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February 19, 2017 – Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson

My next door neighbor startled me one day while we were commiserating about our seemingly endless autumn task of raking and bagging fallen leaves.  Innocently enough, she said that this job must be an added burden for me “since you’re such a perfectionist.”  “Wow!” I thought, “she had nailed it.  She recognized my proclivity for what it is.  Then it must be obvious.”  She had noticed this before last autumn. I wondered what it was.  I never asked her.

You most likely know what being a perfectionist means.  Love of order and cleanliness.  A place for everything and everything in its place.  Little tolerance for mistakes, your own and others’, and no allowance for unmade beds, thank you.

Please relax, all of you who are reading this and do not think or act this way, when you hear Our Lord say “Be perfect.”  What He means is something quite different from a personality trait.

February 12, 2017 – Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson

Political correctness has done a lot of damage to our thinking and also to the meaning of language.  It has pressured us all to be amateur diplomats, afraid sometimes to utter the plain truth.  Some of us have even taken to be “proprietors of the proper” correcting others of their misuse of terms.

Admittedly, there are occasions when telling the whole truth and nothing but can be like a cold stab in the heart to someone.  So out of charity, we have to be delicate in our telling.

On this World Marriage Day on our universal Church calendar, when we celebrate that vocation and all that it implies, married couples would be among the first to tell us the importance of refraining from the bluntness of the whole truth from time to time.  A husband facing his wife’s question “Do these jeans make me look fat?” is in a bind, and he certainly has to be careful with his reply.  A wife facing her husband’s question: “Does this suit jacket look tight?” is in the same situation, although a guy might not ask.

February 5, 2017 – Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson

Cooking shows on TV.  Hosted by talented chefs at home in the kitchen, they can be delightful to watch, even if boiling water is our ability limit. Why is that? Most likely because we all like to eat, and learning how to make the process as pleasant as possible is generally a good thing.

Our Lord talks about a common cooking ingredient when He compares us to salt.  In His time, salt was highly valued as a flavor enhancer and a preservative.  We can agree about the flavor thing even if the doctor tells us to guard our sodium usage.  And even in our time of ready refrigeration, we can detect its preservative aspect just by reading the label of many processed foods.  So we as Christian believers are called to enhance the “flavor” of human living just by our fidelity to Christ each day.  We can also act as preservers of what Christ actually taught in a time of watered down religion that recommends ease and rarely mentions sacrifice.

January 29, 2017 – Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson

Sometimes seven isn’t a lucky number. In the case of knowing the heart of Jesus, we are fortunate to have eight “exclamations of congratulations to people living in a state of happiness.”  That is one definition of a beatitude accepted by biblical scholars. These remarks, traceable to Jesus, tell us who are blessed in His estimation. We call them “the Beatitudes.” They reveal a lot about the Preacher of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s gospel.

The scholars who devote their lives to understanding the Bible have probed their meaning with linguistic analysis. Spiritual writers have given us whole books of reflection on these eight statements. One of those latter persons has cleverly called them “the be-attitudes,” or the outlook we ought to cultivate in our lives.  Not a bad interpretation at all, even if the phrase itself is a bit cutesy. 

January 22, 2017 – Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson

Somewhere in the world there must exist a “hot button.”  Not a physical one, of course, but a metaphorical one that gets used to describe certain issues by preachers and pundits alike.  It means that those items are potentially dangerous to discuss, because the reaction of people to them is never emotionally neutral, and frequently overheated.

On this late January weekend, we come face to face with the sad anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in 1973 to legalize baby killing in our country, otherwise known as abortion.  The years in between have not turned down the “temperature” of the issue. Once upon a time in our so-called “enlightened” country, abortion was thought a horror, at least by Christians. Now, thanks to supporters of all kinds it is practically considered a constitutional right even by some believers in God. 

January 15, 2017 – Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson

It is nighttime at sea.  The great ship heaves violently from tortured waves in a powerful storm.  Rain slashes the bow amid flashing lightning strikes and hits the glass of the wheelhouse as the captain struggles to stand erect. Suddenly he smiles at the sight of the lighthouse, whose bright lamp beckons him to safety and hope amid the chaos.

That is an apt image for our world at discomforting moments in history, either the world within us or the one outside us.  It certainly could apply to the world of John the Baptist’s time.  Uncertainty abounded for Israel, living under the tyranny of yet another conqueror, in this case mighty Rome. 

January 8, 2017 – Feast of the Epiphany

Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson

“Epiphany.”  Now there’s a practically fun word to pronounce as well as a spelling bee challenger!  It comes to us from ancient Greek through Middle English.  Start it off with an upper case letter, and it means today’s feast, commemorating the “manifestation” of Christ to the Gentile world.  Its formerly fixed date of January 6 marked the traditional “Twelfth Day of Christmas.”  It was moved to a Sunday to give it more prominence.  In lower case lettering, the word means “an appearance or manifestation, especially of a deity, or a sudden insight into the essential meaning of something.

The story, as Matthew tells it, is a beautiful one, tailor made for a movie.  A group of Gentile travelers, numbering anywhere from three to thirty-three (we don’t know the actual figure), come to the feet of Christ bearing three gifts (hence the fabled number) in tribute to Him.  We can presume they brought their version of shock and awe to the inhabitants of backwater Bethlehem.

January 1, 2017 – Solemnity of the Mother of God

Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson

This past Autumn, “Time” magazine chronicled the fact of widespread depression as characteristic of our American teenagers.  This sad news has multiple causes, sure to be an agenda for helpers of all kinds and later discussion.  For today, however, we honor another adolescent, one from another time and place who just happened to be a favorite of God and a unique channel of optimism.  She is Mary of Nazareth, the young girl who would someday be known as Queen of Heaven.

What must it have been like to be visited by an archangel named Gabriel, who brought her a stupendous request?  How did this young girl manage a mysterious pregnancy, with the realization that the Child growing in her womb was the One who would “save His people from their sins?”  We are not entitled to the answers to those questions, but we can learn a lot about her reaction when we read her “Magnificat” prayed in the presence of her older cousin Elizabeth.