Saturday, December 28, 2013

Feast of the Holy Family - 2013

They didn’t have an easy life.

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 finally arrived at their destination she gave birth to the baby.

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 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 thier 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 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.

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 the father died leaving the son and him mother alone with their extended family.

Fast forward 20 years, when it became clear that God was calling the son to a special mission 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 after all they are holy.

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 they face all their challenges and still remain the holy family and how can we do the same?

I would propose to you three things that we need to imitate.

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?

What does God want me to do ?

Once they figured out what God wanted them to do they tried to follow it to the fullest even when it was inconvenient or discouraging.

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.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas 2013

One of my earliest memories of Christmas, is of our family Manger Scene.

It was like a book which drew me into the mystery of Christmas.

I remember it vividly.

It was made up of 16 plaster statues

There were Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,

3 Shepherds two of whom were kneeling,

3 kings one was kneeling and one led a camel,

There was an angel she was dressed in blue and she had a white sash with her name written on it.

There was a cow without a tail, and a donkey without an ear.

Finally there were three little sheep who used to ride with baby Jesus in coal car of my train when my Mother and Dad weren’t looking.

The figures were pretty bumped up from 2 boys and 4 grandchildren.

When were breaking up my Mom’s house I was so grateful and relieved that my nephew said he wanted the manger scene.

It's been in the family almost 61 years.
I can remember as a little boy laying on the floor of the living room and peering into the stable and rearranging the figures and telling myself the story over and over again.

As banged up as that little Manger scene was it taught me many important lessons.
Here is some of what I learned…

Jesus was born in a stable so that we might understand that a simple life can also be a good life.
He was born in the stable so that we might understand that we don’t need every new gadget and every new fad or convenience.

The stable teaches us that we don’t need huge houses impossible to clean and pay for.

The stable reminds us that sometimes we work too hard for things that rust and rot away.

This year as we look into the stable and gaze upon the manger… let us remember that simple can be good.

In the manger Jesus was…
Wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid on a bed of straw.
The manger held the food for the animals
It shape also made a perfect bed for Jesus.
But as I grew up I came to understand that there was a special symbolism here.
We all have hungers.
We hunger for something
The manger teaches us that Jesus and Jesus alone can satisfy our hunger.
Every time we gaze on the manger
it is important to remember that

Only God
Only God’s Love can fill us up
Every other “satisfaction” no matter what it is temporary.

Jesus so wonderfully present in the Eucharist can satisfy our hunger.
When you look at a Christmas scene you always see a star.
our star at home was an old Christmas tree light and a pice of tin foil
God wanted to make sure that everyone could find him
and that everyone knew that they were loved.

The star was a indeed a beacon of hope
A beacon of hope in a world quite frequently lonely and broken.
It is impossible to hide a bright light in the sky.
It is impossible not to notice a bright shining star.
Why the Star?
The message of the star and the message of the Gospel are clear
The star shown in the sky so that all of humanity in every age in every age and every circumstance might find God’s Son and feel God’s love.

Indeed over the centuries many have come guided by the light of faith

They came from the east bearing gifts
They came from the neighboring fields
They came from the heavens themselves
The Son of God was greeted by both shepherds and kings
The rich and the poor
The powerful and the weak
The famous and the not so famous 
The healthy and the sick 
The loud and the shy
The lowly and the great
Sinners and Saints.

And all of creation was filled with joy at the sight of a God who became a baby
In these frenetic days of family and friends
In these days of gifts, food, and drink.
Pray God that we learn the lessons of the Manger well

• A Simple life is a good life
• Only God can satisfy our deepest hungers
• God’s love is for everyone no matter what no matter what
Thank you, each and every one of you for being here tonight

Thank you giving a little bit of you time on these busy days to come and celebrate they mystery of God’s love.
From Deacon Carmen, the friars, our parish and our school’s staffs
Merry Christmas and a happy and Holy New Year


Love you Mom

Sunday, December 22, 2013

4th Sunday of Advent Year A - 2013

Nowadays when you hear the word Fiat you think of the those little cars that drive off a cliff in Italy and drive out of the water in Brooklyn.

However fiat means a lot more than a car’s name.

We all know the story of the Annunciation when the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and informed her that she would have a child through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Mary’s response to the Angel was simply "Fiat."

Let it be done

With her fiat Mary overcame her confusion and her fears and said yes to God’s request or God’s plan. 

And by her fiat Mary gave Jesus, the very Son of God, to each one of us.

But Mary’s was not the only yes that God needed for His plan.

Today the Church asks us to reflect on St. Joseph and his fiat or his yes.

God also needed Joseph’s yes because without his support, and protection and guidance, Mary would not have been able to go it alone.

Joseph’s yes was just as difficult as Mary’s.
We don’t know how Joseph found about about Mary’s pregnancy.
We don’t know if she told him and tried to explain her encounter with the Angel or not.
We don’t know if he found out from someone else.
We don’t know if the families had a meeting to discuss the situation. 

We do know however he found out, that it did not give him peace.
He was confused and hurt.
He must have been worried about what people would think.
He must have been concerned that they would think the baby was his out of wedlock.
He must have been concerned about Mary and how she would take care of a baby without him. 
From everything we know about St. Joseph we know that he loved Mary and was willing to sacrifice anything for her.

He wanted to do the right things and so he decided to divorce Mary quietly and not subject her to the brutality of the law.

In other words Joseph got it wrong… his plan was not what God needed him to do. 

So once again God sent the Angel Gabriel to Joseph in a dream to give him comfort and show him what God need him to do.

From the moment he woke Joseph lived his fiat, his yes.
He took Mary into his home protecting her, providing for her and caring for her and her child without fear or reserve. 

It should be a comfort to us that both Mary and Joseph found it difficult to follow God’s plan.

Like Mary and Joseph God needs our yes God needs our fiat.

We too are asked to bring Christ Jesus into the world.
Like St. Joseph we have lots of worries and concerns.
What will people think ?
I’m to busy ?
What about what I want ?

I’ve forgiven enough already why does God want me to forgive again ?
I”m not worthy.

Yet like Mary and like Joseph God has a plan for each of our lives and all of us are an essential piece in the puzzle of God’s Divine plan.

Without our fiat
Without our yes to God’s plan
The world will be a little poorer our.

Our families will be a little poorer

Without our personal yes something that God needs to get done will not be done

Let us live thoughtful reflective lives.

Let us discern our place in God’s loving plan and no matter what worries or fears or concerns that we may have us let us say yes with open generous hearts just like Mary and like Joseph.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Third Sunday of Advent Year - A 2013

You know as I drove back and forth to Buffalo last year I found the best way to pass the time was to listen to books on CD’s.

And as I drove along the New York State Thruway (its a very boring drive) my emotions would change with the book I was listening to.

Sometimes I was afraid, other times I was relieved, other times I was nervous trying to figure out how the story would end. As I listened to the books I lived in the moment.

Many times we live our lives in the very same way. We become obsessed with the moment we are living and lose site of the long term.

When things are going well at the moment we are happy, but when we face a challenge or a difficulty sometimes we let it consume us.

It’s so easy for us to forget that this moment is not all that life has to offer.

When we are lost in the present, or better yet consumed by the present, we forget that what really matters is how the book or our lif) ends.

Today’s readings try to bring this truth home to us.

They try and remind that sometimes it is important to take a long view of life..

In the first reading the Prophet Isaiah proclaims

“Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication; with divine recompense
he comes to save you.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.”

Isaiah was writing to a very disheartened people who were living in exile.

He wanted his contemporaries and us to remember that no matter what we are living in the present in the end God is faithful and he will come to save us.

In fact in 70 years the Jews were indeed allowed and encouraged to return home and live in peace.

In the Gospel we find John in prison.

Some say the he had expected that Jesus would lead a violent political revolution and John wanted to know when the revolt was starting.

Some say that John never really lost faith but that he sent his disciples to Jesus so that they could get to know Him, believe Him and follow Him.

Whatever the case may be John never forgot the end of the Story. He remembered to look at the big picture and he knew that his time had ended and that Jesus’ time had begun.

While in prison John did not lose heart or compromise on the truth.

He did not make a deal with Herod for his release.

He remembered God’s promise and he trusted that even if he was suffering now that God would be faithful

When we stop and think.

when we look at our world and our lives through the eyes of faith we know that in the end good wins and evil loses.

Many times we’re not sure how it will happen but we know how the story ends.

When we look at our lives through the eyes of faith

We know that salvation is ours for the asking no matter what trial we are facing at the moment.

And so good people let us take to heart the words of James in the second reading.

Let us be patient in good times and let us be patient in difficult times.

The simple phrase “This too shall pass” can help us to remember the end of the story.

And let us be filled with a deep abiding peace which can only come from trusting God who will always be faithful no matter what mess we may find ourselves in.

Today is Guaudete Sunday or Joyful Sunday.

One the 3rd Sunday of Advent the Church calls us to be joyful in anticipation of our Lord’s coming.

Only when we patiently trust in God can our heart be filled with peace and Joy.

Pope Francis recently wrote,

The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus.

Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew.

Let’s not get lost in the present moment

Let us always look to the future

Let us remember that God is faithful

Let us patiently wait on the Lord

And if we can do all of these things let us be filled with the peace and even Joy which faith can give us.


Saturday, December 07, 2013

2nd Sunday of Advent Year– A 2013

2nd Sunday of Advent - Year A - 2013

I’m not sure if you know this but before I came to St. Paul I spent a month living and praying in a trappist Monastery.

Trappists are a very strict religious community dedicated to a life of prayer and contemplation.

They don't’ talk.
They don’t eat meat,
and they get up at 2 AM pray and study.

Some of you are probably wondering to yourselves…

Fr. Robert what were you thinking ?

It was a wonderful experience but I have to admit I was not perfect at it.

Beside talking when I wasn’t supposed to after three weeks of vegetables one day I got into my car drove into town and bought a double cheeseburger with bacon.

Of course I felt bad so when I told the Abbot what I had done he smiled and said I guess you were made to be a Franciscan not a Trappist.

Along a pond at the monastery there was this very long beautiful row of trees they were in a perfect row equally spaced all the same size. It was very impressive.

One day I asked the guest master about the trees and he responded

A shoot shall blossom from the stump of Jesse

I didn’t understand what he was talking about so he went on to explain.

Many years ago that was a beautiful big old tree which the monks enjoyed.

It was very large and gave lots of shade. There was a bench underneath it and it was a great place sit in the shade and look over the valley and pray.

Then one year after an ice storm they had to cut it down.

Everyone of them was sad because they loved the tree and they loved that spot..

After it was cut down one of the monk cut several of the branches and placed them in the ground as fence posts.

To their surprise after a few months everyone of the posts began to sprout and with a lot of trimming and care that whole row of trees grew from the fence posts cut from the old tree.

A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse

Everyone of us has had dark  moments, moments when hope or even the possibility of hope seems far away.

Maybe you've endured the pain of a broken marriage or the death of a loved one.

Maybe you’ve run into financial troubles or lost your home a lot of people have.

Maybe you’ve become estranged with a family member or your kid is really struggling and can’t seem to find happiness.

Maybe your family has moved away and you live alone and are lonely waiting for someone to call..

Maybe you just can’t forgive someone and move on.

The list goes on and on and on…

Yes sometimes life seems like a dead stump.

In the first reading the Prophet Isaiah is describing the terrible time in which he lived.

During his youth Israel was affluent but then fell to the Assyrians. Many of the Israelites were taken away in exile.

In other words it went from a flourishing tree to what appeared to be a dead stump.

Judah the northern kingdom later became the pawn of foreign powers.

And even with all the compromises they had made with their neighbors

they too had fallen on very hard times.

All appeared lost there seemed to be no reason to hope.

Yet the prophet Isaiah refused to give up and under God’s inspiration he dared to prophesied that even though the stump of  Israel and Judah seemed dead a shoot would sprout  and life would return.

Many say this simple phrase was prophecy of the Messiah which would be fulfilled in Jesus

Isaiah’s prophecy called his contemporaries to hope, hope in God and God’s love

Pope Benedict once wrote

Hope is more than just the belief that things will get better.

Hope is the conviction that we are loved and cherished by God

And If we  understand that we are  loved and cherished by God even for one moment, our lives will never be the same.

No matter what challenge we face no matter how dead the tree seems.

The readings on this second Sunday of Advent call us to hope

Hope without ceasing

Dear Friends

If we are loved by God..
What can touch us ?
What can harm us ?
What should we fear ?
What can we fear ?

Even in our darkest moments let us dare to hope that  shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse.