Fr. Scott Lewis is an associate professor of New Testament at Regis College, a founding member of the Toronto School of Theology.

He is a past president of the Canadian Catholic Biblical Association.

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) Jan. 26 (Isaiah 9:1-4; Psalm 27; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17-18; Matthew 4:12-23)

It is extremely difficult to be joyful or have hope in the midst of ruin and pain. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali — part of Galilee — had been conquered by the brutal Assyrians around 733 B.C. and made into a province of their empire. The land had been devastated and the northern kingdom of Israel snuffed out. In other words, there was little cause for optimism or joy — the future looked very bleak indeed.

Jesus takes away the sin of the world


Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) Jan. 19 (Isaiah 49:3, 5-6; Psalm 40; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3; John 1:29-34)

Human vision is often very shortsighted. We fail to see the big picture and fall victim to tunnel vision. It is then very easy to become caught up in our own struggles and problems or focus our energies on immediate benefits. The word of God spoken to the enigmatic Servant in Isaiah was both a shock and a challenge. In the omitted verse, the Servant protested that his life had been unfruitful and wasted in useless things. Rather than backing off or allowing him some slack, God raised the bar. The Servant had been called even before his birth so there was no “escape.” Merely restoring Israel to God was too small a task — God had far grander things in mind.

Baptism sets us off on our Christ-centred journey


Baptism of the Lord (Year A) Jan. 12 (Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7; Psalm 29; Acts 10:34-38; Matthew 3:13-17)

Who was the prophetic figure described in Isaiah’s Song of the Servant? A name was not given, but clearly the identity must have been clear to the generation for whom this was written. Many believe it was a collective symbol of the nation of Israel. This would fit nicely with the mission described in the passage: justice, light to the nations, healer of the suffering and liberator of the oppressed.

We are invited to be bearers of light


Epiphany of the Lord (Year A) Jan. 5 (Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72; Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12)

Epiphany has always been associated with light and hope. Since each year we celebrate this feast with the same readings, we might ask how the past year has been different from any other year and what 2014 might hold for us.

The family is our greatest gift


Holy Family (Year A) Dec. 29 (Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14; Psalm 128; Colossians 3:12-21; Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23)

The term “family values” is tossed around rather indiscriminately, especially in the political sphere. It can mean many things, but often it is little more than a code word for extreme conservative social values or a mask for hypocrisy.

We must trust in God’s will


Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year A) Dec. 22 (Isaiah 7:10-14; Psalm 24; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-24)

King Ahaz was close to despair. It was 734 BC, and Jerusalem was surrounded and besieged by her enemies the Syrians. They were trying to force Ahaz to join in rebellion against the Assyrian Empire, to whom Ahaz had submitted as a vassal. Defeat seemed unavoidable, and Ahaz was considering an attempt to make military alliances with other powers to alleviate the situation.

The world is renewed by God’s compassion


Third Sunday of Advent (Year A) Dec. 15 (Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10; Psalm 146; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11)

Modern theology usually mimics philosophical or scientific modes of writing. As useful or necessary as this may sometimes be it seldom inspires the sacred imagination or touches the heart. Old Testament theology, on the other hand, was theology by means of vivid images, symbols and stories. Many of the prophetic passages verge on poetry as they weave together images that in a rational sense may be incomprehensible.

God will deliver a world of justice


Second Sunday of Advent (Year A) Dec. 8 (Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72; Romans 15:4-9; Matthew 3:1-9)

When things get really tough and out of control, most people look for a superhero or saviour. Human efforts can seem futile and doomed to failure; sometimes the mess is so great that it calls for help from an outside super-human source. This intervention comes in many guises: political, economic or religious ideologies are near the top of the list. Most of them also fall far short and many demand too great a price — usually freedom and human dignity.

In a chaotic world, treasure each day


1st Sunday of Advent (Year A) Dec. 1, (Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:37-44)

The image of beating swords and spears into ploughshares and pruning hooks is both beautiful and painful. It is beautiful in that it represents the heartfelt yearning of humanity for millennia for a time when nations no longer resort to war. The pain lies in the realization that we are ever so far from this state of harmony and peace.

Jesus’ power is love, sacrifice


Christ the King (Year C) Nov. 24 (2 Samuel 5:1-3; Psalm 122; Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:-35-43)

The historian Lord Acton observed that “All power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” A thorough study of history or a perusal of the newspaper offers convincing proof. When human beings are in a position to exercise absolute power over others without accountability disaster usually follows. No one should have too much power or be untouchable.

Keep your mind, heart always in good order


33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) Nov. 17 (Malachi 4:1-2; Psalm 98; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12; Luke 21:5-19)

The world is not always noted for its justice or life for its fairness. Often it appears that the righteous suffer or lose out while the wicked thrive and get ahead. Hopelessness, frustration and disillusionment can make even compassionate and non-judgmental individuals at times console themselves with thoughts of cosmic justice and retribution. It would be nice to see the nasty and wicked of our world get their comeuppance. Of course there is always the assumption that we are not on that list!