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.

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) March 2 (Isaiah 49:14-15; Psalm 62; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; Matthew 6:24-34)

Many at one time or another have felt abandoned or forgotten by God. Faced with the many painful and disconcerting situations that life can deal us, they wonder if God cares or even remembers them.

Called to be different, for God’s sake

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Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) Feb. 23 (Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18; Psalm 103; 1 Corinthians 3:16-23; Matthew 5:38-48)

What does it mean to be holy? We use the word often and usually have in mind someone who is kind, generous and eager to do the will of God. The concept had a somewhat different connotation in the ancient world, especially in Israel. The Hebrew word kadosh described something that was set apart from the ordinary and dedicated to God. This would be true of objects, such as the utensils used for sacrifice and worship, as well as the temple itself with its various zones of ascending holiness. It also described the land of Israel, with holiness increasing as one moved closer to Jerusalem the holy city and its temple.

We are not passive victims of fate

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Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) Feb. 16, 2014 (Sirach 15:15-20; Psalm 119; 1 Corinthians 2:6-10; Matthew 5:17-37)

Accepting responsibility for one’s actions is a rather uncommon human trait. People love to blame everyone and everything — it’s the fault of my parents, my religion, my environment, my genes or even God. The role of victim is more comfortable than that of perpetrator.

God’s power, love is what will save us all

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Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) Feb. 9 (Isaiah 58:6-10; Psalm 112; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5; Matthew 5:13-16)

Religion can be a risky business. The prophets of Israel and Jesus of Nazareth recognized the care and spiritual awareness required in the exercise of faith and worship. Without this care, religion — any religion — can become many things, none of them divine: opiate of the masses, maintainer of the status quo, superstition and even a tool of oppression.

Jesus came to be one with us

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Presentation of the Lord (Year A) Feb. 2 (Malachi 3:1-4; Psalm 24; Hebrews 2:10-11, 13b-18; Luke 2:22-40)

The prophet Malachi was a rather disappointed and angry man. It was some time in the late sixth and early fifth centuries BC. The exiles had returned from Babylon but the prophesied rebirth and restoration of the nation had not occurred. The nation was struggling to rebuild its economic and political life.

Spiritual values will guide us on our way

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.