Thursday, December 31, 2015

1-1-2016 -- Mary, Mother of God, Year C

January 1, 2016 - Mary, Mother of God, Year C
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Seeing the great need for mercy and healing in the world, Pope Francis called for this to be a Year of Mercy. It is a time for the Church to focus on forgiveness and healing in a special way.

Pope Francis has asked us to be witnesses of mercy by reflecting on and practicing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

This whole year has the power to transform our lives, our relationships, our work, and our ability to embrace and experience the mercy of God in our lives. You see, encountering mercy means encountering God.

So what is a Jubilee Year? A Jubilee Year is when the Catholic Church around the world to focus more deeply on forgiveness and healing in a special way.

During this Jubilee Year the whole church will focus more deeply on mercy by studying and reflecting on God’s loving mercy, on receiving mercy and on giving mercy by being merciful towards others.

This Year of Mercy called for by Our Holy Father Pope Francis provides us an opportunity to have an encounter with the heart of God. We have an opportunity to experience the incredible mercy of God.

Let us ask ourselves this question, “What should I do for the Year of Mercy?” There are several things we can do during this year to experience mercy more deeply:
First, we can pray for Pope Francis and we can pray the Prayer of Mercy that he has given us. Second, we can go on pilgrimage. Third we can reflect on and practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. And finally, we can go to confession.

By making a visit to a designated church or shrine, one can receive a Jubilee Indulgence. To receive the Jubilee Year Indulgence a person must perform the indulged act, which is passing through a designated Holy Door during the Jubilee Year or performing one corporal or one spiritual work of mercy.

It is necessary to be in a state of grace at the time the indulged act is performed. And each person can obtain one indulgence a day.

It is most fitting, but not necessary, that the Sacrament of Confession be received and Holy Communion also be received on the same day the indulged work is performed.

While at the designated shrine or church, one should pray an Our Father, a Hail Mary and the Apostles Creed while also praying for the intentions of the Holy Father.

Indulgences can be applied to oneself or to the souls of the deceased.

By making these indulgences so widely available, the Holy Father is hoping that the Jubilee Indulgence may reach each person as a genuine experience of God’s mercy.

As the pastor of one of the designated pilgrim shrines for this Jubilee Year. I want to wish you and all of your loved ones a happy and holy New Year, a year full of grace, a year full of mercy.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

12-27-2015 -- Holy Family, Year C

December 27, 2015 - Holy Family, Year C
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

What customs and traditions do you celebrate with your family during the holiday season? Some families open presents on Christmas eve and others open them on Christmas morning.

Our customs and traditions are important because they give us a sense of identity, a sense of belonging. They strengthen our family bonds. They offer us comfort and security.

The Jewish people of Jesus’ time had many more customs and traditions than we do today. One of them is described in the gospel today.

Mary and Joseph and the child Jesus go up to Jerusalem each year for Passover. Luke tells us that it is a festival custom. It was an important tradition for them.

The Holy Family was traveling with a large group, maybe the whole neighborhood or their extended family at least. That’s why it was so easy for Jesus to get left behind. This was the twelfth time Jesus went us to Jerusalem for Passover.

Their keeping of this religious custom is an invitation for us to look at our families and ask, “What customs and traditions do I keep with my family? Why are these so important to us? Do they help us become better persons?”

We need customs and traditions in our lives. They give our lives meaning. And the most important traditions we keep are the ones that celebrate our religious heritage.

These help us grow in our identity as sons and daughters of God. They help us grow spiritually. They unite us more closely with the Holy Family.

One tradition that we should all have is the tradition of coming to church each week for Sunday Mass.

This is where the Lord has the opportunity to speak his Word to us. This is where we experience once again Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice to save us. This is where we receive spiritual food to nourish our souls.

Saint Paul gives us instructions regarding our attitude toward this important religious custom. Paul tells us to listen to God’s word and let it sink into our souls. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.”

Saint Paul also tells us to sing joyfully with gratitude in our hearts. “Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts.”

Do we sing joyfully? Do we willingly open the hymnal and try to sing along when a song is announced? Posture is important. Notice your posture today at mass. What does it say about you? Our posture says so much about what is going on in our hearts.

When we sing or pray aloud at mass, many of you sit or stand with your arms crossed and your faces set in a stoic stare? All this, our postures and our attitudes say so much about where our hearts are.
Paul says this singing, this joy, this gratitude will change your lives. So, our religious traditions help change us. They help us grow spiritually. They challenge us to act with greater compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and mercy.

Our church has rich customs and traditions, especially during this Christmas season. Today we celebrate the Holy Family. They are a model for us.

We see them faithful to their festival custom, going up to Jerusalem each year to celebrate Passover.

We are invited to look at our own families to see which religious customs and traditions are important to us. What customs and traditions will you celebrate with your family this Christmas season?

Thursday, December 24, 2015

12-25-2015 -- Christmas, Year C

December 25, 2015 - Christmas, Year C
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Jesus comes to us in this celebration of Christmas to knock once again at the doors of our hearts, looking to see if there’s room at the inn.

Each and every one of us is called to respond. How many times has Jesus come looking for room at the inn?

Have we been too busy in our own thoughts to notice? Too concerned with our own affairs or with our Christmas preparations?

How many times has Jesus sent the Angel Gabriel to us with a message from God but we didn’t notice because we were too busy or too preoccupied?

Have we failed to welcome Jesus who comes knocking at the doors of our hearts asking for a yes like Mary’s yes, asking for a yes like Joseph’s yes?

Jesus, God’s Word made flesh, comes to us to be with us, to embrace us with the tender embrace of a newborn baby.

Can we let Jesus enter our hearts this Christmas? Can we welcome him as a friend?

Pope Francis has invited each of us to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ.

Jesus is seeking shelter not in a manger this Christmas. Jesus is seeking to make his home in our hearts.

Jesus desires to be with us, to transform us with his love, a love that warms our hearts and leads us to acts of charity, acts of kindness, acts of love, acts of humility and acts of mercy.

Acts of Charity: doing something for someone who cannot possibly return the favor.

Acts of Kindness: going above and beyond to make someone feel loved and appreciated.

Acts of Love: true love, the kind of love that makes us ache with longing and desire, the kind of love that would make us lay down our lives for another.

Acts of Humility: living simply without boasting or bragging.

Acts of Mercy: forgiving someone who has hurt us or practicing the Corporal and Spiritual works of mercy.

Jesus comes to us as an infant because he doesn’t want us to be afraid of him. No one is afraid of a newborn babe. We want to cradle a newborn in our arms. We want to hold the beautiful new life close to us.

The tiny baby Jesus, the Word made flesh, comes to us in this way so that we can approach without fear, so that we will draw near to be close to him.

Jesus comes to us in this celebration of Christmas, knocking once again at the doors of our hearts.

Let us open ourselves and let him enter for he is Emmanuel, God with us, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Unto us a child is born. O come let us adore him!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

12-20-2015 -- 4th Sunday of Advent, Year C

December 20, 2015 - 4th Sunday of Advent, Year C
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Do you ever get caught up in feeling insignificant or worthless or useless? Sometimes we begin to feel like we have nothing of value to offer, like we have no purpose in life.

When we get that way it's difficult to see anything positive. We have a difficult time seeing any hope for improvement. We end up in depression or in a downward spiral.

However, our perception is usually a distorted one. We feel like we are unlovable, unattractive, unworthy, unable.

These feelings can be caused by many different things, maybe we are struggling with sickness or a messy divorce or same-sex attraction or aging parents or past abuse or job loss or some other traumatic experience.

These struggles can lead us to be withdrawn, tearful, feeling guilty, possibly even abusing alcohol or drugs. We suddenly find ourselves lacking energy and maybe even neglecting self-care.

It's important for us to understand that when we feel this way we are not alone. The scriptures today tell us that Bethlehem was too small to matter. Elizabeth was too old to bear children. And Mary was too insignificant for people to take notice.

We would understand if Mary and Elizabeth were feeling confused, frightened and isolated. We would even try to offer them some words of comfort or reassurance.

But the gospel tells us that they are both filled with joy. How can this be? we ask. They are full of joy and full of grace because both of these women are caught up in God’s plan.

And God's plan is to be close to his people, to be caught up in their lives like a gardener caring for a vine or like a mother caring for her child.

God desires to be close to us, to draw near to us, to be with us. We know this because God chooses to come to us as a tiny child, small and vulnerable.

In essence, God is saying to us that each and everyone of us is significant, that each and everyone of us matters.

So, instead of feeling worthless we should be open to God and what God is trying to do in our lives. We should be open to the Lord trying to teach us the value of human life and the greatness of each life.

When God sent his only son into the world, God chose people that were too little and too vulnerable, people who seemed insignificant. But they weren’t.

When God send his son into the world, his son was raised among us, his son came as one like us, God among us, shining light on our true dignity.

We may be feeling overwhelmed, worthless or unlovable, but our perception is distorted. No one is too little, no one is too small, no one is too insignificant to share in God’s plan.

Blessed are you who believe that what is spoken to you by the Lord will be fulfilled.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

12-13-2015 -- 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year C

December 13, 2015 - 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year C
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

What kind of Messiah does John the Baptist predict? John speaks of a Messiah who comes bringing judgment. "His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear the threshing floor."

Do you know what a winnowing fan is? Do you know what a threshing floor is? This image has to do with separating the grains of wheat from the chaff.

But since we eat so much processed food, we might not even know what grains of wheat and chaff look like, let alone a threshing floor and a winnowing fan. So, the image and meaning are lost.

The threshing floor is a wooden floor where the planks are set slightly apart. A winnowing fan is like a broom. The wheat is placed on the threshing floor and thrashed with the winnowing fan so that the grain falls through the spaces into a bin while the chaff remains on the floor.

In this image, the good is separated from the bad. The good grain produces flour which becomes food to nourish. The bad chaff is thrown on the fire and burned.

Faced with this judgment, the people asked John the Baptist, what should we do? John gives the remedy. Be charitable and merciful towards others.

Don't take more than what is yours. Don't falsely accuse anyone. Be satisfied with your wages.

This question should become ours today. What should we do? If we ask the Lord Jesus, if we ask John the Baptist, if we ask Pope Francis the answer is the same.

Practice mercy.

As we begin this Jubilee Year of Mercy, our Holy Father has asked us to focus more deeply on mercy by studying and reflecting on God’s loving mercy, on receiving mercy and on giving mercy by being merciful towards others.

Pope Francis has asked us to rediscover and practice the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.

How we behave towards others is a measure of how deeply we have welcomed Jesus Christ into our hearts. Not only are our behaviors important, but we are also invited to think about the spirit in which we act.

It is one thing to practice mercy begrudgingly or out of duty; it is another thing completely to do so happily and joyfully.

The prophet Zephaniah, in the first reading, speaks of this joy. He says that it proclaims God's presence among us. Saint Paul invites us to be filled with this joy, to always to be happy in the Lord.

Advent is the time of watching and waiting with joyful hope. Why joyful? Because we are looking forward to celebrating the coming of the Lord.

We do not have to be worthy to welcome Jesus, but we are called to be willing to let the Lord’s coming change our attitudes and behaviors. We have to be willing to practice mercy, to become merciful like God is merciful.

John the Baptist may announcement the coming judgment. But the coming judgment of God is to show mercy.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

12-06-2015 -- 2nd Sunday of Advent, Year C

December 06, 2015 - 2nd Sunday of Advent, Year C
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

As a parish, we spent over two years preparing for the Cardinal’s visit this past November 11. It was a special epic event that will forever be a part of our history. What a momentous occasion.

Do you remember all the hustle and bustle that was happening around this place as his visit drew near? That’s what preparing is. And that’s what John the Baptist says for us to do with our lives. Prepare the way of the Lord.

But, preparing for the coming of the Lord is not simply an individual task. It is the task of the whole church. John gives his command in the plural. You all prepare the way of the Lord.

It is the task of the people of God. It is the task of the entire community of faith to prepare for the coming of the Lord.

But John the Baptist isn't talking about restoring pews or painting walls or shutters or dusting chandeliers or mopping floors. John is talking about preparing our hearts by waiting for what God will do for us.

God is filling in the valleys. God is flattening the mountains. God is making the winding way straight. God is making the rough ways smooth.

Why? So that the people of God may walk safely through the trials of life.

God is bringing to completion the work God has already begun in each of us.

So the good news is that God is preparing the way for us. And if we are going to accept this challenge from John the Baptist to prepare the way for the Lord, then we have to be open to what God is doing in our lives.

We have to be open to how God is calling us to change our ways. We have to be open to how God is changing our hearts. We have to be open to how God is refashioning our lives.

So our work is to cooperate with God. And as we do that we grow in prayer, we grow in acts of kindness, we grow in acts of mercy, we grow in love.

Our work in preparing for the coming of the Lord is to increase in acts mercy and love. We increase in love that is not simply emotions running wild but love that is grounded in mercy.

We increase in love that helps us put on the splendor of the glory of God; love that helps us stand up and look to the east to see our God leading us with mercy; to see our God leading us with justice; to see our God leading us with love on our pilgrim way to the kingdom.