Friday, December 28, 2012

After three days they found him

"After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers.” (Luke 2:46) 


This would not be the last time Mary waited three days before finding the real story about her Son.  Later in life, she would encourage his “coming out” at Cana, where He begins public ministry.  Even later, Mary and the disciples would wait another three day period for Jesus to “come out” again – this time as the Risen Lord.  Faith provides Christians with two gifts: 1) patience as we wait the three days – or however long that period in the tomb may be, and 2) spiritual insight into the new reality revealed – a clearer understanding of God’s plan for us.

So, as we contemplate the meaning of Christmas for our own lives, we take away these lessons: in the coming year, the human Jesus will show us how to be patient with the dark times of being lost.  He will also reveal to us (in His time) the Resurrection, the new life, a finding Him in a new light.  This new light often comes after a time of contemplation and patient prayer.  As “his mother kept all these things in her heart,” she waited for Jesus to advance in wisdom and favor through obedience to God’s greater plan.

May you be blessed with such Faith.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting

When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”  (Luke 1:41-43) 


These days, I get texts that jump right to the chase:  no hello, no greeting, no “how are you.”  In this fast-paced culture, we don’t take time to begin messages with “I hope you are well” or “Peace to you during these days of Christmas.”  I do have a Jesuit friend who sends emails and letters to me with two or three sentences of salutation, asking how I am and sending along his best wishes.  Some Jesuits insert the familiar “P.C.” after the Dear Pat, which means, “Pax Christi” (the peace of Christ).  But, sometimes we are too busy to honor the gift of greeting one another with good news or stated blessings and support.

In this Sunday’s Gospel, we see that Elizabeth is greatly inspired by the greeting of Mary.  Elizabeth is so happy to hear the first words of her cousin that her body responded in motion and voice.  Powerful stuff those greetings – words to acknowledge the blessed presence of your friend, the prayers and wishes for good health, the hopes for a blessed new year.  Let’s make a habit of using similar greetings and words of respect in our messaging.  

Look at the 16th chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans:  nothing but greetings.  At least twenty!  And at least six times Paul encourages believers to greet one another “with a holy kiss.”  How would I do that on line?  I would take time to write a sentence or two which conveys a blessing, a good wish, or a hope for joy.  Before jumping in with your 144 tweet characters, take a minute to type “Peace to you” or “May your week be a blessed one.”  See the power Good News has in cyberspace this season. 

Saturday, December 08, 2012

A voice of one

As it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:  A voice of one crying out in the desert:
"Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths …” (Luke 3:5,6)


Growing up in a large family (as you can see by a look at my Facebook wallpaper), I have sometimes felt like my voice got lost in the crowd.  I was passed the potatoes, not because I asked for them, but because I just happened to be next in line.  If I had a favorite TV to watch, I got to see it in large part because it was the favorite of everyone else.   

Sometimes you might feel like your voice is rather puny and your pronouncements don’t matter much.In today’s Gospel, we hear the one single voice of one obscure desert Jew:  John the Baptizer.  He had funny clothes, food, and an even funnier job.  He likely thought no one would listen.  But it didn’t matter.  Even though he was “the voice of one,” his message was heard by one, then another, and on and on.Eventually the Baptist’s cry was heard my trillions, but it started with just one sound.   

You too have a particular sound – an opinion or a bit of Good news to share.  Don’t be shy.  Advent is a time to send Christmas cards, sometimes by way of speech and a nice word to someone in need.  Let your voice join John’s this season, so as to prepare the way of the other “One” who is to come.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Be vigilant

For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth.  Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man. (Luke 21:35, 36)


Right after the Presidential election, during the first week of November, I was stunned by two shockers on the radio.  First, I started hearing Christmas songs!  Then I heard a political pundit offer names of Democrats and Republicans who might run for president in 2016.  Woah!  Slow down the clock, Father Time!

Does it bother anyone else that the month of December is loaded with “Christmas” songs, rather than Advent songs?  Granted, we don’t have many of the latter, but today’s Gospel warns us to “Stay Awake” and appreciate the present season of Advent BEFORE we click into the future.  Being vigilant at all times means to take Advent solemnly.  For example: savor, observe, wait, stop, slow down, look up, pray, and beg the Lord deliverance from the hustle and bustle of December in America.  “Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man."

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Know that he is near

"Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates.” (Mark 13:28,29)


Recently one of my Facebook friends posted the following line on his page:  I wonder how I will die...anyone else ever think about that?”

On first face, you might think such a posting is a morbid thought, or that no one else ever thinks about the “end times.”  But I think everybody wonders about the future, confronted as we are by the cold and sorrowful circumstances around us.  Sometimes too those thoughts lead to fear and obsessive meanderings.  We fear we might be cast away and sent far from God and loved ones. Left out in the cold.

But the Lord is not one to lead us to despair about the future:  whether it be the fate of the whole world, or our own days ahead.  No, the words of Jesus to His disciples are those of Courage.  The apocalyptic style of writing was used to encourage and strengthen people in times of questioning and persecution. 

My Facebook friend wonders a common question:  what does the future hold for me?  Let us find hope in the words of Jesus who tells us God will be near to us, and he will gather us to Himself from all the various winds and motions of chaos.  As we anticipate the cold and chilly, dark storms of winter, “know that summer is near.”  In the same way, “know that he is near, at the gates.”  Keep in mind the open pasture where “You will show me the path to life, fullness of joy in your presence.” (Ps 16)

Friday, November 02, 2012

Love your neighbor

To love God with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices. Mark 12:33


Why do we make the sign of the Cross?  Since we were little, Catholics have been taught one of the most basic prayers – one with no words really:  the Sign of the Cross.  We were taught to use the fingers of the right hand to touch the forehead, the chest, and then both shoulders (left to right), signing our whole bodies with the gesture of the Cross.  One could use words or not, but you may wonder why we do this?

In today’s Gospel we have an inspiring answer.  Jesus reminds us of the Greatest commandment, the Shema, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.  As we make the Sign of the Cross, we dedicate our bodies on all four of those points:  touching the forehead is to love with all our mind, the chest directs us to love with heart and soul, and our shoulders bear the strength of love, especially when it requires heavy lifting.

We do not sign ourselves for our own good, so that we feel holier.  But we do so for the sake of others:  i.e. our neighbor.  The Sign of the Cross is a preparation of our bodies to meet the Lord in the stranger and to respond with mind, soul, and strength.  It is a way of physical conditioning whereby we donate our whole selves to our neighbor. 

Go ahead.  Make the Sign on yourself and follow the words of Christ:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Take Courage

So they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you."  He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.  Mark 10:49,50 


Why did Bartimeus get up and come to Jesus?  Not because he saw Jesus; he was blind.  Not because he “heard” Jesus calling him.  Jesus didn’t actually call the blind man but asked the others to do so.  In fact, the blind man didn’t even know Jesus was passing by until he heard about it through others.  So, what would get Bartimeus up so quickly?  Courage!

From the Latin root “cor” meaning heart, courage is that heartfelt desire that gets you up in the morning, moves you to love beyond all reason, and keeps you going despite temptation and suffering.  It is ultimately the heart’s desire for God.

As far as getting out of bed on Sunday morning for Church, a lot of us need real Courage to go to Mass even though we don’t SEE God, and we never really HEARD Jesus call us. But once we get there, we somehow begin to move beyond our own blindness.  On the urgency of others who work on His behalf, we too come to Jesus out of Courage because we trust once we make one step closer, he will ask us too what it is He can do for us.

Given the chance to be so close to Him, how would you answer Jesus’ question:  “What do you want me to do for you?”

Saturday, October 20, 2012

To serve and to give his life

Jesus said to the Twelve, “Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:44,45         


As I left the supermarket last week, a man approached me in the parking lot with the words, “Get me a hot dog? Something for lunch?”  I smiled and walked past – into my nice car and onward to my comfy home where I had plenty of food and lots of comfort.  I share this as a confession.  After four days I am still haunted by my selfish response and my refusal to put into action the words of my Leader, “to serve and to give your life.”

I didn’t give my life, or my time, or my food, or my attention.  I forgot the words of the Word.

Servant leadership is really hard because it surprises you and comes in the form of simple encounters with the poor Christ.  The problem is … we don’t recognize the poor Christ in those we meet during our day.  But that is where He resides and meets us.  May we take to heart the words of Jesus as He instructs his first Apostles:  whoever wishes to be great will be a servant.  Lord, help me to take on the life of a servant, no matter the cost.