Thursday, December 31, 2015

“There is a God and He is good, and his love, while free, has a self imposed cost: We must be good to one another.”

“And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.” ― C.S. Lewis: (1898–1963: excerpt from his book Mere Christianity”)

Gospel Text: (JN 1:1-18)
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;
the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.

A man named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world,
and the world came to be through him,
but the world did not know him.
He came to what was his own,
but his own people did not accept him.

But to those who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to those who believe in his name,
who were born not by natural generation
nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision
but of God.

And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only-begotten Son,
full of grace and truth.

John testified to him and cried out, saying,
“This was he of whom I said,
‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me
because he existed before me.’”
From his fullness we have all received,
grace in place of grace,
because while the law was given through Moses,
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God.
The only-begotten Son, God, who is at the Father’s side,
has revealed him.

As we travel through today’s gospel reading, we are reminded of the omnipotent power of God. In a moment, life is created and life taken away.  Creation explodes into being or settles into a quiet stillness by the Word of God.  His great love for us is revealed and we are given the opportunity to rejoice in it or to ignore Him.  God has infinite power over our very lives and can end them in a heartbeat with one thought, one Word.  Yet, in His infinite goodness, God gives us the free will to choose to love Him or walk away through our word.

Words are powerful things. God has given us HIS Word to pray and meditate upon.  His Word is an open invitation to encounter the Holy Spirit and be guided into His heart. God used His Word to create the beauty of the flowers, the majesty of the tall cypress trees, and the complexity of one snowflake.  God uses His word to continue the cycle of creation and continually beckons us to Him, closer and still closer. Words are powerful things.  They can build up or they can destroy.  Our words can bring forgiveness and healing or kill innocent hopes, dreams, and desires. Once our words leave our lips we can never take them back. Often they resonate in the minds of others for quite some time.  Sadly, for many of us, words of destruction linger for a lifetime and become reruns in our minds and hearts.  Yet, all we need to do is open our hearts to the healing words in the confession, to the living Word of God which reveals HIS infinite Mercy.

How do we want to use our words in 2016?  Do we want to use them for love or for hate, good or evil? May all of us make the choice to honor God’s Word, appreciate the evidence of His love all around us, and choose to live lives guided by and revealing His living Word!

Amen – Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”

Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them - every day begin the task anew. - Saint Francis de Sales (1567 – 1622: Bishop of Geneva)

Gospel text: (LK 2:36-40)
There was a prophetess, Anna,
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. 
She was advanced in years,
having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage,
and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple,
but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. 
And coming forward at that very time,
she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child
to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions
of the law of the Lord,
they returned to Galilee,
to their own town of Nazareth. 
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom;
and the favor of God was upon him.

The passage in today’s Gospel retells the story of decades of waiting by the prophetess Anna. These verses from the Gospel of Luke have always intrigued me. If I put myself in Anna’s position as a patient servant of God awaiting the Messiah, I would not fare well. I’ve become too conditioned by the society’s standards. I expect immediate answers to any questions I might have and quick gratification to my everyday needs: from 24/7 news and information service to overnight package deliveries to microwaveable food. However, God does not work that way. My faith walk demands my patience and attention.

Just like Anna, daily spiritual activity is integral to our journey.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Lips and tongues lie. But actions never do

“Jesus Christ said 'by their fruits ye shall know them,' not by their disclaimers.” ― William S. Burroughs: (1914 – 1997: American novelist)

Scripture Text: (1 JN 2:3-11)
The way we may be sure that we know Jesus 
is to keep his commandments. 
Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not keep his commandments
is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
But whoever keeps his word,
the love of God is truly perfected in him. 
This is the way we may know that we are in union with him:
whoever claims to abide in him ought to walk just as he walked.

Beloved, I am writing no new commandment to you
but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. 
The old commandment is the word that you have heard. 
And yet I do write a new commandment to you,
which holds true in him and among you,
for the darkness is passing away,
and the true light is already shining. 
Whoever says he is in the light,
yet hates his brother, is still in the darkness. 
Whoever loves his brother remains in the light,
and there is nothing in him to cause a fall. Whoever hates his brother is in darkness;
he walks in darkness
and does not know where he is going
because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

The injunction to “Walk the Walk” and not just “Talk the Talk” seems to be at play in the first reading from Mass today. The Letter of John talks not about a “new” commandment, but a well-known commandment or call to deepen awareness of how the blessing of Christmas, the Light of Jesus, shines on us.  We are challenged to walk the walk of that Light sent by God; how does it affect our lives?  How are we to respond as persons gifted by that light?  John makes it easy to understand:  if we love our brother/sister we ARE in the light; if we hate our sister/brother we walk in darkness.

If I only talk the talk I might say: sure, I love my brothers; it’s what we do as Christians.  We need only to tune into the daily news to show how difficult that brotherly love is.  We’re bombarded with the hatred that shows up in the daily news of violence, death and destruction and the ongoing wars that confront us.

If I walk the walk, I confront such darkness in my actions.  John’s Letter encourages me to start at home and love the ones there.  Sure it’s small beginnings, but with God’s blessing and inspiration, it is a powerful move in the right direction.  I am called into that love by God’s own love and the light that is incarnate in the person of Jesus the Christ, my brother who first loves me mightily.

Monday, December 28, 2015

“Adoption is such a positive alternative to abortion, a way to save one life and brighten two more.”

“Abortion on demand has, in my judgment, contributed significantly to an environment in our country in which life has become very cheap.”—Robert Casey: (American politician from Pennsylvania. A member of the Democratic Party, he served as the 42nd Governor of Pennsylvania from 1987 to 1995)

Gospel Text: (MT 2:13-18)
When the magi had departed, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,
“Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt,
and stay there until I tell you.
Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.”
Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night
and departed for Egypt.
He stayed there until the death of Herod,
that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled,
Out of Egypt I called my son.

When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi,
he became furious.
He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity
two years old and under,
in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi.
Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet:

A voice was heard in Ramah,
sobbing and loud lamentation;
Rachel weeping for her children,
and she would not be consoled,
since they were no more.

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents.  Our Gospel reading (MT 2: 13-18) guides us through the story of Joseph being warned by an angel about the impending danger for the baby Jesus.  Joseph responds immediately to the angels’ warning by fleeing to Egypt and remaining there until the death of Herod and the danger had passed.  Jesus escaped the vengeance of Herod but the Holy Innocents, all the young boys in Bethlehem did not.  Shortly after the birth of Jesus, a time when Christians pause in adoration, these unsuspecting children, became the church’s first martyrs.  And so it is that shortly after Christmas, we pause to remember innocent lives sacrificed to calm the fear of just one person.

Herod was certainly fearful of what would happen to him if a new ruler would rise to power.  Nothing was going to keep him from protecting his position of power.  We too are often caught in the grips of fear when we perceive something will enter our little protected world and bring change or worse yet, eliminate the need for our presence.  It’s easy to fall into this trap and lash out at all those around us in a protective nature just as Herod lashed out at all those innocent children.   We can too often be just like Herod and kill with our words or unkind behaviors.   Sadly, it doesn’t matter the sweetness we discover in Christmas or the kindnesses others show us.  We so very quickly throw aside those good things and react in a furious rage.

So today, as we remember all those who have been sacrificed, may we remember to not sacrifice others in order to protect our egos.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

A lot will be conquered if we put god first

“Remember to ALWAYS put God first in your relationship, your marriage, & your home, because where there is Christ your foundation will always remain solid.”

Gospel Text: (LK 2:41-52)
Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast
of Passover,
and when he was twelve years old,
they went up according to festival custom.
After they had completed its days, as they were returning,
the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem,
but his parents did not know it.
Thinking that he was in the caravan,
they journeyed for a day
and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances,
but not finding him,
they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.
After three days they found him in the temple,
sitting in the midst of the teachers,
listening to them and asking them questions,
and all who heard him were astounded
at his understanding and his answers.
When his parents saw him,
they were astonished,
and his mother said to him,
“Son, why have you done this to us?
Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”
And he said to them,
“Why were you looking for me?
Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
But they did not understand what he said to them.
He went down with them and came to Nazareth,
and was obedient to them;
and his mother kept all these things in her heart.
And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor
before God and man.

The gospel reading for today is very appealing to me as it shows us the humanity of Mary and Joseph… and Jesus as young boy.  Let us look to the Holy Family as we reflect on our time spent with family and friends during this holiday season.  How did we treat each other?  Are we too focused on the ‘little things’?  Can we let go of past wrongs?  I am grateful for my faith, and the presence of my spiritual mother, Mary, as I personally reflect now and through the New Year.

Friday, December 25, 2015

God is not proud...He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to Him.

Without humility of heart all the other virtues by which one runs toward God seem -- and are -- absolutely worthless. – St. Angela of Foligno: (1248 – 1309: Italian Franciscan)

Gospel Text: (LK 2:1-14)
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus
that the whole world should be enrolled.
This was the first enrollment,
when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.
And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth
to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem,
because he was of the house and family of David,
to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
While they were there,
the time came for her to have her child,
and she gave birth to her firstborn son.
She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields
and keeping the night watch over their flock.
The angel of the Lord appeared to them
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were struck with great fear.
The angel said to them,
“Do not be afraid;
for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David
a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you:
you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel,
praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

The good news came first to shepherds.  They didn’t live in town but slept side by side with their sheep, carrying the smell of the animals with them always.  They would have been less than welcomed in the market stalls in town with their dirt and smell and matted hair.  Yet it is these people, living on the margins, who first hear of the birth of the savior.  Not only were the terrified shepherds reassured, “Be not afraid,” but they were invited to seek out the baby and to be the first to meet this savior face to face. 

Luke’s gospel describes how the oppressive Roman government who now ruled their land, wanted a census of all of those who lived there.  So Joseph and Mary had to travel to Bethlehem, an arduous journey for a woman fully pregnant.  They left home, family and friends to comply with the Roman order.  Adding hardship to their trip, crowds in the city meant they had to stay in a stable, where an exhausted Mary finally gave birth.   Into that stable, the dirty shepherds straggled in, sleepless, wide-eyed and as humble as anyone can imagine. 

We might not always think “Humble,” when we think of our Christmas celebrations today.  We spend extra effort for special occasions and might splurge a little in spending or time to make it exceptional.  But as we celebrate this day, we will find our true “peace on earth” and the Light shining into our lives if we embrace humility in the midst of today’s joy. We have to remember that it is not about us. 

If my Christmas celebration is not “perfect” or all of my hard work seems under-appreciated, I can draw on the humility of the shepherds, remember that Jesus is with me in every moment of this day, and whisper to myself, “A light has shown.” 

When family tensions rise at the dinner table or yet another toddler falls apart in
 furious wails at the celebration, instead of snapping impatiently, I can ask
 for humility and serenity and silently pray, “On earth, Peace.”  

Too often I might be stretched and frazzled by the time people gather and I’m not
in the mood to ask for patience.  It is into this very moment that Jesus can enter
my life so deeply.  Jesus has come into my life for the challenging moments as
well as the wonderful ones and I am often more aware of my own need for a
savior when I am not at my best.  When I am disappointed or angry or frustrated
at those around me, that is when I can pause and remember how much Jesus longs to hold me close and enfold me with his love.  He isn’t waiting for me to behave better to love me, he is loving me right now. And that is a deeply comforting thought.

On this Christmas Day, when everything glitters, we can take a moment to imagine
ourselves in the midst of the smell and noise of the stable and the shepherds.
Like them, we are being called to meet our Savior and to rejoice.