Sunday, January 27, 2008

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time 1-27-2008

Ordinary Time – 3rd Sunday
January 27, 2008

Isaiah 8:23-9:3
1 Cor 1:10-13,17
Matthew 4:12-23

The Word of the Lord. We say it after every reading. The Gospel of the Lord – we say after each reading of the gospel. This Word and Good News has power, according to our faith. It brings life and light to us. In Matthew Chapter 4 we hear two powerful commands from Jesus.

The first command is this: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

This are the first words of His call to every one to become his disciples. He spoke it to the crowds 2000 years ago, and he speaks the same words to us today. These words are universal.

Repent. We all know what it means. Turn away from sin. Believe the gospel. Live the commands of Jesus. We all know the areas where we fall short. Because we still sin. We still aren’t perfectly united with the Lord.

Repent. The follower of Jesus is a person who continues to practice repentance so as to strive for holiness of life. Because the goal is to become holy. To be united with Christ in this world and in the next.

Repent. One of the benefits of practicing repentance is that it begins to really open our eyes to see the Kingdom of God alive all around us. Sin darkens our comprehension. Sin limits our vision. Sin stunts our spiritual growth. But repentance from sin brings light, vision, and the fullness of the kingdom.

I would like to name three things that Christians can do to practice repentance. Do these things to live the Kingdom of God to which Jesus calls us.

Repentance practice #1. Formation of Conscience. We all know that we are supposed to follow our consciences. But if our conscience is going to provide good leadership then it needs to be a well equipped conscience. Your conscience gets equipped with knowledge and reason. Think about it this way. Nobody wants to follow a leader who is ignorant and has bad judgment. That can only go to a bad end. So form your conscience through study of the bible and the teachings of the Church. Kids, go to CCD every Sunday. Teens, go to youth group regularly. Parents. Work with your kids. While they are learning you will learn too. All adults. Study your faith every week. Think you are too busy? Try the Catholic CD’s we have in the vestibule. Listening to those in the car will equip you with good teaching and good stories. The development of knowledge and reason is a lifelong task. Everybody. Form your conscience.

Repentance practice #2. Examination of Conscience. If our conscience has some content and reason to it then we have some tools to work with in reflecting on our lives. Do this every night before bed. Spend a little time in prayer and in reflection on the day. Give God thanks for the light and grace given during the day. Ask God for pardon for the sins committed during the day. In that way we can rest in God’s peace during the night. Repentance practice #2. Examination of Conscience.

Repentance practice #3. The Sacrament of Penance. Jesus considered the practice of penance so important that he sacramentalized it for us. He gave the Apostles the power to forgive or to retain sins. This same power is shared with the priests of the Church. This power is given so that we all can confess our sins and be forgiven 77 x7 times. As many times as we need until that sin is worked out of our lives and is replaced by God’s love and peace. The Sacrament of Penance is a great gift of God to us. It is grace to overcome sin. Make use of it, good people. It brings us peace of heart. Repentance practice #3. The sacrament of Penance.

Listen once again to the first command of Jesus and take it to heart. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Now listen to the second command of Jesus. This was to Peter and Andrew. But make no mistake - it is also for us. Listen to his words. “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

For Peter and Andrew this meant the vocation to be apostles and high priests of the New Covenant. The greatest decision of their lives was to take this word of Jesus to heart. So they dropped their nets and began following him. Jesus made them new. Slowly but surely the new creation Jesus made through those words formed them into the men who would change the world.

Come after me. Jesus says it to you and me today.

Come after me. Each of us has a vocation that is God’s unique call in our lives. God made us for a good purpose. God has given each of us a new hope.

Come after me. For some people here this command of the Lord means a re-dedication of your life to the Lord. Because you haven’t been following him lately. So repent. Rededicate. Renew. Give yourself to Jesus once again.

Come after me. For others here this command of the Lord means a radical change in your life. Like Peter and Andrew, you need to drop what you are doing. You need to leave the past behind and take a new direction. You may need to leave everything familiar behind. Responding to this call will change your life. It may very well change the world.

Truly I tell you, the words of Jesus have the power to change everything. So hear them again with fresh ears.

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Some election year points by Archbishop Chaput

This election year's chief ecclesiastical contribution to the nation's public square will come with the release of the Doubleday volume of said title by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver... which not a few are awaiting with bated breath.While the exact pub-date of Render Unto Caesar hasn't yet surfaced, the Capuchin prelate offers something of a preview: "10 points" of faithful citizenship in his current column for the archdiocesan weekly (emphases original):

Personal witness is always the best proof of what we claim to believe. And this year, like every other year, with or without an election, we need to apply the idea of Catholic witness in a special way to our public life as citizens. We might find it useful to remember 10 simple points as we move toward November.

1. George Orwell said that one of the biggest dangers for modern democratic life is dishonest political language. Dishonest language leads to dishonest politics — which then leads to bad public policy and bad law. So we need to speak and act in a spirit of truth.

2. “Catholic” is a word that has real meaning. We don’t control or invent that meaning as individuals. We inherit it from the Gospel and the experience of the Church over the centuries. We can choose to be something else, but if we choose to call ourselves Catholic, than that word has consequences for what we believe and how we act. We can’t truthfully claim to be Catholic and then act like we’re not.

3. Being a Catholic is a bit like being married. We have a relationship with the Church and with Jesus Christ that’s very similar to being a spouse. And that has consequences. If a man says he loves his wife, his wife will want to see the evidence in his love and fidelity. The same applies to our relationship with God. If we say we’re Catholic, we need to show that by our love for the Church and our fidelity to what she teaches and believes. Otherwise we’re just fooling ourselves, because God certainly won’t be fooled.

4. The Church is not a political organism. She has no interest in partisanship because getting power or running governments is not what she’s about, and the more closely she identifies herself with any single party, the fewer people she can effectively reach.

5. However, Scripture and Catholic teaching do have public consequences because they guide us in how we should act in relation to one another. Loving God requires that we also love the people He created, which means we need to treat them with justice, charity and mercy. Being a Catholic involves solidarity with other people. The Catholic faith has social justice implications — and that means it also has cultural, economic and political implications. The Catholic faith is never primarily about politics; but Catholic social action — including political action — is a natural byproduct of the Church’s moral message. We can’t call ourselves Catholic, and then simply stand by while immigrants get mistreated, or the poor get robbed, or unborn children get killed. The Catholic faith is always personal, but never private. If our faith is real, then it will bear fruit in our public decisions and behaviors, including our political choices.

6. Each of us needs to follow his or her own properly formed conscience. But conscience doesn’t emerge from a vacuum. It’s not a matter of personal opinion or preference. If our conscience has the habit of telling us what we want to hear on difficult issues, then it’s probably badly formed. A healthy conscience is the voice of God’s truth in our hearts, and it should usually make us uncomfortable, because none of us is yet a saint. The way we get a healthy conscience is by submitting it and shaping it to the will of God; and the way we find God’s will is by opening our hearts to the counsel and guidance of the Church that Jesus left us. If we find ourselves disagreeing as Catholics with the Catholic teaching of our Church on a serious matter, it’s probably not the Church that’s wrong. The problem is much more likely with us.

7. But how do we make good political choices when so many different issues are so important and complex? The first principle of Christian social thought is: Don’t deliberately kill the innocent, and don’t collude in allowing somebody else to do it. The right to life is the foundation of every other human right. The reason the abortion issue is so foundational is not because Catholics love little babies — although we certainly do — but because revoking the personhood of unborn children makes every other definition of personhood and human rights politically contingent.

8. So can a Catholic in good conscience support a “pro-choice” candidate? The answer is: I can’t and I won’t. But I do know some serious Catholics — people whom I admire — who will. I think their reasoning is mistaken. But at the very least they do sincerely struggle with the abortion issue, and it causes them real pain. And even more importantly: They don’t keep quiet about it; they don’t give up their efforts to end permissive abortion; they keep lobbying their party and their elected representatives to change their pro-abortion views and protect the unborn. Catholics can support “pro-choice” candidates if they support them despite — not because of — their “pro-choice” views. But they also need a compelling proportionate reason to justify it.

9. What is a “proportionate” reason when it comes to the abortion issue? It’s the kind of reason we will be able to explain, with a clean heart, to the victims of abortion when we meet them face to face in the next life — which we most certainly will. If we’re confident that these victims will accept our motives as something more than an alibi, then we can proceed.

10. Lastly, the heart of truly “faithful” citizenship is this: We’re better citizens when we’re more faithful Catholics. The more authentically Catholic we are in our lives, choices, actions and convictions, the more truly we will contribute to the moral and political life of our nation.

January 19, 2008

Dear ones,

I've been really behind on my posting, so here is the rest of my Advent and Christmas season homilies. I look forward to reading your comments.

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ordinary Time – 2nd Sunday
January 20, 2008
National Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Isaiah 49: 3, 5-6
1 Cor 1:1-3
John 1:20-34

Here we are, back to regular old green ordinary time. Enjoy it while it is here, because it’s not going to last. After two more Sundays we begin Lent. Can you believe it? A short respite between the celebrations of the Christmas season and the austerity of Lent.

But these green Sundays are so full of life for us, so pay attention to them and enjoy them. Green is about growing spiritually in the ordinariness of life. This week is one of those themed weeks – National Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

To begin opening this idea up, let’s take a look at the 2nd reading. We heard a mere three verses from 1 Corinthians, but they are packed with significance. In these verses they give clues to what Paul will address in the rest of the letter. And I submit to you that these three verses pack a real punch when dealing with Christian unity.

So, Paul addresses the Church in Corinth and calls them people who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy. He links their holiness to all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

So, pay attention to this reality – people of Annunciation Church. You have been sanctified in Christ Jesus by your baptism. People of God, you are called to holiness. Your call to holiness is connected with all people of good will in the world who call upon the name of Jesus. For that reason alone we must dedicate ourselves to prayer for Christian unity. For our prayer will lead us to work of unity.

How do we do that? Let’s now turn to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Numbers 820-822 concern themselves with our work towards unity.

First, let’s understand what the Church says that unity is not.
Unity is not the idea that all paths lead to the same goal. Thus the Church does not view all religions as being equal. If we taught that then we would have to abandon the idea of objective truth. And we can’t do that because Jesus taught objective truths. Jesus made the claim that he himself is the way and the truth and the life. Therefore all paths are not equal and do not lead to the same goal. This is relativism. It is an error. It is a lie that leads us away from the truth.

Sacred scripture teaches us that Christ bestowed unity on his Church from the very beginning. The Roman Catholic Church is the only Christian denomination which clearly traces its roots all the way back to Jesus Christ and the twelve apostles. All other denominations have split away from this one foundation. But this gift of unity given by Jesus to the Church remains within the Church as something it can never lose. In a universal sense.

However, you and I as members of the Church can either promote unity or we can lose it. Like the parable of the talents, we must exercise the gift of unity. An unused gift is one that is taken and given to someone who will actually do something with it.

So, what do we do to exercise this gift? The catechism gives us seven items. Listen carefully.
A permanent renewal of the Church. The Church is “semper reformandi” that is to say, it must always be continually renewed. Be continually refreshed by the Holy Spirit.
Conversion of heart. We must be converted and live holier lives. If unfaithfulness to the gospel causes divisions, then our faithfulness to Jesus and his teachings brings about unity within the parish and among all those who claim Jesus as Lord.
Prayer in Common. We must seek opportunities to pray both within our parish and to be inviting to all people of good will. These opportunities bring us to a change of heart and holiness of life.
Community. When we come to know one another as friends we can more easily seek the truth of Jesus Christ together.
Ecumenical Formation. We as Catholics need to be clear about what we believe and develop skills for sharing what we know in a respectful and friendly manner.
Dialogue. We as Catholics must seek opportunities to share the reason for our hope with others. Through these holy conversations we draw ever closer to the truth.
Collaboration. Among Christians of good will, we can do works of service together in building up the common good.

Those are seven very clear things that we can commit ourselves to both as individuals and as a parish. However, one final thing is clear to me. Christian Unity is bigger than we are. It is bigger than the reach even of the Roman Catholic Church. Christians have been factioned for the past one thousand years. While the Catholic Church has been doggedly persistent in maintaining unity through the ministry of the bishops and fidelity to the apostolic tradition, we’ve witnessed an almost hopeless factionalism in the past five hundred years.

Several years ago a local pastor at one of the protestant Churches decided to visit us for daily mass during lent. I remember how excited our daily mass crowd was to host this local pastor. I also was pleased that the pastor could be with us. I was pleased because I respected this person as someone who loved God and was dedicated to serving God. This person was both pastoral and intelligent and whose company we all enjoyed. And it was always great except at communion time. Because it was during this holy sacrament of unity that we were regularly reminded that our denominations were not one. That our communion was divided. Each time this pastor came forward at communion time, and I imparted the blessing rather than the Eucharist, I felt a painful twinge. Everything in me desired to give the Eucharist. But we can only give and receive the Eucharist honestly. It signifies unity. And both of us knew that this was not the case between our denominations.

Ultimately, Christian Unity is going to be the work of Christ himself. Only he can make the sad divisions among us to cease. Only he can work the miracle of making us one body and one spirit.

For this reason John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

And he will. Someday his triumph will be completed. Meanwhile we pray for unity. And we wait in joyful hope.


January 6, 2008

Isaiah 60:1-6
Psalm 72
Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6
Matthew 2:1-12

“We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”

So said the magi from the east to King Herod as they neared the end of their journey. Of course, the child was not in the royal court of Herod, but was in Bethlehem, as the chief priests and scribes indicated was prophesied. When they got to Bethlehem, they gave homage and they gave gifts. What does this story mean?

The clue comes, of course, from the name of this feast day. Epiphany. It is a great word. It means “manifestation or illuminating realization.” It’s symbol is the star. The light that guided them to their destination – the manifestation of God in the baby Jesus.

All these senses of epiphany come together in this story from the gospel of Matthew. God himself was revealed to the world through the birth of Jesus. An epiphany of God. The understanding of God’s intention was also present. An epiphany of God’s intention. It all came together.

God sent his only son as savior of the world. Not just for the Jews, the children of the promises to Abraham, but to all the nations. The magi symbolize all the nations of the world, coming to adore Jesus. This is truly a catholic vision of God’s plan.

Of course, we all knew this more or less. Does it have anything to do with us today?

Well, interestingly enough, the bishops have declared the week of January 6 to be National Migration Week. All Catholics are called upon to think about the issues around immigration in this country. And it does have a connection with this feast day.

Consider the experience of the Magi. They journeyed from their homeland as pilgrims seeking the Christ. They faced danger, political intrigue, and plots from the Herodian court. And they were
Consider the experience of the Holy Family. After the visit of the Magi they were forced to flee Herod’s murderous intentions, became refugees and immigrants, and lived in the land of Egypt for a time. Their experience is the experience of all refugees and migrants.

For that reason alone every Catholic in the United States of America should be sympathetic to the plight of immigrants and refugees.

You know, one of the things I am most proud of in our parish is the broad based support for the Hispanic immigrants in our parish and in our county. This parish has given courageous support through prayer, through advocacy, and through welcoming the strangers in our midst. I am proud to be a part of this ministry in this parish. Those we have welcomed are no longer strangers, but friends who are among us.

One of the things I am most proud of in our country is that we are all a country of immigrants. Americans are people from every race, nationality, culture, and language. We get placed into the national “melting pot” and each new addition adds new seasoning to who we are. Our national identity is being continuously formed. In this sense it is a little bit like heaven. We come from everywhere.

Of course, the best earthly example of heaven is the Roman Catholic Church. Why? Because it is the only institution that literally consists of people from every country, nation, language, and race. It is the Kingdom of God on earth – pointing to the eternal reality of the Kingdom of Heaven.

One of the interesting conundrums we face is when political interests conflict with religious interests. In this case sometimes our American identity conflicts with our Catholic identity.

Let me give two examples.
Catholic Social Teaching principal #1. the life and dignity of the human person. We believe and teach that human life has dignity and worth from conception until natural death. Thus legalized abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, eugenics, and the death penalty contradict the teaching of the Church on the life and dignity of the human person. The Church’s teaching is pretty clear on these issues.
Catholic Social Teaching principal #6. Solidarity. We believe and teach that we are one human family, irregardless of language, race, or culture. We are our brother’s keeper in this shrinking world. We are all connected. The core of the virtue of solidarity is the pursuit of peace and justice. Thus, racism, sexism, poverty, and war are all serious issues. The Church makes some pretty clear statements about these issues.

So let me return to the theme of this week. Immigration. The Life and dignity of the human person and the theme of solidarity converge on this issue fairly clearly. The bishops of this nation, in accord with the teachings of the Holy Father, have spoken clearly about immigration reform for the sake of the immigrants who are among us.

And yet, we Catholics in the parishes and the pews are very divided about this issue. Consider. There are 65 million people in the United States who call them Catholic. If we understood the social teaching of the Catholic Church and were united with our bishops on these issues, do you think we would make a difference? You bet we would. Our problem is that we identify too much with Republicans or with Democrats and not nearly enough with the Kingdom of God.

The Roman Catholic Church is a sleeping giant in this nation. I would love to see it wake up and find its moral voice. Our current laws allow human life to be ripped from the womb. We need an epiphany. Our current laws actually encourage a permanent underclass because of our terrible immigration laws. Families are divided. I witness these things first hand. We need an epiphany.

The fact of the matter is this. Our Lord Jesus Christ was nearly murdered as an infant. Thus he shows solidarity with infants and children. Our Lord Jesus Christ was a refugee and immigrant. Thus he shows solidarity with refugees and immigrants. Our Lord Jesus Christ was executed by the state. Thus he shows solidarity and compassion for lawbreakers and evildoers who are executed.

He comes to save us all and to gather us into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Let us do him homage.

Holy Family

Holy Family – Feast of
December 30, 2007

Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14
Colosians 3:12-21

Today is the 5th (6th) day of Christmas – and it is not the feast of five golden rings (six geese a laying). Instead, it is the feast of the Holy Family.

On this day we have Joseph, Mary, and Jesus - the Holy Family – as an image for our contemplation. Lots of times our experience of the Holy Family is in nativity scenes or holy cards or statues. They always look so beautiful and peaceful.

But the scriptures show us that what they confronted some serious difficulties. They had a rocky start due to Mary’s pregnancy – the holy family nearly ended in divorce at the very beginning. Then they had to travel in Mary’s 9th month. A crazy despotic king was after them when Jesus was about two years old. They became immigrants and refugees and lived in Egypt for a few years. These were hardly peaceful circumstances. And yet, they were the holy family who lived in peace and in unity.

How did they do it? For that matter, how can we do it? How can our families be holy families?
After all, the odds are against us, if you look at national statistics.

Just getting a family started and then trying to keep it together can be a daunting task.

The scriptures give us some good practical examples of how to be a holy family.

From both the book of Sirach and from the letter to the Colossians the key word is respect. Respect for parents. Respect between husbands and wives. The truth is that respect can carry us a long way toward the exercise of greater virtues in our lives. St. Thomas Aquinas said that grace builds on nature. So when we exercise natural virtue, it provides more room for the supernatural virtues. Respect is a natural virtue.

Good old fashioned manners are a marvelous way to practice the virtue of respect. From “please” and “thank you” to the finer points of acting like ladies and gentlemen, the virtue of respect can be the glue that holds together a family, just as it is the glue that can hold together a society.

All of us know that there has been a rise in uncivil public behavior through this past generation. Course language, course gestures, course humor, and an increasing lack of respect has affected our society to the point that uncivil behavior has been accepted as quite normal.

You want to have an affect on family life and on society? Do something counter cultural and cultivate formal manners. They give us practical means of respect. Not sure what to work on? Have a family meeting and make a list of civil behaviors to cultivate in the family. Behaviors that exemplify respect in the way we talk and dress and inter-act. Then, help each other in positive ways to work on respectful behavior. All of us can work on this in the coming year.

Of course, God wants us to go deeper than just manners. After all, even good manners can become stiff and cold. That’s not appealing either.

Listen to the words of St. Paul. He said this: “Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another… and over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts.”

Wow. How many people would like to live in a family that had all that going on? Pretty good, huh?

Husbands, love and cherish your wives in the way that she would like to be loved and cherished. Wives, love and respect your husbands in the way that he would like to be loved and respected. Not sure what that is? Easy. Ask each other. Give each other concrete examples. Decide what you want to work on as a family for next year and then make a plan to work on it. Parents, the best gift you will ever give your children is to show them how to love and respect another person. You show them and they will give it back to you. The same is true with priests and parishes. We are all in this together.

Pray together as a family. In order to have the supernatural virtues of love and joy and peace we need to give God space to work in our families. Pray together every day. The rosary and scripture reading are two very good tools for family prayer. The Church gives us lots of options here. But pray together.

We need holy families. The world desperately needs holy families that are filed with heartfelt compassion, humility, patience, love, and peace. God’s plan for your family and for mine is that we grow that way. Then we are a sign of hope and a source of strength for others.

Just like Joseph, Mary, and Jesus are a sign of hope and a source of strength for us.


Christmas 2007

This reading from the gospel of Luke retells the eternal story of the birth of Jesus. Here before us we have the (living) nativity scene to help us remember that God became a little baby, was born of the virgin Mary at Christmas, and came with a mission to save us.

Tonight I want us to think about the people who are present at the birth of Jesus. Mary and Joseph – aware of God’s plan and obedient to it. In awe of God who was physically present with them – and yet helpless like a little baby. Imagine how they must have looked with love and adoration at Jesus after he was born.

And then there are the shepherds. The angels announced the good news to them and so off they went in obedience to the message. They made the sacrifice and traveled through the countryside in order to see Jesus. And to adore him.

Obedience and adoration. These are the examples of Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds for us to think about this Christmas.

So let’s unwrap the idea of obedience and adoration a little bit.

We’ll talk about obedience first. I want to tell you want this means. Now, for those of you who have heard me say this before, it’s a good reminder. And for those who haven’t it’s a good insight. Obedience comes from the latin root ob audire. It is a verb and it means – “to listen. Or to give ear to” So the very idea of obedience comes from attentive listening.
Mary and Joseph and the shepherds all listened to God’s invitation and responded positively. They were open to the idea and went along with it.

So now I want to say that listening to God is a very important thing for us to think about this Christmas. Because Christmas is about obedience to God’s good plan for each of us.

Now, if God had something important to say to you, then would you be open to listening to it? Yes or yes?

Would you like to know how you can listen to God?

First, you have to decide that you want to listen. So make a commitment at this mass tonight give lots of time this year to listening to God.

Second, you have to use the time effectively to listen to God. So here are some things you can do.
Make a commitment to attend mass every Sunday. Now, there are already two reactions to this one in the congregation. The first is this – I already go. Tell me something new. The second is this – the last time I went the priest was boring, or said something I disagreed with, or I got totally distracted by that kid running in the aisle throwing cheerios, or that grouchy person said something mean to me, or… get the idea. Lots of little reasons. But it’s not about the priest or the music or the kid or the grouch or any of those other things. It is about God. And if you make the commitment to attend mass every Sunday to listen to God then you will have a good chance of actually hearing something.

Now, that you have decided to commit – or re-commit to mass every Sunday, then do this. Pray to the Holy Spirit before mass starts to give you one message from the mass that you need. Now, I guarantee you that if you do this then you are going to get messages that will be powerful. They will change your life. Somewhere during the mass, in the reading or the homily or the songs or the prayers, the Holy Spirit will make a little light go off in your head and you will think to yourself – that’s it!

Final step. When you hear that little message – tell me, are you going to remember it? Well, for the vast majority of us who get distracted and whose memories have sprung fatal leaks, you need to write it down. So get yourself a little Christmas present this year and buy a journal. Write these little messages from mass down in your journal. You need to write this stuff down in order to remember it. And I guarantee you that when you start to hear the Holy Spirit speaking to you, you won’t be wondering if that was it. These messages that the Holy Spirit gives are tailor made for you. They will knock your socks off with their power. They will be simple and clear. All you have to do is make the commitment to listen. God will bring the inspiration and then the light bulb will go off in your head.

So here are the steps. 1. Commit to mass every Sunday. 2. Pray to the Holy Spirit to speak to you. 3. Write down what you hear.

If you start accumulating these little messages from God to you during mass, then you will find that the mass changes from something strange or boring to something that becomes as important to your life as food. And food’s pretty important. Try not eating for a week. Spiritual food is also just as important.

Do you want joy in your heart?
Then be like Mary and Joseph – come to Jesus. Listen, and adore.

Do you want peace in your heart?
Then be like the shepherds – come to Jesus. Listen, and adore

Do you want wisdom – a better way of thinking and acting?
Then be like the saints down through the ages. – come to Jesus. Listen, and adore.

Oh come let us adore him, Oh come let us adore him, Oh come let us adore him. Christ the Lord.

Advent - 3rd Sunday

3rd Advent

Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10
James 5:7-10
Matthew 11:2-11

Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord.

Patience is one of those tough virtues. Especially at this time of the year when life seems to go into hyper-drive. Students are strung out because of finals. Holiday shoppers are rushing to finish their purchases. Diminishing light leaves people more susceptible to depression and grumpiness. Winter weather tends to snarl up our plans. In the midst of all these distractions we are called to patience.

Be patient. This is the word for the 3rd Sunday of Advent.
On the first Sunday of Advent we heard the admonition to Stay Awake and be Prepared.
On the 2nd Sunday of Advent we were instructed to Repent. The Kingdom of God is near.
Today. Be patient.

And what for, exactly? Notice that the letter of James ties patience to the coming of the Lord. The coming of the Lord is in the sacraments when the Church worships. The coming of the Lord is at the end of our lives when we die and then are judged. And the coming of the Lord is at the end of time when he returns again in glory. Our patience is tied to the events of the coming of the Lord.

How do we practice this patience?
I suggest that the practice of patience is supported by the instructions we have received in the previous two Sundays. Stay awake. Be Prepared. Repent. Practicing these instructions helps us to wait for the coming of the Lord. I’ll take this moment to remind the assembly that we are celebrating the sacrament of penance next Thursday in a special liturgy. If you haven’t gone to confession yet – this will be a great opportunity. Stay awake and be prepared. Repent. Be patient.

James said that in order to wait patiently we need to make our hearts firm. Making our hearts firm means that we know what we believe and that we stick to it. For example, if you believe that you love someone, then you stick to it, no matter what. Love doesn’t quit. In like manner, patiently waiting for the Lord means you know your faith in the Lord and you stick to it. Do you know your faith in the Lord? More or less? Make your heart firm. Grow in knowledge of your faith and stick to it.

James also said this: do not complain about one another, that you may not be judged. Here is a great way to practice patience. Make your home, your car, and your workplace free of complaining about one another. No whining, complaining, criticisms, negative talk, or gossip.
Now, this one is tough. We human beings love to complain. Started when we learned to pout at age 2 ½ and then just got more sophisticated with age. But we all know the results of complaining about each other. We get angry with each other and then we have distrust, divisions, dissentions, and on and on it goes. Have we been there before? It’s never good, is it. Listen to St. James. Don’t complain about each other.

Too hard a habit to break? Try this as a habit breaker. Put a think rubber band around your wrist. Every time you complain, snap the rubber band.
Some of us are already thinking about the blisters we’d get. But after they heal I bet the level of complaining in the community would dramatically decline.
Make your hearts firm. Don’t complain about each other.

Stay awake and be prepared.
Be patient.

All of this has a purpose. Remember, we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Because the coming of the Lord is drawing near. It’s coming. When it happens the words of the prophet Isaiah will be fulfilled when he said:
“Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned in everlasting joy; they will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.”

So, my good people, for the time being:
Stay awake and be prepared
Be patient - waiting in joyful hope for the coming of our savior, Jesus Christ.

Advent - Second Sunday

2nd Sunday of Advent
December 9, 2007

Isaiah 11:1-10
Romans 15:4-9
Matthew 3:1-12

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!

This basic, simple message comes to us loudly and clearly every Advent. John the Baptist, the prophet of the messiah, says clearly to the people that they must repent. The messiah is coming. He will come to judge – gathering the wheat into the barn – and burning the chaff with unquenchable fire.

Notice the responses of the people.
The good response, which many participated in, was to acknowledge their sins and then be baptized by John in the river.

Notice the example of John in this passage. John symbolized doing penance. First, notice how he fasted. His diet during this time consisted of – locusts and wild honey.
Think about it. How many here would like to go on a special fast where the only food you ate was bugs and honey. Notice what he wore. Camel’s hair.
As a member of a priestly family, he had access to clothes and was heir to his father’s place as a priest in the temple in Jerusalem. Priests wore good clothes.
John wore itchy camel hair. John did penance and he fasted.

Notice who gives the wrong response to John’s message. The Pharisees and Saducees. They refused to acknowledge sin. They refused the baptism of John. They refused penance and fasting. And so John warned them that judgement was coming.

Add all this up and it is a very strong message. Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Repent is an interesting word. It comes from the latin “pentare” – which means “to think.” Put the prefix “re” in front of it and we get the English word “repent.” Literally it means –re-think.

And isn’t that the issue – that we need to “re-think” our lives. To get out of our heads the wrong thinking that brings us to sin. To get into our heads the right way of thinking so that we practice virtue.

Last week we heard the message – stay awake. Be prepared.
This week we hear the message – repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.

We need to hear this message at this time of year.
Did you hear the examples that John gives of what is coming?
The axe and the tree. The ax lies at the root of the tree. Those that do not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
The winnowing fan. He clears his threshing floor and gather the wheat into the barn. But the chaff will be burned.

All of this adds up to some serious stuff.
Stay awake. Be Prepared. Repent. The kingdom of God is at hand.

During Advent we make ourselves conscious of the first coming of Christ at the incarnation in Bethlehem. What a sweet event. Christmas.

During Advent we also make ourselves conscious of the second coming of Christ in glory. Remember what we acclaim during the Eucharistic prayer. Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life. Lord Jesus come in glory.

Jesus is coming again soon. He will come again to this earth in glory. And maybe we are living in the last days. Maybe it will be this year. Or next year. Or in the next ten. Who knows.

I do know one thing. I guarantee that he will come again for every person in this room within 120 years. And for a lot of us it is going to be a lot sooner than that. Count the days and months and years. Jesus is coming. Stay awake. Be Prepared. Repent. The kingdom of God is at hand.

So what are we supposed to do?

Well, I just happen to have some ideas from scripture.
Do what John did to prepare. Penances. He wore camel hair and ate bugs and honey. Anybody game for that? Too severe for you? Think it through. A penance is designed to help us remember the way in which our minds need to be changed. John needed to be focused on his mission and courageous enough to stand up to the Pharisees and to Herod. He had to avoid pandering and political correctness. Camel’s hair, bugs, and honey helped him do that. What will help each of us to avoid our particular temptations and to focus on our mission? Figure it out. Do penance.
Do what St. Paul suggests. Here are two ideas from him:
He mentions the “encouragement of scriptures”. Read the scripture so that you can be encouraged in hope. Simple. But the bible helps us to change our way of thinking. Get more of it in your head. Read the scriptures.
He also mentions this: “welcome one another as Christ welcomed you.” There is nothing like the practice of Christian hospitality in preparation for Christmas. Remember that when you get caught in a traffic jam in front of Mall St. Matthews. Welcome one another as Christ welcomes you.

While all of this may sound a little severe, just remember this. These acts of faith. Penance, Reading the bible. Christian hospitality. All help us to focus on the kingdom of God which is among us now and which is prepared for us for all eternity. A kingdom of justice and faithfulness. A kingdom of peace and love. A kingdom of eternal glory. It is here. And it is coming.
So…Stay awake. Be Prepared. Repent. For the kingdom of heaven it at hand.