Monday, December 15, 2014

Rejoice, Rejoice

Friends of Faith:
Rejoice, Rejoice!

If I think about Christmas the way the world has come to know it my first instinct is an anxiety attack. I have shopping to do, gifts to wrap, cards to write, cookies to bake, a tree to set up, a house to clean and the list goes on.
But if I think about Christmas with a sense of rejoicing in the reason for the season I turn to giving thanks for all of the gifts I have received, the greatest of which is Jesus himself.

“Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit.” 1 Thes 5: 16
When I realize the true reason for Christmas and begin to rejoice in the reason for the season it is because I am giving thanks for the gifts of our health, a warm house, family and friends, a full cupboard, the opportunity of being able to go to church and the list goes on.

And instead of an anxiety attack I look forward in anticipation to a house full of kids and grandkids, singing Christmas carols, driving around to see the sparkling lights and the opportunity to see relatives and hear from friends that I don’t see or talk to often enough.
“My soul rejoices in my God. My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked upon his lowly servant. …..My soul rejoices in my God. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.” Lk 1: 46-53
I think it is the very reason that I am hearing expressed more and more –“I wish we celebrated Christmas in the same way we celebrate Thanksgiving”….only the gift of ourselves, plenty of time to enjoy each others’company and most importantly truly rejoicing in thanksgiving for all what we have that is spiritually and emotionally lasting rather than material and fleeting.

The “ah ha” moment! To give thanks, rejoice, anticipate through the lens of Christ instead of through the lens of the world: in the wisdom of thanksgiving instead of the desires brought on by competition, comparison, and materialism.
How can I make Christmas be more like Thanksgiving? Yes, I still have to cook, but now it is a time of new and shared memories and a time to get in the way of all the other cooks.

How can I rejoice more, appreciate more and do less? What will I really give up if I just sit back and enjoy friends and family instead of trying to impress them with “perfect” gifts? When will we realize that we already have the perfect gift, each other—exactly what is realized when we express our desire to make Christmas more like Thanksgiving?
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel. Until the Son of God appear. Rejoice, rejoice, Thou wisdom from on high. Who order’est all things mightly, to us the path of knowledge show, and teach us in the ways to go. O come, desire of nations, bind in one the hearts of all humankind; bid thou one sad divisions cease, and be thyself our Prince of Peace. Amen. (O Come, O Come Emmanuel)

In anticipation, in thanksgiving, in rejoicing for the season – May each of you find hope and seek peace, share joy and profess love as we await the coming of Christ.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Missing the Reason for the .....

Friends of Faith:

Hindsight is often 20/20. Looking back we can often see why or what we would have done differently.
Yesterday Father Mike pointed out that in many, maybe most of the events where Jesus was present, only Mary, Joseph and an occasional apostle or follower were present: The Annunciation—only Mary gave an unconditional yes; the Nativity, only Mary and Joseph were present—the inn keeper put them in the lowly place of the animals, the stable; Jesus’ Preaching in the Temple at age 12—Mary and Joseph lost Jesus, and the Jewish doctors of the church (Rabbis) didn’t really understand what Jesus was preaching or asking questions about—they just thought he was a “smart” kid; the Crucifixion—many were present, yet only Mary and the disciple, John, had any realization of the importance of the event; and immediately after His Resurrection – those who met Jesus on the path to Emmaus missed who he was and again the importance of his rising. Each of the disciples at some point MISSED the message of Jesus in their lives.

Not until the Spirit was breathed into the apostles on Pentecost and they looked back at many of these events did they begin to understand what they had missed, what they should have done differently, and why: the reason for the season.
“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” Mk 1: 1-8

God gave the gospel and biblical writers open ears, open hearts and the ability to see the reasons—to write them down for the Church to pass on so that we might be able to do things differently and that we would not miss their importance.
Yet, just like those present in Christ’s time I have missed the reason for many of the suggestions, many of the instructions I have received over the years. I have failed to pay attention to my parents, mentors, events, even sometimes, the wisdom of my children. I have often been “present”but missed the reason or the opportunity of my presence in a particular moment at a particular time. I have come away saying, “I wished I would have,” or “I’m sorry I didn’t” listen or do differently whatever it was I did in that particular time.

“The blind men approached him and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I can do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they said to him. Then he touched their eyes and said, “Let it be done for you according to your faith.” And their eyes were opened.” Mt 9: 27-31
Sometimes it is a matter of not taking the time to pray and discern God’s will. Sometimes it is a matter of thinking I know best. Sometimes it is a matter of not asking the right question at the right time. And sometimes it is a matter of my being so busy that I am only paying attention to my own purpose rather than looking around at what else is happening, or the intention (and heart) of the other people present who are offering their help, their knowledge or their better understanding of the situation.

Often someone looking at my situation from the “outside” has a better perspective of my overall dilemma. So when I miss the reason for the….. season, it is because my heart, my ears, my eyes were closed to the dilemma itself.
“Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out. Since everything is to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be, conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God” 2 Pt 3: 8-14

Heavenly Father, You are all knowing. Help me to listen. You are all powerful. Help me to obey. You are the reason. Come Holy Spirit, open my eyes, my ears and my heart to do Your will and to be one with your purpose. Help me allow Your presence to change my life. May Your reason become mine. Amen.
What am I being told? Who has God sent to tell me? Am I missing the reason? Will I say yes to this season?

Christ Jesus sent the Spirit to us, to guide us and to give us knowledge, courage, patience, wisdom and understanding—and God gave us Jesus Christ as the greatest present ever.
Don’t miss Christ’s presence. Make Him the reason for every season by celebrating and obeying His presence in your life.

Monday, December 1, 2014

High Alert

Friends of Faith:
We have been placed on high alert! “High alert” that Christ is coming. Being Christian this shouldn’t be a surprise, but yet sometimes we act as if we have either forgotten, or as if the fact that Christ has promised he will come again is new.

For those of you who were fortunate enough to be at a Circle of Saints mass this weekend this message will sound familiar as it comes from Archbishop Jackels homily – hopefully you will place it somewhere nearby during the season of Advent as a reminder of his message to us. For those of you who for any reason were unable to attend know that while it was his homily – it wasn’t really “his”message but rather he was giving us a personal plan to put today’s gospel into action.

"Jesus said to his disciples: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch. Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’” Mk 13: 33-37

Archbishop Jackel’s said that “while this particular scripture places us on “high alert”it is impossible to remain in this state of high intensity for very long. Rather we should continually live our life as if Christ is watching” (see Nov 14 reflection.)

And just as we wouldn’t ask Grandma or another treasured guest to come back at another time because we are not yet ready for their presence in our home, we should always be ready and willing for Christ’s second coming; for him to enter the home of our heart and lives—for Christ to be with us and we with Him fully and eternally.

God loves us but God hates sin. Likewise He doesn’t wait for us to make a mistake, rather He wants us to make an honest attempt to live our life as the holy person he designed us to be. He asks us to be willing to admit to our mistakes, to have a forgiving heart that makes amends, and to make a commitment to try our hardest to do better. He knows we don’t have the power to come to Him on our own, so He promises that He will come back for us—either at our death, or at the end of this world.

While we are called to be on “alert” we won’t and can’t in our human nature ever be “perfectly”ready. Just as sometimes our guests come a little early, or even completely surprise us with their visit we should want to have a willing, accepting, and spiritually ready mind and heart and to be ready with “a clean house.”

He suggested that we build a habit of praying the Act of Contrition each evening:

God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you, and I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell; but most of all because they offend you, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve with the help of your grace to confess my sins, do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.

Or to build our own prayer based on the principals of 1) confessing and admitting to our faults; 2) telling God that we love him and 3) making a firm commitment to seriously try to do better to live in obedience to God. (And it occurs to me that just as I was taught this at a young age, so should parents continue to teach a simplified version of this to their children—no matter their age.)

I am asked to do this day after day, moment after moment, again and again…. 70 x 7—especially in the covenant of my vocation, my marriage, in the promise of chastity, obedience, and service to each other through the mission of bringing each other to holiness.

Be alert. Be ready. Be willing. Make the commitment to try, try, and try again and forever, for yourself, for your spouse, for your children and for eternal life,