Saturday, December 15, 2018

12/16/18 -- 3rd Sunday of Advent

Scripture Readings

Why did the crowds and the soldiers and even the tax collectors ask John the Baptist, “What should we do?” Why did the crowds love John so much? After all, he was harsh and direct.

It’s because they knew. They knew they needed to change. They longed for some spiritual growth, for some connection. They knew they needed to repent, to throw their bad behaviors onto the fire. And they wanted to know what needed to be done for this spiritual growth to occur.

If we are taking Advent seriously, if we are preparing our hearts for the coming of the Messiah, then their question is ours as well.

What should we do? The answer is there for us. No bribes. No false accusations. No collecting more than the amount that we are owed. No grumbling about salaries. And we should stop being selfish and greedy.

Simply put, don’t do bad things. Do good things instead. Everyone already knows that. The crowds, the tax collectors, the soldiers, you and me. We already know that.

We already know what the bad things are. But our liturgy today doesn’t want us to focus on the bad things. Our liturgy today wants us to focus on good things because the liturgy focuses us on joy.

So let’s not focus on what we already know is wrong. Let’s focus on what we know is right. Listen to John again.

Share your extra stuff. Give some food to one who is hungry. Tell the truth and treat people with respect. Be satisfied with what you have and be content with your work. 

Even though John was harsh, the crowd loved his zeal, his personality. John inspired them. John turned their attention to brighter days. 

So let us focus on the right things we do because we want a relationship with Jesus, we want to know Jesus, to embrace Jesus, to build a relationship with Jesus. We want Jesus to strengthen us and illuminate us and transform us. We want to focus on brighter days.

What should we do? Be more concerned about our spiritual well being and the needs of others. Be more sensitive. Be more generous. Be more gentle. Be more loving. Be more kind.

Yes, we need to stop doing bad things. But we also need to work on doing more good things. Saint Paul says that our kindness should be known to all.

Today we rejoice because the Lord Jesus is near and the peace that he brings surpasses all understanding. The peace that he brings transforms our hearts and minds and joyfully renews us in his love.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

12/9/18 -- 2nd Sunday of Advent

Scripture Readings

John the Baptist is calling us to put Jesus at the top of our Christmas list. “Get ready,” he says. “God is coming.”

Do we want to experience God’s coming? If we do, we are told to remove those obstacles that are keeping us from God. Or even better, we could ask God to remove those obstacles. If we are open, God is able to do great work within us. 

Somehow, the valleys that are deep and dark are being made level. Mountains that are high and difficult to climb are brought low. The burning heat of the day is shaded by a fragrant tree. The winding road is made straight.

If we are open, Jesus will lead us to a place where the obstacles that were before us are somehow being changed, somehow being transformed.

Advent is an opportunity to encounter Jesus every day. 

Our whole lives are an encounter with Jesus actually: 

In prayer, when we go to Mass, when we receive communion, when we do good works, when we visit the sick, when we help the poor, when we think of others, when we are not selfish, when we are loving.

If we are open, we meet Jesus in all these things. But one obstacle that would keep us from this encounter might sound something like this: “I am such a sinner that Jesus does not want to encounter me.” 

Remember that the people Jesus most sought out were the people who were the greatest sinners. Remember Jesus told the church goers that prostitutes and sinners were getting to heaven before them. 

Jesus said that he came for those in need of salvation. Jesus came for those in need of healing. Jesus came for those who need the valley filled in and the rough ways made smooth.

It would be sad if we got to Christmas and said to ourselves, “How did I miss the message? Why did I allow the obstacles to stand in the way? Why did I cut myself off from Jesus?” 

John is calling us to put Jesus at the top of our Christmas list. It would be sad if we got to Christmas and had not made any effort to remove the obstacles that keep us from God. 

As we hear the Baptist crying out in the wilderness, we continue to work on removing those obstacles that keep us from God, and so we continue to prepare the way.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

12/2/18 -- 1st Sunday of Advent

Scripture Readings

There’s lots to get done in just 25 days because Christmas is coming quickly. There’s shopping to do and groceries to buy and gifts to wrap. 

But why? Why do we have all these pressing concerns? Why do we celebrate Christmas? Because we Catholics are celebrating the birth of the Messiah. 

Christ coming into the world. God becoming one of us. The Messiah entering into our lives in a unique way. God choosing to come and walk with us. Without the coming of Jesus Christ, there’s no reason for us to have Happy Holidays.

Jeremiah describes the coming of the Messiah as a just shoot. Do you know what a shoot is? It’s a young branch springing to life from a plant or a tree, a sprig, a sprout, a bud. New life.

The coming Messiah will fulfill the promise to keep us safe so that we can dwell secure: a time when God will keep the promise made to us, I will be your God and you will be my people; a time when all we long for will be fulfilled.

Jesus says the coming of the Messiah brings God’s Kingdom to us. Jesus is much less likely to demand that we do something and much more likely to invite us to receive something.

So this coming is an invitation, an invitation for us to be vigilant, to pray, to ask God to come into our lives, to invite God to walk with us. 

Paul speaks about an invitation to receive a way of life. This way of life in Christ strengthens our hearts so that we can conduct ourselves in a way that is pleasing to God. And Jesus Christ enters our hearts each time we are willing to receive him here in the Eucharist.

This invitation to a way of life warns us about being consumed with wickedness and anxiety. This invitation calls us to increase our love for one another.

So this is our Advent task: to act with greater kindness, to act with greater charity, to work to forgive from the heart, to love, to truly love with humility and grace, amazing grace, a love that lays itself down so that others might live.

There’s lots to get done between now and Christmas. There’s shopping to do and groceries to buy and gifts to wrap. 

But there are also hearts to be prepared, forgiveness to be granted and love to be found because God is coming to be with us.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

11/18/18 -- 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Watching the evening news or paying too much attention to social media can be very distressing. We see anger and hatred, mean spiritedness, protests, trials and tribulations.

It might seem that the world is falling apart and social stability is coming unraveled. We have a tendency to get caught up in all this negativity and it can consume us. 

This focus on doom and gloom can overwhelm us. But we must realize that this has happened throughout all of human history.

If we become to caught up in this doomsday thinking we can begin to lose sight of hope. This leads to anxiety and depression and despair. Often we go through periods where we feel everything is crumbling. 

Instead of all this negative thinking, wouldn’t we rather think of ourselves as God’s elect, God’s chosen ones? Wouldn’t we rather have our sins taken away by participating in Jesus’ sacrifice? 

Wouldn’t we rather be guarded by the Archangel Saint Michael? Wouldn’t we rather see the Son of Man coming on the clouds?

The Book of Hebrews says that the sacrifice of Jesus is offered for the forgiveness of sins.

There is someone who has stepped into history to absorb all of this negativity. There is someone who says, “I am offering myself in sacrifice for all to overcome all that is evil.” That’s an extraordinary thing. The sacrifice of Jesus is offered so that we can be part of God’s elect. 

We are told that God will gather the elect and Michael will guard the elect. We are the elect. Or at least we can choose to be God’s people by loving God and our neighbor.

It is much more important to Jesus how we live in this world rather than what will happen to us when this world ends.

It’s as if Jesus is saying to us, “I want you to be alert. I want you to be fully alive, to live fully alive. I don’t want you to be alarmed about what happens around you. I don’t want you to be be afraid. 

“I want you to be my elect. I want God my Father to gather you and Michael the Archangel to protect you. I want you to be filled with gladness and thanksgiving.”

Watching the evening news or paying too much attention to social media can be very distressing.

But if we stay close to Jesus and accept the sacrifice he offered for us then we are protected from all the doom and gloom around us. 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

11/11/18 -- Feast of St. Martin de Tours

Can you tell me what scene the painting in the sanctuary is depicting? Anyone who comes to church here with any regularity should be able to describe that painting to any visitor. The painting is our patron, Saint Martin. He is shown as a Roman soldier on his majestic war horse.

As a young soldier, Martin encountered a beggar. The beggar was naked and it was very cold. So Martin removed his cloak and with his sword, cut it in half. He gave half to the beggar. That night Martin had a dream. Jesus appeared to him wearing the cloak. At that point Martin became Catholic.

In 371 the city of Tours needed a bishop. The people wanted Martin, but Martin did not want the job. The people tricked him. They told him someone desperately needed the anointing of the sick. 

Martin rushed out as quickly as he could. He discovered their plot and tried to run. But to no avail. He was eventually persuaded to become their bishop.

Martin established parishes in his diocese, he cared for the sick and the needy, he upheld the faith and opposed of the death penalty.

Martin was anointed with the oil of gladness the Prophet Isaiah speaks about. As Martin cuts his cloak to help the poor beggar, Martin points us to Jesus. Jesus is the light in our darkness. 

Jesus anoints us with the oil of gladness so that we might give food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty. Many of you volunteer at the soup kitchen here in Saint Martinville to do just that.

Jesus anoints us with the oil of gladness so that we might welcome the stranger. Here in this majestic historic church we understand that there are no strangers among us and we have a belief that here at God’s house all are welcomed.

Jesus anoints us with the oil of gladness so that we might care for the sick and the dying. There is a group of parishioners who regularly go out and visit the sick bringing them Jesus in the Eucharist.

Jesus anoints us with the oil of gladness so that we might visit those in prison. Someone goes each week to the jail here to bring communion to those imprisoned who long for Jesus.

We, as a community of faith under our patron Saint Martin, do all these things and so much more. The Gospel today is a reckoning, an accounting where those who do for others are separated from those who do only for themselves.

We who do for others are anointed. We let our light shine in the darkness. We cut our cloak and give half to the poor beggar. In this way, Jesus comes to us saying: what you do for the least, you do for me.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

11/4/18 -- 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Sometimes we focus all our attention on trying to love our neighbor and forget there is another commandment that is first.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength.

But today it seems that more and more people simply stop loving God. And there are lots of reasons why this happens.

The death of a child or a spouse can leave one overwhelmed with grief. How could God let this happen? Personal illness can also leave someone with little love for God. God I prayed to you for healing but it hasn’t come.

A personal struggle with drug addiction or substance abuse by a loved one can leave us confused and hurting. Being a victim of abuse can leave us downright angry with God.

We witnesses senseless suffering and brutality and hatred in the world and we wonder: how could this have been created by a loving God.

Troubles suffocate us. Worries entangle us. Grief overwhelms us. Anger and hatred destroy us. Illness consumes us. It’s hard to love God when all this is happening around us. And so we tend to blame God for all our misfortunes.

This is the very reason for the commandment. The times when it’s most difficult to love God are the very times that we need God the most.

We are a mess. Our lives are a mess. Our families are a mess. Our church is a mess. The people around us are a mess.

Why? Our bad choices. Their bad choices. Everyone’s bad choices. But God will not take away our free will, even in the midst of our bad choices.

God wants us to choose love freely. God wants our trust, our time, our obedience, our love, our worship. But God wants those to be given freely.

We sing the Gloria every Sunday. We praise you. We bless you. We adore you. We glorify you.

With all my heart. With all my soul. With all my mind. And with all my strength.

The commandment requires everything. And when we are giving everything, then God can work.

And I know this is true because I’ve seen many examples of everyday miracles all around me. On mission. On pilgrimage. In people’s lives in each parish I’ve served. 

There may be legitimate reasons why people might stop love God. 

But when people are healed and relationships are restored and grief overcome and prayer answered all because of faith and hope and love, then we see why loving God is the first of all the commandments.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

10/28/18 -- 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Bartimaeus may be physically blind, but he is the only one who seems to see who Jesus really is. Last weekend James and John didn’t really recognize Jesus. There was nothing wrong with their eyes, but they didn’t see Jesus as the Messiah. 

The weekend before the rich young man walked away sad because he didn’t really recognize Jesus either.

I suspect if we’re honest with ourselves, we live in a kind of blindness like them. One of the things that happens when we don’t see clearly is that we make mistakes. 

We make choices that bring destruction upon us and the people around us. We wander further and further away from Jesus.

No matter what we have done or how far we have wandered, no matter how negative we have become, no matter how blind we are, Jesus still wants to be in our lives.

Let’s see if the blind man can teach us something about seeing. There are two things we know about Bartimaeus. He is blind and he is on the side of the road. From his place on the side of the road he is considered an outcast, a sinner.

Religious thinking at the time says that he is a sinner and that he or his parents have done something wrong so he deserve this blindness. His deformity is due to his or their sin.

People were told not to have anything to do with sinners for fear the sin was contagious. So he is a symbol of those who are cast out. He is blind Bartimaeus, an outcast on the side of the road who sees exactly who Jesus is. He cries out, “Son of David, would you have pity on me?”

Now the crowd is not interested in putting Jesus in touch with Bartimaeus. That’s why they tell Bartimaeus to be quiet. But Jesus steps in. I would like to talk to this man. Bring him over here to me.

Pay attention if you would to what Jesus asks of Bartimaeus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Remember the question that was put to Jesus last weekend by James and John. “Will you do anything that we ask you to do for us?”

“What do you want me to do for you?”

“I want to see.” Implied in this is that Bartimaeus wants to follow Jesus. Bartimaeus wants to be on the inside again. Bartimaeus wants to belong. Bartimus wants to be part of whatever Jesus is inviting people into.

Jesus’ response to Bartimaeus is beautiful. If you really believe that I am the Messiah then you do see. You are already seeing. 

The blind man, who now sees, stands up and follows Jesus.

What can we learn from this blind man turned disciple? We can learn to see Jesus for who he truly is, the Messiah, the Son of God. 

We can come to an understanding that we need to cry out for mercy because we have sinner and have wandered far from God. 

Recognizing our own brokenness, we can have the humility to ask for healing when Jesus calls out to us. And having been healed, we can have the courage to follow after Jesus when we see.