Wednesday, December 31, 2008

last hour

1 john 2:18-21; Psalm 96 Let the heaven be glad and the earth rejoice; john 1:1-18

Today as we read the readings we encounter a paradox.  John in his first letter speaks of the "last hour" and in the gospel he speaks of the "beginning."

Which is it?

Is it the "last hour" or the "beginning?"

Both!

Jesus entering into time and becoming flesh and dwelling among us is the beginning of the end, he marks the last hour of our old existence and the beginning of something new. 

Every end has a beginning and every beginning has an end.  This is the cycle of life. 

As we stand on the precipice of the last day of the year, we also look into the great beyond of the new year that we eagerly anticipate.  As the old draws to an end, the new beckons with delight and surprise and with much in store for the great adventurer of time. 

This day offers us a time to reflect.  As Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that only with time to reflect, in reflecting on the journey of the days we have lived, can we truly gain inner freedom and the patient readiness to move again.

Gaining inner freedom is essential.  Gaining inner freedom is the reason Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us.  He comes to set us free.  He comes, as John reminds us, to offer a gift, "to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God,"

To be given power means to have the freedom and liberty to finally become who we were meant to be.  This is what the LAST HOUR is about.  It is about accepting the offer laid bare at our feet at the foot of the manger at the foot of the cross. 

Quia amaste me Domine, feciste me amabilem: Because you have loved me, O Lord, you have made me lovable.

Excerpt from St. Leo the Great:
In the very act in which we are reverencing the birth of our Savior, we are also celebrating our own new birth.  For the birth of Christ is the origin of the christian people; and the birthday of the head is also the birthday of the body. 

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Sacramental experience

1 John 1:1-4; Psalm 97 Rejoice in the Lord, you just; John 20: 1a, 2-8;

Today we celebrate the feast of John the Evangelist.  He was the one who wrote the gospel of John, considered to be the writer of the letters of John and is known best as the one standing at the foot of the cross with Mary and the one who rushes to the tomb early Easter Morning. 

What was John's formation as a disciple and future apostle? 

He, like the rest of the apostles, was formed by watching one they knew and loved, one they dined with and walked with, one they encountered in a variety of settings, suffer and die.  The formation of the apostles was deeply rooted in experiencing the depth of love of Jesus through his willingness to embrace the cross, to carry the cross, and to be crucified upon the cross. 

John, unlike the rest of the apostles, refused to abandon Jesus.  He refused to live a life of denial; he did not run from the love of Jesus but embraced it head on and stood at the cross and stared it in the face.   John allowed the love of Jesus to penetrate every part of his soul.  It was a truly sacramental experience, an outward sign of inward reality that bestowed grace upon grace.

Thus, at the beginning of the first letter John can write:

"This is what we proclaim to you:
 what was from the beginning,
 what we have heard,
what we have seen with our eyes,
what we have looked upon
and our hands have touched-
we speak of the word of life.  
This life became visible; 
we have seen and bear witness to it,
and we proclaim to you the eternal life 
that was present to the Father
and became visible to us.

what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you
so that you may share life with us.
This fellowship of ours is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ."

This is what the Sacraments of the Church are; they give the grace to bestow and deepen that fellowship with the Most Holy Trinity and deepen our fellowship with one another, in Jesus Christ, the one who became sensible to all. 

True fellowship is both with God and with one another; only in Jesus Christ, who is both God and man, can this fellowship be realized fully.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas continues


Readings for Dec 26




Looking back over yesterday's celebration, we might have the tendency to be done with Christmas.  We must realize that Christmas continues. We celebrate Christmas up until the Epiphany. 

For eight days, we celebrate the octave of Christmas, the same pomp and reverence as Christmas day.  We must fight the urge to put every thing away but rather keep the festivity alive in our hearts and minds and lives.

Once we celebrate Christmas, we can never go back to the way things were.  We can't get back to our normal routine of living.  Christmas changes things, the normal life has given way to a life filled with wonder and awe. 

This is why today we celebrate the Feast of the St. Stephen, the first Martyr.  He let the Christmas reality be a true encounter and event that changed everything.  He recognized the cost of being awaken to a new life, a new way of doing things and He embraced the gift and received abundant life and courageously lived differently. The above image is the painting of Pietro de Cortona in 17th century of the the stoning of St. Stephen.  He was stoned to death because he chose to make Jesus the corner stone of his life.

May we keep the manger scene always before our eyes and begin to experience Christmas anew, living a life of wonder and awe before all.

Prayer from Christmas Mass at dawn:

Almighty God and Father of light, a child is born for us and a son is given to us.  
Your eternal Word leaped down from heaven 
in the silent watches of the night, and 
now your Church is filled with wonder 
at the nearness of her God. 

Open our hearts to receive his life 
and increase our vision with the rising of dawn, 
that our lives may be filled with his glory and peace.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Tree


Readings for Wed Dec 24 and Christmas Vigil


Message from John Paul II Dec 19, 2004 

"Next to the crib, as in St. Peter's Square, we find the traditional "Christmas tree".  This too is an ancient tradition that exalts the value of life, for in the winter season the evergreen fir becomes a sign of undying life.

Christmas gifts are usually placed on the tree or arranged at its base.  The symbol thus also becomes eloquent in a typically Christians sense: it calls to mind the tree of life, a figure of Christ, God' supreme gif to humanity.

The message of the Christmas tree is consequently that life stays "evergreen" if we make a gift of it: not so much of material things, but of life itself: in friendship and sincere affection, in fraternal help and forgiveness, in time shared and reciprocal listening."

As we ponder the christmas tree arrayed in the splendor of light and filled with gifts; as we ponder the manger scene, with Mary and Joseph and the child laying on the hay; may we remember, lest we forget, that the Child born comes to make us friends of God and friends of each other, "I no longer call you servants but friends."

Christmas is about being awaken to our universal call of deep friendship with all in Christ.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What then will this child be?



Malachi 3:1-4, 23-24; Ps 25 Lift up your head and see your redemption is at hand; Luke 1:57-66


The gospel writer gazes toward the coming of Christ but first recognizes the birth of John the Baptizer. 

"When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son."

It is interesting to note that the gospel speaks of the time arriving when John is born.  A natural progression unfolds, first she conceived then she gives birth. 

Yet, when St. Paul speaks of the birth of Jesus his terminology is a little different. In Galatians 4:4 St. Paul writes, "When the time had fully come, God sent forth his son." 

John comes but Jesus is sent.  John arrives on time but Jesus comes in the fullness of time.  Time, when the history of salvation is concerned, is filled with many events, but its center and summit is the mystery of Christ. 

It is the mystery of Christ, the one who is to come in the fullness of time, that gives meaning to all the rest. 

John arrives on time but Jesus comes to fill time with a new dimension, a new dawn "from on high that will shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death and guide our feet to the way of peace" as the Canticle of Zechariah reminds us each morning, a canticle proclaimed when the the time had arrived and John the Baptist was born, the child who was to prepare the way for the fullness of time.  


Monday, December 22, 2008

Magnificat


1 samuel 1:24-28; 1 Sm 2 My heart exults in the Lord, my savior; Luke 1:46-56

Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior."

Excerpt from G.K. Chesterton:

"Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief is superficial.  Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame  of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul"

"The aim of life is appreciation; there is no sense in not appreciating things; there is no sense in having more of them if you have less appreciation of them."

May Mary's praise become our praise and may our hearts magnify the Lord!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Yes


Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16; Psalm 89 For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38

"Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you."

The greeting of the angel to Mary has echoed through the ages.  On the wings of the wind, in the depths of heart of every believer, on the lips of those who proclaim, the greeting summarizes the principle message of Christianity.  "Rejoice!"  The very first word that inaugurates Jesus into history is that of Joy.

Joy descends from the heavens and rises from the earth as God's plan for all is set in motion with Mary's "yes".  Joy is not a feeling but a gift given and a gift received.

In Mary's  "Yes" God is given a dwelling place.  In her "yes" something changes, for the better, for the good, for all, for eternity, for his "Kingdom will have no end".  

God waits on Mary.  He desires her humanity so that he can fill the earth with his divinity.   This kingdom is not built on control or manipulation but on simple freedom to say "yes."

The power of a "yes" should never be taken lightly. 

In Mary we discover  our purpose; we are born to make manifest the glory of God within us. It is not just in some of us, but in all of us.

When we say "yes" something changes for the better, for the good, for all, for eternity, for his kingdom will have no end.  
Let us not delay, let us not keep God waiting.  Let us hasten to greet him, not with a bow or kiss but with a "yes", be it done unto me according to thy word.

Excerpt from St. Bernard:
"Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive.  Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident.  There is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence.  In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous.  Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary.  Open your heart to faith, O Blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator.  See, the desired of all nations  is at your door, knocking to enter...Arise, hasten, open.  Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving.  Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word."


Friday, December 19, 2008

O antiphons


Judges 13:2-7, 24-25a; Psalm 71 My mouth shall be filled with your praise, and I will sing your glory;  Luke 1: 5-25

This week as we enter into the octave before Christmas, the church directs and fixes our attention on the Messianic promises through the ancient texts proclaimed by the prophets of old, known as the O Antiphons. 

The antiphons echo through the liturgy from ages past in which Israel's attention was fixed on the one who was to come.  They are echoes of voices from days gone by filled with hope for tomorrow for the coming Messiah.

There is a tone of expectancy in the antiphons as the Church ask us to unite ourselves with the Virgin heavy with Child, but also the Church herself, the bride of Christ, stand heavy with expectancy, as she yearns for Jesus' final birth not just at the end of time but in the hearts of all. 

O Wisdom (Sapientia) from the Most High, O Ruler(Adonai) of the House of Israel, O Root(Radix) of Jesse, O key (Clavis) of David, O Rising Dawn (Oriens) and Day Spring, O King (Rex) of the Gentiles, O Emmanuel, God-with-us, fill the remaining days with hope. 

In the Latin, the initials of the antiphons, Sapientia, Adonai, Radix, Clavis, Oriens, Rex,Emmanuel  backwards  spell ERO CRAS, in Latin translates, "tomorrow I will be there." 

In the liturgy of Advent we begin with the prayer, "Come Lord Jesus."  As we approach the Christmas event and encounter, we hear Christ respond to our prayer, "Tomorrow, I will be there."

The "tomorrow" the heart longs for finds its fulfillment in the Christ encounter in the manger. Praying the liturgy we enter into the answer to the deepest longing of the human heart. 

Come Lord Jesus, do not delay we await your arrival this day.

Picture is a print of Jeane Kun entitled "root of Jesse"




Thursday, December 18, 2008

Joseph's view


Jeremiah 23:5-8; Psalm 72 Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever; Matthew 1:18-25

Often times as we approach the Christmas story and the birth of Jesus we spend a lot of time focusing on Mary and her 'yes'.  We all know the story of the angel Gabriel and the visit, the question, the discussion, and finally Mary's answer. 

We forget that Joseph had a part to play as well.  The gospel of Matthew gives us Joseph's view, his perspective and reality. 

An angel came to Joseph as well and asked if he would partake and participate in God's plan for all so that His glory could fill the earth, as the psalmist tells us today.  

In the gospel, we encounter the depth of Joseph's love. He deeply loved Mary , so much that he refused to expose her to shame.  He also deeply loved God, so much that he was willing to be shamed by taking Mary into his home, though she was pregnant with a child not his own.

In Joseph, we see the extent love will go, the cost it will endure so that it will never be betrayed. 

Joseph's view is a godly view of love.  May we embrace it and allow it to take deep root in us. 

Excerpt from G. K. Chesterton 
"Christ commanded us to have love for all men, but even if we have equal love for all men, to speak of having the same love for all men is merely bewildering nonsense.  If we love a man at all, the impression he produces on us must be vitally different to the impression produced by another man whom we love.  To speak of having the same kind of regard for both is about as sensible as asking a man whether he prefers chrysanthemums or billiards.  Christ did not love humanity; He never said He loved humanity; He loved men."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bambinelli






Genesis 49:2, 8-10; Psalm 72 Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever; Matthew 1:1-17


On Sunday Pope Benedict during the Angelus, blessed the Bambinelli, the statues of the baby Jesus that were to be placed in the manger on Christmas. 

He told the crowd gathered that the nearness of God is not a question of space and time; rather it is a question of love: Love is near.  Before the Creche, we taste Christian Joy, contemplating in the face of the newborn Jesus God who drew near to us for Love. 

In today's gospel, we read the genealogy of Jesus.  We trace the roots of Jesus in History, in space and time.  We discover that Love not only has drawn near but it has been drawing near for some time.  The tribe of Judah boast boldly of its humility for God makes himself known through it.  The lion of the tribe of Judah, from whom the scepter shall never depart, draws near in a manger as a "Bambinelli". 

May we let love draw nearer today as we contemplate the face of Jesus in the many we encounter today in space and time.

Excerpt of Pope Benedict's prayer:
God, Our Father, you so loved men to send us your only Son, Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, to save us and to bring us back to you.

We pray to you, that with your blessing these images of Jesus, who is about to come  among us, be, in our houses, a sign of your presence and your love. 

Good Father, grant us also, our parents, our families and our friends, your blessings. 

Open our hearts, so that we know how to receive Jesus with Joy, do always what he asks and see him in all those who need our love. 

We ask this in the name of Jesus, your beloved Son, who came to bring peace to the world.  He who lives and reigns forever and ever.  AMEN 

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Remnant

Zephaniah  3:1-2, 9-13; Psalm 34 The Lord Hears the Cry of the Poor; Matthew 21:28-32


Zephaniah speaks today of a remnant: 

"For then I will remove from your midst the proud braggarts, and you shall no longer exalt yourself on my holy mountain,  But I will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly, who shall take refuge in the name of the Lord: the remnant of Israel." 

What is a remnant?

A remnant is a surviving trace; a small minority that remains steadfast. 

In this year of economic upheavals and down falls, layoffs and bankruptcy, foreclosures and the like, many people find themselves searching once again.  They are searching for truth, searching for stability, searching for home, searching for something to hold on to.  

The remnant are those who do not give in to the despair of the times and trust in the sure footing of God as he continues to guide us through. 

We are called to take refuge in his Name and allow his strength to be ours. The upheavals and the downfalls keeps us humble and lowly and thus we remain open to God's every present and guiding hand. 

Excerpt from the Imitation of Christ
"God protects and frees a humble man; he loves and consoles a humble man; he favors a humble man; he showers him with graces; then, after his suffering, God raises him up to glory.  He reveals his secrets to a humble man and in his kindness invitingly draws that man to himself."


 

Monday, December 15, 2008

we don't know

Numbers 24:2-7, 15-17; Psalm 25 Teach me your ways, O Lord; Matthew 21:23-27

Today's readings are filled with irony. 

The first reading taken from the book of Numbers, reaches into the memory of the Israelites wandering in the desert and seeking entrance into the promised land.  

Upon the scene arrives the Pagan Prophet, Balaam.  The King of Moab, Balak, tries to coerce the prophet Balaam to speak a curse against the Israelites on four different occasions.  The prophet, though pagan, is humble enough to seek guidance from the Lord.  Each time the prophet speaks, to the chagrin of Balak the king, he speaks a blessing not only on Israel but on all the land as he peers into the future and sees a "star that shall advance from Jacob, and a staff that shall arise from Israel."  With the blessing comes a curse to the proud of heart.  

In the gospel, the blessing spoke long ago by Balaam, makes himself known in the temple area. The star of Jacob shines brightly and the staff of Israel wields authority as a He speaks.  Unlike Balaam, the chief priests and the elders, bound by their pride, are unable to recognize the blessing of God in their midst.  Like Balak, they seek to coerce Jesus into a trap.  

The humble heart seeks guidance and finds a blessings; the proud of heart deny the guidance and find themselves accursed. 

In the end, the elders and chief priests are baffled and afraid and are left with no answer for "we do not know" is all they can muster in response.  Their pride inhibits them from recognizing the blessing of the ages, the authority sent from on high to enlighten those in darkness. 

"We do not know" is the battle cry of the proud, the battle cry of those who seek to coerce rather than follow.  "We do not know" is insufficient, it is a copout. 

Jesus demands that we choose a side.  He demands that we humbly recognize his authority and allow ourselves to be guided into a life filled with blessings abundant. Advent is a season of humility by which we prepare to receive the one who is to guide us.


Excerpt from William of St, Thiery, from On the Contemplation of God:

"Truly you alone are the Lord.  Your dominion is our salvation, for to serve you is to be nothing more than to be saved by you.   O Lord, salvation is your gift and your blessing is upon your people; what else is your salvation but receiving from you the gift of loving you or being loved by you?"   

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Habits of the heart

Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28

St. Paul in todays reading 1 Thessalonians instructs of the habits of the heart.  He invites us to habituate our minds and hearts so that we might truly live the christian message. 

Habits of the heart: 
1)Rejoice always
2)pray without ceasing
3) in all circumstances give thanks this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus

Focus on the words Paul uses: always, without ceasing, in all circumstances.  IF the message of Christ is to be effective in our life, if our relationship with Christ is to be effective in our life, then it must be one that is always, without ceasing, and in all circumstances.

This habits of the heart invites us to learn how to fully receive.  
The first thing, above all things in life that we must learn is how to receive.  We receive life before we give it; we receive instruction before we teach; we receive  guidance before we lead; we receive before we give. 

Our whole life is one act of receiving.   This is why St. Paul invites us to rejoice, pray, give thanks, always, without ceasing, in all circumstance.

Thus our life never is centered on getting what we want but rather receiving what God gives.  Only then can we truly experience lasting joy and have a life that is filled with rejoicing.

Is this not what the season of Christmas is about: God gives, will we receive?  

Friday, December 12, 2008

Our Lady


Revelation 11:19, 12:1-10; You are the highest honor of our race; Luke 1:26-38

The pregnant Lady is Lady Advent herself, as she awaits our savior her son, so we join her in waiting and hoping and longing so that peace might rein in our world.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

least in the kingdom


"Among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he."


The least of the Kingdom....

The word "least" signifies smallness in stature or height.  Jesus praises the little people; he wants to keep us small so that we might grow very large in deed, grow large in appreciation and wonderment of it all.


"How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller; if you could really look at other men with common curiosity and pleasure; if you could see them walking as they are in sunny selfishness and their virile indifference!  You would begin to be interested in them, because they  were not interested in you.  YOU would break out of this tiny and tawdry theatre in which your own little plot is played, and you would find yourself under a freer sky [for it would be bigger] in a street full of strangers."  G.K. Chesterton 


Recently we had the dedication of a Chapel at our renewal center.  Before the rededication of the chapel and dedication of the altar, we got to look around a bit.  Initially, there was some discussion about the newly added stain glass windows.  They appeared to be done at a 3rd grade level.  Some one made the comment that they looked like a elementary school art project.  They were very very simple, one might even say small.  In deed one needs to become small to appreciate their simplicity. 

In hind sight, maybe they are not so bad after all.  Maybe the windows invite us to truly become the "least in the kingdom" growing small so that we might embrace the largeness of life.  

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

word from the Pope


Isaiah 40:25-31; Psalm 103 O Bless the Lord my soul; Mt 11:28-30

"The Purpose of the Church's year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart's memory so it can discern the star of hope.  It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us, memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope."

As the Prophet Isaiah speaks in 40:25-31, "those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagle's wings; they will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint." 

As Jesus reminds us in the gospel, in him we shall find rest for ourselves.  Every time we enter into the memories of God's past victories, we are reminded of how grace works through the human heart.  In this memory our restlessness finds rest, for in every memory of grace there we encounter Christ face to face.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Our First lady




Genesis 3:9-15, 20; Psalm 98 Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds; Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12;  Luke 1:26-38

Today on this Feast of the Immaculate conception, Our Pope will journey to the Piazza Spagna in Rome to give honor to the Image of the Immaculate Mary, as she towers over the city imploring on our behalf to respond to grace and reject sin; 

The Pope reminds us that in Mary we see the reflection of beauty that saves.

Today in the United States we all bow in honor to give reverence to the Patroness of our Country, Our First Lady in Faith, the Immaculate Mary.  

As we read in the gospel, The angel came to Mary and saluted her with singular reverence, "Hail full of grace the Lord is with You."  Indeed, we unite our voices and our beating hearts with the words of the angel Gabriel, "Mary you are highly favored and in you we are now favored as well."  

May we never forget that at Mary's conception a  new age has dawn, sin gives way to grace and a new way of being human makes its presence felt in the world. 

Mary from the beginning is set apart for this singular role in the mystery of God's plan to bestow upon all grace upon grace.  From the beginning, through Mary, the world now experiences love that never knew sin.  Thus, from her intercession, Jesus the savior is born.  

We continue to call upon her intercession that we may allow Jesus to be born in us more and more as we journey forth day to day, as morning gives way to night and night gives way to dawning light. 

In the words of Moses we find our hearts echoing our own gratitude and petition, "Now, if I have found favor with you, do let me know your ways so that in knowing you, I may continue to find favor with you." Exodus 33:13

Mary, Our first lady in the faith, teach us how to find favor with God, and pray that we may have the courage risking to love without sin, and thus grace will abound more and more.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

God's patient plan

Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11; Psalm 85 Lord let us see your kindness and grant us your salvation; 
2 Peter 3:8-14; Mark 1:1-8

This past week I took a trip up to Dallas for an ordination;  a friend of mine after 10 1/2 years decided to surrender to God's plan for him, for the church, ultimately for the world.   Before going to Dallas, I swung by to visit a classmate of mine in Gand Saline, Texas. 

If you do not know where Grand Saline is, I will tell you; it is north of Italy, south of Paris and just east of athens.  I always knew traveling in Texas was like going around the world and this trip confirmed for me. 

As I was driving, I had a lot of time to think. One of the things I was thinking about was sin.   It is important to think about sin;  Jesus came to take away sin; We should at least ponder what that reality is.  

What is a sin? 

Most of us when we hear the word 'sin' we make a laundry of list of things that belong under the subheading of sin: lying, stealing, killing, adultery, not going to mass, not honoring our father and mother.  In some sense the Ten commandments is slowly formed, hopefully. 

My next question was, what makes a sin a sin?
What makes lying sinful, stealing sinful, killing sinful?

We could rack our brains for a few moments or longing but eventually all of our answers could be and should be reduced to one answer.  We could all respond with the answer, "because God said so..."

Now this may see simplistic but it is the reality.  God has spoken.  God keeps silence no longer. 
From the beginning, God reveals himself not as an image or effigy but as a voice, a living word that speaks. 

In the beginning God said, "let there be light" and he defeated darkness and nothingness and created being and formed the world.  Not only is god a voice, a living word, it is a word with a purpose, a plan. 

God throughout time has invited us to participate in his plan.  His plan as unfold patiently and he has patiently waited for us to participate in it.

In todays' gospel, Mark tells us, "the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, son of God. as it is written in the prophet Isaiah..."

The word "gospel" means good news.  Mark is reminding us as he draws from the prophet Isaiah, as he reaches deep into history, deep into the memory of Israel, this good news is not new.  It is part of God's plan that has been slowly unfolding, a plan that the prophet Isaiah had reminded us of long ago. 

God who reveals himself as a voice, a living word, ha snow become living flesh.  No longer does God speak to us in the hidden recesses of time but now he speaks to us face to face. 

In Jesus, God continues to invite us to participate in his plan for us, for the world. 

Now, sin, has a more nuanced meaning. Sin, at its heart, is the reality in which we refuse to participate in God's plan.  we retaliate against God's patience for us and the patience he demands from us.  Sin is when we choose our own plan, we choose to take matters into our own hands.

This is the reality of sin; we choose to not cooperate with God' s plan for us and the world. 

Love then must be when we refuse to take matters into our own hands.  This is seen most perfectly in the agony, where Jesus on his Knees surrenders, "let it be your will not mine."  Jesus refuses to take matters into his own hands and thus he hastens the day of the Lord, when love conquers sin. 

How do we hasten the day of the Lord, as St. Peter tells us, we simply refuse to take matters into our own hands.  Then truly a new heaven and new earth will be unveiled, because God's plan for us all will be made manifest through us all. 

Let us wait on the Lord and not keep him waiting.

God's plan is not our fault but it is our responsibility.  We can choose to ignore his word or we can be active participants in his plan for all.



 

 

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Solutions

Isaiah 26:1-6; Psalm 118 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; Matthew 7:21, 24-27


The short while that I have been a priest, a time span that adds up to be about 2 1/2 years I have discovered an important truth in ministry. 

I have had many people call, gather in my office, seek my time, people of many cultures and many ages, and not one of them wanted my advice.

Every person, young and old, who entered my office has been seeking one thing, they wanted me to fix it, they wanted a solution to life's problems, a solution to life's mystery that was unfolding before them, a solution for the fix they were in at the time. 

People do not generally want advice, they want solutions. 

If you page through the Bible, you discover that God never offers advice but rather he offers a solution.  From the beginning when he spoke his first words, "let there be light" he brings forth a solution to the problem of nothingness. 

God is one who does not bother with mere advice, rather he brings with him solutions. 

Jesus is the same way in the gospel.  He is one who has the solution to life's mystery, to life's problem.  

Into today's gospel he reminds us what the solution entails. 

"Not everyone who says 'Lord, Lord' will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven." 

The solution involves not just speaking but ultimately listening. 
The solution has always been listening.  God has always invited us to listen, to heed, and then be set free.  

Advent is the time for listening.  Advent is the time to recognize again the one who speaks the solution for life's mystery. 

The word of God is spoken, in the quiet and silence, we hear it again a new and fresh; in the quiet and in the silence, the word of God is born in the manger in sleepy Bethlehem.  

God's solution to life's mystery is not just to speak his word but allow that word to become flesh so that it can speak to us.  Jesus is the solution, this is why his words are so efficacious.

Listen and encounter the personal solution in the person of Christ who speaks, he who has the words of everlasting life. 

"Only say the word, and I shall be healed."



 

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

time

Isaiah 25:6-10; Psalm 23 I shall live in the house of the Lord all my days; Matthew 15:29-37

The gospel begins today with the words, "at that time." 

At that time, Jesus walked by the sea of Galilee, went up on the mountain, and sat down there.

At that time...

St. Bernard states there are three comings of Christ: In the first coming he was sent on earth, dwelling among men; the Lord came in our flesh  and in our weakness.  The last coming is when he comes in the end for final judgment, he shall come in all glory and power and strength; all shall look upon the one they have pierced.  

In the first, Christ comes as our redemption; in the last he will appear as our life. 

In between the first and the last, the Lord comes as well but in spirit and truth. In the middle coming he is to be our rest and consolation. As the gospel reminds us Jesus says, "If anyone loves me he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him."  

We must let Christ's word enter into our very being, letting it take possession of our desires and whole way of life.

We must feed on his goodness and our soul will delight in richness.  Here in this middle coming, we must eat the bread lest our heart whither away.  In Spirit and truth, the middle coming presents himself, as food for the journey, a hidden presence that is veiled only to be seen with eyes of faith.  

Now is the time for such a presence.  Now is the time for living in the Spirit and Truth of things.  Now is the time for Faith to bring sight to blind, quicken the steps of those who are sluggish, open our mouths that we might proclaim the good news, to undo the deformity of our hearts and minds.  

Now is the time for the victory of Faith.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Petting zoo

Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72 justice shall flourish in his time, fullness of peace for ever; Luke 10:21-24

As we embark on our journey of Advent, anticipating the coming of the Lord, we shall encounter many prophetic utterances depicting a time when the Messiah shall come. 

Isaiah paints a prophetic picture in today's first reading. 

"The wolf shall be guest to the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together with a little child to guide them."

This prophetic image  reminds me of a petting zoo where children run freely and animals stand bravely as the interaction unfolds.  Spirits are lifted high and the heart is filled with joy as the amazement of God's creation is imprinted upon the mind of the child. 

Advent is time when we reach back into our memories and we rediscover the beauty of being a child; we unlearn all the false pretense that has gathered on us like dust.  We shake ourselves free from the solemnity of being all grown up and discover the child that can be amazed and in awe of God's beauty and creation.  Advent is where we unlearn our sense of self-importance, unlearn our sense of having to run the world and even run our own lives and we surrender.

We become "childlike" as Jesus invites us in the gospel; we become small and stand in awe of the wonder of it all; we stop trying to solve life's mystery but rather we just embrace the mystery that brings us life. 

We become small so that we can fully receive the small gift of salvation wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in the manger.  Today we stand before the empty manger in wonder and we grow small filled with giddy laughter as we anticipate the token of God's wonder and awe for us.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advent

Isaiah 63: 16-17,19; 64:2-7; Psalm 80 Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:33-37

Advent is time for rehab.  Re-habituating ourselves to living our true identity.
Like most rehab programs there are four aspects that enable us to rehab in such a manner that is lasting in its fruitfulness, lasting in its transformation.

The program consist in the four R's of Advent.

Remember
Advent is a time to remember.  As Isaiah reminds the Israelites so the Liturgy invites us to remember who we are.  We must be re awaken and roused from our slumber to remember our true identity.  We are heirs to the kingdom, we are sons and daughters to the Father and we have forgotten. 

Remember who you are, you are my son and you have forgotten me, these are the summation of God's call to the Israelites and to ourselves from the Father. 

Reflect
Advent is a time of reflection.  We have been distracted by the economy, the market, the presidential election, by college football and everything else.  Advent is a time to set aside quiet moments and reflect on how we have lived our identity. 

It  is not just a time for reflecting on what we have done wrong, but it also a time of reflection on what God has done right.  A time to reflect on how God has led us through even in the hard times.  

Often times we are nearsighted when it comes to God's plan unfolding.  We just see the immediate confusion and chaos but we fail to look far enough ahead.  Thus we get impatient. 

We are also farsighted when it comes to ourselves; we are afraid to take a closer look to see our our life is unfolding in cooperation with God's call. 

When we are nearsighted when it comes to God's plan and farsighted when it comes to our life then sinfulness takes over and our life begins to unravel.  Advent is a time of refocus.  A time to be watchful, to recognize the presence of Christ in our life.  It is a time to see Him not in the big moments but also the quiet subtle moments. 


Repentance
Advent is a time of repentance.  Repentance is often looked upon as a negative action but in reality it is a positive action in our life.  It is where we open our hearts and no longer live close din on ourselves.  It is about reaching outward and upward.  It is about returning to reclaim our identity.  

It is a time of facing our guilt, confessing our guilt and confessing our faith.  Here we allow our faith and identity in Christ to conquer our guilt and to set us free.

Rejoicing 
Advent is a time of rejoicing.  We must remember the first words that inaugurated Christianity in to history, jesus into humanity.   The angel Gabriel declared unto Mary, "rejoice, highly favored one."  In deed we are to rejoice for in Jesus through Mary we are highly favored.  

Rejoicing is about recognizing God's victory and we are invited to be victorious along side of him. 

We rejoice because though we may abandon God he does not abandon us. 
It is rejoicing that enables Mary to stand at the foot of the cross and enables us to stand erect and make ourselves ready for the coming of Christ. 

Remember, Reflect, Repent, Rejoice, here enter fully into advent and are re-habituated to being who we are called to to be, heirs to the kingdom. 

Remember you are my son, and you have forgotten me. Let us rouse ourselves from slumber and never forget who we are called to be and never forget who calls us into being.

but my words will not pass away

Luke 21:29-33


Jesus continues His exhortation on the end of time.   He ask us to be on the look out for the signs that manifest the kingdom of God and its proximity to fullness. 

Then he says these words, "heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away."

We must never forget that God reveals himself not as an image or an effigy but rather as a voice. He reveals himself as a voice that speaks, commands, guides, creates. 

The first biblical reference to God is his words, "let there be light."
His is a voice that speaks words that have power to defeat nothingness and create being. 

Through out the scriptural reference it is God's voice that captivates and calls. 

To Moses, he reveals himself as "I am who am" a voice that is always now.  To Elijah he is a whisper that can not be out done in magnitude or strength. 

In the prophets it is is words that warn his people and bring them back. 

In Jesus, the word of God becomes flesh, the word of God has a face. 

God's voice is steady and can not be denied. 

His is a voice that speaks the words that brings being from nothing, light into darkness, life from death, unity out of diversity. 

Gratitude is about recognizing the reach of God into our lives, recognizing the word of God that can never be silenced, "Our God comes he keeps silence no longer."

We never go alone, for the voice of God accompanies us on this journey, calls us forth, leads us on, and sets us free.  His is the words of everlasting life, to him we cling.

All may pass away, but his words remain for it is his words that bring into being.  
We beg to hear is word, "only say the word and we shall be healed" and thus we shall find what we are looking for the source of the voice that has called us his own.




  

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanks and praise

Rev 18:1-2, 21-23; 19:1-3, 9; Psalm 100 Blessed are they who are called to the wedding feast of the lamb; Luke 21:20-28

Today across the United States we all come to a stop; there is a pause in our daily routine; most businesses are closed down and most people gather together with  family and friends to give thanks and praise. 

This is the moment we are called to be thoughtful.  In the words of scripture, "thoughtfulness put flesh on his bones."  Thoughtfulness keeps things real.  In some sense, as we ponder the gifts we have received, we put flesh on the hand of God who wrought them all so that we might be where we are.

The proclamation that set aside this day was given at the hand of President Lincoln in 1863.  In response to the progress of people in the land in light of the civil strife, President Lincoln spoke these words, 

"they are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who while dealing with us in anger  for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.  It seems to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People...to set apart the last Thursday of November, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens." 

Thanksgiving and praise to God is the cure for all that ails.  It gives us strength for the journey and clarity in out mission.  It alleviates depression and gives us hope in despair.  It is a shot of courage as the mystery of life unfolds. It keeps us focused in the trials that abound and opens our heart to the truth of God's love.  

When we give thanks and praise we have what is necessary to "stand erect and raise our heads" as Jesus proclaims in the gospel, for we are able to recognize the hand of who wrought redemption in our lives. 

Today we begin to habituate ourselves to thanksgiving and praise, a true sacrifice fitting for those who seek to follow in the footsteps of Christ, who at the last supper took the bread and cup and gave thanks and praise...

May we follow Christ in thanks and praise on earth so that we may be with him in heaven. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

courage

Rev 15:1-4; Psalm 98 Great and wonderful are your works, Lord, mighty God; Luke 21:12-19


G.K. Chesteron writes, "courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die."

Into today's gospel Jesus exhorts us to courage and perseverance.  In the words of Pope Leo XIII, "To suffer and to endure is the lot of Humanity."

We can never eliminate suffering in our life. We suffer the moment we are given life.  We suffer the consequences of being human.  We feel pain and discomfort and agony and stress and worry.  Our bodies are frail and weak and gravity is too much for us.  We suffer love when it is found. 

We can ease pain by comfort; we can never eliminate suffering.  It is foolish to think otherwise. 

Jesus in the gospel exhorts us to remember though we can never eliminate suffering, we can choose what we will suffer for. This is the mark of true freedom. 

Take courage! Persevere!

May our suffering be of value as we fill up what is lacking in the suffering of Christ.
What we choose to suffer for will magnify the true value of our lives.  

May we choose Christ for He chose to suffer for us.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

all that glitters is not gold

Rev 14:14-20; Psalm 96 The Lord Comes to Judge the earth; Luke 21:5-11

Jesus, in the gospel, responds to some people commenting about how the temple was adorned with costly  stones and votive  offerings, "all that you see here-the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down."

In other words Jesus is wanting us to finally see things as they are.  

How easily are we deceived?  How easily we get distracted by the "costly stones and votive offerings" that decorate many places? 

We forget the reality that is before us.  We are blinded.  Remember the old saying, "all that glitters is not gold."

This saying comes from the Merchant of Venice in which Shakespeare put these words in a scroll.  The lady Portia is being courted by several men, and the one who picks the correct casket that contains her picture will get to marry her.  There are three caskets: gold, silver and lead.  The prince of Morocco chooses first; he chooses the gold casket. 

On the inside he finds not a picture but a scroll that reads:

"all that glisters is not gold; often you have heard it told.
many a men his life hath sold; but my outside to behold;
gilded tombs do worms enfold;
had you been as wise as bold; young in limbs in judgment old;
your answer had not been enscrolled;
fare you well, your suit is cold."

Jesus reminds us in the gospel that: 
"all that glisters is not gold; often have you heard it told... had you been as wise as bold."

Jesus invites us to wisdom to judge clearly and wisely for as the book of revelation reminds us the harvest is near, the sickles are raised and the vintage of the earth is about to be reaped. 

May we see things as they really are and prepare ourselves for the harvest fall. 

Monday, November 24, 2008

The widow's might

Luke 21:1-4

"When Jesus looked up he saw some wealthy people putting their offerings into the treasury and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins.  He said, "I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood."

What does Jesus see when he looks up at us?

Life unexamined is a life not worth living. 

Sunday, November 23, 2008

the king's good servant

Matthew 25:31-46

In 1925, Pope Pius XI instituted the solemnity of Christ the King.  As He looked out in to the world from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, he felt that the world was mounting opposition to Christian values and that it was insulting the name of the Redeemer and the right of the Church to teach the way of Christ was being out right denied and rejected. 

He hoped that by honoring Christ as King society would be returned to the loving Savior.  By bringing to mind the celebration of the Kingship of Christ he hoped that Christ would begin to reign in the mind and wills and hearts of the faithful.  They would allow Christ to renew how they think and what they think about; they would allow Christ to direct their will to build the society such that it would become a fountain of mirth enough to set the kingdom laughing with joy; they would begin to emulate the kingly love of Christ who laid down his life for all. 

Thus, Christ reigning in us then the kingdom is built up within us then all we have to do is let out. Enthrone christ with us and the kingdom comes through us.

Only by doing this, Pope Pius XI mentioned, would we receive the blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, and peace and harmony. 

Only then would we be reawaken to our truest identity, the King's good servant. 

Christ invites us in the gospel today to understand what the king's good servant must be about. we must attend to the least of society.

Why?

As we ponder the way of the cross it is important to note from the beginning to end Jesus becomes the least. 

He is hungry and thirsty and they give him vinegar to drink, a sponge filled with gaul.  He is stripped of his clothing and is left naked and exposed.  

He is mocked and spit upon as a stranger.  Even his closet friends abandon him and pretend him to be a stranger, unknown.   As Peter professes, " I tell you I do not know the man."   St. Paul reminds us, if they would have known who he was they would not have crucified him. 

He was ill for his body was racked with pain, bruised and battered as he sought to destroy the sickness of sin.  He was a prisoner.  Arrested in the garden, bound hand and foot and confined through the night, only to be scourged like a common criminal and crucified like the worst of criminals. 

The way of the cross is the path of enthronement; this is how Jesus becomes the universal king. He identifies with the least so that he might rule all. 

We are asked to attend to the least so that we might walk in the footsteps of the king.  Here we make our oath of allegiance.  Here we become true stewards of the kingdom, and the King's good servant.   In the face of the least we fulfill our oath in fealty and love, valor and honor.  We become who we were made to be from the foundation of the world, the king's good servant making known the King who lives and reigns.





Friday, November 21, 2008

gracefully fills the temple

Revelation 10:8-11; Psalm 119 How sweet to my taste is your promise; Luke 19:45-48

Today in the Church we celebrate the memorial of the presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Today we draw from the deep memory of Mary as a child being brought to the temple being presented to God. 

What an image, Mary, the one full of grace, now gracefully fills the temple. 

As the Psalm proclaims this day, "how sweet to my taste is your promise."

The promise begins to unfold slowly and methodically; the plan of God is set in motion and the beautifully prepared creature, this handmaid of the Lord, this arc of the covenant, this unblemished vessel of divine presence, this temple that will contain the source of life and grace and light, moves ever so gracefully into the temple realm proclaiming the glory of God.

All eyes upon her and the mystery of God's plan stares them all in the face and to bright for their eyes is such majestic blueprints for the salvation of the world. 

Such a humble hand maid is easily overlooked by the multitude; yet there within her shines the hidden virtues necessary for redemption to fill the earth and restoration to the kingdom to begin, for as the angel declares, "his kingdom will be with out end."


For today we do not celebrate the mother of Mary, today we celebrate her discipleship. 
The Father's will has a resting place.  Mary, ever virgin, is more blessed to be a disciple than mother for it is in her yes that her motherhood flows. 

The disciple of the King embraces her destiny to be Queen mother of all.

In her we see  all that humans build is already diminished by the praise and salutation of her heart to God most high, "be it done unto me according to thy word."

Truly these words are the foundation that edifies.

As we see Mary enter the temple we are brought face to face with reality; the temple is the place where God's glory dwells.  Mary is the place in which the Father's will has a resting place.  Mary in the temple reminds us and directs us to the reality that the glory of God can never be separated from his will.  These two are in fact one reality.  God's glory fills the earth where His will is done unceasingly.  

In Mary's heart we find that unique place where glory and obedience are and inseparable force that transforms the world. 


Thursday, November 20, 2008

tears of God

Revelation 5:1-10; Psalm 149 The Lamb has made us a kingdom of priest to serve our God

In the gospel this day we encounter Jesus making his grand entrance into Jerusalem.  This is the scene we encounter on Palm Sunday.  He sits upon the colt and the disciples praise as he rides into Jerusalem, "Blessed is he who comes as king in the name of the Lord, Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens."

The King returns to claim his throne.  The king returns to establish is reign and to unite his kingdom.

As Jesus comes down upon the mount of Olives overlooking the city of Jerusalem he weeps.  

The tears of God roll down the face of Jesus. 

This is not the image one thinks of when a King comes to claim his throne. 

Jesus laments and mourns for the reality that these people do not recognize the hour of their visitation, a visitation that is meant to transform them, awaken them, set them a blaze with new fervor and new hope. 

Jesus comes to give hope to men and keep none for himself and yet they do not recognize his presence. 

How often do we fail to recognize the visitation of God in our life?  How often is the soil beneath our feet dampen by the tears of God?  How often do we fail to become the visitation, the presence of God for others in our life's journey? 

Pray for the gift to see, to recognize the encounter with the King that has made us a kingdom.  May we embrace the hour of our visitation. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

restoration

Below is the morning prayer the Church universally prayed tuesday morning:

"God our Father, 
hear our morning prayer 
and let the radiance of your love
scatter the gloom of our hearts.
The light of heaven's love has restored us to life:
free us from the desires that belong to darkness.

We ask this through Jesus Christ, 
your son, who lives and reigns 
with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever."

Every time we pray we close the prayer with the doxology; in the doxology we acknowledge that Jesus Christ, lives and reigns

This living and reigning that we acknowledge is the concrete manifestation of heaven's love, a love that not only conquers darkness and death, but a love, as the prayer states, that has restored us to life. 


This day give thanks for the restoration we have received and the restoration that continues forth as we journey toward union with God. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Dedication of Basilicas of Peter and Paul

acts 2811-16, 30-31; Psalm 98  The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power

On Vatican Hill and the Ostian way the tombs of the apostles remain.  From their blood, one upon the cross the other beneath the sword, the faith was spread through out the world. 

Upon the tomb of St. Paul it reads: Apostle Martyr.  The one who was called to be sent to bear witness to love itself.   Both Peter and Paul, a fisherman and tentmaker, exchanged their trades for something greater.  They were consumed by their task and the world has been made the better for it. 

Through their lives, we can say with the psalm, "The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power."

Today rising high above the ground and towering above Rome, St. Peter's Basilica and St. Paul Outside the Walls remains for all the world to see the victory of God. 

Peter and Paul lived proclaiming the Kingdom and in death the Kingdom continues to be proclaimed. 

Just as their tomb is marked with 'Apostle Martyr' so to we are called to do the same to be sent in to the world and bear witness with our life.

This is how we fulfill our own dedication and consecration as a temple of God thus singing joyfully before the King. 

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Saturday's ebb and flow


Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote about the dance of love

"When you love someone you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way from moment to moment.  It is an impossibility.  It is even an lie to pretend to.   And yet this is exactly what most of us demand.  We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships,  We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb.  We are afraid it will never return.  We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity  possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity, in the freedom [to allow the ebb and flow]."  

(The brackets is what I added in order to complete her thought.  Freedom with out direction is not freedom at all) 

Such it is with our relationship with God.  We expect the duration of feeling close to linger through out our life, but we forget that it is in the ebb and flow that we grow in relationship with Him.  Maturity in the Spirit demands this space where the ebb and flow brings us ever closer to seeing God as he is and becoming who we are meant to be...built up into the full stature of Christ. 

 

Friday, November 14, 2008

progressive faith

2 John 1:4-9; Psalm 119 Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord; Luke 17:26-37

Today we read from the 2nd letter of John; The 2nd letter of John may be the shortest book in the entire bible.  It consist of just 13 verses. 

The letter is meant to keep the Church, "the Lady, the chosen one" from going astray on false teachings of different sects.  

One of the sects being dealt with are those that "refuse to acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in human nature."

This may be a early reference to the sect that does not believe that God became flesh.  The modern name version of this sect is the Jehovah Witness.  They do not believe that Jesus is true god and true man and they do not believe in the Blessed Trinity. 

John warns the church to be on guard against such false teachings about Christ. 

Not all Christians faiths are the same, since not all "christian faiths" are Christian at all. 
The reality of false teachings the early church dealt with is the same reality we deal with on a daily basis. 

 Every body claims to have the Christian faith but how can we know for sure. 

Many want to claim Christ under pretense of leading people astray.  The surest way of discerning the authentic church is to make sure to go all the way back to the apostles; start with Peter and go from there. 

For as John says, "anyone who is so progressive  as not to remain  in the teaching of Christ does not have God."  It was Christ who gave the teaching authority to the apostles before he ascended, "go teach all that I have commanded you, baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the son, and of the Holy Spirit, and behold I am with you always."

Many people want to be progressive in their faith.  They want to be "post-denominational. " Be weary; be on guard; stick to the truth handed down for two thousand years from Peter the rock upon whom the Church, "the lady, the chosen one" was built to Benedict XVI together with the successors of the apostles, the bishops.  

Here you find the fullness of truth, the fullness of faith, life on high in Christ Jesus established 33 A.D. and still moving forward.   The Church, our mother, has moved through the ages defeating heresy and making truth accessible to all; this is what true progressive faith is all about, slowly moving forward making the truth of Jesus known through it all. 








Thursday, November 13, 2008

useless to useful

Philemon 1:7-20; Psalm 146 Alleluia; Luke 17:20-25

St. Paul speaks of Onesimus and gives this remark, "was once useless to you but is now useful."


This is the power of conversion and the power of faith active in our life.  We go from being useless to being useful for the Kingdom.  

In the eyes of god we are always useful; this is why we should never give up on anyone. 

The usefulness can some times be overlooked because of our own spiritual blindness.  We need to just remember what God has done with us, could he not do that and more with the other. 

There is a great scene in the "Lord of the Rings" triology.  Frodo wants to kill Gollum.  Gandalf stops him from taking his life and tells him, who are you to decide to take this life.  You do not  know what role he will still plan as life unfolds.  

Though we may be through with people, God, however, is never through with anyone.  As long as life remains, there hope remains, there usefulness for the Kingdom can be found. even it means we are forced to be a little more patient, a little more charitable, a little more merciful then the pillars of the kingdom stand firm.

As Jesus reminds us as lighting flashes so the kingdom will be made present.  Each of us as we hold and live our faith become that flash of light in a dark world making known the kingdom.  Just as when lighting flashes the darkness gives way and the horizon can be seem so to we,  in  living  our faith, fill the darkness with light and allow the horizon of hope to be seen. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

faith saves

Titus 3:1-7; Psalm 23 The Lord is my Shepherd there is nothing I shall want; Luke 17:11-19


In today's gospel we encounter Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem.  The entire gospel witness is centered on this journey of Jesus to Jerusalem. 

If Jesus had not journeyed to Jerusalem, had he not completed the journey, we would be faithless. 

The gospel witness always points toward Jerusalem and the events that unfold.  It is in Jerusalem that we discover time and time again that Christianity begins with a martyr. 

Christ embraces true freedom when he chooses to die so that others might have life. 

The victory of freedom fills the pages of the gospel as Jesus journeys toward Jerusalem. 

On his journey he encounters ten lepers.  They begged for mercy and Jesus sends them on their way.  While journeying away from Jesus, they discover they were healed.  In obeying his word healing came. 

The foreigner in the bunch returns giving glory. Jesus tells him he should go because his faith has saved him. 

In deed his faith has saved him.  His faith has saved from the despair of not having a reason for gratitude.  It was his faith that taught him to say thank you.  It was his faith that empowered him to turn around and journey toward the one who was journeying to Jerusalem, encountering this Jesus who set him free. 

Faith leads to freedom and freedom finds its completion in gratitude.  

What good is the gift without identifying the one who gives it.  Faith enables us to correctly identify the giver of the gift.  Jesus does not want to be an anonymous giver.  He desires recognition and thanksgiving.

The ability to correctly identify the one who is the giver of such gifts, gift of life itself, is how faith saves.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

told you so

Titus 2:1-8, 11-14; Psalm 37 The Salvation of the Just comes from the Lord; Luke 17:7-10


Jesus today speaks of duty.  "When you have done all you have been commanded, say, "we are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do."

Often people will come up ask why we do what we do as Catholic.  Why do we got o mass?  Why do we ask the saints to pray for us?  Why do we go to a priest for confession?  Why do we receive communion?  

And the list goes on and on.  A simple answer is, because Jesus told us so. 

No one likes to be told what to do, yet when it comes to a healthy and wholly faith life, Jesus reminds us that being told what to do is at the heart of who we are. 

As we celebrate Veterans Day today, we are reminded of the beauty and necessity of following orders.  Our country survives because men and women faithfully and dutifully walk the straight and narrow and do what they are told.  Because they can follow orders, we have freedom secured daily. 

In some sense, freedom in our life when it comes to following Christ rest on following commands and obeying orders.  

When soldiers don't follow commands they are consider to be insubordinate and they destroy the stability of the military.  When they abandon their duties and go AWOL they run risk of severe punishment.

Many Christians have gone  AWOL in their faith.  They are absent with out leave.  Their freedom suffers, their life suffers, their testimony suffers.  As St. Paul says, they are a discredit to Christ and their life is empty.

May we seek to give our selves more fully to our faith like Christ who gives himself and thus truly and boldly proclaim we are unprofitable servants doing our duty.  Our duty will lead us to the fullness of life with joy that is complete. 

Lord increase our faith that we might give our selves daily to your commands and thus recieve fully from your bounty. 







Monday, November 10, 2008

Faith filled living

Titus 1:1-9; Psalm 24 Lord, this is the people that long to see your face; Luke 17:1-6 

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Leo the Great.  He was the Pope in 440.  1568 years ago he stood in the shoes of the fisherman, he walked in the footsteps of Peter seeking to fulfill the commands Christ had given to Peter in the gospel of John, "to feed my sheep, tend my sheep."

It is quite a beautiful gift of continuity we celebrate as Catholics.  The faith that Pope Leo the Great taught and lived is the same faith we as Catholic teach and live.  The continuity and depth of such a faith is truly a gift of God's ever abiding presence until the end of the age. 

Here are few words spoken by Leo the Great some 1568 years ago, "every human being situated among the hazards of life must seek the mercy of God by being merciful."

These are old words but with lasting significance, ancient texts with modern appeal.  

Jesus in the gospel tells the apostles and all of us that we must forgive those who wrong us even if they wrong us seven times in one day when they come before us we should forgive them as often. 

The apostles, when they hear this, beg the Lord to "increase their faith."

The apostles remind us that forgiveness is not just a faith filled thing to do, it is the faith fill way to live. 

Living a life of faith is about freedom.  Thus, forgiveness, giving that to others, is about choosing to live in the freedom that Faith brings.  When we forgive,  we choose to uproot the mulberry tree of doubt and confusion and animosity in our life and embrace freedom.  We give freedom to those who offend us and we give freedom to ourselves when we choose to live a faith fill life of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is the faith fill way to live because it is the way that Jesus lives in his own life.  While we were sinners, Jesus died for us.  He gives us freedom in forgiveness. 

May we faithfully live the gift of forgiveness and embrace the path of freedom as we live the 'hazards of this life" thus seeking the mercy of God by being merciful in our lives to all. 

St. Leo the Great reminds us "all human beings, regardless of who they happen to be, should come to terms with the fact that they have a mortal nature subject to change-and usually for the worse.  In view of this shared condition, let them have sympathy toward their own race." 






Sunday, November 9, 2008

St. John Lateran



I love to go back home.  As you drive from the big city setting to the small country town things change.  The land becomes quieter and the atmosphere is little more peaceful.  The rushed pace of city living surrenders to a slower pace existence of the rural affair. 

As you approach my home town, as you maneuver over the rising and falling of the hills, there off in the distance the steeple of the Catholic Church rises high to greet you.  The steeple stands tall and towers above casting a shadow upon all who are below. 

It is striking and beautiful image.  It is a reminder to all that we always live beneath the shadow of the cross.  We live, breathe, move and have our being in the shadow of the cross which is the wake of victory.   

Every time I spy the rising steeple as it cast it shadow below, as it marks the horizon, I think of Jesus' words to his disciples before he died.  He gathers them together to encourage them and he tells them, "do not fear, do not be afraid, I have already conquered the world."

As the steeple rises high it is a public testimony of victory, a public testimony that all who gather beneath the steeple gather to celebrate victory. 

It wasn't always this way.  The cross wasn't always allowed to be on public display.

For the first 300 years of the early Church, Christianity was a forbidden religion, a forsaken faith.  Christians were considered to be enemies of the state, public enemy number one; they were looked upon as criminals, renegades, rebels reeking havoc on the Roman Empire.   

They had to gather together in secret places, hidden and out of sight.  They would worship in cemeteries at night, or locked behind close doors in someone's home, or underground in the catacombs. 

Then something happened. 

Around the year 300, a Roman Emperor, who had come from a long line of Roman emperors who made sure that the soil of the empire was fertilized by the blood of Christians, had a conversion. 

As the Emperor Constantine was riding out to battle he had a vision.  The cross appeared in the sky and he was told 'by this sign you shall conquer.'  He marked the armor of his men with the cross and rode out to battle and came back victorious.

In 313 AD, out of gratitude, he declared that Christianity was to be a lawful religion.  It could be publicly celebrated.

Over night it seemed the Church went from hiding under ground to standing tall above it.  The prayers of faithful that were once spoken in a whisper, hushed behind closed doors was now echoing through the open streets of the empire, resounding through the vaulted ceilings of cathedrals publicly dedicated to Christ our Saviour. 

In plain sight, in broad day light, Christians now publicly proclaimed the Good News; they would bend their knees and bow theirs heads in worship, raising their voices in praise for love had conquered fear and light had come into the darkness and the darkness did not over come it. 

As they gathered to public worship the words of Jesus flooded their memories, "do not be afraid, I have already conquered the world."


The first church to be publicly dedicated was St. John Lateran, whose dedication we commemorate this day,a  church raised on the blood of martyrs. 

It is the mother of all churches.  It is the Church of the Bishop of Rome.  It stands as a sign of unity, as a sign of hope that God's kingdom is at hand, that God's Kingdom will not be denied. 

As you approach the Basilica today, towering above the city of Rome is a 7 meter statue of Jesus with a cross in one hand and the other pointing out toward world.  He is surrounded by his apostles and he gives them the great commission, "go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, of the Holy Spirit, teaching them all I have commanded you and behold I am with you always until the end of the age. 

For 1700 years the steeple has stood tall, it has marked the horizon for all to see, and men and women have walked through the ages beneath the shadow of the cross gathering publicly to celebrate victory in Christ. 

We gather today to commemorate this victory.  As we gather, we too give the men and women  who shed their blood, who share in Christ' victory,  honor, not just today but every time we gather publicly.

When we gather, we become that public sign of victory.  For like the church, that was dedicated with sacred oil, so too we remember that we ourselves are dedicated a temple at Baptism; as the oil is poured upon our heads we are consecrated and set apart for a mission, to be a public sign of victory in our very lives we live.  We remember that just as the steeple marks the horizon, so too our forehead was marked with the sign of the cross at baptism, we were claimed for Christ to be that sign of victory.

As the steeple rises high and reminds us of victory may each of our lives always carry the message forth that the Kingdom of God is at hand, salvation has come, the world is redeemed in Christ's blood; may we hear the words of Christ and may they be our strength, "do not be afraid, I have already conquered the world."

Friday, November 7, 2008

options

Philippians 3:17- 4:1; Psalm 122 Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord; Luke 16:1-8

In today's readings we are given two options as far as living it the world. 

St. Paul tells us that there are those who live as "enemies of the cross of Christ."

Jesus in the gospel exhorts us to be "children of light."

We have options.

St. Paul tells us to be "enemies of the cross" is to live in such a manner that our minds are preoccupied with earthly things.  We remain grounded and thus never sore.  In such a lifestyle, we choose to clip our own wings and refuse to live the fullness of our own dignity and our end will be how we choose to live, buried beneath an empire of sand.

Jesus tells us that to be "children of light" then we must be prudent.  We must keep one eye on the end, what lies ahead.  We keep our eyes looking beyond then we will truly be a bright spot in a dark world. 

Our reach must always be beyond our grasp, other wise what's a heaven for.  This is how we live out our life as children of light; those who illumine the path for all to see; this is how we truly become light of the world,  light for the world.

If we keep heaven in the foreground then we live with a heavenly air and we shall truly dwell in the kingdom of light and god will be all in all.

We have options. One leads to destruction the other leads to life on high in Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

morning prayer

  This is the morning prayer for the liturgy of the office...

sometimes the prayer resonates wonderfully with what is needed in our life.

"Lord, as daylight fills the sky, fill us with your holy light.  May our lives mirror our love for you whose wisdom has brought us into being, and whose care guides us on our way."

Every time we receive the Eucharist we are filled with this light, every time we go to confession we are filled with this light, and when light comes to fill, it fills every crevice and every place available with such tremendous ease.


This is the gift of grace in our life.
Come Lord Jesus, come fill me, drive away the darkness with your wonderful light.