Sin is ugly, God is forgiving: Homily for Thursday, December 14, 2017

Readings for Today

The words in the readings today are not pretty.  O worm Jacob.  O maggot Israel.  We are reminded in very stark terms that sin is pretty ugly.  There can be a tendency today to minimize sin. We can think that we are really not all that bad.  We can dismiss how even a little sin in our life can lead to more.  But today’s readings are not about the ugliness of sin alone.  They are also about the beauty of God’s forgiveness.

When we turn our lives over to God, it is then that we learn just how powerful and beautiful his love is. As ugly as is sin, God’s love is beautiful.  As powerful as sin can seem, God is more powerful. The saint we celebrate today, Saint John of the Cross, understood both the ugliness of sin and the power of God.  Even when he did not feel God’s presence, he was attentive to what God could do for him.  He believed Saint Paul, where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.

Love Justice: Homily for Monday, November 13, 2017

Readings for Today

Do you love justice? Do you seek God’s way? Are you willing to sacrifice for what is right? Can you live according to the wisdom of God? Today’s readings remind us of the stark choice between God’s love, God’s justice, and the shortcuts we sometimes wish to take. Following God can be hard. We can be tempted to turn away from God.

But if we can discover even a little of how much God loves us, we could see that whatever appearance of struggle is worth it. All this week we shall see just how much it is God wants us to share in his love and his life.  God gives us the grace; God shows us the beauty.  Seek the grace to say yes to God.

Immaculate Conception: Will you help me? It is going to be hard. (12-08-16)

Will you help me? How often have you heard this question? Parents certainly have.  I have.  The most difficult part is when the help needed is hard.  Who likes to help a friend move?  How about spending time with a person who makes us uncomfortable? These situations, and others like them, are hard.  It is not always easy to say yes to helping.

What is worse, sometimes we make excuses to avoid helping.  I’m busy.  I have to do this very important thing, like watching television.  I have to lie, so that I do not have to help.  We celebrate today two things. First, we celebrate the great gift of God to Mary to spare her from Original Sin.  Second, we celebrate her “yes” to following God, especially when it is hard.  Mary was aware of God’s grace.  Mary relied upon it.  And she also was aware of the people that God placed into her life.  Elizabeth.  And Joseph.

So, today, as every day, God gives you grace.  And today, as every day, God seeks your help.  What will you say?  Will you help God?

Readings for Today

Homily for Vigil Mass of Saint John the Baptist, June 23, 2014

Readings for Today

Just how well does God know us?  This evening’s first reading reminds us that God’s knowledge and love of us is long and deep.  “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.”  While these words are addressed to Jeremiah specifically, we can also see them as an important reality in our own lives.  For just as Jeremiah was loved by God from all eternity, so too are we.

Not only that, but today’s first reading reminds us as well, not only does God give us the mission unique to us, but provides us with the grace to be successful in its completion.  It is God who sends.  It is God who gives the task. It is God who commands. It is God who gives us what we need.  “See, I place my words in your mouth!

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Thoughts for Sunday, December 1, 2013

Readings for Today

Probably everyone has had the experience of going to the eye doctor.  When we go, we look at charts, get checked for Glaucoma, and undergo a variety of tests to make sure our vision is clear.  For years, in my eye exams, I heard the eye doctor say, “Well, next year we will probably need to talk about reading glasses.”  And the next year it turned out my eyes were fine.  But, eventually, age caught up with me and his words were true.  I needed them.

Using reading glasses, my eyes are now more effective, and I can read things more easily.  My vision has become more in focus.  At the beginning of this Church year, we are ready for a “spiritual eye exam”, so that we may discover how well we view the world with the eyes of faith.  Are we able to see the presence of Jesus in our day to day lives, and the abundant grace that is poured out generously for us.

The first reading from Isaiah uses an image of climbing a mountain that will have all types of amazing things available for us.  If you have ever had the experience of being on a mountain top, you know that it provides a distinct view of the earth, one that is not possible if we are looking from somewhere else.  By reminding us of the mountain top that we are called to imagine at the end of time, we are reminded that we have a God of excessive love.  The images of food and drink imply quite the feast.

In the gospel, Jesus describes people in previous ages that did not see too well.  He reflects upon the time of Noah, and how people went on with their lives oblivious to the signs that things were changing.  To be sure, picturing Noah building an ark on dry land must have captured the attention of many that Noah was “not all there”, for people of faith they saw in his work the image of salvation.

St. Paul tells us “our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed”.  How is that?  Does Jesus save us more over time?  No, it is the case that we are called to see more clearly the good news of the grace that is super abundant in our lives.  To be sure, Advent celebrates the coming of Jesus in a variety of ways.  First, we are invited to consider the historical birth of Jesus, and we look to prepare for that celebration.  Second, we celebrate the anticipation of Jesus at the end of time.  But we also acknowledge a third way in which Jesus comes into our world, that is, the way in which Jesus come into our lives in a personal way.

Indeed St. Paul invites us to recognize that we need to do certain things to become more aware of God’s grace.  “Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy.”  Putting on the deeds of daylight also implies the ways in which we put ourselves in a place to receive God’s grace.

Some of us may remember praying in an Act of Contrition avoiding the near occasion of grace.  Advent calls us to place ourselves in the occasion of grace, to find those ways when the spirit of God becomes more deeply evident in the ways we live our lives.  Placing ourselves in the occasion of grace is not easy.  Rather, it becomes a challenge, especially in a culture that sees the days and weeks before Christmas as simply preparation for consumerism to take greater root in our lives.

Perhaps this Advent you might consider the occasions of grace that are available to you.  You might choose to read the Bible a bit more, or go to daily Mass, or seek out a way to do a good deed for another.  The way in which we seek out the occasion of grace is to avail ourselves of the counter-cultural voice of Advent that encourages us into the stillness and the silence.

In his Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis encourages us to a personal encounter with Jesus.  To use an analogy, the personal encounter with Jesus is like the improved eyesight we get with glasses.  When we encounter Jesus personally, in the sacraments, or in prayer, or in others, this personal encounter changes us, and our lives fall into place.

Homily for Monday, December 24, 2012

Readings for Today

Have you ever had the experience were you were convinced your life was moving in a particular direction, only to discover that you should be headed was in the opposite direction? I have. More than one time in my life the next chapter I envisioned for myself, was not exactly what occurred. Such is the case in today’s first reading. It seems logical, wise and perhaps even generous that David seeks to build the temple to house the Ark of the Covenant. And originally the prophet, Nathan, seems to extend his blessing to David’s endeavor. But they got it wrong.

Perhaps part of the challenge concerns the reality we all too often face in our own lives. It certainly can be a temptation in ministry. We think we are building for God some great house. We put our effort, our mind, and our energy, into making something where we believe God will dwell. Truth is, over and over again, we are reminded that it is not us were called to build something for God, but rather is God who constantly build something in us.

David is not much different than most powerful leaders. In his youth, and at various times during his reign, he was an agent for good, bringing unity and peace, being attentive to the presence of God in his life and the lives of the subjects. But David had his flaws. One might argue that flaws are inevitable when success comes too easily. Perhaps this was the challenge for David. He not only had sex with a woman who was not his wife, he arranged to have her husband killed in battle.

Ultimately, David’s greatness does not come from what he did, but what he recognized. While David had many successes, his ultimate salvation was the recognition but so much had depended on God. When David saw the solution on his own terms, usually resulted in suffering, not only for David, but perhaps more importantly for others.

The great lesson for us on this Eve of Christmas is to recognize that we do not build God a house. It is to recognize the task of our lives is to cooperate with God’s grace. It is not to suggest that we do not have a role in the acceptance of our vocation. Of course we do. God has created us as free human beings. But the lesson is clear. We are called to recognize that in all things God is primary. God creates us. God calls us. God gives us the grace that leads us to him.

First Sunday of Advent December 2, 2012

Today’s Readings

It is not unusual that every age believes it is facing the worst of times. When we think back to the days of Socrates, he complained about the youth of his day, how they didn’t show respect, and seem to be directionless. Picking up the newspaper, or watching television, we too seek challenging events that cause us to question our faith, and whether or not God is truly present in our world. In fact, in the face of such difficulties and horrible events, if me difficult for a believer to remain optimistic in God’s life-giving power.

It should not surprise us then, that Jesus himself refers to difficult events when speaking to his disciples. In describing his ultimate second coming, Jesus refers to a world with numerous signs causing such fear among the people that they will die of fright. It is not difficult to imagine such situations. We can consider a person the recent diagnosis of cancer perhaps experiencing such fear. Or when we consider areas of violence like serious, or Iraq, or Afghanistan, we could certainly understand if people experienced fear in such a measure that they could die of fright. Each of us has probably had an experience where we have found ourselves so afraid that we run the risk of getting into despair.

It might seem odd then, that we begin the liturgical year with such an ominous reflection. But we begin by being reminded of two significant purposes of the celebration of Advent. First, in these days, we prepare ourselves for the ultimate coming of Christ at the end of the world. Jesus reminds us, that while such a day may be a source of fear for the unbeliever, for those of us who believe the second coming of Jesus is our entry into glory. Perhaps more specifically, the second coming is an invitation for us to be open to the coming of Christ in our daily life. Just as people without hope or without faith might get into the ultimate despair that becomes present in a world filled with suffering, so too can we. part of this reflecting on the end of the world, should cause us to seek The recognition that Jesus continues to commit to our lives each and every day. The second purpose of Advent, which we begin to focus on in a significant way after December 17, is the commemoration of the incarnation of Christ.

The Incarnation reminds us of the source of our hope, in the first reading spelled out this promise. Hopefully each one of us in the midst of our faith and in the midst of our lives has had the experience of the support provided by loving and caring community of faith. While it is never easy to mourn the loss of a loved one in death, hopefully we experience in the care and concern of others a tangible experience of God’s love for each one of us. As people made in the image and likeness of God, we are challenged to be the signs of God’s presence in the world. While we don’t make God present, after all God is infinite, we do provide a witness that we believe that in the power of God’s love to transform the world.

Jesus reminds us the season of Advent is a time for us to be awake and vigilant, so that we do not miss the presence of God all around us. St. Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians challenges us to make the love of God about allowing people to be more disposed to seeing God’s love in their own lives, by our witness. Perhaps most importantly, first reading reminds us that we have a God who is faithful in keeping promises. This promise of God’s love, however, is so important that we call it to mind each year less difficult events of our lives cause us to forget.

When we gather here each Sunday, it is a concrete reminder to one another about the power of God’s love. Over the course of this is liturgical year of grace, there will be times when we will, as powerful witnesses, be people convinced the eternal life God promises to each one of us. On other days, we might wonder whether or not God is present, and so we come to this church community seeking to be strengthened by the actions of God and the witness of one another, who witness to us the power of God’s faith.  and so we begin this year recognizing that we are called both to give the witness of faith and to receive the witness of faith.

More than anything else, this first Sunday of Advent reminds us of two different types of time. God makes both holy. In fact the Greeks had two words for our English word of time. But most of us think about when we hear the word time is signified by the Greek word chronos.  It is the type of time that is marked by watches and calendars.the Greeks understood that not all time to me signified in this way. But there are other moments in our lives that call for different accounting of time. We get a small glimpse of this when we say I cannot believe how fast time went by, as when a parent reflects on how quickly 18 years went by on the occasion of a high school graduation. God too, has a concept of time like this. It is best described as those times when God is ready, signified by the Greek word kairos.

The invitation of this first Sunday of Advent is for each one of us to seek the vigilance and awareness that enables us to experience most fully the presence of God in these moments of readiness. We pray this Sunday but our love may increase just as our awareness of God’s presence become stronger.