Sunday, January 20, 2019

Mary refused to accept a wedding feast without joy.




Second Sunday   OT  C  2019

In the Gospel scene of the wedding feast of Cana, notice what happens when the mother of Jesus enters the scene.  Mary sees that they have run out of wine.  For the gentle and pious mother of Jesus, her reaction might see quite shocking.  A wedding without wine is like ourselves celebrating the Eucharist without a commitment – a sacrilege.  Mary refused to accept a wedding feast without joy.  Following the example of Mary, may our discipleship of the Lord Jesus be filled with much joy.     

There is a wonderful similarity between the miracle at the wedding feast of Cana and the multiplication of the loaves and the fish to feed 5,000 people.  Jesus took the humble gift of the small boy with his five loaves and two fish and fed 5,000 people.  In the wedding feast, when they had run out of wine, Jesus transformed the water into an abundance of the best wine.

The similarity between the two miracles is that Jesus took the little that people provided and transformed it into an overabundance.  Such is the lavishness of God’s love for us.    The extravagance of God ‘s love is on display at the wedding feast of Cana.  The extravagance of God’s love is on display when we share what we have in the service of others.







Sunday, January 13, 2019

Our baptismal identity is to lay claim always to God's unending love for us, and it is in our love for one another that we become more aware that God remains in us.



BAPTISM OF THE LORD   C  2019

The baptism of the Lord clearly marks his identity and his mission.  The baptism of Jesus is a decisive turning point in his life as he begins his public ministry.  By this event Jesus accepts his mission that will ultimately lead to his cross and resurrection, and God the Father pronounces Jesus as his beloved Son.

This feast invites us to see the connection between the Baptism of Jesus and our own baptism.  In our Baptism, we too become God’s beloved son and God’s beloved daughter in whom the Father is well pleased.  Such an incredible grace we receive in Baptism, and the grace of Baptism is lifelong.  In the spiritual journey of each of us, we need to ask ourselves the question:  Do we claim our own baptismal identity as a beloved child of God?   When I am stressed out, when I am fearful and a bit anxious, am I claiming my baptismal identity as God’s beloved?   The words spoken to Jesus are words that are spoken to us as part of our baptismal identity.

May you hear this day and every day these words spoken to you by our loving God: “This is my beloved son, this is my beloved daughter in whom I am well pleased.”  These are spoken not because of our worthiness; rather these words are spoken because of God’s unconditional love for us.  May you always be able to recognize this voice of God in your life.

Now it is true that throughout all our lives, a cacophony of voices will attempt to drown our attentiveness to the voice of God.  There’s the voice of Wall Street calling us to find our security in stocks, bonds and mutual funds.  There’s the voice of Madison Avenue alerting us to unnecessary needs and undue desires.  There’s the voice of Rodeo Drive warning us not to be out of style, and the voice of Broadway luring us to the superficial aspects of contemporary entertainment.  For me, it can be the voice of busyness, so many things on the calendar, that distracts from the true North Star of our lives.

Amid the clamor of all these voices, it may be difficult to hear the voice of God and grasp the hand of God.  Nevertheless, that voice and that hand are ever near, and God’s grace is ever at the ready to keep our hearing acute and our understanding full and clear.  The question for our prayerful reflection this day is: Whose voice will you listen to?  Whose is the hand you will grasp?

How do you hear the voice of God in your life?  Your baptismal identity is to lay claim always to God’s unending love for you.  May we pay attention to both our baptismal identity and to our baptismal mission.  What is our baptismal mission.  Your baptismal mission is to serve the needs of one another.   It is in our love for one another that we become more aware that God remains in us.

As the community of the baptized, we claim our baptismal identity as God’s beloved, and we embrace our baptismal mission to reach out in the service and love of another.  This baptismal mission very much embraces a life and spirituality of stewardship.

In a spirituality of stewardship, we are to share of our time, of our talent, and or out treasure in carrying the mission of the Church – in our love for one another, in our service of people, and in leading all people to encounter Christ more deeply in their lives.

Next weekend is our stewardship commitment Sunday relative to the stewardship of treasure.  You will receive in the mail this week a brochure and a stewardship commitment card.  We ask that you pray over your tithing commitment to the parish in 2019.  Then there will a special collection next weekend in which we ask you to return your commitment card.  I intend to use this opportunity to increase my tithing to the parish.  If you are able to increase your tithing, your generosity will be greatly blessed.  Equally, if you are not able to increase your tithing, you will still be very much blessed as God’s beloved.  No matter at what level you are able to give, we ask that you return the commitment card as we seek 100% commitment from our parish.

As long as we are the generous recipients of the many blessings of our loving God, we are to participate in a spirituality of stewardship.

I will tell you quite personally whenever I have been asked to be generous in going beyond my comfort zone, I have never regretted being generous.  When asked by the Bishop to be the pastor of Holy Spirit while I was already the pastor of St Joseph’s, at first I thought that this was going to be too much to take on.  But the bishop is a difficult person to say no to, as a result, my life has been blessed in my ministry as your pastor.

In October, there was a group of us that went to an extremely poor region of Tanzania to support the educational mission of St Mary’s School in Mazinde Juu.   In contributing financially to this mission, I have been blessed in knowing that I am making a difference in the lives of 1,000 high school girls in Tanzania.

These are my stories of generosity.  I invite you to be in touch with your stories of generosity and to participate in next week’s stewardship commitment Sunday.

At his baptism, Jesus experienced divine love with new intensity; he responded to that gift with such fierce passion that his subsequent life and death transformed the world.  At our Baptism, perhaps many moons ago, we too experienced divine love – a grace that goes with us to this day and always.  May we too embrace our baptismal mission and a spirituality of stewardship that transforms the vibrancy of our parish life.


Have a blessed Day.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Who today are the contemporary magi who come to St. Joseph's seeking to discover the Christ child?




EPIPHANY  2019

“When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold magi from the East arrived in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is the newborn king of the Jews saying, ‘we saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.’”

In celebrating the Feast of the Epiphany, may the story of the Epiphany be our story as well.  Who today are the contemporary magi who come to St. Joseph’s Church seeking to discover the Christ child?

The magi symbolize what is restless in the human spirit seeking for a greater depth of meaning and purpose in life.  They left behind what was comfortable and safe and took considerable risk in traveling to another country in search of the Lord.  The magi speak to our restless human spirit seeking to discover the spiritual meaning and longing for that which ultimately satisfies us.

Today, the story of the Magi remind us that Emmanuel is still waiting to be discovered in what we might think are the most unlikely places and by the most unlikely people. It is highly improbable that a band of gypsies or a group of Muslims is going to show up at the doors of St. Joseph’s.   At the same time, there are serious seekers, contemporary magi, all around us. They are young people who are consciously hungry for a spiritual nourishment that they have not found in our churches and catechisms. They are women, young and old, who feel they have been treated like unwelcome outsiders when they come to the temple to offer their gifts. They are the more than 10 percent of the U.S. population who identify as “former Catholics,” not necessarily because they lack faith, but because they have been injured, feel rejected or believe that the church has so betrayed her vocation that their conscience does not allow them to participate in it.  These are the people whose sincere seeking, like that of the Magi, can be a wake-up call to those practicing in the church.

As we begin our new year, today’s liturgy urges us to listen to the seekers who want more than they have found in conventional religion. Their searching reminds us that God is bigger than any ritual or tradition and is always waiting to encounter us anew, somewhere beyond our expectations.

Here at St. Joseph’s instead of just lamenting that our young people are not at  Mass Sunday after Sunday, we the parishioners of St. Joseph’s need to ask ourselves how in our liturgies can we provide the spiritual nourishment young people are looking for.  Does the way we teach our young people the truths of our faith witness to the merciful, forgiving love of Jesus that is to the heart of the Gospel?  We need to listen more attentively to our young people as they describe their spiritual hunger.

For the women of our parish and in our community, are we a Church that welcomes their voice, their talents, their leadership in our parish life?  Are the women who are the contemporary magi able to discover the presence of Christ in our parish community?  What more needs to be done for women to find a spiritual home here at St. Joseph’s?
                                                                                                                                  
What words of welcome do we provide for former Catholics who for one reason or another did not experience the voice of Christ in our parish life?  May the seekers in our community who are the contemporary magi discover the Christ child in our parish prayer and in our ministries.  What needs to change in our parish life to enable the contemporary magi discover the God they are seeking?                                                                                                
Notice the stark contrast between the Magi and King Herod in the
Epiphany Gospel.   Herod sees the promised child as a threat. He's afraid the coming baby will crimp his style, will challenge his power and lower his status.
The Magi see the promised child as wonderful gift. They've humbled themselves to travel a great distance to a strange culture that speaks a different language, in order to embrace this baby who fulfills God's love.
                                                                                                                                    
Herod's selfishness, fueled by his fears leads to his downfall. The Magi's worship of the Christ child leads to the salvation of all the nations. Today more than 2 billion people call themselves Christians, in some way the result of the humility and the seeking spirit of the Magi.

The role of King Herod in the Epiphany story symbolizes for us is that we need to expect opposition in the spiritual journey at times.  We see the hostility of King Herod to the notion that he would have a rival to his kingship.  Moved by jealousy, he hatched a murderous plot that was foiled by the non-cooperation of the magi. 
                      
Before we simply reject the treachery of Herod, we need to acknowledge that there is a Herod within each of us that keeps from following Christ more fully.  What are the demons within us that make more self-centered than Christ-centered?  How radically do I share with those in need?  What keeps me from listening more fully to another’s point of view?  Do I make time for God in the way that I live?

Notice well, the magi were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, and they departed for their country by another way.  Of course, they would return by another route.  Their lives have been changed by their encounter with Jesus.  May we too with God’s grace have our lives changed by our encounter with Jesus.  We cannot go back to our old way of living -- with our fears, our anxieties, our addictions, our grudges, our pettiness.  We are to put on the Lord Jesus Christ.

The readings for the feast of the Epiphany invite us to begin this new year by asking with whom in today’s Gospel we will decide to identify. Will we choose to settle as a sedentary church, quiet in the face of darkness, contented with the minimal ritual and almsgiving that supposedly fulfill our religious obligations? Or do we want to be more like the Magi, people anxious to be on the move in search of God among us? Isaiah is trying to awaken us to what God holds out as possible for us. Paul tells us that we are to steward this mystery. Matthew holds up the example of the Magi to nudge us out of our cozy corners and into areas where we can encounter Emmanuel, God-with-us, in ever new ways.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          church
Have a Blessed Day.




Monday, December 31, 2018

Is there room in the inn of our hearts for Jesus to enter?




NEW YEAR’S DAY  2019
FEAST OF MARY THE MOTHER OF GOD

The life of Jesus began with Mary at the Bethlehem crib.  Therefore it is most appropriate we begin the New Year with Mary on this her feast day of Mary the Mother of God.  With the example and the intercession of Mary, may we be filled with opportunity after opportunity to say YES to the plan of God for our lives.

It’s the time of year when we roll out the old and bring in the new.  It’s the time for making new resolutions, new promises to ourselves.  We resolve to devote more time to family life; we resolve to work more efficiently; and we people decide to become healthier by dieting and exercising.

In the midst of this beautiful Christmas season, may I suggest a New Year’s resolution for all of us to ponder -- not just on Christmas but throughout all of 2019.

Reflecting on the Christmas mystery, imagine yourself as the inn keeper who decides if there is room in the inn of your heart for Jesus?  I invite you to ponder this resolution question again and again in 2019?  Does the way I live my life reflect there is room for Jesus within me.

Do I make time for daily prayer?  Is there is room in the inn of my heart for Jesus if I am too busy to pray even for a few minutes each day?

Do I have time to be present to my family, to friends, to neighbors?  Is there room in the inn of my heart for Jesus if I am too busy to be present and really listen to people?

Do I use and share the God-given talents and resources that I have to serve and minister in the lives of others?  Is there in the inn of my heart to serve Jesus as HE is discovered in the lives of those around us?

How do I make a difference in the lives of the poor and people in need both in our community and in our world?  Is there room in the inn of my heart for Jesus if I do not reach out in service to people in need?

There is no better model for us than Mary in opening ourselves to God’s plan for our lives.  We know at the Annunciation when the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she was to be the mother of our Savior and Lord, Mary worked through her fear and confusion and said YES to God’s plan for her.  With such an inspiring faith, Mary spoke these powerful words:  “I am the handmaid of the Lord.  Be it done to me according to thy Word.”

Can we with Mary speak these words at the beginning of 2019:  “I am the servant of the Lord.  Be it done to me according to thy word.”

The evangelist Luke in today’s Gospel describe the shepherds at the Bethlehem telling Mary and Joseph all that the angel had told them about this child.  Luke then writes:  “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.  In contrast to the frenzy of our celebrations on New Years’ Eve, Mary pondered in silence and stillness in the Bethlehem crib. 

If we want to celebrate Christmas as Mary did, we need to ponder this sign:  the frail simplicity of a tiny newborn child, the meekness with which he is placed in a manger, and the tender affection with which he is wrapped in his swaddling clothes.  This is where God is.

New Year’s Eve has an almost carnival-like atmosphere to it.  To celebrate it, we do all sorts of things:  enjoy parties, watch football games, drink champagne, toast new beginnings, wear crazy heats, set off fireworks, kiss and hug old friends, and watch the ball drop from Times Square.

For me personally, I officiated at a wedding at St. Louis Church this afternoon, and I will be going to the wedding reception this evening at the winter garden in the Bausch and Lomb building down town.  I’m sure it will be very festive, and I will enjoy it.

Following the example of Mary in the Gospel account, I know that I listen best when I also make the effort to go to that quiet place to hear God speaking to me.  I seek to take the side of God in the battle between life and destruction, between light and darkness.

Mary pondered and wondered and discerned about all that had puzzled her in the message of the angels and in the gifts of the magi.  Yes, there was uncertainty and questions for Mary and Joseph as they pondered the messages given to them about their son.  But her uncertainly about the messages given to her by the shepherds and the Magi did not keep her from reflecting and pondering about God’s plan for her life. 

In our personal life with our hopes and dreams for 2019, may we encounter Jesus in these hopes and dreams.  In the midst of these hopes and dreams, we need to ponder on the meaning of the Bethlehem crib.  We need to bow down, to humble ourselves, and to make ourselves small.  We need to go where God is.

Jesus enters our life to give us His life; he comes into our world to give us His love.  In 2019 through the intercession of Mary, may we be challenged and called by Jesus.  Let us draw close to God who draws close to us.  Let us pause to gaze upon the crib, and relive in our imagination the birth of Jesus:  light and peace, dire poverty and rejection.  With the shepherds, let us enter into the real Christmas, bringing to Jesus all that we are, our alienation, our unhealed wounds, our sins.  Then, in Jesus, we will enjoy the taste of the true spirit of Christmas:  the beauty of being loved by God.  With Mary and Joseph, let us pause before the manger, before Jesus who is born as bread for our lives.

Have a blessed day and a blessed New Year.                                       

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Our families are not perfect, but we need to ponder what makes a family a holy family.




Feast of the Holy Family  C  2018

The feast of the Holy Family offers the opportunity to reflect on the mystery of family life. In reality, every family and community share the perplexing, frustrating, demanding challenge the evangelist Luke described. Put most simply, Mary and Joseph faced the difficult discovery that Jesus was not going along with them every step of the way. It is a real story of a family conflict and is symbolic of all kinds of relationships.
Every family and community have its share of the challenges summarized here. We know what it is like when family members do not go along with us on the journey. When Mary and Joseph confronted Jesus in the Temple, they confronted the fact that he would have to discover his own path in life. No matter what they might hope for him, he did not belong to them.
On Christmas afternoon, I had the wonderful opportunity of gathering with my large extended family at my nephew’s Justin and Kate’s home in Avon.  Our extended family is not just the idealistic home of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.  Rather, our family life is composed of many, many blessings and many, many challenges.  This was the first Christmas for my sister Anne after her husband Larry has gone home to God.  One of my nieces is a single mom.  Another niece is coping with her husband’s serious illness – a brain tumor.  Other family members are discovering the mystery of their own sexuality.
What draws us together with so much joy?  Our love for one another.  Again, this is not to say that this love for one another does not have our share of challenges.
So you can ask if our family and your family is a holy family?  For sure, our families are not perfect, but we need to ponder on what makes a family a holy family.
The Gospel account of the Holy Family reminds us that love is rooted in profound reverence for the mystery of the other. Such reverence cultivates profound respect for the other’s mysterious freedom. In that, we learn to desire that the other will become who they are meant to be rather than what we would have them be.
The challenge for every parent as your children grow into adulthood is to allow and love your children into becoming who they are meant to be rather than what we would have them be.
In today’s Gospel, Luke tells us that Mary and Joseph were a day’s journey out of Jerusalem when they discovered that Jesus was not with them. Luke describes their consternation as they looked among the people they journeyed with but did not find him. But according to Luke, they did not return to search all over Jerusalem, checking out the markets and recreation spots that might have interested a budding adolescent. They went to the Temple and found their curious child listening to the scholars who spoke of the things of God.
They knew their son and had a good idea where they might find him. They understood him; they were his first teachers. As they taught him what every child needs to learn, they had seen his fascination with the things of God — which for him included everything.
The feast of the Holy Family invites us to celebrate our relationships with those we love most deeply. It reminds us that the greatest gift we can give others is to respect and nurture their freedom to become all God has created them to be. Whether it is with children, spouses, siblings or members of our communities, we know it will not be easy. But with Mary, we can pray, “Dear God! You never warned me!” and remember the only assurance she was ever given: “Nothing will be impossible for God.”
Shakespeare said it well: "The way of true love never did go smooth.”  All families have a bit of the zigzagged messiness in the relationships with our extended family.  We are not perfect, don’t you know.
But the Christmas mystery we continue to celebrate is that God is with us and God is to be found in our family life and therefore our family is a holy family.  God had chosen to be born and live in the beauty and the craziness of our family life.
A beautiful God moment for me in our Christmas family celebration was when my five year old grand-niece was having a melt-down.  She was in tears.  I have no idea of what was causing the melt-down.  But I was observing her in the arms of her loving mom who simply was listening and loving her daughter.  Knowing that she was loved and listened to and understood by her mom made everything ok for my grand-niece.  She then went back being the life of the party.
I said to myself that’s what family is – a place in which you receive love and acceptance you don’t have to earn.  You are just simply loved into life.  This was such a God moment for me.  Where there is love in family, there is God.  God is love.  Love makes a family a holy family.
That Gospel should also remind us that Jesus came to create a much larger family than the holy trio of Jesus Mary and Joseph. He was about his Father’s business; he was sent to reconcile all people to God and to one another.
Any healthy family finds its love spilling beyond the household to many others, and the more a family grows in love, the wider that circle of love becomes.  We are gifted with our natural families, but we are called to expand our hearts to include all our brothers and sisters who share this planet.
The Feast of the Holy Family is a Christmas feast in which Jesus seeks to be the light that overcomes the darkness.  Ultimately this feast is a story about being at home with our God.  What would it take for us to imagine that we belong to a global family in which we all are brothers and sisters.  Christ has come to be the Savior of all of humanity, and are called as a global family to speak the language of love to one another.
Is this an impossible dream?  I pray that with God all things are possible.

Have a Blessed Day.

Monday, December 24, 2018

In the inn of our hearts, there is an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying a manger.




           CHRISTMAS 2018

Last Wednesday evening was a moment of experiencing the Christmas mystery.  God was in our midst.  The children of St Joseph’s School were the bearers of the Christmas mystery in the school concert.  Our children in singing the very familiar Christmas music radiated the joy and mystery of Christmas for me.

It is by God’s design that our children are the beacons of God’s light and love.  When the Lord of history, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, broke the silence of the centuries and spoke in the darkness of that first Christmas night, he spoke through a vulnerable infant in a manger.

Going back to the school’s Christmas concert, what was my part in this beautiful, inspiring Christmas concert?  I simply listened – listened with my ears and listened with my heart.

I speak of the value of listening because listening is such an important dimension of the Christmas story, and listening is such an important component of the spiritual journey of each one of us.

When the angel Gabriel arrives to bring Mary the news that she will bear a child…she listens.

When the angel tells Joseph in his dreams what is about to happen…he listens.

The shepherds listen when the angel announces the “good news of great joy.”
In the passage immediately following this, they go out and tell the world what they have seen.

And the world listens.

Two thousand years later, we confront this stunning message – “Silent Night, Holy Night,” as the Christmas hymn describes it – and our hearts swell with the sentiment of the season.

We hear. But are we paying attention? Are we listening?

Christmas invites us to listen. To listen for God’s messengers. To listen for His good news.

And what good news it is: that God is with us! That we are no longer alone. That He has come into our lives, and into our world. “The grace of God has appeared,” Paul writes. Or as Isaiah puts it so beautifully: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”

This is the news we have been waiting for.

The news all of humanity has been listening for.

Think of how Christmas comes to us – if only we listen for it.

It comes to us with angels singing and an infant in a manger.

It comes to us with the clang of bells, a blare of trumpets. The rip of wrapping paper. The laughter of loved ones around the table.

We are to listen to the many ways the Christmas is spoken to us.

It comes on Christmas Eve, when a recovering alcoholic walks by a bar, and hears the laughter inside – but keeps on walking.

It is also there in the silence, when the one who used to share your life and your home is no longer there, and you find your heart full of sorrow and longing and memory – and into that, unexpectedly, comes Christmas. Quietly. Gently. Whispering with the angels: “Rejoice. Rejoice, because we are not alone. God is with us. Emmanuel.”

It comes to us as a family member shares that he or she wishes to live out one’s sexuality in a way that is different than your way.  May we be people who listen as did the shepherds to whom the angels wish to announce good news of a great joy to be shared by all people. 

It comes to me and to you in our disillusionment with the priests of our Church when they put children in harm’s way.  Even in this dark experience of Church, the light of Christ overcomes the darkness. 

May we listen to the Good News that today in David’s city and in your hearts and in your family, a Savior has been born who is Christ and Lord.

My friends, on this miraculous night, the message I want to leave with you is so simple: Listen. With your ears. And with your heart. Our salvation has been announced. What will we do with it?

Twenty centuries ago, shepherds listened, and told the world what they heard. Today we are the shepherds who listen to the Good News of the great joy that is to be shared.  We are the ones chosen to hear His good news – and to pass it on. It is news of wonder and hope. Of light breaking through darkness.

It is the sound of music filling the heavens. Of Hallelujahs in our hearts.

Listen for it. Surrender to the joy. Carry it with you out into the night.

In the inn of our hearts, there is an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.  God is within us.  We give birth to Christ when we listen to the voice of the Christ child within us.  We are to share the Good News of the love of Jesus that is within us to our family, to our parish family, and to all of creation.

The message of Christmas is that Jesus comes for people in dark places.  The real, lasting, and deep joy of Christmas is that light shines in the darkness.   The Christmas story affirms that whatever happens, the light still shines.  Because of Christmas, it will never get so dark that you can’t see the light.

Yes, we have fears.  Yes, there is much messiness.  There is death; there is the diagnosis that frightens us; there is loneliness when relationships are broken.  But may we listen again to the Christmas story that is ageless and needs to be told again and again.  The Christmas story affirms that whatever happens, the light of Christ still shines.  Because of Christmas, it will never get so dark that you can’t see the light.
As we listen to the child wrapped in swaddling clothes that is within us, we can speak the language of love to each other, we share our giftedness with one another, and we gather around the Table of the Lord in awe and mystery to give thanks to the Lord our God.

And if we do, maybe one day when we come to the gates of heaven, we might hear God say to us:

“Thanks for listening.”                                                                                                                                                    

Sunday, December 9, 2018

It is in the messiness and the questions and the fears of our lives that God chooses to be born into.




Second Sunday of Advent  C  2018

The Gospel begins:

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip the tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the Word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.

It is important to note that the evangelist is placing the ministry of Jesus in the wider historical context.  The point is the sacred ministry of Jesus emerged right in the midst of secular history.  Secular history does not get in the way of the Word of God.  Rather, for us to hear the Word of God proclaimed in this moment of history means we need to know the circumstances of our own history.  God’s Word is being spoken in the midst of the circumstances of our own lives and in the reality of the church and the world we live in.

We cannot absent ourselves from the challenges of life.  Rather, we need to recognize how Jesus is being birthed in the secular history of our lives.  This is such an important point.  I don’t like and you don’t like the issues of sexual abuse and the cover up of these abuses.  In 2018, this is the Church that Jesus chooses to be born into.

We are called not to leave the Church.  Rather, we are called to transform the
Church and our world into the reign of God.  That’s why Jesus came – to teach us how to transform our church and our world into the reign of God, which means where God’s love controls everything, guides everything, and we all live together in peace under that reign of the love of God.

It is in the messiness and the questions and the fears of our lives that God chooses to be born.  This is the story of the first Christmas and it is the story of Christmas in 2018.
 God chooses to be born.
The evangelist Luke in today’s Gospel tells us that the Word of God was spoken to John the Son of Zachariah in the desert.  Say that again!  Where was the Word of God spoken and to whom?    Note that the Word of God was not pronounced by the religious and political leaders of the day.  It bypassed them all.  The Word of God did not come from the Palace of the Temple.  The Word of God came from an outsider in the desert.  The Word of God came to John in the desert. 

This certainly leaves us to pause and ask where we hear and recognize the Word of God spoken to us.  We make a grave mistake if we don’t listen and seek to hear the Word of God spoken to us from the outsiders of our lives.

Who are the outsiders of our lives?  Who are the people who don’t look like us, who do not share the same religious beliefs, who do not have the financial resources we have and so forth?  Just maybe, these are the people who proclaim God’s Word to us.

Who is your John the Baptist?

So now in December, while everything in the Northern Hemisphere jingles with excitement about the Christmas holidays, the Church invites us into an Advent desert with John.  The desert is the antithesis of the suburban malls.  No matter how much money you have, there is nothing to buy in the desert.  Far from the city lights whose twinkling lights grab our attention, the desert allows us to fix our gaze on the stars, the beauty that is beyond our reach and yet has been created for our delight.

The Advent desert is where our soul can expand, where we can remember what we really thirst for.  How do we fashion a desert for ourselves in this Advent season of busyness and parties and celebrations?

   



I like to think of Advent as a time of listening to what God is birthing in me.  I need to quiet down and listen.  During this gift of time that is the four weeks of the Advent season, may we find moments of quiet each day to listen to how God is speaking to us.

Yesterday, we celebrated the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  She who gave birth to the Savior calls us to the awareness that Jesus needs to be born again this Christmas.  In what way is God birthing in you?  Our Advent time of waiting for new birth is a labor of patient love.

The prophet Isaiah describes John as one crying out in the desert:  “Prepare the way of the Lord.”  Every valley shall be filled and the winding roads shall be made straight.  Instead of seeing this mission as part of highway reconstruction, John the Baptist calls us to repentance and metanoia.  For John real change comes from within.  The prophet Isaiah refers to the geography of the heart.  This is where change needs to occur.  We are to clear the path to welcome Christ who is born into our hearts as truly as Jesus was born in Bethlehem. 

But this inner change is not just about our personal salvation.  The inner change is always in the context of community, of church, of the ways we love and serve people.  As St Paul writes in the second Scripture reading in his letter to the Philippians:  “I pray always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now.”

Jesus seeks to be born again within our own hearts in 2018.  Jesus’ humble birth within us may be likened to his humble birth in the Bethlehem manger.  May we be Spirit-filled in embracing the Savior within us and may be missioned to sharing the love of Jesus in ways that will transform our Church and our world.  To whom can you be a sign that God is still at work?

Have a Blessed Day.