Saturday, December 28, 2013

Mary and Joseph, yours was truly a Holy Family, because it was sanctified by the presence of the Child Jesus.

Feast of the Holy Family. Sunday December 28th, 2013

Merry Christmas! Christmas is such an important feast day, that like other important feast days in the Church, one day is just not enough time to celebrate. This is why we have the Octave of Christmas, eight days of solemn celebration, followed by a season of Christmas. As part of our prayer and reflection of Jesus coming into this world, the birth of Jesus is just one aspect of the mystery we look at over the Octave of Christmas. The aspect we look at today is the fact that Jesus was born into and lived in a human family.

It was the will of God the Father that Jesus live in a human family. After all, the family is essential for life and the nurturing of life. All of our readings today give us counsel and advice on how we need to live in our families. In our times when even the definition of a family is under attack, the counsel of the Holy Scriptures needs to be followed. The Holy Family is then our model and guide.

In today’s Gospel St. Joseph showed himself to be truly the Protector of the Holy Family. It was not the first crisis for Joseph. Several months before, he was overcome with fear and doubt over the mysterious pregnancy of his young bride, Mary. But Joseph invited Mary into his home and by doing so brought into his home as well, the baby Jesus within Mary’s womb. Now a powerful and ruthless king threatens the life of Jesus. Decisions had to be made. God did not abandon him but sent angels to help. Just as an angel explained to Joseph how Mary had conceived her child through the power of the Holy Spirit, now he was urged him to take his family to Egypt. Later, after it was safe, Joseph was told to return to Nazareth of Galilee with his family.

The point is, is that GOD helped the Holy Family make right decisions. St. Joseph received the grace of God from the angel appearing to him in a dream, but it was up to Joseph and Mary to show faith, trust and courage in danger. All holy families struggle with fears and dangers. However, God Our Father in heaven will never abandon families who turn to Him for help; but they like St. Joseph, must show faith and courage and keep their eyes always on Jesus, making Him truly the center of their daily family life.

God knows how difficult family life is today. There are so many dangers to families in our day, everything from just the busyness of our world, which makes family time so hard to find, to divorce, to a godless, secularist society which is becoming ever increasingly tolerant of everything but God and His Holy Catholic Church. It is a society beginning to more and more condone things that have always and everywhere been condemned, such as abortion, euthanasia and legalized homosexual unions. These and so many others are all such great threats to the family in our day. It is so hard to be a holy family these days, I would say harder than any other time in history.

The devil knows and has always known the importance of true authentic Catholic Christian family life. He knows the family has been given to us to help us to live and love in order to learn to love like the Family of God so that each family member can reach heaven. He knows that it is only in holy families that the members learn to give up their selfishness and live for each other in sacrificial love for each other and the sake of the family.

The devil knows too, that the Church herself is only as strong and holy, as her families are strong and holy. He knows that the family is the “domestic Church.” the very foundation of the entire society and the Church. He knows that to weaken and destroy the marriage and the family in any one society is to weaken and destroy the Church in this same society. Destroy the family and you destroy the Church and consequently there is no hope for salvation; not to mention society itself collapses.

So how do we restructure authentic family life, strengthening it not only in our own families but also in order to help and strengthen other families as well? The only way to restore sound family life by Catholic families is for them to increase their understanding of the authentic Catholic Faith so that they can accept, and with the help of God grace live more faithfully, the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Holy Church. Just as there is no middle ground individually to follow Jesus fully, so it is with families. Families must be more and more holy and heroic families in order to stand up against the demonic onslaught of marriage and the family experience in today’s world.

Families must become more and more authentic witnesses to the truth of the family. Like the Holy Family, they must be willing to suffer if need be for living a truly holy family life. Families must reach out to other families in apostolic zeal to help them to become holy and live the Christian life. They must be willing to suffer ridicule in order to show others their fidelity to Jesus and his teachings. And in a society, which is no longer Christian, but is really pagan, they will indeed suffer for their faith if they try to live it authentically. This all reminds us that the truths of our Holy Catholic faith matter, they matter with regard to salvation, that is, whether or not one lives in eternal bliss within the life of the family of God or eternal misery separated from the Blessed Trinity.

In order to renew authentic family life in our country, married couples and families must renew their efforts to follow Jesus Christ. It goes with out saying, that going to weekly Sunday Mass as a family to pray is indispensable, but we must do more. We must, as couples, families, and individuals escape the busyness of the world on a daily basis and ask the Family of God, in prayer, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit from whom all families have their origin, to strengthen our families in the face of so much which is against them. Just as the Couple that prays together stays together, so the family that prays together stays together.”

Essential to this renewal of Catholic family life, is for the family to put itself under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her help is indispensable, without it Catholic families will not survive. She is God’s mother, so she is powerful and we need to pray for her intercession to obtain from God, the graces we need in our families. I can personally attest to her powerful help with regards to the problems of my own family, as I am sure many of you can as well. Like St. Joseph, we must invite Mary into our homes and into our hearts. She will bring with Her Divine Son.

We must learn to go through Mary to Jesus for our family. This can be done in practical ways. The first of these ways is to make personally the total Consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary. This can be done by picking up a copy of the wonderful book, “33 Days to Morning Glory,” which helps you to make a total gift of yourself to Jesus through Mary and to be able to make everything you do, say or think an offering, a prayer to God. This book will change your life and your family life.

Secondly, We must as Catholic families pray daily together to the Blessed Mother. The most obvious way is to pray the rosary together. So many holy people that I have met, tell me that as children they seen their parents kneeling together at night, some every night, holding hands and praying the rosary together.

A priest friend of mine, Fr. Shick, said his earliest memories were of his parents kneeling in the family room holding hands together and praying the rosary with the kids gathered round them. A few years ago, Father’s mother died and I told him how many times I shared this with people. He said that it wasn’t just his parents alone, his whole family never missed a night praying the rosary together…in fact, being farmers, one night the cattle got out of the fence and it took them until 10:30 to get them back in. Now normally he said they went to bed by 8:30 since they got up by 5 in order to do chores. And so, He said, he and his siblings thought for sure they would skip the rosary that night and get to bed, but no, his father went to his knees in the living room and led the family in the family rosary before going to bed even at such a late hour.

Other practical ways: along with family prayer is to eat meals together beginning with praying grace and ending with a prayer of thanksgiving, even in public. Also, we can return to the custom of praying the Angelus together as a family at least once a day. Every Catholic family should have a least one picture or painting of Jesus and Mary hung in a prominent place in their homes. Families should have a least one statue of Mary in which to make a Marian shrine to allow family members to pray daily, at least one Hail Mary before it. And family members should return to the custom of wearing the brown Scapular of our Lady as a sign of their consecration to her, and as well, wear her miraculous medal and frequently pray the prayer “O Mary conceived without original sin pray for us who have recourse to thee.”

These are only a few of the many, many ways the family can practice a devotion to the Virgin Mary for her help and protection. Family devotion to Mary is absolutely necessary to obtain what it needs to receive at her hands from her Son. I want to end with letting you know about a wonderful organization dedicated to helping to save families by helping families become holy families through Mary to Jesus in union with St. Joseph. The organization is called the Apostolate for Family Consecration. It was founded by Jerry Conicker and his wife Gwyn, parents of thirteen Children. It has received pontifical recognition by the Holy See. Gwyn died ten years ago and her cause for beautification has been open. Their organization has so many valuable helps for you and your family; I recommend it highly. The Apostolate for Family Consecration—you can look them up on the web. Let us end with a prayer:

Mary and Joseph, yours was truly a Holy Family, because it was sanctified by the presence of the Child Jesus. Help us to always keep Him in the center of our family life by Keeping His real presence in the Holy Eucharist as the center of our family life, so we too may have holy families and so happy and peaceful families. All for the Sacred Heart of Jesus, all through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, all in union with St. Joseph. Amen.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

God has done everything; he has done the impossible: he was made flesh. His all-powerful love has accomplished something which surpasses all human understanding: the Infinite has become a child, has entered the human family. And yet, this same God cannot enter my heart unless I open the door to him.

Pope Benedict
Christmas 2012

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas 2013

Tonight (Today) is the great celebration of the beginning of the fulfillment of all our hopes and dreams and the dispelling of all our fears. The theme of the last four weeks of advent preparation has been hope, and here we are at Christmas, which is the great “Feast of Hope.” Tonight (today) we celebrate, liturgically, the birthday of our Hope, of Hope Himself—Jesus Christ, the Christ Child--God become Man.

In Jesus, God become one of us in order to be intimately and personally united with each one of us. In Jesus, the Majestic God descends from heaven in sublime humility in order to take each one of us to himself so that he can lift us up to a higher level of life and joy, life immersed in the inner life of God Himself. This is the great mystery, the great reality that we celebrate on the solemn feast day.

For centuries man longed for a savior, someone who would come in order to give hope, to bring light to the darkness of the world and to the darkness of man’s own heart; but even more to fill a great longing in the very depths of each human heart, the longing for greatness, a longing for love. Mankind, mainly through earthly kings and kingdoms, philosophies, occult practices and man-made religions, kept trying to lift itself up by its own boot strap, to obtain true and lasting happiness through earthly realities, only to fall deeper in sadness and despair. Oh how dark was the world before the coming of Christ into it; how the hearts of man earned for something greater than the world alone could give. All this changed with the birth of Jesus—God’s own Light has come into the darkness of our world; Love itself was born into the world.

The birth of Jesus was literally God coming down to man, man who could in no way lift himself up to God, in order to lift man up to God. "For the Son of God became a Son of man so that the sons of men could become the sons of God!" This is the real meaning of Christmas—this is the true gift of Christmas, the gift of the Father’s only begotten Son—“For God so loved the world that he sent His only begotten Son” (Jn 3:16). Jesus became one of us so that he could take each one of us to himself and lift us up to a high level of existence so that we could live a higher fuller life, a happier life, a life of out of this world joy. I am not here just talking about heaven after we die, but the birth of Jesus offered us and still offers the possibility of fully, a life of joy now even amidst the darkness, amidst the sufferings and trials of this present age. Jesus offers us the abundant life, a life of intimacy and friendship with God that flows out to a greater love of neighbor and our self for love of God…and so a life of true contentment and peace. He offers this to each one of us personally and to all men of good will.

In light of this great truth, the truth of Christmas, this reality of God coming to man in order to lift man to Himself, now, even amidst the continuing and ever increasing darkness of this world, a darkness which sadly is caused by man still trying to lift himself up by his own boot strap without reference to God; yet even so, there is so much to hope for; there is so much hope in our world. For Christmas is truly not just a celebration of the past, it is a celebration of what continues to happen in our midst now! Jesus Christ was truly born 2,000 years ago, yes, but He is again truly reborn anew on our sacred altars at this Mass and at every Holy Mass. This is why Christmas is made up of two words….Christ and Mass. The Holy Mass is Christ’s Mass the source of this world's true hope, the source of all our hope.

At Christ’s Mass God continues to come down from heaven, in order to lift us up to God. Through the Holy Mass Jesus continues to be come to earth, to be “born” if you will, into our world in order to be able to take you and me to Himself in order to take us into a greater and fuller life with God, life with the Blessed Trinity Himself, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God is still truly God with us, Immanuel, as one of us, in our daily lives for He is truly physically present in the same body He was born with at Bethlehem in every tabernacle of the world in the Holy Eucharist where He continually waits for us to come and adore Him and even receive Him into us-His Body into ours, His Blood with ours, His Heart with ours, so He can fill us with His hope along with His peace and joy.

Christmas is really all about THE GIFT, the gift of the Holy Eucharist. The Eucharist is the gift of the Christ Child still offered to us; in fact still with us; the Eucharist is Emmanuel-God with us. The Holy Eucharist is the gift of the Father, the gift of His only begotten Son. In the Eucharist God continues come to us, to offer Himself on our behalf, to offer Himself to us, in order to lift us up to a fuller life, a more joyful life and life with Him. But one thing remains, hope has a condition, and that is, will we respond to the gift of His love, to the gift of himself, will we open the inn of our hearts to Him and let Him enter.

Love is then really an exchange of gifts. This is why we exchange gifts at Christmas. Our gifts to the ones we love a meant to symbolize the greater gift of our love, the gift of our hearts the gift of our self. So to truly respond to the gift of the Father—Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, we must do more than just receive Him, we must give in return the gift of our love, the gift of our hearts, the gift of our self—a sacrifice of love to the one who sacrificed Himself for in love. This is the true meaning of Christmas. God lovingly gives man the gift of Himself in order that man would respond by freely offering himself in return to God, so God could lift man to Himself in order that man and God would be united as one in Love. No greater gift is there than this, The Holy Eucharist…the meeting point of God’s heart with ours, this is the source of all hope.

Here I think of the beautiful and inspired hymn of “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Listen to the beauty and the truth of the last two verses of this Christmas Hymn of love.

How silently, how silently

The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel

And so let us celebrate Christmas with great joy and great hope. In fact let us celebrate Christ’s Mass every Sunday; dare I say, even every day if we are able. However, we must come as little children, little, that's is made pure by a good sacramental confession, so as to be able to enter more deeply into the mystery of the Holy Mass. No one likes presents more than children; and so we must come as children then to receive the great gift of the Father Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, come with the humility and the faith of a child, receive the Heart of the Son, and give Him our heart in return.

When Jesus came the first time He was the answer and gift of the father to longing of millions throughout the years. Jesus is still the answer and the gift of the Father to longing of the hearts of millions in our own day. Jesus in the Holy Eucharist is the He is the answer and gift of the Father to the longing, to the hopes and fears of all of the millions of hearts in our own age. The Eucharist is the God who is Love. We can’t pull our self up by our boot straps….only God can save, and God saves us through the Eucharist for the Eucharist is the Child born at Bethlehem still with us.

To help us let us turn to St. Joseph. Let us ask Him for his help. When Joseph was visited by an angel and told that he had been chosen to partake in the mystery of Mary’s pregnancy by power of the Holy Spirit, Joseph responded by taking Mary his wife into his home. By doing so He brought as well the child within her womb into His Home. Beginning this Christmas, let us more fully imitate St. Joseph. Let us welcome the Holy Virgin to cross the threshold of our hearts, the threshold of our daily activities, our prayers, our crosses, let us welcome her into our lives and into our families. By doing so we too are welcoming her child more fully in to our lives, for to invite Mary into our hearts and into our lives, is to welcome Jesus, because her heart and His heart are united as one—where she is, He is. May we like her become one with Jesus and His Sacred Heart, by offering Him fully this Christmas and every day, the gift of our hearts the gift of our self. Amen.

(On behalf of Father Parker the pastor here at St. Mary’s and myself, Fr Lange, I would like to wish all of you and your families, a very blessed and merry Christmas. God bless you all and again Merry Christmas to you and your families and all the families and friends of St. Mary’s parish!)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Mary, Our Lady of the New Advent, Mother of God, by your faithful yes to God’s Will you brought forth true Hope into the world-Jesus your Son; help us to open the door to our homes, to our hearts and welcome you in, and so welcome Him in. Amen.

Matthew 1, 18-20 Fourth Sunday in Advent. December 22nd, 2013

Over the last couple of weeks of Advent, we have been preparing for the coming of the Christ Child at Christmas. We have been told to stay a wake, not to fall asleep. In this we have discovered that Advent is the liturgical time, which reminds us that all of our life is an Advent, a time of joyful preparation for the coming of Jesus at the end of the world or the end of our life, which ever comes first. But we have also been reminded that Jesus has already come, and even more that He comes to us now at this Holy Mass and at every Holy Mass in His same body and blood that he was born with at Bethlehem. This great truth is not only the cause of our Joy, it is the very source of our hope…the source of all hope…We have hope because our God is truly with us!

Speaking of hope, a few years ago I came across a very interesting true story about hope. A priest was once given the assignment of serving at a woman’s prison where many of the inmates were in for life. He was told that these particular women were very tough, and so it would be hard to get much of a response from them. In fact, at his first meeting with them only two women showed up. So he knew he had to do something in order to get more of the inmates to come and hear the truth about God and the truth about themselves.

So he devised a plan to invoke the curiosity of the inmates. So he said to the two women, I am going to ask you the following question, if you can’t give me the correct answer I’ll stop talking, leave and come back next week to see if you have the answer. He asked them, “What is the worst sin? One of them immediately answered, “Murder.” No, the priest said and he left.
The next week there were about twenty women present. They all gave various answers to the question, such as “rape” and even “killing a baby.” Again, the priest said, “No.” and left.

The following week the room was completely packed. Still none of them had the answer. This time however, the priest revealed to them the correct answer. The worst sin he said was the sin of despair, loss of hope. He went on to tell them that they had hope even in their desperate situation, (prison for life) because they were daughters of Most High God and because they had God as their Heavenly Father. “Without belief, without faith in this,” the priest said, “they would be lost in despair.” He then told them of the unconditional love of the Father and how we don’t have to earn His love; we just have to open our hearts to it and trust in it, place our hope in His goodness, and then with a contrite heart, ask and receive His forgiveness and mercy vowing to live, with His Help, as His beloved sons and daughters.

Pope Francis gave this same message of hope last week in his weekly Angelus address. Our Holy Father said:

He (God) is always with us in order to help us to go forward. He is a God who loves us so very much, he loves us and that is why he is with us, to help us, to strengthen us, help us go forward. Courage! Always forward! Thanks to his help, we can always begin again. How? Begin again from scratch. Someone might say to me: "No, Father, I did so many reprehensible things ... I am a great sinner.... I cannot begin from scratch!". You are wrong! You can begin from scratch! Why? Because he is waiting for you, he is close to you, he loves you, he is merciful, he forgives you, he gives you the strength to begin again from scratch! Everybody! And so we are able to open our eyes again, to overcome sadness and mourning to strike up a new song. And this true joy remains even amid trial, even amid suffering, for it is not a superficial joy; because it permeates the depths of the person who entrusts himself to the Lord and confides in him.

To entrust ourself to the Lord means to trust in Him, and to trust in Him means to hope in Him—and to hope in Him means to already begin to possess Him in Whom we hope. In God alone is our hope!
We have so many troubles in this life, our world is in great trouble, and we see others in so much trouble. To have hope, we as individual and as communities have to return to faith in God, not only believing that He exists, but struggling with the help of His grace to live our lives in complete fidelity to Him, to His Holy Church, to His truth and obedience to His commands and the teachings of His Church out of love for Him. Hope is impossible without this true faith.

Our Catholic faith is not just about information we know; Christianity doesn’t just tell us facts, doctrines and truths. Our faith and these doctrines and truths tell us with certainty that each one of us is personally loved by God our Father. Each one of us is so loved by Our Father that he sent His only begotten son, Jesus to earth for us. Jesus became a man for us, was born for us, lived and died for us, and finally, He rose from the dead for us. God did all of this for us so that He would move our hearts to trust and hope in Him, love Him so that we might enter into an eternity of perfect happiness with Him forever. Our faith gives us hope by showing our true goal, giving us a reason to live no matter the situation; and so those with hope have the abundance of life.

When we really truly believe that God only allows what is best to happen to those who love Him we have hope and this Hope does something to us, it changes us, redeems us; it saves us. In the words of the former black slave now saint-St. Josephine Bakhita who was brutally beaten by multiple “masters” and eventually found true freedom in the true Master Jesus Christ, “Once I am aware that I am definitively loved by God, it doesn’t matter any more what happens to me, what situation I am in or what kind of “master” I may have; God is with me and with in me; I have hope and so I can endure joyfully come what may for love of Him.” Because St. Bakhita had hope, she began already to possess and be possessed by the object of her hope—Jesus!

Hope like faith however, is not just something we have it is something we live. Our hope in God cannot be static; it must be operative; it must be performative. What keeps us from hope is not the situations of our lives but rather how we respond to them. It’s not our defects or other people and their defects but it’s the way we respond to them that can keep us from hope. We can either rebel against God because of our circumstances and so become angry and despair, or resign to our fate with a woe is me attitude; Or instead we can accept our situation with the attitude that Our Father God knows best—I am loved-I am saved-God loves me definitively and so I hope in Him even when it seems hopeless. I will still trust in Him in every situation because I know through faith that He will only allow what is best for me so that I may reach my goal of eternal happiness with Him beginning already here on earth.

We need to ask our Lord for the capacity to accept big things, little things, to accept others they way they are, to accept ourselves the way we are. Yes, with God’s help and through prayer and action, we need to change the things we can, we need to keep struggling to become better, but we need to accept our weakness in order that we can rely on God more than on ourselves, to become better by accepting all circumstances by crying out, Jesus I believe in You, I trust in You; I trust in Your love for me, I abandon myself to you O My God help me to trust in You and love You more!

The season of advent and Christmas can sometimes be the worst. It is so busy and our hearts and minds are so preoccupied. It is also the season of rampant depression resulting from so many reasons, sadness, the loss of a loved one, life in a mess, unemployment, the state of affairs in our world and in our Church, Christmas away from those we love. All of this really shows us that we can’t place our hope and trust in ourselves to bring us happiness. If we rely on ourselves we lose hope and then we get angry at God-why does He allow this to happen to me or to my loved ones.

We also can’t place our trust and hope in the world. Man continually tries to create a system to trust apart from God and we end up with the gulag of Communism, the Auschwitz of Nazism and now the dictatorship of relativism. We can’t put our trust in politics or political systems or ideologies; we can’t put our trust in Government or even science to save us—only God saves, in this is our hope.

In this season we have our family and friends and their love. This is good it helps to show us and lead us to the love of God. Yet, even those who are closest to us can and will let us down. Just like we can’t trust the world, so too, we can’t trust our love ones totally, because they are imperfect and weak just like us. So too, there is no perfect priest, no perfect bishop; there is nobody who is perfect save One, The One, Jesus Christ; He is our only Hope.

In these last couple of days before we celebrate Christmas we must turn ever more to the source of our hope and so the source of our joy, Jesus in the Holy Eucharist…the Eucharist is our hope. In the Eucharist God is truly with us as one of us!!! And adoration of the Holy Eucharist puts us in touch with our Hope, Jesus. Those who adore both at Holy Mass and outside of Holy Mass, have hope those who don’t adore their hope is dying or is already dead. (end?).

And so what is the secret to obtaining hope! It is the Holy Mass, and our active, full, conscious and fruitful participation in it, is the source of our hope. In our actual participation in it, the Mass which is primarily about our interior adoration of the Father through Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, becomes the source of our hope because the Mass makes truly present Jesus and His Perfect act of adoration to the Father, His sacrifice of love that saved us, is saving us and will save us, if we place our hope in its Power to save us.

At the Mass, in the Holy Eucharist, Jesus’ birth two thousand years ago becomes again present before us, and so Jesus is born anew on the altar before us, lives before us, dies before us, and resurrects and ascends before us, actually, truly and really. Jesus becomes fully present before us again in the Holy Eucharist as true God and true Man.

At the Mass as well, His second coming becomes present; at the Mass we are at once at the beginning of the world and at the end of the world. At the Mass our Goal, which is heaven becomes present on earth as well. And at the Mass, our hope can be increased when we adore and receive in true faith Jesus the source of our hope, if we open the doors to our hearts, minds and soul so that He can enter and mount His throne, ruling over our lives and transforming us into His image and likeness. Then we can become instruments of hope; better yet, living tabernacles of Christ and hope for the world, for we can take Jesus out into our daily lives and share with others the joy and the hope that is within us because we possess and are possessed by the God who is Love.

In our Gospel today, St. Joseph gives us the secret of Christmas and the aid for obtaining hope at Holy Mass. He lets Mary into his home! And by doing so He lets the Divine Child within her into his home as well. So too with us, if we want to let Jesus into our homes, into our hearts more fully this Christmas and at this and every Christ-Mass, then we must let Mary, more fully, into our homes and into our hearts. And she for her part brings with her, her divine Son Jesus who is our Hope.
Let us pray:

Mary, Our Lady of the New Advent, Mother of God, by your faithful yes to God’s Will you brought forth true Hope into the world-Jesus your Son; help us to open the door to our homes, to our hearts and welcome you in, and so welcome Him in at this Mass and at every Mass. Amen.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Holy Mary, Cause of our Joy; Our Lady of the New Advent pray for us who have recourse to thee. Amen.

Third Sunday of Advent Sunday December 15th, 2013

“Rejoice and be glad for the salvation we have hoped for is here!” The Church celebrates today “Gaudete Sunday”-Gaudete is the Latin word for “rejoice” so today is “rejoice Sunday.” Today’s liturgy is meant to give us an advance taste of the joy of the Savior’s birth; hence the Rose-colored vestments—rose, the color of joy; ( and by the way it is rose, not pink…Father does not wear pink. Better yet, as my altar server reminded me this morning it is actually salmon colored. I was very impressed;Smart altar server!) Nonetheless it stand for Joy and joy in our hearts causes us to Rejoice always.

And so, today, we are again reminded of why we have Advent; Advent is a privilege time of preparation in which we prepare to enter fully into the joy of Christ’s coming at Christmas. It is also a time to remind us to prepare so that we will be able to experience joyfully and without fear, Jesus final coming at the end of the world or the end of our lives, which ever comes first.

But Advent is also meant to be a time of Joy, because it is also a time to remind us that every day of our lives should be filled with rejoicing because we know Jesus has already come; He is God with us Emmanuel-Jesus is here with us now! And where there is Jesus there is joy, not matter what our external circumstances may be. If we have intimacy with Jesus then there is joy even in the midst of our heaviest crosses, our greatest pain and sufferings, even in our greatest darkness, even when all else seems lost.

If there is one thing that marks our present age, we can say it is an age, which is lacking in joy, which does not know true joy; it is an age of great sadness. It is an age of great abundance; many have so much, but yet at the same time feel so empty, so sad…there is such a longing in people’s hearts. So many are seeking happiness in the world, not knowing that this world and the things of this world, as good as they are, just cannot give the kind of happiness for which they are seeking, for which their hearts are longing.

The Liturgy of today’s Holy Mass goes against this present sadness and lack of joy. It’s readings repeats the words of St. Paul in which he urges the first Christians of Philippi to “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice!” St. Paul gives them the reason for this profound happiness…the reason is that the Lord is truly at hand.

This is the reason also why we should have great joy, not only in Advent but every day of our lives. Our Faith offers us a true Christian joy, which goes beyond any merely earthly happiness. It comes from the fact, the reality that Jesus is very near to us; nearer to us than we are to ourselves; that we are friends of God and that He has made us His beloved sons and daughters in Christ, Christ who has come and who is here with us now.

And so St. Paul as well gives us the reason, the origin of our sadness and lack of joy; it comes from putting a distance between ourselves and God who is truly with us and turning in our selves. In other words, this distance comes from our sins. It comes as well by not making our relationship with Christ the priority, not only of our Advent and Christmas preparations, but also by not making it a priority every day of our lives. This whole life is really meant to be a preparation for Christ, an Advent if you will, a time to grow closer to Him so that we may be able to truly enter into the Joy of that eternal Christmas in Heaven with all of His Family.

And so, sadness comes from looking for happiness in the world instead of in the presence of Christ in our souls through the grace of the Sacraments. Sadness comes from failing to grow in intimacy with Christ through the same sacraments and through intimate daily conversation with Him in prayer; it comes from failing to Adore and worship God, by failing to Love the Lord God with our whole hearts, minds, bodies, souls and all our strength; and out of that Love for God, loving our neighbor as ourselves.

As one Christian writer put it, “We will be truly joyful if Our Lord is really present in our lives; that is, if He is really the priority of our lives, if we have not lost sight of Him. If we have not lost sight of Him by allowing our vision of Him to be clouded by other worldly preparations, that while maybe necessary, are not the one thing that matters. We will be truly joyful if we have not lost sight of Jesus by our lack of generosity, forgetting ourselves in our service to Him and service to one another.

We will also be truly joyful when we strive to share what we have with others, our faith, our possessions, our time, talent and treasure, in a word our love for others, especially in our family and our parish family, for charity begins at home.

We will be joyful when we truly help one another to be joyful by, as St. Paul’s says, “bearing one another’s burdens…” Often we can bring joy to others and make life more pleasant for them in very little ways, by showing them that we appreciate them by a smile, a friendly remark, a word of praise, not making a great fuse over unimportant things that would be better off overlooked and forgotten, or just simply by a word of encouragement. An important part of our vocation as Christian, of our mission as Christians, is to bring joy to a world, which is so very sad of heart because it has drifted away from God. In this we keep our own joy alive.”

(As one sixth grade girl once taught me…. “Father if you want joy you have to remember that joy stand for J.O.Y. Jesus, Others and then Yourself. If you remember that proper order Father, you will have great Joy.” Out of the mouth of babes!

All of this is what our Holy Father is reminding us in his Encyclical, Evangelii Gaudium, the Gospel of Joy…sadness is not attractive, joy is. He tells us we need to be Christians of great joy in order to spread the Good News to others; we can’t afford to be, I think he uses a Latin phrase here, we can’t afford to be sourpusses. When we try to find happiness in paths that draw us farther away from God, we find only sorrow and misery instead. Worldly happiness leads inevitably to sadness; But the Good New is that Jesus is near; and where Jesus is there is Joy. In this holy season of Advent, Holy Mother Church continues to remind us that unless we ourselves separate ourselves from the only source of true happiness and joy-Jesus, nothing and nobody can take our joy and our hope away from us.

And so, the advent call for repentance is a call for repentance throughout our lives. Repentance is merely our God reminding us that the world and the things of the world can only present us with an illusory happiness, a happiness that is passing and fleeting, only He can fill our heart-intimacy with Him alone brings joy. If we go through periods of feeling unhappy, alone, bored or empty, maybe we have placed our trust in the wrong things to bring us happiness and joy and as result have weakened or even lost not only our joy but also our hope.

Let us continue to get ready for this Christmas by drawing closer to Our Lady the cause of our Joy. Let us ask her to help us convince others that the Origin of true joy and happiness is here, that Jesus, God has been really born in Bethlehem, that is coming again soon, and in fact comes now through the Sacraments, confession and especially the Blessed of all Sacraments the Holy Eucharist. To do this, Let us ask her to help us to believe it more fully by helping us to enter more fully into the mystery of the Holy Mass by visiting the Holy babe who is born anew on the altar and who is present truly in the Tabernacle. Let us ask her to help us prepare to receive this same holy babe, Jesus, more fully in Holy Communion by making a sincere and thorough confession, in order to clear away the impurity of sin and selfishness that steels away our joy. In this way we prepare the way for Jesus to come more fully into our hearts in order to be transformed by His love and enter into a deeper Union with Him and through Him with the Father and the Holy Spirit…

May we today at this Holy Mass offered in this advent season pray for a deeper joy and a deeper desire for heaven, and may we pray for an increase in joy by possessing heaven even on earth, which is intimacy with Jesus and His love fully alive in our souls; May we then share with others our Jesus our Joy, whom we already possess and who already possesses us.

Holy Mary, Cause of our Joy; Our Lady of the New Advent pray for us who have recourse to thee. Amen.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Sunday, December 8, 2013

You alone were preserved from every shadow of sin, in order to be the all holy dwelling place of the Word Incarnate, You always entrusted yourself wholly to the Lord. Please obtain for us to do the same.

Second Sunday in Advent December 8th, 2013

Our readings last week for the first week of Advent reminded us that we need to stay awake. Many of us driving home from a long journey or trip late at night have had the experience of how long the last few miles before home can be. We turn up the radio, crank down the window and maybe even slap ourselves across the face in our struggling to stay away. The only thing that keeps us awake is thinking about making it home and crawling in bed safely and soundly. As we drive on, if we are not careful, it would be so easy to dose off, dreaming we had already made it to our goal-home, only to be jarred awake, all too late however, as we leave the path of the roadway facing disastrous results.

Advent is time to make sure we have not fallen asleep at the wheel of life, veering off the path of holiness as we dream that we have already achieved our goal, which is our salvation, only to be awakened too late to disastrous consequences. In our spiritual life, we must pray always to stay awake and watch, so we don’t live in a dream world; we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling, always staying awake, always keeping our eyes on our prize—Jesus, who is coming soon, even though he seems as if he is delayed; He is not delayed but he is being patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out.

Last week the opening prayer at Mass reminded us that we must run to Jesus by our righteous deeds. Run is of course an active verb. Jesus runs to us but we for our part must arise and wake from our slumber and run to meet Him by our righteous deeds. So too the message for this week: "To stay awake, to watch, does not mean to just sit back and do nothing as we wait for Jesus to come we must be active. Pope Benedict once said, “to watch means to follow the Lord, to choose what he has chosen, to love what he has loved, to conform one's own life to his; to watch means to spend every moment of our time on the horizon of his love without letting ourselves be overcome by the inevitable daily difficulties and problems.” What Benedict is describe is what Holiness really is; it is how we watch, how we stay awake, how we rise up in order to meet the Lord who in His great Love, has already come to meet us and who continually beckon us to Himself.”

This call to watch and so meet the Lord through daily holiness of life is the message for all of our Advent, both the Liturgical season of Advent and the Advent that is our life. Our reading from Isaiah for tells the coming of John the Baptist who will be that voice crying out in the desert, prepare the way of the Lord! John’s voice is still crying out in the desert and in the darkness of our present times, summoning souls to repentance and to holiness of life; and holiness of life never goes out of style.

St. John at the beginning of His gospel, describes John as the man sent from God. He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light. The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world; this light that John came to bear witness to was of course Jesus Himself. Jesus is the Word become flesh who dwelt and continues to dwell us among us full of grace and truth…John bore witness to him, and cried, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks before me, for he was before me.”

Our world today is full of Darkness but Jesus is still the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome It. There is undeniably, a great battle taking place in our world today, a battle between darkness and light, between truth and error, between good and evil and between death and life. But the greatest of all battles is taking place with each of us, between the light of Christ and the darkness of our sin or put another way between the Holy Will of God and our own dark selfish self will. This what Vatican II meant when it said, “peace is more the just the absent of conflict or war;” for peace begins within the hearts of men. The renewal of the world begins in each individual heart. Society is not transformed by tearing down unjust social structures but by the conversion of individual hearts to the Lord and to His ways, to His Holy Will.

And so, the more the will of God loses this battle in the hearts of man, the more visible and earthly battles begin to break out in the world and so the more darkness begins to cover the world and the less peace we have. In God there is no darkness, only light; all the darkness in this world comes from us putting our self-will before God’s Holy Will. The greatest enemy we have is our own wills. In fact, doing our own will over the Will of God is another name for hell, for that is what those in hell do, they do their own thing.

The good news is that Jesus is the light and the darkness has not overcome Him. In Him and only in Him can the battle between our will and God’s will be won. In Him our victory is assured, but in Him alone. Advent is then a time of Hope; Jesus has the power to save us from ourselves if we but turn to him in our struggle, in our battle. Jesus alone has the power to save our world, which is on the brink of utter collapse; He alone is Savior of the World. But we must arise and run to meet Him halfway. In other words, the renewal of the world begins with individual hearts, with our heart. We have to repent from those times we have lived our put our will before God’s, better known as sins, and turn to him more deeply. The world is changed, not by politics, but instead by individuals changing and turning more fully in love and obedience to Christ and to His Commandments, and so to His Holy Church and to Her teachings.

As we prepare and watch this Advent for the coming of Christ, let us, with the help of the Holy Spirit, do an examination of conscious. Have we put other “things” before God, which have prevented Him from coming intimately into our souls? Have we sought the easy way out, seeking comfort and pleasure before out faithfulness to God and to His Holy Will? Have we tried to make our worship of God more about our entertainment and emotions, than about our love and adoration of Him? Have we been greedy and sought only to lay our hands on the temporary things of this world, placing more value in them than on our relationship with Jesus--our ultimate and true end? Have we made ourselves the center of the universe, becoming filled with love of self, and thus turning our back on God’s love and on our love of neighbor? Have we been faithful to our daily duties according to our state in life, especially have we been faithful to our daily spiritual duties of prayer-the rosary and intimate conversation with God, along with spiritual reading and offering all our words, thoughts and actions to Jesus through Mary in union with St. Joseph-this begins with a morning offering and ends beside our bed with an examination of conscience followed by an act of contrition.

This time of Advent recalls the Lord's first coming, his final return, and most importantly it reminds us of His true abiding presence among us now in the Sacramental Life of the Church. Again quoting our Holy Father, "Celebrating the Eucharist we proclaim in fact that (Jesus) has not withdrawn from the world and has not left us alone and, though we cannot see or touch him, as is the case with material and sensible realities, he is with all of us and among us; what is more, he is in us, because in this way he can attract to himself and communicate his life to every believer who opens his heart to him."."

Following our Holy Father’s advice, our cry this Advent and every day of the Advent of our life should be, “Ven Domine, Iesus! …Come Lord Jesus, Do not delay! We need you to come now, for by ourselves we are in darkness and the darkness will overcome us; only in you is there light, only in you, with you and through you can we win the battle raging within us between our will and the will of God and so live in the freedom of Sons and Daughters of God; only in you can we become instruments of hope for our ever darkening world. So come Jesus, through Holy Communion, come now more deeply in our souls made worthy through the sacrament of confession, fill them with your life and your light, help us to conform our lives to yours, make us living tabernacles of your dwelling among men, so that we may scatter the darkness of our world with your light and your life shining within us. Use us as your chosen instruments to bring peace to all men of Good will.

Let us pray. “Blessed Mother you are the Immaculate Conception. This feast day reminds
us of your singular adherence to God’s saving plan. You alone were preserved from every shadow of sin, in order to be the all holy dwelling place of the Word Incarnate, You always entrusted yourself wholly to the Lord. Please obtain for us to do the same. Our Lady of the New Advent, pray for us; obtain for us a deeper faith, hope and love for Jesus who is truly among us in the Holy Eucharist, so that we may, like you, conceive Him in our heart in order to birth Him to the world. Amen.”

Sunday, December 1, 2013

This is the source of our advent Hope…This is source of our Advent Joy!

First Sunday of Advent. December 1st, 2013

Today we begin the Advent season- our time of preparation for Christmas. Of course, with regards to the “feast days” of the shopping season, we have just passed “black Friday,” and “cyber Monday” is tomorrow. Yet, our time of Advent should not be just about running to and fro in order to buy presents; it should not be just about getting the Christmas tree and lights up or having parties. Advent most especially should be a sacred time for preparing ourselves spiritually for Christmas and for the Lord’s coming.

Advent is for us a sacred time for devout and joyful preparation in expectation of Jesus coming personally and more fully to each of us. It is a time to arise and run toward and greet the Lord who runs to us. Our opening prayer of today’s Mass says it so well. Let us “resolve to RUN forth to MEET Christ with righteous deeds. Our time of advent is this- to RUN to meet Christ. It is a great way to look at our advent preparations. Think of how much running around you will do from now and till Christmas. But the verb run is one that is active. This holiday season, we don’t want to just run to the store, but run to meet Christ.

The Fact is, is that Jesus has come down from heaven in order to run to meet us. God runs to embrace us through Jesus. But we for our part must run to meet him. We can all picture two lovers running toward each other to embrace. This is what we must do with Jesus, Run to embrace the God who runs to embrace us. How do we run to meet Christ? Again, the opening prayer tells us how…We must run to meet Christ with Righteous Deeds. How do we do this?

One way is by beginning this Advent to be more faithful to our daily Prayer. And one of the best daily prayers is the prayer of the most Holy Rosary. By praying the rosary we can ask Mary, Our Mother, to assist us in growing in intimacy with Jesus. She then reveals to us through her Spouse, the Holy Spirit, the meaning of the mysterious of the life of her Son and how they relate to our own daily life. Intimate Prayer is one of the main ways we can run to embrace Christ who comes to us.

Secondly we can run to meet Christ by studying more our Catholic faith this advent, learning more about our God who loves us so much He runs to us from heaven in order to embrace us on earth. He comes in order to takes us back with Him to be one with the Father as He is one with the Father.

To know God more is to be able to love God more. To know God more is to discover His great love for us and to learn how to return that love by forming our intellect in the beautiful truths of our faith. By doing this we can inform our will to chose God in all things in order to do His holy will and not our own; in this we serve God and our neighbor for love of Him. Let us resolve this Advent then to read Scripture daily, to read at least one good book about our Beautiful Catholic Faith or to choose a book about the lives of one of the Saints. We can also listen to some of the fine Catholic C.Ds that Father Parker as made available at the side entrance of the Church.

Another way we can run to meet Christ is through the Sacraments especially Confession and the Holy Eucharist. First confession. The truth is, is that our sins weigh us down and actually inhibit us from running to Christ who runs to us; our sins make us tumble and fall, and not to mention get seriously hurt. Advent itself, is a joyful penitential season, a time to look at ourselves and with the help of God’s grace to pick ourselves back up, better yet to allow Him to pick us back up. We allow this through the active repentance and confession of our sins, along with a firm purpose of intention to sin no more and to amend our lives for the Better. In this sacrament of God’s mercy we are healed more and more from the hurt of our sins, we are lifted up by God as a Father lifts up His child who has fallen. We can then begin again with even more fervor to run to meet Christ.

And finally the best way to run to meet Christ through righteous deeds is through the Sacred Liturgy. Yes, in this liturgical time of Advent we prepare to celebrate the memory of that Most Holy night two thousand years ago when Jesus-God, first came in the flesh, and secondly we prepare as well for His second coming at the end of the world, or at the end of our lives which ever comes first; but even more importantly, as we have been saying, advent is a liturgical time in which we prepare for that fact that Jesus the God-Man desires to come to each of us again right now—He has already come that first Christmas night He is already here on earth in His Resurrected Body through and in the Sacraments of His Holy Church. As the ancient doxology of the Church states, To the God who is, who was and who is to come…

In Jesus, God has come to us and He will come again, yes this is true, but in Jesus God comes to us now! In fact, here at Holy Mass is where God literally comes again from heaven and runs to meet us again in the Holy Eucharist. The Eucharist is literally the Lord running to embrace you…He is coming….He is running to meet us at this and every Holy Mass. The First part of every Mass is a type of Advent in which we listen to God’s Word and prepare for His coming again on the Sacred Altar at the words of Consecration. At Holy Communion He then runs to meet us to embrace us in a communion of love.

And so, we can’t just sit here at Holy Mass passively, we must lift up our hearts and run to embrace Him who is coming at this Mass and at every Holy Mass...I don’t mean of course that at communion time you jump up from your pews and run up the isle to meet and receive Jesus in Holy Communion, but that you in the interior of your heart, with the help of the Holy Spirit, you offer yourself fully to Father through, in and with Jesus own offering on the Altar. Placing your heart, better yet asking the blessed Virgin Mary to place your heart, as a living oblation of love on the paten next to the Host so that your heart, along with the Host, can be transformed by the Holy Spirit in order to become one with the Heart of Jesus which becomes truly present in the Holy Eucharist. Again, this is really what it means to take an active and full part in the Holy Mass.

And so, let us use this time of Advent well, in order to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ, let us not be caught unaware. The time is short, we have just a few weeks to repent and prepare ourselves for the celebration of Jesus’ first coming. And in our preparation let us always remember that at Christmas, we do not however just celebrate something that happened two thousand years ago, but we celebrate what continues to happen in our own day. Jesus still comes to earth and is born in littleness on the altar at the Holy Mass; and so, He wants us to prepare ourselves to receive Him right NOW at this Christ-Mass, to receive Him more deeply and more intimately into our hearts, to draw closer to Him than we ever thought possible. This is the source of our advent Hope…This is source of our Advent Joy

Let us pray. “Our Lady of the New Advent, pray for us; obtain for us a deeper faith, hope and love for Jesus who is truly among us in the Holy Eucharist, so that we may, like you, conceive Him in our heart in order to birth Him to the world. Amen.”