Connecticut is a beautiful state.
In the morning you can hike at sleeping Giant State Park in Hamden and on a summer afternoon you can relax and put your feet in the warm water of the Long Island sound.
I try to hike on my day off every Friday.
A walk in the woods or up a hill always clears my head and gets my heart pumping.
The last summer when I hiked with my nephew he was amazed at how I could walk up those hills..
Since September things have been pretty busy and so I haven't hiked as much.
The day after Thanksgiving the day after we gorged ourselves
Matt wanted to go hiking again.
I decided to hike up Talcott Mountain in Simsbury.
Usually I can make up without breaking a sweat.
But this time it was really hard for and I even had to stop once on my way up.
When we got to the top Matt (ever the tactful one) looked back at me and said wow Uncle Rob what happened to you, you’re really sucking wind.
I was amazed at how much I have gotten out so shape in just a few weeks. My struggle up that hill was an eye opener.
In today’s gospel Jesus warns us about becoming spiritually complacent or better yet, spiritually out of shape.
He reminds us that unless we are vigilant,
unless we concentrate on being good, holy, generous, people all the time our hearts can become drowsy and spiritually lazy.
Just like I learned that it doesn't take long time to get out of shape physically, it doesn't take long to fall out of shape spiritually either.
When we don’t make it a habit of giving God time it becomes harder and harder to turn our lives around.
When we don't make it a habit of going to confessions it becomes harder and harder to come back to the grace of the sacrament.
Some of you haven’t gone to confession in years and you know you should but the longer you are away the harder it is to get back.
Being honest sometimes I think to myself gee living in Berlin must be like living in Heaven.
One would think there are no sins her by the number of people who go to confessions.
When we don’t place other’s needs before our own it becomes easier and easier to to become self absorbed and even narcissistic.
Many people have simply grown used to seeing other people in need or suffering and feel absolutely no urgency to do anything about it.
And because of all of these things it is so easy to drift away from others and drift away from God.
It is so easy for us to fool ourselves into thinking that we have lots of time.
We reason there's time for holiness, there’s time for God it’s just not now.
I’ll get to it someday when I am old or whatever… just not now.
Because our Church understands our human condition.
she gives us Advent in the hope that even with all the confusion that the Christmas brings we will make an extra effort to stay wake,
and enter deeply into the mystery of God’s love for us.
I don’t know about you but this is my 60th Advent.
Let’s say Advents 1-18 don’t count because I was still growing up.
That means I’ve had 42 advents to amend my life and grow closer to God.
I know I could have done better.
I know that there have been periods of spiritual drowsiness or hyper busyness even in my life as a priest.
We all can do better
This year on this first Sunday of Advent
Let us commit to one concrete thing which will help us to be holier and more generous men and women.
We need to be Men and women willing to to imitate our loving God who chose to be humbly born in a manger because there was not room in the inn. Amen
Today on the last Sunday of the liturgical year we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King
I found this on the internet and I offer it to you to ponder.
-Kings are usually born in a palace, places of privilege, but our King was born in a stable. -While most kings spent all of their time building up wealth, Jesus our King owned nothing at all.
-Kings are usually surrounded by servants;
-Jesus chose to be a servant.
-Instead of riding into town on a big white horse surrounded by soldiers, Jesus our King rode into town on the back of a donkey.
-Kings usually surround themselves with powerful and influential friends -Jesus was the friend of regular people, working class people, fishermen and carpenters. -He is the friend of the lowly, the poor and sinners.
-Our King’s crown was not gold or silver. It was not a symbol of power studded with precious jewels. -Instead they crowned Him with thorns.
His crown was a sign of his willingness to suffer for love.
-Instead of robes and jewels he wore a cloak and tunic
-To some Jesus seemed powerless but he was indeed powerful,
-Jesus our King’s throne was not an ornate symbol of his power instead he ruled from the cross paying the price for our sins.
-Like many good Kings, Jesus gave his life for his people;
unlike any other king death had no power over him and he rose from the dead.
Jesus was a king in a completely different way than other kings so it follows that we his followers should be entirely different from other people
What does Jesus our King ask from us?
How should a disciple of Christ the King supposed to live live? Here are just a few examples…
-Love your enemy do good to those who persecute you,
-If someone wants your shirt give him your coat as well.
-Do not store up for yourself treasure on earth rather.Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, visit prisoners and store your treasure in heaven.
-Whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers you did to me.
-Forgive not 7 times but rather 70x70 times.
-Lend to those who cannot pay you back. -Take this all of you and eat. -Do this in memory of me.
Put so simply Christian discipleship sounds so radical. It is indeed a radical choice to follow Christ the King and it takes courage.
The Egyptians built a great civilization but after time much of what they built was covered up by the blowing sands of the Sahara Desert.
The Romans also created a great civilization. During the Roman Empire there were incredible accomplishments in art, engineering, music and architecture. But in 476 the western part of the empire just imploded and Rome was sacked. It must have seemed like the end of the world to the Romans but it wasn’t.
In our own time in 1917 the Russian Revolution led to the creation of the Soviet Union. As amazing as it seems communism and the Soviet Union only lasted around 74 years. It was a mere blip on the radar screen of history. Yet, when I was growing up the Soviet Union seemed so strong and fearful. Here today gone tomorrow.
In the passage from Gospel of Mark which we heard today,Jesus is no longer preaching to crowds.
He is not walking along the dusty roads of Galilee with his disciples.
He is not healing the sick. He is already in Jerusalem and he is spending his time with his closest disciples.
You see he knows that his time on earth draws to an end.
He knows how much His death on the cross will frighten and dissolution his followers so he is trying to warn them and prepare them.
Remember when he speaks to his disciples Jesus is also speaking to everyone of us.
He doesn’t hide the cross from his followers. He doesn’t say to us follow me and you’ll never have any troubles.
He knows that, our lives, and the lives of every human being there will be transitions and difficult moments, very difficult moments.
He knows that some will be tempted to lose hope and lose faith. He knows and wants us to be ready for the trials we will face. All of our lives will be filled with transitions blessings and challenges. Sometimes there will even be circumstances which will seem to push us to our limits.
Brothers and Sisters Today’s Gospel challenges us to ultimately place our faith and our hope in God God’s love alone is constant everything else changes and passes away.
And so when we face sickness or when our job is in doubt or when our children or grandchildren have problems or when the shadow of hate seems so strong like it did in Paris last Friday, let’s hold on to our faith and move forward with hope
Let us trust him and let us all hold on to hope. hope for a better tomorrow hope for a better world let us hope even when the clouds are dark and the wind is cold let us hope even in the shadow of the cross.
That’s what Jesus wanted for his disciples as he walked toward the cross and that’s what Jesus wants us to do as we face life challenges.
For God’s love us is stronger than death itself Amem
This week's readings tell the stories of two women. Both of them are widows. Both of them are very poor and very powerless.
You see in both in the Old and New Testament women had no legal rights. They could not own property. They could not work outside of the home. They could not even speak for themselves in court.
They were completely dependent on men and when no man was willing to represent their interests or provide for them and their children they were in dire straits indeed.
Only when we understand this context can we understand the significance of their actions. The woman in the first reading was indeed in dire straits.
A famine was sweeping the land.
People were less inclined to be generous with their food and more inclined to look out for themselves and their own.
The widow understood that her means were nearly exhausted. She knew that when her oil was gone and her flour exhausted there was a good chance that both she and her son would simply die of hunger.
When Elijah the prophet asked her for a little bread he was in a sense asking her to make the ultimate sacrifice for a complete stranger.
Her generous nature and trust in God enabled her to say yes and because of her generosity “the jar of flour did not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry” and she and her son survived
In the Gospel we have a similar story as the pilgrims entered the temple the were required to make an offering.
Many of the rich would make a big show of what they were giving and some of them did indeed gave huge amounts.
However more than not their gift was from their excess, or what they really didn’t need.
The little widow had no means and was not able to large donation.
But Jesus points out that her very small gift was the most generous of all because she gave all that she had.
What did these two women have in common?
When the moment of truth came or the moment of decision came what enabled them to make the right choice?
First of all they were able to be detached from lure of worldly possessions.
Maybe it was because they were poor and never had much to begin with.
Maybe their life of poverty enabled them to share the little that they had, whatever the case.
Their ability to open their hands and let go of what they possessed enabled them to be generous.
The second thing they shared was an absolute trust in God’s providence.
Even though they didn’t have much in the world they knew that God loved them.
Neither of them said why me. Neither of them expressed any resentment to God about their circumstancese.
Both of them just trusted.
You know many of us have been coming to church for years, we never or rarely miss.
Yet, we sense in our hearts that we are not making the progress in our relationship with with God that we should.
Many feel and I have always felt somehow my life, or my discipleship could be sould be more fruitful should be more generous.
Sometimes we might think to ourselves after all this effort shouldn’t I be in a better place shouldn’t I be a better person.
I would propose to myself and to you to our parish as a whole and our country as a whole that if we want to be more faithful servants we should ponder and imitate the example of these two women.
We should ask ourselves do we see the goods of the world for what they are a means to an end,or do we view them as an end in themselves to be coveted and acquired at any cost.
How much of our lives our energy have we spend acquiring things and holding on to them for dear life?
This is really an important question
How can we expect to grow in holiness if we place our trust in things rather than God and God’s loving providence.
Don’t get me wrong material things are not bad in and of themselves.
Having material things is not bad in and of itself.
Rather that manner we hold on to them,
the way we covet them, desire them, some would say even lust for material possessions. is where the problem lies.
When it comes to our possessions is our hand closed or is it open and generous.
This is especially cause for concern when we have a super abundance and there are those who go without even the minimal.
When John D. Rockefeller and incredibly wealthy man was asked “how much would be enough?” he answered “just a little bit more.” When he said this he was at the height of his financial success personally accounted for almost 2% of total US GDP!
The readings today challenge us to look at ourselves as individuals as a church and as a country and ask ourselves when is enough enough.
The example of these to women challenge us to ask ourselves where do we place our hope.
In a society where the gulf between those who have and those who do not grows wider and wider these reading should cause us pause.
This week let’s meditate on the example of these two holy women and ask ourselves openly what would we have done or what will we do when a complete stranger comes to us in need ? Would our hand be open or closed ? Amen
Today is the Feast of All Saints and the Church calls us to reflect on two simple facts. The first is this, our destiny, our ultimate happiness, and our joy is to be united with God.
If you are in this Church right now, I hope you find great consolation from knowing that God longs to be with you forever in heaven.
The second point is just as important. The Feast of All Saints teaches us that there are many roads home. When it comes to holiness One size does not fit all.
You know when Fr. Raymond and I go to New Britain General he always takes Arch Street and I take Farmington Ave and bear right by that fountain but we both get there and that’s what’s important.
On the Feast of All Saints the Church gives us the Beatitudes to mediate on true happiness. At first glance the Beatitudes seem contradictory.
How can someone who mourns be happy ? How can someone who is persecuted be happy? How can someone who is poor be happy?
Poverty allows us to see God as our greatest treasure.
Poverty allows us to empty ourselves of all that distracts us and concentrate on God and our brothers and sisters.
When we hunger and thrist for God and the knowledge of God, God will always show us how to live good and holy lives.
Being filled with sorrow especially for our sins and weaknesses or experiencing “Catholic Guilt” is often the first step to repentance and a joyful freedom from sin. Sorrow and Catholic Guilt isn’t always bad.
Every age, every generation, has presented us with new saints. who show us the way home.
St. Maximilian gave his life in a concentration camp to save a father of a family.
St. Francis of Assisi gave away everything he had because he knew that all it did was get in the way.
More recently Saint Katharine Drexel of Philadelphia did the same.
Her family’s wealth in current dollars was around $400 million.
She gave it all away and established a religious order and schools for the poorest of the poor.
St. Thomas More would not or could not permit anyone or any legal nicety to alter his conscience not even the powerful Henry VIII.
So he accepted death rather than renounce his conscience and his allegiance to Christ and the Church.
Today there are lots of places in our society where our culture’s values are at odds with our Christian Conscience.
The example of St. Thomas Moore challenges us to remain faithful to our conscience and to God, no matter what anyone else thinks or no matter what the cost.
St. Catherine of Sienna look her up. was a simple holy woman who taught kings and popes their responsibility to be Christian leaders.
She convinced the Pope to leave the comforts of his palace in Avignon and protection of the King of France.
She convinced him to return to the rough and tumble city of Rome and face possible persecution.
She reminded him that God needed him to walk footsteps of Peter and to be about God’s work .
Recently the parents of St. Theresa of Lisieux were canonized. They didn’t give their lives to God in one act of heroism.
Rather they lived holy lives at home and inspired their children to be saints. How many of us have inspired our Children to be saints ?
In this day and age it is no easy task. But can never stop trying. There are thousands of saints.
Each one took a different way home. Let us never forget that our destiny is to be with God. Let us always remember that many have gone before us marked with the sign of faith.
On this feast of All Saints. Let’s pick a saint, learn about their lives, and imitate them.