Palm Sunday Passion of the Lord (March 25, 2018)

Today we begin the most sacred week of the Christian calendar.

We heard Isaiah’s Servant Song proclaimed to us. The Servant represents the sufferings of the exiled community of ancient Israel in Babylon. In the midst of their suffering, the Servant speaks a word of hope to the community: “The Lord God is my help; therefore I am not disgraced.”

In Mark’s account of the Passion, Jesus’ last words from the Cross are the opening words of Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me”? Jesus was identifying himself with the suffering people of every age. Jesus has taken upon himself the sufferings and sins of every person who will ever live.

In the midst of all his suffering, Jesus knew his Father’s love.

Perhaps his last cry in a loud voice indicated that he was identifying himself with the last words of Psalm 22: “You, O Lord, be not far from me; O my help, hasten to aid me.” Then Jesus breathed his last. We know that his Father heard the voice of his suffering Son – and has greatly exalted him.

Jesus wants each of us to know that he has shared in our sufferings – for he is our brother. He invites us to join our sufferings to His – for the salvation of the world.

Let us be with Jesus, our brother and Savior, during this Holy Week.

Fifth Sunday of Lent (March 18, 2018)

As we continue our Lenten journey, the prophet Jeremiah turns our attention to the new covenant God desires to establish with his people. “All, from least to greatest, will know the Lord. He will write the law on our hearts and forgive our evildoing and remember our sins no more.”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus announces that the “hour” has come. When he is lifted up from the earth, he will draw all to himself. Jesus has chosen to strip himself of his divinity and become human like us so that we would know the great love God has for us.

Now he is preparing himself to be the grain of wheat that will fall to the ground and die in order to produce much fruit. This will be the hour of our salvation. Because Jesus is obedient to his Father whom he loves dearly, he will suffer and die for the sins of the whole world. He will reconcile the whole human race with God. With his death and rising, Jesus will complete God’s new covenant. Through the grace of baptism, God’s law is now written on our hearts. We become God’s children once again, able to call God “Father.”

When we go within our hearts to listen to God’s word, we must not be surprised that we encounter a challenge. Jesus will challenge us to follow him wherever he goes, to do the will of his Father, as he did. Like Jesus, we may feel troubled at times with what we have to face each day. Like Jesus, we will come to understand that our Father is with us in everything we do.

We have nothing to fear. We heard Jesus tell us: “My Father will honor whoever serves me.” That is Jesus’ promise to us.

Let us be faithful to the new covenant Jesus has made with us. Let us listen to our heart; it is there that God speaks to us. Let us strive each day to do with love all that our God asks of us. Let us ask Jesus, who has died and risen for us, to draw us closer to him and one another each day.

Fourth Sunday of Lent (March 11, 2018)

Here we are at the mid-point of our Lenten journey.

During the past three weeks, we have been listening to the call of the prophets and Jesus himself: “Repent and believe the Good News.” Change your way of living.

Today, in the midst of these voices for change, we hear the Good News: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world” but to save it.

We heard St. Paul expand on John’s words: “God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in sin, brought us to life in Christ – by grace you have been saved.”

The wonder of God’s loving mercy shown to us in Jesus: the immeasurable riches of his grace, his kindness to us in Jesus.

Our salvation, our new life, is pure grace, freely given by the God who loves us. We have done nothing to deserve it; we can do nothing to merit it. It’s ours because God loves us. When we have the humble faith to accept this gracious gift of our God, then we can be made new, for we share in the life and love of God.

When we listen to the Good News and trust in God’s faithful word to us,

then we are open to confessing our sins and receiving the mercy of God.

When we understand what God is doing in us, we will find ourselves being led to gratefulness. And our gratefulness will show itself in the way we live with one another. We then choose to become part of the light that Jesus is bringing into our world. The good we do for one another is done in response to God’s graciousness.

It is good to be reminded that God has loved us so much.May today’s reminder be a source of encouragement as we continue our good works on our journey to our Father’s house.

Third Sunday of Lent (March 4, 2018)

The Temple was built as a house where God’s glory would dwell in the midst of his people. The buyers and sellers of offerings had compromise the sacredness of the Temple. Jesus’ zeal to restore its sacredness leads him to clear the Temple.

But this parable-in-action had a deeper meaning, as his disciples understood later.

When the Jews asked for a sign for why he had acted this way, Jesus responded: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews thought he was talking foolishly. Later on, the disciples understood that Jesus was talking about the temple of his own body. Jesus is the sacred place where God’s glory dwells in the midst of his people.

After the disciples experienced the tragic death of Jesus on the Cross and became witnesses to his resurrected body three days later, and the Holy Spirit had come upon them and filled their minds and hearts with light, they were able to look back at all they had experienced with Jesus in a new light. They began to understand that they were now part of the Body of Christ – the continuation of the sacred place where God’s glory remained in the midst of his people. As they preached Jesus Christ crucified and raised, they experienced the power and wisdom of God at work in Jesus’ name. Some people who heard them found a crucified Savior to be a stumbling block; others thought it utter foolishness. Still many others accepted it as saving grace.

You and I are among those who have accepted saving grace. We have been incorporated into the Body of Christ by our baptism. As Church community, we are to be the sacred dwelling place of God in our world. And each of us has been taught to reverence our body as a temple of the Holy Spirit.

Hearing the account of Jesus cleansing the Temple is a good Lenten reminder to us individually and as a community. Am I keeping the temple of my body sacred?

What kind of effort do I make to keep the community (both Oblate and Church) sacred? Is Jesus inviting me to a cleansing in some way?

Lord Jesus, you are the power and wisdom of God. Open each of us to the cleansing you want to do in your temple during this Lent.

Second Sunday of Lent (February 25, 2018)

“Jesus was transfigured before their eyes.”

Something remarkable happened on that mountain.

Consider the possibility that it was not Jesus who changed but rather it was Peter, James and John who were transformed. Imagine that this account from Mark’s Gospel documents the experience of Peter, James and John as their eyes were opened; their vision widened, enabling them to see without impediment the virtually blinding light of Jesus’ love that flowed from every fiber of his being.

Indeed, every day of Jesus’ life something of that remarkable brilliance, that remarkable passion, and that remarkable glory was revealed to people of all ages, stages and states of life. The shepherds and magi saw it; the elders in the temple saw it; the guests at a wedding saw it; a woman caught in adultery saw it; a boy possessed by demons saw it; a man born blind saw it; a good thief saw it.

If so many others could recognize it in a word, a glance, or a touch, why might Peter, James and John have required such extra effort in helping them to see Jesus’ glory? Perhaps it was because they were so close to Jesus; perhaps it was because they were with him every day; perhaps it was because, on some level, they had somehow taken his glory for granted.

What about us? Do we recognize that same divine glory present in us, present in others, present in creation, present in even the simplest and most ordinary, everyday experiences of justice, truth, healing, forgiveness, reconciliation and compassion?

Or do we take it for granted?

St. Francis de Sales saw the Transfiguration as a “glimpse of heaven.” During this season of Lent, may our eyes, our minds and our hearts be transfigured and transformed. May we see more clearly the glory of a God who always loves us, who redeems us, who heals us, who forgives us, who challenges us, who pursues us, who strengthens us and who inspires us.

May we grow in our ability, through the quality of our lives, to make that “glimpse of heaven” visible in the lives of others.

First Sunday of Lent (February 18, 2018)

In today’s Gospel, Jesus offers us a pattern that can enable us to get the most out of our Lent this year.

We’re told that the “Spirit sent Jesus out toward the desert where he stayed forty days, put to the test by Satan.” What did he do for forty days in the desert? He did what many holy men and women have done in the desert. He listened to God, his Father. As he listened, he also heard the alluring voice of Satan - a voice that challenged him to be someone else than his Father wanted him to be. But Jesus spent a long enough time listening in prayer that he gradually knew who he was and what he had to do. And he returns to the countryside, a powerful man with a powerful message: “It’s time! The reign of God is at hand. Reform your lives and believe in the good news!”

That can be the pattern of Lent for us this year. Jesus invites us into the desert, the quiet of our hearts, and he asks us to listen. He knows that our Father will speak to us about who we are and what we are to do. He also knows that Satan will also speak to us - alluring us with all kinds of contradictory messages. And he asks us to stay in the quiet of our hearts long enough to come to know and believe his Father’s words of love and mercy.

Our willingness to listen will prepare us well to come back to our countryside and announce our recognition that the reign of God is at hand. We will be prepared at Easter to renew our baptismal commitment to reform our lives and live more deeply the good news.

The real temptation of our Lent will be to leave our desert too quickly. If we fall for Satan’s trickery (“You don’t really need all that quiet time!”), then our Lent may be like many other times in our lives - just another time period we lived through.

If we’re willing to stay in our desert and listen, we will be rewarded for our patience and we will be renewed.

What choice will you - will I - make this Lent? Will we dare to enter the desert and stay to listen, or will we leave too quickly? Our choice can make all the difference to our lives!

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (February 11, 2018)

“They shall declare themselves unclean. They shall dwell apart, making their abode outside the camp.”

“Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “Be cured.”

St. Francis de Sales wrote in his Introduction to the Devout Life: “There is scarcely anyone without some imperfections.” (Part 3, Chapter 22)

We have a pretty good handle on the imperfections, vices, idiosyncrasies and even the sins of those with whom we work, we play, we neighbor and we live each day.

Most days we overlook them. Some days we put up with them. Other days, we might even make excuses for them. Occasionally, we dwell on – maybe even magnify – them.

Sometimes it is necessary to draw attention to things in other people that blemish their potential for happiness, health, and holiness. Sometimes we need to take the risk to name the sins, the faults and the wounds in others that prevent them from being more of who God calls them to be. Sometimes we need to reflect back to others those social, spiritual, psychological or relational sores that rob them of their full citizenship as sons and daughters of the living, loving and saving God.

The Scriptures contrast two very different methods for doing this. One approach draws attention to others’ sins in order to isolate them, ostracize them or distance them from the community. The other approach – Jesus’ approach – is to draw them even more closely into the life of the community, to create a space in which the “unclean” can experience healing, strength, and a new lease on life.

As yourself the question: When you do draw attention to the imperfections, the warts, the blemishes of others, why do you do it? To distance yourself from them? To embarrass them? To humiliate them? Or, are you reaching out, reaching in to the heart of others? Is your goal to create a space of truth in which they can experience healing, forgiveness, reconciliation and strength? Do you intend it as an opportunity for a new beginning?

A footnote worth considering: before ever calling attention to the imperfections, the sins or the blemishes of others, we must take that most important of first steps.

Be clear and unambiguous about our own sin and weakness. Be clear and unambiguous about our own need for healing and forgiveness. Be clear about our own need for friends who will not only sometimes tell us what we want to hear about ourselves, but who will consistently have the courage to tell us what we need to hear about ourselves.

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (February 4, 2018)

“Is not our life on earth drudgery?”

Let's face it. Try as we might to always look at the bright side of life, each and every one of us have times in our lives when we would answer Job's question with a resounding "yes."

The burdens of life are real. Setbacks in life are painful. Headaches - and heartache - are a part of being human. We need to be honest. We need to name and address those areas of our lives in which we feel weighed down and burdened. However, wallowing in or dwelling upon the negative can be far more dangerous and debilitating to our spiritual, emotional, psychological, social and mental health than the troubles themselves.

Francis de Sales observed that dwelling on the burdens of life “upsets the soul, arouses inordinate fears, creates disgust for prayer, stupefies and oppresses the brain, deprives the mind of prudence, resolution, judgment and courage, and destroys its strength. In a word, such sorrow is like a severe winter that spoils all the beauty of the country and weakens all the animals. It takes away all sweetness from the soul and renders it disabled.”

What is the best remedy for melancholy, for the temptation to focus only on what is wrong, what is broken, what is painful? The combination of prayer, good works, and good friends:

Prayer – “Prayer is a sovereign remedy for it lifts up the soul to God who is our joy and consolation."

Good works – “By means of sorrow the evil one tries to make us weary of doing what is good, but if he sees that we won't give up on doing good, then he will stop troubling us.”

Good friends – “Humbly and sincerely reveal to another all the feelings, affections and suggestions that proceed from your sadness. Try to talk to spiritual friends frequently and spend time with them as much as you possibly can during this period” of dryness.

St. Francis de Sales claimed “the evil one is pleased with sadness and melancholy because he himself is sad and melancholy and will be so for all eternity. Hence, Satan desires that everyone should be like himself.” Hence the expression misery loves company.

In the face of life's burdens and difficulties let's do our level best to deprive the evil one of our company and walk in the company prayerful, positive and proactive people.

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (January 28, 2017)

When was the last time that you or I were ‘astonished’ or ‘amazed’ when faced with Jesus – in the Scriptures or in Eucharist? When have we prepared ourselves to come to Eucharist to experience the mystery unfolding from the hand of our Father?

Perhaps the daily celebration of Eucharist has become too routine: familiar Scripture readings, the same bread and wine. Even the new sound of our praying can be a distraction. It’s too easy to forget that we are invited to Eucharist, invited to experience the continuing mystery of God’s great love for us:

- a mystery that draws us into the intimate mystery of our salvation and redemption: the death and rising of Jesus.
- a mystery that expresses our God’s desire that you and I be one with him by sharing in the Body and Blood of his Son Jesus;
- a mystery that makes us more fully the Body of Christ, the Church;
- a mystery that continues to transform you and me in our efforts to be the Savior walking the earth today.

I was awakened again to this sense of ‘mystery’ as I was reading an article entitled: “Let us proclaim the mystery of faith.” The writer offered me a thought that has led me to some prayerful reflection: “The invitation that comes to us again and again in Scripture, directly or indirectly, is to consent to a relationship with the Lord of Mysteries and the God of Surprises, who waits patiently for us with open arms (and delights we can’t even guess at), while demanding that we put away our childish cravings for smaller securities so as to enter into a wider, richer, more complex intimacy” – into mystery. (McEntyre, Weavings, Jan-Feb 2006)

As I continued to read today’s Gospel, I was struck by the words of the unclean spirit: “I know who you are, the Holy One of God!” It’s possible to know Jesus without really knowing Jesus in the Scriptural sense. When we really encounter Jesus, our hearts are changed, transformed. When Jesus encounters us in the mystery of the Scriptures and Eucharist, we are invited into mystery – a moment of intimate encounter with our God who is loving us into a deeper union with him. The more willing we are to entrust our heart to God, the more God is able to mold us more fully into the image of his Son Jesus.

Once again, you and I are invited into the mystery of this Eucharist. Jesus is present in his Word and will be present in Sacrament. Will we be open enough to being “astonished” and “amazed” during this encounter?

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (January 21, 2018)

There is wonder and challenge in today’s Scripture readings.

Imagine for a moment how surprised Jonah must have been when the people of Nineveh responded so quickly to his call to repent. It wasn’t too much earlier that Jonah has feared the assignment and refused to go and suffered his whale experience. Then he had changed his mind and now found that his fears were needless.

Imagine too the amazement of Zebedee and the hired fishermen when his two sons just take off after this itinerant preacher. What was it about Jesus that would make them put aside everything they were used to and follow him?

That’s where the challenge of Jesus’ words comes in: “The reign of God is at hand. Reform your lives and believe in the good news.” There’s something in his words that tells us things will be different when we accept Jesus as God present among his people.

St. Paul gives us an insight into the difference: “The world as we know it is passing away.” The earthly matters that seem so important, that seem to run our lives, have no lasting value. The real value is learning to use these things in a way that reflects how God wants them to be used.

We all might ask: and how do we do that? St. Francis de Sales gives us a way that can help. He tells us: take hold of the present moment as a time graced by God to bring us closer to him. Whatever we are called to do because of the circumstances of our daily life can help us to grow in holiness - union with God. God will give us the grace we need to do each action of our day in a way that is loving - in a way that Jesus would do it.

If we can learn to live in the present moment, accept the grace that God will give us for that moment, and try to love as Jesus would love in whatever we’re doing, then the kingdom of God is there in our midst.

In meeting the challenge of the present moment with the grace of God, we will be filled with wonder - wonder that God loves us so much that He is with us at every moment. He reforms our lives - and the way we live makes the kingdom of God present to all around us. What a challenge - and what an amazing grace!

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (January 14, 2018)

Today’s Scripture readings offer us an opportunity to reflect on discipleship.

St. John recounts the first encounter between two of John the Baptist’s disciples and Jesus. Their dialogue is very instructive.

Jesus asks them: “What are you looking for?” They respond: “Teacher, where are you staying?” And Jesus invites them: “Come, and you will see.”

What they experience as they spend the day with Jesus causes Andrew to go to his brother Peter and tell him: “We have found the Messiah.”

Spending the day with Jesus enables them to experience who Jesus is. The experience of Jesus is vital for the disciple, and we can only have that experience if we are willing to spend time with Jesus. Jesus tells each of us: “Come, and you will see.”

Making time to be with Jesus in prayer, especially with the Scriptures, is vital for a fruitful discipleship. St. Francis de Sales encourages us to take a Gospel passage and allow ourselves to become part of what’s happening in that passage. Put yourself in the place of one of the characters and see and listen to Jesus. In this way, we can allow ourselves to encounter Jesus in a real way.

Today’s first reading offers us the attitude needed by a disciple. We heard a young Samuel experiencing a call. The priest Eli tells him to respond: “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” That is the attitude we need as disciples.

When we approach the Lord in prayer, these are the first words we need to utter: “Your servant is listening.” They remind us that we want to be open to whatever the Lord may want to tell us. The good news we share in ministry is God’s good news, not ours. We are messengers; God gives us the message.

As we consider the demands of social justice today, may we always be conscious of our need to take the time often to encounter Jesus and listen to him. May our attitude always be attentive: “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” May the Lord continue to bless our efforts to be his peace and justice for our brothers and sisters.

Epiphany of the Lord (January 7, 2017)

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.

This is the 2015th anniversary of the event these wise men experienced. 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 used to remind us, addressing God our Father: “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, open to recognizing God’s presence in the poor and less fortunate around us? Can we receive the Good News that Jesus has shared with us, by humbling ourselves before the helpless? Can we announce the good news by acting justly and peaceably in our homes and schools and workplaces?

2015 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 in the world around us 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 have in loving service.

Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (December 31, 2017)

As we reflect on the Holy Family today, the Church offers us Scripture readings that emphasize faithfulness, trust in the promises of God, and loving obedience.

All of the people involved in today’s readings are faith-filled:

- Abraham who is our father in faith
- Sarah, a woman beyond child-bearing age, who believes what God has told her husband
- Mary and Joseph who come to the Temple to fulfill the requirements of God’s Law
- Simeon who has been waiting long years to see the Christ
- And Anna, a widow who has spend many hours in the Temple fasting and praying

Each of them has put his/her trust in the promise of God:

- Abraham and Sarah in God’s promise that their descendents would be as numerous as the stars in the sky
- Mary and Joseph in the promise of the angel, the messenger of God
- Simeon, in the promise that he would see the Messiah
- And Anna who was waiting for the redemption of Israel.

And all of them lived their lives in loving obedience to the God who loved them.

All of these women and men offer us an example about living, especially family living. Their example of faithfulness, trust and loving obedience gives us a pattern for living together each day. Our Holy Father has encouraged all of us to be eager about living our faith and sharing it with others around us. We do this best within our own family, encouraging each other to be faith-filled, just and peaceable each day.

After the example of Joseph, Mary and Jesus, and Abraham, Sarah and Isaac, may we embrace the challenge they offer us. May we live a holier life within our own family, and in our wider family of faith, the Church. Through us, may the world around us come to know in a deeper way that we have a Savior who is Christ the Lord.

May our God be praised!

Nativity of the Lord (December 25, 2017)

Today we celebrate the wondrous love of God for us: the Word made flesh, dwelling among us. St. Francis de Sales offers us some reflections as we stand in adoration before the Infant in the manger.

“We are always wanting this and that, and although we have our sweet Jesus resting on our heart we are not satisfied; and yet this is all we can possibly need and desire. One thing alone is necessary—to be near him.  

Now tell me, my dear friend, you know, don't you, that at the birth of Our Lord the shepherds heard the angelic and divine songs of heavenly be­ings; this is what the scriptures tell us.  

But nowhere does it say that Our Lady and St. Joseph, who were closest to the child, heard the angels' voices or saw the marvelous radiance; on the contrary, instead of hearing the angels sing, they heard the child crying, and by the wretched light of some poor lantern they saw the eyes of this divine boy full of tears and saw him chilled by the cold.  

Now tell me frankly, would you not rather have been in the dark stable which was full of the baby's crying, rather than with the shepherds, ravished with joy and gladness by sweet heavenly music and the beauty of this marvelous light?” (Letter to St. Jane #23)

In another letter, he writes:

“It is good for you to be close to the manger where the Savior of our soul teaches us so many virtues by his silence. How much he tells us by saying nothing! Our own hearts should be kindled by his little heart panting with love for us. See how lovingly he has written your name in the depths of his divine heart as he lies on the straw for your sake, longing lovingly for your pro­gress; no sigh goes up to his Father in which you do not share, no thought that does not include your happiness. Indeed, my friend, let us not return whence we came; 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.’” (Letter to a Nun #103)

As we make our way to the manger today, let us hold our heart in our hands as a gift to the Word made flesh. He will take it and fill it with the fullness of his love. Then he will return it to us as his gift, and ask us to share his love with each person around us.

May our God be praised this Christmas day!

Fouth Sunday of Advent (December 24, 2017)

We have just heard the angel Gabriel announce God’s plan for the salvation of his people. It’s a story that is very familiar to all of us. Sometimes that makes it difficult to hear the wonder of it. Through Gabriel, God is asking a young woman to consent to be the mother of the Son of God who wanted to come among us and share our human nature.

The fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation hangs on her response. With great humility, Mary says “May it be done to me according to your word.” Now the history of God’s love for his people can culminate in the Incarnation – Jesus becomes human like us.

The story in today’s gospel also offers us an opportunity to reflect on how we choose to respond to the unexpected happenings in our life. Some of us find ourselves carrying a burden of suffering that isn’t light, or we must look on helplessly while someone we love suffers, or we have become very dependent on others for things we want to do. Some of us may find ourselves saying: “Lord, why me? What did I do to deserve this?”

Perhaps we can learn something from Mary’s response to the angel’s unexpected message. She asked a humble and honest question. She asked Gabriel to help her to understand what God was doing. “Lord, help me to understand what you want of me right now.”

It’s interesting to note that Gabriel’s response didn’t really give her a clear and detailed answer to her question. Gabriel’s response called Mary to have faith in God and trust in God’s provident goodness. Because Mary trusted God’s love for his people and for her, she was able to trust Gabriel’s words to her in humble faith. She offered herself in humble obedience to all that God would choose to do with her: “May it be done to me according to your word.”

Even if we humbly ask God to help us understand how he is working in us,

we may not get a clear and detailed answer to our question. Whatever answer we do get will call us to trust in God’s love for us. We will hear God tell us:“I have loved you with an everlasting love; trust me.”

May each of us have the faith and courage to respond to God as Mary did:

“May it be done to me according to your word.”

Third Sunday of Advent (December 17, 2017)

Our waiting during this Advent season quickens with the appearance of John the Baptist in today’s Gospel.

John was obviously a very charismatic person whose personality and message seem to have caught the attention of many. We’re told that many people came to him to repent of their sins and be baptized. Some must have believed that he was the promised Messiah, even though we hear him deny it very clearly.

John could have become impressed with his own popularity, but he understood from the beginning that he had another mission. He was to testify to the Light who would come after him. With great simplicity and humility, he calls himself “a voice in the desert.” His message has an urgency about it: “Make straight the way of the Lord!” God is coming to his people, so make your hearts ready. What a wonderful example for anyone who ministers in the Church!

You and I carry on John’s mission, and our message is the same: “Make straight the way of the Lord!” We are not preparing for Jesus’ coming as Redeemer as John was. Redemption has been accomplished once for all when Jesus died for our sins and rose to share with us his new life. We are preparing ourselves and our world to receive Jesus when he comes again in glory with salvation for his people.

St. Paul tells us how we are to live as we deliver our message: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in all circumstances give thanks.” Our message and the way we live become the same. Our role is to become more and more open to God’s working holiness in us and through us to others. God. who has called us to be holy, is trustworthy, as Paul tells us; therefore he will do this great work in us.

As we continue our Advent waiting, may we listen carefully to John’s message and make straight the way of the Lord through our daily efforts to rejoice, pray, and give thanks.

“Come, Lord Jesus; do not delay!”

Second Sunday of Advent (December 10, 2017)

Today’s Scripture readings give us all the messages of Advent. Our God is coming! Get ready! Rejoice!

We heard our God speak words of comfort to us in today’s first reading. Like a shepherd, he feeds us and gathers us into his arms. While our God comes among us with power and majesty, he also comes with great tenderness and compassion.

Mark reminds us that God has come to live among us in Jesus. And Jesus will come again in glory to bring us to the banquet which God has prepared for those who love him.

As we wait eagerly for the coming of Jesus and the completion of the kingdom, we are invited to join John the Baptist in preparing the way of the Lord. We are to prepare our own hearts and our world for the return of Jesus.

John reminds us that preparing is repentance, making the road to our heart level and cleared of the stones of selfishness and sin.

That is our daily task as we wait. The eagerness of our longing for Jesus’ return ought to manifest itself in our loving concern to the needs of one another. How we live and love each day announces the good news of God’s continuing love for his people. The comfort we offer to each other reflect the comfort that God has offered to us.

St. Paul reminds us that our concern is to be ready every day for the coming of the Lord. Our consciousness of God’s love for us allows us to wait joyfully, expectantly, ready and eager to use each day well. We have nothing to fear. Our God will come when he chooses to come. Right now, we can be thankful for the patience of our God. He is giving us time to prepare well for his coming.

As we continue to wait eagerly in prayer during this Advent season, let us use this time well to prepare our hearts and our world for the coming of Jesus among us once again. Rejoice, my brother and sisters! Our God is coming! Let’s continue to get ready!

First Sunday of Advent (December 3, 2017)

Today we begin the new Church year and the season of Advent - a time of devout and joyful expectation.

During these four weeks, we will prepare ourselves to celebrate the remembrance of Jesus’ first coming among us - when the Word took on human flesh in order to reconcile us to our Father. This remembrance will help us direct our minds and hearts as we await Jesus’ coming again as King, Judge and Savior.

This morning, the prophet Isaiah helps connect us to the longing of God’s people, Israel, who are in exile. Their prayer is a plea for God’s mercy, asking him to come again, as he had done in days gone by, and redeem his people with a display of his power and majesty. It’s easy for us to join the Israelites as they confess their sins and plead for salvation. Like them, we can acknowledge God as our Father; and, in great humility, open ourselves to be clay in the hands of the divine potter.

In this way, we can become more and more the “work of his hands.”

Paul encourages us to focus our attention on the favor that God has bestowed on us in Christ Jesus. We have been called to fellowship Jesus, and he will strengthen us to the end.

The constant call of Advent is heard in today’s Gospel. If we are really aware of the favor of grace that God has given us in Jesus, then we want to “be constantly on the watch.” We need to “stay awake!” for Jesus is coming again at a time no one knows. And when he comes, we want to be found living faithfully the way that he has taught us and graced us to live.

Our longing for his coming is best shown in our willingness to be fresh clay in the hands of God, asking him to mold us more and more in the image of Jesus during this Advent season. Then we can say with devout and joyful expectation each day:

“Come, Lord Jesus, come!”

May God be praised!

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (November 26, 2017)

The Scriptures today remind us that God has fulfilled his word to Ezekiel.

God himself is now tending his sheep in Jesus. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is seeking out the lost and strayed, and healing the injured and sick. He is looking after each of us.

The Scriptures also remind us that there will be a day of reckoning, of mercy and judgment. Jesus will come again in glory and will separate those who have heard his voice and lived by it from those who have chosen to ignore what they have heard.

Those who have listened - who have chosen to serve Jesus in the hungry and the sick, have welcomed him in the stranger and clothed him in the poor - these will be welcomed into the kingdom that has been prepared for them from the creation of the world. Those who have chosen not to see and serve Jesus in their less fortunate brothers and sisters have condemned themselves already.

As we close the Church year and prepare to begin a new season of discernment, the Church encourages us to sharpen our focus as we go about our daily living. How we live today and tomorrow - whether or not we choose to see Jesus in one another and take care of one another’s needs in Jesus’ name - has eternal implications for each of us.

Jesus, our King and Shepherd, loves us and calls us by name each day. May our experience of his love send us to our knees in worship, and send us out into the world, eager to share his love with each person we meet.

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time (November 19, 2017)

Judgment Day - has a sense of finality to it, doesn’t it?

Well, it should. St. Francis de Sales wrote:

“Consider the majesty with which the sovereign Judge will appear, surrounded by all the angels and saints. Before him will be borne his cross, shining more brilliantly than the sun, the standard of mercy to the good and of punishment to the wicked. By his awful command, which will be swiftly carried out, this sovereign Judge will separate the good from the bad, placing the one at his right hand and the other at his left. It will be an everlasting separation and after it these two groups will never again be together. When this separation has been made and all consciences laid bare we will clearly see the malice of the wicked and the contempt they have shown for God, and we will also see the repentance of the good and the effect of the graces they received from God. Nothing will lie hidden.” ( Introduction to the Devout Life, Part I, Chapter 14)

In the next life, nothing will be hidden. In this life, one thing in particular should never be hidden: our God-given gifts, abilities, talents, skills and graces.

Today's Gospel issues a stern and stark warning: we must not return unused the gifts (no matter how great or small) that God gives us.

To be sure, to invest these gifts in the lives of others requires our willingness to take risks. There are few guarantees in life. We cannot be certain on any given day how well we will use our gifts, to say nothing of whether or not our gifts will be appreciated, honored, accepted or welcomed by others. Still, we must endeavor to take prudent care of and make good use of our God-given time, talents and treasure in this effort: the risks that we take in generously share ourselves with others should not be rash or reckless.

But as risky as naming, embracing and investing our gifts might be, we must never allow the anxieties of an uncertain world to tempt us to do the unthinkable: to bury our talents. To act as if we possessed nothing with which to give honor to God or to meet the needs of others is far worse than any mistake we might generally make on any given day in using our abilities.

To be sure, we will make mistakes in our attempts to make good use of our God-given graces. But there is no greater mistake than to live our lives as if we had no gifts to use in the service of God or others by burying them: obscuring them from the light of day.

When in doubt, keep them out: for you – for God, and for others – to see. And, in the process, share your Master’s joy…today!