Saturday, December 31, 2016

01-01-2017 -- Mary, Mother of God, Year A

Jan. 1, 2017 - Mary, Mother of God, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

As we stand on the cusp of a New Year, the readings call us to look backward to see where we’ve been and then to look forward to see the possibilities the New Year brings.

In the Gospel, Mary reflects on the events that have happened to her. She is able to see the wonder of God, the power of God at work in her life. And she treasures this in her heart.

She is calling us to do the same. So as we close 2016, we should reflect on where we’ve been.

Was it a good year? If it was, how was it a good year? What happened that made it a good year?

If it was a good year, what did we do right? And do we intend to stay the course?

Or was it a bad year? If it was, why was it a bad year? Was it a bad year because of something we did?  

If it was a bad year, what needs to change? What can we do to bring about that change?

The world is full of small miracles, but we only notice them if we take the time to look for them.

We should take some time to look at the year that has passed to see where the Lord was at work. Then we should treasure this is our hearts.

If we cannot see the Lord at work, then maybe we have to ask
ourselves, how we can draw closer to the Lord in the New Year?

We need this kind of self-reflection if we are to grow.

Having reflected on the past, we are then ready to look to the future. The road ahead is uncertain, but the road ahead is hopeful.

We need a blessing as we embark. We need to ask God to walk with us throughout the New Year, to be our constant companion.

The blessing that is given in the first reading comes from the Old Testament Book of Numbers. It is the Hebrew priestly blessing.

The priests of the Temple at Jerusalem would bless the people every morning after the sacrifice at the temple.

It was believed that the Divine Presence would shine through the fingers of the priests as they blessed the people.

For this reason, the Jews did not look at the priest saying the blessing. So out of respect, they looked at the ground and concentrated on the blessing.

And so now, as we begin this New Year together, I will ask God’s blessing upon you.

The Lord be with you.
And with your Spirit.

Bow your heads and pray for God’s blessing.

May the Lord bless you.
May the Lord keep you.
May the Lord smile upon you.
May the Lord be gracious to you.
May the Lord look kindly upon you.
May the Lord give you peace.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

12-25-2016 -- Christmas, Year A

Dec. 25, 2016 - Christmas, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

There was no room at the inn. What experience do we have of that? None really.

Can we put ourselves in Mary and Joseph’s shoes? Not really. When we travel, we usually make reservations well in advance. We arrive with our confirmation number in hand.

So maybe the closest we come is when we get to an airport and we discover that our flight is cancelled.

Or we get to the hotel and we are told that our room is not ready yet. But that’s not really the same thing.

Maybe the folks whose homes were flooded know what it feels like. But friends and family stepped in immediately to render aid and to offer shelter.

This did not happen with Mary and Joseph. They were all alone. Remember Joseph had to travel with Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census.

That is a 69 mile journey. Imagine making that journey on foot or riding a donkey. Imagine making that journey pregnant and about to give birth.

Then imagine arriving at the destination only to be told that there is no room at the inn.

Bethlehem was full of others who had also traveled for the census, others who may have had more resources, others who already had a room at the inn.

It was late and cold and dark. For Mary and Joseph and the unborn child, there was no welcome. The world did not make way for the Messiah.

So every Christmas we go to the manger to see the Christ child. We can touch the Lord Jesus because he is one of us.

The infant Jesus lying in the manger is so small, so fragile. The infant Jesus lying in the manger is Emmanuel, God with us, like us, accessible to us.

And so we kneel with Mary and Joseph and the shepherds. We hear the angel voices. O night divine. O night when Christ was born. O holy night.

There may be no room at the inn and maybe that’s a good thing.

Because that really challenges us to step into the scene and make room.

We have to make room for the Christ child in our hearts and in our homes. And so on this Christmas night/day we make room for the Lord.

We open the doors of our hearts and the doors of our lives and we let the Lord in.

There is room in each and every heart and soul that has come here to kneel and adore the newborn king, Christ the Lord.

May the joy of this Christmas fill you as you make room for the Lord to come.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

12-18-2016 -- 4th Sunday of Advent, Year A

Dec. 18, 2016 - 4th Sunday of Advent, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Mary is pregnant with Jesus. As an expectant mother, she is looking forward to the birth of her child with great joy.

Joseph, on the other hand, is full of anxiety. He is anxious about taking pregnant Mary into his home, especially since the child isn’t his.

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, writes that he is expectant about the coming of Jesus and the obedience of faith that requires.

All of these scriptural figures are in a state of Advent. Expectant, pregnant, looking forward to something with great joy or with a hint of anxiousness.

Advent is a pregnant time, a time of expecting, a time of having or showing an excited feeling that something is about to happen.

Advent is a time of carrying something that is developing within.

Advent calls us to be pregnant, to be expecting, to be cognizant.
Stay awake. Be ready. Prepare the way. Watch. Wait. Expect.

What is it that we are excited about? What are we expecting? What are we preparing for?

What will be born to us this Christmas? Advent is a time to anticipate new birth. What will be born to us?

Will it be a new idea? Maybe we could reflect on the idea that God loves us or the idea that God forgives us of the idea that God calls us into an ever deepening relationship. We could reflect on this idea and begin to allow it to have a new birth within us.

Or maybe it could be developing a virtue. Could we choose one area of sin that we need to work on? We could name the sin and identify the corresponding virtue.

Anger corresponds with forgiveness. Greed corresponds with generosity. Self loathing corresponds with Self acceptance. Impatience corresponds with patience.

Get the idea? Then we could make an effort, a real effort, to work on the virtue.

Or maybe we could read a spiritual book. Again this year we are happy to offer as a Christmas gift, a spiritual read: Rediscovering mercy. Copies are available at all the entrances of the church.

Or maybe there is a new relationship that is growing. Do we have to work on being more loving in our relationships. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love does not boast or brag. Love never fails.

The obedience of faith that Saint Paul speaks about allows us to carry ourselves joyfully as expectant parents anticipating how much we will be changed when a child is born to us.

Mary is pregnant with Jesus. This child is conceived by the Holy Spirit. Emmanuel. God with us.

Mary is laboring to bring forth the Light of the World. She is expectant, she is looking forward to the birth of her child with great joy.

Joseph was called to that obedience of faith that Saint Paul writes about. Do not be afraid Joseph.

We also need to be expectant this Advent season, waiting for the new birth to happen to us as well.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

12-11-2016 -- 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year A

Dec. 11, 2016 - 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Are there times when our faith is weak or shaken, our hope is dead or dying, our love is twisted or withheld?

Are there times when we feel like the zombie apocalypse is upon us?

Are there times when we feel like the violence that has become so pervasive in our world is beginning to overshadow the good filling us with gloom and despair?

The readings this weekend call us to be positive, to have hope, to look to God to bring joy and happiness into our lives.

God brings that joy and happiness into our lives by creating. And God’s marvelous works of creation are accomplished through Jesus.

It is Jesus who fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that we heard in the first reading.

Jesus makes the lame walk. When we are lame, the Lord Jesus strengthens our feeble hands and our weak knees so that we can get up and begin again.
Jesus cleanses the lepers. When we are sickly, the Lord heals us so that we can be healthy and whole.
Jesus makes the deaf hear. When we are deaf, the Lord Jesus opens our ears so that we can hear the voice of John the Baptist calling us to prepare the way.
Jesus makes the blind see. When we are blind, the Lord Jesus opens our eyes so that we can see the glory of God all around us.

Jesus makes the mute sing. When we are left speechless, the Lord Jesus opens our mouths so that we can sing God’s praises.

Jesus raises the dead. When we are dead in spirit, the Lord Jesus sends the Holy Spirit upon us to revitalize us.

Jesus says to those whose hearts are frightened, “Be strong. Fear not. I am God.”

Jesus brings joy and gladness. Jesus makes our hearts firm so that we can cry out in the words of the Prophet Isaiah, “Here is your God.”

The Prophet Isaiah says that those whom the Lord has ransomed will enter Zion, the holy city, the heavenly Jerusalem. They will be crowned with everlasting joy.

We don’t want the zombie apocalypse. We don’t want to live lives filled with gloom and despair.

We want the sickness, the sorrow, the disease, the depression, the despair to flee. We want to rejoice and sing and dance and shout for joy.

And so we wait patiently for the Lord as Saint James tells us to do. We wait patiently for the coming of the Lord, because the Lord is coming soon.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

12-04-2016 -- 2nd Sunday of Advent, Year A

Dec. 4, 2016 - 2nd Sunday of Advent, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Is there a lack of harmony in our lives? A lack of peace? Are we a bit out of sorts? Is there an unsettledness? Are our lives out of balance? Does this cause us to be testy with others?

Maybe we have a preoccupation with ourselves. As a result, others may feel that we are arrogant or unapproachable.

Maybe we have or want too many things. As a result, we may be selfish and self-absorbed and not so fun to be around.

Maybe we have an insensitivity towards others. As a result, others may feel that we are cold or distant or even uncaring.

In any case, we would find ourselves having difficulty living in peace and harmony with others.

And so, John the Baptist calls us to change our ways. We know that. But if we dig a little deeper, we have to ask ourselves: What areas of my life is John the Baptist calling me to change this Advent?

Is it an interior change? A change of heart or a change of mind? A change in the way we think about our relationship with God or our relationships with others?

Do I always perceive others in a negative way? If so, can I begin to see people with whom I am having difficulty in a different light? And in seeing them differently, change the way I respond to them?
Or is it an exterior change? A change of actions or a change of behaviors?

Am I being called to treat others with greater kindness and compassion, with greater charity and love.

In the first reading, Isaiah describes the people who are in God’s Kingdom.

They are people of wisdom. Do I know what is important? Do I have insight into how to have a good relationship with God?

They are people of counsel. Do I know how to speak to others in a way that will help them grow closer to God?

They are people of knowledge. Do I know my strengths and weaknesses? Do I know my own God-given gifts and do I use them to help build up the Kingdom?

They are people of understanding. Do I accept others as they are? Do I try to place myself in another person’s shoes before judging that person?

They are people of strength. Do I know what to do and do I have the courage to do it?

Jesus comes bringing justice. Jesus is the one who will right the wrongs we find in our world.

Jesus comes bringing faithfulness. Even when we turn away, Jesus is still there, ever faithful, inviting us to come back.

Jesus comes bringing peace. The Prophet Isaiah reminds us that the wolf and the lamb, the calf and the lion, the cow and the bear, the child and the cobra all play together in the Kingdom.

If they can do that, then we can live together in peace. Isaiah says that, in the Kingdom, people will live together in peace and harmony. And that no harm or ruin will come to them on the Lord’s mountain.

If we want to be people of the Kingdom, then John the Baptist says to repent now. If there is a lack of peace, a lack of balance, an unsettledness, then John the Baptist is calling us to change our ways.

And change we must if we are to prepare the way of the Lord.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

11-27-2016 -- 1st Sunday of Advent, Year A

Nov. 7, 2016 - 1st Sunday of Advent, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

We lead very scheduled lives today. And we are on the go all the time. We get caught up completely in the activities of daily living.

There’s the time to go to school and the time to go to work. We have to make it to this appointment and that event.  It seems like we never stop.  We go, go go.

We can get so busy that we become overwhelmed and our sensitivities are deadened. When this happens, we are not alert, we are not awake, we are not really paying attention.

So we end up going through the motions and then, suddenly, life becomes a chore. To reward ourselves or to just cope, we become self-indulgent. And that self-indulgence usually leads us into sin. I deserve this, we say.

Getting too caught up in our daily activities can leave little room for God, little room for prayer, little room for self-reflection, little room for peace.

The readings on this First Sunday of Advent call us to be alert to God’s nearness, to be instructed in God’s ways and so to walk in the light of the day instead of the darkness of the night.

Doing this allows us to find peace in our crazy lives.  So, in essence, we are told to wake up and find the path of peace. There is a path of peace for each of us. And, in finding it, we are called to choose it.

We have the ability to make peace in our part of the world. And there are things we can do to find peace this Advent.

Is there a conflict at work, in our church community, at the place where we volunteer, or in our family? There is a way to peace. Sometimes we have to work to find it.

It may involve letting go of some past hurt or forgiving some transgression or accepting forgiveness for some slight.

It may involve staying awake or paying attention. It may involve lifting someone up in prayer or doing an anonymous good deed for someone who cannot possibly repay.

In the midst of our busyness we are also called to find peace within.

We might do this by meditating on the scriptures or praying the rosary or sitting quietly with God letting love and peace and serenity wash over us.

Even though we live very hectic lives, even though we are caught up in the activities of daily living, we are still called to love.

We are still called to serve. We are still called to recognize the face of Christ in everyone around us.

We are called to climb the Lord’s mountain. We are called to make a place for peace and quiet and simplicity in our hearts.

And so on the FIrst Sunday of Advent, we invite the Lord Jesus to come to us as our Prince of Peace. We ask the lord to show us the path that leads to peace.  And, we beg the Lord to take a place in our hearts and to live there forever.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

11-20-2016 -- Christ the King, Year C

Nov. 20, 2016 - Christ the King, Year C 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

We no longer have a clear understanding or concept of kingship. So what do we do with this feast of Christ the King? How are we to understand Jesus as our king if we have no experience of kings?

There is the queen of England, but she's just a figurehead. Her role is merely ceremonial. She holds no power.

There is our president. He is very powerful, but he's not really a monarch; he's not really a king. He's an elected official.

There are dictators in our world, but they are not really kings either. And they are in far-off distant lands.

So when we think of mighty and powerful kings on this earth, we really don't have good examples to help us understand kingship. We only stories that tell of kings from days past.

Then there's Pope Francis. He really is a benevolent dictator when you think about it. And by being elected the supreme pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church he is a sharer in the kingship of Christ.

But he is not what comes to mind when we think about kings. He is not a typical king. He is not a typical ruler. But Jesus isn't a typical king either.

Why? Because Jesus, from the cross, acts as king by forgiving those who were killing him.

Jesus, from the cross, hears the prayer of the dying thief. Jesus, from the cross, provides for his mother and his beloved disciple by giving them to each other.

Jesus, the Christ of God, the king of the Jews, the beginning and the end, the first born from the dead, the anointed Shepherd sent from God the Father, delivers us from the kingdom of darkness and transfers us to the kingdom of light.

Jesus makes peace by the blood of the cross. Jesus offers redemption and forgiveness of our sins by the blood of the cross. Jesus is king through the blood of cross.
And Jesus' kingdom is a kingdom of peace and justice and love. Jesus' kingdom is paradise.

As we close this Year of Mercy, can we let Jesus Christ be our priest, our prophet, our king. As priest, he offers us the sacrifice of the Last Supper, his very body and blood to nourish us and strengthen us.

As prophet, he calls us to change our ways, to turn from sin and choose to do good. As king, he deserves our reverence and respect.
As king, he inspires Pope Francis to govern his church on the earth.

Maybe it's good that we no longer have a clear understanding or concept of an earthly king. Having earthly kings lording it over us would make it difficult for us to accept Christ as our king.

The scriptures give us a clear understanding and concept of Christ our King. A king who gives us wisdom and strength. A king who brings the honor and power and glory. A king who forgives our sins and welcomes us into his kingdom of paradise.

Today we kneel before Christ our King and ask him to watch over us his loyal subjects, to protect us, to keep us safe, to love us and to always draws near to him, who lives and reigns, forever and ever.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

11-13-2016 -- 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Nov. 13, 2016 - 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

We live in a time of global instability. It feels a lot like what Jesus is describing in the gospel.

There are earthquakes in Italy, famines in Africa, Zika in South America and Miami. It seems that the cold war is back on with Russia.

There is war in Syria and Iraq. The entire Middle East is a tinder box waiting to explode. Catholic Christians in Muslim countries are being dragged out into the streets and killed.

Gun violence is on the rise in our country. We live under the constant threat of random acts of terror. There are many complex contributing factors in this rise of violence. But the reality is that there is social upheaval and instability.

A local politician said this in a recent tv commercial, “I believe love is the answer but you ought to own a handgun just in a case.” That says it all.

We have recently discovered that racism is alive and well in our country.

South Louisiana was devastated by flooding rains exacerbated by overdevelopment.

In this time of violence and chaos and bloodshed it is easy to become overwhelmed. It is easy for us to lose our way. It is easy for us to become pessimistic. It is easy for us to lose hope.

It is easy for us to be swept up in the general tumult and become aggressive and antagonistic to everyone around us.
What does Jesus say? These things are bound to happen. Do not be terrified.

Now, what do we do with this? How can we not be terrified? Being terrified is easy. Following Jesus is harder. Jesus says over and over again, “Do not be afraid. I am with you.”

Hostility from others is no excuse for us to be hostile ourselves.
We are to persevere in goodness and holiness.

Sometimes the goodness of humanity can be so difficult to see that we may even begin to question God’s presence. So, as we close this Year of Mercy we ask God to look mercifully upon us and the mess we’ve made.

I suspect one of the lesson for us to learn is that what is man made will eventually crumble and fall. The things we humans create will all pass away eventually.

But what comes from God will endure forever. What God creates lasts forever.

Sometimes we place too much faith and hope and trust in our human institutions.

This can leave little room for God. As we bring this Year of Mercy to a close, we need to make room for God. We need to feel God’s healing rays of mercy and love upon us.

There may be earthquakes, famines, plagues, guns, smoke, fire, carnage, destruction, bombardment all around us.

But Jesus says, “Stand tall and do not fear for not a hair on your head will be destroyed.