Tag Archives: Bill Thornton

Advent Reflection – by Bill Thornton

AdventCandlesBokehAnd so Advent is over. Many would say that it is too soon. “I still have a lot to do before Christmas. Preparations to make, last minute gifts to buy, things to do, people to see. Advent can’t be over.” Others say “Finally! Advent is all about Christmas, and here is Christmas.”

We have experienced Advent, as we always do, at the same time as and in connection with “the holidays,” with all the parties and other festive events, Christmas shopping season, with the pressures of getting the right gifts and making sure they are properly wrapped, sent on their way, and received on time, family time with our need to connect and reconnect with those most dear to us in a special way. All these things are good, necessary even, but they are not Advent.

I experienced Advent as a seminarian for several years a long time ago in a semi-cloistered community of religious men without all of the other things that happen each year in December. I do not want to say that this was better or worse, but it was different, Continue reading

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Promise about to be fulfilled – An Advent Reflection by Bill Thornton

advent2015I like to look at the readings of the daily Mass for some sort of “word” for the day. When I checked out today’s gospel what I saw was a bunch of the dreaded “begats,” forty-two of them in all. [Actually, the New American Bible uses “became the father of …” but you get the idea.]

The point is that this is when, in the Advent season, that we stop thinking about the 4000 year wait of the Jewish people and turn to getting ready for the fulfillment of the promise that they were waiting for. The gospel for today is from is from the beginning of Matthew’s gospel setting forth the genealogy of Jesus on Joseph’s side, and tomorrow’s gospel continues reading the same chapter telling the story of the conception of Jesus from Joseph’s point of view. You remember – his reassurance from the angel.

[Luke’s gospel sets forth the genealogy from Continue reading

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Advent Reflection for December 10, 2015 by Bill Thornton

st-john-the-baptist-iconToday is not the feast day of John the Baptist, but it is a day when the readings at Mass celebrate the person who is often thought of as the last Old Testament prophet and the first prophet of the New Covenant. As it was said of so many of the Old Testament prophets, it was said also of John, “The word of God came to John.” (Lk 3:2) And like so many of his predecessors, John called for the people of Israel to return the their Lord. “Repent [or turn your life around],-for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Mt. 3:2) Or as Luke put it, “He went throughout [the] whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” John used the direct language of the prophets, he called the Pharisees and Saducees “You brood of vipers!” He criticized them for relying on their lineage from Abraham. He told them Continue reading

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Evangelizing and Advent – by Bill Thornton

2006_the_burning_passion_of_st_xavierToday is the feast day of St. Francis Xavier. What does that have to do with Advent? Well, St. Francis was a great missionary to Asian people, and I want to make the case that Advent is a time to evangelize everybody, including but not limited to Asians. I am drawing this conclusion from the readings for the days of the first week of Advent and from other ideas associated with those readings in my rather unorganized head.

If you want to learn about Francis Xavier, you will find that he left his native Spain and went to study at the University of Paris. There he met a man of his own age (about 19), and shared a room with him. This was Peter Faber (Pierre Favre). Later the two brought a third student into their room, Ignatius Loyola, and these three and a few others were involved in the founding of the Jesuit order. Faber was canonized on December 17, 2013. Faber went to Germany to preach to Protestants with considerable success, apparently not from the force of his intellect, but by the strength of his love for his neighbor. According to one source,
“As a lone Jesuit often on the move, Faber never felt alone because he walked in a world whose denizens included saints and angels. He would ask the saint of the day and all the saints “to obtain for us not only virtues and salvation for our spirits but in particular whatever can strengthen, heal, and preserve the body and each of its parts”. …. He sought support from the saints and angels both for his personal sanctification and in his evangelization of communities. Whenever he entered a new town or region, Faber implored the aid of the particular angels and saints associated with that place.”

I like to connect with the saints of the day each morning. While I am no Peter Faber, I like to have the intercession and enlightenment of the saints each day. [Two sources: 1. Google “Roman Martyrology”, for a sixteenth century list of saints of the day used in connection with the liturgy of the hours. Often based more on legend than fact; and 2) Universalis.com and click on “About Today”. Most days, this talks about the saints of the day, many times more modern saints with a heavy emphasis in English and Irish saints and martyrs.] But I digress.

The only two days that are saints’ feast days this week are today (St. Francis Xavier) and last Monday (St. Andrew the Apostle). While we do not know much about St. Andrew’s ministry, tradition says he established the diocese of Byzantium (Constantinople/Istanbul) and preached in Greece. And we know that Jesus said that he would become a fisher of men. According to tradition, Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross.

St Francis Xavier SJ in Japan

St Francis Xavier SJ in Japan

We know more about Francis Xavier. He left for the missions in 1541 when he was 35 years old and died eleven years later in 1552. During those eleven years, he preached the gospel in Goa, India, Southeast Asia, Japan and briefly China. He traveled on foot and by sailboat. Wherever he went he had to learn new languages that were nothing like the Latin-based languages he knew from Europe. And yet wherever he went he taught the people there about Jesus.

I think that the last clue from the liturgical events of this week that points to the need for evangelization is the Gospel reading from Saturday’s Mass. The reading from the 10th chapter of St. Luke’s gospel is about the mission of evangelization of the 72 disciples. The gospel of the dayis sstrictly speaking about the disciples return from their mission, but I would like to expand the discussion to refer to the context in Luke 10:1-24.

What originally caught my eye in this reading was the 21st verse, “At that very moment he rejoiced [in] the holy Spirit.” The idea of Jesus sitting down with six dozen of his closest friends and rejoicing because they were all cooperating in spreading the word of God just made me smile as well. How do I add myself to the group of people sitting around Jesus when he is rejoicing in the holy Spirit?

Jesus’ plan for evangelization is spelled out in Luke 10. First, He send us to places and people that he intends to visit Himself. V. 1. Next, He says “No distractions.” V. 4-8. He says that he will give us what we need to do our work, i.e. “cure the sick.” V. 9.

Then he tells us what to say. ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’ V. 9

He warns us that we may be rejected, and if we are rejected he says that we should still say, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand.’ V. 11.

Notice the difference. The message to those who accept the word is ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’ To the others, only ‘The kingdom of God is at hand.’ One way it is a promise, the other way a warning, if not a threat.

So the first week of Advent gives us two missionary saints, and an example of evangelization from the Gospel to follow, complete with instructions. And when the “plan comes together” we see Jesus rejoicing with us in the Holy Spirit. And finally, don’t forget that Jesus says that we should not rejoice because of our evangelistic efforts on his behalf. Rather we should “rejoice because [our] names are written in heaven.”

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St Joseph – By Bill Thornton

jesus-and-st-josephDon’t you wish we knew more about St. Joseph? I do, especially on his feast day. We will talk about what the Scriptures have to say about him below. But first, the Church teaches us that he was the spouse of Mary mother of Jesus, but the foster father or adoptive father of Jesus. Through church tradition and declaration he is patron of the universal church, of a happy death (since tradition says he died in the presence of Jesus and Mary), of families, fathers, expectant mothers (pregnant women), travelers, immigrants, house sellers and buyers (remember to bury his statue upside down in the lawn), craftsmen, engineers, and working people in general ( with a special feast of St. Joseph the worker on May 1, perhaps to set off the communist May Day). The Roman Martyrology is a book that contains lists of saints (not only martyrs) whose “birthday,” i.e. The day they died and entered eternal life, is listed on that particular day. This is often read aloud in religious communities. The page for March 19 begins, “In Judea, the birthday of St. Joseph, spouse of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary.” I do not know why they think that he died on this day.


In Scripture, Joseph is not referred to at all in St. Mark’s gospel, and is mentioned only twice in St. John’s gospel where the evangelist quotes two different people referring to Jesus as “the son of Joseph.” [Jn 1:45, and 6:42] The first two chapters of St. Matthew’s gospel tell the story of the Nativity and the Flight into Egypt all from the point of view of Joseph, including the genealogy of Joseph descending from King David. Matthew also includes Joseph’s dreams and calls him a “righteous man.”   The first two Continue reading

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Accounting for what is not ours – by Bill Thornton

05-9-18-worship-43-728The reading begins with Peter’s question about how frequently he should forgive his brother. Jesus’ answer is essentially that there is no limit to the times that we should forgive others. Then Jesus says, “that is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants.” And he goes on to tell us the parable. Some scholars think that this parable does not belong here since it really does not deal with peter’s question about how many times we should forgive. Actually, it shows god not forgiving as many as two times. But whether it belongs here or not, jesus tells us that it reflects the kingdom of heaven and at the end he says, “so will my heavenly father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.” And for that reason it is important for us to understand what Jesus was telling us.

This parable appears only in Matthew, although there are Continue reading

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Bless the Lord – a reflection by Bill Thornton

The Prophet Jeremiah

The Prophet Jeremiah

Today’s post comes courtesy of parishioner Bill Thornton.

In today’s first reading, Jeremiah says in part:

Cursed is the man or woman who trusts in human beings,
who seeks his or her strength in flesh, … but

Blessed is the man or woman who trusts in the LORD,
whose hope is the LORD.

This probably reminds you of Psalm 1, that we talked about on the Thursday after Ash Wednesday, and indeed the lesson of the two readings is about the same. However, there is a nuance that I would like to highlight in the today’s reading.

The prophet tells us today the one who trusts in the world, “is like a barren bush in the desert
that enjoys no change of season, but stands in a lava waste, a salt and empty earth.” On the other hand, the one who trusts in the Lord “is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream. It fears not the heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; in the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit.Continue reading

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