Saturday, December 30, 2017

12-31-17 -- The Holy Family, Year B

Dec. 25, 2017 - Christmas, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

If your family is anything like mine, I’m sure there was a bit of family drama over the holidays.

Someone got upset about something, someone got their feelings hurt, someone said something that was hurtful, and maybe someone had too much to drink.

Why is it such a challenge to love those who are closest to us?

Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, “It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.”

On this Feast of the Holy Family can we bring love into our homes? We are called to imitate Jesus, Mary and Joseph. In this New Year we want to work on being like the Holy Family.

And in our second reading, Saint Paul tells us exactly what we need to work on.

Avoid bitterness. Let go of grudges. Bear with one another patiently. And forgive one another.

He also gives us a list of virtues to work on: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Then he reminds us of the Christmas message we heard just a week ago. He says, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you.” Let Christ dwell in your hearts. Let Christ be a welcomed guest in your homes.

We invite the Word made Flesh, Jesus Christ, into our hearts. Not just today, but throughout the entire New Year.

This will give us the grace and the strength we need to imitate the Holy Family.

Pope Francis encourages us to use three key phrases that will give us a more peaceful family life. May I. Thank you. And I’m sorry.

In this way, all family members can work on showing honor and respect. In this way, all family members can work on being more charitable. In this way, all family members can work on being more like the Holy Family.

There might have been some drama in our families this holiday season. That’s definitely something we want to work on in this New Year so that we can make our families more like Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Holy Family.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

12-25-17 -- Christmas, Year B

Dec. 25, 2017 - Christmas, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Do you know where the tradition of putting a candle in the window at Christmas time comes from? It is an old Irish tradition. It is a symbolic gesture to travelers that one could find shelter in the home with a candle in the window.

It is a symbol of Irish hospitality, a family’s way of welcoming Mary and Joseph and any travelers who might happen to pass by looking for a warm place to stay.

In the days when it was illegal to practice the Catholic faith in Ireland, the candles in the windows of Irish homes was also a signal to traveling priests that the home would welcome them and they could safely celebrate the traditional Catholic Christmas mass together.

The candle was a sign of welcome. Do we show welcome to our God? What would happen if Mary and Joseph were to knock at my door? Do we welcome Jesus into our homes this Christmas? Do we have room for God when God seeks to enter our hearts?

Or do we turn God away? Do we have time for God? Do we make room for God?
The good news is that God keeps knocking. God keeps waiting to be invited into our hearts into our homes and into our lives. We should pause for a moment to invite God into our hearts, into our homes and into our lives.

When we begin to make time and space for God in our lives then God comes to live with us. When we turn got away, God keeps knocking.

And so as we celebrate the birth of Jesus so many years ago and as we remember Mary and Joseph were turned away from the inn, we are reminded to welcome God this Christmas.

Yes, there should be candles in our windows. But not only in our windows, but also in our hearts and in our whole lives.

We need to invite God to come into our hearts and into our homes and into our lives this Christmas. We need to make a space for God. God will come when invited into the situations in our lives. And God will come bringing hope.

Mary and Joseph are not turned away because they are welcomed here. And so our God comes to live with us. Jesus, the Christ Child, Emmanuel, God with us.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

12-24-17 -- 4th Sunday of Advent, Year B

Dec. 24, 2017 - 4th Sunday of Advent, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

I have lived through many profound changes in my lifetime.

We’ve put a man on the moon and we’ve flown space shuttle missions. We’ve gone from payphones to smartphones. When I was little, we had a console television. Now I have a flatscreen HD TV.

In high school, I took typing on an IBM selectric. My first computer was a Commodore 64 and I didn’t get it till I was in college and there was no internet when I went to college.

There have been medical breakthroughs as well. Things that used to be major surgeries are now routine outpatient procedures.

These miraculous technological advances and miraculous medical advances can leave us speechless. We are left to ask ourselves, “How can this be?”

It’s hard to miss all these astonishing things that are happening in our lives. But we can easily overlook a young girl who is pregnant or an old one who is barren teaming with new life.

We have to look very carefully to see God doing these remarkable things? Do we even look for God to bring about remarkable things?

Mary is filled with wonder and amazement and some puzzlement. She asks, “How can this be?”

What God is doing is amazing but we have to be paying attention to notice.

God is forgiving. Can I forgive someone who has wronged me?

God is loving. Can I love even when loving this difficult?

God is patient. Can I be patient even when I’m flustered and in a hurry?

God is generous. Can I be generous even if I don’t have much?

How can I do what God wants me to do? How can I say yes like Mary. How? How can this be?

The only answer is the one given by the angel to Mary. The Holy Spirit will come upon you in the power of the Most High will overshadow you for nothing is impossible for God. With God, all things are possible.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

12-17-17 -- 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year B

Dec. 17, 2017 - 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

How do I know if I’ve got my life on the right track? We try to do what is right. We try to lead good lives. We try to be more loving and more forgiving. We try to live with honor and integrity.

But we fail a lot. And sometimes we want some assurance that at least we are walking down the right road. Yes? Yes.

Saint Paul gives us a simple little spiritual exercise to use to see if we are headed in the right direction. He says, “Test everything. Retain what is good.”

We can use this little exercise in almost every situation in our lives to see if we’ve got ourselves on the right path, to see if we are on the right track, an assurance that we are headed in the right direction.

To test everything we simply have to ask ourselves some self-reflective questions like these:

Does this activity help me become a better person? Does this way of thinking help me grow in my relationship with God?

Does this way of behaving help me grow in love for my spouse or my children are my family? Does this activity or hobby help me grow as a person?

An example: does talking about my neighbor with others help me grow as a person? Does talking about my neighbor with others help my neighbor grow as a person? Does talking about my neighbor with others help me get along better with or grow closer to my neighbor?

If my answer to any of these questions is no, then this is a signal to me that I’m not on the right path. But if the answer is yes, if I’m saying good and positive things about my neighbor to others, then this is a signal to me that I’m on the right path.

We can use this little spiritual exercise in almost any aspect of our lives. Is this helping me to become more generous? Is this helping me to be more kind? Is this helping me forgive? Is this helping me prepare for the coming of the Lord? Is this helping me grow in faith and hope and love?

If we would use this simple spiritual exercise every day of our lives, we would quickly see a dramatic shift. And we would certainly be following John the Baptist’s command, “Make straight the way of the Lord.”

The changes we would begin to see in our lives would allow us to echo those beautiful words of Saint Paul from our second reading, “Rejoice always. In all circumstances give thanks.”

The one who calls us is faithful and can accomplish this in us, with just a little bit of our help.

We really do want to lead good and holy lives. And we want some assurances that we are heading in the right direction. Test everything. Retain what is good.

12-10-17 -- 2nd Sunday of Advent, Year B

Dec. 10, 2017 - 2nd Sunday of Advent, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

John the Baptist is preparing the people for the coming of the Messiah. “Prepare the way of the Lord,” we hear him cry out annually on this Second Sunday of Advent.

John’s call is an invitation for people to turn their lives toward God by turning away from sin.

How does John say we accomplish this? He is very clear: a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

So our Advent preparations must include forgiveness. Forgiveness is not easy. In fact, it can be as difficult as making rough ways smooth, or filling in valleys and turning mountains into leveled places.

What can we learn from these images? Forgiveness may be difficult, but it is not impossible. Forgiveness takes work.

Forgiveness is not about forgetting. Forgiveness is about moving forward.

How does forgiveness work? God forgives us first. Pope Francis has said that because God forgives us so readily, we should never tire of asking for forgiveness.

We have to learn to forgive ourselves. We have to accept the reality that from time to time, we walk down the wrong path and make bad choices.

We say, “I’m sorry” and accept the forgiveness that is offered. We have to learn to receive forgiveness gracefully when it is offered.

And finally, we have to learn to forgive others. If Jesus can forgive those who condemned him to death and nailed him to a cross, then Jesus can certainly forgive us. So we have no excuse when we fail to forgive.

Forgiving others is our first step into a place of healing. When we stop carrying around grudges and resentments and wrongs, we are freed from them.

Advent is the time for turning toward God and righting the wrongs we have done. Forgiveness is life changing. Forgiveness gives us a life of second chances.

Forgiveness brings a life of grace. Forgiveness puts us back on the road to life with God.

Prepare the way of the Lord with a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins and the rough ways will be made smooth.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

12-03-17 -- 1st Sunday of Advent, Year B

Dec. 3, 2017 - 1st Sunday of Advent, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

In this three week run up to Christmas, we can lose ourselves in everything that’s wrong with this season. Christmas has become so commercialized that we can get caught up in having a completely secular Christmas.

We can get lost in Black Friday and Cyber Monday and all the promotional emails that flood our inboxes. We can forget that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ.

So the church gives us the season of Advent to remember that it’s almost the season. And the season of Advent is a time for us to watch and wait and prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ into our lives.

In order to combat everything that’s wrong with Christmas, I think we need to do something during the season of Advent to help us prepare. I think we need to do something to help us watch and wait for the coming of Jesus Christ into our lives.

I do have a few suggestions. Thanks to the generosity of our friends at Dynamic Catholic we are able to provide, at no cost to you, a book to read during the season of Advent. Copies of the book can be found at the entrances of the church. The book we’ve chosen is, “Everybody needs to forgive somebody.”

And that is so very true. Everybody needs to forgive somebody.

But not only that, we each need to be forgiven by somebody for something we’ve done. So, we could spend this Advent season working on forgiving and being forgiven.

Another thing we could do is visit our friends at Dynamic and sign up for the best Advent ever. We would then receive, via email, short Advent videos each day.

These meditational videos would be a daily reminder that Advent is almost the season, a time to watch and wait for Jesus Christ to come into our lives. This could be our daily reminder of everything that’s right with Christmas.
Or we could all make a special effort to attend the ecclesiology class this Wednesday evening at 6 o’clock in the cafeteria. I’m going to have a special Advent stand-alone class. It’s not necessary for you to have come to any of the other classes in order to come to this one.

We’re going to be looking at the two most important documents from the Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes and Lumen Gentium. Studying these two documents can help us grow in our understanding of and appreciation for our Catholic faith.

If none these things speak to you, then you could just watch and wait as Jesus calls us to do.

The anticipation builds during these next three weeks, the excitement we feel waiting for a package to arrive or waiting for a guest to come. We watch and wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ.

If we choose to do nothing, it’s likely that we will get caught up in everything that’s wrong with Christmas. Christmas is not a secular holiday. Christmas is a religious holiday.

Christmas is our religious celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas is not about wishing others happy holidays. Christmas is about what God has done and is doing for us.

And Advent is almost the season. Advent is the time for us to remember everything that’s right with Christmas, the time when we watch and wait and prepare for the coming of the Lord.