Tuesday, December 31, 2013

01-01-2014 -- Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

January 1, 2014 - Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church


Last year, on the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, I suggested five resolutions, things for us to ponder in the New Year.

Do you remember them?
Surrender to the fact that life isn’t fair.
Be happy where you are.
Mind your own business.
Fill your life with love.
And live each day as if it were your last.

So here are my five resolutions for this New Year:

FIRST: HAVE THE COURAGE TO LOOK REALITY IN THE FACE.

Let’s stop looking at the world through rose colored glasses.
Let’s stop looking at our lives as though we had blinders on.

Let’s make an honest assessment at the start of this New Year.

What are our strengths?  Our weaknesses?
Where do we need to grow?  What do we need to change?

What is the secret sin that you keep?  Face it.
Don’t pretend things are okay when they aren’t.
Be open to what is.  Surrender to what is.

Why is this so important?

Because much of our struggle is to try to control life,
to try to control others, to try to control the priest,
to try to control our parents, to try to control our spouses.

But life isn’t always the way we would like it to be, and it will never be perfect.  So it’s important to face what is.
The greater our surrender to the truth of the moment, the greater our peace of mind.

SECOND: HAVE THE COURAGE TO BE CATHOLIC.

The Catholic Church in the United States is just now coming out of a state of crisis, the greatest crisis in its history.

Look reality in the face, the Catholic Church is a church of sinners.
Even our Holy Father understands that.

Our spiritual rhythms repeat these biblical themes:
failure, contrition, forgiveness, penance, reconciliation.

The church knows a lot about sin.  The sexual abuse of minors by anyone is a sin. The failure of bishops to guard the flock from predators is a sin.  The lack of fidelity on our part is also a sin.

The crisis is a crisis of discipleship.
Every Christian is called to walk the road of sanctity.
Every Christian is called to walk the road to holiness.
Every Christian is called to walk with Christ.

The answer to the crisis is deeper fidelity by everyone.
So have the courage to be Catholic.

THIRD: RESIST THE URGE TO CRITICIZE.

When we judge or criticize another person, it says nothing about that person.  It merely says something about our need to be critical.

What does criticism do to make our world a better place?  Zero! Nothing!  Being critical doesn’t do any good.  In fact, it contributes to anger and distrust.

So what’s the solution?  We can catch ourselves in the act of being critical.  And say to ourselves, there I go again.  Then commit to change.

We can have the courage to face that reality and struggle them to become more positive, more charitable, more forgiving, happier.

FOURTH:  HAVE THE COURAGE TO LET GO OF THE PAST.

What are we carrying around from our past?
Some of you are carrying awfully heavy loads.
I know I can see it in your faces.  I can see it in certain behaviors.

We carry around some old, hurtful stuff.
At some point this year it would be good to have the courage to face reality and put down those hurtful, unpleasant things from the past.

Maybe you’re harboring a grudge against the church.  Put it down!
Maybe you’re harboring a grudge against a priest.  Put it down!
A family member, put it down!  An abuser.  Put it down!
An enemy.  Put it down!

Let it go! Imagine yourself laying down the hurt at Jesus’ feet.
Then have the courage to leave it there.

AND FINALLY: EMBRACE THE FUTURE WITH HOPE.  How?

By looking reality in the face. 
By resisting the urge to criticize.
By letting go of the past. 
And by having the courage to be Catholic.

Our faith makes us a people of hope, who believe with every fiber of our being that the best is yet to come.

So we embrace the future because we have not yet finished
the best part of your life.

We embrace the future by focusing not on tragedy, but on faith.
We embrace the future with hope because hope springs eternal.
And we embrace the future with love.

Happy New Year!       

Saturday, December 28, 2013

12-29-2013 -- Feast of the Holy Family

December 29, 2013 - Feast of the Holy Family
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church


Everybody loved Jack.  He was big for a first grader.  He was the gentlest of soul.  He didn’t have a mean bone in his body and was a friend to all.

When the school staged its Christmas play, Jack wanted to be one of the shepherds.  But the teacher directing the play had a larger role in mind for Jack.

He was cast as the innkeeper.  He was the right size for the job.  He practiced and practiced but became more and more nervous about his lines.

The night of the play finally arrived and everything was going splendidly.  Then came the part where Mary and Joseph knocked on the door of the inn.

Jack answered the door right on cue and gave his first line, “What do you want?”

“We seek lodging,” came the response. 
“Seek it elsewhere, the inn is full,” Jack replied with just the right touch of annoyance.

“But sir, we have tried everywhere already.  We have come a long way and we are tired.”

“Go away.  There’s no room in my inn for you.”
“But sir, my wife is with child.  Don’t you have a corner where we can get out of the cold?”

Then it happened.  Jack broke his icy stare and looked at Mary.  There was a long silence.

The audience became nervous and uneasy.  Everyone thought Jack had forgotten the next line. 

“No, be gone,” whispered the prompter.
“No, be gone,” Jack whispered halfheartedly.

Joseph sadly placed his arm around Mary as they began to move off stage.  Jack couldn’t stand it any longer.

Big as he was, cruel he could never be.  With tears in his eyes he called out, “Wait Joseph, don’t go!  Bring Mary back.  You can have my room.”

A few people thought Jack had ruined the Christmas play.  But most people knew better.  What an insight from such an innocent child.

The Holy Family needed Jack to give them a place to stay.  They needed each other too.

They certainly were not a normal family.  I don’t think there is such a thing.  Today there are single parent families, foster families, blended families and non-traditional families.

Who are we to judge?  After all Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus.  He had to give up his life plans, and put his resources at the service of two people who he called his family.

The Holy Family was a very human family.  Jesus lived in a family with troubles and fears.  We forget, the three of them suffered many trials together.

Here are just a few:  Without Jack, there was no room at the inn.  Mary had to give birth in a stable. 

Then shortly after Jesus’ birth, the family had to flee to Egypt because the evil King Herod wanted to kill the child. 

They set out on a treacherous journey, vulnerable and poor.
They were refugees.  Yet, God was with them. 

We cannot say that the Holy Family doesn’t understand what we go through.  They have been through much more and can sympathize with us.

They are a model for us.  They show us that God is with us in all our trials of daily living.  They faced challenges and pressures, but remained obedient to God’s will.

It was from Mary and Joseph that Jesus learned his first lessons of how to love.

It is in our families that we first learn how to love.
It is in our families that we first learn about Jesus.

It is in our families that we first learn that we belong, that we have a place, that we need each other.

The feast of the Holy Family reminds us that we cannot buy God’s love, we cannot earn God’s love, we cannot bargain for God’s love.  It is freely given.  And it is shown to us by the Holy Family.

We are given God’s unconditional love.  We belong to God’s Holy Family.  And the child Jesus is our brother.

As members of God’s Holy Family we should pay more attention to the way we treat each other. 

St. Paul says we should treat each other with heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another.

We should learn to be more like Jack. 

“Wait Joseph, don’t go!  You can have my room.”


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

12-25-2013 -- Christmas (Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord)

December 25, 2013 - Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord
Christmas, Year A
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church


Pope Francis says that the great dangers in today’s world are:

Consumerism, the need for more and more stuff,
Complacency, not caring about the things that are most important,

Covetous hearts, wanting others and what others have,
And the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures.

When our inner life becomes caught up in our own selfish interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others.

God’s voice is no longer heard.
The joy of God’s love is no longer felt. 
And the desire to do good fades.

As a result, we end up resentful, angry and listless.
Holy Father reminds us that this resentful, angry, listless life is not God’s will for us. 

And he invites us, at this very moment, to have a personal encounter with Jesus, with the tenderness of a little child.

The love of the infant in the manger makes it possible for us to lift our heads and start anew.

Pope Benedict says:
Being a Christian is an encounter with an event.
Today that event is Christmas.

Being a Christian is an encounter with a person.
Today that person is Jesus.

This encounter with God’s love can blossom into an enriching friendship.

This friendship pulls us up out of our selfishness and self-absorption, so that we can become more fully human, more fully alive, more filled with Christmas joy.

Sing for joy, O heavens and exult O earth!  Break forth into song!
For on this Holy Night/Morn, God has come to his people as set them free.

In the Incarnation, God takes the initiative.  God acts first.
God loves first.  God sends his only Son to us.

And this Only Son, Jesus, asks everything of us. 
But at the same time, this Only Son, Jesus, offers everything to us.
We are infinitely loved. 

As so, we come here on this Holy Night/Morn to feel that love again, to feel that joy again.

It is not only for us, because we are called to bring that love and that joy to others.

In this way goodness spreads.  It takes root and it grows.

It is easy for us to assume that this sharing of our love with others has to be big and dramatic.

But very few of us are called to love in the way that Pope Francis does or in the way that Blessed Teresa of Calcutta did.

Rather, our sharing of love and joy most often takes place in the hidden mangers and unnoticed Bethlehems of this world.

Meals prepared for a sick neighbor.

A smile instead of a hard word shared with some poor cashier who stands there checking out customer after customer.

A refusal to participate in the gossip that is all around us.


Doing that little something extra for a spouse or a child or a parent or a friend without being asked and without expecting anything in return.

Every day, we are given one opportunity after another to share the love and joy of the infant Jesus with this world.

This sharing enables others to have their own encounter with Jesus.

The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter the Lord.

On this Christmas Night/Morn, we kneel before the Nativity, we kneel before the Altar of God and pray:

“Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more.  I need you.

“Save me once again, Lord.  Take me once more into your loving embrace.”

With a tenderness that never disappoints, the infant Jesus lying in the manger makes it possible for us to lift our heads and start anew.