Saturday, March 18, 2017

2017/03/19 - Leading us away

March 19, 2017 - 3rd Sunday of Lent;
FIRST READING: Exodus 17:3–7
RESPONSORIAL PSALM: Psalm 95:1–2, 6–7, 8–9 (8)
SECOND READING: Romans 5:1–2, 5–8
GOSPEL: John 4:5–42


Before Mass:
There’s a question in the first reading which I need you to listen for, “Is God in our midst or not?”
Let me set the stage for you.  This is one of the stories in the Hebrew Scriptures that is important to understand the theology of the New Testament.  We all know the Israelites were slaves in Egypt for 400 years and God sent Moses to lead them out of Egypt.  Many, many signs and wonders and miracles were worked to make this possible, so that the Israelites should have NO DOUBT that God was behind this.
 
But today – they get to a spot in the desert where there is no water.  That’s a dangerous, scary place to be.  I’ve not spent a lot of time in the desert, but I have a vivid memory of passing through a desert in Colorado one summer where the air temperature was 113 and the relative humidity was like 11%... that’s dry…. Every breath you take you feel like you need a glass of water. 
Keep that in mind as you hear the story.


Homily:

Is God in our midst or not?
What do you think?  Were the Israelites justified in asking that question?
On one hand, I think if I was there, I’d have been getting worried too… we HAVE to have water.
 
On the other hand, the Israelites had seen all the miracles and wonders – in fact, in the chapter right before this - this is from Exodus chapter 17...in Chapter 16 God provided the Manna – the bread from heaven – which would miraculously appear to feed them when food was scarce.  How could they so quickly forget?

But isn’t that like you and me?  God blesses us every day with countless blessings – and sometimes we remember to be thankful – but as soon as one of our basic needs is threatened, we start questioning “Is God in our midst or not?”

Could it be that God WANTS us to ask that question?  That may sound strange, but hear me out.

I think God pushed the Israelites into a corner to MAKE them question.    See – the whole time they were following Moses in the desert, they were still keeping the Egyptian gods in their back pocket… ready to change allegiance at the drop of a hat.  In fact, the Egyptian god of the Nile – I think his name was Hapi – was the god they had turned to all their life for water….remember, they were slaves for 400 years, so Hapi was the only god they ever KNEW who would provide water… And the Nile never let them down.  They didn’t realize that the whole time it was the Lord God who had provided the water….that thought hadn’t even crossed their minds.  It’s even likely that as they travelled with Moses, they would still do some of the rituals to the god Hapi as they collected water or purified themselves.
 
God needed to lead them AWAY from that behavior…AWAY from that false god Hapi.  He led them to a spot where there was no water and couldn’t possibly be any water, so that when He provided, it would be undeniably HIS doing.  That’s the key point… God needs to prove to each one of us that HE is God…and He does that by blessing us where we least expect it.  Pulling a bucket of water from a creek is not news – but pulling a bucket of water from a rock – THAT is news!  That would get anybody’s attention.
 
God is trying to get our attention.  Every one of us has some false god we’ve gotten comfortable with in our life… something we’re afraid to let go of.  He’ll lead every one of us into a desert of some sort – away from our comfort and peace of mind – so that He can bless us where we least expect it and prove once and for all that He is God.
You see, as long as all of our basic needs are being met, we’ll stay in our unhealthy situation forever, rather than risking the loss of our comforts.  It’s easier to remain a slave near the river than to risk going thirsty. 

What’s your desert?  Maybe you thirst for health.  Maybe your marriage is a lifeless desert.  Maybe your job sucks the life out of you.  Maybe you’re dealing with the recent loss of a friend or family member and you’re questioning, God are you in our midst, or not?

Don’t despair.  If you’re in the desert, God is either leading you TO something or AWAY from something.  Pray about it.  Prayer doesn’t need to be all flowery words and Our Fathers and Hail Marys… true prayer speaks what is in your heart… so go ahead… Yell at God – at the top of your lungs… GOD ARE YOU IN OUR MIDST OR NOT?!!! 

God is hoping you will ask… so He can strike a rock and bless you where you least expect it.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

20170219 - Be Holy

Before mass: 
I worked with the Juniors at SR this Wednesday to help write this homily, so I’m placing ALL the blame on THEM if it’s no good.  Actually, It was quite fun – brainstorming ideas together.  So, I’ll be using a couple of example today which they helped me find.

The theme for today comes through loud and clear in the readings:  Be Holy as God is Holy.  I’ll give you the punch-line in a nutshell: since we are made in the image of God, we should try to be as much like Him as possible – and that means we should be Holy.  Easy to say… but what does that mean?  That’s what the rest of the readings are about, in fact, There are some VERY specific examples in the readings, so listen for the answer:  how are Christians called to BE HOLY?  How am I called to be Holy?

Homily:

Be Holy as God is Holy.  What’s it mean to “Be Holy”?  It means “set apart”.  I’ll put that in my own terms… to be Holy is to be different than everything else…reserved for God.  Kinda like the china that grandma kept away in the curio cabinet for special occasions, you and I are reserved, set-apart, different.

ARE we any different?  Look around at the rest of society:  all of the negativity, violence, vengefulness, lying, cheating, slandering.  ARE you and I any different?  If not, we’re not “set apart”.

Did you notice the descriptions of Holiness that are offered in the readings were not about following a law…or praying… they’re about relationships:  Did you hear it? 
* hold no grudge, * take no revenge, * love your neighbor, * love your enemy.  Wait – did you say ‘love your enemy’?  Yes – this is what should “set us apart”.  The rest of the world loves those who love them back… but we set ourselves apart when we love our enemies.  Is that even possible?

The girls’ basketball team was playing one night, and there was this one player on the other team who was really good – in fact, they nick-named her “Torpedo” because she took so many shots outside the three-point line…and that name seems appropriate because she was hitting three-point shots seemed like every time they came down the court.  Our coach (Coach Chinn) called a time-out to regroup to figure out how to shut her down before they walked away with a blow-out.  She made a couple of adjustments on defense – putting our best defender on her - and sent the team back in.  It worked… For the next 12 minutes of play, our defenders pressed Torpedo so hard that she was forced to take a quick shots and she missed 6 in a row.  At first she was embarrassed – but then she got mad – and after the 5th time missing a shot, she tripped the girl who was defending her.  Our girl got up mad, but shook it off quickly and kept playing… then after missing another shot, Torpedo once again tripped her defender.  Our entire Jeeps bench and crowd were on their feet, shouting to the ref to call the foul, but he had his back turned and didn’t see it.  Two minutes later, a 7th missed shot, and once again, she tripped our girl as she was going after the rebound… this time the bench emptied and our girls were ready to run onto the floor and PUMMEL this girl. 

Fortunately, the whistle blew…This time, the ref saw it and called the fowl.  Our girl  – the defender who had been tripped three times now saw the reaction of her teammates and called a timeout– in the huddle, some were talking about how to retaliate…  but our girl held up her hand.  No – we’re not like that – we don’t take revenge.  If we beat her up, then we’re no better than her.  If we have poor sportsmanship, we’re no better than anybody else.  No – let’s treat her like one of our own players.  We’ll go out of our way to help her up off the floor if she falls.  We’ll tell her when she took a good shot or makes a nice pass. 

Back on the floor, the game was tense for a few minutes as the crowd waited to see what would happen.  The next time Torpedo dribbled down the court and was headed for a layup when she ran head-on into our girl near the free-throw line.  Both of them went sprawling and the whistle blew for the charging foul… the crowd was on their feet… was someone going to take revenge??  The crowd WANTED to see a fight!!  But our girl jumped up right away and reached out a hand to help the other girl up.  If you could see her face in that moment… it was filled with rage… she was red with exertion and anger… at first she refused to take the hand, but reluctantly grabbed it and stood up.  Our girl made the comment – you know, this is a tough game, but fun:  you’re probably the best player I’ve ever had to defend.  Torpedo’s face suddenly changed…. Instead of rage, she felt pride… and something else… maybe it was shame… in fact, she almost felt like crying.  How could this Jeep girl be so nice to me….after I’ve been so mean to her?  She’s been playing the best defense I’ve had to play against and I let my anger get the best of me… how come she’s not angry with me? 

The whole game changed after that…. These two superstar players were a joy to watch as each one did their jobs the best they could.  After the game, they hugged and congratulated each other on a job well-done.  Yeah – it was a sweaty hug, which is kinda gross – but the point is that what ALMOST turned into a gang-fight ended up in a hug.  Why?  Because our girl was HOLY.  She was “set apart”.  The wisdom of the world told her that she had every right for revenge against Torpedo.  She had every right to trip back – or worse.  The whole bench had a right to pummel this girl.  They were on a trajectory to having a REAL fight in the parking lot afterward… but it ended in a hug.  WHY?  Because our girl was Holy.  Our girl was like God.  Our girl didn’t follow the wisdom of the world.

Every one of us has an opportunity to be like this almost every day.  When somebody cuts you off in traffic, do you flip them a finger, or say a prayer for them?  I’m not joking…start a new habit:   next time somebody ticks you off, think – God, I don’t know what cross they’re carrying, so I can’t condemn them for this.  Please bless them and help them to be more joyful.

See what difference that would make?  First, it keeps you from brooding over it for the next 10 minutes – or letting it ruin the rest of your day even.  Second – it keeps you from lashing out with curses or gestures that just would just add to the angry situation.  Road Rage gets ramped up quickly if we retaliate.

On the basketball court, our girl had that habit – whenever she got tripped, she simply said, God, I’m not going to take revenge because I don’t know what she’s dealing with.  Bless her please and keep me from getting angry.  We can all pray that prayer.  In our families, in our workplace, even in church… people do things which just seem like they’re trying to make us mad.  Don’t let them.  Start a new habit:  whenever you feel slighted or angry, turn it into a prayer. 

Set yourself apart – Be Holy….and you’ll make a difference
… Be Holy and you will change the world.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

2017/01/15 - What's your purpose?

A couple times a week, I’ll sit down with a cup of coffee and take a look at what’s been posted on Facebook... and honestly, I usually get into a bad mood when I look at Facebook – seems like it has become the battleground for liberals vs conservatives.  So much slander, half-truths, and outright lies.  Everyone is slamming each other.  Everyone is sharing this story or that opinion or trying to defame someone.
So I was really pleased to see this post on there this morning, and it made me throw away the homily I had prepared and write a new one.  Let me share it with you:

Last night the Jeeps played Paoli at home and I just wanted to give a shout out to one of their players...#12!! I don't know who this kid was and I don't even remember his name but I was very impressed with his behavior on the court!! A loose ball flew into our crowd and hit a lady and he walked over to make sure she was okay, then on several occasions I saw him walk over to one of our players on the floor and help them up...you don't see the opposing teams players do that very often!! He was a great ball player and I just thought his attitude needed to be recognized!! So if any of my Paoli friends or family know him...please give him a pat on the back from me!
Wow –it was like a light in the darkness…  if there wasn’t so much negativity out there, this might not have caught my attention.  But the fact that we don’t see this often enough tells me we need to be the ones to change our culture.  Two things impress me about this post:  first – the young man’s actions were obviously a great example to all of us for how we should treat one another.  Second – I think the parishioner who posted this deserves a pat on the back for NOTICING the young man and for POINTING IT OUT so we can ALL be inspired by his actions.

Can you see how the readings relate to this?  First the Gospel:  What was John the Baptist’s purpose?  He told us, “the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel”.  John knew his purpose in life… it was to point out Jesus.

In the first reading: Isaiah said that God “formed me as his servant from the womb”.  And also God told him, “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”  Isaiah knew his purpose…to point to God.

Paul also knew his purpose – He was “called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus” – plus – he has something to say about who WE are:  “to you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy”.

I propose to you today that every one of those purposes is also OUR purpose. 
> We are servants of God like Isaiah… called to do His will.
> God will make US a light to the nations… meaning we will point out to the world what God has done.
> We are called to be holy – which means ‘set apart’.  We are in the world, but we’re here to CHANGE the world…to bring God’s presence to everyone.
> We are called to be apostles… betcha never thought of yourself as an apostle

We ARE apostles… which literally means – “one who has been sent on a mission”.  What is our mission?  There are a lot of answers to that, but let me offer two which directly relate to our readings:
We are called to point out Jesus and we are called to BE JESUS.

First – just like John pointed out Jesus, WE can point him out when we recognize Him.  Like the facebook post I mentioned, this parishioner pointed out someone who showed Love.  Where there is Love, there is God.  If we point it out when we see it, we start to change the culture.  By telling others about it, WE become a ray of light in the darkness.  We become that light to the nations.

Second - Like the young man in the Facebook post, we can BE Jesus every time we show love and respect to one another.  We have a great example right here in our parish:  one of our religious education teachers – well I’ll tell you her name even though it will embarrass her:  Kim Butler has challenged her students to create a “lollipop moment” for someone each week.  I admit I hadn’t heard of a lollipop moment, so I had to learn… Let me briefly explain:  There is an inspirational speaker Drew Dudley who tells the story of a young lady who is leaving home for the first time to go to college and she is scared… so scared she is ready to leave on registration day… but just then Drew came out with a crazy hat on and was passing out lollipops to everyone and just trying to make everyone feel welcome.  He came to this young lady and could tell she was scared – and he handed a lollipop to the young man next to her in line and says, “you need to give some candy to this beautiful woman in front of you”.  Then he turned to her parents and said – look – your daughter’s first day away from home and she’s ALREADY taking candy from a stranger!  It was just what was needed to break the tension and make everyone laugh.  Four years later, that young lady went back to Drew and explained how that moment had changed her life.  She had been ready to give up on college, but now she was close to graduating.  She had wanted to go back home to her comfortable, familiar life, but she stuck around and made new friends (and was still dating that young man who was in line with her).  And what’s really interesting is that Drew couldn’t even remember that incident.  He had done something to change this woman’s life, but for him, it was just one thing of the million things he did in his life.
You and I have the chance to do that.  We can lift people UP with the smallest of actions:  a smile, a sincere “how are you doing?”, maybe passing along an inspiring scripture verse or and encouraging word to someone on a text message, or maybe we can hand a lollipop to someone just to make them feel more comfortable.  If you and I can get into the habit of doing this, we’ll do it without even thinking about it… we’ll change people’s lives and not even remember that we did it.  Can Christians really change the world – uh- yeah!
The other thing we can do is to TELL others when THEY have done something that changed OUR lives.  Can you imagine how Drew felt when he found out that what he did was so impactful on this young lady?  How did that make him feel?  Do you think it made him want to do that even more?
He uses the term “lollipop moment” to describe this, but I like to call these “Grace moments”, because when we do something nice for someone, they get to feel the Grace of God – and we also get to feel good about it – which is the Grace of God.  The more Grace we give, the more we get back.
When we do this, we are BEING JESUS in the world.

What’s our purpose?  You and I are Apostles, Sent by God to Be Jesus and point out Jesus to the world.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

20170108 Epiphany - Clouds Cover the People


Before Mass:
Did you remember your Mass Journals?  I know – it’s a new habit, and it’s hard to form new habits, but don’t give up!  It will be worth it!  In case you weren’t here last week, let me briefly explain. 
Last week we passed out these journals – and there are plenty left the door, so you can grab one.  Everyone old enough to write should have one.  Bring it with you each week.  As you enter your pew, pray the prayer on the back:  God show me one way in this Mass I can become a better version of myself this week.  Then listen:  to the music, the readings, the homily, the prayers…. Listen for God to reveal ONE THING to you – and write it down.  Simple as that… but it will change you.
Oh – and everyone:  Don’t forget to go to our website and post your one thing – and – check out the one thing that other folks have posted. 
Today is the feast of the Epiphany.  I’m sure you all know that an Epiphany is a ‘revealing’…when God revealed Himself to humanity as the God of ALL humanity, not just Israel.  You’ll hear that them in all the readings, but especially the 2nd reading.   You’ll notice the first reading is a prophecy and the Gospel is a direct fulfillment of that Prophecy.  We see that a lot – but today is it OBVIOUS.  Matthew’s main concern was to show how Jesus was the Messiah by showing how He fulfilled the prophets. 
Listen today specifically for signs of epiphanies.  What does this Epiphany have to do with us, anyway?  There’s another definition of epiphany which might be easier to apply it to our own lives:   “a moment when you suddenly feel that you understand, or become aware of, something that is very important to you.”
That’s what we’ll discuss in the homily.
Let’s pray together the prayer on the back of the Mass journals: 
God, show me one way in this Mass that I can become a-better-version-of-myself this week!”
Homily:
Darkness covers the earth and thick clouds cover the people….
Our first week camping in Alaska was very memorable… notice I said ‘memorable’ not ‘awesome’.  For the entire week, the clouds were hanging low so that we never even SAW any mountains.  The temperatures stayed right at 52 degrees… which is better than 22 degrees, but since it was mid-July and we were used to 95 degrees here at home, so it FELT like 22 degrees to us…. Did I mention we were camping?  The only place we were warm was in the tent in our sleeping bags.  Imagine a full week living outside in 52 degree, damp, dreary, rainy, misty weather… and we were there to camp for three full weeks!  That’s what today’s first reading reminded me of:  “Thick clouds cover the people….” We were getting pretty discouraged with Alaska…let’s just go home…this is no fun.  But – on the 12th day of the trip,  when we were in Denali park, suddenly the sun came out and the clouds parted on the mountain so that we could SEE the peak of Denali!  That may not sound too exciting to you, but after a travelling so far and spending so much time shivering, that is the moment when our trip went from ‘memorable’ to ‘awesome’!  That was our Epiphany.  We would never be the same after that moment.
What would have happened if we had just stayed in our comfortable sleeping bags that day instead of venturing out into the dreary cold?  We would have missed that moment… that moment of epiphany… when the mountain revealed itself.  Alaska never would have been ‘awesome’ to us.
 “Darkness covers the earth and thick clouds cover the people….“
The Magi were part of the world which was covered in darkness – and that darkness was the fact that God had not yet revealed himself to the other nations… only to Israel.  In spite of that, they left their comfortable homes to travel – possibly for several months – to seek out the light.  Somehow, God had revealed to them that this strange star in the sky was the sign they had been looking for…. The sign of a great event happening in the land of Judah… a new king.  Now, you gotta wonder – didn’t EVERYBODY see this star?  Why was it that just the Magi followed the star?  The Magi were the only ones LOOKING for that sign from God.  See – the leaders in Jerusalem had the scriptures which foretold the coming of the Messiah – but they were comfortable in the positions of power and didn’t want to rock the boat.  Many others would have seen the star, but they were so comfortable in their pews at church that they didn’t even look UP to NOTICE the star or wonder about the significance of it.
Isn’t that you and me?  This is why these Mass Journals are important… we have gotten so comfortable with our religious practices that we think that’s all we need.  If I go to church and sit in my pew for 45 minutes, I can get on with life.  Don’t ask me to come out of the comfort of my pew… don’t ask me to step outside of the comfortable religion I’ve developed for myself… don’t try to redefine who Jesus is, because I’ve already created him in the image that works for me!!!
“Darkness covers the earth and thick clouds cover the people….“
Every one of us here has darkness – we all have pain – either physical pain from illness or disease or age creeping up on us – or pain in our hearts from what others have done to us – or from loss of loved ones – or well, you get the idea:  every one of us has a cloud hanging over our head. 
But that’s not the end of the story… the prophecy goes one:
“Thick clouds cover the people… but upon you the Lord Shines”
God is trying to break through the clouds of our hearts – right now!  Just like he sent the star to announce His coming into the world, every day, He sends light in some form to give us hope.  If we’re not looking for the star, if we’re not willing to step out of the tent, if we’re so fixated on how dull and drab and painful life is, we won’t NOTICE that the sun came out – or that God has sent a Star to light our way.  If we don’t ASK God to speak to us, we won’t notice the One Thing He’s trying to tell us.
Talking to a friend this week, he was talking about the major struggles he has had in the past year… and I mean MAJOR struggles.  2016 was one of the darkest times in his life.  At one point he was flat on his back in bed and completely dependent on people around him… he had no money… he couldn’t work… and no matter what he did, his health just seemed to get worse. 

But listen to what he said – and this is the punch line:  It was in those darkest times that I realized how blessed I really am.  Friends and parishioners stepped up to help him and support him.  If it wasn’t for the thick clouds, he might not have noticed those blessings.  And you know, those friends and parishioners might not have realized that THEY were the star that shone into the darkness for him.
Hopefully, our challenge for the week is obvious by now:  Keep looking for God.  Keep searching for the star He sends to lead your way.  He IS speaking to every one of us today.  Keep moving out of your comfort zones and SEEK God.  Let God to lead you to the Epiphany…. Look for the star.
Just like the Wise men, Once you’ve met Jesus…. Once God has revealed himself to you… can cannot go home the same.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2017/01/01 What's Your ONE THING?

At the beginning of Advent, I challenged everyone to ask yourself if you were better off spiritually than you were a year ago… and more importantly – I challenged you to start a new habit NOW so that you WOULD be better off a year from now.  Most of us ‘probably’ didn’t really start a new habit, so I bought a thousand of these MASS JOURNALS (From Matthew Kelly) to pass out to everyone old enough to write.  This is a habit I’d like us ALL to start TODAY.

Imagine if every time you came to Mass, you went home inspired…  Imagine if week after week you brought this journal with you.  When you arrive in your pew, you kneel down for a minute and pray this simple prayer on the back:  “God, show me ONE way in this Mass that I can be a better person this week”.  That’s it…simple.  Then – pay attention:  to the music, the prayers, the readings, the homily…and when it hits you, write it down.  

If you do that every week for a year, you will have yourself a powerful spiritual journal.  YOUR life will be changed.

On the way home from church, talk with your family – what was YOUR one thing?  You will be amazed at the things people will pick-up on. 

Imagine what would happen if EVERYone in our Parish did this – everybody coming to church with their journal and praying to God – God show me one way in this Mass I can be a better person this week.  It would be a revolution!!!  Every one of us would be more engaged – every one of us trying to grow in our faith.  Imagine the conversations that would take place after Mass – everybody sharing their one thing – Imagine the conversations with our family, friends, co-workers.  Our PARISH would be changed.

Take it one step further – what if every Catholic in the United States came to church looking for their one thing?  This culture would be changed.  You and I can’t change the country, but we can change one person – our self.

Start today – pray the prayer – write down your one thing, then on the way home….ask someone what THEIR one thing was and how they’re going to be a better person this week – then share yours.  In fact – go on-line to our parish website and post your one-thing!  I’m serious!  Then you can scan through what other people said their one thing was… it should be inspiring to see how many different things we all hear.  I really want our college folks to do this.  It will help keep us connected with them – AND – since they go to different parishes, they’re likely hearing a DIFFERENT one-thing.

Yes, this might be a bit awkward at first – but just by asking the question, we start to change our culture to make it NORMAL to talk about what God wants from us.

2017/01/01 What's in a Name?

What’s in a name?  We call Mary the “mother of God”.  But, she’s got more names than anybody I can think of:  our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Lourdes, our Lady of Fatima, Undoer of knots, I could go on… But THIS name is key to our Faith.  If we don’t believe Mary is the Mother of God, our Faith collapses… If you don’t believe me, let’s look at some history and see what kind of arguments it started… and follow that argument it to its logical conclusion.

In the early 400’s, this was not a dogma of the Church…meaning, Mary was not yet “officially” declared to be Mother of God.  Most dogmas, in fact, are not defined until someone tries to prove it’s not true.  In this case, MANY people in the Church had started calling Mary “Theotokos” – which is Mother of God…or more literally ‘God Bearer’.  However, a guy from Syria named Nestorius thought that was demeaning to God… if God was born of a woman, then that makes God human.  So he decided to use a different term “Christokos” – which is ‘Christ Bearer’.  Seems like a simple, innocent change of a word – why should anybody care?  People DID care – in fact, Pope Celestine along with the council of Ephesus ex-communicated Nestorius over this simple, innocent change of a word.

Theologians were adamant that ‘Christ Bearer’ ended up dividing Jesus into two persons:  the human Jesus and the divine Jesus.  To deny that Mary gave birth to God is to deny the divinity of Jesus… and if Jesus wasn’t divine, then that would shake the very foundations of our Faith, because he as much as told us he was God!  Think about that yourself for a moment:  First – do you believe Jesus was/is God?  Second – do you believe He was God when he was two years old?  Third – do you believe He was God while still in the womb of Mary?  While He was in the womb is when Elizabeth declared, “Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”  Even Elizabeth recognized the fetus was God.

What we believe about Mary is important because it directly impacts what we believe about Jesus.  Actually – there’s a line in the second reading which helps us understand:
     When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son,
     born of a woman, born under the law,
     to ransom those under the law,
     so that we might receive adoption as sons.

Born of a woman – born under the law – because only someone born under the law could fulfill the law.

God sent his Son – who is the second person of the Trinity – which means He IS God!  Humanity in its fallen state could NOT fulfill the law, so God had to do it to take away the sins of the world.  Only God could adopt us into His family as sons and daughters.  If Jesus wasn’t divine, then you and I are still immersed in our sins and we’re all damned!

What’s in a name?  Everything.  No Mary, No Jesus.

Since Mary IS the mother of God – and Jesus is our brother – then Mary is OUR mother too.  Don’t be afraid to reach out to her.  A mother loves unconditionally – and she loves you and me as much as she loved our brother, Jesus.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

2016/12/18 - 4th Week Advent - Colossal Interruption


BEFORE MASS:

Got a few great things coming up:

First – at the doors you’ll find a wide assortment of CD’s and books – some of which are new titles you probably haven’t seen yet.  This is a great chance to pick up some Faith-filled stocking stuffers for only a $3 donation.  Check it out after Mass. 

Second – We’re starting a new Bible Study on the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of the month – first Thurs at SC, 3rd Thurs at SR.  And – we’ll offer babysitting!  More info in the bulletin, or contact me. 

Third – Everyone is encouraged to have their homes blessed.  Fr Eugene and I have left several evenings open in January and February.  Call the parish office to schedule your blessing.  More details in the bulletin (if not this week, it will be there next week)

OK – getting down to business of the day.  If you summed up today’s Gospel, this would be it:  Joseph Did as the Angel commanded.  … if that was the whole story, we could all go home now… but there is SOOO much more to the story...  So much more than you and I get in this short little snipit.  Try to put yourself into Joseph’s shoes as we listen today and we’ll talk about it in the Homily.


HOMILY:

Every eye turned when Joseph walked into the local tavern – Joseph NEVER walks into the tavern… ESPECIALLY at 10 am!  Most lost some interest in him when he ordered a glass of kosher milk.  He sat in a dark corner – obviously in deep thought.  By evening, He was on his sixth glass of milk.  The other patrons kept glancing over at him as he sat there mostly with his eyes closed… he would mutter to himself once in a while – then shake his head and mutter NO loud enough that everyone could hear.  Then he’d take a drink and go back to thinking.  What was he thinking? 

This is bad… really bad.  My life was all planned out!  I finished my carpentry apprenticeship a few years ago; my business is starting to take off to where I could support a family:  I’ve developed a reputation for quality work at a fair price.  Speaking of reputation:  I am son of David’s line – I’m in good-standing at the synagogue   –all in all, My life’s plan was all in order!   

Until a few months ago – as my parents were arranging the marriage to a young girl from town, I was excited.  I knew who she was… pretty… smart… and very devoted to God, which will be good for my reputation as well.  But before she would agree to marry, she asked to talk with me and she explained that she had taken a perpetual vow of chastity. 

Say WHAT?  As you can expect, that set me back a bit… OK, more than a bit.  I mean – what man marries a woman who has made a vow like that?!  I almost walked out immediately, but she kept talking… there was something DIFFERENT about her:  the way she talked about God was so sincere and heart-felt and convincing, that I knew regardless of that vow, this is the woman I need to spend my life with.  THIS woman was going to bring me closer to God.  For the first time in my life, I found something so precious, I’d do anything to be with her – including throwing out my own life plans of a family and taking my own vow of chastity.  So the betrothal was completed and we started making marriage plans.   

After that little roadbump – everything was going according to plan – until…. this morning.  She tells me she’s going to have A BABY!!  You can imagine how I felt… I was Angry!  She convinced me to take the vow of chastity with her and then she goes with another man?!!?!  Anger doesn’t describe it… more than anything, I was hurt…. I felt like a fool…This woman had me truly convinced that she was a Godly woman, and I was really looking forward to our life together… but she was a fake… a liar… a cheat.  Not only that, but what will the people think of me?  My reputation is going to be ruined.  I might even have to move to another town and start over.  What’s worse, Mary is going to be stoned and her entire family’s reputation will be destroyed.  Once I make it public that this child is not mine, she’ll be taken into the public square and stoned to death.  It’s God’s LAW that we should do so… but still… there’s reason to doubt.  See – she told me – she INSISTED… that she had NOT been with another man – but – (shakes head) – I almost can’t say it with a straight face – she CLAIMS that the Holy Spirit impregnated her.  (shakes head)  I thought she was so young and innocent and truthful and Godly, but she expects me to believe THAT?   

No …That’s too much to believe…. No… the right thing would be to take her to the public square –
Shakes head…. but I can’t do that… she’s just an innocent young girl.   Instead, I’ll just quietly end the betrothal – then she’ll be free to marry the real father.  It’s her only chance of avoiding being stoned. 

What a colossal mess!  He laid his head down on the table – not even realizing how tired he was from agonizing about this all day.  Next thing he knew an angel appeared to him… he was scared to death!!!  The angel sat down at the same table with a glass of kosher milk and talked in a low, steady voice:  Joseph – you are a righteous son of David.  God sent me here so that you would understand what Mary told you is true…. The Baby to be born IS the Son of God – conceived by the Holy Spirit.  Mary did not lie… she has remained faithful to her vow and to you.  Do not be afraid, Joseph.  If you will accept the job, God wants you to be part of His plan.  You will be the protector of the Messiah and His mother. 

Suddenly Joseph woke up, feeling a mix of fear and excitement:  It was true!  Mary really WAS the Godly woman he thought she was!  What’s more, did he understand that right???  HE had been chosen to play a role in God’s plan of salvation?!  What had started as the worst day of his life suddenly turned around and he saw this colossal interruption by God as the source for the greatest blessing of his life and for that matter, it was bigger than that:  This was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy…this was huge for the life of Israel.. this was colossal! 

See what I mean?  Joseph did what the angel commanded… but there is SOOO much more to the story.  Joseph was human – and he had to struggle with all of the emotions and decisions that you and I would have to deal with in that situation. 

God wants to invade your life plans with a colossal interruption.  God has chosen you and me to play a role in bringing His salvation to the world!  And how will you and I react?  

No way – doesn’t fit into MY plans for MY life. 

See we all have our plans – and anything that gets in the way of OUR plans we get rid of as soon as possible:  we get a headache, we take a pill.  Our wife doesn’t give us the respect we deserve, so we get rid of her and get a new one.  A baby shows up by surprise… we run over to Planned Parenthood to have that little mess cleaned up…. 
In the 21st Century, we are in so much control of our lives that anytime God tries to invade our plans with His Grace, we stop it as quickly as we can… because it’s not in OUR plan. 

Imagine the blessings God could dump on the earth if, like Joseph, we would throw our plans out the window and let God make our life plans.