At Mass this weekend, we are offering the special prayers which come from the Mass for Various Occasions: "For Giving Thanks to God for the Gift of Human Life" as directed by Cardinal Seán. On our parish website there will be the text of his special homily for this Mass for you to read if you did not hear or see it on all the various social platforms and media outlets. Although this effort is being expended at the time of the March for Life in Washington, we need to remember that the theme of the opening prayer of this Mass reminds us "that we, whom you have made stewards of creation, may remain faithful in this trust and constant in safeguarding the dignity of every human life."READ MORE
We may not realize it, but there is often a lot of formal ritual in our lives. We celebrate the dedication of a new building with a formal event. When someone new moves to our neighborhood, we often bring over a dinner to say welcome. When we visit a newborn at home, we bring a special gift to note the new beginning of life. We all know that a new beginning means a lot; it is for most of us a wonderful sign of hope. Indeed we have heard the saying that “hope springs eternal” and we believe this to be true. Oftentimes the past is clouded and difficult, but we still believe that the future is full of hope and light. In our scripture today, that beautiful newborn baby of Bethlehem is now shown to us as God’s most Chosen: God’s Son.
Our reading from the book of Isaiah was actually written by a second writer who was then named Isaiah. He spoke when the Jews had returned from Babylon and the people were in disarray. They had a lot to do; they had to feed themselves, provide shelter, and also start to rebuild a temple for worship. Their future was unsecured and they were afraid and depressed. They were at an end and also at a new beginning. They were seeking to rebuild Israel, but Isaiah told them the Lord God had a greater plan for them. Indeed Israel as a country and people was to be much more than a rebuilt nation: it was to be a light for the entire world. Isaiah tells the people that through this new Israel, God’s salvation would reach to the ends of the earth. This message became the vision of the people, and it was certainly a bigger vision than they had made for themselves.READ MORE
In this week’s gospel passage it is quite important to grasp the drama of this scene of the Baptism of the Lord Jesus. We have listened to and enjoyed the wonderful stories of the travel of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, the actual Birth of Jesus in the stable, the arrival of shepherds, and then finally the arrival of mysterious kings, the Magi, from the East. Our hearts have been warmed by the beauty of this magnificent story of the Lord’s Birth. And now we hear the story of the adult Jesus and the beginnings of his public ministry of preaching and healing and calling all to the Kingdom of God. The “quiet” of the Christmas story and the young life of Jesus have now ended; the second “epiphany” of Jesus now takes place as he walks with dignity and strength to the banks of the Jordan River. The same as Christmas night, the heavens open and a servant and beloved Son is again given to us.
When Isaiah prophesized, this beloved servant was without a name. Bear in mind, though, that the chosen and beloved one had a mission to act on our behalf, freeing us from blindness and all the various prisons we build for ourselves. This beloved servant will destroy the darkness we create. His compassion will be beyond limitless. That is what the great prophet Isaiah tells us. His graced prophecy directs us to the banks of the Jordan River where we identify the beloved servant at the beginning of his mission.READ MORE
On this great feast day and Sunday we gather to celebrate the true love and mercy of our God. We have just celebrated a season and time of gift giving to family and friends. Today in contrast we are given a great gift from our God. This Feast of Little Christmas, often called the Epiphany, or the Feast of the Three Kings, is a time when we are gifted. Much like the three kings we must be open to going and getting the gift, even if it causes inconvenience or effort and work.
Indeed does not Isaiah tell us how great is the gift in the symbolism of Jerusalem and the return of the Jews from Exile in Babylon. Jerusalem is luminescent with great and splendid light. Jerusalem is irresistibly drawing the people home even if they are very far off in a distant land. Everyone wants to come, from mothers to king; it does not matter your station or health.
The distant places which Isaiah names in our first passage are the various places to which Ismael’s and Esau’s progeny had migrated long ago. These fancy names create a mysterious and exotic environment for us today as these very rich and royal people came with gifts of gold and frankincense.READ MORE
The word and concept of family is used so very often in speeches. We talk of religious families, the family of nations, the Christian family, and also the parish family. We launch this word and concept as pertaining to the ideal, whereas we know in life that no family is ideally formed or lived. Just think of the Holy Family of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. Mary is pregnant before marriage and the father is not Joseph. We realize that this is part of the sacred mystery of the Incarnation which brings about our salvation, but it is not the “ideal” family that people talk so much about. Family is about a loving bond and commitment to nurture and care for its members. When we remember the meaning and values needed in a family, we can let go of some of the outrageous, silly and rigid demands and interpretations which people have. Our readings this weekend invite us into God’s Revealed Word to remember what matters.
Our first reading is from the Book of Sirach which encourages being respectful to parents. Our author is offering the wisdom thoughts of a grandfather to his grandson. Although manners are included in the Book, Sirach is really about passing on to the future generation values which manifest concern, self-giving, sincerity, responsibility, and generosity. These are habits or virtues of being a good person; these virtues keep anyone from being a social phony or deceptive person. Sirach reminds everyone that these virtues need to be in practice each and every day.READ MORE
Christmas is shortly upon us. In light of the Gospel reading, perhaps we can use the quiet Saint Joseph as a model for us in these last few days. He was open to God’s will no matter what, and he steadily tried to live the Word of God in his life in the good times, and the bad times, and most especially in the confusing times.
Note how our Old Testament reading is deliberately selected because of its direct connection to the Gospel. The words of the prophet Isaiah used most frequently in the readings during Advent are linked to Matthew’s story of the vision of Joseph, which is brief and quiet in contrast to the drama and noise we read about in Isaiah. King Ahaz was distraught that the massive Assyrian army was lining up on the border land of Judah. Ahaz was desperate for help and grasped at anything and anyone to aid him to win. Ahaz even asked the prophet Isaiah for advice and help. Isaiah told the king that his role as Judah’s king was not to find strength in arms or in worldly alliances, but in the ancient and religious covenant with God. Ahaz was a descendant of the great king David and needed to remember his inheritance. Yet, Ahaz did not want to follow through as he should. He wanted to be mad and blame others. Isaiah reminds him of the sign and promise we hear in today’s Gospel: “the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel.”READ MORE
Lessons and Carols: You and your family and also friends are invited to attend the special Service prepared by our dedicated Choir and Director called “Lessons and Carols.” It is this afternoon, Sunday, December 15 at 3 PM in the main Church. Pause a brief while and come and be uplifted and prepared for the coming days before Christmas. People often say they are too busy with too much at Christmas, so take a break for less than one hour and come and hear the beautiful music of Christmas as prepared by our great Choir and talented Music Director Terry Kerr. It consists of scripture passages and also spiritual and powerful Christmas music. PastoralREAD MORE
To some practical extent, the future is now. We need to realize that our present actions and attitudes create our future. We cannot know the future as such, but we need to think about it. Life will happen whether we think about it or not, but knowing what matters for the future is most important. Our central character this weekend in the Gospel is John the Baptist who is most willing to shine a light on the future. He announces a message of repentance to prepare for the future. Indeed people come in hordes to hear him and respond. They step forward and receive a baptism of repentance. Note, however, in this Gospel passage that John’s blunt judgment of the Pharisees and Sadducees who are in this mass of humanity brings us up a little short. Matthew, the Gospel writer, was always hard on the religious leaders of Israel. His Gospel holds them responsible for failing to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. He evens holds them to a greater charge of failing to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah. Thus for this great reason he has John sharply criticize them to one and all. John taunts them by saying they can take no pride in their heritage as sons of Abraham.READ MORE
Situational awareness and mindfulness are two concepts that are often talked about today, and people encourage us to practice these mind issues in our daily lives. I also like the saying about wherever we find ourselves, there we are. In this coming month we are rolling up to Christmas. Most of us are busy thinking a lot about this event, which is four weeks from now. We do not really think about now, today, this moment. This First Sunday of Advent, the scripture asks us to be where we are in this moment, this day as we light a single bright candle in the Advent wreath to break up the darkness. We are really being asked to consider God’s salvation, which dawns on us right here where we are.
The prophet Isaiah offers us in the first reading, in very poetic and elegant words, the first image of a messianic time. Know also that vision is echoed in the angelic greetings of the Incarnation: “Peace on earth to those on whom God’s favor rests.” Isaiah’s vision has all nations streaming up the high mountain with all the people coming with their work tools. His vision has the very tools of war transformed and thus there will be no more war. For the great the messianic time will be a time of peace and justice among all nations.READ MORE
When driving around, I observed that some stores, especially mall areas, are putting up their outdoor Christmas decorations. I also saw one house in a nearby town that also is undergoing extensive outdoor decoration. This house is always a magnificent display of Christmas light and joy. I look forward to seeing it in mid-December. I also noticed that advertisements are now stepping up to a higher level of announcing gifts for Christmas. The subtlety which is used in the Summer and Fall about Christmas has been replaced with much bolder announcements. This start up and rev up to Christmas is a sign to me that our Church year is at a near end. Indeed this Sunday is the last Sunday of our Church year. Next Sunday we also start our roll up to Christmas with the First Sunday in Advent. Our scripture at Mass will start to hint about the meaning of the Birth of Jesus Christ, often called the Incarnation. Much like society, we start to dress our church and our life with the possible meaning of Christmas for us. This Sunday, however, the last Sunday of our Church Year, is the great and grand Feast of Our Lord Jesus Chris, King of the Universe; often called simply the Feast of Christ our King. Although our popular culture is fascinated by the daily lives of the Royal Windsors today in Great Britain, we really do not understand what a king or royalty is. We are blessed to live in a democratic republic with everyone as equals. Our faith tradition says that we all are children of God and made royal by our baptism. Our faith tradition tells us that there is no exclusive set of “better people” born by family blood. Indeed, for many of us royalty is an outdated notion. Thus, our Celebration of Christ as our King takes only the good symbols and elements of royalty and kingship. We must leave aside the lesser and darker history of royals and kingship.READ MORE
We are coming close to the very end of the Church year; it is next Sunday that we celebrate the Feast of the Lord Jesus, King of the Universe. This large and loud outpouring of praise and glory to our Savior is a fitting end to the liturgical year of our church. We conclude the telling of the story of Jesus Christ for this past year and we get set this coming week to begin telling his and our story again the following Sunday, the First Sunday in Advent. We must remember that, although we do not always recognize it, each one of us is a different person from who we were 52 weeks ago. When we end the story of Jesus this year, it is different for us from one year ago. When we start the story again, we will and should hear it differently from how we did one year ago. Sickness, health, graduation, success, failure, struggle, new relationships, broken relationships and all sorts of events and happenings have been in our lives. All of these change us in obvious and perhaps subtle ways. Thus, each year when we listen to the Gospel story of Jesus, we should hear it differently. But our greater task now is to ask about the Gospel of this weekend and its possible meaning for us.READ MORE
It is common throughout human culture that if you believe there is an afterlife it is often viewed as the fulfillment of the privations and difficulties of this life. Heaven is often seen as a feast of unlimited food and drink; for others, heaven is a warm and safe place free of violence. What about us? We who are primarily overfed, warm and safe people, how do we envision heaven? As our culture often fulfills every comfort and desire that we have, the idea of an afterlife has diminished. Indeed belief in the reality of God has also declined greatly. The “nones” of today are really saying that they believe only in this life, and in fact just in themselves and their singular life. In many ways, the new “temple or church” is the fitness center or gym. In many ways, we have raised our children to come to this belief of themselves as the ultimate focus and end of their lives. Popular culture has made heaven to appear to be a cluster of stained glass “angels” which we hang in front of our windows to capture the sun and make the angels sparkle. What is guiding truth for believers in the Roman Catholic Way of Life is that we do not truly know what heaven is, but by our faith we know that it is. Today’s scripture helps us to deal with the troubling question of eternal life and heaven, which are for some Catholics a difficult question and for other Catholics a clear matter of faith.READ MORE
As we remember, in “Ordinary Time” the Sunday scripture is to help us to focus on the meaning of our lives and how we follow in various ways the Catholic Way of Life. The scripture through its narrative and symbols offers to us many, many possibilities of insight and understanding. Some of these are welcome, and some are not. Our lives today do not include much time for reflection and insight. The time at Mass and the reading of sacred scripture can help us discover and discern ways to make our lives deep and fuller.
It is important to remember that the Book of Wisdom was composed by Jews who were assimilated into the Greek culture of that time and were living in Alexandria, Egypt. Because this book was originally composed in Greek, it was never allowed into the official Canon of Hebrew Sacred Scripture. From sociological history, it is very clear that Alexandria was one of the most important centers of culture and learning in the eastern Mediterranean area. The many Jews who lived in this vibrant city wanted and enjoyed living and relating to people who were very open and also looked for change as a way of life. Thus this book of bible responded to the desires of the people for change, but also gave insights and explanations of the old ways of Judaism.READ MORE