Sunday, November 30, 2014

Advent is here. What a marvelous time in which to renew your desire

"Rejoice and be glad that so great and good a Lord, on coming into the Virgin's womb, willed to appear despised, needy, and poor in this world, so that men who were in dire poverty and suffering great need of heavenly food might be made rich in him." -- St. Clare of Assisi

Gospel Text: (MK 13:33-37)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be watchful! Be alert!
You do not know when the time will come.
It is like a man traveling abroad.
He leaves home and places his servants in charge,
each with his own work,
and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.
Watch, therefore;
you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming,
whether in the evening, or at midnight,
or at cockcrow, or in the morning.
May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”

Waiting is about time.  Waiting is focused on the future, not a backward look or even a glance into the past. A looking forward to a new, different time, a new experience.  Something is coming – good or bad, it is coming.

The Church teaches that Advent is a time of waiting, anticipation, expectation, joy and preparation for the coming of Jesus, the promised messiah.  A season of looking forward to something wonderful – the promise of the ages. And so it is.

This Advent season we take our cue from Mary.  When asked to be the mother of the Savior, she said that powerful word, "Yes."  At Mass we sing our "Yes" at the great "Amen" at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer.  We proclaim our "Yes" when we say "Amen" and receive Holy Communion.  We give ourselves to God and ask him to receive us, mold us, shape us, form us, and come to dwell within us.  

Then each person we come in contact with will feel the Lord's presence in their life.  Every day can be Christmas.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

“If you are a Christian, you are not a citizen of this world - You are a citizen of heaven making your way through this world”

“All the way to heaven is heaven, because Jesus said, "I am the way." ― St. Catherine of Siena

Scripture Text: (RV 22:1-7)
John said:
An angel showed me the river of life-giving water,
sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God
and of the Lamb down the middle of the street,
On either side of the river grew the tree of life
that produces fruit twelve times a year, once each month;
the leaves of the trees serve as medicine for the nations.
Nothing accursed will be found anymore.
The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it,
and his servants will worship him.
They will look upon his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.
Night will be no more, nor will they need light from lamp or sun,
for the Lord God shall give them light,
and they shall reign forever and ever.

And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true,
and the Lord, the God of prophetic spirits,
sent his angel to show his servants what must happen soon.”
“Behold, I am coming soon.”
Blessed is the one who keeps the prophetic message of this book.

Today, on this the last day of the liturgical year, the Book of Revelation depicts what heaven will be like. The reading paints a picture—not a literal but a figurative one. It describes a river of life-giving water, the tree of life, the throne of God, and a heavenly multitude who will worship God day and night. What beautiful images to depict the glorious inheritance that awaits us!

In the present moment we can experience a "connectedness".  We are connected to God's love, to others, and to the earth around us.  As Jesus said, we all must strive to be vigilant.  In being vigilant in the present moment, we can be aware of who we are, who God is, and the connection we have with God in all creation.

But these “glimpses of heaven” aren’t just pleasant little gifts from God to delight our hearts. We need them so that we can find the strength to press on in the face of opposition, both from our own fallen nature and from the temptations in the world. Without a sense of heaven, we would quickly lose our joy and gratitude.

Today, as another liturgical year ends, let’s remember our final destination and call to mind all the promises we’ve heard about it. Let’s also ask the Holy Spirit for the foretastes of it that will sustain us on our journey. May he continue to inspire us with images like those in the Book of Revelation!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Fashions fade…………..

Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. - HENRY DAVID THOREAU, Walden

Gospel Text: (LK 21:29-33)
Jesus told his disciples a parable.
“Consider the fig tree and all the other trees.
When their buds burst open,
you see for yourselves and know that summer is now near;
in the same way, when you see these things happening,
know that the Kingdom of God is near.
Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away
until all these things have taken place.
Heaven and earth will pass away,
but my words will not pass away.”

Well then, what’s the point?  Why all the fuss?  Why do this or that, if all is passing away? 

The conviction that “what’s done for Christ” actually survives this life gives us great confidence in the living of our daily life.  It ALL matters because the words of Jesus and our good deeds survive the dissolution of everything else that is.  So, what am I engaged in today?  What am I pursuing that passes?  What am I pursuing that lasts? What words fill my ears, my mind and my heart?  Small talk?  Gossip? Petty concerns?   Or perhaps the words of Jesus—the ones that last? 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”

“An argument in apologetics, when actually used in dialogue, is an extension of the arguer. The arguer's tone, sincerity, care, concern, listening, and respect matter as much as his or her logic - probably more. The world was won for Christ not by arguments but by sanctity: "What you are speaks so loud, I can hardly hear what you say.”  ― Peter Kreeft, Pocket Handbook of Christian Apologetics

GOSPEL TEXT: (LK 21:20-28)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies,
know that its desolation is at hand.
Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains.
Let those within the city escape from it,
and let those in the countryside not enter the city,
for these days are the time of punishment
when all the Scriptures are fulfilled.
Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days,
for a terrible calamity will come upon the earth
and a wrathful judgment upon this people.
They will fall by the edge of the sword
and be taken as captives to all the Gentiles;
and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles
until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,
and on earth nations will be in dismay,
perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
People will die of fright
in anticipation of what is coming upon the world,
for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
And then they will see the Son of Man
coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
But when these signs begin to happen,
stand erect and raise your heads
because your redemption is at hand.”

When trouble strikes, remember that almighty God loves you and
treasures you immensely. He loves you so deeply that he gave his only
Son to save you from sin and bring you into his presence. Nothing
pleases him more than to spend time with you and to speak to you.
So stand erect, knowing that you are worth more to him than all
the riches of the universe.

But don’t just stand. Move! You have a vital role to play in the unfolding of God’s plan. You are not an accident or a random occurrence. People depend on you. The Church needs you. The lost and unbelieving rely on you. Your witness, your words, your intercession, your service—it all makes a huge difference in this world. Even if you can’t see how, you matter!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.

You think it very hard to lead a life of such restraint unless you keep your eye of faith always open. Perseverance is a great grace. To go on gaining and advancing every day, we must be resolute, and bear and suffer as our blessed forerunners did. Which of them gained heaven without a struggle? - St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Gospel Text: (LK 21:12-19)
Jesus said to the crowd:
“They will seize and persecute you,
they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons,
and they will have you led before kings and governors
because of my name.
It will lead to your giving testimony.
Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand,
for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking
that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.
You will even be handed over by parents,
brothers, relatives, and friends,
and they will put some of you to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.
By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

Holidays have the tendency to lose their connectedness to their origins.  I suppose it is inevitable.  None of us were there at the first Christmas. Easter, or Thanksgiving to really understand the profound moment it was.  Even the very word "holiday" is rarely connected to its origin, "holy day."

Our religious holy days remind us that the journey we travel now is possible only through the light and grace of God.

The journey gives meaning to the holiday.  And that journey, as we hear in today's gospel from Luke, is not always easy. Were it easy, there would be no need to celebrate the holiday. Disappointments and failures, hardships, hurt and sadness - even betrayal, as Jesus says - are woven into the story of our lives.  Tomorrow we celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States, which traditionally marks the bringing in of the harvest after months of punishing toil on the raw, tough and at times unforgiving land.  The harvest was not only a celebration of a successful growing season but the promise of making it through a long, cold winter ahead.  It only became a national holiday when President Lincoln called the nation to a moment of prayer and thanksgiving in 1863 in the middle of the long, grueling experience of the Civil War.

Jesus does not promise a road easily travelled.  He promises that he will be our companion along the way.  He's not going to take away the hardships or hurt or sadness, but he will accompany us through these to new life.  He can guide us and encourage us, urging us not to give up.  And in the end, like the Pilgrims 400 years ago or a young married couple celebrating a first anniversary, we can sit together in awe and say to one another, "I don't know how we did it, but here we are.  Thanks be to God!"