Sunday, December 27, 2015

Feast of the Holy Family

When they were engaged she became pregnant and he knew it wasn’t his child.

For a while they were both very anxious because he planned to quietly call off the wedding.

When they finally worked things out they were forced to make a long journey.
When they arrived at their destination she gave birth to the baby in an barn.

When they presented their new born baby in the temple they were so poor they did not have the money for a goat or a lamb the usual offering for a first born son.

They could only offer two pigeons which he probably had to catch.

At the presentation one of the priests made a troubling prophecy about the child and about Mary which bothered them both.

Finally when they thought things were going to be ok, back to normal, three men from the east came looking for their son.

They brought him gifts and a warning that the child was in grave danger.

So just when they had gotten settled they had to flee for their lives to Egypt a strange and foreign land.

When the people who sought to kill their child were dead they returned home.

Finally after all of that confusion and fleeing and fear they thought everything was going well.

Then when he was 12 as we heard in today’s Gospel their son disappeared

They searched from him for 3 days and were besides themselves.
Losing a child for three days can be a life changing event.

They finally found him, he didn’t seem to understand why they were so upset.

We don’t know the when it happened or how it happened but at some point Joseph died leaving the son and his mother alone with their extended family.

Fast forward 20 years, when it became clear that God was calling the son to a special mission and that Jesus has a speciald relationship with God. it was necessary for him to leave his mother in the care of relatives and follow God’s call.

There were towns and places where he became famous and was accepted and there were towns and places where the people wanted to kill him.

He was often gone from home for a long time which grieved and concerned his mother who worried about him.

Finally he was arrested by the religious leaders of his time tortured and sentenced to death.

His mother stood by him till the end as he died on the cross.
And indeed the sword of grief pierced his Mother’s heart.

You know sometimes we think that saints have easy lives.

We fail to recognize that we quite often things don’t go well for saints either.

There is not a family in this parish that doesn’t have problems.
There is not a family in this parish which doesn’t wish that things could be different for someone they love.

You all know that my little narrative was about the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

When you think about it they lived very difficult lives but they managed to remain saints.

Today the Church calls us to ask ourselves

How did Jesus Mary and Joseph face all their challenges and still remain the holy family and how can we do the same?

It should be obvious that they constantly tried to discern God’s will in their lives.

Before they settled on a course of action they prayed and asked themselves what is the right thing to do?

How often do we pray together before we buy a house or send our kid off to college or face the illness of someone we love.

How often do we ask what does God want me to do ?

Once they figured out what they God wanted them to do the Holy Family tried to followed it to the fullest even when it was inconvenient or discouraging. In other words they remained faithful to God’s call.

Finally throughout their lives they did their best to trust
Trust God even when they were fleeing to Egypt
Trust God even when Joseph passed away
Trust God even when Jesus and Mary understood that he had to leave home
Trust God even when Jesus had to face the horror of the Cross.

Yes today the Church calls us to meditate on the Holy Family and do everything in our power to follow their good example no matter what life throws our way.

May our prayer for ourselves and our loved ones be
Jesus Mary and Joseph Help us live good holy generous lives
Help us and our loved ones become holy families.


Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Christmas Parable by Pope St.John XXIII

In 1958 when Pope Pius XII died the Cardinals could not agree on his successor or on the future direction of the Church, so they elected Pope John XXIII kind of like a placeholder.
He was 78 and pretty overweight, and they reasoned that he would be Pope for a couple of years and then they would elect his successor.
Pope John almost  immediately won over the heart of the Church.
One of the first places he went was Regina Coeli Prison, the Mens’ prison in Rome, and when he walked in he got up in front of all the prisoners and said,
“Hello I’m your new Bishop. Since you couldn’t come to see me, I thought I would come to see you.”
1958 was the advent of Television and so Pope John’s first Midnight Mass was one of the first events televised from St. Peter’s Basilica.
It was the first time many saw St. Peter’s Basilica, or even saw the Mass.Catholic were hoping to make a good impression on the world.
I came across this account of Pope John’s first Christmas homily, but the Vatican website is not complete that far back so I can’t be absolutely sure it is his, but it sounds like him for sure.
Supposedly, Good Pope John, now Good Saint John, began his homily by asking which of the characters in the Christmas scene best represent us?
"If you say it was the angels, he said, you would be wrong because angels do not have bodies like us.”
“If you say it was the shepherds, you would be wrong, because the shepherds were farmers, and most of us are not farmers.”
"If you say it was the Wise Men, you would be wrong, because the Wise Men were wealthy and highly educated, but most of us are neither wise nor wealthy.
I think you know where this is going...
Then the pope said:
I believe the donkey best represents us in the manger scene.
You see, "The donkey was always feeling sorry for himself.
He felt frustrated and thought his life was meaningless.
He was habitually unhappy.”
“He would always walk around with a long sad face or, what the Italians call ‘una faccia lunga.
"One day as he was walking, the donkey looked up and saw a horse. He thought to himself:
‘What a beautiful animal the Lord made when he created the horse. Look at him. He is strong and tall and he can run like the wind.”
The donkey said to himself, "Me—I am short and ugly.
I have no mane and cannot run very fast at all,” and the donkey was jealous of the horse.
He continued walking with a long face and he looked up and saw a camel.
This time he said to himself, “What a wonderful creature God made when he made the camel. Look at him. He can go for days without any water.
Me—I am thirsty as soon as I take a few steps.”
Again the donkey continued walking with a long face when suddenly he looked up and saw a cow.
The donkey said to himself, ‘Look at the cow. She is very friendly and gets along with everyone.
The cow not only gives milk to nourish her own, but she nourishes other creatures as well.
Me—I cannot nourish anyone. I am very stubborn. I am not easy to get along with.”
Continuing with his walk, he looked up and saw a baby in a manger.
There was something special about the baby, so he walked up to the manger and sat down by the infant.
"It was a cold wintry night and the baby was cold."
Then the pope said that the donkey began to breath on the baby.
He continued, "After a while, the baby reached up and patted the donkey on the nose—as if to say: ‘Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for keeping me warm on this cold wintry night.”
"Now, for the first time in his life, the donkey was happy.
He no longer felt sorry for himself.
He had found meaning and purpose in his life, and all his troubles went away because he thought of someone else and wasn’t just thinking of himself and his problems.”
And then Pope John XXIII said something that astounded everyone in the Church.
"For that’s the way it is with Almighty God. All he wants is the warm breath of a living soul and a warm heart. You give him that and he will take care of the rest."
Then he looked out over the vast crowd in the Basilica and said, “I want you to remember this for the rest of your life and he repeated...
“For that’s the way it is with Almighty God. All he wants is the warm breath of a living soul and a warm heart. You give him that and he will take care of the rest.”
The Basilica was silent and everyone was very moved and thought that the Pope had finished. What else could he possibly say they wondered,  but then he looked out over the Basilica and added,

“From one donkey to a bunch of donkeys: Merry Christmas."
If Good Pope John can say it so can I
From one donkey to a bunch of donkeys…
Merry Christmas too…. Amen

Sunday, December 20, 2015

4th Sunday of Advent - Year C -2015

As we heard in the first reading Bethlehem was a small town near Jerusalem.

Because of its location it always stood in the shadow of the capital and probably would have been long forgotten but God had other plans.

As we all know God chose Bethlehem to be the birthplace of  Jesus and now this little backwater town has been written on our hearts until the end of time.

Elizabeth and Zechariah were good people.

Zechariah was of the priestly class and regularly did his service in the temple. He and his wife lived in Hebron in the hill country. We read in the scriptures that they were both righteous before God

Yet for they were not blessed with a child.

While it was never written in the scriptures, or taught in the synagogues, many people during the time of Jesus mistakenly felt that someone who could not have a child had in some way offended God.

Elizabeth lived with this prejudice and pain for a long time and then one day while doing his turn of service in the Temple her husband had an experience of God, and when he came home she was blessed with a Child.

Zechariah felt that he and his wife were too old to have a child and because he doubted the Angel Gabriel’s message he could not speak until the baby was born.

God took a couple considered too old and through the love they shared gave us all the last prophet of the Old Testament and the first martyr of the New Testament John the Baptist.

Mary was a little Girl. She was inexperienced in the world and recently betrothed to Joseph, yet God had a plan for her.

And of course she knew that she risked being rejected by many and possibly even being put to death for having a child out of wedlock.

Yet the Mary, said yes to God’s plan.

Who knows how she felt after that encounter with the Angel?
Was she excited?
Was she afraid?
Did she think it was a dream?
Was she concerned about her relative Elizabeth who was mentioned in the conversation with the Angel ?

Whatever the case, once she saw Elizabeth,
once she saw that what the Angel had said about Elizabeth was true,
then Mary must have also been reassured that what the Angel said to her was true.

What does all of this have to do with us.

First of all we,
just Like God had a plan for the town of Bethlehem
and God had a plan for  Zechariah and Elizabeth
and God had a plan for Mary.
God has a plan for us.

And that plan might not make sense in the eyes of the World
Remember in the eyes of the world Bethlehem was too small
Elizabeth and Zechariah were too old
and Mary was too young.

God’s ways are not our ways…
And God’s thoughts are not our thoughts
and should something unexpected come our way we have to learn to trust in God’s love and do the best we can.

That’s what Mary and Elizabeth and Zechariah did and that’s what we have to dol

The second conclusion we need to make is that when we try to follow God’s plan
The road isn’t always clear.

Just like there was certainly doubt and fear as God plan unfolded in the lives of Elizabeth, Zechariah and Mary,
there may be doubt and fear as God’s plan unfolds in our lives yet,
like they trusted and  we have to trust.

It is also important to notice that to help Mary and Elizabeth with his plan for their lives God gave them each other.

Elizabeth helped Mary and Mary helped Elizabeth.
Rest assured God will send us people to help us along the way to help us follow God’s plan.

A life of faith is always best lived with others. When one gets confused or tired or afraid along the road the other carries them for a while.

That’s what being a Church is all about.

So good people
God has a plan for us
When we follow God’s plan it won’t always be crystal clear
Rest assured that God will send us people along the wayto help us on our way
All we have to do is say yes.

In these final days of preparation for Christmas let’s do our best to keep our eyes and our hearts fixed Jesus
Jesus who loves us
Jesus who saved us
Jesus who needs us to follow his plan for each one of us…


Saturday, December 12, 2015

3rd Sunday of Advent Year - C 2015

John the Baptist was a real person
He lived and breathed like you and me

The scholars tell us that he may have been a member of the Essene community.

They were a group of Jews who separated themselves from the rest of the Jews and tried to live a more ascetical and focused religious life.

This may be why John the Baptist lived in the desert by himself and spent his energy preaching repentance.

When we read the Gospels it becomes clear that John
was a man driven to proclaim the truth no matter what the cost.
We all know that in the end his prophetic witness would cost him his life.

When he preached John minced no words.
He said what he thought God wanted him to say without fear or hesitation.

Because he was authentic, practicing what the preached,
people were attracted to him.

They came to be baptized because they had broken God’s law or were not happy.

They came to the Jordan because they wanted to be righteous in God’s sight.

They came because no matter who they were or what they had done John accepted everyone.

Case in point the soldiers who came to John in today’s Gospel were probably Jewish soldiers working for the Romans  or their puppets.

No self respecting Jew would talk to them,  give them any notice, or respect. In the eyes of their contemporaries they were traitors.

Yet John spoke with them and encouraged them.

It was the same with the tax collectors they were also Jews who worked for the Romans and were despised by the Jews.
Yet, John spoke with them saw their potential and challenged them to live holy lives.

You see in addition to being a prophet, John was also merciful man who accepted anyone who was repentan,t no matter what they had done.

This past Tuesday, Pope Francis opened the Holy Door at St. Peter’s to begin a Jubilee Year of Mercy.

This will be only the 29th Holy Year in the church since the tradition started more than 700 years ago. For some of us this will be the last Holy Year.

Pope Francis wants our church of 1.2 billion members to be more merciful and more welcoming toward sinners.

All of us need to be more generous and more forgiving. All of us need to let go of past hurts and reach out to those who hurt us.

Our Holy Father proclaimed
“The church is the home that accepts everyone and refuses no one … the greater the sin, the greater the love that the church should show toward those who [repent]”

This Holy Year should be a time of reconciliation with adversaries and an occasion to promote solidarity, hope and justice in the world.

During  Holy Year, we who celebrate God’s limitless mercy and should engage in corporal works of mercy.

We must never forget that God’s mercy flows through the Church,
the sacrament and also needs to flow through each and everyone of us.

In the Gospel of this Third Sunday of Advent, John the Baptist is asked by the people what they should do to prepare for the coming of the Messiah.

John’s response starts out with what we call the “corporal works of mercy.” “Let the person with two coats give to the person who has none.

The person who has food should do the same.”
In other words, show mercy to those in need — without conditions.

This Advent and this Jubilee Year is the perfect time for every Catholic to lovingly and gently help people seek God Mercy.

And when mercy is sought we need to grant it recklessly without reserve… for That’s how God loves.

We will be speaking at the beginning of the new year on how we as a Parish will live out this Holy year

On this gaudete Sunday or joyful sunday, we have reason to rejoice… for God’s limitless Mercy is ours for the taking and ours to share   Amen

Friday, December 04, 2015

Second Sunday of Advent Year C -2015

The Prophet Baruch wrote in the most difficult of times.
Jerusalem had been destroyed and lay in ruins and her people exiled to Babylon.

Yet in this very bleak moment
He finds hope
Hope for the city he loved
Hope for his people and the restoration of Israel.

His hope was rooted in the Covenant.
The Covenant is God’s promise of friendship and faithful love for his people even when we are unfaithful.

Yes even his most distressing circumstances,
Baruch found hope

In the reading from the Philippians Paul writes

I pray always with Joy in my every prayer for you

He continues…

I am confident of you

While reading this it is important to remember that Paul was in prison
When he wrote this and he knew his future is bleak.

He also knew that the community of Philippi was divided very divided.
There were both doctrinal and personality disputes among the community.

Yet with all that he faced and all of the disappointments, worries and issues
which threatened his beloved communities he continued to hope.
He is able to write those words and be filled hope and confidence because of his faith in the Lord Jesus, his conviction that the person he met on the road to Damascus would not abandon him or those he loved.

Paul dared to hope
And Paul dared to never stopping hoping

The list of people at the beginning of the Gospel does not present us with much hope.
They area all pretty much powerful scoundrels
(They make our polititians look good)
They are devoted to their own interests and influence, power and domination.
They are running the show.
They have all the cards

It certainly seems with them in control like an inhospitable time for the coming of the Messiah.

Yet strengthened by his time in the desert
John the Baptist dares to hope
Dares to believe

And the last prophet of the Old Testament
and the first Martyr of the New Testament
Proclaims the coming of the Kingdom and calls for repentance

By his courage and by his hope
He inspires a people to hope
To hope for something better
To hope for change
And by his example of hope he makes the ground fertile for the coming of Jesus

Brothers and Sisters
All of us carry burdens
All of us of have to deal with our fears and failings

Many times if people would look at our lives or if we would look at them ourselves
it would see doubtful that there is any reason to hope at all.

I know marriages where the couples have slowly grown apart. They are not sure they can rekindle the love they once had. They feel alone and sad and are afraid to hope.

We live in violent times
We are all heart broken by what happened in Paris and San Bernadino
We all live with the fear of terrorism and wonder where the next shooting will be.

And we are so saddened by all of those times in the papers or on the news when hate seems to win.

Yet the readings today are calling us to hope

If Baruch could hope in exile in the bleakest of circumstances we must dare to hope
If Paul could write about joy from prison we too must dare to hope
If John the Baptist can hope in the bleakest of times we must also hold one to hop

We have must trust in our relationship with God
we must take God at his word and we must hold on to hope. .

Our sins
Our vices or bad habits
The evil and hate in the world don’t have to win

The good news is that we have power over them

Humanity has the power to change
The ability to love
And the all of us have received the call to look fear in the eye and to forgive.

The Word of God today on this second Sunday of Advent is very challenging
If you find its message easy you have not understood it at all

No matter what our circumstance
No matter what our fear
Hope is ours  for the taking to give

For our reason to hope is rooted in the very faithfulness of God who loves us.