Saturday, November 30, 2013

12-1-2013 -- First Sunday of Advent

December 1, 2013 - First Sunday of Advent, Year A
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

We are now embarking on one of the busiest times of our year, the run-up to Christmas. We’re rushing around trying to get everything done before Christmas.

We’re busy watching for sales, making a list and checking it twice, getting ready for Christmas parties and counting the days.

It should be an exciting time. So why is it that so many of us are feeling so empty inside, overwhelmed by the reality that there is always more to do and not enough time to do it?

We get so consumed with everyday affairs that we forget all about our spiritual well being. And so we begin to lack passion, we begin to lack purpose.

We go through the motions with no sense of fulfillment. We feel depleted, defeated, tired, worn out, empty. Rushing here and there, but getting nowhere fast.

The people in Noah's day were the same way. Don't you remember the story? Noah was told by God to prepare for the coming flood by building an ark.

All the while, Noah's neighbors were busy with their daily lives. They either didn't notice Noah making preparations; or if they did, they made fun of him.

The people in Noah's day were not necessarily evildoers. They were caught up in their everyday affairs, eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage.

So they were not prepared when the flood came. They were completely caught off guard. As a result they were destroyed.

Jesus says it will be like that when the Son of Man comes. We do not know when but we know that the Lord will come.

And because we don't know when, we cannot prepare for his coming at the last minute.

So we must begin making preparations now. Stories of the end, like the one in today’s Gospel, are really stories about the here and now. Certainly, we can fear being the one left behind.

But preparation for the day of the Lord does not mean an end to our everyday lives. So what’s the difference between those who are taken and those who are left behind?

Preparation, inner vigilance and heightened awareness seem to make all the difference.

And that's what this season of Advent is all about. It is our annual reminder that we should be about the business of preparing our hearts for the Lord's coming.

This Advent season is a time to be alert. As part of our alertness we could spend some time recognizing our true priorities before it's too late.

This Advent season is a time to be active. What Advent activity will we choose? Here are a few suggestions:

We could spend more quality time with our children and grandchildren instead of buying them more stuff. They already have too many things, but never get enough of us.

We could turn off the TV and the computer and the ipad and disconnect from our phones in order to spend more time actively talking to the people in our lives instead of passively watching others on a screen.

We could set aside time each day for prayer and reflection and spiritual reading. The Gospel of Matthew is a good place to start because it's the gospel we will read in church this year.

We could encourage someone to come back to church this holiday season. Or maybe we need to work on being more faithful ourselves.

We could make a list of four or five virtues that we need to work on, then make flash cards so that we can randomly practice one virtue each day of advent.

We could look more carefully at our stewardship of time, talent and treasure, especially our gift of time. People don't volunteer anymore.

We've become selfish and no longer give of our time. Our stewardship is our gift to the Lord. What kind of gift do you give?

These are just some ways we can prepare for Jesus' coming.

This Advent season is a time of preparation. As part of our preparation we could also reflect on the hidden areas of our lives and ask the Lord for the courage to live more freely in the light.

The demands of everyday life are merciless, they are unending. There is always more to do and not enough time to do it.

The readings this weekend give us fair notice.
Take this Season of Advent seriously.

The spiritual exercises we choose will help us stay awake and be ready for the Lord when he comes.

While the world rushes around carrying bundles of packages, we pause today to light a single candle.

Its flame reminds us to pay attention to what the holy season of Advent wants to give us: a time of preparation, a time of action, a time to watch and wait with alertness for the Lord.

We must prepare for the Lord's coming. Otherwise, we just might get left behind.

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Advent Conspiracy

Something to think about this Advent:

The Advent Season

Santa Claus is coming to town, as are Snoopy, Frosty, and the Grinch. Their arrival tells us Christmas is near. But Charlie Brown doesn’t learn the true meaning of Christmas without his Scripture-quoting friend, Linus. And the Grinch can’t experience Christmas until he learns to share.

Similarly, we can't understand the real meaning of Christmas without the season of Advent.

On the First Sunday of Advent our liturgical year begins again. The season of Advent resets the clocks and calendars of Christian worship.  We attend to the mystery of God's compassion and love one more time, as the liturgical seasons help us to remember and celebrate the mysteries of Christ's birth, ministry, passion, death, resurrection and ascension into Heaven.

The Advent Season has a twofold character. First, it is a time to prepare for Jesus' birth in Bethlehem: a known date for which we can prepare, when God takes on our humanity in the person of Jesus Christ, when the Word becomes Flesh so that we all can be made holy.

Advent is also a season when our minds and hearts are directed to prepare for Christ's second coming at the end of time.

So Advent is a time of watching and waiting.  It is a time of preparation for the Lord's coming both in Bethlehem and when Christ will appear in glory to judge all people.

The time is now to prepare for the coming of the Lord. How can we pay attention and prepare for the Lord during this Holy Season?  Here are some suggestions to make this Advent a true time of preparation:

1. Make an advent wreath at home and light one candle each week.
2. Make a shopping list of spiritual gifts you need.
3. Set aside time each day for Scripture Reading and reflection.
4. Make a weekly holy hour in a church or chapel.
5. Encourage someone else to observe Advent this year.
6. Check out your community's efforts to assist the needy.
7. Pray the rosary daily.

8. Get involved in your church parish.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

11-28-2013 -- Thanksgiving

November 28, 2013 - Thanksgiving
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

What would happen if we woke up each morning and the only things left in our lives were the things for which we are truly grateful?

We certainly wouldn't take things for granted anymore, would we? And there are lots of things we take for granted.

There are essential things like:
clean water, safe roads, electricity, garbage pick-up, our abundance of food, refrigeration

There are things that give us pleasure like:
Coffee, chocolate, wine, central air and central heat

What are some things for which you are grateful?
Do you sometimes take those things for granted?

We can't just be grateful for things.
We must also be grateful for those special people who impact our lives, those people who call us by our names.

One of the ways we show gratitude is by treating those people with respect.

Why? Because they matter, because they are important to us, because they love us, because they are also made in the image and likeness of God.

Who are some of the people for which you are grateful?
a friend, a beloved, husband, wife, a soul mate, mother, father, son, daughter, brother, sister, a teacher, a spiritual guide

Jesus, who loves us.
Jesus who heals us.
Jesus who forgives us.

Jesus who calls us to follow.
Jesus who gives his very life on the cross to save us.

How do we show that we are grateful to Jesus?

Here are some ways we can show our gratitude to Jesus:

By coming here to give praise and thanks.
By picking up the new hymnals and lifting our voices in song.

By sharing in the bread and wine transformed into Jesus' body and blood at the Last Supper that has been handed down to us that we celebrate here.

By daring to say and to really believe and to act like Jesus is Lord.

By answering his call to follow.
By giving of ourselves to others.

By saying things like, "I love you." "May I help you." "I'm here for you." "I'm sorry."

What would happen if we woke up each morning and the only things left in our lives were the things for which we are truly grateful ?

We certainly wouldn't take things for granted anymore.

Today is our national holiday of Thanksgiving, a day set aside to remember those things for which we are grateful.

Today is the day that we say “thank you” to God for the gift of one more day to be able to come here and sing God's praises.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

11-24-2013 -- Christ the King

November 24, 2013 - Christ the King, Year C
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

The bible is filled with stories of shepherds and kings.   There are evil kings and good kings, there are good shepherds and those who don’t care for the flock.

Sometimes the image of shepherd and king come together in the same person. 

In our first reading we are told that David, the shepherd boy was anointed king over the people of Israel.  He is both shepherd and king.

And in the gospel we read the inscription on the cross, Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.  Jesus is also our good shepherd.

Saint Paul, the second reading says that Jesus, our shepherd and king, delivers us from the power of darkness and transfers us to the kingdom of light.

In him we have redemption and the forgiveness of sins.

The sign on the cross is correct, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.

And indeed Jesus is not just king of the Jews, today we remember that he is the king of the whole created universe.

But his manner of ruling does not conform to our preconceived notions of what a king is.

As king, Jesus had no army, only disciples.
He didn’t sit on a throne, he rode on a donkey’s back.
He didn’t wear a crown of gold, he only had a crown of thorns.

He didn’t take life, he gave it.
He didn’t exclude people, he welcomed sinners and prostitutes and foreigners and thieves.

He didn’t force, he only invited, “Come, follow me.”

He is a different kind of king who gently but relentlessly calls us to surrender to a different and often unpopular way of life. 

He calls us to move beyond the popular “what’s in it for me” attitude of our popular culture…

To choose honestly and fidelity rather than cunning and deceit.
To choose forgiveness rather than hatred and revenge.

To choose brokenness and humility rather than power and wealth.
To serve rather than being served.

In our world filled with violence, war, the constant threat of terrorism, corrupt leaders, overwhelming debt and greed, the grossness of society, the absence of morals, can we choose another way?

We can.  We can live in the sacramental life of the church receiving the Eucharist frequently and with great reverence.  We can do a better job reaching out to the poor and the marginalized. 

We can welcome the outcast and lift up others rather than tear them down.  We can quietly give witness to Jesus at work or at school.

We can spend a few moments each day in quiet reflection inviting the Lord into our hearts and into our lives.
There is ultimately one ruler of all:  Jesus Christ, the king of the universe, our shepherd and our king.

Through his death on the cross he brings us into his kingdom.
By allowing himself to be mocked and tortured to death, Jesus overturns all earthly power.

As he was dying on the cross, he forgave those who were killing him and he healed the sins of the criminal who pleaded with him.

We sometimes refer to the criminal on the cross next to Jesus as the good thief.  But he’s still a thief.  He’s still a criminal.  He’s still being crucified for his crimes.

Jesus, on the other hand, is the innocent shepherd king.  He is the victim who gives his life to conquer sin and death.  He is the innocent one who was slain because of our sins.

Our shepherd and king is the one who, at the Last Supper, gave us his body and blood.

As we gather to celebrate the Last Supper in this Eucharist, we hear Jesus say, “This is my body given for you.  This is my blood shed on the cross for you.”

We also hear Jesus say to the thief who pleads remember me, remember me, “today you will be with me in paradise.”

If Jesus, our shepherd and king says this to the repentant thief, what do you think he says to you and me?