Sunday, December 8, 2013

Homily for the 2nd Sunday in Advent Year A

Homily for the 2nd Sunday in Advent Year A

Jesse was the father of the great King David of the Old Testament. He is often looked upon as the first person in the genealogy of Jesus.
In Church art, a design developed showing the relationship of Jesus with Jesse and other biblical people. This design showed a branched tree growing from a reclining figure of Jesse. The various branches had pictures of other Old and New Testament figures who were ancestors of Jesus. At the top of the tree were figures of Mary and Jesus. This design was used mostly in stained glass windows in some of the great medieval cathedrals of Europe. The Cathedral of Chartres (which was dedicated in 1260) has a particularly beautiful Jesse Tree window.
Another development in religious art during the Middle Ages was that of Mystery Plays–drama that depicted various Bible stories or lives of Saints and Martyrs. These plays were performed in churches as part of the liturgical celebrations. One such play was based on the Bible account of the fall of Adam and Eve. The "Tree of Life" used during the play was decorated with apples. (Quite possibly this is one of the elements that  helped to evolve our own Christmas tree.)
Combining the two ideas of the stained glass Jesse Tree window and the Tree of Life from the Mystery Play we come up with our Jesse Tree
The Gospel today tells of John the Baptist and his message. We read “In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near”.
We have all heard this Gospel before. Some more times than others. The challenge for us here today is, not to just make this one more time we have heard this story. It is to actually hear the words and understand. We need to ask ourselves how is this gospel relevant in a way that I can use what I have just heard.
Lets start by looking at the word “repent”
Repent - To make a change for the better as a result of remorse or contrition for one's sins.

To start with I know for sure that there is absolutely no one here who has not sinned. Not me not Father Gerald, not anyone. So we can say we have fulfilled part of the definition of repent. That was the easy part. The other part of the definition was to “make a change”. This is a little harder to do than to be a sinner. Its a peice of cake to be a sinner… no trouble at all. But to make a change now that is hard.

First we need to look at what this change is relative too. Is it relative to the way we golf or play hockey. Could be. Is it relative to how we treat our dogs or pets. Maybe.

Really for us today it is relative to the coming of the Kingdom of God, to the birth of Christ, to God made man. So this change we speak of is something that we all need to do to prepare for this special day, this coming of the Son of Man. We could put it in the form of another question …. is your heart ready for the arrival of the Lord.

One of the ways we can prepare is by prayer. You may say “I already pray”, this is true. But maybe we need to pray for God to give us the grace to change just one little thing that may make us just a little closer to him. One grace to make us strong to be just a little less sinful.

Another way to change, instead of less sinful, we can pray for the grace to be more loving. This can surely apply to everyone here as well. And by more loving I mean towards your family and neighbors and especially towards our God. Who gives us his Son, the baby Jesus, who has changed us and this world for all time to come. So much so that we have actually moved this fact to the back of our minds. Its sort of like getting a gift of something special, say a new coat or hat and then as the days and weeks pass it becomes ordinary and we just grab it, put it on and head of to work. Our society that we live in is sort of like that and this gift of salvation, this gift of eternity has just become an old coat or hat.

How sad to say that our faith, our spiritual home and the gift of all gifts has been turned into something mundane, something that would be unrecognizable to the people of not so long ago. We need to pray that we receive the grace to renew our love for a gift so great that it lasts into eternity.

Another suggestion for change, that may be a result of the prayers to be less sinful and more loving, may be to resist the commercialization of Christmas, so as to reaffirm the reason we make it a special day. The farther the reality of the kingdom of God is from or minds the more we consume for no good reason. Consuming was not part of the message of John the Baptist. He did not say “repent and buy each other gifts”. John did not proclaim the kingdom of God so that the market square would be full of shoppers, yet this is why the large corporations proclaim this season is special.

The real change we need is one of heart so that it is directed by that voice crying in the wilderness. From this Sunday onward we are to “prepare the way of the lord, make his paths straight!” This is the only thing that we truly need to focus on from now until the big day. We will all do this in our own ways, and it is indeed appropriate to celebrate the coming of the Lord with feasts and family gatherings. It is good to be giving and generous at this time of the year. It will be nice if there are lights and a little snow on the ground (I don’t believe I said that ). And I hope that Santa Claus will visit my Christmas tree.

At the same time I will be examining the ways I have, that do not lead me closer to Christ and, if I pray well, God may give me the graces needed to make changes in my life so that I am able to say that I am truly ready for the coming of the Son of Man.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Homily for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time year C

   The first reading and the gospel of today, about the parable of the poor Lazarus and of the rich man, give the direction how to live the present. These readings are not meant to scare us or torment us about the horrors of hell. These readings today tell us that if we are only concerned about our material wealth and our own well being that we will not recognize Jesus in those who are in need.. Lazarus represents Jesus who has suffered all our trials and has the scars of crucified love. He is the one who is at our doorstep and waits for us to open our hearts.
            Jesus gives us this story to make a point so….. it is worth thinking about. First we come upon the rich man with no name (really his name is his wealth) the second man is the one by the gate (he is the one helped by God) Both of these men are under the watchful eye of God but both are more or less open to that presence. The rich man does not think he needs God, he is so well of in material things, such as, food and good clothes. The poor sick guy has nothing but God, he has no food and is sick, only dogs will come near him.
Lets look at ourselves in this light. We also have problems that we can hide under our wealth and outward appearance, but God knows what they are. These problems often make us humble and look for God. They make us yearn for a way to God's presence. It is in this state that we are blessed. we are blessed because we are poor in spirit. When we realize this, we come to Gods level. Remember. The kingdom of heaven is ours because we are poor of heart. We are indeed sons and daughters…. like Jesus… for this reason we are rich. Rich because we have God as our Father.
Having said all this … it is not a sin to be rich. It is only sinful when your wealth tricks you into believing that it is a god in itself. We need to recognize when God is speaking to us through those in need. We need to know when to love someone.
      We can look to Mother Teresa for advice in this matter. She once said “That love starts at home: family first, then your town or city. It’s easy to love people who are far away, but not so easy top love those who live with us or are next door to us. I don’t agree with the big way of doing things… love needs to start with an individual. To love a person, you must make contact with that person, become close. You have to let people come in contact with the poor. When you do that you cross this enormous divide. It,s no longer these “millions” of people, but somebody you have actually touched.”
        She tells the following story “Once in Bombay there was a big conference on poverty. When I reached the place, right in front of the door where hundreds of people were talking about food and hunger, I found a dying man. I took him to our home for the dying. He died there. He died of hunger. And the people inside were talking about how in fifteen years we will have so much food, so much this, so much that…. and that man died.”
She continues “I never look at the masses as my responsibility. I look at the individual. I can only love one person at a time. I can feed only one person at a time. I picked up one person. Maybe if I hadn’t picked up that one person I would not have picked up 42,000. The whole work is only a drop in the ocean. But if I did not put that drop in, the ocean would be one drop less. Same thing for you. same thing in your family.”
The rich man in our gospel reading could not have been expected to save the world. But he could have helped the beggar man at his gate.

Another kind of wealth we can think about is inner wealth or richness

To illustrate what I mean by inner wealth I have another story to tell…
There once was a wandering monk who came upon a village. He was about to settle down under a tree for the night when a villager came running to him and said “ Give me the precious stone”
“What stone are you talking about” asked the monk.
“Last night I had a dream that if I went to the outskirts of the village at dusk I would find a monk who would give me a precious stone that would make me rich forever”
The monk rummaged around in his sack, found a stone, and took it out. “ This probably the stone you are talking about” he said, as he handed it to the villager. “I found it in the forest a few days ago, you are welcome to it.”
The man took the stone and gazed at it in wonder. It was a diamond, the largest one he could ever imagine. He took it home with him. But all night he tossed around in his bed unable to sleep. Early next day he went back to the monk and said, “During the night I have done a lot of thinking. You can have the diamond back. Instead, give me the kind of wealth that makes it possible for you to give this diamond away so easily”

The richer a person’s inner life is, the simpler becomes his outer life. So also is it easier to be in the presence of God. That recognition of Gods way to heaven is called the way of Jesus. There are no other ways. It is a path of love. It is a love… pure, true, real, spiritual, made of concreteness and of the the gift of one’s life and riches that leads to heaven.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday Homily

Good Friday of the Lord's Passion (ABC)

Jesus Christ, our Savior, true God and true Man, has experienced the absolute depths of human misery.

  • When we contemplate his Passion we cannot doubt it.
  • Isaiah tells us: "He was spurned and avoided... a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom people hide their faces..."
We have all felt like that at some time in our lives, because we live in a fallen world.

  • We have all been sick, and betrayed, and hurt.
  • And we have all caused pain in others.
  • The effects of evil and sin have reached out and touched each one of us, just like ripples in the water reach to the shores when you throw a pebble into the middle of a pond. The pebble was original sin.
Jesus saved us by coming down to our level, by stepping into the middle of our pain and sorrow, Isaiah tells us this, he says: "It was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings he endured,".
He saved us

  • not by eliminating suffering,
  • but by suffering with us and for us,
  • by teaching us through his own example to trust and love God even in the midst of suffering.
Do we fully realize what this amazing truth means?

  • It means that we don't have to become perfect before we can be friends of God. It means that, in Christ, we can go right into God's presence just the way we are, with all our miseries and confusions and wounds and sins.
  • Should we think Jesus' arms are outstretched on the cross, waiting to embrace those who never sinned? Those who are already saints? No, they are there for us.
The Letter to the Hebrews understands this.

  • Listen again to the earth-shaking sentence that can free us from all fear and hesitancy in our relationship with God:
  • it says "So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help."

On this day, this sacred Good Friday, let's join our hearts to those of all Catholics throughout the world, and let's lift our eyes to this saving cross of Christ.
This cross is the "throne of grace" that God wants us to "approach confidently" so we can "receive mercy and find grace for timely help."

  • When we approach the cross and kiss it or simply touch it, let's do so not just with our feet and our hands, but with our whole selves.
  • In prayer, let's lay our own troubles at the foot of this cross, this throne.
  • Let's lay the troubles of those we love at the foot of this throne.
  • Let's lay the troubles of the world at the foot of this throne. Nothing would please him more.
He came among us and bore "our infirmities" because he wanted to be close to us.

  • He dreamed about walking by our sides, sharing our crosses, and winning our friendship.
  • Today, let's tell him, by the sincerity and confidence of our prayer, that his dream has come true.
From today until Easter all the tabernacles of the world are empty, and all the altars are bare.

  • It is a reminder of the sacrifice of our Lord, of the emptiness that would have been in each of our hearts had Jesus abandoned us in our sin.
  • But he didn't abandon us.
And so, today,  when we receive him in Holy Communion,

  • let's make our hearts into his tabernacles,
  • let's make our hearts into his altars,
  • let's make our hearts into his thrones,
so that between now and Easter he has a place to stay on earth, and we become living billboards of the truth that God wants us to come to him just as we are.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Homily for Second Sunday of Lent (C)

The natural seasons of the year give a rhythm to life. Each season provides nature with something it needs to keep growing.
The same thing happens in the Church, with liturgical seasons. In each liturgical season God sends us graces we need in order to keep growing in wisdom, holiness, and happiness.
But these graces don't benefit our souls automatically, the way sunlight benefits plants. Rather, we have to take them in on purpose.
But how? How can we bathe in the supernatural sunlight that will make us grow, make us better, make us change, during this liturgical season?
Today the Church reminds us of the most effective method we have for drinking in all the graces God wants to give us during this Lent: prayer.

  • Today's  First Reading tells us that "The Lord God took Abram outside..." and had a conversation with him. That's prayer.
  • The Psalm gives us an example of King David's prayer in the face of danger, "Your presence, O Lord, I seek. Hide not your face from me..."
  • St Paul, in the Second Reading, reminds the Christians in Philippi that while most people occupy their minds "with earthy things... Our citizenship is in heaven." Our attention is on God - that's prayer.
  • Finally, in the Gospel, Jesus leads his three closest disciples away from the hustle and bustle of life, up to the top of a high mountain, where he can be alone with them, and give them a lesson in prayer.
We have to ask ourselves: is our prayer life in good shape? Has it improved in the last year, the last ten years? If it's out of shape, we won't be able to drink in the graces God wants to give us this Lent, the ones we really need.

Prayer brings many benefits to our lives. One that is often overlooked comes across in this Gospel reading.
One of the reasons that Jesus brings Peter, James, and John up the mountain is because they need to see a glimpse of Christ's divine glory.
Just as Lent is bringing us closer to Christ's passion and death, so in St Luke's Gospel the Passion is drawing nearer. They are on the way to Jerusalem.  
  • Jesus knows that when his followers see him betrayed, scourged, and crucified, they will be shocked and disheartened. They don't know this, but he does.
  • He knows they will need something to hang onto in those dark moments, something to give them hope and encouragement. This experience on the mountaintop is exactly that.
  • It is meant to give them a deeper knowledge of Christ's greatness.
This knowledge, this experience, will in turn enable them to persevere through the hard times ahead, and to help the other disciples persevere too.
God wants to do the same with us.
Even better than a good coach, parent, or doctor, he knows what lies ahead for each one of us: the triumphs and the temptations, the success and the struggles.
  • He wants to equip us to get the most out of each of them.
  • He wants to outfit us for each stage of our life's journey.
But if we don't make room for prayer in our lives, he can't.
If we don't go up the mountain with him and give him a chance to do fill us with his grace, we won't be ready when the future comes.

All of us have to ask ourselves about our prayer lives. We need to be honest. If our prayer life hasn't grown in the last year, we need to do something about it.
God still has so much he wants to do in our lives. Improving our prayer life will give him room to work.
One way to do that is by instituting a daily quiet time.
  • We never let a day go by without taking a shower, because we know our bodies need that cleansing.
  • We never let a day go by without eating, because we know our bodies need that nourishment.
  • Many people almost never let a day go by without exercising, because they know their bodies need that stimulation.
Why not do the same thing for our souls? That's what a daily quiet time is for. It's a one-on-one appointment with the Lord, which gives him room to refresh, nourish, and exercise our soul.
It's very simple to do.
Choose a time and place in which you won't be interrupted. Then do three things:
  • First, Remember. Remind yourself that Christ is with you and wants to be with you. Think of all the blessings he has given you.
  • Second, Read. Take out a spiritual book, a Bible, or your favorite prayer book and read a paragraph or two, slowly. No rush.
  • Third, Reflect. Think about what you read. Listen to what God wants to say to you through it. Apply it to your life.
Remember, Read, Reflect.
Before you know it the fifteen minutes will be up, and you will have received a word of encouragement from God to help you live the life he wants you to.
Prayer is the secret to drinking in all the graces God has in store for us. Today, he is hoping we'll decide to become better pray-ers. Let's not disappoint him.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Quote from Pope Benedict

When asked by a journalist how the Church could be more attractive, Benedict replied: 
"I would say that a Church that seeks to be particularly attractive is already on the wrong path, because the Church does not work for her own ends, she does not work to increase numbers and thus power. The Church is at the service of another: she serves, not for herself, not to be a strong body, rather she serves to make the proclamation of Jesus Christ accessible, the great truths and great forces of love, reconciling love that appeared in this figure and that always comes from the presence of Jesus Christ."

Thursday, January 3, 2013

I was just checking how many page views and it appears that more people are reading my blog than I suspected. Thank you all for viewing. Peace and blessings in the new year to you all! :-)