Saturday, November 30, 2013

Summons to A Charged Advent

Here we are, another  December 1st, another first day of another Advent season.  In Isaiah we hear “Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain,” and “Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”  And St. Paul encourages us “to reject the darkness of sin” and live with the armor of light.  And St. Matthew reminds us “be prepared” because at an unknown hour the Lord will come.  These three men of the Bible are sounding for God a wake up call to the Christian world in particular this weekend.

For us to capture a new vibrant almost electric sensation of what is about to happen, we have to hear these biblical calls as a genuine summons:  leave the world of sin and move to a new day, a new life.  There has come into the culinary vocabulary a word and concept that might well serve our modern taste for something new, something exciting.  The word is “infusion.”  Chefs today “infuse” parts of a meal with flavorings that excite our taste buds.  Even bartenders offer traditional drinks with an “infused” flavor. The season of Advent, you might say, is our annual spiritual culinary moment when scripture reminds us to slow our pace and recall how God’s presence “infuses” not a meal or a drink but all of his created world.

So, there comes a question:  have you thought that this Advent season we begin today is truly an opportunity for you and me to “infuse” an awareness of God’s goodness in our lives?  If you have or have not, as Advent begins, let me suggest that today and tomorrow, we use the first two days of the season to take the time to mark for ourselves what darkness of sin needs to be removed to make way for the light of Christ.  

Let me share a thought, unusual and perhaps, beyond our normal, traditional manner of thinking.  But it is what came to my mind during some time in prayer and reflection very early Saturday morning. Did you ever think that God might be using the efforts of retailers to move the beginning of the Christmas season back a little each year as an opportunity for those who preach to take time to focus on a universal need in our society today, namely, that there is a crisis of faith and morality throughout the world brought about by indifference toward God, immorality and religious laziness?  It is simply a thought when we might take the time to face honestly so much tone-deafness to the Ten Commandments and, yes, ignorance towards the laws and practices of our religious affiliation.  Further, why is it that the average attendance in most American parishes for the weekend obligation to attend Mass only brings out 30% of most parish enrollments?
Just a thought to me from the Holy Spirit?

Advent is indeed a “wake up call” moment and the Fall Christmas Shopping Classic we witnessed on Friday might just be God using even the commercial early celebrations to bring Jesus back into our lives?  Perhaps we might realize that the days of Advent can be a move to a new vibrancy for living, for a truly powerful understanding of God’s presence in our lives and in our world.   We can stir up the world’s awareness of God’s presence “infused” in society, if we make the effort  ourselves during Advent to make known and lived the “reason for the season.” 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Christ the King Sunday

Good morning.  So, here we are celebrating another important and meaningful feast day in our Church.  I believe, if we are to benefit from the graces being made available to us, it is important to ask ourselves this question: How significant for our lives is what we celebrate?  This is an important question because I believe that for most of us, including myself, the reason meaning of the feast is either unknown, forgotten or of little interest.  So let me put before you the catechetical nuances of what we celebrate.

First, let’s consider this concept of king and kingdom.  We have not developed with such a concept in our experience in this country.  So what importance might we be missing?  Let me suggest that at the heart of Jesus’ teachings and his very life was the Kingdom of God and his role in this new concept.

The notion of a kingdom includes the reality that various communities and individuals who have accepted Jesus’ teaching about life under God.  Furthermore, we need to understand that not everyone has or will be able to accept this concept.  Nonetheless, in our Church we do believe that it is a concept or message that comes with validity and speaks of the very hopes and longings of all peoples in the very core of their being.

The way that God designed His Kingdom there is much reason for happiness and satisfaction to be sure.  At the same time, however, the very opposite, pain and suffering, are also a part of this Kingdom of God while we live in our bodies on this planet Earth.  Also not to be forgotten is the reality that we are sisters and brothers to one another.  This relationship opens up for us that some of these brothers and sisters are God’s representatives sent to help each of us in our personal growth.  At the 

same time, as well, others will - at some time or another - rely on one another to  be God’s messengers for our own personal growth.

In the words of St. Paul and St. Luke offered for our liturgy today we see the contrast between the duality of Jesus.  He is the image of God, the unseen Father, and at a later time he became the object of inhumane torture, even death as his naked body was nailed and displayed upon a wooden cross — for no other reason than to fulfill the Father’s will to provide for us a true reconciliation with the Father.

In these readings we encounter the fullness of the Kingdom in the awe and wonder of our King.  These words from the Preface Prayer speak to us what this means and what it means for us to be a part of his Kingdom.

“As King he claims dominion over all creation,
the he many present to you, his almighty Father,
an eternal and universal kingdom;
a kingdom of truth and life,
a kingdom of holiness and grace,
a kingdom of justice, love and peace.”

The Kingdom and the King are the Father’s gift to each of us.  However, each of us has the obligation to stand up and proclaim our allegiance to Him … every day!  We are called upon to join with all who recognize and live in the Kingdom of God to provide greater awareness of this Kingdom among our families, our communities, indeed throughout the world.

If your accept your place in God’s Kingdom, do not let it remain only with you.  From this year of Faith which concludes today, we have been given the opportunity to realize, I believe, how important the profession of our faith truly is when we encounter opportunities to being the message and love of Jesus Christ to those who have walked away from Him or who have never met Him.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

33 Sunday of Ordinary Time

You Need Not Ask:  You Are A Child of God

Let me begin my words to you with a perception of Pope Francis I have gained during the last few weeks.  Clearly this man has given the Church, indeed the whole world, a new experience of Church leadership.  What is genuinely real is that this man has spoken about himself with great humility:  I am a sinner.  His statement is much more meaningful than when we have heard those same words from other leaders.  For me, however, what is more significant, very different from almost all of his predecessors is this:  Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome, a sinner, speaks with a "dogmatic certainty  about each of us regardless of the linguistic accents that might differentiate us from one another, regardless of the color of one's skin that houses our very essence, regardless of personal status or possessions."  Francis the man believes with all his heart, mind and soul that "God is in every person's life ... even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else -- God is in this person's life."  "You can, you must try to seek God in every human life."

I share these thought about this new Bishop of Rome because the words in Luke's gospel today (Lk 21:5-19) this next to the last Sunday of Ordinary Time of our Church calendar speak about how Jesus' disciples and even many of us today look upon things such as magnificent temples or basilicas as structures that will last forever.  It is genuine human folly to believe that that what is in its own essence ephemeral will be standing forever.  But, I believe, what Pope Francis is teaching especially to our Church's leadership as well as each of us that we must not anchor our ultimate faith in what cannot endure forever except that reality that God is in every person we meet.  As long as there is a beating heart in any man, woman or young person, God is present in that person.

Like the apostles in today's gospel there is something that instigates human inquisitiveness:  we want to know about what is unknown.  There are so many experiences we have in our lives that elicit questions.  Already this year our young people are want to know when Santa Claus is coming and what are the gifts he will be bringing.  Adults want to know when the financial crises of our times will end.  Those men and women, who have come to this country and are the source of labor in so many occupations many citizens don't want, these people who, like ourselves, have God within their very being.  They hope and pray that our government will soon grant them citizenship but now feel forced to ask "When?"  Other adults who are forced to live on the periphery of our society because they are poor or because they may have some-sex attractions, these men and women are asking when societal exclusions that impact their lives be ended.  All we really need to know and believe are these two realities: (1) each of us, like monuments that fall and are shattered into dust, each of us will face the call from God that ends this earthly life.  "But when?"  (2) Each of us is a child of God, no different from anyone else who will at the end of our lives meet the God Jesus has taught us to love as He loves us.  It is the God who will bring us to his kingdom where we will then live eternally.  Likewise each of us is and will be forever God's child, his creation.