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.