Fully Divine and Fully Human: Homily for Thursday, December 7, 2017

Readings for Today

Today is the feast of Saint Ambrose.  We might not know much about Saint Ambrose, but he is a very important saint for us.  He was one of the first four doctors of the Church. Saint Ambrose was a politician, who unlike today, was so well-loved he was named bishop by pubic acclaim. Perhaps most importantly, Saint Ambrose fought ceaselessly against a heresy that denied the divinity of Christ in a way which made Christ equal with the Father and the Spirit.

During Advent this matters, because it is not just because Jesus was a nice person worthy to imitate that we celebrate. Rather, we celebrate the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity who takes on flesh to become fully human.  Three persons in one God. So that the incarnation is not just one birth among many, it is THE birth that is connected to our salvation. We seek the promises of God because God has become one of us, and has become savior to a people that do not deserve or earn salvation.

Advent and Christmas Resources to help celebrate the season

With Advent Beginning on the evening of December 2, there can be the feeling that we want to do something to grow spiritually, but we just do not know what. We think of giving things up for Lent, or doing something extra, but the hectic time of year can cause us to pass Advent by for other things.

But Advent is a time of spiritual growth too. We are preparing to celebrate that God became human.  The second person of the Blessed Trinity, has become on of us.  And, Jesus did this so that we could be saved! What are you going to do to open yourself to new spiritual growth? How are you going to meet Jesus this Advent season? Below are some suggestions to help out.

From the US Bishops

Beginning the Church’s liturgical year, Advent (from, “ad-venire” in Latin or “to come to”) is the season encompassing the four Sundays (and weekdays) leading up to the celebration of Christmas.

The Advent season is a time of preparation that directs our hearts and minds to Christ’s second coming at the end of time and also to the anniversary of the Lord’s birth on Christmas. The final days of Advent, from December 17 to December 24, focus particularly on our preparation for the celebrations of the Nativity of our Lord (Christmas).

Advent devotions including the Advent wreath, remind us of the meaning of the season. Our Advent calendar above can help you fully enter in to the season with daily activity and prayer suggestions to prepare you spiritually for the birth of Jesus Christ.  More Advent resources are listed below.

About Advent Wreaths

Busted Halo

 

Franciscan Media

Dynamic Catholic

Word On Fire

 

 

Homily for Sunday, January 11, 2015

Readings for Today

Christmas. Epiphany. Baptism of the Lord.  There can be a temptation to focus only on our own baptisms on this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. While not trying to minimize the great day that was our own baptism, today is really another day that is about knowing who Jesus is. It is a Christological day today, as we learn again about the identity of Jesus.

Perhaps it is for this reason that the Baptism of the Lord is considered part of the Christmas season. We hear today, just as the angels announced at Christmas, and the magi proclaimed for the Epiphany, that Jesus is Lord. Today we do not know if anyone other than Jesus heard this, but we do know that the evangelist recorded it for us. And as such, we are privy to the words of the Spirit.

“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” The Son of God. Jesus is identified clearly for who He is. Not only is Jesus human, once again we are reminded that God has become human, that the Incarnation is true and real. But perhaps most important to us is exactly what we learn about Jesus that is not mentioned here.

But let us begin by what we do get today. The first reading from Isaiah certainly reinforces the Messianic overtones. This passage from Isaiah, together with those in chapters 49, 50 and 52 are known as “servant” passages, which the early Church equated with the Christ. These passages help us to understand what it will mean to be the Messiah. It will help us to see what we should expect from the Messiah. It is hear the identity of Jesus is foreshadowed. And in the gospel it is made clear.

When we think of the reading choices today, what we see is the type of relationships the Messiah desires. We do not hear of a vengeful God, but rather one who is that gentle one who works for justice, who invites the thirsty to quench their thirst, who asks all to recognize that what he offers is far more than can be found anywhere else. It is a servant who teaches us about a loving God whose love is far more than we can imagine.

But it is also about what we do not hear about today, namely that immediately after today’s gospel, Jesus is led by the Spirit into the desert. Think about this for a moment. Jesus is led, not of his own accord, but by the Spirit into the desert. I am reminded here that it was Mary who pondered these things in her heart. In other words, to comprehend the actions of the Spirit, it is necessary to reflect in the desert. Jesus is driven by the Spirit, and in the action of the Spirit we too learn what it is we must do.

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Whenever God acts in his life in miraculous ways, it is Jesus who retreats to that quiet place. He did not forget today’s lesson given by the Spirit. And neither should we. Just as Jesus is led, driven, into this deep relationship with the Spirit, so too are we. We must allow ourselves to be led, to be driven, to that silent place where we not only encounter God, but we are able to affirm what we experience.

What is it that we are called to affirm? First, we are called to be thankful. We are called to develop that eucharistic spirit that is indeed the call to thanksgiving for all that God has done. Second, we are reminded that silence is indeed where our faith is strengthened, for it is in silence that the distractions are removed so that we can focus more clearly on God in our lives. Thirdly, when we are open to the silent reflection where the Spirit leads us, we are able to see not only those times when we cooperated with the grace of God, but also those times when we too must repent for the sins we have committed, so that our relationship with God leads us to become more fully the person we have been created to be.

In a way, we are called, by the baptism we have received, to recognize our own relationship with the Christ. We are called to join ourselves to a community of people who seek Jesus, and believe in him so that they can follow him. It is the grace of God that is made real through others that our Church, our parishes, our local church, calls us to experience. Every time someone is baptized, we hear again the affirmation of the Spirit given to Jesus, that we too are in a profound relationship with God that leads us more fully to the person we were created to be because of the love of God.

Homily for Sunday, January 4, 2015

Readings for Today

I love the nighttime. I am most awake at night. Just as some people like the morning because there are few interruptions, I like the nighttime for the same reason. There is a quietness for me to night. There is a feeling that nighttime causes a cocoon of comfort. At the same time, I like a lot of light. When things shine clearly, all is right with the night.

Isn’t that the way life is too? The night of our lives, those events that are sad, or evil, or challenging, are clearly seen for what they are with light. That is also the central message of the Feast of the Ephiphany, which  we celebrate today. When it comes to God, His presence is seen clearly. The radiance is overwhelming when we gaze into the things that God can do. What types of things describe what God does?

One traditional way we use to describe the things of God is the word transcendental. Traditionally these are seen as the One, the Good, and the True. Sometimes Beauty is added. Each of these realities is clear. Think of a family that is united. There is clearly something wonderful about a family that is close, loving and kind. There is something to true unity, as occurs in the vocation of marriage. When things are one, there is a reality the we know instinctively is good.

Similarly, things that are good, are those things that are good not only for a moment, or in a small way, but are eternal and large. I think of couples I know whose marriage reflects something really good. They are an obvious example of how marriage can lead to holiness. How about those friends we know we can always count on? How about when we encounter a real act of generosity? How about those times when someone appears to go above and beyond the call of duty? These things are really and obviously good. No one needs to tell us something is good. It is obvious.

Increasingly it seems to me that the true is becoming a scarce value. We know there are those politicians that will say anything to get elected. We all have experiences of being lied to by another. We know the pain of a lie. We know the pain of being taken, when we are promised something that we do not receive. But when we experience deeply the True, is is clearly wonderful.

These transcendentals are of God. God is One, True, Good. And when we see God, when we experience God, we have no doubt it is God. And that is what we celebrate today. God is clearly manifest for the world to see. And it is unbelievably wonderful. Like those who came from afar to see Jesus, we cannot help but be moved to be generous. Just as they did, we are moved to bring gifts. In the presence of God we cannot help but be loving.

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Homily for Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Readings for Today

I was in high school when Al Michaels asked his famous question when the United States Olympic Hockey team beat the Russians in the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics. In an unbelievable voice, he asked, “Do you believe in miracles?” The win was something else. I remember being quite excited. The Cold War was still in full force, as shortly after these Olympics the United States would boycott the Summer Olympics in the Soviet Union due to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. And so an Olympic victory over a highly touted Soviet Olympic hockey team was something indeed. But a miracle?

Probably not. Though the term is used a lot to discuss unexpected results, such as the recovery of someone quite sick, or even an Olympic hockey game, the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team victory over the Soviets, as unexpected as it was, would not fit the definition. The US Olympic team was good. Of the 20 players on the team, 13 went on to play in the National Hockey League. No, for the Church to consider something a true miracle, then it needs to be inexplicable by natural events.

What do I mean? Well, take the case of Saint André Bessette, the Holy Cross brother who became famous because of his prayers on behalf of the sick. Two miracles are required. The first was the immediate healing of Giuseppe Carlo Audino, a man who had terminal cancer, given a very short time to live in 1958, who became immediately free from cancer after seeking Brother André’s intercession. After rigorous study, it was determined there could be no natural explanation for the healing.

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Homily for Sunday, August 24, 2014

Readings for Today

In theological studies, the issue of the person of Jesus has gathered a lot of attention.  The name of studying what it means to be the Christ is called Christology.  From the earliest days of the Church, the question of what it means to be the Christ, and who the person of Jesus is, and how the divinity and humanity interact in the one person of Jesus has been a question gathering a lot of debate.  And understandably, when trying to understand the Incarnation, it is understandable this type of study is difficult indeed.

Most of the time, either the humanity or divinity of Jesus gets too much emphasis.  We can try to make Jesus out to be basically a slightly better version of a human being, or, we can try to make Jesus so divine as to eliminate his being human in any meaningful way.  How is it then, that we seek to understand Jesus, and how would we answer the question Jesus poses to the disciples today?  Who do we say that Jesus is?

The answer to this question is not at all easy.  The long list of wrong answers provides proof.  It is very difficult to understand how divine and human natures can co-exist in one person.  There were those who said that the humanity of Jesus was a façade, or that Jesus only appeared to be human.  Some who believe this describe Jesus as really laughing above the cross during the crucifixion since he was not really on the cross.  Others saw Jesus as a human who was “adopted” by God as his son, and was not really truly divine.

Today we struggle, I think, with the same problems.  Because the answer to the question not only applies to Jesus, but says something about how we understand what it means to be human.  Are humans essentially good, or basically completely (or almost completely) flawed?  And since we believe Jesus was like us in all things but sin, what effect does sin have on human beings?

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Homily for Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Readings for Today

Dictionary.com defines a blessing in many ways. It can be a noun, a verb, or an action.  It can be visible or invisible. We can express deep gratitude for a blessing, and we can be happy when we realized that something that did not appear to be good, becomes a blessing in disguise. The word blessing is one of those words in English that conveys a wide variety of meaning.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that today’s first reading in today’s gospel provide two understandings of blessings. In the first reading, we hear the well-known Jewish prayer that is often used as a blessing in Christian worship as well. It is a prayer that seeks protection and happiness for the recipient.

The gospel describes the type of blessing that can be understood as a summation of a variety of good experiences. The shepherds, Mary,and the many other witnesses of the newborn Christ child have many blessings to ponder and treasure in their hearts. The events of the incarnation are simply too much to be understood without significant reflection.

The word January, comes from the Roman God Janus. The word is used to describe this month, is Janus was a two headed God who could look both backwards and forwards. As we stand on the precipice of a new year, we too look forwards and backwards. As Christians, this becomes applied in rather dramatic ways. Since we are still in the season of Christmas, we are reminded that the celebration of the incarnation provides us a chance to look forwards and backwards.

On the one hand, it is clear that we commemorate the coming of our God in time. On the other hand, we know that the incarnation of Christ is not a one-time event. Moreover, we know the Christ remains incarnated, humanity and divinity, forever joined in the Christ. Perhaps this looking forwards and looking backwards is a reminder that we need to be grateful for the actions that occurred in the past, and yet filled with hope for the blessings that await us.

Homily for Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Today’s Readings

It may seem harsh that so close to the commemoration of the birth of Jesus, we are hearing about the martyrdom of Stephen. The scene of Christmas yesterday was a small newborn baby and his joy-filled parents. It was a scene where shepherds came with great curiosity, and Angels appeared and sang. It is a scene we have witnessed over and over again in countless manger sets of every variety and size.

Today’s reading takes us to the end of Jesus’ life. Stephen is the first martyr described in the post-resurrection period. I would suggest that these two days are juxtaposed precisely to remind us the reason for the coming of Christ into our world. Jesus came for our salvation. We celebrate the God who loved us so much he dies for our sins. The little baby will grow up. The little baby will seek constantly to do the will and the work of the father. And the little baby will grow up to be a person who makes demands upon his followers.

St. Stephen’s feast which we celebrate today is a person who understand the demands of faith. The Acts of the Apostles describe Stephen as that first deacon along with others who met the needs of the poor in the community. But by his following the way of life that Jesus came to bring to each one of us, Stephen is called to give his own life.

We are called to remember that the incarnation was the beginning on earth of the great plan of salvation developed by God. Through his ministry here on earth, we have learned better how to care for one another. Through his ministry here on earth, we have learned better what it means to worship God and to live a life of authenticity. So it is right that placed before us are the events of yesterday, the birth of a little baby, and the events of today, the martyrdom of Stephen, that reminds us that our ultimate destination, and the ultimate purpose of the incarnation, our eternal union with God.

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.