December 1, 2023

Opening Remarks — RCIA Witness: An article in one of the Catholic magazines quoted comments from RCIA candidates received into full communion with the church at the Easter Vigil. “Going to Mass and receiving Jesus is the highlight of my life now.” “I can’t believe I waited so long to become Catholic; I love everything that happens here.” “I see now that Jesus established the Catholic Church on the rock of Peter.” “Jesus Christ has risen!” “I never thought these would be the most important words I have ever heard.”

Inspired to Act: It is inspiring that these new Catholics have embraced the faith and felt the impact of six weeks of Easter, where our readings were immersed in the Acts of the Apostles. Where boldness replaced fear and timidity, wisdom triumphed over ignorance of God’s will, and power prevailed over helplessness. These mountain-top experiences strengthen faith and vitalize witness for everyone. There is no more uplifting time of the year to be Catholic.
Today, however, we continue our return to the numbered Sundays of Ordinary Time. Numbers are less exciting than fire, strong driving wind, resurrection, ascension, and lives converted. But they cause reflection on a few salient questions. Is our faith season dependent? Can we now chill out, lay back, or coast through the rest of the year, not expecting anything exciting or miraculous to happen and not striving for further growth? I hope not. On the contrary, with the fresh taste of power and exaltation where our faith has been so richly seasoned these past holy weeks, we, with missionary zeal, can make the ordinary more powerfully extraordinary by sparking a flame in those already committed and enlivening faith in a doubter. We turn to today’s reading to help us accomplish these lofty goals.

Vision of Hope: In our first reading, Zechariah speaks to people with fresh memories of a seventy-year exile and the misery, persecution, loss of lives, and dignity that accompanied their traumatic ordeal. Are they open to hearing good news? Empowered by God’s Spirit, Zechariah exhorts God’s people to rejoice heartily and provides a vision of future hope for those embracing this God of power and love. Interspersed in Zechariah’s message is a personal faith witness of the benefits and blessings he has experienced in serving the Lord. Can we make Zechariah’s faith witness our own by showing the fire of God’s love burning in our heart and telling those observing our faith about the Holy Spirit who put it there? First Reading: Zechariah 9:9-10 Responsorial Psalm: 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13-14 Romans : 8:9, 11-13 Matthew: 11:25-30

Gymnasium for the Soul: St. Jerome said, “The Psalms are the gymnasium of the soul.” Today’s Psalm response, “I will praise your name forever, my king and my God,” verbalizes an unwavering faith seasoned by persistence. The faith-filled person adopts an attitude of praise to God regardless of the circumstances. Thereby building a heart pleasing to God.
The Psalmist, stirred by love of God, lays his heart bare to God in a long-term committed covenant. He confidently walks in God’s ways, keeps God’s commands, and wants to make the Lord’s presence real to all whose life he can influence. Will your faith inspire others to follow Jesus?

Spirit or Flesh? Paul instructs on what to do if your flesh (life your way) is at war with the (Holy) Spirit (life God’s way). The two are in contradiction to each other. So, put the deeds of the flesh to death and give the Spirit full control to mold and fashion you into the person God wants you to be. How can we cooperate with God in defeating fleshly desires? Pray that the Holy Spirit will prick your heart and conscience when attitude, thought, word, or deed give more sway to the flesh than the Spirit and give you the courage to make corrections and adjustments accordingly. Live the sacramental life of the Church from communion to communion, and if you recognize an imbalance, go immediately to the sacrament of reconciliation. Immerse yourself in prayer, Mass more frequently, Bible study, a retreat, and the Blessed Sacrament in adoration. Writing to the Galatians, Paul spells out what is at stake, “Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desire of the flesh (Galatians 5:13-26).

Come, Take, Go: In today’s Gospel, Jesus summarizes His argument against the Scribes and Pharisees for rejecting His mission while the childlike have accepted Him. Rejection comes from a refusal to receive His words and acknowledge His salvific deeds. Acceptance is given to those open to receiving all the Father has revealed about His only begotten son.
The first movement to accepting Christ and embracing the truth is to ‘come’ to Jesus. “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened..” Come, having a meek attitude and a humble heart that readily surrenders to God’s will over its own. Jesus then invites those burdened by slavery to the Law to ‘take’ on the light load of obedience to God’s will. Jesus invites His disciples to do nothing less than their master — ‘go’ and make disciples of all people.

Closing Comments: Two brothers, ages nine and five, were arguing over which of them would get the last piece of candy in Mom’s candy dish. Their mother said, “Boys don’t fight; think of what Jesus would do — He would say to His brother, here, brother, you take the candy.” The nine-year-old thought a moment, then said to his five-year-old brother, “Hey, Mikey; you be Jesus.”
We are all called to be Jesus — with an unshakable faith in season and out. Strengthen your faith by doing the will of God, boldly proclaim the gospel, forgive, love, and serve others.
Deacon Ralph Torrelli lives in Hattiesburg and is assigned to St. Thomas Aquinas Parish. Visit his website:


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