Third Sunday of Lent (March 24, 2019)

Today’s parable of the barren fig tree can make us very uncomfortable.

What is Jesus telling us?

God expects something from you; so get busy doing it? God certainly desires that we bear fruit. But it’s important that we remember that fruit comes not so much from what we do but from what God does through us.

Jesus uses the fruit tree for a purpose. Think about how fruit comes about. The roots of the tree receive nutrients from the earth, and the leaves receive energy from the sun. The tree produces flowers that are pollinated by wind and insects -- all outside sources – and fruit is the result.

The main work the tree has to “do” is remain receptive to everything that God provides for it. In the same way, God makes us fruitful through his presence in us. God wants to fill our talents and abilities with his power

so that we can bear fruit for the kingdom.

In today’s first reading, Moses is attracted to the burning bush not because it’s on fire, but because the fire wasn’t destroying the bush. In the same way, as God dwells in us and shows his life through us, we will burn with the brightness of the Lord. Our natural personalities and gifts won’t be destroyed. They will have a new power to draw other people to the Lord who lives in us.

God’s great desire is to live in us so that we can be fruitful. God wants us to do the works of Jesus today so that God’s kingdom becomes more evident in today’s world. Lent is a time to let God nourish his fire within us through prayer, reading Scripture, and serving our brothers and sisters. When we allow Jesus to live in us more fully, our lives become more and more fruitful because Jesus is living and loving through us.

Let us continue to seek our Lenten nourishment from our God. Let us ask him to bear the fruit that he has destined for us.

Second Sunday of Lent (March 17, 2019)

As we continue our Lenten journey, we hear the encouraging words which Francis de Sales wrote to us at the beginning of the Directory, quoting St. Paul:

“My brothers (and sisters), whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord.”

Like Abraham before us, the Lord has made a covenant with us – a covenant sealed with the blood of his only begotten Son Jesus. Like Peter, James and John, we have heard the voice of the Father: “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”

Each day, we come here to Eucharist to listen as Jesus speaks to us in the Scriptures and feeds us with his body, given up for us, and his blood, poured out for us. And today, we have prayed that the Father of light will restore our sight

that we may look upon Jesus who calls us to repentance and a change of heart.

All of this is part of the “plentitude of our God” that we have been encouraged to reflect upon – and for good reason. When we allow ourselves to be immersed in God’s over-whelming love, we will understand more clearly our need for repentance and a change of heart.

As we are embraced by God’s love, the love of Jesus impels us to become more like him in everything we say and do. When we allow ourselves to dwell in the heart of Jesus more completely, we understand more clearly the importance of our responding to one another with greater patience and understanding, with greater gentleness and forgiveness. We are better able to look at others with the eyes of Jesus. We will appreciate more fully that Jesus sees our faults and failings as reason for his compassionate love. And that can help us change our hearts in responding to the faults and failings of our brothers and sisters.

As our Lenten journey continues, let us be encouraged by Francis and Paul. As we stand firm in the Lord, may the love of Jesus, the beloved Son, grace our efforts to change our hearts.

First Sunday of Lent (March 10, 2019)

Isn’t it good to be reminded again that Jesus was tempted by Satan?

The Scriptures tell us: Jesus is like us in all things, but sin. We can be tempted to say: “Of course, he didn’t sin; Jesus is God.” But that thinking denies the truth that the Scriptures take such care to present to us: Jesus is Son of Man, as well as Son of God. Jesus’ temptations remind us that Jesus is human like us. They also help us to understand how Jesus dealt with temptation. That gives us a model for our own experiences of Satan.

As we take time to reflect on today’s Gospel account, it becomes obvious that Jesus learned to keep his attention focused on his Father’s love for him. His great desire was to respond to that love by doing his Father’s will.

After his long fast in the desert, Jesus is hungry. Satan encourages him to use his power – change stones into bread. Jesus responds: “bread is temporarily filling, but there’s more to my life than eating.” Doesn’t Satan present us with the same temptation at times? Something we need would make us feel good right now. Jesus is reminding us to ask a question: is there more to my life than this need? Is this immediate desire calling me to be more dependent on God’s loving care for me?

Then Satan tempts Jesus with power and glory if he’s willing to compromise his Father as God. Jesus responds: “I have one desire in life -- to serve my Father’s love.” Often enough Satan presents us with opportunities for some kind of power and glory if we’re willing to compromise our values. Jesus reminds us to look into the eyes of God when we’re trying to make decisions in our daily living.

Finally, Satan tempts Jesus to test God’s care for him. And Jesus tells Satan: “My Father’s word is enough.” How easy it is for us to try and control God’s care for us: “If you’ll just give me this sign, I’ll know you’re looking out for me.” Jesus tells us: trust in God’s providence for you; God doesn’t lie.

As we continue our Lenten journey, preparing ourselves to celebrate the great events of our salvation, we could benefit greatly by some prayerful reflection on Jesus’ responses to Satan’s temptings.

Jesus shows us where we can find the source of strength we need when we are tempted: our God’s abiding presence and care for us.

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (March 3, 2019)

“From the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks…”

Today’s selections from the Book of Sirach and Luke’s Gospel suggest a powerful standard by which we can judge the heart and mind of another person: the subject and manner about which one speaks.

Pretty obvious, isn’t it? Negative people tend to speak negatively. Jealous people speak resentfully. Judgmental people speak suspiciously. Their conversations tend to weigh others down.

By contrast, positive people speak positively. Happy people speak graciously. Energized people speak enthusiastically. Their conversations tend to lift others up.

If the eyes are the windows to the soul, conversation seems to be expressions of the heart.

Francis de Sales writes in his Introduction to the Devout Life: “Just as physicians learn about a person’s health or sickness by looking at the tongue, so our words are a true indication of the state of our souls.” (Part III, Chapter 26) This diagnosis has several aspects.

First: how do we speak of God? “If you are truly in love with God you should often speak of God in familiar conversation with others…just as bees extract with their mouths nothing but honey, so your tongue should always be sweetened with its God…always with attention and reverence.” (Ibid)

Second: how do we speak of others? “Be careful never to let an indecent word leave your lips, for even if you do not speak with an evil intention those who hear it may take it a different way.” When one’s heart is filled with evil or rancor or intrigue, their tongues are no longer like the sweet ones of the bees but become “like a lot of wasps gathered together to feed on corruption.” (Part III, Chapter 27)

Third: how balanced is our conversation? “It seems to me that we should avoid two extremes,” observes Francis de Sales. “To be too reserved and to refuse to take part in conversation looks like lack of confidence in the others or some kind of disdain. On the other hand, to be always babbling or joking without giving others time or chance to speak when they wish is a mark of shallowness and levity.” (Part III, Chapter 30)

What do the content and tone of our words tell others about our hearts?

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (February 24, 2019)

Today’s gospel offers us the great challenge for a disciple of Jesus:

“Love your enemies, do good to those who dislike you, bless those who speak ill of you and pray for those who mistreat you.” “Be merciful just as your heavenly Father is merciful.”

We all know how difficult this is to do.

We’ll never be able to do it without God’s grace, without learning to be very conscious that God is present with us each day, without asking God for the strength of his grace many times each day. The invitation of Jesus to love those who get in our face, who know how to push all our buttons, goes against our natural feelings of irritation and anger. Jesus seems to be asking too much.

What Jesus is asking of us is to be all that grace enables us to be. By our baptism, we have been given a share in the life and love of God. Jesus has become our brother; we are children of our heavenly Father by grace. Divine life is in us and that life enables us to live as Jesus lived. Jesus is asking us to learn to live by the new life we have been given. Because of grace, we are able to be merciful as our Father is merciful. Jesus has shown us how to love those who irritate us, how to forgive those who injure us.

St. Francis de Sales recommends several practices that can help us remember the strength of divine life within us.

Begin the day with a short prayer of awareness: “My God, you are here loving me today; help me to remember you’re with me as we go through the day.” Then, talk with God about the grace I will need to deal with particular people in my life who can irritate me or have mistreated me. During the day, when I know I’m going to meet such a person, I ask God’s help that I may relate with that person in a way that is pleasing to God. Then, each evening, thank God for the times when grace gave me strength and ask pardon for the times I forgot to ask for God’s help and failed because I tried to do it on my own.

The key is learning the discipline of remembering that I share divine life. When my prayer leads me to greater awareness of God’s loving presence each day, then I will more likely become dependent on the grace God makes available to me. Then the challenge that Jesus offers – to love my enemies – is not so impossible for me to try to meet. I can meet it because I trust in God who lives in me.

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (February 17, 2019)

A barren bush in the desert or a tree planted by running water – which of these images reflects your choices in life? Have you chosen to trust other people or are you trusting in the care of the Lord?

Jeremiah reminds us that, if we choose to trust in the Lord, then together we can face whatever life brings to us. God is with us, nourishing us even in the heat and drought of daily living.

Jesus asks us to take our trust in the Lord with us into our world and find ways to share it with the less fortunate – people who are poor, hungry, suffering and alienated. Jesus’ presence and message is meant for those who are ready and willing to focus on God rather than themselves, in order to experience the blessings of God given through others rather than holding on to the good things of life for themselves.

When you and I have learned to trust in God’s care, we are willing to share whatever we have with the poor, to give whatever nourishment we can to those who are hungry, to bring moments of joy and care to those who suffer, and to welcome into our circle of friends people who feel left-out. As disciples of Jesus, we are to be evidence of the kingdom of God present among us – by the way we live each day.

When we have learned to accept our own poverty, hunger, sufferings and alienation as human beings and are open to the many ways that God’s care has touched our lowliness and drawn us into his circle of friends, then we are better able to be more like God in caring for the lowly around us. Then we can be good news to our brothers and sisters.

During this ordinary time of the year, we are being taught about being better disciples. We are being taught to grow in more confident trust in God – that God is loving us and caring for us at every moment as his children.

St. Francis de Sales offers us an image that we can take to prayer each day:

“In all your affairs lean solely on God’s Providence, by means of which alone your plans can succeed. Imitate a little child, whom one sees holding tight with one hand to its father, while with the other it gathers strawberries or blackberries from the wayside hedge. Even so, while you gather and use this world’s goods with one hand, always let the other be fast in your Heavenly Father’s hand and look round from time to time to make sure that He is satisfied with what you are doing, at home or abroad. Beware of letting go, under the idea of making or receiving more—if He forsakes you, you will fall to the ground at the first step. When your ordinary work or business is not especially engrossing, let your heart be fixed more on God than on it;  and if the work be such as to require your undivided attention, then pause from time to time and look to God, even as navigators who make for the haven they would attain, by looking up at the heavens rather than down upon the deeps on which they sail. In so doing, God will work with you, in you, and for you, and your work will be blessed.”

Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (February 10, 2019)

What a wonderful set of life-vocation stories in today’s Scriptures.

Isaiah experiences (sees) the Lord of hosts in the Temple. He is humbled: “Woe is me, I’m doomed. I’m a man of unclean lips.” The ember carried by the seraph removes his wickedness. And Isaiah is ready to go forth: “Here I am, send me!”

Jesus has confronted Paul on the road to Damascus. Paul acknowledges that he is not worthy to be an apostle. And yet he preaches faithfully: “By the grace of God I am what I am.”

Peter reluctantly puts out into deep water at the command of Jesus – and witnesses nets so full that they are breaking. He kneels before Jesus in great humility: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Jesus gently tells him not to be afraid: “From now on you will be catching men.” Peter and his mates leave everything and follow Jesus.

Each of these encounters with God became life-changing. Isaiah will speak God’s word for his lifetime, whether he is accepted or rejected. Peter and Paul engage in “catching men” for the rest of their lives until they are ultimately killed for their preaching.

How many times in their lives as apostles would they be asked again to ”put out into deeper water and lower your nets”? Often their security was not to be found near the shoreline but with Jesus in the deep water.

Jesus’ invitation always seems to be “put out into deep water.” As we grow older, the invitation to let Jesus live in us more fully leads us into the deeper waters of our own life and that of our community. We can only fill our nets with the grace of God when we’re willing to leave our own security and trust in the invitation to come deeper.

Like Isaiah, the Lord will remove our sins and failings that keep us close to shore and prepare us to go deeper. Like Peter, we will hear Jesus gently tell us: “Do not be afraid.”

May our willingness to put out into the deep with Jesus lead us to be able to say with St. Paul: “By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective.”

Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (February 3, 2019)

St. Francis de Sales reminds us that God’s words to Jeremiah are words said to us: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.”

God loves us immensely, and he has a plan for each of us. God gave us a share in Jesus’ ministry as prophet in our baptism. We have been appointed to remind those around us that God loves all of us and has redeemed us for himself through the blood of Jesus. Because we are baptized, we are called to live in a prophetic way.

We Oblates, as professed religious, have accepted an additional prophetic role. By living faithfully as poor, chaste and obedient men in community, we are to remind our brothers and sisters that God’s great desire for union with us extends beyond our earthly life into eternal life. Letting Jesus live in us each day keeps us focused on God’s loving presence and his desire to be one with us. We Oblates are called to live in a prophetic way.

St. Paul reminds us that love – God’s love within us – is the foundation of our prophetic way of living. When we allow ourselves to be fully embraced by God’s love, then God’s love can overflow into the world around us.

God’s love within us will show itself in our willingness to be patient and kind, our willingness to put others’ interests before our own, our willingness to put up with the faults and failings of others. We will be better able to control our anger and choose not to brood over injuries real or imagined. Because we believe that God is present and working in all the events of our day, we are better able to see the possibilities for good and better able to accept the challenges and disappointments of life with a peaceful heart.

Jesus warns us that prophets are not always welcomed and accepted, so we shouldn’t be surprised when we aren’t. We must learn each day to choose to focus again on God’s ever-present, unconditional love and ask for the grace to respond faithfully by loving.

Whenever we feel a little discouraged in our efforts to be faithful prophets, let us place confident hope in the words of St. Paul: “At present, we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present we know partially; then we shall know fully, as we are fully known” by our God. Let us ask for the grace to be a gentle and humble prophet today.

Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (January 27, 2019)

During this third year of Sunday readings, we will hear the Gospel of Luke proclaimed during ordinary time.

Luke begins his Gospel by telling us that he has investigated carefully the events of Jesus’ coming among us. He wants to write them down in an orderly sequence for Theophilus, a person who loves God, so that he (and we) may realize the certainty of what has been taught to us by word of mouth.

Luke is writing his Gospel about forty or fifty years after Jesus’ death and rising. So far, the life and teachings of Jesus had been passed down by word of mouth. Luke is moved by the Holy Spirit to write out the events of Jesus’ life so that the ever-growing community of believers may have greater certainty about them as they share the good news with new members.

Luke begins Jesus’ public ministry in a synagogue. We heard Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah and then tell the people that God is fulfilling this prophecy in him. He has just been anointed by the Spirit in his baptism in the Jordan. Now he comes to bring good news to all who trust in God’s goodness. What he will say and what he will be doingis meant for those who have been suffering – captives, the blind, the oppressed.

God has heard their cries and honors their faithful longing for salvation. God has sent Jesus to bring them liberty, recovery, freedom. He has come to proclaim a time that is God’s.In Jesus, all who have waited will experience the loving-kindness, the mercy, the compassion of God.

You and I suffer our own forms of captivity, blindness, and oppression. Have I, have you, been waiting for God? Do we trust in God’s goodness and care for us? Luke reminds us: Jesus is God’s loving-kindness, God’s mercy, God’s compassion, present among us. How is Jesus speaking to you, to me, in our suffering? What is he asking of me, of you? How is Jesus’ gracious presence with me, with you, good news? How can his presence make a difference in the way you and I want to live today?

This is a year acceptable to the Lord. Jesus desires to love us and journey with us. Are you, am I, willing to make an unconditional journey with Jesus, trusting that he is leading us home to our Father’s house? If we are, then let us make a conscious choice each day to call on Jesus often during the day and use the grace that he will surely give us.

Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (January 20, 2019)

As a first step in "going public" goes, this first demonstration of Jesus' divine power is, to say the least, an understatement. No miraculous healing. No exorcism of demons, no raising someone from the dead. Instead, he simply prevents the caterer from running out of wine at a wedding reception.

Many might consider this a misuse - nay, even a waste - of Jesus' saving power. Initially, even Jesus himself seems to feel that his power could be used better - and later - elsewhere.

Not Francis de Sales. He sees that there is more to this miracle than meets the eye. Here is an example of how God's power permeates all human experiences, even the most ordinary. We are speaking here of the practice of the "little virtues," a notion precious indeed to St. Francis de Sales and a hallmark of his understanding of Christ's saving power. In his Treatise on the Love of God, Francis de Sales wrote: "It may well be that a very small virtue has greater value in a soul in which sacred love reigns with fervor than martyrdom itself in a soul in which love is languid and feeble." (Book 11, Chapter 5) Put another way, the little virtues, the expression of care or concern in seemingly ordinary circumstances, may be "found more pleasing in God's sight than great and famous deeds performed with little charity or devotion."

Still, there is a place for great displays of love: "I do not say that we may not aspire to outstanding virtues, but I say that we must train ourselves in the little ones without which the great ones may be false or deceptive." (Stopp, Selected Letters, p. 159)

Jesus may have been tempted to believe that changing water into wine was beneath his divine - perhaps even his human - dignity. In the end, however, the needs of others were more persuasive than the desire to make a "big splash" in the eyes of others. Ironically, it may have been Jesus' willingness to employ his heavenly powers for such a down-to-earth request that enabled his disciples to "begin to believe in him."

His greater, more famous and once-in-a-lifetime displays of power would, indeed, come later. But whether on the cross of Calvary, or at a simple wedding in Cana, the power, the promise and the person were one and the same.

The moral of this miracle? Nothing is too small for the Kingdom of God.

Baptism of Jesus (January 13, 2019)

Today we complete the Church’s celebration of the unbelievable good news that God has fulfilled his promise to be Emmanuel - God with his people.

As we hear Luke recount the baptism of Jesus, heaven and earth are joined together as the Spirit descends on Jesus and we hear the Father’s voice announce Jesus’ true identity: “This is my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.”

To help us understand the full meaning of the Father’s words, we have also heard the words of the prophet Isaiah. Jesus fulfills his prophecy: he is the Servant, the Chosen One, on whom the Father’s favor rests. The Spirit of the Lord is upon him, and he will bring forth God’s justice to all the world. The wonder of this revelation is that he will bring about this justice with meekness and gentleness, especially toward the downtrodden.

That’s the message we have received and the challenge we are offered by our baptism. Because Jesus wants us to share his very life, the Spirit of God has descended on us and dwells in us, and the Father speaks the same wonderful words to us that he spoke to Jesus: “You are my beloved son or daughter, with you I am well pleased.”

Our Father has grasped us by the hand and he wants us to be the living signs of his continuing care for all his people, especially the downtrodden.

Our Father wants to remind us at the beginning of each day: “You are my beloved son or daughter, with you I am well pleased.” If we take the time to listen to his words each morning, they offer us direction for our day.

God’s loving word has to be an uplifting start to our day! Let us take the time to listen.

Epiphany of the Lord (January 6, 2019)

Today we celebrate the manifestation of God to the world in the person of Jesus.

The magi were men of the East who were wealthy and educated. They were able to see the signs of the times concentrated in a single star and came to honor a great one born into the world. Naturally, they began by seeking him in a palace, since they came looking for the King of the Jews.

They eventually find a poor infant born to parents who were far from home. They bend their knee before the helpless infant and offer gifts of great value to a child that is poor. Station in life is forgotten in the presence of this child whose star they had followed.

We are invited to follow the example of the magi. We know that Jesus is God become flesh and blood like us. He has told us that God is so passionately in love with humanity that he entered the human condition in order to redirect human history back into its proper order – the establishment of the kingdom of God.

He came to remind us that each of us is created by God and destined for God. Our destiny is eternal union with our God. As one of the Sunday prefaces reminds us: “So great was your love that you gave us your only Son as our redeemer. You sent him as one like us, though free from sin, that you might see and love in us what you see and love in Christ.”

Today’s feast offers us a challenge for this New Year. Can we become like the magi, and lift our eyes from our preoccupations with our own petty concerns, so that we can see the glory and splendor of our God all around us? Can we receive the good news that Jesus has shared with us, by humbling ourselves before the helpless, seeing in them the presence of our God? Can we announce the good news by acting justly and peaceably?

Another new year offers each of us an opportunity to deepen our faith and widen our love. It offers us opportunity and grace to grow. May we have the wisdom of the magi to see the signs of our time and follow the lead of grace.

We too will find Jesus with Mary his mother. May we learn to humble ourselves before him in the many forms he will take each day and offer him all that we are and have in loving service.

Mary, Mother of God (January 1, 2019)

When Mary agreed to be the mother of Jesus, she could never have known all that would be expected of her.

Her “yes” to God’s invitation to be the mother of the Messiah forever changed the course of her life. But as Francis de Sales observed, she constantly reaffirmed that “yes” as she experienced God’s Will - for her son, for her husband and for herself. Each day, she fully embraced the mysterious designs of God imbedded in whatever circumstances she found herself.

We too are called to give birth to Jesus. While not a physical birthing, our call is no less challenging or demanding than it was for Mary. As we see in the life of Mary, giving birth to Jesus is not a one-time event; it is a life-long process.

Saying “yes” to giving birth to Jesus is about being faithful to God’s Will for us and others, one day, one hour, one moment at a time. Giving birth to Jesus is about fully embracing the responsibilities, events and circumstances of the stage of life in which we find ourselves. It’s about traveling over the potholes of life, while remaining steadfast in the conviction that God loves and cares for us.

Mary is a powerful reminder that giving birth to Jesus brings more than its share of inconveniences, headaches and heartaches. At the same time, Mary is also a powerful reminder of how one person’s fidelity to the Will of God can change the world - for the better.

Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (December 30, 2018)

Today’s Gospel focuses our attention on the Holy Family, as members of a wider family, the family of God. The Father has bestowed his great love on us in calling us His children, brothers and sisters of Jesus who has shared his very life with us. Our Father’s final gift to His children will be seeing our God as He is – full union with our God forever. The Spirit has been given to us as the pledge of God’s everlasting love.

As God’s children, we are asked to reflect on a strange incident in the life of the Holy Family. What might we learn? When Mary and Joseph discovered that the boy Jesus was missing, they didn’t waste their time arguing about who was to blame. Together, they went to search for Jesus. When they find him in the Temple among the scholars, they expressed their anguish about missing him. Jesus focused them by reminding them that they should expect to find him in his Father’s house.

Jesus was asking them to trust him, even if they didn’t fully understand.

In our experience in the family of God here at Childs, there are often enough misunderstandings and anguish of one kind or another. We can lose sight of Jesus in these difficult moments. Jesus instructs us, as he did Mary and Joseph: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Each day we come here to find Jesus in our Father’s house. Like Mary and Joseph, we can tell Jesus about our misunderstandings and anguish. Jesus always invites us to put them in his hands, then hear our brother’s comforting words to us and join him in offering our sufferings with his to the Father. And he feeds us with his own Body and Blood and gives us his peace. Healed and nourished, we can go forth to grow in wisdom, knowledge and grace as a more united family of God.

May our Eucharist on the feast of the Holy Family encourage us to live more fully as children of our Father, as brothers and sisters of Jesus.

Nativity of Jesus Christ: Midnight (December 25, 2015)

Tonight, we celebrate once again the most wonderful news: the long-awaited Messiah-Savior has come to live among us!

The Son of God has taken human flesh in the womb of Mary and comes among us as an infant, humbly wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Mary and Joseph attend their child with great care and watch in wonder as shepherds come to adore their child and later wise men come with gifts befitting a king.

It’s easy tonight to get caught up in the wonder of the moment and forget to consider the great gift we have been given in Jesus. St. Francis de Sales puts it this way: “In becoming (human), Jesus has taken our likeness and given us His.”

Jesus is our God, loving us here and now, inviting us to love in return. He comes with saving grace to restore us as children of God. He comes to live in us so that our hearts can be at peace – peace with God and peace with one another.

Our celebration tonight is a reminder that God’s favor rests on us. Our God shows us once again that he loves us immensely. We have nothing to fear.

Jesus comes to us tonight not just as an infant in a manger. He also comes as the Bread of Life in Eucharist, promising us life and happiness that will never end. He challenges us to let him live in us more fully – as St. Paul says: to reject godless ways and worldly desires and live a life that is balanced, just and holy, as we confidently await our blessed hope: the return of Jesus and the completion of the kingdom.

In this Christmas Eucharist, Jesus comes to us again. As we receive him as a gift and later kneel before the infant in the manger, let us be quiet and say nothing. Let us allow Jesus to reach out and hold our hands and tell us how much God is loving us tonight. Then let us ask him to stay in our heart so that we can share the love we are receiving -- giving it as a gift to all who come into our life. Every day you and I are a bearer of Jesus, God’s love among us! Let us rejoice in the good news we celebrate tonight.

Nativity of Jesus Christ (December 25, 2018)

The Scriptures recall “in times past.”

Think back to the stories of Moses’ encounters with God. Moses asked God to see his glory, not his face. In the cleft of the rock, Moses is protected by God’s hand and sees God’s back as he passes by.

In today’s Gospel, John tells us “we have seen his glory,” but even more.

Divinity has become visible in the Word made flesh. In the face of Jesus, we see God’s face and live to tell about it. And even more wonderfully, we learn that the divine desire to share life and love culminates with “the pitching of his tent” by the Word of God among his people.

With the birth of Jesus, God inhabits the “tent” of human flesh, not in a place apart, but right in our midst as a person. God makes “grace upon grace” directly available to every single person.

John wants us to know the deep intimacy of God’s love that is revealed to us by the “only Son” who is “in the bosom of the Father.” This divine intimacy is shared with all Jesus’ disciples. You and I make visible in every generation the face of God in human flesh.

Our Christmas celebration reminds us how blessed we are. As Francis de Sales reminds us: “Let us stay at our Savior's feet, saying with the heavenly Bride: 'I have found him whom my soul loves, I hold him and I will not let him go.’ “

May we live each day joyfully, as we manifest the Savior dwelling in our midst.

Fourth Sunday of Advent (December 23, 2018)

The angel Gabriel's greeting to Mary contained 2 discrete, yet related, messages: (1) Mary would be the mother of the long-expected Messiah, & (2) her cousin Elizabeth had conceived a child.

No sooner has Mary said “yes” to the invitation to be the mother of the Messiah than she is off “in haste” to visit her cousin.

In a very real sense, long before she actually delivered the child who would redeem the world from the hopelessness and despair of sin, Mary was already giving birth to the Messiah through her own willingness and eagerness to serve the needs of another: in this case, a relative who, because of her age, might have been considered a woman with a “high risk” pregnancy.

On the face of it, there is nothing noteworthy about Mary's action. After all, wouldn't any decent human being do the same for a relative in need? What makes Mary's service remarkable is the urgency with which she did it. She truly is a model of virtue, one who clearly demonstrates in her own life that the best way of saying “thank you” for God's goodness to her is to be a source of that goodness to others.

St. Francis de Sales observed: “Mary does not consider that she is wasting time when she goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth. No, it is an act of loving courtesy." (Stopp, Selected Letters, p. 159) In her "haste" to serve Elizabeth, Mary shows us the path of true devotion. Francis de Sales continues: "God rewards us according to the dignity of the office we exercise. I do not say that we may not aspire to the outstanding virtues, but I do say that we must train ourselves in the little virtues first without which the great ones are often false and deceptive.”

Advent reminds us that the great hope for which we all long is built upon the foundation of little, simple, ordinary things: kindness, graciousness, welcome, patience, honesty, hospitality, and compassion. Mary shows us that even the most singular demonstrations of God's love for us, first and foremost, challenge us to recognize the opportunities already present in our ordinary lives to devote our energies in promoting the welfare of one another.

Like Mary, may we come to see that our willingness to do little things for one another with great love and enthusiasm - to display "loving courtesy" - is the first step in our ultimate vocation: to give birth to the Great Promise of God's love for all people - Jesus Christ.

Third Sunday of Advent (December 16, 2018)

We just heard St. Paul tell us: “Rejoice in the Lord always!” The prophet Zechariah told us: “The Lord is in your midst.” Our God comes to renew us in his love and he is rejoicing over us with gladness.

Imagine, our God loves us so much that he rejoices over us. God’s great love for us is the source of our heart’s peace. We have nothing to be anxious about when we allow God’s love into our hearts.

John the Baptist reminds us that Jesus came to baptize us with the Holy Spirit – to fill us with the life and power of God. Jesus also comes to separate the “wheat” from the “weeds” in our lives, so that there will be more room in our heart for the Spirit.

During our Advent preparations, we are encouraged to look into our hearts and ask the Spirit to reveal to us anything there that may be blocking the flow of God’s love in us. Are there attitudes in our heart about other people

which get in the way of God’s desire to love others through you and me? Jesus desires to come into our hearts more fully in order to soften and heal these attitudes, so that God’s love can flow out to others. In our kindness and compassion to one another, God can be more fully in our midst.

My sisters and brothers, we really do have much to rejoice about, much to be thankful for. In our thankfulness, even our sinfulness can become a reason to rejoice. Our God comes to save us from our sins. God desires to renew us in his love.

During these final days of Advent, let us hear the call of God’s love to repent. Let us listen to the voice of the Spirit within us, encouraging us to change – to grow. Let us rejoice in God’s saving grace given to us in Jesus. Let us open our hearts more fully to God’s love, so that we are better able to draw more deeply from God’s life within us – and love others as we are loved.

Second Sunday of Advent (December 9, 2018)

Today we hear John the Baptist crying out his Advent message in the desert:

“Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight his paths.” He is proclaiming repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Luke likens the Baptist’s message to the prophecy we heard from Isaiah. In the ancient world, whenever an important ruler was set to visit an area, all the roads of the area were repaired: valleys filled in, winding roads made straight, rough roads made smooth. All this was done so that the visit would be pleasant and delays could be avoided. And the people would benefit too, because the ruler would bring gifts and declare a holiday. All this preparation led to a welcome.

The Baptist is inviting us to make a similar preparation for welcoming the coming of our God in Jesus. Those who wish to welcome the Lord of life should desire to fill in the valleys created by our sins, make the winding roads of our conflicting desires straight, and smooth the rough roads of our anxieties and fears. This is repentance: a graced change in the way we choose to live. And the gifts that the Lord will bring us are the forgiveness of our sins and a deeper sharing in the very life and love of our God.

The Baptist is reminding us: If you really want the love of God shown to you in Jesus to fill you more deeply, then you must be willing to make room for him in your heart. You must clean out anything that takes up the space that he wants.

As we continue our preparations for welcoming Jesus among us, let us heed the Baptist’s invitation: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight his paths.” With the grace of God, let us choose to turn from our sinfulness more completely, so that our God can more easily come and dwell in us.

First Sunday of Advent (December 2, 2018)

Each year, we begin our Advent season with a strong reminder: we are preparing ourselves for the return of Jesus who has already come among us, sharing our humanity.

We hear St. Paul exhorting us to let the Lord come more fully into our lives this Advent, so that his love in us may increase and overflow into the lives of those around us. We hear Jesus telling us: be vigilant and pray for strength. Don’t let your heart become distracted by the anxieties of daily life.

We all know how easy it is to become frightened and anxious as we look around us and see the signs of our times. There is much happening in our world - and closer to home, our own personal lives - that can distress us. That’s why Jesus encourages us to stand erect and raise our heads. Our redemption is at hand.

Jesus has suffered and died for our sins; we are saved. He has risen, and he shares his life and love with us. He has told us that God’s great desire for us is to be one with him. Jesus’ love within us makes this possible. We have nothing to fear as long as we hold his hand each day. His presence and the power of his grace are the reason for our confident hope.

Advent is a season of waiting, a season of expectant hope. As disciples of Jesus, our waiting is always active and alert. We are looking for Jesus wherever he wants to be found. In order to do this kind of waiting, we must learn to discipline ourselves often each day. Discipline ourselves to be aware of Jesus within us seeking to reach out in loving kindness to anyone who needs to experience God’s loving presence in his or her life. Discipline ourselves to be accepting and thankful whenever Jesus chooses to surprise us with his love given through others.

This discipline of vigilant waiting only happens when we choose to be prayerful in our daily living. Perhaps this Advent season could be well spent learning this prayerful discipline. It isn’t difficult. All we must do is choose to take a few moments several times each day to be aware and thankful for Jesus’ great love within us. That awareness and our thankfulness will make it more likely that we will choose to reach out with Jesus’ love to those around us.

As we learn this discipline, we will understand why we can be confident in the face of the distress in our world. Jesus’ love within us makes us ready whenever he chooses to return.