviously makes sense when we experience our communion with Christ through the reception of the Eucharist.  

But how do we understand or experience the reality of this communion in a time when most of us are receiving Christ only through the means of Spiritual Communion?

A parishioner told me that one of the things they have struggled with is jealousy at the sight of the few ministers who received Communion at our livestreamed Easter Mass. They were angry because they felt the pain of not being able to physically receive the Eucharist.  

It is an understandable and even commendable pain. But how do we participate in being living stones in the life and ministry of Christ in a time of only Spiritual Communion?  

Not receiving Eucharist physically does not stop us from being living stones since we are configured to Christ by our baptism, and in that baptism given the task of helping to build up the Body of Christ.

Not receiving Eucharist physically does not stop us from being a community of priests. Each of us acts as a priest as we attend Mass by livestream, by bringing with us our lives, our familiesand our prayers for the needs of the sick, our communities and those who do not pray. We share in the mediation of Christ as we bring to the sacrifice of the Mass that which only we can bring. 

Spiritual Communion is a real way of being in communion with Christ.  Although not ideal or the fullness of what communion with Christ is intended to be, it is nonetheless a powerful tool by which we can still fulfill our call to be living stones, a royal priesthood.

In the aftermath of the stay-at-home orders our economy will need to be rebuilt. But even more importantly, the task of building the house of God, of building the people of God, goes on and indeed needs to be intensified in the wake of this virus. 

If the house of God has been damaged by this time in which we have not been able to gather, it must be repaired. If the faithful have been fractured by the stresses of this time, they will need to be built up.  

Until we can gather again, Spiritual Communion is a powerful tool in taking up the task that has been given to us by Christ. 

Jesus calls us to be living stones. He needs us to be living stones in this time. He needs you. Let yourself be built into a spiritual house through Spiritual Communion.  

Msgr. Timothy Keeney is pastor of Incarnation, Charlottesville.

Let Spirit provide courage on journey through darkness • April 20, 2020

 By Melanie Coddington

Third Sunday of Easter, Acts 2:14, 22-33, Ps 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11, 1 Pt 1:17-21, Lk 24:13-35

For the seven Sundays of Easter, accounts from the Acts of the Apostles replace the Old Testament stories in the first reading at Mass. This gets a bit confusing, since these episodes in Acts happen after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. 

Gospel readings in the season of Easter spend seven weeks catching up, recounting the resurrection appearances of Jesus and the slow dawn of Easter faith experienced by his disciples.

The verses of Psalm 16, selected for this Third Sunday of Easter, make an obvious connection to the first reading. In preaching to the vast crowd immediately after the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, Peter quotes Psalm 16 as a kind of proof text. 

The author of Luke-Acts places the Greek version of the psalm on his lips, bringing forth “you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld, nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption” as a prophetic reference to the resurrection of Jesus.

Rendered in the original Hebrew, this text speaks to the life situation of the psalmist threatened by illness or calamity. Another translation, “For you will not abandon me to Sheol, not let your servant see the pit,” comes closer to the Hebrew original and expresses an expectation of rescue from death, not necessarily life after it.

At the time of Jesus, resurrection from the dead was a controversial concept: The Pharisees accepted it; the Sadducees did not. At the time of the psalm’s composition, centuries before, the ideas of resurrection and afterlife had not dawned on Jewish religious sensibility.  Sheol, and its parallel noun, pit, simply meant the place of the dead, where the breath of God no longer animated the bodies placed there.

Luke-Acts, written in Greek by a fluent and artful speaker of the language, naturally rests on the Greek translation of the Hebrew Testament (called the Septuagint for the 70 scholars who completed it). In the case of Psalm 16, this later rendering of the text in translation shows subtle evidence of a shift in the understanding of resurrection.

In the familiar tale of the road to Emmaus, we recognize the Eucharistic pattern embedded in the story — the gathering of persons, breaking open of Scripture, blessing and breaking of bread, real presence revealed — and most often, our sense of its meaning comes to rest right there. 

In this time, however, amid our extended fast from the full experience of eucharistic liturgy, other aspects of the story resonate more profoundly.  

The Emmaus-bound runaways leave Jerusalem, seeking the security of their home, seven miles distant from the hotspot. They have already heard about the empty tomb and the testimony of angelic messengers, but they cannot take it in. 

Dashed hopes, overwhelming grief and fear for their own lives have rendered them deaf to the good news of resurrection. Then, something happens; the Risen One joins them on their journey.

Jesus meets them, amid their fear and flight from danger. He listens; he speaks. Wanting to hear more, they invite him into their hiding place. He accepts their hospitality and returns it, playing host at their table, even as the lights of evening are kindled against the growing darkness outside. Finally, they recognize him, and he vanishes.

Now they realize that he has been with them all along. They remember the warmth they felt in their hearts as he spoke to them and opened the Scriptures. Immediately, they set off — in the dark — headed back to the community of his disciples. Fear and grief are overcome by the loving, forgiving, consoling presence of the Risen Christ.

In the language of Psalm 16, Christ has counseled them, spoken to their hearts, shown them the path of life and set them on the return journey with abounding joy in his presence.

Christ’s presence abides with us, right here, right now. May his Spirit give us courage on this journey through the dark.

Melanie holds a master’s in pastoral studies from Loyola University, New Orleans.

Answer your call to be an Easter person • April 6, 2020

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

Easter Sunday 2020, Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Col 3:1-4, Jn 20:1-9

We hear in the Gospel for Easter morning that Mary Magdalene arrives at the tomb alone. She jumps to the conclusion that the body is gone because the stone has been rolled back, and she shares that conclusion with Peter and John. If we read a little further, we hear how after Peter and John leave the tomb, Mary saw two angels and then encountered Jesus, recognizing him only after he calls her by name.   

For Jesus and Mary, this is not just a moment in time, an event that happens and nothing comes of it. It cannot be for us either.  

On Good Friday, there was fear and isolation. After the crucifixion, the disciples all gathered in one place behind locked doors for fear of the Jews. Sounds a little bit like us and COVID-19. We know Thomas ventured out because he wasn’t there that evening when Jesus appeared to the disciples, and Mary left to visit the tomb.  

In her encounter with the risen Lord, she is transformed from not knowing where Jesus is (verses 2, 13, 15) to proclaiming him risen (verse 18). The Resurrection of Jesus changed Mary’s life forever, not only from the outside but from within as well. After Jesus calls her by name, he sends Mary to the other apostles. Mary no longer lives in the fear of Good Friday; she lives in the joy of Easter.  

In a world where a woman’s word was not taken seriously, a woman is chosen to be the first to proclaim the Resurrection. Like the Samaritan woman at the well, there is no hesitation. That’s the result of experiencing the Resurrection — complete and certain response to Jesus’ command to share the good news of the Resurrection with others. 

In the context of our lives, we must determine how we answer Jesus’ call and respond. The Resurrection gives meaning to everything Jesus did before that day and changes us from Good Friday people to Easter people.  

What is the result of your Easter experience? Even though it may be a different sort of Easter than we’ve ever experienced, it will happen. One ad that just passed through my computer this morning proclaimed, “Easter’s Happening, No matter what!”  

While there may be no large gatherings as communities of faith to celebrate the Resurrection and many people will be missing from our celebrations, the Resurrection happens. It happens every time we celebrate the Eucharist, every time we reach out to one another.      

We venture out from our isolation for work and necessities such as food, drink, medicine. We can also venture out, literally or electronically, in a socially responsible way to those who are the most at risk – to parents who are self-quarantined with children out of school or others who need someone with whom to talk.  

Hearing the voice of another person makes people feel less isolated and in a small way enables them to experience resurrection in their lives. When this crisis is over, we will continue this in our daily lives just as Peter and the apostles did.   

Jesus calls us by name just as he called Mary by name. Just as Mary was sent by Jesus to proclaim the Resurrection to the apostles, we are sent to proclaim this news to the world. We are called to the Resurrection, to live as Easter people. 

Deacon Christopher Colville serves at Church of the Redeemer, Mechanicsville.

There is more to life than we can ever imagine • March 23, 2020

  By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

Fifth Sunday of Lent – A Ez 37:12-14 Ps 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8 Rom 8:8-11 Mt 11:1-45, or 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33b-45 

My niece recently gave birth to her second child, John Robert. Initially we thought he might come very early in the pregnancy, but eventually he made it to full term. 

His birth made me start thinking about what the process might be like from his perspective. Being in the womb is all he ever knew before his birth. There were indications that there might be something outside – light, voices, certain pressures that made the walls of the womb touch him. Then, all of a sudden, things started happening that propelled him into our world. 

If he could have understood language, it might have reassured him if his mother could have told him that, after the birth, he would get to know her in a whole different way, in a way beyond his imagining right now. It might have helped him if he could have been told that there was a world, an amazing world, on the other side of the womb that had been his home. 

The process of birth might be difficult, a little scary, but it would lead to the life he was really meant to live.   

I hope by now you are seeing the connections to today’s readings. During this Fifth Week of Lent, we are being assured of the reality of the resurrection from the dead. 

Jesus came so that we might know that this resurrected life is the final purpose for which we have been created. We are meant to have life eternal, and that life is given to us through the life-giving power of the Spirit of God. 

He came into this world to show us that just as God has been with us in all the aspects of our life up to this point, he will be there in an even greater way in the new creation in which we participate through our death and resurrection.   

Entry into the resurrection comes to us by way of our death. It is a difficult process, and we can be afraid and might have doubts about this promise of life beyond our earthly life. This is because this is all we have known. But there are signs from the other side of this life that let us know there is more to life than we ever could have imagined.   

The light of the resurrected Christ is already visible in the world through the witness of his disciples and through his own actions in our lives. We hear his voice, although not always clearly, encouraging us on our journey to Him at each step along the way. 

We feel his touch through his providential action in our lives and again through the love of our brothers and sisters.   

We can live this earthly life as if it were our only world, but inevitably and at a time not of our own choosing, God will call us to a new birth through our own death and resurrection – a process by which we will come to know him in a way beyond our imaging at this moment. 

Yet, he wants us to come to him unafraid and with an act of faith not possible when, as little children, we came into this world. So, we have the witness of his own death and resurrection and the invitation to make our own statement of belief in the words of encouragement he gives us today: 

“I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”  

Msgr. Timothy Keeney is pastor of Incarnation, Charlottesville.

Witnessing signs of the reign of God • March 9, 2020

 By Melanie Coddington

Third Sunday of Lent Ex 17:3-17 Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9 Rom 5:1-2, 5-8 Jn 4:5-42

Sunday’s first reading takes us back to the desert journey of Israel. Ex 17:1-2 sets the stage for the story that we hear. The “whole Israelite community” is moving from place to place, directed by the Lord. Reaching Rephidim, the people find no water. Naturally, they bring this serious issue to Moses: “Give us water to drink.”

His less-than-sympathetic reply, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?” does little to diffuse the situation.

They walk away grumbling: “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt? Was it just to have us die here of thirst with our children and our livestock?”

Similar arguments ensue whenever circumstances threaten the Israelite sojourners. We hear it at the edge of the sea (Ex 14:11) when the people look back and see the dust kicked up by the Pharaoh’s pursuing army. Clearly preferring slavery over death, they lament, “Far better for us to be the slaves of the Egyptians than to die in the desert” (Ex 14:12b). The Lord responds, providing an escape route through the sea and a watery grave for the chariots and charioteers.

We hear another version when hunger becomes the issue (Ex 16: 3): “Would that we had died at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our flesh pots and ate our fill of bread! But you had to lead us into this desert to make the whole community die of famine!”

Translation: Swift death with a full stomach beats slow starvation. Again, the Lord responds, this time with manna and quail for the people to eat.

The story in today’s reading unfolds in a similar way: The people face a life or death situation (thirst) and complain to Moses, prompting his cry to the Lord on their behalf.

The Lord responds, this time with witnesses at hand and clear reference to past deeds: “Go over there in front of the people, along with some of the elders, holding in your hand, as you go, the staff with which you stuck the river.”

Moses’ staff, the instrument of God’s power and providence in Egypt and at the edge of the sea, goes into action once again. Even if all the people cannot see the water gush forth from the rock, respected eyewitnesses stand by to tell the tale.

Psalm 95 references this episode, repeating verbatim the two place names, Massah and Meribah. St. Paul’s words from Romans 5 provide a fitting transition to today’s Gospel story, so full of surprising faith, grace, hope and glory.

My favorite aspect of biblical interpretation involves the cultural context of stories and symbols. The Samaritan woman at the well easily gains a 21st century American label with her checkered marital history. Yet in her culture, unfaithful wives did not live to marry again.

Since only men were permitted to divorce, we realize that this woman was five times abandoned — be she widowed or simply cast aside. Likely enough, she bore not children but the stigma of barrenness, a terrible curse in her culture.

It makes sense that she chose the heat of the day for her journey to the well, avoiding the neighbors who otherwise turned aside to avoid her.

Consideration of cultural context reveals a cascade of miracles as the story unfolds. In hospitable, truthful dialogue with Jesus, the woman finds her bitter heart changed and runs to tell her neighbors: “This man told me everything … could he be the Christ?”

Against all odds, they rise up from their mid-day nap, follow the former outcast to the well and hear Jesus for themselves. Then, in the most extraordinary twist of all, long-despised Samaritans welcome Jews to stay over, and they accept!

Here we witness signs of the reign of God proclaimed by Jesus: the person experiences conversion, the community is activated, and the social world turns upside down.

Melanie serves as regional minister for Christian formation, providing catechetical and pastoral support to parishes in southwest Virginia, and contributing to Office of Christian Formation initiatives across the diocese. She holds a master’s in pastoral studies from Loyola University, New Orleans.

Important questions to ask yourself this Lent • February 24, 2020

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

First Sunday of Lent Gen 2:7-9; 3:1-7; Rom 5:12-19 Mt 4:1-11

We have two familiar stories in our readings this weekend: Adam and Eve being tempted in the garden by Satan and Jesus being tempted in the desert by Satan. These stories help us reflect on our relationship with God to see where we have failed and maybe where we have succeeded.

In Genesis, Adam and Eve fail in listening to the Word of God. They fail to trust him and instead listen to and trust the serpent.

Jesus’ response to the first temptation tells us that we live by the word of God. Throughout his ministry, Jesus taught us to take God at his word, to trust God in all things. After all, God’s word created us (God the Father), his word redeemed us (God the Son) and his word continues to sustain us (God the Spirit). It provides strength and encouragement for us in all of our life experiences.

Jesus’ response to the second temptation tells us not to put God to the test. Sometimes we test God by putting ourselves in difficult situations and expecting God to get us out of them, like the second temptation.

At times we test God with a bargain. If God does something for me, then I will do something in return. If God helps me pass this test or get a promotion, I will study more or be more attentive to God in my life. Sometimes God has already given us what we need, we just haven’t recognized it.

For me, the response to the third temptation, “The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve,” is the most challenging. Sometimes, without realizing it, we serve or worship other people or things instead of God. When we do, we miss opportunities to worship or serve.

I mentioned to someone at church the other day it was good to see them and we missed seeing them at church. The person responded, “We try to come (to church) more often, but things just get in the way.”

Maybe a better way of asking this question is, “What things get in our way of worshiping and serving God as Jesus taught us?” Is it success in work, glory on the athletic field, accumulating money and possessions, or just things like electronic devices, activities or other things?

Jesus spent 40 days in the desert preparing for his ministry. We are at the beginning of our 40 days of Lent. It’s the perfect time to explore our relationship with God from two perspectives.

The first is what gets in the way of that relationship? Do things get in the way of listening to, trusting, worshiping and adoring God?

Sometimes we might feel church isn’t needed to figure out these things. However, in church our relationship with God can be enhanced in special ways. It can be enhanced in the Scriptures proclaimed, in the homily preached, in the Eucharist we receive and in the people with whom we gather.

Secondly, we can look to see how we have been successful in our relationship with God. When I was a basketball coach, I found that after fundamentals, focusing on things ballplayers did well helped eliminate negative things.

Lent is a great time to look at how we have been faithful servants. If we figure out where we have listened to God, trusted God, served and worshiped God, then maybe we can do these things more often. This leaves less time to fail, less time to give into temptation.

Deacon Christopher Colville serves at Church of the Redeemer, Mechanicsville.

Learn to love like and to be loved by God • February 10, 2020

  By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time Sir 15:15-20 Ps 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34 I Cor 2:6-10 Mt 5:17-37 or 5: 20-22A, 27-28, 33-34, 37

Even though I have been a priest for nearly 25 years, I still remember what it was like to sit in the pews to listen to a homily. One of the approaches I would hear — an approach that kind of took the life out of any homily — was when the priest would reduce Jesus’ words to merely teaching us how to act.

The Gospel is supposed to be how we encounter the person of Jesus, not merely to present him as a teacher of ethics. The danger is that if Jesus is presented in this way, he just becomes one more teacher among many.

The Sermon on the Mount is more than an ethical code, but today’s Gospel has the danger of being communicated in that way.

Where then is the bite of this Gospel? If I were a first century listener of Jesus, what would be my first question?

That question would be: Who is this rabbi who makes his interpretation of the law, indeed a rewriting of the law, on the par with the law given by God to Moses?

To answer that question, we must go to the heart of the Sermon on the Mount. Without going into a whole dissertation on the sermon, the Lord’s Prayer is at its very heart.

Jesus is teaching us to pray as he prays. Jesus is revealing his very identity in the Our Father and inviting us into that identity. That is how we answer the question: Who is this that is teaching in this way?

We are encountering the God/man who is offering us his very life. So, this is how to deepen that encounter with Jesus, the son of God, and with the Father. We go to the heart of the law that God has planted into our hearts.

Jesus is telling us not just to look at the letter of that law, but if we want God to penetrate our hearts, fill our lives and enliven our souls, then we must go deeper to the fuller meaning of his will for us — to understand the deep law of God the Father in the position of being in union with Jesus Christ, as son or daughter.

When I understand that the commandment not to kill or harm or denigrate another human being helps me to encounter God in all of his sons and daughters, I learn to love like God.

When I understand that I can never use another person in any way that treats them as an object, I am loving as God loves.

When I understand that my permanent covenant as priest with the people of God as a spouse, or your covenant with your spouse, is only a hint of the permanent, loving and unbreakable covenant that God has made with each one of us, we are learning to be loved by God.

When all this happens, we are no longer following a code of conduct, we are encountering a person. It is not about following the rules. It is about living in a way that I am conforming myself with the life of my beloved who gives me the necessary help to live that life of love.

Msgr. Timothy Keeney is pastor of Incarnation, Charlottesville.

Like Simeon, pay attention to divine promptings • January 27, 2020

 By Melanie Coddington

Feast of the Presentation of the Lord Mal 3:1-4 Ps 24:7, 8, 9, 10 Heb 2:14-18 Lk 2:22-40

This Sunday, we interrupt our regularly scheduled programming — liturgically speaking — for a special observance. We skip the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time to celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. The temple setting and themes of surprise and sacrifice weave through the readings.

The prophet Malachi envisions a figure whose sudden arrival at the temple signals judgment and purification. Once this one has done his work, pure and pleasing sacrifice will once again be offered to the Lord for the people.

The ominous question, “Who will endure the day of his coming?” hangs in the air. To the sons of Levi, who in the time of the prophet dishonored the priestly office with corrupt practices, the message is clear: Your days are numbered!

Psalm 24 portrays the Lord as “king of glory” arriving (again, suddenly) at the city gates. The call rings out to open for this mighty one, returning victorious from battle. Who dares to keep this one waiting?

Except for Malachi’s reference to the Lord coming to the temple, there seems little to connect these formidable figures to the infant Jesus. Yet, Hebrews gives us a clue. Though many surely expected a powerful Messiah, a conquering hero, Jesus “had to become like his brothers and sisters in every way.” Only then could he be a “merciful and faithful high priest,” offering his very self to God on our behalf.

The story that gives today’s feast its name forms part of the infancy narrative in the Gospel of Luke. In this account, Mary and Joseph journey to the temple to fulfill the requirements of the Law of Moses.

Following the prescription in Leviticus 12:2-8, they first offer sacrifice for Mary’s purification after birth, then present Jesus according to Exodus 13:2: “Consecrate to me all the firstborn; whatever is the first to open the womb among the Israelites, of human beings and animals, is mine.”

To take Jesus home, Joseph must offer a second sacrifice to “redeem” the child. The consecration of firstborn males and the necessity of redemption in the form of temple sacrifice reminded Israel of her own deliverance from Egypt, recalling the sacrifice of the lamb, which shielded the people from the final plague, the death of the firstborn.

Luke weaves these two moments of sacrifice together, seeming to cover all requirements with “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons” (Lv 12:8).

My favorite part of the story comes with the surprise appearance of two local characters. Luke describes Simeon as “righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel” (2:25) but also points to his familiarity with the Holy Spirit. Three verbs — rest (upon), reveal and guide — spell this out.

At the prompting of the Spirit, this holy man of Jerusalem is waiting in the temple to greet the Holy Family. Taking Jesus into his arms, he praises God for allowing him to live long enough to see the promised salvation of the Lord. He blesses the parents and the child and gives Mary plenty to ponder in his prophetic words concerning her son.

Then we meet Anna, a one-of-a-kind ancient widow, whom Luke identifies as “prophet.” In a time when the average lifespan hovered around 40 (reflecting extremely high infant mortality), this woman reaches the venerable age of 84, having spent over 60 years as a widow. She spends every day and night in the temple, fasting and praying. She, too, comes forward to praise God and offer a prophetic word.

Simeon responds to the call of the Spirit to visit the temple on this blessed day. This “man of Jerusalem” finds a way in his busy life to pay attention to divine promptings and act upon them. Old and eccentric Anna prays 24/7, keeping her heart open to the divine word at all times. She, too, responds in the moment and comes forward to praise and prophesy.

Melanie serves as regional minister for Christian formation, providing catechetical and pastoral support to parishes in southwest Virginia, and contributing to Office of Christian Formation initiatives across the diocese. She holds a master’s in pastoral studies from Loyola University, New Orleans.

Light of Christ continues to shine throughout diocese • January 13 2020

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

Mass for Commemoration of Bishop Patrick Kelley’s Arrival in Virginia Is 60:1-6; Acts 2:42-47; Mt 18:15-20

The first reading today should sound very familiar. We heard it two weeks ago on the Feast of the Epiphany. Epiphany celebrates the manifestation of Jesus to the Gentiles, and this weekend we begin the celebration of our diocese and the light of Christ manifested to the state of Virginia through it.

Our mission statement calls for us to be a diocese of “love, life, justice and peace.” It calls us to that through “Word, Worship, Community and Service.” For two centuries, the Church in our diocese has been a beacon of hope in Virginia. Our worship of God in word and sacrifice has led us to service in our communities.

Although the geographic area of the diocese has changed, that mission, to bring the light of Christ to Virginia, has continued in every region. The Lord has shone upon us and his glory has appeared over the entire Commonwealth.

I’ve been blessed to have lived in many parts of the diocese: Northern Virginia (when it was still part of the diocese), the New River Valley when I was in college, the Shenandoah Valley, Southwest Virginia and Richmond with my wife and family. We visit family in Roanoke and Harrisonburg often and visit Virginia Beach at least twice a year.

Before I retired, my full-time paying job took me to every area of the diocese where a correctional facility is located. I have seen the light of Christ shine brightly in the diocese and continue to see it shine from the coast to the cities to the mountains.

It shines brightly throughout the diocese in hospitals, schools, diocesan-wide programs and regional programs involving individual parishes like the migrant ministry at Star of the Sea or ecumenical ministries like MCEF (Mechanicsville Churches Emergency Functions); Friends of the Homeless in Richmond, the RAM Ministry (Roanoke Area Ministries) for the homeless in Roanoke, the Health Wagon in far Southwest Virginia, Project WITH (Outreach to Families of the Incarcerated) in Harrisonburg and many other ministries throughout the diocese.

The light of Christ shines not only within the diocese, but to people of Haiti through our twinning programs with the parishes in the Diocese of Hinche. While we don’t come close to the standard set in the early Church where Christians held everything in common and took care of each other’s needs, we do share the light of Christ with others and we do tend to the needs of others.

In a diocese this vast, starting on the Eastern Shore and Virginia Beach and stretching to a point further west than Detroit, there are bound to be differences. When those differences have been overcome or embraced and celebrated, that beacon of hope has shone even brighter.

When this happens, we embrace the universality of the Church and become a greater sign of God’s presence in our world. When this happens, the hungry are fed, the homeless find shelter, those with needs have them met.

We begin this bicentennial celebration just two weeks after the celebration of Jesus’ manifestation to the Gentiles. Just as we celebrated the star’s manifestation of the presence of a new king to the Magi, the diocese celebrates the manifestation of Jesus to the Commonwealth of Virginia through us and those who have gone before us. We also celebrate those who will come after us and continue to shine the light of Christ throughout the diocese.

Deacon Christopher Colville serves at Church of the Redeemer, Mechanicsville.

St. Joseph listened, followed dreams • December 16, 2019

 By Melanie Coddington

Fourth Sunday of Advent, cycle A Is 7:10-14 Ps 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6 Rom 1:1-7 Mt 1:18-24

In today’s first reading, we meet Ahaz, king of Judah. Israel (in the north) and Judah (in the south), once united under David and Solomon, have long since separated into rival kingdoms.

Some 200 years down the Davidic line, Ahaz takes the throne and disgraces the dynasty with infidelity to the Lord. As his enemies (including Israel) join forces against him, he panics and seeks aid from a formidable Assyrian king.

Despite Ahaz’s offenses, the Lord God continues to honor his covenant promise to David’s house. At God’s prompting, Isaiah reassures Ahaz that God has not abandoned him and that he need not resort to a perilous alliance to escape the present danger. The Lord even offers to do something extraordinary as proof of his firm support and protection.

Ahaz, reluctant to offend his Assyrian ally, refuses to ask for a sign, hiding behind the excuse, “I will not tempt the Lord!” Isaiah announces the sign anyway: “…the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.”

Psalm 24 extols the Lord’s kingship over “the earth and its fullness, the world and those who it attracts all persons to seek God’s face with clean hearts and hands. In Romans, St. Paul manifests this universal vision as he explains his call as apostle to the Gentiles.

The first and second chapters of Matthew’s Gospel comprise what scholars call his “infancy narrative.” Here the evangelist uses dreams as the principle means of divine communication, especially when characters require course correction to fulfill the will of God.

Chapter one begins with a genealogy that traces the ancestral line from Abraham to David, from David to the time of the Babylonian exile, and from the exile to Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus.

The parade of male names stops in its tracks four times for the mention of women, all Gentiles — with scandalous stories attached. This list with a twist — or four, to be exact — functions as a dramatic set-up for this Sunday’s Gospel. It places Jesus in the honorable family of Abraham and David, even as it highlights the agency of women (in irregular circumstances) in the unfolding plan of the God of Israel.

After the genealogy, we come to today’s passage about the birth of Jesus. The evangelist first speaks of Mary, a Jewish woman in circumstances both irregular and scandalous. Betrothed to Joseph, Mary has become pregnant before living with her husband. Matthew’s account does not dwell on Mary’s dilemma but quickly shifts its focus to Joseph’s response.

Considering Mary’s situation and his own, Joseph makes the righteous and compassionate choice “to divorce her quietly.” He then finds himself the recipient of an angelic visitation that changes his course of action. His dream reveals that Mary’s child, conceived through the Holy Spirit, has a great destiny to fulfill as savior and presence of God among the people.

Joseph wakes and takes Mary under his protection, then names and claims her son as his own, in accordance with the angel’s instruction. Joseph’s “yes” to God gives Jesus a firm place among his people and sets the stage for his unfolding destiny. (The name “Joseph” recalls the story of another ancient dreamer and interpreter of dreams.)

If we read the rest of chapter two, we find Joseph again living up to his name. An angel of the Lord appears in a dream, telling him to gather up the family and flee the wrath of Herod.

So, the Holy Family takes up residence in Egypt (following the path of the ancestors) while Herod systematically eliminates the threat to his throne by killing Jewish boys age 2 and under. Only after Herod dies does Joseph the dreamer get the word, first to return to Israel, then to settle a good distance away from Herod’s successor — in Nazareth.

Melanie serves as regional minister for Christian formation, providing catechetical and pastoral support to parishes in southwest Virginia, and contributing to Office of Christian Formation initiatives across the diocese. She holds a master’s in pastoral studies from Loyola University, New Orleans.

Joyfully anticipate presence of Christ in your life• December 2, 2019

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

Second Sunday of Advent Is 11:1-10 Rom 15:4-9 Mt 3:1-12

If you were looking for a man or woman of God, where would you look first? 

You might expect to find them in the Vatican and cathedrals. You also might expect to find people of God in parishes as priests and deacons, lay ministers of faith formation or human concerns and those who work with young adults and youth. Certainly you would expect to find them in convents and monasteries.  

However, I doubt the first place you would look would be in the Army or in prison. You might not think to look in the streets of New York or on a trolley car.  What about in a commune like those in the 1960s?

In today’s Gospel, it was to someone in one of these latter types of places that God revealed the presence of the Son, the Lamb of God. God bypassed the chief priest, the Jewish elders, the king and all the other leaders of that time to reveal to John that the Kingdom of God was at hand.  

John lived in the desert, wore weird clothes and had a strange diet. Even the hippies of the 1960s might have thought John was strange.                                                                                   

That was — and still is — God’s way. Throughout history he spoke to people we might not expect him to call. He called a playboy named Augustine and Francis, a soldier. He spoke to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran theologian and anti-Nazi activist who was executed in a concentration camp.  

God called Dorothy Day, a journalist and founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, and Mother Teresa, a nun who founded the Missionaries of Charity and worked in the slums of Calcutta.   

He called Bernard Casey, a trolley driver. Known to us as Blessed Solanus Casey, he was born Bernard Francis Casey, professed in the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin and was ordained a “simplex” priest, which meant he could not preach or hear confessions. He served most of his life with the Capuchins as a porter, one who opened doors and greeted people. His cause for sainthood began in 1976; he was beatified in 2017. 

These are examples of regular, ordinary people whom God called to proclaim the Kingdom of God.   

In his book “The Genesee Diary,” Henri Nouwen wrote that Advent is a time of “joyful anticipation.” Just as children — and some adults — joyfully anticipate the presents on Christmas morning, we should joyfully anticipate the presence of Christ in our lives.  

In anticipation of the special day on which we commemorate the beginning of his physical presence, we should prepare ourselves to proclaim that the Kingdom of God, the presence of God in our lives, is at hand. During Advent we should listen in anticipation for God’s call in our lives.  

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Mary and what we normally celebrate on this date. On the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception we honor Mary, who was conceived without the stain of Original Sin. It is normally celebrated on Dec. 8, but because it falls on Sunday this year, the observance of the solemnity is moved to Monday, Dec. 9. It is not a holy day of obligation.   

Mary’s “yes” is perfect, simple and complete — a model for us. Mary didn’t know the ramifications of her “yes,” and neither do we. Nonetheless, we need to say “yes” to God and proclaim God’s presence in our world.

Deacon Christopher Colville serves at Church of the Redeemer, Mechanicsville.

Allow Christ to be the center of your life • November 18, 2019

  By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King 2 Sm 5:1-3 Ps 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5 Col 1:12-20 Lk 21:35-43

Imagine yourself in a little town in France called Chartres. It is a Sunday morning as you head to the cathedral for Mass.

You hear the monks chanting the psalm to be used at Mass, “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.” As you are going into the cathedral, you look up and see the giant rose window with Christ in the center.

Everything radiates from him — the angels, the evangelists, the apostles and prophets, symbols of creation and symbols of his suffering and death. The whole of the universe is shown gathering around the one who is the king.

This medieval catechesis in glass captured a central idea of the age: everything is centered in Christ Jesus and nothing makes sense apart from him.

The crowning of David as king, the Colossians hymn and the account of Jesus on the cross with the two thieves could form another rose window with the same message.

The Fathers of the Church always saw David as a precursor of Jesus. David becomes king having been anointed by the instruction of God to Samuel.

God’s will is for David to become the centering force that gathers the people of God scattered by the sin of Adam. David is recognized as king when all the people gather around him and use the language of Genesis pointing to a marriage relationship between David and his people: “Here we are, your bone and your flesh” (2 Sm 5:1).

David makes a covenant with the people as king. He is king by the will of God and spouse to his people as king.

In the next portion of Samuel, we are told that David is anointed as king at the age of 30. Why? Because the age of priesthood in the Old Testament was 30. David is king, spouse and priest.

These same themes are taken up in the Colossians hymn when Paul writes, “He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved son, . . . He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church. . . [M]aking peace through the blood of his cross.”

God transferred us from the rule of sin to the kingship of Jesus; Christ is king. Jesus is the principle of unity between himself and the Church; Christ is spouse. Jesus affects this unity through his sacrifice on the cross; Christ is priest.

This medieval synthesis may seem beautiful in a stained glass window or in a biblical text, but things may not seem to be as put together in our own life.

Our life might seem not so much the disparate parts of our life making a comprehensive whole with Christ at the center but rather things spinning out of control. There might seem to be too much beyond our control for things to come together in a peaceful whole.

The thief at Jesus’ side at the crucifixion was having everything being taken out of his control. Yet, he was still able to see the one suffering with him as king, as spouse, as priest.

Even in the midst of extreme suffering, it all came together for the repentant thief because he was able to take himself out of the center of his own story and place Christ in that place as sovereign.

Allow the light of Christ to pour through all the events of your life with him at the center as priest, spouse and king.

Msgr. Timothy Keeney is pastor of Incarnation, Charlottesville.

What it means to really be a ‘believer’ • November 4, 2019

 By Melanie Coddington

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time 2 Mc 7:1-2, 9-14 Ps 17:1, 5-6, 8, 15 2 Thes 2:16-3:5 Lk 20:27-38

I grew up in a house with a library of “Reader’s Digest Condensed Books.” These collections of then-current novels, edited to their essential plot points, allowed writers to get their work to a larger audience and to build a fan base for their future literary efforts. 

I became a fan of “Condensed Books” during visits home, when I would extract one of these handsome, hard-bound volumes from the shelf and plow through several artfully abridged novels in a weekend.

The Second Book of Maccabees, from which comes this Sunday’s first reading, clearly states its origin as a “digest,” having been condensed from a five-volume work focused on a tumultuous period of Jewish history. It says, “…we have aimed to please those who prefer simple reading, as well as to make it easy for the studious to commit things to memory” (2 Mc 2:25). As an editor, I sympathize with this author, who writes, “…the task, far from being easy, is one of sweat and of sleepless nights” (2:26).

The book deals with the conflict between Jewish identity and fidelity to the Torah, i.e., the law given by God to guide the people in covenant living and the seemingly irresistible influence of Greek culture, language, philosophy and, especially, polytheistic religion. 

With this large-scale conflict as backdrop, disagreements arose within the Jewish community. Some of the people saw value in certain aspects of Greek culture, as long as the freedom to practice their Jewish religion remained intact. Others saw any concession to Greek influence as a “slippery slope” leading to destruction. 

Eventually, under Antiochus IV Epiphanes, freedom of religion no longer included Jewish practice. Faithful Jews experienced oppression and violent persecution.

Second Maccabees makes for grim reading, grisly and graphic. Thankfully, this Sunday’s episode has undergone yet another condensation, one that leaves out the details of torture suffered by the seven brothers. 

The text includes a stirring tribute to the mother that is well worth the read: “Most admirable and worthy of everlasting remembrance was the mother, who saw her seven sons perish in a single day, yet bore it courageously because of her hope in the Lord” (2 Mc 7:20).

This woman of faith not only exhorted each of her sons with the assurance that “the Creator of the universe…in his mercy, will give you back both breath and life” (2 Mc 7:23), she also shared their fate.

For us, this story of a mother and her sons demonstrates how belief in the resurrection made martyrdom possible, even before the birth of Christ. These brave souls show us what it means to “believe” in the biblical sense of the word — to set one’s heart on, to stake one’s life on, to risk one’s life for.

Verses selected from Psalm 17 form today’s response with an expression of innocence and hope worthy of the faithful martyrs of Second Maccabees. The final line points to the hope of resurrection with the words, “…on waking I shall be content in your presence.”

Another story featuring the untimely demise of seven brothers appears in the Gospel and leads to a trick question intended to trap Jesus. The Sadducees propose the convoluted scenario of one woman marrying a succession of brothers to demonstrate that belief in the resurrection of the dead conflicts with the law of Moses. 

In response, Jesus provides a glimpse of resurrected life in the coming age. Those who rise will not need to marry — and procreate to live on through their descendants — because they will no longer die. 

He challenges the Sadducees with the testimony of Moses himself, who met the Lord — self-identified as “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob”— in the burning bush, and finally silences his opponents with the irrefutable insight, “and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

Melanie serves as regional minister for Christian formation, providing catechetical and pastoral support to parishes in southwest Virginia, and contributing to Office of Christian Formation initiatives across the diocese. She holds a master’s in pastoral studies from Loyola University, New Orleans.

When you pray, focus on your relationship with God • October 21, 2019

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

30th Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle C Sir 35:12-14, 16-18; 2 Tm 4:6-8,16-18 Lk 18:9-14

When I read the opening lines of the first reading from Sirach: “The Lord is a God of justice, who knows no favorites” (35:12), it brought a smile to my face.

A while back I saw a bumper sticker that read, “God loves everyone, but I am his favorite!” While this was meant as a tongue-in-cheek statement to elicit laughter, we are told in Sirach that God is indeed partial to the weak, the widow, orphan and the lowly. We are also told that the prayers of those who willingly serve God and the prayers of the lowly reach the Most High.

Jesus gives us a contrast between the Pharisee and the tax collector to demonstrate the attitude of one who is lowly and one who is not so lowly. Initially, the prayer of the Pharisee follows the Jewish prayer tradition.

The Jewish people were taught to praise and glorify God and give him thanks for the gifts they have been given. They were also taught to thank God for making them children of Abraham.

The problem with the Pharisee’s prayer is that it goes beyond that prayer tradition and moves to putting down the tax collector, a member of the Jewish people. The Pharisee, in comparing himself to the tax collector, is trying to make himself look better by comparison. He is really focused on himself and has an elevated opinion of himself.

On the other hand, the tax collector employs another aspect of Jewish prayer. He acknowledges his sinfulness and asks for God’s mercy. This is the basis for the feast of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, considered to be the holiest of holy days in the Jewish tradition.

During this feast, the Jewish people focus on their relationship with God by acknowledging their sins and asking for God’s forgiveness. In expressing his sorrow and asking for God’s mercy, the tax collector is focusing on his relationship with God.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to both of these traditions. We are taught to give thanks to God for the gifts we have been given and to acknowledge our sinfulness and ask God’s forgiveness. Jesus also calls us to go beyond ourselves; he calls us to be about the Kingdom of God.

There is a difference between those who are of this world and those who are of the Kingdom of God. Those who are concerned with things of the world judge themselves against others, as the Pharisee did. Those who follow Jesus and are concerned about the Kingdom of God regard everyone as equals and are concerned about others.

This means more than just recognizing our gifts and thanking God for them. It also means recognizing that as a result of these gifts we are called to share them. We start with the relationship between us and God. Then that relationship must extend beyond God to include others.

In a few weeks we will come to the end of the Church year. We will be called to look toward the end of time, the second coming of our Lord. It is a good time to look at our lives and see how we are doing in preparing for that kingdom.

Do we focus on our relationship with God through prayers of thanksgiving and prayers asking forgiveness for our failures? Do we go beyond ourselves and reach out to others?

Deacon Christopher Colville serves at Church of the Redeemer, Mechanicsville.

Acts of humility remind us who we are before God • October 7, 2019

  By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

Twentieth-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C 2 Kgs 5:14-17 Ps 98: 1, 2-3, 3-4 2 Tm 2:8-13 Lk 17:11-19

Saying, “thank you,” is one of those things that we have to be trained to do. I remember vividly my own mother drilling into me as a kid to remember to say please and thank you, as well as yes ma’am and yes sir.

Later in life we have to be trained to remember to send out thank you notes for gifts given or hospitality received. As a priest and pastor, one of the great lessons I have learned from my mentor priests is that a good deal of our ministry is thanking the people of God for their efforts in service of the Gospel and the parish.

It is something that needs to be said often and meaningfully to staff, volunteers and those who sacrificially give of their resources to the parish.

As a culture, we remember that giving thanks is important – one of our great civic celebrations is Thanksgiving Day. But as a culture, and even in the examples given above, another lesson also needs to be learned.

When Naaman wanted to give thanks for his cure, he first tried to make that gesture to Elisha who had only been a means but not the source of his cure. When refused, Naaman got the lesson right. From now on he would make a lifetime of prayer of thanksgiving to the Living God.

The 10 lepers were on their way to the priests when one realized that Jesus was not just the means of his healing, but also the source. His act of thanksgiving was not only proper, but permanently changed his relationship with God.

We come to Eucharist, which means thanksgiving, every week and for some daily. The lesson of weekly and daily Eucharist is that thanksgiving is not something we engage in once in a while as the need arises.

The problem is that the pattern of gift and a response of thank you, or the exchange of hospitality with a response of a thank you note, can come to be understood as an equal exchange. I have said my thanks, so nothing more is needed or expected.

This is why I said we can learn something more from the readings today about thanksgiving.

Naaman and the leper were permanently changed by their experience of gift and healing. Their lives moved in the direction of a permanent thanksgiving.

This is also one of the lessons to be had by our weekly or daily Eucharist. We have been so profoundly gifted by the Lord Jesus Christ that our only response, inadequate though it may be, is a lifetime of perpetual thanksgiving.

This is not an easy thing to remember. That is why we need the example of those around us to strengthen us in this way of living. This Sunday, as you assist in the Eucharist, remember to be an example to others of true thanksgiving and to use the example of those around you to strengthen your faith.

Msgr. Timothy Keeney is pastor of Incarnation, Charlottesville.

Be present, compassionate to those in need • September 23, 2019

 By Melanie Coddington

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time Am 6:1a, 4-7 Ps 146:7, 8-9, 9-10 1 Tm 6:11-16 Lk 16:19-31

In this Sunday’s Gospel, we see one pair of Luke’s Beatitudes played out in story form. The two lines —“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Lk 6:20) and “Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation” (Lk 6:24) — take on flesh in the parable of the unnamed rich man and the poor man, Lazarus.

So, too, our ears ring with an echo of Mary’s Magnificat: “He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty” (Lk 1:52-53).

Today’s text dramatizes the contrast between the daily life of the rich man and that of Lazarus. “Purple garments and fine linen” clothe the former while sores cover the latter; the one dines sumptuously while the other longs for scraps but goes hungry.

Lazarus lies at the rich man’s door. Disabled in some way, he cannot even beg for what he needs. Licked by stray dogs but ignored by the rich man, Lazarus dies.

Yet the story does not end there. In death, Lazarus is lifted up and the rich man cast down. The drama continues in a desperate dialogue between the “netherworld” and the “bosom of Abraham.”

Ancient Mediterranean culture understood wealth to be limited in quantity and already distributed. It viewed anyone who acquired more with suspicion; people assumed surplus wealth to be ill-gotten.

To counter this suspicion and maintain honor in society, a wealthy person was expected to give alms, to act as a patron to needy clients. Financial windfall quickly distributed posed no threat to honor. Greedy behavior diminished it.

This ancient cultural arrangement might strike us as unrealistic for we live and move in a profit-driven system. Like fish in water, we might easily swim with little awareness of our economic environment, its effect on us or our power to affect it. Though we may grumble at obvious greed we observe, we resist knowing too much about the consequences of our own decisions and actions.

Today’s reading from Amos calls affluent persons with this see-no-evil attitude complacent and prophesies an end to their “wanton revelry.”

Most of us can hardly be considered wanton in our relationship to wealth. We manage as best we can in difficult times and share as we are able. Yet these readings challenge us to open our eyes wider, to recognize the human dignity of the poor ones at our door and cross the threshold of our security in response to their need.

In Psalm 146, the Lord God sets the example for those who would claim the relationship of covenant. This One keeps faith, secures justice, gives food, liberates captives, protects strangers and sustains the most vulnerable. In his life and ministry, Jesus embodies this generous mercy modeled by the Father.

St. Paul’s letter to Timothy exhorts the young “man of God” to pursue virtues made manifest in just action toward others. The “commandment” he must keep, implied rather than spelled out here, might reasonably be, “You shall love the Lord, your God…and your neighbor as yourself” (Lk 10:27) or “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36).

All of this brings to mind the parable of the last judgment (Mt 25:31-46), wherein Jesus places sheep on his right and goats on his left and explains the consequences of our actions or inactions.

He challenges us to respond to persons in need with an investment of presence and compassion: to give food and drink, welcome strangers, clothe the naked and visit the sick and imprisoned.

This challenge comes with a promise: When we get close enough to touch, we will encounter Christ in these sisters and brothers, and they will meet him in us.

Melanie serves as regional minister for Christian formation, providing catechetical and pastoral support to parishes in southwest Virginia, and contributing to Office of Christian Formation initiatives across the diocese. She holds a master’s in pastoral studies from Loyola University, New Orleans.

Like Jesus, search for, welcome the lost • September 9, 2019

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time Ex 32:7-11, 13-14 1 Tm 1:12-17 Lk 15:1-32

God’s love for us is infinite, and God desires that each and every one of his children experience that love to its fullest.

The Scripture readings this weekend tell us of that love and demonstrate just how much God desires for us to share in it. They tell us that God invites us to share this love no matter who we are, where we come from or what we’ve done. They also tell us of God’s desire to welcome us back when we have strayed from his love or turned our backs on it.

In the reading from Exodus, we hear how God called the Israelites and brought them out of slavery in Egypt to be a people peculiarly his own.

In the second reading, we hear how God called Paul. Even though Paul considers himself unworthy because he persecuted the early Church, God finds him worthy and calls him to become one of the great evangelists of the Church.

Like the Israelites and Paul, God calls each of us, and we must respond to his invitation.

Part of God’s infinite love is God’s willingness to welcome us back after we have sinned. Paul tells us “Jesus came to seek out sinners,” and in the Gospel, the Father says his son “was lost and has been found.”

We hear how time after time throughout their history, the Israelites turn away from the Lord and how God is always waiting for them — waiting for them to repent, to turn back to him so he could welcome them home.

In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the younger son does the unthinkable in Jewish society. He asks for his inheritance while his father is alive, and after spending it foolishly, he ends up working with pigs. In spite of this, the father watches for him, and upon seeing him in the distance runs to welcome him home — not as a servant but as his son.

The other two parables tell of the extraordinary measures God takes to find the lost. The woman searches and cleans her entire house, and the shepherd searches for the lost sheep. Both rejoice when they find what was lost.

Another aspect of God’s love is the importance of each person. It is only one coin or one sheep that is lost, yet they are as important as the other nine or 99. It isn’t just the son who was at home who is loved; the son who was lost is also loved.

Each of us is of significant value to God regardless of what we have done and regardless of our status in life. It doesn’t matter to God if we are rich or poor, a citizen or immigrant, legal or illegal. Our religious affiliation or where we stand in our relationship with God doesn’t matter to God. In God’s eyes we are all important.

Jesus invited everyone into a relationship with God. He went looking for the lost in order to invite them back into that relationship. God welcomes us, looks for us when we are lost and goes to extraordinary means to bring us home.

If everyone is important enough to be invited to live in God’s friendship, shouldn’t we also accept them as important?

If we profess to be Christian, shouldn’t we follow the example of Jesus who showed us how to live? Like Jesus, we must welcome everyone into God’s family.

Like Jesus, we must search for and welcome back those who are lost.

Deacon Christopher Colville serves at Church of the Redeemer, Mechanicsville.

Acts of humility remind us who we are before God • August 26, 2019

  By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time Sir 3:17-18, 20, 28-29 Ps 68:4-5, 6-7, 10-11 Heb 12:18-19, 22-24a Lk 14:1, 7-14

St. Teresa of Calcutta said, “Humility is truth, therefore in all sincerity we must be able to look up and say, ‘I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.’ By yourself you can do nothing, have nothing but sin, weakness and misery.”

The readings this week speak of the great gifts that God has given us and the upside-down world of our God who exalts those who humble themselves before God.

In Hebrews, we are reminded of the privileged encounter that we have with God because of the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus.

In the Old Testament, again and again, the prophets remind us that we cannot see God and live. Our sinfulness made it impossible for us to truly come face to face with God.

In Jesus, who became sin for our sake to set us free, we can now encounter the face of God. By our baptism, confirmation, reception of the Eucharist, the sacraments of reconciliation and anointing of the sick, by our call to marriage or holy orders, Jesus — through the Holy Spirit — has given us a share in the divine life of the Trinity.

Humility is truth. We should never forget who we are because of the merciful gift of Jesus Christ. But again, humility is truth, and we cannot forget that who we are before God has nothing to do with our own talents or accomplishments.

Those can be used to honor God, but they did not earn us the divine life we have been granted in Christ Jesus.

In Charles Dickens’ “David Copperfield,” Dickens gives us a character who is the very opposite of a humble person, Uriah Heep. Although he professes to be an “‘umble person,” it is just a mask to hide his arrogance.

We have to be careful that our small acts of seeming humility are not masking something else entirely.

For instance, as Catholics we seem to have taken to heart the command of Jesus to take the lowest place at the banquet. At Mass, the first places that fill up in the church are usually the last rows. The question is: Is this out of humility or because we don’t what anyone blocking our way from a fast exit when Mass is over?

Perversely, it might be that the front seats in church are the lowest places because they offer hospitality to those who arrive late for Mass.

Another small example: Instead of staking out the end seats at Mass and making people climb over us to get to the empty interior spaces in the pews, an act of humility might be to take those interior seats so that others arriving late might have the more coveted seat.

Do we stay through the final blessing of Mass as a reminder that we, who have become Christ through the Eucharist, are missioned to Christify the world?

Or are we so anxious to get back to our own plans and projects that we slide out the door right after receiving Communion? There are always emergencies, but a practice like this can lead us to think that Mass is about what we receive there rather than allowing ourselves to be transformed there.

These are little things, but they are also gentle reminders that our true boast is the gift that Jesus has transformed us to give a place at the eucharistic banquet and not tending to our own sense of care for self.

Little acts of humility, even at Mass, can help us remember the truth of who we are before God.Msgr.

Timothy Keeney is pastor of Incarnation, Charlottesville.

How to handle risks involved in answering God’s call • August 12, 2019

 By Melanie Coddington

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time Jer 38:4-6, 8-10 Ps 40:2, 3, 4, 18 Heb 12:1-4 Lk 12:49-53

This Sunday’s readings give us a glimpse (or two or three) of the risks involved in radical obedience to God’s call. Prophetic types, who like Jeremiah and Jesus speak the hard truth, especially to power, inevitably meet resistance and frequently rejection — even from family and community.

In today’s first reading, we meet the prophet Jeremiah at a desperate moment. Out of favor with the dueling powers-that-be (due to his dire warnings of destruction), Jeremiah has one last chance to change his tune. Instead, he delivers a decidedly unpatriotic message: “Thus says the Lord: He who remains in the city shall die by sword, or famine, or pestilence; but he who goes out to the Chaldeans shall live; his life shall be spared as booty, and he shall live….This city shall certainly be handed over to the army of the King of Babylon; he shall capture it.”

In a nutshell: Surrender or die. Let go of power or watch Jerusalem burn to the ground. This sets the stage for the part of the story we hear at Mass.

The princes, whose collective power rivals that of King Zedekiah, reject Jeremiah’s doomsday declaration. Threatened by his truth, they demand his death. Hapless Zedekiah gives in to their wishes, and the princes throw Jeremiah into a courtyard cistern where he sinks into the mud. We can imagine his desperate prayers from the bottom of the pit.

It seems Jeremiah has one last friend in high places. A court official, Ebed-Melech the Cushite, i.e., the Ethiopian, intervenes and persuades the king to draw Jeremiah up from the pit, delivering him from certain death. The dramatic rescue portrayed in the first two verses from Psalm 40 fits hand-in-glove with Jeremiah’s tale. In the Lectionary translation (RNAB), the repetition “waited, waited” implies the urgency and immediacy of the verb in the original Hebrew, echoing the desperation of the prophet in the pit.

Verse three mentions a “new song,” signaling a real-life transformation apparent to others: “And he put a new song into my mouth, a hymn to our God. Many shall look on in awe and trust in the Lord.” This suffering one, now delivered, has become a living sign.

For most of us, most of the time, change happens, but soon enough life settles back into some version of the status quo. The “new song” of Psalm 40 indicates a more radical shift — to a whole new place, or a new plain of existence, as might occur in the wake of a death or a birth.

The revered Scripture scholar Walter Brueggeman calls this place “New Orientation” and explains that getting there requires a break with old ideas and ways of doing things — a letting go of the past.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus sees what lies ahead — the “baptism” of his passion and death. His great anguish comes through as he warns his disciples of the cost of following him: Once reliable bonds of blood or kinship by marriage will break down as the message of the Gospel hits home. Once stable communities will fracture as the truth meets rejection.

The letter to the Hebrews offers some solace. In taking the risk of discipleship, putting all that we are in the hands of God and at the service of God’s reign in our world, we are not alone but “surrounded by…a cloud of witnesses.”

More importantly, Jesus has gone before us through the worst that the world can dish out; through rejection, betrayal, suffering and death and has come to a new and glorious place at the right hand of God.

With our eyes on him and his Spirit flowing through us, we too can face the perils of the journey, bearing witness to the truth of the Gospel in our words and actions and accepting the consequences as our share in the sufferings of Christ.

Melanie serves as regional minister for Christian formation, providing catechetical and pastoral support to parishes in southwest Virginia, and contributing to Office of Christian Formation initiatives across the diocese. She holds a master’s in pastoral studies from Loyola University, New Orleans.

Use wealth properly, especially for those in need • July 29, 2019

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Eccl 1:2; 2:21-23; Col 3:1-5, 9-11 Lk 12:13-21

The readings this weekend speak to us of things of this world, our accumulation of those things and how we regard them.

In the Gospel from Luke, Jesus uses the example of the man and his bountiful harvest. The harvest is larger than normal, meaning he has more than he needs. It represents all those things God has given us, which are more than we think about or realize.

The man thinks he can store his bountiful harvest and be set for many years and “rest, eat, drink, be merry!” Jesus tells us that this accumulation of more than he needs is foolishness for he will never be able to use it all.

The passage from Wisdom comments on this idea of accumulation of wealth and calls it vanity. We work for it, we build it up, and in the end we leave it to someone who has not worked for it.

Jesus is not condemning the accumulation of things per se, and in the psalm we pray the Lord will bless us with success in our labors. We all need to have the necessary resources to provide for our future and if we are married and have families, the future of our spouse and children while they are growing up.

We also need to put ourselves in a situation to support the Church and its works of charity, as well as other organizations. Some of us may need resources to care for aging parents or other family members. If we accumulate wealth beyond our needs with the intention of sharing that wealth, we are using the blessings of God, our bountiful harvest, to assist those who do not have all they need. We are the wise stewards we heard about a few weeks ago.

Jesus uses the bountiful harvest to represent physical things and attitudes in addition to wealth. In the reading from the Letter to the Colossians, St. Paul brings us into a deeper understanding of this teaching. He tells us that since we have been raised with Jesus we should put away the things of this world.

He gives us examples of these earthly things in this reading: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and the greed that is idolatry. These things are all about us; they make us feel important. These things bring us satisfaction; they also bring us death.

It is the things of heaven which bring us life — life in heaven and life in Christ. It is through the things of heaven that we find everlasting life.

The accumulation of wealth, which can be money, possessions and talents, is not necessarily a failure for us as Christians.

Our failure as Christians can be twofold in connection to that wealth. We fail as Christians when we do not use our wealth properly, by using it for the betterment of ourselves and others, especially those in need. Our failure as Christians can also be based on where and what our lives are focused. If they are focused on things of this world, then we fail as Christians.

We find success as Christians when we are focused on things of heaven and use our wealth as God intended by sharing with others, just as Jesus did.

Deacon Christopher Colville serves at Church of the Redeemer, Mechanicsville.

Immerse yourself in the sacraments, Word of God • July 15, 2019

  By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Dt 30:10-14 Ps 69:14, 17, 30-31, 36, 37 or Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 11 Col 1:15-20 Lk 10:25-37

Sometimes people who want to compare and contrast Catholicism and Protestantism broadly describe the Catholic Church as a sacramental Church and Protestantism as a religion of the Word. This does not describe a contrast at all because to say that the Church is a sacramental Church is to say at the same time that the Church is the Church formed in the Word and by the Word.

In Colossians, Paul says, “Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God.” Being the image of the invisible God is another way of saying that Jesus is the sacrament of God and the revelation of God — both sacrament and Word. Because all things were created in him and for him, it means that even the created world is a sacramental of Jesus, reflective of who he is.

There is a reason why when people forget about the revelation of the person of Jesus Christ they are often attracted by a vague polytheism, e.g., “May the force be with you” or some non-personal concept of divinity in the universe. However, that concept of the divine is ephemeral, and makes no specific claim on our hearts, passions and actions.

We are made for a sacramental reality. Our bodies tell us that the world in which we live is a very real place filled with pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow. Yet, we also are unsatisfied with that plain reality and have a palpable sense that we are made for something more, something more than creation can give us.

That something more is the hunger for the divine that has been planted in our souls by the one in whose image we are created.

All of this leads us to a realization that if we really want to understand ourselves, our place in the world and the world itself, then we have to immerse ourselves in the experience of Jesus sacramentally.

We experience him by immersing ourselves in the Word of God. We experience him in the community of the Church. We experience him in the sacramental encounter of baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, reconciliation, anointing of the sick, holy orders and marriage.

To say it another way: God desires with all his being to make himself known to us in order to share his very life with us out of pure selfless love. To accomplish this, God begins to make himself known in creation, then more clearly in the events of salvation history and ultimately by giving us Jesus as the sacrament of God.

Jesus then gives us the Church as the sacrament of our continuing encounter with him through space and time, and gives us the individual sacraments as a way to encounter Christ in the Church.

With this reality in mind, look again at the great command of the Gospel — to love God with all your heart, being, strength and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself.

It is a commandment that is not imposed from above but is written in the very fabric of our being having been made though him and for him.

Msgr. Timothy Keeney is pastor of Incarnation Parish, Charlottesville.

Reliance on God a matter of faith, trust • July 1, 2019

 By Melanie Coddington

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time Is 66:10-14c Ps 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20 Gal 6:14-18 Lk 10:1-12, 17-20

Don’t be surprised if this Sunday’s reading from Isaiah makes half the assembly squirm and the other half blush, as it announces the rebirth of Jerusalem in the earthy tones of womanhood.

God’s life-giving generosity comes across in imagery so feminine (“suck fully,” “milk of her comfort,” “nurse with delight,” “abundant breasts”) it practically sings off the page in a motherly mezzo-soprano. Regardless of our post-modern modesty, such language made good sense to our ancestors in faith.

In ancient Mediterranean culture, mothers typically nursed their children for several years; with boys, the favored offspring, kept at the breast longer than girls. For people living off the land, prosperity meant abundant milk and healthy children; scarcity meant scanty milk and infant mortality. Thus, milk appears often in the Hebrew Testament as a sign of plenty.

For example, throughout the desert journey of Israel, the promised land of Canaan carries along the hopeful description “flowing with milk and honey.” Isaiah 55’s opening invitation, “All you who are thirsty, come to the water!” concludes with the phrase, “drink wine and milk!”

Where does all this milky talk take us? To a stunning conclusion: The Lord God claims the role of mother to Israel (and to us), saying today, “…as a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you….”

In a not so subtle effort to balance things, the framers of the Lectionary pair this reading with verses from Psalm 66 that speak of “tremendous deeds” and God ruling “by his might.” Familiar references to Exodus (“He has changed the sea into dry land…”) and Israel’s entry into the Promised Land (“…through the river they passed on foot…”) round out the solid, masculine imagery. Only the final line hints at a softer side: “Blessed be God who refused me not my prayer or his kindness!”

The second reading, from the final verses of St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians, builds on last Sunday’s selection from the same book. (In Ordinary Time, second readings come from New Testament books read “in course,” meaning the selections appear in the Lectionary in the order that they appear in the Bible.)

Paul says, “For neither does circumcision mean anything, nor does uncircumcision, but only a new creation.” Translation: When it comes to salvation, what we humans do means nothing; what God does means everything.

Based on the context of conflict, described throughout Paul’s letter to the Galatians, “circumcision” here stands for adherence to the law of Moses. Against those who would require Gentile believers to observe the Jewish law, Paul has argued that all of us are saved by God’s grace, freely and generously given. We do not earn it.

Melanie serves as regional minister for Christian formation, providing catechetical and pastoral support to parishes in southwest Virginia, and contributing to Office of Christian Formation initiatives across the diocese. She holds a master’s in pastoral studies from Loyola University, New Orleans.

How have people found Christ in you? • June 17, 2019

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

The Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ Gn 14:18-20 1 Cor 11:23-26 Lk 9:11b-17

This weekend we celebrate the Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, formerly known as “Corpus Christi.” This feast celebrates in a special way the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist where we receive the Body and Blood of Christ.

Every time we receive the Eucharist, in our liturgical celebration or if it is brought to us when we are sick or homebound, we receive the Real Presence of Jesus. While we encounter the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, it is not the only way we encounter Jesus, a common theme in many homilies, talks and commentaries.

During the Eucharistic celebration, Jesus is encountered several ways. We find Jesus in the Word that is proclaimed and heard. We know and profess Jesus is the incarnation of the Word of God.

John’s Gospel account begins, “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1). In verse 14 we hear, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Thus, we do encounter Jesus, the Word incarnate, in the Scriptures.

We also encounter Jesus in the community gathered for the celebration of the Eucharist and in the presence of one another. In Matthew 18:20 Jesus says, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am with you also.” The Church is the Body of Christ and we gather as the Body of Christ. We also encounter Jesus in each other. What happens as a result of our encounter with Jesus in these instances? Our understanding of how and where we encounter Jesus cannot end with the liturgy. It must impact our lives. It must mean we become like Jesus.

The disciples and the people to whom Jesus ministered encountered him through his presence to them. He was encountered in his ministry to the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the outcasts, those who mourned the death of a loved one and those he called back to life.

In the reception of his body and blood we must become that of which we partake. This means being in communion with Jesus beyond Mass. If we are not changed through his presence, then what does the changing of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus mean? If the reception of Eucharist during Mass does not impact us in the world outside the confines of the church building, what does it mean?

If you have ever been unable to attend Mass and receive the Eucharist, you know the joy when someone brings Eucharist to you and you experience the presence of Jesus. On the other hand, if you have been fortunate enough to bring Eucharist to someone who was unable to attend Mass, you encountered Jesus in them.

He is the sick, the hungry, the lonely and the imprisoned. Jesus tells us in Matthew 25 that he is in the person to whom we minister in those encounters. When you’ve visited the sick, brought food to the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty or visited a person in prison, there has been an encounter with Jesus just as surely as we encounter him in the Eucharist. We were Christ to them and Christ in them found.

This great feast of the Body and Blood of Christ should gives us cause to pause and ponder where we find Christ in our lives and how others have found Christ in us.

Deacon Christopher Colville serves at Church of the Redeemer, Mechanicsville.

Our lives need to be renewed in the Spirit • June 3, 2019

  By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

Pentecost Sunday at the Vigil Mass Gen 11:1-9 Ps 33:10-11, 12-13, 14-15 Ex 19:3-8a, 16-20b Dn 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56 or Ps 19: 8, 9, 10, 11 Ezl 37:1-14 Ps 107:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9 Jl 3:1-5 Ps 104:1-2, 24 and 35, 27- 28, 29-30 Rom 8:22-27 Jn 7:37-39

As you can see from the accompanying list of Scripture, the Vigil of Pentecost in many ways is meant to remind us of the Easter Vigil. Like all vigils, it is meant to make us watchful and filled with longing for the great deeds of God.

Like the Easter Vigil, we are not pretending that God has not already acted – in the Easter Vigil with the Resurrection of Jesus and in the Pentecost Vigil with the giving of the Holy Spirit. Rather, we are remembering the great deeds of God the Father that prepared us for the coming of the Holy Spirit in Jesus Christ.

The confusion of languages at Babel is healed by the understanding of those from all the nations as they heard the apostles preach the Good News of Jesus Christ on Pentecost.

Exodus reminds us that God gave the law to the people of Israel 50 days after saving them from slavery at Passover. The new feast of Pentecost is a celebration of the law that God has written onto our hearts 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection.

Ezekiel’s vision of dry bones taking on new flesh and Joel’s vision of the coming day of the Lord are both fulfilled in the gift of the Spirit. Paul writes about that fulfillment of these prophesies in the image of all creation groaning in labor pains.

Finally, in John’s Gospel, Jesus shows us that the prophecy of the stream of water flowing from the temple making all the land come alive and even transforming the Dead Sea to fresh water is fulfilled in the Spirit flowing from his opened side on the cross.

The Spirit has been given, but we can see that the Church, the world and our individual lives need to be renewed in the Spirit. Our vigil makes us receptive to what God wants to do in us through the Spirit, and we can have confidence that he will fulfill that promise to us because he has always been faithful in fulfilling his promises.

If your parish celebrates the extended Pentecost Vigil, listen closely to the words of invitation at the start of the Liturgy of the Word so to make it a prayer for your life as well.

“Dear brothers and sisters, we have now begun our Pentecost Vigil, after the example of the apostles and disciples, who with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, persevered in prayer, awaiting the Spirit promised by the Lord; like them, let us listen with quiet hearts to the Word of God. Let us meditate on how many great deeds God in times past did for his people and let us pray that the Holy Spirit, whom the Father sent as the first fruits for those who believe, may bring to perfection his work in the world.”

Msgr. Timothy Keeney is pastor of St. Bede Parish, Williamsburg.

As Advocate, Holy Spirit energizes our ability to discern • May 20, 2019

 By Melanie Coddington

Sixth Sunday of Easter Acts 15:1-2, 22-29 Ps 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8 Rv 21:10-14, 22-23 Jn 14:23-29

In these final weeks of the Easter season, we hear hopeful whisperings about the coming of the Holy Spirit. In today’s Gospel, Jesus begins, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”

This talk of the divine persons dwelling with human beings recalls the voice from the throne in last week’s vision from Revelation: “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God.”

Jesus puts a name (or two or three) to this indwelling presence of God: “I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have told you.”

Though Jesus himself must depart, his disciples will not be left orphan. Indeed, divine help is on the way.

This Holy Spirit, active in the world since the dawn of creation, will now be recognizable as the very same Spirit that filled the human person, Jesus. Sent by the Father in the name of Jesus, this One will bring into the midst of his disciples the enduring presence of the Risen Christ and continue to teach them everything. Hint: The disciples will need to learn as they go.

As Advocate, this One will plead with the Father on behalf of the people: “…the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will” (Rom 8:26-27).

These actions of the Holy Spirit, as teacher, Advocate and intercessor energize the spiritual discipline of discernment — discovering the will of God in all circumstances, and especially in complex ones. Jesus knows that situations will arise that will challenge his followers to examine their presumptions and stretch beyond their comfort zones. It doesn’t take long.

Today’s reading from Acts recounts one such situation. Though the life and ministry of Jesus clearly revealed the Father’s all-embracing mercy, when it comes to incorporating the others (Gentiles) into the Body of Christ, some disciples want to play it safe — by the old rules (“according to the Mosaic practice”).

This adherence-by-default to long-accepted religious norms generates discord: Some insist that the Gentile converts be circumcised, essentially becoming Jewish, before they can be saved. Others (notably Paul and Barnabas) view this as unnecessary for, and indeed, contrary to, salvation by grace.

As described in Acts 15:3-21, missing from today’s more concise Lectionary version, resolution of the conflict requires pilgrimage to Jerusalem, public debate, compelling testimony, silence, deep listening and reevaluation of tradition. The Council of Jerusalem begins with intense and extended argument.

“After much debate,” Peter reminds those gathered of recent boundary-defying actions of the Holy Spirit that have generated new insights into God’s will regarding the Gentiles. Stunned into silence, the assembly listens as Paul and Barnabas tell of signs and wonders worked by God.

Finally, James weighs in, invoking the prophet Amos to show how God’s intention to call all humanity (the Gentiles) into relationship has long been a part of the tradition.

In this process of discernment, the Holy Spirit moves the community (“the apostles and presbyters, in agreement with the whole Church”) to write a letter and send a delegation announcing the outcome: “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities.”

A handful of prohibitions remain, those deemed essential for mixed communities (including Jewish and Gentile believers) to participate in table fellowship (Eucharist) and share life in the Body of Christ.

Melanie serves as regional minister for Christian formation, providing catechetical and pastoral support to parishes in southwest Virginia, and contributing to Office of Christian Formation initiatives across the diocese. She holds a master’s in pastoral studies from Loyola University, New Orleans.

Hear Jesus’ words, then act upon them • May 6, 2019

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

Fourth Sunday of Easter Acts 13:14, 43-52; Rv 7:9, 14b-17 Jn 10:27-30

The Scriptures this weekend speak about who the risen Christ is for us and present two great truths of our faith: Jesus is the shepherd who protects his sheep, and Jesus is the lamb on the throne who was slain for the life of the sheep, for our lives.

In the verses preceding today’s Gospel reading, Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” In today’s passage he tells us that no one can take his sheep away from him. If we are his sheep, if we truly follow Jesus, he will hold us in the palm of his hand and nothing can take us away from him.

Jesus is also the Lamb who was slain and sits on the throne of God. In John’s Gospel, John the Baptist identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God; he sees Jesus approaching and proclaims, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

Jesus is for us both Good Shepherd who leads us and the Lamb on the throne who was slain for our redemption and who opened the way for our entry into heaven.

In Revelation, we hear of a great multitude gathered at the throne of the lamb — “the ones who have survived the great time of distress.”

In Acts, we are told how the Jews stirred up the elders of the city, which resulted in the persecution of Paul and Barnabas. Certainly this was a time of distress for them. While we may feel free from the fear of persecution and martyrdom, persecutions of Christians still continue as evidenced by the bombings in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday and attacks on Christians in the Middle East over the past number of years.

We think of the persecutions of the early Church and these recent persecutions as times of great distress and the martyrs as those who persevered in faith. Can there be other times we also consider as periods of great distress?

I have heard of individuals who have watched with the eyes of faith as a loved one suffers with Alzheimer’s or dementia and slowly slips away from them. There are people who have watched or helped as a loved one suffers through addiction, depression or a physical impairment. The parent who suffers the loss of a child experiences great distress that never completely goes away.

We may know others who suffer a great distress in their lives and survive it because of their faith. Could those who suffer and the people who journey with them also be included in the great multitude mentioned in Revelation?

The Prince of Darkness challenges all of us with times of distress. We are blessed to have the Risen Lord, both Lamb who was slain and Good Shepherd who leads us, to follow to the throne of God.

We are called to hear Jesus’ voice, follow him and be part of the great multitude. This involves more than just listening to the words of Jesus; it involves really hearing them and acting upon them.

If we don’t listen to his voice and follow Jesus, we may find ourselves following a different shepherd, one who will lead us astray. Will we follow the Good Shepherd, our Risen Lord? Will we be among the great multitude spoken of in Revelation?

Deacon Christopher Colville serves at Church of the Redeemer, Mechanicsville.

Gospel always has power to draw people to Christ • April 22, 2019

  By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

Second Sunday of Easter – Divine Mercy Acts 5:12-16 Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24 Rev 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19 Jn 20:19-31

Many of our parishes are blessed to have the presence of priests from Africa. They are serving in our parishes with a great deal of zeal and dedication. Their presence in our diocese also makes us more aware of what is happening in the Catholic Church in other parts of the world.

We are currently going through a very difficult time in our diocese and in our Church. We may have noticed a real drop in Mass attendance in the aftermath of the clergy sexual abuse scandal. This is cause for concern, but it is not the whole story.

The Church in Africa and Asia is experiencing a period of growth that seems to come right out of the Acts of the Apostles. In Africa, the number of Catholics has increased over the last decade by 41 percent, while general population in the continent increased only 23.8 percent. In Asia, the number of Catholics has increased by 20 percent over the same time frame, while the general population increased by 9.6 percent.

As we celebrate Easter, we can remember that the vitality of Church and of the Gospel did not arise from the apostles themselves. Rather, by allowing the Divine Mercy of the Risen Lord to penetrate deeply into their hearts, the apostles became the means of Jesus continuing his work of physical and spiritual healing that marked his earthly ministry.

Those healings are themselves only provisional because they merely point to the reality of the deeper healing that is ours with Jesus in the glory of heaven through his death and resurrection.

There is no reason to doubt that his power is sufficient to transform every corner of the world, including our diocese and our parishes, into places where there is a new Pentecost. Even this year there was positive movement as the number of those adults baptized this Easter was 441 — up from 381 a year ago.

Every Sunday, as the Gospel is being preached, there are those who experience spiritual healings in their lives. If this has happened in your own life, I want to urge you to share the news with your family and friends. That healing was given to you not only for your sake, but also for the sake of your family, friends and Church members.

God’s continued gift of healing in the world through the Spirit has the same purpose it did at the time of the apostles. It makes credible the mission of Jesus and the Church so that others might be drawn into his body and be added to the number of those who believe in our Lord Jesus Christ.

No matter the struggle or dark clouds or even the sin of its members, because the message of the Gospel always has the power to draw people to Christ. It is always Pentecost.

Msgr. Timothy Keeney is pastor of St. Bede Parish, Williamsburg.

Accept invitation to deepen experience of Paschal Mystery • April 8, 2019

 By Melanie Coddington

Passion Sunday Is 50:4-7 Psalm 22 Phil 2:6-11 Lk 22:14—23:56

With more than 50 weeks on the calendar, few Mass attendees passing through the church doors know precisely which Sunday of the liturgical year the faithful are gathering to celebrate. Not so this Sunday! The familiar sight of palm sprays on the altar, the smell of fresh fronds pressed into our hands and the feel of the curly strings tickling our fingers all evoke the beginning of the great story, focusing our collective imagination on the noisy, crowded streets of Jerusalem.

The splashy entrance rite overflows with brilliant hosannas and bright color, but once we settle into our seats, the Liturgy of the Word leaves behind the joyful clamor of the palm celebration and turns our attention toward the distant hill with the stark crosses.

Today the Scriptures point to the figure of Jesus in his fully-realized humanity — in his generosity and vulnerability as he surrenders all to the will of his Abba (Father).

Entering Jerusalem, he starts the chain of events that will bring about reconciliation between humanity and God, through his Paschal Mystery, and will also reshape the Jewish Passover into the Paschal feast of the new covenant in his Body and Blood (our Eucharist).

Jesus embodies the central figure of today’s first reading, Isaiah’s suffering servant. In the preaching and teaching that we have heard Sunday after Sunday, Jesus uses his “well-trained tongue” to “speak to the weary.” His words indeed “rouse them” to faith and devotion to God’s reign. (Those with much to lose are also roused — to unbelief and violent resistance to this threatening “first shall be last” rearrangement of the status quo.)

The unwavering obedience of Jesus to the Father’s will — despite threats against his life — arises from an intimate relationship of trust built on prayer. “Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear” beautifully portrays the continuity of the conversation between Jesus and his Abba, as nighttime prayers give way to dreams, and the message of dreams linger in the conscious mind upon waking. “I have not rebelled, have not turned back” shows the depth of his trust in the Father’s steady instruction.

With its refrain, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me,” Psalm 22 seems at first to signal a break in the relationship, but if we persevere in listening to the end, we move with the psalmist from plea to praise, or at least the vow to praise (“I will proclaim you name…”).

This vow demonstrates trust; the psalmist expects to be delivered. Even amid terrible suffering, the conversation of covenant partners continues.

St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians expands on the theme of obedience: “And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Christ’s humility, his emptying of self, opens the way to his obedience, and his obedience opens the way to our salvation.

If we consider Phil 2:6-11 in its biblical context, we notice that the apostle Paul suspends his usual dense prose in favor of a hymn — a pre-existent piece of liturgy, most probably well-known at the time of his writing. He cites this familiar text, this beloved song of faith, to remind the Philippians of their commitment to live justly, as true disciples of Jesus the servant Lord.

Verses 6-8 present Jesus, in his humility and obedience, as the model for their behavior and ours. Following the example of Jesus, they and we can move beyond self-interest toward compassion and true community.

This splendid hymn also encapsulates and enshrines the Paschal Mystery — the suffering- death-resurrection of Jesus that accomplishes our salvation. We celebrate this mystery at every Eucharist, but once a year, after the long journey of Lent, our Church invites us to deepen our experience of the Paschal Mystery, calling for a continuum of ritual prayer over the three days of the sacred Triduum.

Melanie serves as regional minister for Christian formation, providing catechetical and pastoral support to parishes in southwest Virginia, and contributing to Office of Christian Formation initiatives across the diocese. She holds a master’s in pastoral studies from Loyola University, New Orleans.

Let go of what stands between you and God’s presence • March 25, 2019

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

Fourth Sunday of Lent Jos 5:9a, 10-12; 2 2 Cor 5:17-21 Lk 15:1-3, 11-32

This weekend we celebrate the Fourth Sunday in Lent. It is “Laetare” Sunday; we are halfway through Lent and looking forward to the idea of becoming a new creation on Easter.

In the first and second readings we see this idea of fulfillment. In the first reading, the Israelites are in the land of Canaan, the land promised to their ancestors and the fulfillment of God’s promise. The day after Passover they feasted on the fruits of the land and God removed the reproach of Egypt from them. They are a nation in a new land, no longer slaves but free.

In the second reading, Paul tells us that we have been reconciled to God through Christ. He says in Christ we have become a new creation and God has reconciled the world to himself through Jesus.

In our Gospel we have the parable of the Prodigal Son, which some have referred to as the Prodigal Father or Forgiving Father. The son has reached the very lowest point in his life — a Jewish man working with pigs and starving. Yet he comes to his senses and returns to the father, not to request his position as son, but to seek only to be a servant.

He has recognized the pride that prompted him to ask for his inheritance, drove him away from his home and family, and caused him to spend his money foolishly. It was this pride that prevented him from experiencing his father’s presence and the unconditional love his father had to offer.

One purpose of Lent is trying to rid ourselves of things that interfere with us being present to God, becoming a new creation, and experiencing his love in its fullness at Easter. We all can find things that get in the way of being more present to God, things we don’t want to let go or want to hold on to for one reason or another.

Richard Rohr, in his introduction to the book “Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi,” writes “…Francis and Clare made room for the new by a full willingness to let go of the old.” He further comments it was hard to find this in a religion that holds fast to the “small and comfortable traditions.”

What small and comfortable things do we hold on to? What old things in our life interfere with experiencing the fullness of God’s presence? We need to rid myself of those things that get in the way. Hypothetically, the more things that we can get rid of, the more room we have for God.

In lay terms it is called decluttering. If we declutter our lives from things that interfere with God, we can more deeply experience God in our lives. We can do this through prayer, self-reflection and the sacrament of reconciliation. We can have someone we trust — a confessor, spiritual director or spouse — help us identify them.

Once we have identified them, we must be willing to get rid of them or change them so they don’t interfere with the presence of God. The son was at the very lowest point in his life when he recognized his pride. We don’t have to wait until we are there; we can do it now.

We still have three weeks of Lent in which to change so we can draw closer to God. The closer we get to God, the more fully we can experience God’s saving power at Easter.

Deacon Christopher Colville serves at Church of the Redeemer, Mechanicsville.

Repent for broken oaths, recommit to God-centered life • March 11, 2019

  By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

Second Sunday of Lent – Year B Gn 15: 5-12, 17-18 Ps 27: 1, 7-8, 8-9, 13-14 Phil 3: 17 – 4: 1 Lk 9: 28b – 36

When we are asked to do something solemn in a public fashion, we are often asked to make oaths. When a bride and groom enter into marriage, they make vows, which is another word for an oath.

When we are required to testify in court, we make an oath:

“Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth; so help you God?”

“I do.”

When we make an oath, it should cause us some pause. Not just because, as in the case of testimony at trial, we could go to jail by breaking our oath, but because by invoking God’s name we are risking our soul as we make this vow.

At the same time, we can become cynical about oaths because we see people breaking them every day. Part of the reason is that people think that others will not catch them in their deceit; the other part is that people do not think God will really hold us accountable for our broken oaths.

Why would God hold us accountable for our broken oaths? Because he holds himself accountable for the oaths that he himself makes.

That is what is going on as God asks Abraham to prepare such a strange sacrifice. The animals are cut in two with a miraculous smoking pot and a flaming torch passing between the pieces. God is making a covenant. God is making an oath.

It was the same covenant/oath ceremony that an adopted father would make when he adopted a child. By this oath ceremony the adoptive father was saying, “If I ever am unfaithful in my oath to you, let what has happened to these animals happen to me.”

God is saying the same thing to Abraham: “If I ever am unfaithful to you, let me cease to exist.” Because God is eternal, his oaths are also eternal.

Jesus also makes a covenant with his people. In the New Covenant through his suffering, death and resurrection, he shares his very nature as the eternal Son of the living God. In the Transfiguration witnessed by Peter, James and John, Jesus gives them a foretaste of the reality of that New Covenant that will transform “our lowly body to conform with his glorified body,” as promised to us through the words of Saint Paul.

We participate in his oath to us by our own participation in the oath ceremonies of the sacraments. In baptism, we swear an oath that we belong to Christ — body and soul. In confirmation, we swear an oath that we will give witness to Christ with our lives, even to martyrdom.

In the Eucharist, we swear an oath to allow our lives to be transfigured by becoming the Eucharist we have received. Reconciliation and the healing of the sick are oath ceremonies, as are the sacraments of marriage and orders.

Even if on our part we break our oaths in these sacraments, the oath still holds because the primary oath-taker is God himself. Every time we participate in the sacraments, we renew this covenant oath between God and his people.

Lent is an appropriate time to repent of broken oaths and to recommit ourselves to living out our divinized life — a life opened up to us through the oath made by Christ and foreshadowed in the Transfiguration.

Msgr. Timothy Keeney is pastor of St. Bede Parish, Williamsburg.

See, love as Christ sees, loves • February 25, 2019

  By Melanie Coddington

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time Sir 27:4-7 Ps 92:2-3, 13-16 1 Cor 15:54-58 Lk 6:39-45

A few years back, I looked up a key word or two in the concordance of my study Bible and discovered a treasure in the book of Sirach — a whole litany’s worth of pithy sayings about group process from which I built a prayer for parish council retreats.

Ben Sira has plenty of wisdom to offer about speaking, listening, withholding judgment and holding one’s tongue until the right moment. I’ve been a fan ever since.

Today’s brief passage makes its point with a stack of metaphors, rendered poetically, with parallel phases layered one upon the other. First, we hear of a sieve shaken to bring refuse to the surface. Just so, our speech can reveal flaws in our character, especially when we are agitated.

The second metaphor builds upon the first, comparing the trial-by-fire that proves the potter’s skill to the tribulation that tests the integrity of the just person. Though speech is not mentioned explicitly, the context suggests that foul speech under stress can be likened to the crack of a shoddy pot in the kiln.

Finally, we hear how a tree’s fruit shows the care it has received. If properly cultivated and pruned, it bears good fruit. Just so, speech discloses “the bent of one’s mind” and the disciplined effort made to bend it so. To sum up: Speech reveals character, integrity and discipline, or the lack of it.

In Psalm 92, gratitude lays the foundation for prayer that proclaims God’s “kindness at dawn” and his “faithfulness throughout the night.” Here, good speech transforms the person. 24/7 intimacy with God, expressed in grateful prayer, enables the just one to flourish, like a tree planted in God’s house, and remain fruitful over a lifetime.

In the gospel, Jesus focuses on a particular form of speech — judgment of other people. Last Sunday’s imperative, “Stop judging and you will not be judged,” sets the stage for this passage.

Jesus uses blindness as a metaphor to illustrate the folly of pointing out someone else’s fault while overlooking our own. So we ask: What blinds us so that we cannot see our own fault? What distorts our vision of the other so that we can only find fault with him or her or them? Sin, of course, but it wears a subtle guise. Our perceptions of one another rely on our presumptions — that set of preconceived assumptions that we inherit and build over time, based on culture, upbringing (religious or not) and experience.

Presumptions shape and inevitably limit our vision. We cannot help but see others through our own lens.

In the story of David’s anointing, the Lord makes this point: “God does not see as a mortal, who sees the appearance. The Lord looks into the heart” (1 Sam 16:7b). We all fail to see as God sees and to love as God loves. Therein lies the sin.

So how do we become good people who produce good fruit out of the store of goodness in our hearts? Jesus says, “No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher.” It is in relationship with Jesus — 24/7 intimacy with God, through Christ, by the power of the Spirit — that we can be transformed.

St. Paul counts love, kindness, gentleness and self-control among the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), so it takes openness to the Spirit to develop grace under fire as an enduring aspect of character.

To become like our teacher, we must ask for the courage to let go of the lenses (presumptions) that make us feel secure and superior to others. Only then can we begin to see as Christ sees — all persons in God’s image, all persons as beloved of God — and to love as Christ loves, with the compassion of the Father.

As for judgment — don’t even go there!

Melanie serves as regional minister for Christian formation, providing catechetical and pastoral support to parishes in southwest Virginia, and contributing to Office of Christian Formation initiatives across the diocese. She holds a master’s in pastoral studies from Loyola University, New Orleans.

Place your hope, trust in Jesus and his resurrection • February 11, 2019

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time Jer 17:5-8; 1 Cor 15:12, 16-20 Lk 6:17, 20-26

Our readings for the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time tell us there is a difference between the way the world believes and the way a Christian should believe. We are told to put our hope and trust in God and not in things of this world.  

It is not so much trust in the sense that we trust people to be honest or to do the things they say they will. Rather, it is about the things we see as important, things we believe in or value. The readings tell us the values of the world are not in what we need to hope and trust, not in what we need to believe.

In the Gospel we have the beginning of the “Sermon on the Plain.” Jesus had just named the 12 Apostles from among his disciples and come down from the mountain.  He is speaking to the 12 and his other disciples in the presence of the crowds. He begins by proclaiming the blessedness of the poor, the hungry, the weeping and those who are hated, excluded and insulted.   

While these characteristics are not ones we strive for in a human sense, we see them in Jesus and his ministry.  He was a wandering preacher who had no money and who relied on others for food and shelter.  

We see how Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus and over the coming destruction of Jerusalem. During his ministry he sought out those who were excluded from society. We hear many times in the Gospels how the Jewish leaders spoke ill of him and plotted against him, and during his passion and death he was ridiculed and tortured.

Jesus presents a new way of thinking, something new in which to believe. It is a new perspective on where we place our hope and trust. Jeremiah says those who put their trust in human things are cursed.  Paul follows Jeremiah in saying: “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.” Christ rose from the dead that we might believe in the resurrection to new life.  

If it is things of this world in which we put our belief then we are not free to love and serve God and his people. Belief in the resurrection means putting our hope and trust in the life and death of Jesus, and as a consequence of this belief we hunger and thirst for Christ.  This hunger and thirst for Christ frees us to live and love as Jesus did.   

In his book “No Man is an Island,” Thomas Merton writes, “We are not perfectly free until we live in pure hope. For when our hope is pure, it no longer trusts exclusively in human and visible means, nor rests in any visible end.” 

Pure hope is found in Jesus and the resurrection from the dead. The resurrection from the dead is beyond our human understanding and imagination. Yet, as Christians, our hope should be life in Christ and the resurrection from the dead.   

Pope Benedict’s theme for his papal visit to the United States in 2008 was, “Christ our Hope” and he said; “The one who has hope lives differently.” 

Do we place our hope and trust in Jesus Christ and his resurrection?   Does the way we live reflect that Christ is the one in whom we hope and trust?  

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

Answer Christ’s call to a deeper level of love • January 28, 2019

  By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C Jer 1: 4-5, 17-19 Ps 71: 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 15, 17 1 Cor 12: 31 – 13: 31 Lk 4: 21-30

If you have ever been to a wedding, chances are that today’s second reading is sounding familiar. Generally, I would guess that the bride and groom have chosen this reading for about half of the marriages at which I have presided. It is a beautiful definition of what love really is, what it entails as we live it.

I have often asked the couples I am preparing for the sacrament of marriage to use this reading as an examination of conscience about their relationship, even if they do not choose it for the celebration itself.

I ask them to look at the section that begins “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude . . .” and then ask themselves if this is a definition of what love is, how have they grown in the last year? Where do they need to grow in the year to come? Moreover, what specific actions are they going to take to make that growth a reality?

This practice is a good idea, but I also see that it might cause a married couple to overromanticize this reading. They might think that this reading is about practical advice on how to strengthen the love between a husband and a wife, and by extension, how we are to love one another.

The love that St. Paul is talking about is the total self-gift of Christ. This is a description of Christ’s total self-gift of himself to the Father in the life of the Trinity. This is a definition of the selfless gift of Jesus in his death and resurrection so that he might set us free from sin and allow us to share in the divine life of the love between the Father, Son and Spirit.

St. Paul talks about our experience in this world as knowing partially, and then when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. God wants to transform, purify and ennoble our experience of human love by incorporating it into Jesus Christ’s own sacrificial love for the Church.

This does not mean that our experiences of love in this world are merely transient. Rather, the real meaning of the love between husband and wife, the love between friends, the love between parent and child, and the love of neighbor will only become apparent when perfected in the kind of love that God offers us.

The power and majesty of this kind of loving may seem daunting and out of reach. We can take comfort in this; we have the capacity to love in this way not because of our own merits, but because we have been loved first by Christ in this way. In that gift of self-sacrificing love comes the power to return that love in a total gift of myself to him and through him to others.

The reading from Corinthians may be so familiar to us that it is like a warm blanket that comforts. I also hope that reading it in light of the awesome, total, permanent and selfless gift of Christ may challenge us to move out of our comfort zone to the even deeper levels of love to which he is calling us.

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

With ‘reckless hospitality,’ Jesus sets stage for ministry • January 14, 2019

  By Melanie Coddington

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time Is 62:1-5 1 Cor 12:4-11 Jn 2:1-11

Though the Christmas season has ended, we hear an echo on this Second Sunday of Ordinary Time. Isaiah gets a reprise, having recently appeared in the Christmas Vigil lineup; Psalm 96, of Christmas Midnight fame, returns with a new refrain and different selection of verses.

Marriage imagery in the Isaiah reading makes it a good match for the Gospel reading — the wedding at Cana. Interestingly, the latter was once among the favored readings for Epiphany, describing as it does a clear manifestation of divine glory.

Whenever I hear the story of the wedding at Cana, I think of my mother. Let me explain: I grew up in a Presbyterian kitchen. My mother ran that kitchen — before, during and after countless family luncheons, men’s breakfasts and community dinners.

As a child, I dried piping hot silverware; got sticky hands along with the ladies (breaking 30 dozen eggs); served coffee, waited tables and scraped dirty plates. As a teen, I got to run the big dishwasher — a well-earned reward after years of kid stuff.

Even today, when I attend an event that features food and drink, I tend to gravitate toward the kitchen. When the paper cups or napkins run out, I go rooting for replacements. When the trash starts to overflow, I tie up the bag and get another going.

A little more than a year ago, my mother received her surprise invitation to the eternal banquet, but her practical hospitality lives on in me. This Thanksgiving, I got the invitation to my sister’s house in California, and we ran the kitchen side-by-side, both channeling Mom.

I love the first line of today’s Gospel: “There was a wedding at Cana, and the mother of Jesus was there.” It sets the scene so simply yet evokes such a vivid picture for me. Of course, she’s there! She’s right in the thick of it! One of the “go to” people at this family event, she bears or shares responsibility for hospitality. She pays attention to the guests, the food, and yes, the wine. In her culture, hospitality is more than a virtue; it’s a necessity for survival and a deep-rooted cultural compulsion.

Before the bridegroom or the head waiter becomes aware of it, Mary knows: They have no wine. The last drop has been poured and it’s only a matter of time before the celebration grinds to a halt and the disgrace of meager hospitality falls upon her family.

In this emergency, Mary does the unthinkable. She crosses the line between Jewish women and their grown-up sons and calls upon Jesus for help in the “domestic sphere.” He knows well the social implications of her statement, “They have no wine,” yet he resists her prodding.

Having left her world behind at puberty, he has every cultural right to say, “Woman, how does your concern affect me?” The extra line, “My hour has not yet come,” has an ominous ring to it, foreshadowing the “hour” of his passion and death.

Singularly focused on the situation at hand, Mary ignores his protest and instructs the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” In prompting her son to handle a crisis, does she know that she’s motivating a miracle?

Jesus takes charge and tells the servants what to do: “Fill the jars with water … draw some out and take it to the head waiter.”

An air of surprise sweeps through the gathering, not because of the miracle — only the servants and disciples witness that, but because the new wine is so delicious and there’s so much of it! The head waiter, eager to avoid responsibility for a social blunder, gives the bridegroom “credit” for this surprise — for holding back the best wine until now.

In this, his first sign of reckless hospitality, Jesus sets the stage for his mission and ministry.

Melanie serves as regional minister for Christian formation, providing catechetical and pastoral support to parishes in southwest Virginia, and contributing to Office of Christian Formation initiatives across the diocese. She hold a master’s in pastoral studies from Loyola University, New Orleans.

God’s revelation, salvation are for all • December 31, 2018

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

The Epiphany of the Lord Is 60:1-6; Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6; Mt 2:1-12

As we near the end of the Christmas season, we celebrate the great feast of the Epiphany of the Lord. In some parts of the Christian world, particularly in the Eastern Churches where this feast originated, it is celebrated with as much — or more — solemnity as Christmas.  

Reasons why the Epiphany of the Lord is an important feast are found in our readings.  In the reading from the Letter to the Ephesians we find the teaching that the mystery of God’s grace has been revealed in Jesus Christ. In all three readings we find the theme of the universality of this revelation.   

While not specifically mentioned in the Gospel, the Magi are presumed to be Gentiles. They were not familiar with the prophesy about Bethlehem being the birthplace of the Messiah. The first reading from Isaiah proclaims that people from foreign lands will come to Jerusalem. Paul tells us that we are co-heirs in this message through Jesus Christ.   

What does this feast hold out to us as Catholic Christians in the 21st century?  What other truths can we discern about our faith journeys from this feast?  

If we compare and contrast the shepherds and the Magi we see the truths held out to us. The shepherds were on the lower level of society, hired hands. The Magi were educated and respected members of their society. The shepherds were poor and had no gifts to bring to the newborn king while the Magi were financially well off and could bring expensive gifts. 

The shepherds heard from the angels the night Christ was born and immediately went a relatively short distance into the town to see about what the angels had told them. The Magi, after noting the appearance of a new star, traveled a great distance and, if we can believe the song, over or through many obstacles to visit this new king and present him with appropriate gifts. Along the way they even lost sight of the star and had to ask for assistance to find their way.  

Sometimes in our search for God the road will seem short, quick and, like the shepherds trek, without many obstacles. At other times the journey becomes difficult, it takes time, and we encounter obstacles and struggles on the way.  

For most of us our faith journeys are more like the Magi’s then the shepherds’. Usually there are obstacles we encounter on our quest to find God and it usually doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes we lose sight of our goal or that which leads us to our goal, and we need help to find our way.  

In the shepherds and Magi, we see God revealed at all levels and aspects of society: Shepherds and Magi, hired help and respected members of society, the poor and the rich, Jews and Gentiles.  God’s revelation is for all; salvation is open to all people.  

Another truth we discern from our readings is that we journey with others. In hearing about the shepherds and Magi, we find that they don’t journey alone. We journey and experience God with and through others, and in community. We support one another on this journey and together manifest the revelation of God’s love to everyone.  

In the words of St. Paul, we are “co-partners in the promise.” We act with one another and through Jesus Christ to share this revelation with all the world — no exceptions.  

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

Reflections on Scripture, 12 years as columnist • December 17, 2018

 By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

Fourth Sunday of Advent – C Micah 5: 1-4a Psalm 80: 2-3, 15-16, 18-19 Hebrews 10: 5-10 Luke 1: 39-45

The Emperor Julian was the nephew of Constantine. Objectively, he was one of the best prepared and gifted of all the ancient Roman emperors. He was handsome, tall and powerfully built, and he excelled as a military commander. At the same time, he was a philosopher, social reformer and a man of letters.

Raised as a Christian, he studied and was friends with St. Basil of Cappadocia and St. Gregory Nanzianzen in Athens. Yet, Julian is known through the ages as Julian the Apostate. Julian rejected his Christian faith and returned to paganism. Why?

The turning point came when Basil and Julian were pitted against one another in a symposium debate on the question, “Is the Christian religion of God or of men only?” Basil was chosen by their teacher to take the pro- Christian position and Julian to argue the anti- Christian response.

The culmination of Julian’s argument was an anti-Jewish attack, that it was absurd to believe that the God who created the entire world had been content to waste his time shepherding so jealously a tiny, insignificant tribe in Palestine while simultaneously abandoning all other nations to the worship of false Gods.

He also pointed out that Israel had accomplished little in comparison to the Greeks, Babylonians and Egyptians. Basil won the argument when he countered that if God had allowed the Hebrew people to be a small people in the past, that through Jesus Christ the faith in the one God of the Jewish people had conquered Rome itself, and was now spreading to the ends of the earth.

Julian stormed out of the symposium in anger, rejecting Basil’s friendship and becoming an enemy to the faith that had once been his.

He rejected the faith on a facet of God’s actions in the Old Testament that is characteristic of God’s choices in salvation history. God consistently chooses the younger son over the older son; he chooses the weak over the strong; he chooses the small of this world over the powerful.

God tells us through the prophet Micah that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem-Ephrathah, among the smallest of the clans of Judah. Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, recognizes the Messiah in the womb of Mary, who was among the little ones of Israel. Why does God make such choices?

The powerful in this world are often filled with their own plans, their own agendas. They do not make room in their lives to be caught up in the bigger plans that God might have for them.

Because the little ones of this world know that they must rely upon the generosity of God, they are much more attuned to listening to the voice of God, much more willing to allow God’s plan for them to become their own.

It is not a mistake, as we near the end of Advent, that we are once again given the figure of Mary to contemplate as we prepare for Christ’s birth. The Emperor Julian rejected Christianity in part because he was unwilling to become little before God. The Blessed Mother has been exalted among woman because she embraced her littleness before God.

With whom do we identify — Julian or the Virgin of Nazareth? Are we filled with our own plans or are we willing to listen to the voice of God so that his plans may become ours?

The end of Advent is an invitation to make such a choice. 

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

Reflections on Scripture, 12 years as columnist • December 3, 2018

 By Genevieve M. McQuade

2nd Sunday of Advent, Year C Bar 5:1-9 Ps 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6 Phil 1:4-6, 8-11 Lk 3:1-6

As we continue waiting for the celebration of Jesus’ birth, so were the Israelites waiting for the coming of the Messiah for far longer.

Our first reading from Baruch addresses the people of Jerusalem in which he foretells the glory of what God will eventually accomplish through his Son’s earthly duration as Jesus. The prophet declares: “take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on forever the splendor of glory from God” (1). He emphasizes their joy, “rejoicing that they are remembered by God” (5). These and blessings of mercy (9) and justice (2, 9) allowed God’s plan to be powerfully unleashed so that “Israel may advance securely in the glory of God” (9). 

The proclamation of John the Baptist, recorded in Luke, repeats the promises made long before his time, promises penned from Isaiah’s time to prepare the way of the Lord. The fulfillment of these promises will follow soon after John’s words.

I, too, have been expecting a change for a long time. It is with mixed feelings that I must say a goodbye to all of you. As many of you know, my husband and I moved into another diocese last year. It is only proper that another take my place. 

The “Believe As You Pray” column has been a wonderful avenue to speak of God’s undeserved gifts and goodness since October 2006, a 12-year journey through the living Scriptures used in the Lectionary. Yet, I have been blessed this past year to continue to write this column.

My greatest desire has been to open the Scriptures and illuminate their mystery and depth as the living Word active for us today. I have also featured the activity of the Holy Spirit received in a fuller, conscious manner in our lives, habitually present to simply call upon. 

My method has been to share, and even teach, through a mix of my own life experiences plus knowledge gained by study. The promises of God for our freedom, security and peace are true and can be relied upon no matter what. Continue to yield to and to ask the Holy Spirit to guide and inspire you and to “seek the Lord while He may be found” (Is 55:6).

I couldn’t possibly say it more perfectly or with less sincerity than these words of Paul in our second reading from Philippians:

Brothers and sisters:

I pray always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.

God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

It has been a profound joy to reach out to the thousands of you who populate this diocese from mountain to coast. I humbly hope that this ministry has been a help, offering hope and clarity for you, especially for you to know, love and serve our Lord with ever greater enthusiasm. 

Please, keep me in your prayers.

May God bless you all, as Jesus says; “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:10).

Genevieve M. McQuade, M.A. Theology, is a member of St. Mary of the Immaculate Parish, Fredericksburg

How faithful a servant are you to Jesus, our king? • November 19, 2018

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe Dn 7:13-14; Rv 1:5-8 Jn 18:33-37

One of my favorite movies is “The Fourth Wise Man”, which is based on “The Story of the Other Wiseman” by Henry van Dyke. It is the story of Artaban, a Magi who misses the original caravan that went to find the newborn King of the Jews. He sets off with his servant to find this king but during his search becomes discouraged.  

A rabbi asks why he is searching for this king and Artaban answers, “Somehow I know he is the only one who can lead me to life’s real meaning… I’ve searched in every palace and every temple.”  

The Rabbi tells him not to look for him in the “mansions of the rich but in the hovels of the poor.”  In explanation, the Rabbi quotes Isaiah 61:1: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me.   He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and release to prisoners.” This is a different vision of this king for Artaban and for the Jewish people.

The Jewish people had in mind that their long awaited Messiah would be one who would free them from Roman rule and restore the glory of Israel. This is the type of king Pilate had in mind when he asked Jesus if he was the King of the Jews.   

Throughout his ministry, Jesus preached a message of love and peace and took the opportunity of his Passion to back up that message. In front of Pilate he states that his kingdom is not of this world. His kingdom is not one of money, power and violence.   

When one of his followers cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant, Jesus told him to put down the sword and restored the servant to wholeness. He is a king of peace and love, a different understanding of what it means to be King of the Jews and Messiah.   

On this Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, the church reminds us of this vision of a king — a king who refuses to accept worldly versions of royal stature. Jesus is a king who can be found in a manger on Christmas morning, among the poor and the disenfranchised, and on the cross on Good Friday.  

He is a king who doesn’t ask for the allegiance of his subjects through power and riches. Rather, he asks for our allegiance from our hearts and through service to others.   

This feast is an opportunity for us to reflect on how well we have searched for and served this king throughout the past year. Did we serve him only in the confines of our church buildings, or did we also serve him in streets among the homeless?  

Did we look for our king only in the bread and wine of the Eucharist and forget he is also found in the hungry and thirsty? Did we remember our king is found among the lonely and forgotten or just look for him in our communities with whom we gather for liturgy?   

As faithful followers of Jesus Christ, we should seek him in the hovels of the poor and serve him there. Do we stand up against violence, injustice and hate wherever it is found and echo his message of peace, justice and love?  How faithful a servant am I?

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

Two sticks and two coins — a total gift to God • November 5, 2018

 By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time B 1 Kgs 17:10-16 Ps 146:7, 8-9, 9-10 Heb 9:24-28 Mk 12:38-44

When we read Scripture there are often little details that make us wonder. In the first reading and the Gospel we start asking some questions about the sticks and coins. Why wouldn’t the widow have gathered a bunch of sticks to make a fire – why only two?  Why did Jesus say the widow had given all she had when she gave two coins – why not one, or three? 

In First Kings, the author wants us to know how severe the drought and famine were upon the land, a famine caused by the sin of the people. She gathered two sticks because that was all there was left. There were no more. Just like the flour and the oil, the ability to make fire to cook or to heat was exhausted.

But we can look at the two sticks in another way. St. Augustine saw in the widow’s search for water and two sticks a foreshadowing of our search for the saving waters of baptism and our salvation through the two sticks that made up the cross. Elijah gave her life saving bread and oil in a miraculous multiplication of food. She gave everything and received life from the very jaws of death.

This is a miracle that Jesus recapitulates and fulfills in his gift of the Eucharist and the sacred oils used in the various sacraments.  

This miraculous food has been multiplied through the centuries for those washed clean by the waters of baptism and by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.  We put our life in Christ’s hands, and he gives us life without measure.

And, what about those two coins? How did Jesus know it was only two?  In the temple, the place of giving had trumpets attached. As the gifts were given for the work of God, the coins would fall into the temple treasury through these trumpets that would ring out loud as the coins swirled down the trumpet’s horn.  

The widow had no excess. The value of these two small coins was not even enough for a daily wage. She could have given one and tried to provide for her needs with the second, but she gave everything — all that she had on which to live.

Imagine how she felt as everyone heard her two small coins swirl into the temple treasury through the trumpets with their distinctive sound. The smallness of her public gift must have been a source of shame for her. 

Yet her desire to give everything for the cause of God causes Jesus to praise and honor her gift as the most extravagant of gifts. She risked shame by her gift and received honor that has been trumpeted through the centuries wherever and whenever the Gospel has been proclaimed.  

Two sticks and two cents – gifts that represent a total gift of ourselves to God, but also reflect God’s abundant response to our need beyond any of our imagining.

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

Follow ‘blindly’ into the path of Jesus • October 22, 2018

 By Genevieve M. McQuade

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle B Jer 31:7-9 Ps 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6 Heb 5:1-6 Mk 10:46-52

If there is anything we crave, it is to be without pain — a pain of any kind that causes distress. We’re not happy having to endure, to be persistent, and for the need to trust in good outcomes. It’s rough.

Recently, I had a total knee replacement. Not fun. Hence, my pain theme. While I am progressing, it is slow. I don’t do well with pain. Persevering with physical therapy and needing encouragement, I await to be normal, focused, and more energetic. For now, I want my pain to diminish. By the time you read this, it will likely have improved.

This weekend, we have the story of Bartimaeus, a blind man. In a large crowd, he hears Jesus is approaching. He undeniably desires to see. He cries out repeatedly to be heard because of his ongoing physical need, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” Though scolded to be silent, he staunchly persists in his call, to which Jesus halts to tend to the distressed man and says to him, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Isn’t it so that blindness comes in a variety of forms? Visually, it includes lack of light contrasted to darkness; color; shapes; identity; plus distance. One compensates in other ways, with other intensified senses. 

Inability to physically see could be morphed in a larger sense to include heedlessness, inability to understand, lack of understanding, compassion or empathy. To be healed of any blindness has that special phase waiting to be employed.

You see, once Bartimaeus receives his physical sight, simultaneously Jesus tells him that the man’s faith has saved him. His sins were forgiven. Alerted to this spiritual understanding, Bartimaeus becomes quickly dedicated to Jesus.  He trails Jesus into Jerusalem, where Jesus will enter his last days toward his suffering and cross.

Jesus surely knew what Bartimaeus wanted, so why did he ask such a question? The question drew out of the man a focused answer, pinpointing a very specific need — to see. Jesus expanded that seeing to set the man’s sight on salvation.

Bartimaeus’ desire to “see” initiated an example for Jesus’ followers and disciples to show them the significance of delving into the mystery of Jesus and his life-giving qualities of healing and saving us from sin.

Jesus would be the high priest soon enough “to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins,” for “he is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring” (Heb 5:1-2).

Still, there is another completely opposite blindness to desire. By God’s grace, we grow in trust and safety in God so much that we can follow “blindly” into the path of Jesus. Just like Bartimaeus, we can be confident that we are on the right path to our destiny.

What do you want Jesus to do for you? Focus deeply on what is really needed. What is your longsuffering pain? Can you be persistent and willing to change? From what could you be delivered? Or accept? Of what sin must you ask forgiveness? Can you release your fears and remain at peace?

We, too, can be among “those that sow in tears” who will “reap rejoicing.”

Genevieve M. McQuade, M.A. Theology, is a member of St. Mary of the Immaculate Parish, Fredericksburg

Detach from things that hinder your relationship with God • October 8, 2018

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

Twenty-Eighth Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle B Wis 7:7-11; Heb 4:12-13 Mk 10:17-30

Our readings for this Sunday are simultaneously challenging and comforting. The challenge is in regard to possessions and how being attached to them can keep us from experiencing the Kingdom of God in its fullness. The comforting aspect is what is promised by detaching ourselves from earthly possessions.

In the Gospel the young man tells Jesus that from his youth he has observed the commandments, the letter of the law. The young man is not bragging or trying to show off in front of others. It is a sincere encounter; note his kneeling before Jesus.  

Jesus recognizes his sincerity and we are told that Jesus loved him. Because Jesus loved him he wanted more for this young man. He wanted the best for him. So Jesus tells him there is more than the letter of the law. It is not just refraining from doing things, observing the Ten Commandments; it is also doing things to help others. Jesus tells him to sell everything and give to the poor.   

The Jewish people who heard Jesus tell the young man to sell what he had and give to the poor, knew Jesus didn’t mean to give all he had to the poor. While there are many references in the Old Testament that refer to taking care of the poor, the Jewish people did not espouse the belief that they needed to give everything to the poor. For if one were to give away everything, they would become poor themselves and be unable to take care of their family. They would also lack the resources to continue helping others.    

         In telling the young man to sell everything and give to the poor, Jesus wanted the young man to separate himself from the things that were keeping him from completely giving his life to God. Jesus already knew the young man was attached to many things with which he couldn’t part. These things kept him from a complete “yes” to following God.   

He lacked the wisdom needed to discern what was important in his relationship with God. The Apostles, on the other hand, heard Jesus’ call and had the wisdom to leave everything to follow Jesus. This is the wisdom we hear about in the first reading.  

Wisdom helps us reconcile the Gospel message with our lives. It helps us know what keeps us from experiencing the fullness of God in our lives, and it spurs us to detach ourselves from those things. This wisdom is there for the asking.  

The first reading tells us, “I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.”  We can also discern wisdom through the Word of God, which is “sharper than a two-edged sword” and penetrates our very being.     

The comforting aspect of the readings is the rewards that are promised. The reading from the Book of Wisdom tells us that when we experience wisdom and we value it more than anything else “all good things come to us in her company.” Who wouldn’t want all good things in their life?  

Jesus tells us that those who have given up everything for the sake of the Gospel will receive everything back a hundredfold. No investment on earth comes close to a hundred percent return on investment. The more we give to God, the more we get in return — up to and including everlasting life.      

The readings challenge us to identify and detach ourselves from the things that get in our way of experiencing the fullness of God. He promises us great rewards for doing so.

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

Commit an act of prudence; find your way to God • September 24, 2018

 By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time B Nm 11:25-29 Ps 19:8, 10,12-13, 14 Jas 5:1-6 Mk 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

We are going through an unprecedented time. Never before have such large percentages of humanity rejected the whole notion of God. This is having practical and damaging affects upon us.

This is because the whole human enterprise is based upon the big questions of life. What gives dynamism to our individual lives and to our cultures is when we are caught up in the search for the truth.

What caused that? And, after that, what caused that to happen? This is the search that ultimately leads us to God. As St. Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”

Living life without God, there is temptation to stop asking the big questions, or to be satisfied with answers that are incapable of meeting our deepest needs. This is what causes individuals and cultures to turn inward and become egocentric. The result is a breakdown of community and of a healthy sense of self.

In the reading from Numbers, Moses expresses the wish that the whole nation might become prophets. A prophet is one who expresses the truth of God so that those who hear the prophetic word might align their lives according to that truth.

Put another way, when everyone becomes a prophet, we speak God’s word so that we might act with the virtue of prudence.

St. Thomas Aquinas tells us prudence is a type of vision that tells us what should be done and sought. Prudence is like a skilled quarterback who can see, in the flow of the game, the opportunities presented that go beyond the game plan. Raised to a supernatural level by grace, prudence raises the desire in us to be like God and will the good of the other.

The readings today warn us of the dangers of acting out of motivations other than the desire to be like God. Moses corrects Joshua when he wishes to stop Eldad and Medad from prophesying because Joshua sees their gift as diminishing Moses’ honor. The search for honor is one of those substitutes for God that can never fully answer our deepest needs, and which can lead us to become jealous of the gifts others have received.

James warns against the search for riches that can cause us to stop seeing our radical poverty before God, and can lead us to radical injustice against our neighbor. Wealth can give us a sense of complacency that stops us from asking the bigger questions of life.

In the Gospel, Jesus warns against two more substitutes for God — pleasure and power. Jesus warns if our hands, our feet or our eyes cause us to sin, we are to cut them off rather than allow them to bring us to Gehenna.

Our hands, feet and eyes are how we encounter the world and its goods, but the goods of the world — and this does not deny their goodness — can never be a substitute for God. Jesus’ words that seem to call for an utterly imprudent act are really a call to ultimate prudence through the eyes of grace.

Jesus also warns against substituting the search for power for the desire to be like God, to will the good of the other. We have only to look at the priest sexual abuse scandal to see how the desire to exercise power in a disordered way against the little ones merits the punishment of being cast into Gehenna with a millstone round the neck.

To truly act like God, we are called to use all the gifts he has given us and speak the truth that our hearts will not rest until they rest in him.

We are called by our baptism to be prophets. Eldad and Medad did not ignore their call to prophesy because 70 others had received the task. We cannot ignore the gift we have been given because others also are gifted.

We are called to speak to a world that has forgotten the concept of sin. To lose a sense of sin is to lose a sense of the presence of God. To call our world back to the great questions of life that lead ultimately to God is simply an act of prudence.

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

To know Christ, surrender yourself to him • September 10, 2018

 By Genevieve M. McQuade

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B Is 59:5-9a Ps 114:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9 Jas 2:14-18 Mk 8:27-35

Hearsay! Opinionated reporting! Rumors! So much goes on when the truth is not known. If you ask two people about a news item, the answers are often different opinions of what occurred. That’s one way in which confusion begins. One bad rumor turns things upside down for a person who’s not guilty. Besides, it’s difficult to regain credibility.

Our Gospel provides two major themes. Actually, they create a single movement in the growth of our spirituality.

There were a lot of differences in people’s take on Jesus’ persona and his cause. The first theme is: Who is Jesus for you? Jesus asked his disciples about himself. Who did people think he was? 

Only Peter knew Jesus was the Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah. Others thought Jesus was John the Baptist, or Elijah come back to life, or a prophet. The Jewish leaders didn’t think well of Jesus at all. 

It’s not like Jesus wanted everyone to know he was the Messiah. The Hebrews had waited so long for the Messiah, but they had a wrong understanding. They hoped for a strong military or political leader to save them from their low status under the Romans. 

The Jews wanted freedom from Rome’s control. In no way did Jesus want that kind of image. We know what happened to Jesus thanks to wrong conclusions.

The Messiah would indeed save and set them free, but not in the way they expected or longed for. Rather, liberation would come through his life, and by an imitation of his life, of self-donation, of sacrifice. 

That brings us to the second major part in which Jesus says: “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 and that of the Gospel will save it.”

What does that strange phrase about denying one’s self mean?

It’s about putting one’s ego aside, but that does not mean being a doormat to everyone. It means asking and allowing Jesus to be the center of one’s life and thus put God’s desires above one’s own through our personal vocation, whether married, single, religious, or ordained.

In the hymn “The Summons,” we sing, “Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?” You are called. Having come into this world with nothing, the only true gift we have to give is our very selves.

In a homily I heard recently, the priest quoted St. John Paul II as saying, “Man cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.” St. John Paul was referring to the enlightening Vatican II document, “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World” (“Gaudium et Spes,” 24).

Our psalm says, “I was brought low, and he saved me.” When our lives are “brought low” by our circumstances, we have only to turn to Jesus and ask him to carry our crosses alongside of us. Put God in control. 

In desperation, God hears our plea for help, for guidance, for strength. When we let go of our control, we experience a breakout from our self-created prison cells and inaccurate understandings of what life in Christ is meant to be.

We came into this world for a reason — to be set free to know, love and serve our God, and to be with him from the present all the way into the hereafter. 

Know Jesus. Surrender self. It’s as simple as that. No confusion here. That’s the truth.

Genevieve M. McQuade, M.A. Theology, is a member of St. Mary of the Immaculate Parish, Fredericksburg

Hear the Word of God, then act upon it • August 27, 2018

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B Dt 4:1-2, 6-8; Jas 1:17-18, 21b-22 Mk 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Our reading from James challenges us as Catholic Christians to put the Word of God into action. While we are a Church of Scripture and tradition, we are also called to be a Church of action.  

The reading from Deuteronomy talks about the law which the Israelites received from God through Moses. They were told not to add to the law or subtract from the law. The Pharisees seemed to have forgotten this command.  

The Gospel tells us how they had added many things not found in the law and have placed a lot of man-made rules and laws on the Jewish people. Jesus challenges the Jewish leaders for doing just that.  

Throughout history, our Church has served those whom society disregards. This was true in Jesus’ time and from the very beginning of the Church. It continues to be one of the great challenges for us — to serve those whom society has cast aside. 

Scripture tells us our actions must be directed toward the disenfranchised and gives us examples of those we are called to serve. In the reading from James, widows and orphans are specifically identified, and there are numerous references in the Old Testament about caring for these two groups.  

In Exodus 22:22-24, God charges the Israelites to take care of orphans and widows, and tells the Israelites that if they don’t do so and the widows and orphans cry to God, he will hear their cry and come to their aid. He also says there will be dire consequences for the Israelites in their failure to take care of them.   

While widows and orphans are specifically mentioned in James, there are other groups we encounter in Scripture. Prior to talking about caring for widows and orphans, Exodus talks about aliens. Exodus 22:21 tells the Israelites not to oppress the aliens in the land because they were once aliens themselves.  

Throughout the Gospels we see Jesus ministering to many different groups of people and the Scribes and Pharisees criticizing him for his association with them. The sick were certainly one of these groups which Jesus was drawn to in his ministry.      

Immediately before today’s Gospel reading from Mark, we are told how Jesus went through the towns and villages healing the sick. The Pharisees’ response to this was to confront him about his disciples eating without cleaning their hands. 

Jesus challenges them about honoring God with their lips and not with their hearts, and doing specifically what Deuteronomy prohibits. Instead of caring for the outcasts — in this case the sick — they are concerned about the washing of hands.  

The reading from James tells us not to delude ourselves by being only hearers of the Word while failing to be doers. We are challenged to serve those whom society disregards. Part of that challenge is to identify them so we can serve them.  

Are there people from other countries in our communities, some might call them refugees or aliens, whom we can serve? Are there widows, widowers or other people who are alone in our communities that need us? Are there sick people in nursing homes, hospitals or at home whom we can visit/help/assist?  

In addition to serving our families and faith community, we are called to go beyond the walls and doors of our churches. Where is God calling you to serve him? To whom is he sending you to serve?

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

Share in the meal God has prepared for us • August 13, 2018

 By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time Prov 9:1-5 Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 5-7 Eph 5:15-20 Jn 6:51-58

Remember that Eden ended with a meal gone wrong. Why did it go wrong? Because Adam and Eve tried to take as their right that which only could be offered – to be like God.  

The Fathers of the Church have always interpreted that it was the will of God that Adam and Eve should eventually eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life.

Nevertheless, “to be like God” is not something that can be taken, because to do so is to try to be God without sharing in God’s life.

Jesus reverses Eden’s bad meal with a meal of his own body and blood:  “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever. . .” (Jn 6:51a).  

The knowledge of good and evil was described by St. Augustine as the wisdom of God. The Fathers of the Church identified the wisdom of God with the second person of the Most Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ. Therefore, when Jesus gives us his very self as food, he reorders the bad meal of Eden with the good meal of the self-gift of participation in the life of God.

Remembrance of the human tendency to try to be God without God shows us why we need to feed regularly upon the gift of God’s life in the gift of the Eucharist. We need the constant reminder that he is God, and we are not. So much goes wrong in the world when we switch the two.

With this in mind, we can look at the reading from Proverbs in a completely new way. Wisdom has built her house; Christ has given us the Church. Wisdom has set up her seven columns; Christ has given us the seven sacraments. Wisdom has spread her table; Christ feeds us at the table of the Eucharist.  

The gift of the living bread come down from heaven is not a new thing from the New Testament, but a fulfillment of God’s plan from the beginning of the Old Testament, with images of the gift running throughout its course.

As human beings, we have a tendency to take what can only be given. However, we also have a tendency toward bad nutrition by skipping meals.  There are more and more Catholics who try to live out their lives without the sustenance of weekly Eucharist.  

Are we surprised that we see more and more of our family members, friends and neighbors slipping away from the faith? Are we surprised when faced with the big questions of life that the answers seem to elude them?  

Remember also that there was another tree in that garden from which Adam and Eve had not yet eaten, but which God always intended them to eat — the Tree of Life. As Christ fulfills the proper meal from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, he also fulfills what God intended to give us by eating of the Tree of Life.

We need the clarion call of today’s Gospel to renew our own faith and to impel our spirit of testimony about the Eucharist: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in me. . .  Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever” (Jn 6:56, 58).  

Wisdom has set her table; Christ has given us the bread come down from heaven. It is time to share, again and again, in the meal God has prepared for us. 

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

Realize the profound infusion of God at Mass • July 30, 2018

  By Genevieve M. McQuade

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Ex 16:2-4, 12-15 Ps 78:3-4, 23-24, 25, 54 Eph 4:17, 20-24 Jn 6:24-35

Sound, smells and vibrations can fill our senses at times, for example: the pulsating bass beat at a rock concert; a supermarket fanning freshly baked bread’s aroma; or a tractor-trailer’s horn blast jolting us. These may perk us up, make us hungry, or startle us. These invisible perceptions saturate the air and us, at least for a few moments.

It’s vastly different to realize the profound infusion of God at Mass. The presence of God pervades everything, from the Word proclaimed to the presiding priest to all in the pews and especially in holy Communion.

 We can’t see air vibrations, fragrances or noise, but they’re real. Yet, none are more real than Eucharist, especially if we are receptive. At Mass, God permeates our midst. We can’t see or hear the pervading reality of God’s presence.

God is present — more real than what most would consider “reality.” God abides in our midst and within us. 

At Mass, union with the Lord, the Body of Christ and the Church happens! God suffuses all, a divine reality far greater than our senses can perceive, though our spirits may somehow grasp it.

In a way, we are tested to trust in what is unseen, to believe, to accept, and to adore the Lord in this profound event that might challenge our faith. Yet, that’s what faith is — believing what our senses can’t detect. Despite any superior explanations or reflections, it remains a mystery.

In John’s Gospel, the crowd “is looking for Jesus.” Finding him, they begin a dialogue with Jesus about food and signs to prove his word about his true bread from heaven. Only the day before, he fed the huge crowd abundantly. 

Jesus responds to their demands: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

In the Eucharist, it’s better if we too look for Jesus, but know that Jesus is in our midst, already seeking each one of us relentlessly. The wonder of our entire eucharistic liturgy is that we feed on the very Body and Blood of Jesus. We’re privileged to receive life from heaven.

The signs of bread and wine are transformed, a phenomenal reality, through the powerful words of Jesus himself, “embodying and revealing Christ’s presence in a way which is experienceably [sic] real” (Joseph Martos, “Doors to the Sacred”).

Through no doing of our own, other than our humble reception, we enter a sacred doorway, a breakthrough into the actions of Jesus at the Last Supper on the night of the Passover. We are no longer in “clock” or measured time, but God’s time, where there is no division of past, present or future. All is one. We are there.

The “bread of life” from heaven is our holy Communion, the new and superior manna of nourishment, cleansing us from venial sin, renewing us, and is the pledge of life to come. We are sustained and strengthened as the temple, a holy residence for the Lord. 

God’s providence emanates from the Body and Blood of Jesus as we partake in sincerity of heart and purity of soul. Through the Body and Blood of Jesus we are fortified to share the love and life of God with others.

As Jesus said, “For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (Jn 6:33).

This is the heart and the summit of the Church’s life, because God pours out the graces of salvation on his body, which is the Church. We are suffused with the fragrance of grace.

Genevieve M. McQuade, M.A. Theology, is a member of St. Mary of the Immaculate Parish, Fredericksburg

Jesus teaches value of ‘resting in a deserted place’ • July 16, 2018

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Jer 23:1-6 Eph 2:13-18 Mk 6:30-34

In this Gospel reading, Jesus invites his apostles to “come away … to a deserted place and rest awhile.” In last week’s Gospel reading, Jesus sent the 12 out in pairs on their mission with specific instructions.  Now we hear how they have returned and tell him all they have done.

After listening to them, Jesus knew they needed time for rest and rejuvenation and that it had be away from the daily routine of their lives. After all, the people were crowding around them so much they couldn’t eat. So, he called them away to a deserted place.

He also knew it was important for them to come away together. They would find support in and through one another. This invitation for the 12 is also an invitation for us as disciples and as Church.

There are two important points about this calling the 12 away from the crowds. The first is finding rest by ourselves and with others. Jesus went off many times to be by himself with his Father. This time he invites the apostles to come with him. In doing so, he is showing them and us that it is important as Church to reflect on what God has done for us and for the world through us. It is not only important for us to do this as individuals; it is important for us to do this as community.

Secondly, he is also showing us that sometimes it is important to get away to a deserted place — a place away from our usual daily routine. In Jesus’ day a deserted place was probably the space between towns where no one lived.

Where in our society is a deserted place? Where and when can we go to find rest from the world, to reflect on and talk about the marvels God works in our lives?

Today, the idea of a deserted place might mean a place without cell phones, computers, iPads, TVs or other electronic devices. It might be a place to go individually or as community.  For some of us it might not be so much a place as it is a time when we can shut out all distractions no matter where we are.

One place we should find rejuvenation and rest from the world is in our Church. We are afforded many opportunities to renew ourselves. Sunday and daily Mass certainly can be a time to refresh ourselves for the week or the day ahead.

We can find it with parishioners when we gather during the week for different types of prayer, study and reflection. Other times for renewal may come through social events and gatherings in our parish.

We can also find rest and rejuvenation in relationships with our families, spouses, siblings, parents, children, grandchildren and people in our communities. These are opportunities to recognize, celebrate and rest in God’s presence and love.

We need time individually to be in God’s presence, just as Jesus did. However, Jesus also calls us away as community to share our stories, to renew ourselves and to support one another in ministry. He calls all of us to come away to a deserted place and rest awhile. Where or when do you find rest? With whom do you find this rest?

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

Recognize, grow into God’s personal plan for you • June 18, 2018

  By Genevieve M. McQuade

Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist Is 49:1-6 Ps 139:1b-3, 13-14ab, 14c-15 Acts 13:22-26 Lk 1:57-66, 80

Names! We often fuss over names when a baby is expected. It happened more often when many families had a tradition to name a first child and even subsequent children after a grandparent or some other relative in their ancestry.

When it came time for Elizabeth and Zechariah to name their son, many assumed the baby would be named after his father, but that was not to be. God had a different plan (Lk 1:59-64). John the Baptist would be the precursor to Jesus, a herald announcing a new manner of life, a repentance to prepare for the Christ. John pointed the way to his cousin, the Messiah.

Do you believe God has called you by your name? By whatever your name, you are definitely called by God. Be assured of your summons, a perfect choice made by the only perfect One.

I recall a beloved hymn, “You Are Near,” that echoes words of Psalm 139: “You have probed me, you know me: you know when I sit and when I stand…My soul also you knew full well…Truly you have formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.”

In addition, Isaiah proclaims: “The LORD called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name” (49:1).

How else could God have loved us into being, known us, and called us by name had God not created you and me, male and female, in his image? Another hymn comes to mind: “By Name I Have Called You.”

We are not unknown by God, yet how well do we know ourselves and who we are meant to be? As a living part of the family of God, we have a blessed opportunity to respond, to seek our true vocation, to use our talents and giftedness for the building up of our family in Christ.

Only God can reveal that to each of us — by name — which means you and I are individually chosen. Why? Because by your name you are a specific person. You are not an unknown entity to God. With our call, like John, each of us has a God-given mission to fulfill.

“What, then, will this child be?” the people wonder of the baby John. This choice by God portends hope for your future, not despair. Our God-given life, choice and mission put us in right relationship with God, bringing peace and hope.

When in a right relationship with God, our own choices are more likely to coincide with God’s plan for us so that we are less conflicted about our place in life. That is, whatever our role, we too can exhibit desire to reveal the Lord. Like John, we are designated for our Father’s mission through us — even if not as grand as John’s.

Despite what one might feel, we are not left to fend for ourselves. Being called, we have received the necessary gifts through our sacraments to comply with our mission, empowered by the Holy Spirit, as was John. Am I, [insert your own name], a herald of God for others?

What are you meant to be? Regardless of your age, recognize and grow into God’s personal plan for you.

“For surely the hand of the Lord” is with you.

Genevieve M. McQuade, M.A. Theology, is a member of St. Mary of the Immaculate Parish, Fredericksburg

Accept responsibility for your actions • June 4, 2018

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

10th Sunday in Ordinary Time Gen 3:9-15; 2 Cor 4:13-5:1 Mark 3:20-35

Our challenge in this Ordinary Time of the Church is to live out our baptismal call in spite of the problems we encounter in our daily lives. The readings this weekend speak to us about two common problems: failing to take responsibility for our actions, and dividing our allegiance.

The reading from Genesis reminds me of a conversation my mother had all too often with me or one of my siblings. Mom would ask why we did something. We would reply one of three ways:  “My brother was doing it” or “Everyone else was doing it” or “My brother told me to do it.”

Of course, Mom would ask, “If everyone else was jumping off a bridge, would you do it, too?”

Sometimes, if it wasn’t really serious and I knew I wouldn’t get in trouble, I would say, “Of course not, Mom, you know I can’t swim.” I didn’t answer her that way often.

In these conversations we were doing what Adam and Eve are doing in the reading from Genesis.   We were trying to shift the responsibility for our actions to someone else. Adam is first, trying to place the blame on God or Eve. It was God’s fault for putting Eve there with him: “The woman who you placed here with me.”  Then it was Eve’s fault: “She gave it to me.”

Eve, in turn, places the blame on Satan: “The snake tricked me.” She might have used the words of the late comedian Flip Wilson: “The devil made me do it.”

In the Gospel we encounter Jesus at the beginning of his ministry. He is curing sickness and driving out demons from many people. His reputation has spread so much that people are flocking to him in great numbers.

The Scribes, seeing these things, are threatened by his ability to heal people and jealous of his popularity. They try to discredit him by claiming his ability to drive out demons is in the name of the prince of demons.

This remark by the Scribes strikes a nerve with Jesus. He takes great umbrage at their remarks because they fail to recognize the Spirit of God which is found in Jesus and working through Jesus. He tells them that if a kingdom or house is divided against itself, that kingdom or house cannot stand.

The reading from Genesis challenges us to take responsibility for our actions, just as my mom was doing. How many times have we failed to do that?

God has given us free will to decide whether or not to follow him. Sometimes we let other people and other things influence us and we choose not to. For most of us, when we choose not to, it is our responsibility not the fault of our spouse or God or society.

Adam and Eve’s decision had great consequences. Our decisions also have consequences.  While we may not be aware of those consequences or they may not directly impact us, they are there.

By virtue of our baptism, the Spirit of God dwells within each of us. If our decisions as individuals, as a community, or as Church are not guided by that Spirit, then we divide our allegiance. We become a kingdom divided — the kingdom Jesus tells us that will not stand.

We are challenged in the Scriptures to identify where we go against the Spirit of God in our lives, take responsibility for not following Jesus and to follow that Spirit more closely.

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

Mystery of Trinity central to our relationship with God • May 21, 2018

 By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity Dt 4:32-34, 39-40 Psalm 33:4-5, 6, 9, 18-19, 20, 22 Rom 8:14-17 Mt 28:16-20

When certain celebrity couples capture the imagination of the public, we tend to make up couple names to describe their relationship. Thus, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie became Brangelina.

That is the same process by which we get the word Trinity. As early Christians wrestled with the revelation that God is three and also one, they coined the word out of fascination with that relationship. In Latin, three is tres, and unity is unitatis. The relationship name therefore became Trinitatis or Trinity.

The reading from Romans shows us that the personal, intimate relationship between the Father, Son and Spirit draws us into the circle of familial love that is God himself. God the Father sends the Spirit of the Son into our hearts. This Spirit allows us to call God, “Abba, Father”!

Through the Spirit, God incorporates us into the loving relationship between the Father and the Son. God loves us as a trinity of persons with a love that goes to the farthest extremes.

If God were not a Trinity but only a Unity, then Jesus could not be divine. Then God would have shown his love for us by creating a creature who came down to suffer, die and save us. But God would not have come himself. That is nice, but it is hardly extreme love.

If the names of God are just ways in which the one God is acting, then there really is no relationship, no love, between the persons of God. It is only self-love, which is the lowest type of love.

But our God has revealed himself to us as Trinity in whom love is poured out in self-gift to the other. Therefore, our God as Trinity — who does not need us since God can pour himself out in love for the other within the unity of his Godhead — can freely pour himself out in love for us as creatures, and can invite us to share in that Trinitarian life as an act of pure gift.

It makes all the difference in the world what kind of God we worship if we want to worship the true God. In the first reading God reminds Israel that he called Israel out of Egypt by signs and wonders. The plagues were a de-divinization of the gods of Egypt.

In the turning of the Nile into a river of blood, God showed his people that he, not the Nile, was God. In the plague of darkness, God showed his people that he was God and not the supposed “sun god” Amon-Re.

In the death of the first born, including Pharaoh’s heir, God showed them that he, not Pharaoh, was God. In all the other plagues, the minor deities of the Egyptians were shown as false.

Even in this account about the sovereignty of God, God identifies himself with hints of the Trinity. Moses harkens the people to listen to the “voice of God” (the Word, the Second Person) coming forth from the “midst of fire” (a sign of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person).

The claim of our faith that God is Trinity is really a claim about relationship and intimacy. It is only as Trinity that God can truly share his life with us as creature. No other faith makes such a claim of intimacy with God.

We proclaim the mystery of the Trinity because the mystery is central to the identity of God, our identity as Church, and the reality of the relationship between God and us.

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

Be confident in sowing the Word of God • May 7, 2018

  By Genevieve M. McQuade

The Ascension of the Lord (Year B) Acts 1:1-11 Ps 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9 Eph 1:17-23 or Eph 4:1-13 or 4:1-7, 11-13

Last year, my husband and I relocated twice. The first time was to a temporary location after our house sold and while our downsized house was being built. We joined a new parish. Six months later, we moved into our new place, an active community, and we joined a second parish.

We had to make many plans and adjustments to accommodate our belongings over the extended interim. What did we need? What could we do without for a while? Of what should we rid ourselves?

Plans, sacrifice, donations, storage units, instructions, and lots of boxes became our modus operandi! Little by little, we simplified our belongings — with more still to go!

Our moves make a meager analogy to what Jesus did among humanity. He “moved” out of his heavenly home, becoming like us in every way but sin. He let go of his glory, he pared, he “emptied himself,” and eventually donated his holy body to the Father all for us. It was his first move.

Why? What was his plan? It was to accompany creation for a mere three decades or so to redeem and save us all as no one else could do. Thirty-plus years to forever carry out salvation for the world!

Jesus’ second move? His Ascension, his restoration to his quintessential home.

In coming to the end of Mark’s Gospel this weekend, we arrive at the end of Jesus’ glorified appearances on earth as we celebrate his glorious Ascension.

Yet, Jesus did not leave the disciples until he gave instructions, actually, a command to be obeyed and the tools — his charisms — to realize them. Jesus gave them a focus, simplifying misguided actions, guiding them toward the true goal of discipleship.

The command was and still is to us, his disciples: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.” At the same time, Jesus told them not to leave Jerusalem until the “the promise of the Father” to be “baptized with the Holy Spirit” occurred.

Soon after, they all received the gifts needed to fulfill the command. Many gifts were given. These undeserved gifts were also given to the Church and to us when we received the Holy Spirit in baptism and confirmation, and more fully desired and accepted in a later release of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

The proof was the signs that accompanied those who believe and the propelling energy to give witness to God’s transforming life — a life with abundance of joy and peace. These gifts build up the Body of Christ — that’s us — and fuels the work of our ministries, and bears fruit wherever we live and serve, as it did for the first disciples.

We, too, can continue confidently in the midst of our daily endeavors to sow the Word of God, encourage perseverance, and aid in the reaping of those to be saved through God’s graces evident and working in us. Ask and receive.

Thus convinced, our joy will be complete in service to the Lord because we have chosen a higher goal, a higher purpose, for our lives. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8).

Move on it!

Genevieve M. McQuade, M.A. Theology, is a member of St. Mary of the Immaculate Parish, Fredericksburg.

Why you need to be the best version of yourself • April 23, 2018

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

Fifth Sunday of Easter Cycle B Acts 9:26-31 1 Jn 3:18-24 Jn 15: 1-8

Virginia is a great place to talk about grapes and vines. It has become a popular place for vineyards and wineries, and there seem to be new vineyards and wineries opening every year.

We know certain types of grapes or combinations of grapes produce certain wines. Winemakers can do different things with the grapes to produce varieties of great tasting wine, but it all starts with tending the vines and branches that produce the grapes, the fruit of the vine.

Virginia is also a great place to grow new Catholics. According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, 365 catechumens, those previously unbaptized, joined the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Richmond at Easter in 2017. That doesn’t include candidates who had already been baptized and may not count those who joined at other times last year. These are people who joined the Church because of another person or group of people. They are the fruit of our labor as Catholics.

On this Fifth Sunday of Easter we continue our Easter celebration and hear Jesus tell us he is the vine and we are the branches. Jesus says if we remain in him we will be like him and produce much fruit, just as branches that remain on the vine produce fruit.

He also says branches on the vine that produce fruit are pruned to produce more fruit; we have been pruned through the Word of God spoken to us through him.

Jesus wants us to remain in him as his followers so we can be fruitful. Each one of us is unique in that we have been given different gifts and abilities to do that. These gifts and abilities enable us to put our faith into practice as we are called to use our gifts to produce much fruit in order to be the best followers of Christ that we can be.

My wife and I have found a CBC series on DVD called “The Murdoch Mysteries” about a Catholic detective in predominantly Protestant Toronto in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Periodically, he encounters some measure of resistance or discrimination because he is Catholic.

In a recent episode he is questioned about how he handles this type of behavior. He responds, “I must be the best and strongest version of myself I can possibly be.”

This is our challenge as baptized Catholics — to be the best and strongest version of ourselves we can be. We are the best version of ourselves when we use our gifts to the best of our abilities and produce much fruit for the Kingdom of God.

In his apostolic exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis also speaks of bearing fruit. In paragraph 24 he says that bearing fruit is a mark of evangelization: “An evangelizing community is always concerned with fruit, because the Lord wants her to be fruitful.”

We are fruitful when we use our gifts to evangelize our world. Paul is an excellent example for us. We hear in Acts how he was sought out by those who wanted to kill him because he preached the Gospel. Yet he continued to be the best version of himself he could be, used his gifts and, as a result, was fruitful in preaching the Gospel.

How am I called to live out the Gospel? Am I fruitful in living out the Gospel in my life?

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

Deepen understanding of Easter by reading Old Testament • April 9, 2018

 By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

Third Sunday of Easter – Year B Acts 3:13-15, 17-19 Ps 4:2, 4, 7-8, 9 1 Jn 2:1-5a Lk 24:35-48

It might seem ironic to write of the Old Testament in a liturgical season where, except for the Psalms, we do not read from the Old Testament. Yet, both the reading today from Acts and the Gospel passage from Luke emphasize that Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection are fulfilling the promise God gave us in the Scriptures.

Sometimes when we announce the Easter proclamation of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, it can come across as old news. We have heard it before, and, to a more jaded culture, the freshness of the proclamation may seem past its due date.

It is precisely by re-acquainting ourselves with the worldview of those who lived and breathed the texts of the Old Testament that we can hear the essence of the Christian message afresh.

Few people were expecting a Messiah who was a figure of suffering. A king, yes; a conqueror, yes; but not a messiah who would take onto himself the sins of the world and, like the scapegoat sacrifice of Yom Kippur, offer his life in reparation for those sins.

Peter overcomes that expectation by showing that Jesus was a fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah in the suffering servant (Is 53), and the prophecy of David in Psalm 16.

Peter reminds the people, “The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.” Read against the backdrop of the first reading, Psalm 16 seems to be applied to Christ. Jesus is the one who undergoes distress but is finally delivered: “For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit. You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forever.”

Peter makes the connection with the Suffering Servant and Jesus in his call to the people to repentance and faith in Jesus so “. . . that your sins may be wiped away” (Acts 3:19). “[H]e was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed” and that he shall “make many to be accounted righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities” (Is 53:11).

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus’ last instruction to his disciples on the evening of the resurrection reminds them that everything about his life and ministry, including and especially his death and resurrection, are a fulfillment of the Old Testament:

“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled” (Lk 24:44).

This refers to the three great divisions of the Old Testament:

• The law – or the first five books of the Old Testament;

• The prophets – or all the books of the history of Israel and those books written by individual prophets; and

• The writings – the Wisdom books of which Psalms is the largest part.

If you want to make the New Testament come alive, immerse yourself in the riches of the Old Testament. It can only help to deepen our understanding of the proclamation of the core of our Easter faith and allow us to hear it with new ears and hearts.

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

We, too, are witnesses to what Christ did • March 26, 2018

  By Genevieve M. McQuade

Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord Acts 10:34a, 37-43 Ps 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23 Col 3:1-4 or 1 Cor 5:6b-8 Jn 20:1-9 or Mk 16:1-7 (also for Vigil) or Lk 24:13-35

We are witnesses…”!

How much stock do you put into a statement like that? Do you doubtfully think, “That’s one side of the story”? Who said it? Were they reliable?

The Apostles and many others professed to have seen the deeds of Jesus, his dying and, most significantly, they saw the risen Jesus multiple times.

Our Easter story gives us a direct connection to the truth of the profound life-changing resurrection of the man-God, Jesus. Believe this truth.

Beginning with the Easter Vigil, various parishioners approach the ambo as readers and cantors. They proclaim and sing passages from the Hebrew (Old) Testament with psalm responses. These readings demonstrate the promises of and testimony to God’s intervention with humanity. God’s ongoing, providential involvement on our planet is revealed in the beautiful biblical readings that recount the salvation history of Judaism and Christianity. This is the night to attentively recall all that God has done for us.

On Easter Sunday, the celebrant may choose from among several Lectionary readings. While all of us wouldn’t hear the same Scriptures, even so, the passages validate the earth-shattering event of Christ’s resurrection, opening the door to life everlasting for us.

In the first reading from Acts, we hear how Peter and the Twelve spoke and ate with, experienced, and were commissioned by Jesus — the speaking, visible, risen Jesus!

In an alternate Gospel from Luke for Easter morning, two disciples traveling to Emmaus saw, spoke, ate and experienced the risen Jesus as well. Those two disciples also confirmed the same thing, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”

After hearing the Gospel repeatedly over the years, it’s hard to bring ourselves to imagine the reality of what the early Christian Jews are testifying. Awake once again to this startling REALITY!

In Acts, it says: “Peter proceeded to speak…” Do we speak of this reality? We, too, are commissioned “to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Unfortunately, I’ve heard unbelievers say there is no such thing as sin; they don’t think there’s a need for a Savior. Really now! And they were dead serious.

In the Sequence chanted at Masses on Easter, Victimae Paschali Laudes proclaims: “Christ, who only is sinless, reconciles sinners to the Father.”

Sadly, the unbelievers are dead to this life-giving Good News. It is a shame they cannot experience the joy of the two disciples journeying from Jerusalem when they encountered the risen Jesus. They marveled saying, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scripture?”

So, too, when we truly encounter Jesus by his grace and our open reception, we can rejoice in this phenomenal event of Easter. By that grace, we too can declare, “We are witnesses of all that he did.”

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.”

Genevieve M. McQuade, M.A. Theology, is a member of St. Mary of the Immaculate Parish, Fredericksburg.

Let remainder of Lent be ‘tipping point’ in your journey • March 12, 2018

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

Fifth Sunday of Lent Jer 31:31-34; Heb 5:7-9 Jn 12:20-33

There are moments in our lives that we could define as tipping points. A tipping point is an idea that comes to us through the business world and is defined as the critical point in an evolving situation that leads to a new and irreversible development.

In his book, “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference,” Malcolm Gladwell defines a tipping point as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point” in a situation.

The Gospel reading this weekend presents one of the tipping points Jesus experienced during his ministry. Some Greeks want to see Jesus. Scholars tell us that they don’t want to just visit with him face to face. They want to see him in the sense of knowing him. They must have heard about Jesus from others or heard him preach; this means Jesus’ notoriety has spread beyond the Jewish people.

Jesus preached primarily to the Jews during his ministry. When it was just a relatively small number of Jews who followed Jesus, it was easy for the Jewish authorities to dismiss them. It was easy for them to believe Jesus and his followers would fade away like many preachers and their followers who had come before him.

This interest from Greeks is a critical point — or tipping point — in his ministry because his following has spread beyond the Jewish people. He is no longer just a local preacher, and because his teaching and following have gone beyond the Jews, Jesus knows he is now a greater threat to the Jewish authorities. The time has come for the fulfillment of his ministry.

The Gospel challenges us to “see Jesus” in our lives. It challenges us to come to know Jesus and fully understand the message of the Gospel, the New Covenant.

The Gospel calls us to know and understand God’s covenant and live it out in our lives. Furthermore, our common baptism challenges us, in the words of Jeremiah, to have God’s law of the New Covenant written on our hearts.

If it is written on our hearts, it goes with us beyond the confines of our Church and parish communities. It goes with us wherever our lives take us. If the law of the New Covenant is written on our hearts, people will be able to “see God” through us. They will be able to experience Jesus — the source of eternal salvation for all.

These last 10 days of Lent are a tipping point on our journey. It can be a time of fulfillment for us. It can be a time of examination to see if God’s law is truly written on our hearts.

It can be a time to discover if we fully accept the New Covenant of love that Jesus shared with us. It can be a time to see if we have spent time preparing to celebrate and participate in the mysteries of Jesus’ passion and death so we can more fully participate in and experience his Resurrection.

It can also be a time to see if this preparation has helped us to go out to our world so others can experience God in their lives.

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

‘Temple Presence’ is unifying principle of our faith • February 26, 2018

 By Msgr. Timothy Keeney

Third Sunday of Lent, Ex 20:1-17 Ps 19:8-11 1 Cos 1:22-25 Jn 2:13-25

Whenever I read the account of the cleansing of the temple by Jesus, I sometimes get too focused on Jesus’ righteous anger. It allows me to give myself a pass on those times when I have felt my own anger was well placed. I always thought there must be more to this prophetic act of Jesus than a statement against the corruption of his time on the part of religious authorities.

I found that something more in reading Steven Smith’s book “The House of the Lord: A Catholic Biblical Theology of God’s Temple Presence in the Old and New Testaments.” The premise of the book is that the image of God’s Temple Presence is a unifying theme of the Scriptures from Genesis through Revelation.

In Genesis, Adam is a priest of the garden where he and Eve encounter the presence of God. Their mission, as stewards of the garden and subjects of the command to be fruitful and multiply, is to spread the holiness of God beyond the garden.

The people of Israel, who enter into a covenantal relationship with God in the desert as they receive the law, enjoy God’s Temple Presence in their midst. God literally pitched his tent among his people in the desert. That temple presence was a place of encounter for God’s people, but it was also received as a mission to bring all the people of the earth one day to that same encounter.

The cleansing of the temple appears at the beginning of the John’s Gospel. Jesus begins his ministry by disrupting the mechanism of temple sacrifice.

Why? Because the one who John identified as the true Lamb of Sacrifice had come into the temple: “Look, here is the Lamb of God” (Jn 1:36b). Jesus identifies himself as the true Temple, the true Presence of God, living among his people: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up in three days” (Jn 2:19b).

Jesus lets us know the encounter with the Temple Presence of God is central to our encounter with God, the encounter with him is the encounter with God.

True, the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D., but we no longer need the sign of the temple building when we possess the reality in our midst. As we gather to celebrate the Supper of the Lamb, we take up the ministry of St. Paul, laid out in our second reading, by proclaiming once again Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection.

As we enter into this place of encounter with the Temple presence of God, we have the same mission as Adam and the people of Israel to spread that Temple Presence to the ends of the earth.

This temple, Jesus Christ — the temple only prefigured by the temple in Jerusalem — is the center and unifying principle of our faith.

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

This Lent, take the Word of God seriously • February 1, 2018

  By Genevieve M. McQuade

First Sunday of Lent, Year B Gn 9:8-15 Ps 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9. 1 Pt 3:18-22 Mk 1:12-15

God makes a promise in our first reading from Genesis. Actually, God establishes a covenant with Noah after the harrowing experience of a great flood. The covenant extended to all the living creatures with Noah, plus all yet to come.

A promise and a covenant are similar, but they’re not the same. One meaning of promise is that it is a pledge to someone that will be fulfilled by the person offering it; the receiver is passive.

A covenant is far more, created with obligations for both sides. (The Scripture verses that precede our reading say that Noah must follow through on his actions for the covenant to be complete.) Moreover, a covenant is forever.

God gives a sign, a rainbow, for Noah’s covenant that a flood would never again devastate the world. God would never abandon us for he will be ever present to carry out his side of the covenant.

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus makes a powerful statement. For 40 days, Jesus, sustained by angels, withstood the temptations from the devil. This fulfills a covenant of a different kind. Jesus proclaims, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

The fact is the Son of God became man and begins his journey toward his death and resurrection. That is, Jesus will accomplish his work of salvation for our benefit into eternity.

How much love God has for us, a love that goes on forever! This love of God is like a rainbow promised to Noah. If nothing were to be in the way of our sight of a rainbow, it would be a never-ending circle, and God’s love is never-ending! Like a rainbow, we just cannot take it all in nor can we comprehend the span of God’s love.

We must return our part of the covenant. Lent is a special time for deeper repentance, a time to take a deeper look at our attitudes, fears, unforgiveness, sin, or whatever may inhibit or even block our relationship with the Lord.

Lent is a great time of more than 40 days — if we include Sundays and the Triduum in Holy Week — to take the Word of God seriously. There is so much in Scripture to illuminate our mind, to strengthen our trust in God, to let go of our resistances, in full surrender to the One who provides us with life.

The first letter from Peter says it well, that the flood “prefigured baptism…an appeal to God for a clear conscience.” Now is also a time of fulfillment for that clear conscience. “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Sometimes we may dream we could have a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, but isn’t the rainbow gift enough?

Genevieve M. McQuade, M.A.Theology, has moved recently and is a member of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, Fredericksburg,VA.

How we experience the presence of God in our lives • January 29, 2018

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

Fifth Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle B Jb. 7:1-4, 6-7; 1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23; Mk. 1:29-39

The Gospel reading for this Sunday presents a snapshot of Jesus’ life. This glimpse gives us an idea of what it means to follow Jesus and how we are to live our lives.

We find Jesus leaving the synagogue, going to Peter’s house and dining there. Early in the morning of the next day he spends time alone in prayer, in conversation with his Father. These are common elements throughout the Gospels.

There are many instances of Jesus praying regularly to God the Father. He prayed in the desert before he started his ministry. He prayed aloud in the synagogue, in the Garden before his passion, and on the cross. There are also many instances where we find Jesus in the synagogue or temple.

However, there was more to Jesus’ ministry than prayer and attendance in temple or synagogue. Jesus was also physically present to others, and in his physical presence and preaching people experienced the power of God.

When he entered Peter’s house the first thing he did was cure Peter’s mother-in-law. In the evening people from the town were brought to Jesus and we are told he cured various types of illness and drove out many demons.

In the Gospel, just before this passage, Jesus healed a man’s deformed hand. Throughout the Gospels we find numerous examples of Jesus being with people and taking care of them.

In his ministry Jesus did more than just cure people’s illnesses; he also healed them. Peter’s mother-in-law was not only physically cured, she was given back the ability to serve God in her role within that household. He not only cured the man’s deformed hand, he gave him the ability to work and contribute to his family.

There are many other instances of Jesus’ healing miracles where people are restored to health and to their families and communities. If we read beyond today’s reading in Job, we find another great example of God not only curing illnesses but restoring life, providing healing.

Jesus found time to acknowledge the Father’s presence through worship in the synagogue and prayer. We are called to follow Jesus’ example and experience God in our own lives. Even though we cannot experience the physical presence of God through Jesus, as the disciples did, we can experience that presence in other ways.

We experience Jesus in the eucharistic liturgy: in the Word that is proclaimed, the Eucharist that is shared, and the community that is gathered. We also experience the presence of God in our lives through other individuals, groups and activities in our parish.

These experiences enable us to go out and serve others. Paul proclaims that he has an obligation to preach the Gospel. By virtue of our baptism we have that same obligation and are called to be God’s presence in the world so that through us others can experience God and the opportunity to be healed.

When we visit the sick, the homebound and the imprisoned; when we counsel people who are struggling in their lives; when we feed the hungry or shelter the homeless, we help restore them to their life, their families and their communities. We help them to be healed.

Jesus was the presence of God for the people and he not only cured them of illnesses, he healed them. How can we bring God’s presence to others in our lives? How can we help people be truly healed?

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

Notice how God reveals himself to you daily • January 1, 2018

  By Genevieve M. McQuade

The Epiphany of the Lord Year B Is 69:1-6 Ps 78: 1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13 Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6 Mt 2:1-12

The annual celebration of the Epiphany of the Lord is a festival observing the coming of the Magi. “Epiphany” comes from Greek, and can mean a glorious visit from a divinity. Here, the blessed arrival is the infant Jesus and is the first manifestation of Christ to Gentiles represented by the diverse Magi as Christ came for all peoples.

The Magi were alert, knowledgeable seekers who traveled extensively, following a rising star, to find the promised Messiah, a king without worldly ambitions. Studying Jewish sacred writings, they took heed, and worked with God’s plan. In their quest, they succeeded in encountering the divine child.

In the encyclical, “Deus Caritas Est,” Pope Benedict XVI declared: “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person — Jesus Christ — who gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”

King Herod heard the news of the special star from the Magi who had observed it at its rising. Since Matthew’s Gospel was written primarily for the Jews, Mark used references to the Jewish Testament pointing to Jesus’ divinity as their kingly Messiah. The narrative relates that Herod consulted the Jewish leaders, that is, the chief priests and scribes, regarding their ancient prophecies.

Herod saw the babe as a serious obstruction to his worldly ambitions. He desired to murderously extinguish the light of this potential rival.

Rather than being drawn by the Magi’s report of a shining light leading them toward the newborn king of the Jews, Herod, the chief priests and scribes refused to heed.

Yet, the humble, open-minded Gentiles would revel in their encounter with this baby Lord, bringing wonderful gifts, symbolic of Jesus’ life and his future. What a contrast of faith!

What has been your greatest and uplifting high point? Did it pick you up out of the daily humdrum into a realm of joy or great satisfaction, a feeling beyond belief?

Did it turn out to be a pivotal moment in your life? Was it quite unexpected? Did you perceive it as a gift from God just for you?

Such an encounter was filled with an awesome sense. More than likely, it was a manifestation of God. Did you realize that? Take a fresh look in hindsight. After all, God is revealing himself to us every day, but without our sensitivity and watchfulness, his graces often go unnoticed.

If so, such an event was your own custom-made epiphany, a realization that gifted you with a new insight into something extremely meaningful and life-giving, and so strong that it changed your outlook and ways. Perhaps it was a strong awareness of God’s beauty in nature or in a person, or in an event, or maybe it was a different spiritual dawning out of the blue.

What have you done since then? The Gospel expresses no less than three times of doing “homage” to the child. Do we also do likewise, with gratitude, or made some change?

“Rise up in splendor,” [insert your own name]! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you…Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow” (Is 60:1,5).

Give homage!

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

Like Mary, we have opportunities to say ‘yes’ to God • December 18, 2017

Deacon Christopher Colville -88 IN C By Deacon Christopher Colville

Fourth Sunday of Advent Cycle B 2 Sm 1-5, 8-12, 14-1; Rom 16:25-27; Lk 1:26-38

This Sunday we are presented with a great act of courage. Mary is invited into a special relationship with God, something that will turn her world upside down. Her response to this invitation required a tremendous amount of trust and courage.

Not understanding all the implications of her “yes,” she enters the unknown and opens herself to the possibilities God will put in her life and the rewards and sorrows that come with these possibilities. She trusts the God who has invited her to this wonderful calling will be there as it is played out in her life.

In saying yes to God, she is also given the grace to realize that this is a two-fold invitation. From the moment of Jesus’ conception, Mary understands this invitation means bringing God’s physical presence to his people in the person of Jesus. She also knows she is to bring God into the world through her presence and service to others. We know that immediately after Gabriel leaves she goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth and help her through the end of her pregnancy.

Do we receive such callings in our lives? Denise Levertov asks in her poem “Annunciation”: “Aren’t there annunciations of one sort or another in most lives?” There are annunciations in all of our lives. They do not come through a visit by Gabriel or some other heavenly creature. They come in the ordinary events and people of our lives.

Just as God called Mary to bring his presence into the world, he calls us to bring God’s presence into our world. We are all called to serve God in many ordinary ways, and some of us are called to serve God in extraordinary ways.

Saying yes to God, whether initially or to a new invitation, takes us into the unknown. Like Mary, saying yes will bring us grace to know that to which we have been invited and the grace to complete it.

When we are asked to serve in a ministry in our parish, that is an invitation from God. As husbands and wives, we are called to be God’s presence to our spouse, and to our children in our role as parents.

It takes courage to accept a call to be a catechist, to work in social ministry or other ministries of the Church. Some of us have had the courage to accept the call to ordination or the religious life and bring God’s presence to our diocese and beyond.

It takes great courage to accept the call to lead the Church, as Pope Francis did, or to lead a diocese as Bishop-designate Knestout has done in Richmond. Accepting the invitation from God meant Mary was accepting that she must make room for God in her life — not just a little portion of her life, but the major focus of her life. Christmas celebrates the coming of Jesus as an infant more than 2,000 years ago — the result of Mary’s yes.

It also celebrates the coming of Jesus into our lives today, the result of our yes to God. When God extends an invitation to you, only you can say yes. Only you can make sure there is room for God in your life.

Will he find room in our hearts, within our beings? Will we say yes to his invitation and make God the major focus of our lives?

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

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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