Wednesday, December 31, 2014

01-01-2015 -- Solemnity of Mary Mother of God, Year B

January 1, 2015 - The Holy Family, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

In the first reading today from the Book of Numbers the Lord God tells Moses how to bless the people.

The Hebrew word for bless in an abstract word that cannot be sensed. The original meaning is “to kneel down.”

The extended meaning of this word bless is to do or give something of value to another.

The Lord God blesses us by providing for our needs. We, in turn, bless God by giving of ourselves to do something for another.

As we begin a New Year, we come here to this holy place to receive God’s blessing. And the Lord God calls upon us to go out into the world and be that blessing to others.

I could give you a list of ways you could bless others, but that would be my list. I challenge you to go make your own list of ways you could bless others.

Making a list of small simple ways we could be a blessing is an easy thing to do. It would be a list of things that brighten or cheer up those who are sad, a list of things to inspire.

A list of things to comfort, to show care and concern, gratitude, kindness, patience, generosity, love, forgiveness, compassion, tenderness.

It isn’t all that difficult to make a difference in the lives of others.

The Book of Proverbs says, the one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped. 

We should make an effort to be a blessing to others in this New Year.

So, as we cherish in our hearts the miracle of Christmas, the Word made flesh, our God come to dwell with us, we recognize that God does indeed bless us.

We receive the blessing and accept the challenge to be a blessing to others, to be bearers of joy and encouragement, to be positive, charitable, loving and kind.

The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

12-28-2014 -- The Holy Family, Year B

December 28, 2014 - The Holy Family, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Our modern American culture has not been kind to families. The speed and demands of life rob families of precious time to spend together.

Working parents shuttle kids off to day care centers to be raised by professional caregivers.

Those same working parents race through the fast food drive through for evening dinner.

They get home only to spread their office work across the kitchen table while urging their children to go play elsewhere.

The kids end up in front of video games hoping to shoot
all the bad guys. And when they get bored with that, they play on their cell phones and the Internet.

To top it off many families have only one parent trying to do it all, an almost impossible task.

The feast of the Holy Family begs families to slide a little closer together in the pews today and listen closely.

The Holy Family has much to teach us about fast-paced families.

We say to ourselves: You’ve got to be kidding right? They had it easy. The Holy Family didn’t have problems that real families have.

No? Let me refresh your scriptural memory.

Jesus’ father was only his foster father and his mother was a teenage virgin. They had the baby in a stable because they were poor and traveling at the time of Jesus’ birth.

Not long after the baby was born, the powerful King Herod plotted to kill Jesus. So the family had to flee from the country to save his life.

When Jesus was presented in the temple the prophet calls him the sign of contradiction, not the prince of peace.

They did not have any of our modern conveniences. They had to make and do everything by hand which was tough. Every day was a challenge.

Grain was bought and ground into flour. Yeast was added to the flour to make dough. The dough was baked into bread daily.

Water had to be drawn from the well, another daily task. The Holy Family had to cook every meal over an open fire.

The child Jesus would have had so many chores that time to play would have been brief.

The myth that the Holy Family lived in peaceful bliss hasn’t served our families well. Their lives were just as hectic as ours.

So what made them holy? It would be unfair to give Jesus all the credit. The holiness of their family also came from Joseph and Mary’s response to God.

Joseph and Mary made their faith and the religious practices of their faith the highest priority.

The Gospel of Luke points out, no less than five times, that Joseph and Mary did everything required by the Law of Moses.

As we look at our own children, we must ask: What are we teaching them?

The church says that parents are the first and most important teachers of their children in the ways of faith.

Jesus’ parents taught him a love of God and a love of the Sacred Scriptures, the Word of God.

Mary and Joseph gave to the child Jesus the gift of faith, a most precious gift.

Are our children learning the same lessons? Are they receiving this most precious gift from us?

Or do our children see us constantly distracted by the ways of the world, always on our cell phones?

Do our phones get turned off long enough each day to ask, How was you’re your day? Or what did you learn at school today?

Is there ever any time for an evening meal together? Or are we always running off to this game or that activity?

Do our kids sit in front of the television watching trash? Or do we have the guts to censor our kids’ TV viewing?

Do we say no to certain clothing fashions? Do we have curfews?

Do we monitor the music our children listen to, the movies they watch, the games they play, Internet sites they visit, the texts they send and the pics they receive?

Joseph and Mary listened to God. They trusted their deeper instincts. They made the practice of their faith a priority in their lives.

That’s why they were a holy family.

What are we doing to make our families holy?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

12-25-2014 -- Christmas, Year B

December 25, 2014 - Christmas, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

This year marks the hundredth anniversary of the Germans invading France and Belgium in the First World War.

Each side dug trenches and shot at each other from a no-man’s land littered with dead soldiers.

But on December 24, 1914 at points along that Western Front, an impromptu peace came upon the troops.

This Christmas truce bubbled up from the ranks, says historian Stanley Weintraub. Troops emerged from the trenches exchanging promises, “You no shoot, we no shoot.”

In many places the truce extended into Christmas day as the soldiers buried the dead, held prayer services, sang Christmas carols and shared food and gifts sent from home.

Weintraub says no one wanted to continue the war, but they were ordered to do so.

In a letter home, one soldier wrote, “How marvelously wonderful, yet how strange.”

These words describe the miracle of Christmas. The virgin gives birth to a child and he is named Emmanuel, God with us. This Christmas miracle is marvelously wonderful.

When we see with the eyes of faith, we begin to find examples of the impossible becoming possible everywhere in our lives.
Sometime the Christmas miracle happens to us.

Like when the punk kid, with the scary looking chains and piercings, rushes to hold the door open as we make our way out of the mall with all our Christmas packages. We stop to say thank you and notice the beautiful smile.

Or like when our long lost child finally comes home for the holidays. And we are smart enough to realize that what our child needs most of all is gentle compassion, merciful forgiveness and loving acceptance.

Sometimes we make it possible for the Christmas miracle to happen to others.

Like when we secretly give Christmas gifts to the family down the road who wouldn’t have Christmas otherwise, and they don’t even know it’s us. What a generous and humble Christmas miracle.

Or when we act with greater charity and kindness towards others, seeing the miracle they are and treating them accordingly.

Sometimes we are the Christmas miracle.

Like when those soldiers dropped their weapons in peace, they became the Christmas miracle.

Or when a dying loved one gathers family together to say goodbye before slipping off peacefully into eternal life.

Or when we gather with family and friends to celebrate Christmas. The time spent together in the presence of loved ones is such a miracle and a blessing.

When we have faith, we can find examples of the impossible becoming possible everywhere in our lives.

When we allow God to be our guest, our lives begin to be filled with wonder and awe, how marvelously wonderful, the impossible becoming possible.

The virgin mother gives birth to a son and God makes his dwelling with us. The impossible becomes possible. How marvelously wonderful, this miracle we call Christmas.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

12-21-2014 -- 4th Sunday of Advent, Year B

December 21, 2014 - 4th Sunday of Advent, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

The first reading asks us to reflect on the question: where does God dwell?

At the time of King David, the sign of God’s presence among the Israelites was the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark contained the stone tablets on which the ten commandments were inscribed.

During that period of history, the Ark was kept in a tent. This is the place where the Israelite’s believed that God dwelt.

The Israelites had carried the Ark of the Covenant with them in their journey to the promised land.

And now King David wanted to build a house for the Ark. He wanted to build a temple, a place for God to dwell. He wanted to build a house for God.

The Prophet Nathan said that the Lord had revealed to him that God wanted to establish a house for King David instead.

So where does God dwell? For the Israelites God’s dwelling was the Holy of Holies, the Ark of the Covenant.

For us Catholic Christians we believe that our God dwells in the tabernacles of Catholic Churches throughout the world.

And while this is most certainly true, the Angel Gabriel says something very different.

Don’t be afraid Mary. The Lord is with you.

The Lord God takes up dwelling within a teenage girl.

The girl asks: how can this be? The angel answers: nothing is impossible for God.

The angel says to name the child Emmanuel, God with us. This divine name tells us where God dwells.

The Lord God does not just dwell in the tabernacles of the world. The Lord God dwells in our hearts of flesh.

We think: that’s impossible. But the place where God chooses to dwell is in and among us.

God lives in me. God lives in you. God chooses to make his home in me. God chooses to make his home in you.

I suspect we’d prefer God to stay in the tabernacles because if God is really going to live in me then I am really going to have to change.

Mary carried the Lord God within her. This made her holy and full of grace.

The Angel Gabriel comes here and says: Do not be afraid. You have found favor with God.

As we approach this Eucharistic table we hear the words: the Body of Christ. We say: Amen. And the Word is made Flesh.

We receive within ourselves the sacred Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. And for God, what is impossible becomes Emmanuel, God with us.

Maranatha. Come Lord Jesus. Come dwell in us.