Saturday, December 29, 2012

Homily for Christmastide: Feast of the Holy Family

Homily for Christmastide: Feast of the Holy Family (C)

The Church shows great wisdom in dedicating this Sunday after the Solemnity of Christmas to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
Today, the Church's 1 billion Catholics are all thanking God for the gift of the family, and asking for God's help to live family life as he designed it to be lived.
And he did design it; it was his idea.

  • From the very beginning, he created us male and female – husband and wife, father and mother.
  • And after original sin shattered his original design, he redeemed us by sending a savior into a family, thereby restoring and reaffirming his commitment to work in this world through family life.
  • We will probably never know all the reasons behind God's decision to make family life so central to his creation and redemption.
  • But we can certainly identify some of them.
  • One of the most important reasons is to show us that life, every human life, is a precious gift that comes directly from God.
  • None of us can produce another human being alone, the way an artist produces a painting or a bricklayer produces a wall.
  • Human life comes from the union of two loving spouses, a union which God often blesses with the conception of a child.
That each human life is a gift from God is a truth that comes across powerfully in today's First Reading, where Hannah shows so clearly her understanding that her son is not first of all hers, but God’s.
It also comes across in today's Gospel, where Jesus shows his first allegiance to be towards his heavenly Father, not his earthly parents.
And the same goes for us – for every single human being.
None of us is a simple “product” of science or chance; none of us are the result of a “mistake”: we are all beloved children of God, called to live forever with him in heaven.

This is the reason behind the Church's uncompromising position on all moral issues regarding the dignity of human life.
  • Human beings are unique members of this earth, created in God’s image, and, though fallen, destined for eternal glory.
  • The other creatures around us, from rhinos to rain forests, are beautiful and marvelous and deserving of our respectful and responsible use, but they do not share the same dignity as a human being.
  • In fact, the entire physical universe is less valuable than the tiniest human embryo, because the universe will pass away, but every human soul will live forever.
Our popular culture does not agree, and it is more and more trying to convince us that human beings are a cancer on the earth.
Take for example the most recent [November 2009] report of the United Nations Population Fund.
  • It concludes that families should be rewarded for refusing to have children, because children perpetuate the polluting of the earth:
  • “Each birth results not only in the emissions attributable to that person in his or her lifetime, but also the emissions of all his or her descendents... Hence, the emissions savings from intended or planned births multiply with time.”
If awarding carbon credits for having fewer children seems like a good idea to us, we can be sure that we are not thinking as God thinks.
  • Certainly, we are called to use and develop the earth's resources responsibly, but the earth is not more important than the people who inhabit it.
  • In fact, it's for us people, you, me, and even our ornery neighbors – that God made the earth in the first place.
Human life is not a cancer on the planet; embracing the gift of human life is the very purpose of the planet.

Few truths of our faith have more practical consequences than this truth that every human life is a gift from God, a sacred reality.
The first and most important practical consequence is that we need to take care of our own lives.
  • We are royalty, members of God's family, called to fulfill a mission in God's eternal plan of salvation.
  • That matters.
  • And we need to act like it matters.
  • We need to keep our hearts strong and free from sin, using frequently and wisely the gifts of prayer, Holy Communion, and confession.
  • We need to guard ourselves from temptation by exercising self-discipline in how we spend our time, money, and talents.
  • We need to remember that the devil "prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour," as the Bible tells us (1 Peter 5:8).
  • He wants to lead us away from God, precisely because he knows how much God cares for us.
The second practical consequence has to do with the people around us, especially those closest to us.
  • We are so used to focusing on their failures, foibles, and imperfections, that we tend to take them for granted.
  • But God never takes them for granted.
  • Instead, he takes each of us by the hand, loving us without condemning us, and leading us along the path of redemption.
  • And we are called to do the same, to be God's messengers, to be living signs of his love for those around us by how we treat one another.
In this Mass, God will come to each one of us, in spite of our personality flaws, sins, and hang-ups.
He goes beyond the surface appearances and sees all of us as we truly are: created in his image and destined for everlasting glory.
Today, let's ask him to teach us to do the same.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

2012 Farm Pictures

Garnet driving our recently purchased Farm All and Sophie on the willie-wag.

My son Kyle driving the John Deere.

Sophie getting her first ride in the side car. You can just see her helmet sticking up there.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Spring on the farm.

the new old tractor a 1973 Farm All 140

The sheep finally get some green grass after a long winter of hay.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Third Sunday of Lent year B

Third Sunday of Lent
The gospel scene depicts an angry Jesus with a whip in his hand.  This image of Jesus doesn’t sit well with the traditional image of a meek and smiling Jesus.  It seems to be so out of character with what we know of Jesus from the rest of the gospels, that we might be tempted to dismiss it.  It shows us that there was another side to Jesus’ character.  Of course, Jesus was gentle.  But that doesn’t mean he was weak.  When the occasion demanded it he could be very strong and assertive.
Still, it comes as a shock to see Jesus not just angry, but furious, and to see him resort to what looks like a form of violence.  We may have been taught that all anger is sinful, but,  in itself, anger is just a feeling, and, as such, is not good or bad morally.
It’s true that anger is a dangerous thing and can result in us saying or doing things we later regret.  But anger can also be a good thing.  It can spur us to put something right that is blatantly wrong.  There are times when we ought to be angry.  An unjust situation should make us angry.  Anger can be an expression of love.
We have to look at the things that make anger.  It is said that you can measure the size of a persons soul by the size of the things that make him angry.  Most of our anger is motivated by self interest and we get angry over petty things.
A man lived on the outskirts of a village.  About thirty feet from his house a large lime tree grew.  The tree was something of a village landmark.  However, it was getting old.  It was clearly only a matter of time before it came crashing down.  Every time there was a storm the man feared for his house and his life.  One day, unable to bear the strain any longer, he cut the tree down.  He felt sure the villagers would understand, but he was wrong.
‘Shame on you for cutting down such a splendid tree; said one.  ‘You have deprived the village of part os it’s heritage,’ said another.
It’s amazing how worked up people get when their own interests are threatened, but how few get worked up when it’s their neighbour’s interests that are threatened.
Jesus did not get angry on his own account.  His anger resulted from his love of God and his neighbour.  His action in the temple is seen as a protest against the commercialization of religion and the desecration of the temple.
And rightfully so.
In today’s world, no one is desecrating our church buildings, there are laws against that.  But what we see is a pressure for us to suppress our religion in daily life.  Along with this pressure is a commercial media that tries to distract us at every turn in hopes that we over indulge in consumption of goods.
In a sense, the worldly powers would like us to desecrate our inner temple.
The season a lent reminds us of this, and encourages us to be mindful of over indulgences and be prayerful so that at Easter we can say to God “yes” I have protected my inner temple from the things in this world that are temptations, things that are not for God but against Him.
May the Lord help us to make this lent a time of inner cleansing and a time to become closer to God in spite of our busy lives and distractions of all sorts.
May God bless you all,  Amen.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Homily for 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

In today's world, we can all use help with our prayer life, and the leper in today's Gospel passage gives it to us.
He reminds us of two key elements in a healthy life of prayer: confidence and humility.
The first thing to note is that this leper has no doubt that Christ can cure him.
  • He says to the Lord, "If you wish, you can make me clean."
  • It's hard for us to have so much confidence.
  • Our secular culture is constantly sidelining God.
  • This tends to make us think that we can solve all our problems ourselves, through science, technology, or hard work.
  • But if we think that, then we don't really have faith in God; if God is irrelevant, he's not much of a God, after all.
  • But the leper didn't live in a secular culture; he lived in a religious culture, one that recognized the reality of sin and evil, and the need of God's grace to overcome them.
  • And so he came out of his isolated and self-destructive bubble of self-sufficiency and exercised his faith.

The second thing to note is that the leper also recognizes that he has no right to demand a cure.
  • He doesn't act like a spoiled child and say, "Cure me!" he says, "If you wish..."
  • It's as if he were saying, "You know what's best; if curing me will give you glory, please do so, but if not, I will still believe and trust in you."
  • Only the humble heart can tap into the roaring stream of mercy that flows from Christ's Sacred Heart,
  • mercy which not only cured the leprosy, but touched the leper, something no one else had done since the disease began.

If our prayer weaves together confidence and humility, God will be able to do wonders in us as well.

It is obvious that we should have unlimited confidence in God, but that is exactly why the devil tempts us against it, and that is why we need to be reminded that God always hears our prayers.
In Scotland in the 1600s Catholics were persecuted - priests and laity alike had to flee the country or go into hiding to avoid imprisonment or even death.
  • One day, a bishop there was walking from village to village in the mountains, dressed like a poor farmer to avoid capture.
  • It was winter, and as the sun went down he became lost among the snow-covered hills.
  • Almost exhausted with wandering, he finally saw a dim light in the distance, and made his way towards it.
  • It was a poor cottage on the edge of the woods; he knocked on the door.
  • The family welcomed him, warmed him at their fire, and prepared him some food.
  • He didn't see any crucifix or image of Mary in the house, so he concluded they weren't Catholic.
  • But they were extremely kind and hospitable, and as he ate their simple but good food, they conversed politely and pleasantly.

The bishop noticed that the family seemed sad underneath their good-natured hospitality.
  • He asked about this, and the mother explained that in the back room, on a bed of straw, her father lay dying, but he refused to admit it, and so he was notpreparing himself well for death.
  • The visitor offered to speak with him, and he was led to the back room.
  • Sure enough, the old man lay there, feeble and clearly dying.
  • The bishop offered words of sympathy, but the old man seemed to regain strength and said, "No sir, I am not yet going to die. That is impossible."
  • The disguised bishop asked why he was so sure, and after hemming and hawing, the old man asked quietly if the visitor was Catholic.

Assured that he was, the dying man gave this explanation.
  • "I also am a Catholic.
  • "From the day of my first Communion until now I have never failed even for a single day to pray to Our Blessed Lady for the grace of not dying without a priest at my bedside to hear my confession and give me the Last Sacraments.
  • "Now sir, do you think that my heavenly Mother will not hear me? Impossible! So I am not going to die till some priest comes to visit me."
  • Tears rolled down the bishop's face as he realized that he was God's faithful answer to this man's humble and confident prayer.

God always hears our prayers - if he died for us on Calvary, will he ignore us now?

We cannot have a mature and effective life of prayer without growing in these key areas of confidence in God and humility.
How can we grow in these things?
  • There is no pill or surgical operation that can finish it once and for all - that's not how spiritual growth happens.
  • Instead, we need to regularly and intelligently exercise whatever humility and confidence we already have (and all of us have some - they both were given to us in baptism).
  • All virtues grow through exercise, like muscles.
  • And of course, exercise is at least sometimes demanding and uncomfortable.
  • This is why regular exercise requires a decision of the will, an act of self-governance.

Here are three ways to exercise humility and confidence in God; let's each choose one of them to focus on this week.
First, the sacrament of confession.
  • This is the best exercise, because it was invented by God himself.
  • Confession is a perfect mirror of this leper's transforming encounter with Christ.
  • Think about it: everything the leper did, we do every time we go to confession.

Second, writing a thank-you note to God at the end of every day.
  • By focusing in on the amazing gifts he gives us every single day - life, opportunities, friendships, grace - we put everything else in proper perspective.
  • Gratitude reminds us of God's unbounded goodness, and of our childlike dependence on him.

Third, by being the first one to say we're sorry.
  • Interpersonal conflicts are almost always the fault of both people involved, at least a little bit.
  • When we take the first step to make peace, we are following in the footsteps of Christ himself.

Whichever exercise we choose for this week, Jesus will help us with it - that's why he is coming among us again through the sacrifice of this Mass.

Winter Logging

Getting ready to go after some fire wood on St. Isidore Farm.


Fire wood behind my own tractor at home.

Going after the fire wood at St. Isidores.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Green House

The green house was completed on the farm a few weeks ago, here it is.

PS.. its not safe to work from the tractor loader.... don't do as I do!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Mary, Mother of God (ABC)

Mary, Mother of God (ABC)

Eight days have passed since we celebrated Christ's birth on Christmas. Most of the world has already left the message of Christmas far behind. But the Church, in its wisdom, has been spending these days in contemplation of this most astonishing event in the entire history of the human family. And the liturgy will continue doing so all the way through the feast of Epiphany. Let's stay in tune with the Church. Let's keep enjoying the message of Christmas, savoring it, living it deeply.

In fact, another New Year's Day would have little meaning if Christ had never been born to give us hope and guidance. One way to activate that hope and make use of that guidance is by following in the Shepherds' footsteps. St Luke paints a beautiful picture of those poor, hardworking shepherds making their way to the stable cave at Bethlehem.

St.Luke chose his words carefully, to make the full meaning come out.
And so, the three verbs that describe the shepherds' actions are not mere coincidence - they are the inspired pattern of how every Christian should live out the message of Christmas.

First, St Luke tells us that the shepherds "went in haste" to find Christ, to seek him out in the midst of his family, the Church, here represented by Mary and Joseph. They were eager to meet the Savior, to spend time with him, to get to know him, to receive his blessing. That's why Jesus came to earth in the first place - so that we could more easily find him. The history of humanity is the history of a people lost in darkness and searching for meaning, forgiveness, grace, and light.

Jesus is the source of all those things. He is our salvation. That's the significance of the name "Jesus", which means "God saves."

The Jews traditionally had their boy children circumcised on the eighth day after their birth. During the ceremony, the child would also be given his name. St Luke tells us that Joseph and Mary followed this tradition with Jesus. Circumcision was the sign of God's covenant with ancient Israel, and the most important thing about that covenant was God's promise to send a Savior.

Receiving one's name at the same time that the boy was circumcised was a symbolic way of emphasizing that the boy's life, his very identity, was now tied up with that promise. And performing the ceremony on the eighth day was also significant.

God had created the universe in seven days. But that creation was wrecked by original sin. The eighth day is a symbol of the redemption - the first day of the new creation in Christ.

God's promise of blessing, our true identity, redemption and everlasting life - this is what Christ comes to give us, this is why we, like the shepherds, should be eager to go and look for Christ, to "make haste" to find him each day in prayer, the Bible, and the sacraments.

Second, the shepherds "made known the message that had been told them." The news the angels announced to them was too good to keep to themselves. They felt a need to share it, to tell others about the Savior. That is always a sign of an authentic encounter with God. The ancient philosophers had an adage that said, "bonum diffisivum est" [goodness is overflowing]. When we have or discover something wonderful, we can't hold it back, we simply have to share it. Even on a merely human level - if you find a good restaurant or book or Web site, you tell your friends about it. When we truly experience Christ, even just a little bit, something similar happens. Our hearts automatically overflow with a desire to share that experience.

And if we don't feel that desire, it probably means that our friendship with Christ needs some maintenance.
Being committed Christians doesn't make us immune to temptation. If we are not careful, we can fall into routine.
We can come to Mass, say our prayers, keep up appearances - but underneath it all, we can be falling into spiritual mediocrity. An excellent thermometer for mediocrity is precisely this:
  1. if we feel an inner urge to spread Christ's Kingdom,
  2. to bring others into Christ's friendship,
  3. to share our experience of Christ - as the shepherds did, then we know we are spiritually healthy. But if we don't feel that urge - it is a warning sign that our friendship with Christ is growing cold, and that we need to "make haste" to Bethlehem to take a fresh look at our Savior.

The third verb that Luke used to describe this scene to St Luke is a double verb. St Luke tells us that after the shepherds made haste to come and see Jesus, and after they told their amazing story to everyone who would listen, they "returned glorifying and praising God." When we seek Christ and share Christ, he fills our hearts with a deep, inner joy. The shepherds were so full of this joy that they couldn't hold it in.

Materially and economically nothing had changed. They didn't have more money, a better job, a nicer house, or even a few more Christmas presents. And yet, if while they were walking back to their flocks someone had asked them, "What did you get for Christmas," they would have had a ready answer.

They would have said, "We have seen God, our Savior, and we have seen his Mother, our Queen. And now we know that God loves us more than we could ever have imagined." Their bank accounts weren't affected by their encounter with the newborn Christ, but they were immeasurably richer on Christmas Day than they had been the day before. And if we follow in the shepherds' footsteps this year, actively seeking Christ in prayer, the Bible, and the sacraments, and bringing Christ's grace and presence to those around us, we too will experience the true joy of Christmas - all year round.

The shepherds are models for every Christian. They clarify what's most important in life: seeking Christ, sharing Christ, and rejoicing in Christ. But life for the shepherds didn't end on Christmas. They had to return to the humdrum of the daily grind. And after today, we will too. How can we keep the meaning and lessons of Christmas shining in our hearts even after we take down the Christmas lights?

Mary, whose motherhood we remember in a special way today, gives us the secret.  Mary didn't let life's hustle and bustle drown out the beauty and wonder of Christmas. St Luke tells us that "Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart."  God did not tell Mary his entire plan. We know much more than she did about how everything was going to work out. She had to walk in the dim light of faith, one step at a time, trusting in God, witnessing his action, and seconding it whenever she could. But she paid attention. She pondered in her heart all of God's gifts to her, all of his words and deeds.

Today in Holy Communion we will receive the Body of Christ, which was formed in the womb of Mary.
When we do, let's ask our spiritual Mother, the Mother of God and of all Christians, to teach us how to take care of the precious faith we have received and renewed during these days, just as she took care of the baby Jesus.