Saturday, November 29, 2014

11-30-2014 -- 1st Sunday of Advent, Year B

November 30, 2014 - 1st Sunday of Advent, Year B

We have a sense of urgency about the coming of Christmas. We are very much aware of all the things we need to get done between now and Christmas Day.

And we wonder how in the world are we going to accomplish it all. We know we will have to franticly rush to get everything done.

During this Advent Season our task is to have the same sense of urgency about the coming of the Lord Jesus. We should be remaining alert, watching for Jesus to come to us.

This urgency should consume us, our whole selves, our entire beings.

Jesus calls us to watch, to wait, to be attentive with all our senses, with our souls, with everything we are.

So that if Jesus should come in the evening, at midnight or at the break of dawn, he would find us alert and awake ready to great him when he arrives.

If we are watching with our whole beings, with our very lives, then we will recognize Jesus, present to us each and every day of our lives.

We can and do get lost in the darkness of sin and despair. It seems, at times, that Jesus is very far away, on a journey.

So we get lax. We figure we have plenty of time. The result: we forget about being prepared for the Lord’s coming. We are not ready for Jesus to return at any time.

We really should take some time during this Advent Season to watch, to see with our eyes, to hear with our ears and smell with our noses, to taste with our mouths and touch with our hands the King, the Master, the Lord Jesus.

To see with our eyes: We see the Christmas decorations and they delight us. Do we also see Christ in the face of our brothers and sisters who are hurting and in need?

To listen with our ears: We listen to the Christmas music and it soothes us. Do we also listen for the voice of Christ? At times that voice speaks to us in prayer. At other times that voice speaks to us through the prophets.

To smell with our noses: We smell the aroma of the Christmas trees. Do we also smell the sweetness of incense and the melting wax of the candles, the distinct smell of this holy place, which tells us God is present, God is faithful?

To taste with our mouths: We delighted at the Thanksgiving meal we shared with loved ones. We will feast again at Christmas, a feast of rich foods and choice wines.

Do we also taste the Lord in Holy Communion? As the psalmist says, do we taste and see that the Lord is good?

To hold with our hands: We hold and embrace our sick and dying loved ones. With wonder, we hold a newborn child. Do we also hold the sacred body and blood of Jesus that we receive in the Eucharist?

Pope Francis has called us to have a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ. Can we open ourselves to this possibility?

We pause amidst the frenzy of our Christmas shopping to light a single candle. It’s flame reminds us that God is faithful. God is here. Right here, right now.

Are we watchful for the many ways that God is faithfully present?
Whether it be the kindness of a stranger, or the love of family, or the phone call to one in need, or the visit to the sick or elderly.

There are thousands of ways that God is with us each and every day of our lives.

If we would only stay awake, watch, wait, be alert and pay attention, we would see God’s presence all around us.

There is an urgency about the coming of Christmas.
There should also be an urgency about the coming of Christ.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

11-23-2014 -- Christ the King, Year A

November 23, 2014 - Christ the King, Year A

There are many ways we can take care of the least in our midst. Here are just a few examples:

The woman who takes care of her dying neighbor.

The family who cooks Thanksgiving dinner for their poor neighbors down the road.

Saint Martin who gave half his cloak to the freezing beggar.

The student who makes friends with the new kid at school, helping him feel at home in a new place.

The man who visits the prison inmates each week to bring them the gospel message of hope and conversion.

Saint Elizabeth, the Queen of Hungary, who used her money to build a hospital and cared for the poor there herself.

The parishioner who visits the sick and shut-in bringing Holy Communion each month.

These ordinary folks are caring people who perform caring actions for others. These caring actions they perform are the criteria for the Last Judgment scene in the Gospel of Matthew.

These are also the same actions of service to others that we see the Lord God performing in the First Reading from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel.

The prophet says the Lord God will rescue the stray, bind up the injured, and heal the sick. These are the very things that God does.

When we have strayed, the Lord God goes out searching every place where we are scattered to gather us together again.

When we are injured, the Divine Physician dresses our wounds.

When we are sick, Jesus gives us chicken soup for our souls, his very Body and Blood in the Eucharist, which we receive here in this Holy Place.

Msgr. Derouen, in his homily to open our 250th Anniversary Year, called upon us to make this a Year of Charity.

He said, “As you begin your celebration marching toward 250 years, put charity as the goal, as the focus, as the real reason to celebrate.

“Let bygones be bygones in order to reveal God's forgiveness. Let hope fill your hearts to show that God heals and makes whole.

“Let faith be firm in your lives to show forth God's hand at work in our midst.

“And above all, let charity be your cloak so that you may be clothed with love, making you the very hand that God uses to touch others in kindness.”

During this Year of Charity, we must try harder to meet the criteria set for us at the Last Judgment:

Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, lifting up those who are hurting, caring for and visiting the lonely and those in prison, and sitting at the bedside of the sick and dying.

In calling us to do these things, Jesus commands that we become more like God. So, we must try harder to do what we see the Lord God doing:

Rescuing the stray. We can do this by inviting back those who have strayed from our faith community; reaching out, not with judgment, but with love, to those who have lost their way.

Binding the injured. Pope Francis has said that the church should be like a field hospital dressing the wounds of those who are hurting.

We can welcome those who are hurting, offering them God’s healing love.

And healing the sick. The Divine Physician longs for us to be made whole, God longs for creation to be restored.

Jesus Christ our King longs for us to live our lives in imitation of him. Jesus Christ our King longs for us to join him around his throne.

How are we going to get there? By taking seriously this, our Year of Charity. For, whatever we do to help the least in our midst; this we do for the Lord.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

11-16-2014 -- 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

November 16, 2014 - 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

We constantly compare ourselves to others. We feel we don’t measure up, so we get down on ourselves.

I’m not as attractive as she is. I’m not as smart as he is. I can’t sing as well as she can. I can’t read as well as he does. I’m too shy to speak in public. My boss doesn’t like me as well as my co-workers.

The result of constantly comparing ourselves to others is always the same: I don’t measure up.

And we really believe it. This begins that downward spiral: negative thoughts and negative feelings, which usually lead to negative words and negative actions. Negative, negative, negative.

I think, when that happens to me, I become someone other than the child of God I was created to be. And I think this happens to all of us.

I was created with all the gifts and talents that the Lord God wanted me to have. I am unique and special. There is no one else just like me.

No one in the world can do a better job of being me than me. No one in the world can do a better job of being you than you.

You are unique and special. There is no one else just like you. If you don’t feel that you are unique and special then, guess what, you are in that downward spiral.

When we are in that negative downward spiral we look a lot like that servant who, out of fear, went off and buried the talent in the ground.

The master calls him, “wicked and lazy,” and so he is.

Who wants to be called wicked and lazy? I know I don’t and I’m pretty sure there is not another person in this church today who wants to be called wicked and lazy.

No. We want to hear, “well done, my good and faithful servant.”

We want to feel good about ourselves again. We want to feel like we are special. We want to feel like we belong. We want to feel like we amount to something.

The gospel truth is that we are already all of those things. And the Lord God says to us, “If you are in the darkness, come to the light.” Come to the light, for you are all children of the light.

Each of us, according to our ability, has been given gifts and talents that are uniquely ours. And those gifts and talents were handpicked for us by the Creator.

Our mission, our purpose, our call from the Lord Jesus is to use those gifts and talents in a way that makes God’s creation better.

Nothing grand. Maybe even something simple. Some goodness that we bring to a little part of God’s wonderful creation.

And that goodness that we bring makes us attractive and smart, special and unique, charitable, loving and kind.

We are all wonderfully made and if we’d stop comparing ourselves to others, we just might be able to see it.

If we’d take a look at who we really are and recognize the gifts and talents we’ve been given, we’d get to work so that when the master comes, and the master is coming, we will hear him say to us, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Saturday, November 8, 2014

11-9-2014 -- Feast of St. John Lateran, Year A

November 9, 2014 - Saint John Lateran, Year A

When Francis was elected as the Roman Pontiff to govern the universal church, the cardinals who elected him charged him with the task of reforming the Roman Curia.

A leading cardinal remarked, “There is no doubt that there needs to be renewal in the church, especially in the Vatican.”

In essence, the cardinals were telling Pope Francis to clean house. And he is.

Jesus is doing some house keeping of his own when he cleanses the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.

In order to finance temple operations, the religious leaders had sanctioned the practice of holding market in the temple area.

In effect, they turned God’s house into a marketplace, a strip mall, to us use modern terms.

But the temple is the holy place where God dwells. It is not a marketplace. The temple is for worship, not for the buying and selling of goods.

So, the temple needed a good cleaning. And we want to try to leave it at that.

Francis, reform the church. Jesus, cleanse the temple. Father Richard, finish these restorations of this historically significant church building.

And then we say, “The house is in order and everything is alright.”

No. No, no, no. The cleansing, the reform, the restoration that is so desperately needed is the one that must happen to us. We are the temple that needs to be cleansed.

Saint Paul says, “Brothers and sisters, do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Holy Spirit dwells in you? You are God’s building.”

I am the temple that needs to be cleansed. You are the temple that needs to be cleaned.

It is my heart that needs to change. It is your heart that needs to change.

The Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome might be about a church building, the Cathedral Church of the Bishop of Rome.

But the readings call us and challenge us not to worry so much about church buildings, but to be more concerned about living temples.

Am I a living temple worthy of God’s Holy Spirit? No, probably not. And God’s grace does make up what is lacking.

But I must do my part to make myself a worthy temple where
God’s Holy Spirit can dwell.

Do I build my life carefully of the foundation of Jesus Christ? Is Jesus my rock, my fortress, my stronghold? Is Jesus the one I turn to in times of trouble?

Do I take care of my temple body? Do I get enough exercise, the right amount of sleep?

Am I concerned with curbing my bad habits of drinking too much, smoking, or using drugs that are harmful to me?

Do I take care of my temple soul, the holy of holies where the Lord God dwells?

Do I live justly? Do I love my neighbor as myself? Do I act with kindness and compassion?

Do I build a proper foundation with prayer and meditation, centering myself and placing myself in God’s presence, inviting God’s Holy Spirit to dwell in me?

Do I make an attempt to turn from sin, and in turning from sin, to return to the Lord?

The Roman Curia needs to be reformed. Yes indeed.

The Sacred Temple in Jerusalem needed to be cleaned. Yes indeed.

The Sacred Shrine, the Mother Church of Acadiana, needs to be restored. Yes indeed.

But more importantly, my body, my soul, my holy temple where God dwells needs to be cleansed.

It’s up to me to make my temple a place where God feels like a welcomed guest.