Saturday, December 27, 2014


Homily given by Pope Francis Sept 2014

Today’s first reading speaks to us of the people’s journey through the desert. We can imagine them as they walked, led by Moses; they were families: fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, grandparents, men and women of all ages, accompanied by many children and the elderly who struggled to make the journey. This people reminds us of the Church as she makes her way across the desert of the contemporary world, reminds us of the People of God composed, for the most part, of families.
This makes us think of families, our families, walking along the paths of life with all their day to day experiences. It is impossible to quantify the strength and depth of humanity contained in a family: mutual help, educational support, relationships developing as family members mature, the sharing of joys and difficulties. Families are the first place in which we are formed as persons and, at the same time, the “bricks” for the building up of society.
Let us return to the biblical story. At a certain point, “the people became impatient on the way” (Num 21:4). They are tired, water supplies are low and all they have for food is manna, which, although plentiful and sent by God, seems far too meagre in a time of crisis. And so they complain and protest against God and against Moses: “Why did you make us leave?...” (cf. Num. 21:5). They are tempted to turn back and abandon the journey.
Here our thoughts turn to married couples who “become impatient on the way”, the way of conjugal and family life. The hardship of the journey causes them to experience interior weariness; they lose the flavour of matrimony and they cease to draw water from the well of the Sacrament. Daily life becomes burdensome, and often, even “nauseating”.
During such moments of disorientation – the Bible says – poisonous serpents come and bite the people, and many die. This causes the people to repent and to turn to Moses for forgiveness, asking him to beseech the Lord so that he will cast out the snakes. Moses prays to the Lord, and the Lord offers a remedy: a bronze serpent set on a pole; whoever looks at it will be saved from the deadly poison of the vipers.
What is the meaning of this symbol? God does not destroy the serpents, but rather offers an “antidote”: by means of the bronze serpent fashioned by Moses, God transmits his healing strength, namely his mercy, which is more potent than the Tempter’s poison.
As we have heard in the Gospel, Jesus identifies himself with this symbol: out of love the Father “has given” his only begotten Son so that men and women might have eternal life (cf. Jn 3:13-17). Such immense love of the Father spurs the Son to become man, to become a servant and to die for us upon a cross. Out of such love, the Father raises up his son, giving him dominion over the entire universe. This is expressed by Saint Paul in his hymn in the Letter to the Philippians (cf. 2:6-11). Whoever entrusts himself to Jesus crucified receives the mercy of God and finds healing from the deadly poison of sin.
The cure which God offers the people applies also, in a particular way, to spouses who “have become impatient on the way” and who succumb to the dangerous temptation of discouragement, infidelity, weakness, abandonment... To them too, God the Father gives his Son Jesus, not to condemn them, but to save them: if they entrust themselves to him, he will bring them healing by the merciful love which pours forth from the Cross, with the strength of his grace that renews and sets married couples and families once again on the right path.
The love of Christ, which has blessed and sanctified the union of husband and wife, is able to sustain their love and to renew it when, humanly speaking, it becomes lost, wounded or worn out. The love of Christ can restore to spouses the joy of journeying together. This is what marriage is all about: man and woman walking together, wherein the husband helps his wife to become ever more a woman, and wherein the woman has the task of helping her husband to become ever more a man. This is the task that you both share. “I love you, and for this love I help you to become ever more a woman”; “I love you, and for this love I help you to become ever more a man”. Here we see the reciprocity of differences. The path is not always a smooth one, free of disagreements, otherwise it would not be human. It is a demanding journey, at times difficult, and at times turbulent, but such is life! Within this theology which the word of God offers us concerning the people on a journey, spouses on a journey, I would like to give you some advice. It is normal for husband and wife to argue: it’s normal. It always happens. But my advice is this: never let the day end without having first made peace. Never! A small gesture is sufficient. Thus the journey may continue. Marriage is a symbol of life, real life: it is not “fiction”! It is the Sacrament of the love of Christ and the Church, a love which finds its proof and guarantee in the Cross. My desire for you is that you have a good journey, a fruitful one, growing in love. I wish you happiness. There will be crosses! But the Lord is always there to help us move forward. May the Lord bless you!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


Dear Brothers,
At the end of Advent we meet for the traditional greetings. In a few days we will have the joy of celebrating the Lord’s birth; the event of God who makes himself man to save men; the manifestation of the love of God who does not limit himself to give us something or to send us some message or some messengers, but gives himself to us; the mystery of God that takes our human condition and our sins on himself to reveal his divine life to us, his immense grace and his gratuitous forgiveness. It is the meeting with God who is born in the poverty of the cave of Bethlehem to teach us the power of humility. In fact, Christmas is also the feast of light that was not received by the “Chosen People” but by the “poor and simple people,” who awaited the Lord’s salvation.
First of all, I would like to wish you all – collaborators, brothers and sisters, papal representatives scattered throughout the world – and all your dear ones, a Holy Christmas and a happy New Year. I want to thank you cordially for your daily commitment at the service of the Holy See, of the Catholic Church, of the particular Churches and of the Successor of Peter.
We being persons and not numbers or just denominations, I remember in a special way those that, during this year, finished their service having reached the age limit or having taken on other roles or because they were called to the House of the Father. To all of them also, and to their families, go my thoughts and gratitude.
Together with you I wish to elevate to the Lord a heartfelt and profound gratitude for the year we are leaving behind, for the events lived and for all the good that He willed generously to fulfil through the service of the Holy See, asking Him humbly for forgiveness for the faults committed “in thoughts, words, deeds and omissions.”
And, in fact, beginning from this request for forgiveness, I would like our meeting and the reflections that I will share with you to become, for us all, a support and stimulus to a true examination of conscience to prepare our hearts for Holy Christmas.
Thinking of this, our meeting, there came to mind the image of the Church as “the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ.” It is an expression that, as Pope Pius XII explained, “flows and almost sprouts from what is frequently exposed in Sacred Scripture and in the Holy Fathers.”[1] In this connection, Saint Paul writes: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12)[2]
In this connection, the Second Vatican Council reminds us that, “there is in the structure of the Mystical Body of Christ a diversity of members and of offices. The Spirit is one, who for the use of the Church distributes the variety of his gifts with magnificence proportioned to His richness and to the needs of the ministries (Cf. 1 Corinthians  12:1-11).”[3] Therefore ‘Christ and the Church’ form the “total Christ.” [“Christus totus”]. The Church “is one with Christ.”[4]
It is good to think of the Roman Curia as a small model of the Church, namely, as a “body” that seeks seriously and daily to be more alive, healthier, more harmonious and more united in itself and with Christ.
In reality, the Roman Curia is a complex body, made up of many Dicasteries, Councils, Offices, Tribunals, Commissions and of numerous elements that do not all have the same task, but are coordinated for efficient, edifying, disciplined and exemplary functioning, despite the cultural, linguistic and national differences of its members.[5]
In any case, the Curia being a dynamic body, it cannot live without being nourished and without taking care of itself. In fact, like the Church, the Curia cannot live without having a vital, personal, authentic and strong relation with Christ.[6] A member of the Curia that does not nourish himself daily with that food will become a bureaucrat (a formalist, a functionalist, an employee): a shoot that dries up and little by little dies and is thrown away. Daily prayer, assiduous participation in the Sacraments, particularly the Eucharist and Reconciliation, daily contact with the Word of God and spirituality translated into lived charity are the vital nourishment for each one of us. May it be clear to us all that without Him we can do nothing (Cf. John 15:8).
Consequently, the living relation with God also nourishes and reinforces communion with others, that is, the more we are profoundly joined to God the more we will be united among ourselves because the Spirit of God unites and the spirit of the Evil One divides.
The Curia is called to improve itself, to improve itself always and to grow in communion, holiness and wisdom to realize its mission fully.[7] However, it, like every body, like every human body, is also exposed to sicknesses, to malfunctioning and to infirmity. And here I would like to mention some of these probable illnesses, curial illnesses – they are the more usual illnesses in our life of Curia. They are sicknesses and temptations that weaken our service to the Lord. I think a “catalogue” of illnesses will help us – following the way of the Desert Fathers who made those catalogues of which we speak today. It will help us to prepare ourselves for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which will be a good step for us all to prepare ourselves for Christmas.
1.    The sickness of feeling oneself “immortal,” “immune” or in fact “indispensable,” neglecting the necessary and usual controls. A Curia that does not criticize itself, which does not update itself, which does not seek to improve itself is a sick body. An ordinary visit to cemeteries would help us to see the names of so many persons, some of whom thought they were immortal, immune and indispensable! It is the sickness of the foolish rich man of the Gospel who thought he would live eternally (Cf. Luke 12:13-21) and also of those who transform themselves into bosses and feel themselves superior to all and not at the service of all. This often stems from the pathology of power, of the “complex of the Elect,” of narcissism that looks passionately at its own image and does not see the image of God imprinted on the face of others, especially the weakest and neediest.[8] The antidote to this epidemic is the grace to see ourselves as sinners and to say with all our heart: “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty” (Luke 17:10).
2.    There is another: the sickness of “Martha-ism” (which stems from Martha), of excessive busyness: namely of those who immerse themselves in work, neglecting, inevitably, “the better part”: to be seated at Jesus’ feet (Cf. Luke 10:38-42). This is why Jesus called his disciples to “rest a while” (Cf. Mark 6:31), because to neglect necessary rest leads to stress and agitation. The time of rest, for one who has carried out his mission, is necessary, right and is lived seriously: in spending some time with relatives and in respecting holidays as moments for spiritual and physical recharging; we must learn what Quoleth teaches that “there is a time for everything” (3:1-15).
3.    There is also the sickness of mental and spiritual “petrification”: namely those who have a heart of stone and a “stiff-neck” (Acts 7:51-60); those that, along the way, lose interior serenity, vivacity and daring and hide themselves under papers becoming “practice machines” and not “men of God” (Cf. Hebrews 3:12). It is dangerous to lose the necessary human sensibility to make us weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice! It is the sickness of those who lose “the sentiments of Jesus” (Cf. Philippians 2:5-11) because, with the passing of time, their heart is hardened and becomes incapable of loving unconditionally the Father and their neighbor (Cf. Matthew 22:34-40). To be Christian, in fact, means: “to have the same sentiments that were in Christ Jesus, sentiments of humility and of self-giving, of detachment and generosity.”
4.    The sickness of excessive planning and functionalism: When the apostle plans everything minutely and thinks that with perfect planning things effectively progress, thus becoming an accountant or a businessman. It is necessary to prepare everything well but without ever falling into the temptation of wanting to enclose and pilot the freedom of the Holy Spirit who remains always greater, more generous than any human planning (Cf. John 3:8). One falls into this sickness because “it is always easier and more comfortable to settle down in one’s own static and unchanging positions. In reality, the Church shows herself faithful to the Holy Spirit in the measure in which she does not have the pretext of regulating or domesticating Him. To domesticate the Holy Spirit … He is freshness, imagination, novelty.”[9]
5.    The sickness of bad coordination: when the members lose communion among themselves and the body loses its harmonious functioning and its temperance becoming an orchestra that produces noise because its members do not collaborate and do not live the spirit of communion and of team. When the foot says to the arm: ”I have no need of you,” or the hand to the head: “I command,” thus causing harm and scandal.
6.    There is also the sickness of spiritual Alzheimer’s disease: namely the forgetfulness of the “history of Salvation,” of one’s personal history with the Lord, of one’s “first love” (Revelation 2:4). It is a progressive decline of the spiritual faculty which in a longer or shorter interval of time causes serious handicaps to the person, making him become incapable of carrying out an autonomous activity, living in a state of absolute dependence of his often imaginary views. We see it in those who have lost the memory of their encounter with the Lord; in those who do not make the Deuteronomic sense of life; in those that depend completely on their “present,” on their passions, whims and fixations; those who build walls and habits around themselves, becoming ever more slaves of idols that they have sculpted with their own hands.
7.    The sickness of rivalry and vainglory[10][11]: when appearance, the color of garments and signs of honor become the primary objective of life, forgetting Saint Paul’s words: “Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:1-4). It is the sickness that leads us to be false men and women and to live a false “mysticism” and a false “Quietism.” Saint Paul himself describes them as “enemies of the Cross of Christ” because “they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things” (Philippians 3:19).
8.    The sickness of existential schizophrenia: it is the sickness of those who live a double life, fruit of hypocrisy typical of the mediocre and the progressive spiritual emptiness that degrees and academic titles cannot fill. A sickness that often strikes those that, abandoning pastoral service, limit themselves to bureaucratic affairs, thus losing contact with the reality, with concrete persons, thus creating a parallel world for themselves where they put aside all that they severely teach others and they begin to live a hidden and often dissolute life. Conversion is all the more urgent and indispensable for this very serious sickness (Cf. Luke 15:11-32).
9.    The sickness of gossip, of grumbling and of tittle-tattle: I have already spoken so many times of this sickness but never enough: it is a grave sickness that begins simply, perhaps just having two chats and then it takes hold of the person making him become a “sower of discord” (like Satan), and in many cases “murderer in cold blood” of the reputation of his colleagues and brothers. It is the sickness of guarded persons who, not having the courage to speak directly, speak behind one’s back. Saint Paul admonishes us: “Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent” (Philippians 2:14-18). Brothers, beware of the terrorism of gossip!
10. The sickness of divinizing directors: it is the sickness of those who court their Superiors, hoping to obtain their benevolence. They are victims of careerism and of opportunism, they honor persons and not God (Cf. Matthew 23:8-12). They are persons who live the service thinking only of what they must obtain and not of that what they must do. Mean, unhappy persons and inspired only by their own fatal egoism (Cf. Galatians 5:16-25). This sickness can also strike Superiors when they court some of their collaborators to obtain their submission, loyalty and psychological dependence, but the final result is a real complicity.
11. The sickness of indifference to others: when one thinks only of oneself and loses the sincerity and warmth of human relations. When the most expert does not put his knowledge at the service of colleagues who are less expert. When one acquires the knowledge of something and keeps it to himself instead of sharing it positively with others.  When, because of jealousy or cunning, one feels joy in seeing the other fall instead of lifting him up again and encouraging him.
12. The sickness of the mournful face: namely of brusque and sullen persons, who believe that to be serious they must depend on a melancholy and severe face and treat others, especially those regarded as inferior – with rigidity, harshness and arrogance. In reality, theatrical severity and sterile pessimism[12] are often symptoms of fear and of one’s own insecurity. The apostle must force himself to be a courteous, serene, enthusiastic and joyful person who transmits joy wherever he is. A heart full of God is a happy heart that radiates and infects with joy all those around him: it is seen immediately! Therefore, let us not lose that joyful spirit, full of humor, and even self-critical, which renders us affable persons, also in difficult situations.[13] How much good a good dosis of humor does! It will do us much good to recite often the prayer of Saint Thomas More[14]: I pray it every day, it does me much good.
13.  The sickness of accumulating: when the apostle seeks to fill an existential void in his heart by accumulating material goods, not out of necessity but only to feel secure. In reality, we can take nothing material with us because “the shroud does not have pockets” and all our earthly treasures – also if they are gifts – will never be able to fill that void, in fact, they will render it ever more exacting and more profound. To these persons, the Lord repeats: “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked … Therefore, be zealous and be converted” (Revelation 3:17-19). Accumulation only weighs down and slows the inexorable journey! And I think of an anecdote: one time the Spanish Jesuits described the Society of Jesus as the “light cavalry of the Church.” I remember the transfer of a young Jesuit that while loading his many belongings on a truck: bags, books, objects and gifts, heard an old Jesuit who was observing him say, with a wise smile: is this the Church’s “light cavalry”?! Our transfers give a sign of this sickness.
14. The sickness of closed circles: where belonging to a little group becomes more important than that of belonging to the Body and, in some situations, to Christ himself. This sickness also begins always with good intentions but with the passing of time enslaves the members, becoming “a cancer” that threatens the harmony of the Body and causes so much evil – scandals – especially to our littlest brothers. Self-destruction or “friendly fire” of fellow soldiers is the most deceitful danger.[15] It is the evil that strikes from within[16] and, as Christ says: “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste” (Luke 11:17).
15. And the last one: the sickness of worldly profit, of exhibitionism[17]when the apostle transforms his service into power, and his power into merchandise to obtain worldly profits or more powers. It is the sickness of persons who seek insatiably to multiply powers and for this purpose, they are capable of calumniating, defaming and discrediting others, even in newspapers and magazines. Naturally to exhibit themselves and to show themselves more capable than others. This sickness also does much evil to the body because it leads persons to justify the use of any means so long as they reach their purpose, often in the name of justice and of transparency! And here there comes to mind the memory of a priest who called journalists to tell them (and to invent) private and reserved things about his fellow priests and parishioners. What mattered to him was only to see himself on the front pages, because in this way he felt “powerful and fascinating,” causing so much harm to others and to the Church. Poor thing!
Brothers, these sicknesses and these temptations are, naturally, a danger for every Christian and for every Curia, community, Congregation, parish, Ecclesial Movement, etc. and they can strike at the individual as much as at the communal level.
We must clarify that it is only the Holy Spirit – the soul of the Mystical Body of Christ, as the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed affirms: “I believe … in the Holy Spirit, Lord and giver of life” – to heal every infirmity. It is the Holy Spirit who supports every sincere effort of purification and every good will of conversion. He it is who makes us understand that every member participates in the sanctification of the Body and in its weakening. He is the promoter of harmony[18]“ipse harmonia est,” says Saint Basil. Saint Augustine says to us: “While a part adheres to the body, its healing is not despaired of; instead, what was cut off cannot be taken care of or healed.”[19]
Healing is also the fruit of the awareness of the sickness and of the personal and communal decision to be cured, enduring the cure patiently and with perseverance.[20]
Therefore, in this Christmas season and for the whole time of our service and our existence, we are called to live “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love” (Ephesians 4:15-16).
Dear brothers!
Once I read that: “priests are like airplanes, they make news only when they fall, but there are so many that are flying. Many criticize and few pray for them.” It is a very nice phrase but also very true because it delineates the importance and the delicacy of our priestly service and how much evil one priest who “falls” can do to the whole Body of the Church.
Therefore, in order not to fall in these days in which we prepare for Confession, we ask the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church, to heal the wounds of sin that each one of us bears in his heart and to support the Church and the Curia so that they are healthy and restored; holy and sanctifying, to the glory of her Son and for our salvation and that of the whole world. We ask her to make us love the Church as Christ loved her, her Son and our Lord, and to have the courage to acknowledge that we are sinners and in need of His Mercy and of not being afraid to leave our hands between her maternal hands.
Many good wishes for a Holy Christmas to you all, to your families and to your collaborators and, please, do not forget to pray for me! My heartfelt thanks!

Friday, December 19, 2014


judges 13:2-7,24,25; My mouth shall be filled with your praise, an dI will sing your glory; Luke 1:5-25

Many times in life when things don't go our way or if we experience pain or setback or sickness our initial reaction is that God must be punishing us.  We think we must have done something wrong to be experiencing negative realities.

I just visited a parishioner who is in the hospital who had taken a nasty fall and her conclusion was that she was being punished.

We equate negative experiences with punishments.

But what if they are not punishments?  What if negative realities are negative from our perspective but not negative from God's perspective?  What if they aren't negative at all?  What if they are a gift rather than a punishment?

God is always trying to get our attention.  What he is concerned with most is not whether were are prosperous or have good health or great jobs but whether we are on the narrow path heading toward our ultimate goal that is to be with him?  God wants to save us.  He wants to save us from our sins, from ourselves, from all things that hold us back, keep us down, prevent us from fully engaging in the life that will lead to our ultimate happiness.

We look at today's gospel.  Zechariah has a word or two with the angel that is sent to him to announce that his wife Elizabeth shall conceive and give birth and he questions, really doubts the gift God is bestowing to his family, to the world.  As a result, he is told he shall not speak for the duration of the pregnancy.

Imagining being quiet, speechless for 9 months.

Perhaps Zechariah needed this time to ponder what God was doing.  Perhaps he needed this time to enter into a grateful response for the gift received.  Perhaps these 9 months taught him how to listen more carefully and attentively, not only to God, but to his wife and those around him.

What looks like a negative reality on the surface is actually a great blessing in the long run.  It is what Zechariah needed so he could get his life back on track.

Look at your life.  Where have you reacted to negative experiences as punishments?  How can we see them in a different light, the light that shines from above?

Advent is a time of reflection, pondering, quiet.  Embrace moments of being speechless and let God reveal his plan in greater detail through the experiences of life, all of them not just the ones we like.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


Here is a bit by James Martin SJ,

"Now, if there’s one story that every good Christian knows (and plenty of bad Christians, too), it’s the Christmas Story. (No, not the one with Ralphie and the BB gun. The other one with Jesus and the manger.) We all have pretty set ideas in our minds of what that story looks like, and it frequently involves images we’ve had stuck in there since childhood. You know the ones: the baby Jesus center stage, sleeping peacefully in the perfectly manicured manger, while Mary sits behind him, looking on dutifully with Joseph at her side. The wise men are kneeling in ladder sequence before the infant, while the shepherds are sitting docilely off to the side.
It’s a beautiful tableau, but it’s also pretty, well, dull. I mean, come on! The woman just gave birth, for the love of God!
If the traditional, staid nativity image works for you, by all means, keep on keeping on. However, if you find the traditional images to be not particularly relevant to the contemporary world, difficult to relate to, and rather — dare I say — lifeless, then by all means recast your Christmas story!
And I’m not saying to put in Jennifer Lawrence as Mary or Ryan Gosling as Joseph (though if that brings you closer to God, who am I to judge?). What I’m saying is that Scripture needs to be meaningful for us, and just because somebody 500 years ago thought that the nativity scene looked a certain way doesn’t mean that you can’t create images that are meaningful for you.
Here’s the thing, Mary was poor, young, pregnant and unwed. Sound familiar? Just as today, there were few positions in society less desirable than being a poor, unwed, pregnant woman. Okay, she was “betrothed” to Joseph, which is kind of like an engagement on steroids, but the fact remains, when she found out she was pregnant, she was still living with her parents. Though we don’t know how young Mary was exactly, it wouldn’t be too far a stretch to say that if she were around today, she very well might be on 16 and Pregnant. She could also be an undocumented migrant worker, an unwed urban mother, or any of the various images of poor, unwed, pregnant young women we see in the media. You don’t have to look to a medieval painting to find Mary — she is with us today.
Now, what about Joseph? First of all: Not the father! That’s like an episode of Maury, right there. We don’t know much about him, other than that he could trace his lineage back thousands of years to King David, but clearly that and a denarius would buy you a cup of coffee in first century Judaea. He was a craftsman or a carpenter (depending on how you translate the Greek tekton), and beyond that not much else is known. Oh yeah, except, of course, for the fact that he was going to marry a woman who was pregnant with a child that wasn’t his.
And then there’s Herod, also known as Herod the Great, who, in fact, wasn’t so great. Imagine Tony Soprano with more competent underlings and you’ve got Herod. He was a man of brutal, blinding ambition who would not hesitate to kill anyone in his path, including wives and various members of his own family. Stable, he was not. So, it really isn’t too much of a stretch to imagine him ordering the murder of boys under the age of 2 in his kingdom because they were perceived as a threat to his role as the King of the Jews.
And then there are the wise men or the magi, take your pick. There’s a lot of speculation about who and how many of them there actually were, so let’s just keep things simple: they brought three gifts. Also, the Greek word magoi, which is the term used in Matthew’s Gospel, primarily refers to priests of the Zoroastrian religion, who were noted for their gifts in the field of astrology. Whatever we might think of astrology in a contemporary setting, the important thing to keep in mind is that the magi were respected men from another religious tradition, who, utilizing their own spiritual resources (the stars), had come to recognize a child born outside their own religion as someone very special. Picture the Dalai Lama — actually, picture three Lamas — but the important thing to remember here is that the infant Jesus transcended the boundaries of religion.
And what about the child? Well, first of all, he wasn’t just a child. He was a newborn. Jesus was not three months old, or a year or two old. Jesus was a weirdly shaped, squinty, pink-hued, squawking, coughing newborn. I know it’s easier to imagine him as a couple of months old, since that’s the age when babies stop looking so much like aliens and start looking like what we think babies should look like. But Jesus probably did resemble an alien, at least, sort of, and he probably cried and coughed. And yes, I’ll say it, Jesus soiled his diaper. And the swaddling clothes thing probably came about because it kept him quiet, because he was probably crying. A lot. He probably spit up after suckling his mother, and then he probably slept, and then woke up, and then slept again, and then woke up again and slept again and on and on that first night. Because that’s what newborns do. Or at least, so I’ve been told.
Perhaps this is a little too gritty, a little too earthy. And again I say — if more celestial images do it for you, than by all means use them. However, it’s important to remember that the Christmas story is first and foremost a human story, with very real people with very real hopes and fears. It’s the story of young parents, far from home, trying to find their way."


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

We continue to through this octave before Christmas, it is a count down of sorts with the O antiphons.  Yesterday we encountered 'O wisdom" and today it is "O leader of the house of Israel giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai: come to rescue us with your mighty power!"

Advent is about realizing we need rescue.  We need saving.  Only when we embrace our neediness can we truly enter into the spirit of Christmas.  There is much about each us that is in need of transformation.  Perhaps today take a few moments and make a mental list of things that are out of whack in your life, things that need redeeming.  Let those become your Christmas offering to the Christ Child.

In the first reading today, JEremiah reminds the folks of his time that a litany of rescue will become the chorus line for Israel.  They will no longer just focus on the rescue from the land of Egypt but they will recall how God rescues them in the present age as well from their current oppressors.  We too can enter actions of God in a list of how he has rescued us in our present age. God's power to redeem is always contemporary with our current lived situation. Yes he brought them from Egypt.  Yes he rescued them from the people of the North.  Yes he rescued them from Babylon, Assyria and the Persians.

Even today God's redeeming actions continue to unfold for us daily.  Create a litany of God's rescue in your life.

Don't neglect JEsus in the manger.  This is the ground breaking event that enables us to be set free in each age, each moment, through all trials.  As Joseph experiences in his dream, this child shall save his people from their sins, he is God with us.  Thus begins the litany of rescue.  From the womb, to the manger, to Nazareth, to Galilee, to Calvary, to our homes and on our streets, the saving mission of JEsus continues to unfold.

Saturday, December 13, 2014


Over the past few weeks with the Deacon's help we have been going through a series of homilies on the last things: Death, Judgment, Purgatory, Hell.  This week and Next week I will spend a few moment reflecting on Heaven.

We have all or at least most of all of us have been bombarded with books about heaven.  The most recent is the book entitled Heaven is for Real.  I have not read the book.  I have read commentaries about the book, though.  I  have read other books about people having the so called "near death experiences" and describe what they saw and heard in their metaphysical romp through heaven.

It has been fascinating to read.  Over the next few weekends I will be reflecting on heaven.  The four main resources I will be drawing from is scripture, the Catechism, CS Lewis and Peter Kreeft.  None of what I write will be original, besides how can one be original abut heaven.  Heaven is the only thing that is original and everything we had or subtract is just a cursory footnote for as scripture points out, "no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived what God has prepared for those who love him… "1 corinthians 2:9

Psalm 16:11 states pretty clearly, "You will show me the path of life, abounding joy in your presence, the delight at tour right hand forever."

But we hold firmly to the words of Paul his letter to the Colossians, "we give thanks to the Father, who has made us fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light…" Colossians 1:12

Heaven is joy and light.
So we begin.

What difference does heaven make?  If something doesn't make a difference then it is a waste.  What difference does heaven make?   It seems to make a difference between hope and despair or as some say 'chance or the dance.'  Does it all go the down the drain or do all the loose threads final get tied together  into a perfect tapestry to be revealed?

Heaven is the meaning of earth! Heaven is ultimately about reality.  Heaven reveals just how is reality.

Our greatness dépends on the greatness of reality.

Take the sum total of all past and present human experiences, the entire universe, all of time and space and history of matter and mind.  Add everything that anyone and everyone has ever experienced, the future possibilities, all creature can or may experience; think about other planets, billion of years and universes.  Add all of that together.    Ask the question: Is that all there is?

Heaven is the negative answer: no, there is more.  This is the reality of heaven.

What we learn here, what we do here we freely create in time the baseline of our eternal identities.  We shape our souls here and a dimension of eternity is added to that shape in heaven.

Heaven matters not because we desire it but because it is real.  This is the first step in understanding heaven: it is reality, the ground of reality because it points to God.

Heaven is the definitive completeness of our human existence.  We finally get to find out what we become. We do not float free like a balloon in a enthusiastic fantasy.  We come to know the hidden presence by whose gift we truly live.

Jesus makes space for human existence in the existence of God himself.

Heaven is personal.  We will see God in our own proper way because each of us represent an irreplaceable uniqueness a irreplaceable uniqueness that received the love of God.

What will do in heaven?
Heaven  isn't so much about doing as it is about being. Normally the first question we ask when we meet someone or are introduced to someone: what do they do? What we do is not as important as who we are.  It is an error to think God only wants actions of a particular kind, rather most interested in a people of a particular sort.

We will finally  be who we are created to be in heaven!

The beatific vision is dynamic not static, exploring not staring, endless beginnings rather than merely the end.

Religion for us is like the diving board.  God is the pool.

What will we possess in heaven?
We will possess nothing and everything all at once.

Will we be free? 90 percent of life we get it backwards. We associate freedom with rebellion, doing things our own way, sticking it to the system or to the man.  We even sing songs about doing it my way.  We associate obedience with the lack of freedom.  Freedom is fully revealed in heaven.  We will be free from sin, and it is sin that make sue not ourself.  Heaven we will be free to our true selves.

Will we be bored in heaven?  We will be with God.  God is eternal.  We will never come to the end of exploring him.  Boredom requires the passing of time and there is no time in heaven.  There is no waiting.  On earth the only people who are never bored are lovers.  God is love.  God is a lover.  We will be with him.  Boredom is not an option.

Next time we will look at a few questions: what will we wear? will we have bodies? Is there sex in heaven? How big is heaven?  Are there animals in heaven? Is there music in heaven?  Is there humor in heaven?

Friday, December 12, 2014


Hear the words of the Blessed Mother, spoken to Juan Diego in 1531...
"Listen, put into your heart, that the the thing that frightens you, that thing that afflicts you, is nothing; do not let it disturb you?  Am I not here, am i not your  mother?
Are you not under my shadow and protection?  Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the embrace of my arms? Let nothing else worry you or disturb you"
In these words Juan Diego found comfort and courage to continue his mission.

Today's feast is more then a commemoration of an apparition. It is looking back to a beginning of the transformation of a society, a culture, a civilization.

It was these words that enabled a civilization to be transformed.
The Aztecs went from offering human sacrifices to come to the Holy Sacrifice of the Eucharist, discovering the power of the sacrifice of Christ that brings life and joy.
It was also these words that transformed the Spaniards.  Mary through Juan Diego taught them to welcome the natives, to welcome the poor and lowly not to mistreat them.
In these words and in this image, a civilization of love began.
How much do we need to rediscover this civilization for ourselves, for our families, for our community, for our world.
Each time we look upon this image we are remind of the task at hand.  The mission did not end with Juan Diego but it begins a new with each of us who call her mother, who call him savior.
We pray that God will trace in our actions the lines of the mother's love and trace in our hearts her readiness of faith so that we may be instruments of that transformation of that civilization.
Like Juan Diego we must respond to life in faith and no longer react.  It is faith it is not instinct that drives us and determines our actions and our response of love.
It is not fear, it is not jealousy, it is not lust, it is not selfish desires, it is not hate, it is not resentment, it is not our differences;
we must be ready to respond in faith so we can build the civilization of love.  This is how we become children of such a mother as our lady of Guadalupe.

As we see in the first reading Mary fights the dragon and the dragon is no match.  She comes to fight with us and for us.  Let us enter the fight with boldness and courage. 

She disperse our fear and brings us joy and hope.  This is why Mary travels to visit Elizabeth she brings the closeness of God into a desperate situation and joy burst forth for even the baby leaps in his mother's womb. 

This is why Mary traveled to Tepeyac in 1531; she comes to scatter fear and bring joy and hope.  We have a reason to leap for joy.  


Matthew 11:11-15

Jesus speaks these words in today's gospel, "And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, the one who is to come.  Whoever has ears ought to hear."

The anticipation and expectation of Elijah to arrive on the scene prior to the Messiah was a big deal in the Jewish Religious sensibility.

The prophet Maalchi is the one who insist on this fact, Elijah will return to point out the Messiah.

So the anticipation was great and the expectation was greater.  Either seemed to be a problem.

As people anticipated Elijah's return they expected him to come back the same way he ascended to heaven,  on a fiery chariot.

The problem was that this expectation actually hindered the ability of the folks to recognize and receive the gift of Elijah's return.  They were so insistent that it had to be one way that they closed themselves off to the immense and limitless way God works.

It was necessary to expect the coming but it was the expected ways of return that clogged the mind and prevented proper recognition of John the Baptist in the spirit of Elijah.

How often do our own expectations hinder what we expect and our ability to celebrate the arrival of such a fulfillment of expectations.

We see this at Christmas on a  small scale.  We anticipate our gifts.  We expect certain things from our loved ones.  Often times because we want what we expect when the gift comes in a different form then we don't celebrate the gift given or received.

Truth be told it isn't the gift we are after but the love of being remembered and thought about that makes Christmas christmas.

We do this in our daily journey with God.  We want God to come into our life.  We anticipate and expect this unfolding yet our expectations on how this should happen can hinder our ability to receive it when it finally comes.

We must be open.  We must let God be limitless and boundless so that when he comes we recognize it and are transformed by it.

Friday, December 5, 2014


As we continue to journey through the Advent season and gear up for Christmas let us not get lost int he sentiment of the season and miss the meaning.

We all love the Christmas story.  We get into the helpless babe in swaddling clothes lying in a manger.  We can relate to the hard luck couple who is just trying to provide for their child.  We have all experienced troubled times, tough times, and been through the school of hard knocks.

The Holy Family is no different.

But we forget that Jesus comes to start a revolution.  A war is coming.  The star that shines bright in the sky leading to Bethlehem simply acknowledges that the commander of the revolution has arrived on the battle field and let the fight commence.

Advent is about revolution, a cosmic battle where good trumps evil, light trumps darkness, healing trumps pain, forgiveness reigns as the watershed event that transforms the world.

We have to decide which side we fight for and that decision is made in the simple ordinary moments of daily life.  Let eh revolution begin.

Thursday, December 4, 2014


Isaiah 26:1-6; PS 118 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the lord; Matt 7:24-27

You have to walk the walk.  These were the words that were often used in youth group discussions to get the kids to become more viable witnesses of their faith in their life.

The Walk the Walk  was just the second part of the equation.  The first part was Do you Talk the Talk or Do you walk the walk.

Again is was a thing used to get the youth motivated.

I always hated it.  It sounded to cliche.  It was too contrived.

Though I was the priest assisting the youth minister I made appoint never to repeat the phrase.  Which brings me to the gospel.

Jesus in the gospel points out a distinction that is often missed on us.

Here is a snippet:

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

My first reaction was that sounds a lot like walk the walk don't just talk the talk.  I was bit bummed until I read the next line.

"Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock…"

What was that all about I asked myself.  IT seems Jesus has a twist for us.

The true distinction isn't between talking and doing but rather between hearing and doing.

You can talk all day but if yo never heard, truly heard what Jesus said than the action always falter.

Saying and doing is a nice gimmick.  Hearing and doing is essential for the kingdom t break through into our lives.

Listening is important.  Listening, truly letting the word penetrate our hearts is where the seed of the gospel germinates.

They say there is often a chasm between what one says and another hears.  Maybe this is why JEsus insists on us listening first then doing second.

Do you hear the word?  Only then can we know where to walk and what to do!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


Isaiah 25:6-10; Psalm 23; Matt 15:29-37


It comes from the latin word that means overflowing. As in my cup overflows.

Think about the last time you experienced an abundance of something, anything.

What did it feel like?  What were you thinking?  How did this experience carry over in your daily life?

We experience Jesus offering an abundance in today's gospel.  He overflowed with generosity.  From seven loaves and a few fish Jesus makes that which feeds a crowd with seven basket of fragments left over.

What started this simple yet profound experience of abundance through the heart of Jesus?  Simply a question, "How many loaves do you have?" and then an action: "He took the seven loaves and the fish, gave thanks, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds"

That simple and yet that profound.  Given to Jesus, returned to the giver only to be given away.

This is how we experience abundance.  This is the recipe for a life of overflowing.

Yesterday for #givingtuesday.   It is a movement that was started two years ago as an attempt to get people motivated to give.  It is the Tuesday that follows Thanksgiving.

Thursday we have a dyad Thanks followed by two days to get deals: Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  Tuesday is meant to be a day in which we give away whether it be Time, Advocacy, Money, Education.

Basically the motivation behind it is that anyone, anywhere can be a philanthropist.  One does't have to be a billionaire in order for the gift to count.  It all adds up and through giving, abundance overflows.

Such it is with the life of Faith. We have to give it away in order to experience the true depths of God's generous overflowing love.

Abundance.  Get some today by being go givers not go getters.