Monday, December 31, 2012

Mary, Mother of God

New Year's Day 
January 1, 2013

So, here we are at the door of another year.  A new beginning.  A particular moment inviting new beginnings.  As a Church, we celebrate what many would not normally consider: another day when we give our prayer and attention to Mary under the title Mother of God.  Does the designated feast day bring any significance to you?  There are many ways people celebrate this day.  For some it is the "unofficial" conclusion of the Christmas season, somehow forgetting that there are twelve days of Christmas.  On Wednesday morning, used Christmas trees will take their places along the curb lines. Surprising, isn't it, that the commercial world has not worked to extend the sales and celebrations to Epiphany that would produce greater revenues! 

What can we gather from the title of this feast day, Mary, Mother of God?  At first reading or hearing Mother of Jesus might seem to be more what we think.  Yes, Mary is so often understood as the mother of Jesus.  But when we take note of the title Mother of God, there is the reality that Mary's role was more than Mom for the young child named Jesus.  That she is called Mother of God should give us pause.

Mother of God:  a human being with such a lofty title should make us stop and take note.  We have to be careful that our frequent use of the title does not wear away the extraordinary role Mary has.  look at how she lived her life: more ordinary than extraordinary.

We should try as best as we can to imitate the way she lived, her spirituality.  It is a faith practice we can imitate.  As we begin the new year, I invite you to allow Mary to be a part of your daily life.  You will not be disappointed nor frustrated.

Again I extend to each of you my hope that your new year will be months marked by a new deepened experience of your faith, your relationship with Almighty God.  May the Mother of God also be a unique and special Mother to you as well during this new year as we continue to make our way through A Year of Faith.  Let the Mother of God walk with you on this special journey.

New Year's Eve

December 31, 2012

As a native Washingtonian, I would be completely remiss
were I not to write
"Hail to the Redskins, 
Hail Victory,
Braves on the warpath
Fight for old DC!""

And maybe we should request
Robert Griffin III 
to stop by the US Capitol Building today
to work his magic
with the men and women
elected to serve the people of the United States!
This young man is clearly a leader 
who has pulled millionaires together
producing a winning team!!!
Maybe the could produce a winning team
on the Hill!
It never hurts to hope for the seemingly impossible!

Now to a few end-of- ear reflective moments.

After the excitement of a significant game for the Washington Redskins, I decided despite the hour I needed to find some calming influence.  Fortunately a Christmas gift that came my way is "Just call me Lopez" written by Margaret Silf.  Except for the small picture on the cover, I do not think the subject matter would have come to mind so swiftly.  So, I decided to finish the wonderful presentation by Margaret Silf of her story about Ignacio Lopez de Loyola.  The writer invites the reader "to meet, and engage with, one of God's pieces of broken glass."  I cannot encourage a better read for the end and beginning of an old and a new year on this New Year's Eve morning.  It was well near 2 AM when I sat alone with Jesus in the Hermitage chapel so moved by the presentation of a story I know so well but never so well written for our modern times.  I do hope your new year's early days includes the read of this moving rendition of a saint so very important to me since 1955.

Today is a moment in your life when you might look backward and forward.  To prepare any serious "resolutions" for the new year, one must look over the shoulder at two realities: how good the "good God" has been and how disappointed he might be in one's performance during the last 12 months.

Consider, if you will, the many graces that God has given of his abundance to you and your loved ones.  Do more than just a rapid glance backwards.  Seriously consider how many blessings God has given you ... despite that financial difficulties and other crosses you may have been asked to carry during these past twelve months.  I know God has gifted me with so many kindnesses from family and friends.  I realize, too, how many times my words from the altar and from this medium have impacted the lives of many people, from moments of dying to resolutions to remain faithful to the Church despite painful experiences.  I know, too, the crosses I have had to shoulder were extraordinary gifts God has given to me, keys that have helped me open my mind and heart to his wishes for me.  In particular I think of the infliction (if that is such a word) of "shingles."  Nothing has ever been as painful and continues so during the health months following the attack.  Yet, it has given me the time to be restful and quiet; time to read, time to reflect upon God's wishes for me in the present and in all the tomorrow's that I will call New Year's Day.

It is a time for serious thanksgiving now that our annual series of celebrations is almost at an end.  Likewise it is the moment when that backwards reflection should lead me to know what it is that God wants of me in the months and their days the lie ahead for me.  Surely as my head began to bob very early this morning, I was alert enough to know that I had to pray to be opened to the ways that God would make his presence and his will know to me in this new year.  Lord God, continue to shower your abundance upon me, my family, my friends:  these will be your instruments leading me to a better understanding of your will.

To each of you, my readers, I thank you because you stir me to compose these thoughts each day.  Likewise, I  offer a special prayer that God will be as generous to you as He will be to me in the new year -- and I know He will.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Feast of the Holy Family

December 30, 2012

Saturday, December 29, 2012


Keeping God's word in my life is the way that I allow God's love to be perfected in me.  This is surely a good thought to use for some quiet time reflection during the days of the Christmas season.  It is during this time that I have the opportunity to be close to Jesus:  from Christmas Day until Pentecost.  If I walk just as he walk during his lifetime, I am living my life in that union with him.  This does raise a question for me: My actions  -- are they congruent with what I claim by my words and practices.

Today we are one day short of the halfway mark of the Christmas season.  I was surprised to hear in a dinner conversation just a couple of days ago that one family had already dismantled the Christmas tree and packed up all the Christmas decorations including the manger scene figures.  What a loss of the graces the 12 days of Christmas provide us.

The scripture readings and various feasts within the twelve days of Christmas are, if we seriously wish to understand what it is that God is asking of us, me in particular, in the months and days that lie ahead.  Each of these twelve days is offering a golden opportunity to recognize what it is in my life that is a genuine hindrance to my living in the light that Jesus' birth brings to darkness that may have power over my words and actions.

The beginning of another calendar year, the 2013th since Jesus was born, in which humankind will continue to allow darkness to be so strong comes upon us in just a few days.  The days of Christmas are for each of us the opportunity to open our own eyes to the Light of the World, Jesus Christ.  Let us do just that:  let us open our hearts to the experience of the Presentation described in today's gospel reading.  Let Mary and Joseph present to me the Child Jesus as God's gift.  Let  God bring me the same peace and joy Simeon experienced in the temple when Mary placed her Son in his hands.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


December 28, 2012

Feast of the Holy Innocents

How can anyone think of this feast day without relating the event to the recent massacure of 20 young students in Connecticut?  When there are tragedies such as what a group of individuals such as parents, relatives, friends and a community had to endure there are several questions:  Why?  Where is God in the lives of the families impacted by the actions of a deranged man?

It must have been no different in the days when young boys were slaughtered because a ruler feared the birth of a child who would become a king, a child who might remove the ruler from his throne.  Certainly there were the same questions:  Why?  Where is Yahweh?

Perhaps there is no immediate answer then or now.  Perhaps God did not want these young innocents to be so treated.  Yet it would seem that the circumstances were such that through these terrible activities God will use these young people to draw others to himself.  Perhaps.  Perhaps.  We shall not know until we meet our God.

We might wonder how Jesus may have reacted when he learned of the sacrifice of the young boys brought about by his own coming into the world.  Did Jesus learn about these victims as God?  Or simply as the son of Mary?  What impact must there have been in his heart?

December 27, 2012

Feast of St. John the Evangelist

Today, as we celebrate the feast of St. John, the readings suggest what some might consider a true philosophical challenge for early in the morning.  We begin reading some of St. John's writings.   Just as a writer today might attempt to present the challenges of ethical or moral issues that confront society, St. John was attempting to refute some of the philosophical debates of the early Church.  In particular John was engaged in a debate with those who did not believe that the man Jesus was fully God or that God would be come a human being.  He is writing about "body" issues of his times.

Some would say that pelvic issues are among the major issues of the body for the Church today.  An aspect of "body" was very much alive in St. John's days.  There were Gnostics and Docetists that challenged the treaching of the early Church.  It was very difficult for some to accept that God had indeed become fully human.  It is St. John's intention to challenge those who did not accept that God had become a human being to the fullest extent.  For most today, there is the acceptance of Jesus Christ as fully God and fully man.

The Gnostics could not accept the body as good.  For them it was evil.  Therefore, of course, to maintain that Jesus Christ is God was impossible because Jesus had a body which was evil.  John wishes to bring to consideration that all that God created is good not evil.

Are there not moments or realities in our world today where we encounter people who find it difficult to accept, for example, that the bread and wine in the Eucharist are not the true body and blood of Jesus?

The challenge continues.  To believe Jesus is God, that God is present to us in the Eucharist, is difficult for some.  Therefore, we need to remind ourselves that our "faith" is an experience of what we cannot necessarily prove.

Let us read carefully the words of St. John throughout his gospel and letters.  Let us pray for the grace to accept what the Church teaches us in matters such as these.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

December 26, 2012

St. Stephen

It is not peculiar should there be feelings of confusion in your mind and heart on this day after Christmas and the birth of a Savior.  Yesterday it was joy, noel, rejoice because the Son of God comes to the world to be the Father's messenger.  Today we mark the unjust sentencing and death by stoning for a follower of the Child Jesus.  And, notice if you will, that one of the men who would become a most unusual follower of Jesus, Saul of Tarsus, later to be known as Paul, stands nearby as Stephen is pummelled by stones.

Stephen stands immediately behind the day of great celebration to serve as a reminder that there is a cost for those who have been and will be willing to be like Stephen, men and women who are willing to preach the same message that this martyr brought to his contemporaries.

Stephen is a model for us of loyalty and fidelity.  He is a man who was inspired by the Holy Spirit to live the gospel that he has accepted into his lifestyle.  This is especially challenging for Stephen who was condemned as a threat to the temple.  Indeed he stands before the people as a model of Jesus Christ himself.  Stephen's final words stand as a testimony of his conviction to the life of Jesus and what he and the apostles had taught:  "Lord, do not hold this sin against them."

The words of the gospel today are a reminder to us in the challenges that confront our daily lives that the same Holy Spirit that gave strength to Stephen give power and commitment to us to live out that gospel message given to us by the Child Jesus.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Day

On this Christmas morning, let us take a moment to look behind the story that is so familiar to all of us ... the birth of the Lord Jesus that we read during the "midnight" Masses throughout the world.  What we might consider this morning is how this infant child has impacted not just the world but each one of us individually.  We know of the birth of many babies but no child's birth has had such an impact on the world as the birth of Mary's Son, the Son of God.

As you look at the child in any of the nativity scenes you see today or during the Christmas season we must think about these two realities:  this child was, from his very beginning, with God and IS God.

What is important for us is this:  this Child Jesus is and expression of God himself.  Each of us reveals something about ourselves each and every time we speak in a way that puts forward how we are thinking and what has value for us.   Again this Child Jesus is God speaking to us.  God's Word is somewhat different than our spoken words.  God's Word creates.  We can speak of "the President's word" on a topic, we can speak of the words of a brilliant orator like of John Kennedy or Pope John Paul II.  We know these words impact our lives.  We know today, for example, the many speakers who bring to mind the loss of 20 youngsters in a small Connecticut grammar school.  These words, even these very words I am using at this moment, impact your life and my life today.  But these words do not create us, do not make us.    But this Word of God brought all things into existence because he is God.

Just a few days ago we experienced the longest darkness in the year's calendar, December 21st.  From that day forward there is less darkness, more light. in our lives.  There is, then, a significance for us that Christmas is celebrated at this time.  Why wasn't it celebrated in the middle of summer?  We look forward now to those summer days, to those times when there is more light in each of our days.  Listen to the gospel today:  Light shines in the darkness and darkness cannot overcome this Light that has come into our world.  As you look at this Child Jesus, remember He is the Light that brings about what we hope for.

That "hoped for" experience is what we witness in the birth of the Child Jesus.  He became "flesh."  Interesting, isn't it, that John did not write that Jesus became a human being.  For John  the world "flesh" has special significance.  For the evangelist "flesh" points to all that is weak, all that is sinful in our world.  Jesus came to us in flesh ... so that he could experience fully what it is that each of us must endure in our experiences of life.  Jesus came to free us from whatever it is that makes us slaves ... slaves to ways of life that deprive us of the fullness that God desires for us.

When we, adults, look upon this Child Jesus, our prayer today should be that this Child will bring us the wonders of liberation, freedom, from the realities that deprive us of the wonders of God's creation.  In your prayer today, ask this Child Jesus to free you from that reality in this world that keeps you from enjoying the freedom God wants you to share.  

Friday, December 21, 2012


Third Week of Advent

In today's readings we encounter a love song that speaks of so many relationships:  God the Father with Mary, Mary with Jesus, Jesus with John the Baptist, Mary with Elizabeth, Elizabeth with Mary and Jesus and God the Father.  Read the song but first imagine the two parties that share such a deep relationship.

Some men of prayer have written that the Visitation event is more about Jesus and John than about Mary and Elizabeth.  Hmmm?  You might think about this and let your spirit lead you in this instance.  To each his/her own.

Likewise the Lucan infancy narrative is a mechanism for the writer to allow some foretelling of his own.  Luke gives us a hint about what Jesus would be doing later in his life.  In this Visitation event there is the characteristic Jesus will demonstrate throughout his public life -- service.  Recall words Jesus will speak while preaching and teaching:  "I have come to serve not to be served."  Here Jesus comes to visit his cousin.  He does not await John's visit to him later in their lives.

The present and power of the Holy Spirit is also evident in Luke's narrative.  Consider the reaction of the four parties involved in this even:  each of them is so excited by the visit of the two future Moms.  Likewise the first to be born, John, leaped for joy when Jesus came near albeit still in his mother's womb.

In this hymn of love there is a gift for all of us.  See that our Christian faith, our belief in Jesus Christ, in a God who serves before expecting any service, there is much more than mind-work.  Rather there is the work of the heart, there is a life that is driven by love and intimacy for all our sisters and brothers.

Monday, December 17, 2012


3rd Week of Advent

Understanding one particular aspect of the Nativity narrative -- how Joseph handled what must have been a genuine surprise when he learned that Mary was pregnant and they were only engaged! -- may be a surprise to younger generations.  Sexual relations between unmarried people:  "happens every day (or night!)"  we say or hear.  We cannot overlook the seriousness of this situation in the times of  Mary and Joseph.  Joseph could have brought Mary before judicial system.  The penalty? Death.  Joseph, however, was further challenged by the appearance and message of a heavenly body telling him of a reality even more difficult to understand.  What trust and openness he must have had.  We know so little about this very special man.  Wouldn't a modern-day news conference be extraordinary!  How did this man come to accept this young girl as his wife even though pregnant -- but not with his child?

imagine two young people visited by angels with unbelievable requests:  how challenging were the angelic requests:  be the mother of God's son and take Mary as your wife!

Advent is a time that puts before us the time to examine our own openness to the "challenges" or "missions" that God asks of us.  Surely angels with wings do not come to us -- at least CNN, Fox News or CSNBC have not reported such events.  However, we can ask ourselves "Are we open to the "human angels" God uses to instill in our lives what His will is for us?"  "What human angels?"  Advent is a good time to consider if I am open to God's will -- as Joseph and Mary were.  It is a time to consider what events and what people God has chosen to speak for him to us.  Take some time today and throughout the remaining week of Advent to look at the roadway of your life's journey:  is there a family member, a close friend, a colleague at work, the death of a loved one or dear friend, the loss of a job etc. etc. who or that is God's messenger to you?   Another person who has influential powers we seem to overlook in our world are the Deacons, Priests, Bishops, Cardinals and even the Pope who preach daily or frequently from our pulpits.  These men are also God's special messengers  through the thoughts and pictures painted in their sermons.

Are you open to God's message, his call?  Stop for a few moments to ask if there seems to be a situation or a person whose words are impacting your life or at least your thinking.  How is this person being a God-sent angel to help you along the pathway God has laid out for you?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Third Week of Advent
December 17, 2012

Our nation continues to live in what many might think an artificial world following the senseless murder of 26 innocent men, women and children.  Every radio and commentator has put forward a personal explanation of what we must do.  Even our President in a moving address to the nation on Friday called for a dialog, a necessary conversation.  In the minds of many people, we should be punishing the NRA to protect our 2nd Amendment rights.

Let me share my personal suggestion to address something that needs to be considered.  I am sure I am not the only writer with these thoughts.

Our national conversation must address the moral and ethical  issues that are so scarce among us.  We need face the fact that the number of guns in our homes, offices, cars, trucks is far too great.  Why do we need so many guns?  What do  our young people learn from personal arsenals kept in home?  Violence: this is what marks us in the  times.

Violence leads to the casual use of guns to kill another person.  What violence?  Do we  consider the physical abuse inflicted upon children by parents?  Do we consider the physical abuse inflicted upon spouses?

When we begin to face the fact that there are serious crimes that we accept as "somewhat okay" in our society.  Likewise why doesn't the national conversation focus upon the absence of the Ten Commandments.  I firmly believe that God will not hesitate to judge each of us on the Commandments regardless of whether we attended Catholic, private or public schools.  Perhaps our national leaders might give serious consideration to these violations of the rights of a human being.

These are certainly national sins, national failures we should bring our moments of prayer.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Third Sunday of Advent
Sunday, December 16, 2012

Today we celebrate "Gaudete Sunday."  In many parishes the celebrant of the weekly Sunday liturgy will don pinkish vestment.  This liturgical practice came about from the earlier days of our Church when Advent, like Lent, was a time for acts of penance and mortification.  It is for this reason that we have the readings that speak of a time when the people of Yahweh were aware of the lifestyle of both national and temple leaders. The leaders of the nation earned harsh treatment because of their false worship a definite disregard for the needs of the poor.  After two chapters of "doom and gloom," Zephaniah begins to bring joy to the people. 

"The images in this poem are celebrational and reflective of the ritual festivals of this agricultural land.  Instead of a sweeping away, there is a gathering up.  Rather than banishment, there is inclusion.  The people are to shout for joy that what was held against them has been removed and they are to related gratefully with their new and loving King." [Rev. Larry Gillick, SJ, Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality]

We, in this 21st century, are but nine days away from the longed-for Nativity of Jesus, Son of God, son of Mary.  The Good News is that the arrival, the birth, of the Savior is a reality of goodness for all of us to enjoy.  It is a time to realize once again that as God's people, we are, like the people of Old Testament times, men and women whose transgressions against our God and His Commandments as well as our brothers and sisters are forgiven.  This is the "present" our God has given to each of us ... genuine forgiveness.  Each of us can see in this birth of the Son of God, the Son of Man, God's giving us our "present."

During the days just prior to the birth of Mary's child, God's son, a man was bold enough to speak out not only about the coming of a Savior, a Messiah, but also like earlier Old Testament prophets about how to make ready for his coming.  People of the times, especially many who held positions of wealth and power in the community, we asking this unusual prophet, John the Baptist, what they should do to make ready for his arrival.  Believing that this Savior was more than a temporal ruler, John answered their questions.  John the Evangelist, in today's gospel reading, he spoke words that were tough and ultimately cost him his life.  Listen to the Baptist's words:

"Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John [the Baptist]  might be the Christ.  John answered them all, saying, 'I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.  I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."[Luke 3]

The Baptist is clearly teaching those concerned about their future to free themselves from what would make a new life impossible.  Thus the imagery of the of the farmer taking in the harvest and separating the useful part of the crop from that which does not serve his needs.  It is a reminder to all the later centuries of biblical readers that God will also bring about a separation of those who cannot live the new life, the Good News, that his Son Jesus came to give as the Father's "present" to each of us.

Today, as Christmas morning is only a few sun rises away, there is among most people an anticipatory feeling for the day of Jesus' birth as well as the coming of Santa Claus with his gifts and our exchanging of gifts with those who are important in our lives.  In modern times this is a challenging celebration.  It calls us to realize the importance of God's "present" to us and not to allow it to be overshadowed by the ephemeral, a passing fancy, in our lives.  We who are genuine followers of Jesus Christ should do what we can to make our exchanging of gifts, even those marvelous gifts from Jolly old St. Nicholas,  be emblematic of the many ways God continues to present us with his presents.

"Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus." [Revelation:22:20]

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Second Week of Advent
December 12, 2012

Let me begin with an explanation of the hiatus that just ended ... thanks to a young lady in New Dehli, India.  She was the individual who brought my modem and my computer to the table and a genuine compromise was made even here in suburban Washington, DC.  The "compromise" was simple yet so simple that it confused a few computer experts.  Sorrry, therefore, that I could not reach you through any of my high tech devices.

Let me suggest that you find some little time to read a brief history of this unique feast day for all of the Americas -- South, Central, USA and Canada.  Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patroness of all the Americas.

In reading about five apparitions related to the beginning of this feast, you will encounter the determination of Mary to be of help to many generations of people.  It was on the morning of December 9, 1531 that Juan Diego, a recent convert to our faith, would become a part of our Church's history in a manner he could hardly imagine.  This very simple man was moving forward from his reception into the Church to become one of its proclaimed saints.  Little did such a thought enter his mind.  While making the walk to church where he would attend Mass and a catechism class, Juan passes by Tepeyac Hill.   He notices a brightness at the top of the hill and heard music.  Strange as that might seem in the earlier days of the 16th century, even more unusual was this:  he heard the voice of a woman calling him to come to the top of the hill.  Then it happened.  Our simple traveler saw the Blessed Virgin Mary.  She shared with him her desire that a shrine should be built on this hill top.  She was clear:  "... to you and to all mankind who love me and trust in me and invoke my help" I will be a merciful mother.  Then she asked Juan to go to the Bishop of Mexico City.  There Juan was to tell the Bishop that Mary had appeared to him and that her message to the Bishop was to build a shrine to Mary there on Tepeyac Hill.

There were three other apparitions that happened:  each of them Mary appeared to Juan to give him instructions in dealing with the Bishop who was doubtful at the outset.  On this day Mary appeared to Juan, apparently twice: first, she asked Juan to return to the doubting Bishop; second, because the Bishop asked for a sign from this woman.  Juan returned to Mary, reporting on his meeting with the Bishop and his desire for a "sign" that would convince him that this was indeed the Mother of God.  Mary came to Juan, listened to his report and asked him to return to the hill the next morning.

Juan did not show because his uncle was dying and Juan went to get a priest to come to his uncle.  Two day later, December 12, Mary stopped Juan on his way to Mass to bring the priest to his uncle.  He explained his failure to meet Mary as agreed.    She spoke words to him that seem to be what many of us fail to recall when in a difficult situation.  "Do not let anything afflict you and be not afraid of illness of pain....  Are you not under my shadow and protection?  She told Juan his uncle was already well.

In the history that you will find as indicated above, by click onto Our Lady of Guadalupe in the heading above,  you will read the story of Mary's determination.  The thought that comes to my mind is this:  when will Mary appear to someone again, this time in the USA, to serve as a reminder to people that she has a special intercessory role that she wishes to offer to those who trust and believe.  She is aware of our need for a strong faith and clearly is willing to confront any opposition that will not allow her to be who she is nor to receive her care and protection.  She truly is our heavenly mother who wants to care for us.

Perhaps had I turned to Mary for some motherly help and support last week, I may have come to the computer-modem compromise sooner!  Hail Mary ... pray for us sinners!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

First Week of Advent
December 5, 2012

Abundance.  It is an expression that gives a theme to the readings offered for our consideration and today's liturgy.  I would like to reflect on this theme in and through a few thoughts on "intimacy."

Surely we can see the abundance of Jesus in the manner he cares for followers who have not eaten for three days.  He asks his disciples to bring to him what food they can gather from those who planned ahead.  A few loaves and fish become the menu for 5,000+ hungry people.  When the meal is finished there are seven baskets filled with "left overs."

It is obvious that Jesus has an intense feeling for those who had been walking along with him.  Listening to his message and witnessing the remarkable cures that took place during those days alone must have given them emotional strength.  Jesus cared for these people.  His love for them was reflected in his care.  He could have left them to be alone with his disciples.  His love was real and obviously a reflection of his intimate concern for them.  Surely he had built up a relationship with many of them who brought their needs to him.

What does this speak to us today?  It is easy for us today to say that "I know Jesus."  We are blessed by modern technology that has enabled us to share in an abundance not only of great foods and drinks.  Just think of the information we have been given by means of the computer and the Internet.  How abundant is our knowledge of God because of the information we can have before us in mili-seconds.  Our access to book knowledge as well as the spoken word of so many remarkable preachers and teachers is indeed an example of an abundance before us each and every day.

What is easily lost in this explosion of "God-Knowledge" is what makes our salvation possible.  What is it?  It is the opportunity this abundance source of knowledge puts before us:  the ability to develop an intimate relationship with Jesus.

In these early days of Advent, let me extend to you this invitation:
You are invited
each day of the year
to share in the most abundant moments
a follower of Jesus can have.
You are invited
to build an intimate relationship
with Jesus Christ.

You need no text books only your bible and your time.

Monday, December 3, 2012

First Week of Advent
Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Let us begin with Isaiah's words that describe the prophet's perception of the Son of God.  You will gain much today if you read these words slowly and even more if you read them a second or third time.  Let you mind and heart hear the words.  Remember these are words about Jesus who is to come.

 The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
A Spirit of counsel and of strength,
a Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
Not by appearance shall he judge,
nor by hearsay shall he decide,
But he shall judge the poor with justice,
and decide aright for the land's afflicted.
He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
Justice shall be the band around his waist,
and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.

What our minds and hearts might see and hear in these words are the prophetic gift of the Holy Spirit.  Consider that these same gifts are what we seek for ourselves in our daily experiences.  Notice the pairings that Isaiah puts before us: first, a Spirit wisdom and of understanding; second, a Spirit of counsel and of strength; and lastly, a Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord.

Isn't Advent a season when we strive to prepare for a deeper awareness of the birth of Jesus on the one hand but secondly to hear the whispering voice of God leading us to know ourselves more completely, to understand what gifts of the Spirit might be lacking in my own life.

Since the proclamations of the documents of Vatican II, justice has become a major concern or effort in our Church.  How challenging it is for so many to accept the call to assure especially the poor and those marginalized by society that justice shall also be the band around our waists.

Consider what happens when these gifts of the Holy Spirit become a part of our world, our community, our lives ... especially in the life of our families.

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
The calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra's den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder's lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.

Peace and harmony come to be when justice is a reality in the hearts and minds of the men and women who proclaim that "Jesus is Lord."  Imagine what our world, our communities, our families, yes, even my own life will be like when knowledge of the Lord abounds among God's people ... "as water covers the sea."  Amen!

December 3, 2012
(Liturgical Year 2013)
Feast of Apostle St. Andrew
First Week of Advent

How often in years gone by have we initiated the season of Advent with thoughts about how busy the next four weeks will be.  We set ourselves up to by-pass a liturgical season that offers us amazing graces not just for the first month of the new liturgical year but, I suggest, opportunities to plan a spiritual journey for the entire Church year.

In this first week of Advent the biblical readings proposed for our daily liturgy and prayer speak of hope.  Is there anyone of you who are reading these words who does not have a personal need for hope in the year to come.  Perhaps there is an abundance of the felt need for hope.

A little time in prayer with the readings, a valued time for quiet reflection:  these experiences offer each person the opportunity to consider how abundantly God wants to sharing his blessings and goodness. 

Perhaps you may feel the need to experience the presence of peace within your heart, within your current reality.  Perhaps God wants you to have an abundance of peace.  Are you receptive?  Can you see moments in your life where there is a need to recall words from today's first reading:

They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
One nation shall not raise the sword against another,
nor shall they train for war again. 

How often are the graces of God overlooked when a sharp word is leveled agains another or when we unfairly judge another person's words or actions.  If some thought is given to these moments, is not war a part of one's life.

St. Francis Xavier, one of the original members of the Society of Jesus and a very dedicated and close friend of Ignatius of Loyola, is a true model of God's abundant graces.  Indeed this man truly was an "Energizer Bunny"  long before electricity.  Xavier took the time to discern how God had offered him so many gifts and talents.  It was prayerful reflection with God that Xavier learned and yearned to be an instrument in the hand of God, bringing God's life and love to thousands in many different places.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

First Sunday of Advent  -  2013
December 2, 2012

There is no doubt that most adults who attend a church service this weekend experience a mixed bag of emotions.  First, at least for me, there is this thought:  what happened to this year?  Second, again at least for me,  I ask myself what did I accomplish in the last 11 months?  Lastly, all of us ask ourselves these two related questions: (a) How am I going to handle the next four weeks with all of its demanding pressures? and (b) Is it possible in all that "Christmas" demands of us to find some peace and quiet time to enjoy the spiritual graces that abound in the season of Advent?

The scripture readings today draw attention to both a beginning and an end:  the beginning of something (Someone) new and the end of all that we consider our lifetimes.  We have to admit that on the surface combining this start up and then its ending are different and perhaps difficult.  We we should not fail to perceive in this dual presentation is what can bring us the peace and joy that we would like Advent to be for us.  What is it?  It is the time between beginning and end.  It is the journey that each of us makes.  For some it might be 100 years.  For others it could be 90 or 75 or 62.  For some others it could be fewer years even months.  We just do not know when our bodies will arrive at a point when it can no longer carry us forward.  It is a time when, as we say, God calls us to face our eternity.

So, during these four weeks of Advent, this short period of time leading up to the event that marks a very special beginning for Christians, we have the opportunity to consider the signals, the road signs that life and the will of God have put before us.  This is possible because each of us is, you might say, somewhere along the way between the beginning and the end.  As we prepare to celebrate another Christmas, our preliminary Advent should be a time when we ask ourselves if we are prepared at this very moment to jump from our beginning time to the end time.  Have I taken notice of those signals God has given me along the journey of my life?  If not, then, am I willing to listen more carefully to what He is suggesting to me through the coming of His Son, Jesus Christ ... not just for the first time but through the many Christmases I have celebrated each with its own Advent prep time?

Therefore, the season of Advent is a unique moment at both the beginning and the end for us to face the reality of our lives:  how have I lived out thus far the mission that God has entrusted to me since the day of my beginning?  If we face this question honestly, there is no doubt that we will not discover that Advent is indeed a very short space of time because we may very well have discovered what it is that God wants of me.  That discovery will become the most wonderful Christmas gift in one's lifetime.

~~  Rest in the Peace of Jesus ~~

Please remember in your prayers a classmate of mine who has recently confronted earthly endings.  Father Jerry Fitzpatrick, SJ,  Philadelphia native, brother of Fr. Ed Fitzpatrick, who died.  Jerry and I taught at The Bishop's Latin School for a time.  After ordination Jerry served many years at the Jesuit mission in Osorno, Chile, South America.  He returned to the USA and did retreat work in New Jersey as well as at the Jesuit Loyola Retreat House located in the Archdiocese of Washington, Falkner, MD.  Jerry was a extraordinary.  May he now rest in peace, fully knowing his own ending which has become his new beginning with the Lord Jesus and St. Ignatius.