December 4, 2016 – 2nd Sunday of Advent

Saint for the day: John Damascene (c.676 – 749)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Isaiah 11:1-10   –   Psalm 72   –   Romans 15:4-9   –   Matthew 3:1-12

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“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths; All flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Today’s “Alleluia Verse” before the reading of the Holy Gospel.)

From the opening words of the reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, “On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” (Isaiah 11:1) Mary was like that “bud” prepared for all time to give to the world that “blossom” that – like the tree in the Garden of Eden – would repair and open the gates of salvation for us. The reading continues in an idyllic way to paint a picture of what should be a time when the harmony of creation would be restored and “there shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain.”(Isaiah 11:9)

But just as the beauty of Paradise was lost through human weakness, our world will only be made better as each one of us strives to be a peaceful, healing, up-building person! The reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans tells us, “Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7)

 In the Holy Gospel from St. Matthew we hear about John the Baptist – the precursor of the Christ – preaching in the wilderness. Even though I never thought of it before, I can see that John the Baptist and Mary have much in common and can give us much to think about during this Advent Season. Both of them are aware of their call but still are able to see that their roll is one that opens the way to something greater. St. John the Baptist knows that God has given him a wonderful part to play in the unfolding of the mystery of salvation, but he also knows that “I am not HE!” In the same way, Mary was able to say, “I am the maidservant of the Lord. Let it be done unto me as you have said.

These are not demeaning words, but, rather words of awareness of whom and what God desires to do for each of us. I always like the quote (I don’t know from whom) that reminds us, “You are not the light nor the source of the light, but a means of the light being focused to shine in a world of darkness.” 

Many Scripture scholars make the claim that pride is (was) at the heart of the fall of Lucifer and the sin of our first parents. Today’s Liturgy reminds us – like St. John the Baptist says – “I am not HE! There is one coming after me…” (Matthew 3:11) and like Mary, “I am the servant … let it be done as you have said.” (Luke 1:38) Both of these key figures tell us a lot about our call to follow Jesus and the overriding theme seems to be one of service: “I am the maidservant of the Lord” and “I am not [even] worthy to carry his sandals.

So we might consider our “bottom line” to be one where we receive God – just like we do at Holy Communion – “Oh, Lord I am not worthy…but say the word …” and we are healed and restored in order that we might be able to draw others to His love.

Can you pray, like Mary and John the Baptist … “I know who I am. Let it be done unto me…” Amen!

 

December 3, 2016 – Saturday in the 1st Week of Advent

Saint for the day: Francis Xavier (1506 – 1553)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Isaiah 30: 19 …26    –    Psalm 147    –    Matthew 9:35 …. 10:1 … 8

“The Kingdom of heaven is at hand. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.” (the ending of today’s Holy Gospel.)

Isaiah’s picture of what the world will look like when Messiah comes is rather graphic and I had to ask myself, “what would a day be like when “the light of the moon will be like that of the sun and the light of the sun will be seven times greater like the light of seven days?” But the line that caught my attention was in the beginning of that reading where he says, “He [the Lord God] will be gracious to you when you cry out, as soon as he hears He will answer you.”

Why is it, then, that it appears that the Lord has not heard our cries for justice, peace and an end to pain and suffering? Drought stricken places, where livestock and crops are dying, cry out for rain and it comes – but it comes in places where it floods and brings havoc rather than relief.

I heard on the BBC that it has been said that there is enough food produced throughout the world to feed all the world’s populations but it is hoarded and kept by countries that have plenty and more than enough. The end of today’s Gospel, perhaps, has the answer: “Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give!” Jesus sent his first disciples out. Out of themselves and into others. Most of the problems in our world probably stem from the fact that we don’t do what this Gospel tells us. We hoard for ourselves while our brothers and sisters starve to death! The “discipleship” that is our call requires us to have the trust and courage to “go out” to bring healing to our world and to bring about the Kingdom which is “within” or “among” us. Let us pray that we have the faith in Jesus to let these Gospel words become a reality for each of us. Amen

December 2, 2016 – Friday in the 1st Week of Advent

 

Saint for the day: Blessed Rafal Chylinski (1694-1741)

Scripture Readings for Today’s Liturgy

Isaiah 29:17-24     –     Psalm 27     –     Matthew 9:27-31

“We await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our mortal bodies, to conform with his glorified body.” (Today’s ‘Communion Antiphon.)

The quote, above, from today’s liturgy, is a perfect lead-in to today’s first scripture from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. It’s jumping ahead and gives us hope that the coming of Messiah will bring about a new order of the way we act and live our lives. Then we’re given a second good point – today’s responsorial psalm 27 with one of my favorite scripture passages – “One thing I ask of the Lord, and this I seek, to dwell in the House of the Lord all the days of my life.” I had this verse printed on my Vow Card way back in 1961 and it still has significance today. In the first ready from Isaiah we hear a continuation of the promise of a new land and a new time of healing when the Messiah comes. In the Gospel Jesus restores the sight of two blind men who cried out, “Son of David, have pity on us.” When asked by Jesus if they believe that He can do this they answer, “Yes!” Nothing more is mentioned about them and we don’t even know if the stayed with Jesus or not. The importance of this is that they had belief and faith in Jesus and this allowed them to know healing in their lives.

Since our psalm says, “One thing I ask of the Lord, to live in the House of the Lord all my days” we can presume that they followed Jesus and stayed with him. This miracle presents us with a couple of the basics of getting healing from Jesus: in the first place we have to admit that w need some kind of healing. Then we need to bring some “action” into play: cry out – or perhaps just touch the hem of His garment. Whatever we do we must acknowledge that Jesus has the ability to heal us: “Jesus, Son of God, have pity (mercy) on me.” The words of the Centurion, “I am not worthy to have you come under my roof…” are a statement of faith just like the words of the psalm, “…to dwell in the House of the Lord all the days of my life.”

We have to ask ourselves, “what do I want Jesus to do for me?” If we don’t articulate our needs how can we expect Jesus to second guess us? In all of our encounters with Jesus there has to be some movement on our part in order to know the presence of Jesus and His healing. Then He draws us deep into His Tent and sets us up high on a rock – solidly above all future harm. What do I want from Jesus? That’s the $64,000 dollar question. Amen!

December 1, 2016 – Thursday in the 1st Week of Advent

Saint for the day: Blessed Charles de Foucauld (1858-1916)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Isaiah 26:1-6    –    Psalm 118    –    Matthew 7:21, 24-27

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call him while he is near.”

Today’s Advent Liturgy ties us together around the theme of a protected eg. Walled city and a house which is built on solid rock. If we let those images expand in our mind we might come to a deeper understanding of the start of our Advent journey. My favorite Psalm, 27 gives us the image of God drawing us into the depths of his tent (heart?) where he sets us high on a rock free from any danger. We have to remember that one of the first images of God’s presence with His people was in the tent of meeting. When I was in Israel and we camped for a week in the Sinai wilderness I observed the Bedouin tents and asked our guide if he could arrange for me to visit one since they where so large and intriguing. His answer gave me much to think about in regard to the entire concept of “tent” for these nomadic people. He told me that only the intimate family and close relations were ever admitted into the deep recesses of the tent. And I was reminded of Abraham encountering the “three Heavenly visitors” and how they were entertained at the entrance under the awning but not brought into the depths of the tent. That was reserved for the special, select members of the intimate family.

And that’s what we are: the chosen elect of God’s family and he does just that. He draws us in to the inner depths of His being and there he sets us up high on a solid rock where we can be safe.

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells his disciples that they must build their houses on solid rock where they will be safe when the storms most assuredly will come. And later in the Gospels He tells Peter, “You are ROCK and upon [your solidness] I will build My Church and the storms of destruction will not be able to destroy it.

So, we move to “the bottom line:” we have to first meet the Lord God/Jesus at the entrance to our dwelling place and there the tables are turned and it ends up being Jesus who invites us in to His presence and it is He who sets us up on the high rock for safety. When Jesus says, “build your house on solid rock” He really means “allow ME to build a house for you” which is quite different from us doing something wonderful for God. I think the reason that many of us don’t experience the close presence of God in our lives is because we have never let go to let God build His House for us. So, during this first week of Advent we are reminded that God will come to us but we have to allow God to be God. Remember, it’s not: “God made in OUR image” but WE who are made in God’s Image and it is HE who draws us in the depths of His loving presence. Amen!

November 30, 2016 – Wednesday in the 1st Week of Advent

Saint for the day: Andrew, Apostle (died:60?)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Romans 10:9-18    –    Psalm 19    –    Matthew 5:18-22

“Andrew told his brother Simon: We have found the Messiah, the Christ, and he brought him to Jesus.” (Today’s Communion Antiphon: John 1:41-42.)

My first prayer this morning included this verse, “Jesus Christ is the Light of the Apostles. Come let us walk in his way.” That short phrase seems to wrap up all that it means to be an apostle. The Gospel continues on this theme and states, “they dropped their nets (they were fishermen) and followed Him.” That has to mean that there was something about Jesus: some visible, comprehensible reality that allowed them to drop everything and follow after Him. I have to ask myself, “What would it take for me to drop everything I had and thought important in my life to follow someone I just met. I think that this Gospel seeks to let us see that Jesus was already displaying His connection with God. This might even be considered a “pre-transfiguration” scene and, instead of saying, “Lord it is good for us to be here …” they say nothing but “follow him immediately!” They didn’t just stay where they were but moved out of their comfort zone.

So, we are back to square one: this encounter with Jesus. But it doesn’t just end there. Even though Simon Peter and Andrew, along with James and John “left all” and followed Him that wasn’t the end of their lives. There would still be some ups and downs. Some trials and difficulties – “will you also leave me?” Jesus says and their answer: “Where else can we go. You have the words of eternal life.” Ah, Ha! Here we are back to that basic question that was the apostles foundation stone: “where else can we go?”

Unless we have encountered Jesus – face to face – in a way that compels us to drop everything – we will never be satisfied. Notice, too, that there is never any more mention of going back to their fishing. So there must have been a deep change in their lives that allowed them to follow this stranger. Amen!

November 29, 2016 – Tuesday in the 1st Week of Advent

Saint for the day: Clement (died: c.101)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Isaiah 11:1-10    –    Psalm 72    –    Luke 10:21-24

“There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord, as water covers the sea.” (From today’s first scripture: Isaiah 11:8)

 This week we have stepped into a new Liturgical year with scripture readings full of hope for the future. Would that today’s scripture passage from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah could be a reality for our world which is in such need of peace and justice for all. It might be good for you to take the time to go back and read today’s first scripture from Isaiah. Go slowly so that the impact of the words can have all the meaning intended. Would that something new could spring forth from each of us, like a new sprout springs fourth from the stump of Jessee. Pay close attention to what comes from the Spirit of the Lord: wisdom and understanding. A spirit of counsel and of strength. A spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord. Where you read, “fear of the Lord” be sure that you understand that as ”awe” as in wonder and amazement. These “gifts” are Pentecostal in the sense that they are attributes of the very presence of God to allow the life of the spirit to help us stay close to God. As you go through this scripture from Isaiah try to see how wonderful our world would be if people really took this “coming of the messiah” seriously so that we could live in a world of peace with an end violence. Jesus was born at a time when the world was struggling with political and religious factions much like we see in our world today. In many ways there is nothing new under the sun except for the possibility some would step out and into a world where they try to live peacefully with all people. If we don’t really try to do this then our world will sink deeper and deeper into chaos with more wars and mistreatment of the poor and marginalized. There was a song many years ago, “If everyone just lit one little candle what a bright world it would be.” We can take the essence of those words and apply them to ourselves by praying, “If everyone just did one act of kindness to another what a wonder could overtake our world.” We don’t have to save the entire world. Jesus is still able to do that. What each of us needs to do is remember that famous prayer of St. Francis, “Make me a channel of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury your pardon, Lord…”  Lots to think about as we make our way through Advent and to the celebration of the birth of our savior, Jesus. Amen.

November 28, 2016 – Monday in the 1st Week of Advent

Saint for the day: Catherine Laboure (1806-1876)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Isaiah 4:2-6    –    Psalm 122    –    Matthew 8:5-11

“When does a ‘house’ become a ‘home?”

Take a moment before you get right into today’s reflection, to let that saying, above roll around in your mind. Then take some time to think about what you came up with.

As we begin our Advent journey we are first given the image of “house.” From Isaiah’s promise that “the mountain of the Lord’s House shall be established as the highest mountain…” to our rejoicing (Psalm 122) as go to the House of the Lord.”

In the Gospel Jesus encounters a Roman Centurion who feels unworthy to have the Lord enter his house. From this event we get our Communion phrase, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof but only say a word and I (my servant) will be healed.” So Holy Communion is worthy of our reflection today.

I take a side trip for a moment to comment on this phrase that we recite just before receiving Holy Communion. Jesus says, “I am the Bread of Life.” And the bread that we receive is the true presence of Jesus. Now, just as we begin our “Advent Journey” we can jump all the way to the end – with the Birth of Jesus taking place in Bethlehem. That very word means….”House of Bread.” So, it doesn’t take much for us to put together the notion that Jesus, the “bread of life” (the House of Bread) comes into our “house” to transform us and become one with us. “Only say the word…” and all our unworthiness is healed. We are transformed and become bread for the world and many people can be “fed” on the grace that issues forth from us because we have let the savior of the world come under our roof. The image of yeast can also give us more insight into this wonderful miracle that happens when we say those words, “Lord I am not worthy that you should come under my roof but only say a word and I shall be healed.” It’s our Christmas Gift on this second day of Advent. Amen!

November 27, 2016 – 1st Sunday of Advent

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Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Isaiah 2:1-5    –    Psalm 122    –    Romans 13:11-14    –    Matthew 24:37-44

“So … be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” (the ending of today’s Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew.)

My first thought after going over the scripture readings for today’s liturgy was that these scriptures should be required reading for every day of our lives. Just think what our world would be like if we actually “lived” these Holy Words of God?

Yet, the reality is still there: we’ve done this before – countless numbers of times – but the world seems to turn a deaf ear to God’s desire to re-create us to a better life.

So, here we are: the First Sunday of Advent, 2013. How are we going to begin to let this desire of God come to full bloom?

Today’s first reading from the Prophet Isaiah had a line that caught my attention: “Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of God…” (Isaiah 2:2) It reminded me of the time I spent in the Holy Land during a study semester in 1983. It was the day we climbed Mt. Sinai. We started in the dark hours of early morning and slowly wound our way to the top. I had told the other members of our group that I wanted to do this assent in silence.   When I said that they all chuckled, “You mean you’re going to keep your mouth shut for three hours?”

None-the-less, I did it and when we arrived at the top – actually far above the clouds – I was ready to sing out my praise to God for bringing me to – what seemed like the -gateway to Heaven! We had a most beautiful Mass at the first light of day and then – as is always the case – we had to make our way back to the plain and continue our lives with just the memory of this “close encounter” to keep us going. And that’s exactly what has happened. All those many years ago, I still have a vivid picture in my mind of that brief moment of being so close to God.

As we begin this Season of Advent we are given yet, another chance to allow God’s grace to enter into our daily lives. The only thing we have to be careful about is to enter in to these four weeks with a fresh intention of becoming more open to God’s grace and presence so that our world might have the chance to become a place where the “Prince of Peace” might be able to become real in our world. Amen!

November 26, 2016 – Last Saturday of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Columban (543-615)

Scripture readings for today’s Liturgy:

Revelation 22:1-7     –     Psalm 93     –     Luke 21:34-36

 The reality of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem had already occurred before the Gospel of Luke was written down. The early Church had been accustomed to see the death of Jesus, followed by the resurrection, ascension and coming of the Holy Spirit as a “one, two, three, four occupancy and had begun to wonder when the Lord was going to return in glory. The answer to that is: “It’s NOW and not yet!” We have to dwell on the words of Jesus when he tells us, “Don’t get caught up in trying to figure out the day and time of the Lord’s return … the Kingdom of God is within – or among you.” (excuse my loose translation!)

 What does that mean? I think it means that we don’t just stand around looking at the empty tomb but we are told to get out on the way!   It shouldn’t be a surprise to us that most of the miracles of Jesus in the Gospels happened while Jesus was on the way… Temples and Churches are an important part of our belief systems but we have to remember that all these earthly constructions will one day fall apart. What remains are the people – the living stones – who have to see “church” as being on the way.

Tomorrow, we begin our Advent Journey. Four weeks of making our way to Bethlehem – “The House of Bread” to find the Messiah. We’ll repeat the history of our salvation (again the “journey theme”) from the Old Testament readings right up to those long lists of “begets” with names that are hard to pronounce. Again, the living stones that are our past, our present and our future.

In a few weeks we’ll set up a manger scenes and decorate the church with evergreens (a reminder of the now and ever-growing Church.) We’ll sing sweet “Silent Nights” and “Glories to God in the Highest” while at the same time being reminded that this little baby, Jesus – with his arms stretched out in welcome – is the same Jesus who will stretch out his arms on the Cross! Christmas and Easter are closely bound together. We can’t have one without the other!

So, let us use these coming four weeks to enter more deeply into the mystery of our salvation and hear the Lord calling us to “Follow me …” and really seek to try to understand what that means for each of us. Amen

November 25, 2016 – Friday in the Last Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Catherine of Alexandria (d. c. 310)

Revelation 20:1-4,11-21:2    –    Psalm 84    –    Luke 2:29-33

“Stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” (Today’s ‘Alleluia Verse’ before the Holy Gospel)

Today’s first reading from the Book of Revelation is almost frantic as we move closer to the end of the church year. But, true to form, we are always given a second chance to “get it right.” This is one of the joys of the Catholic Church: we are always given a second chance. Sometimes we get it right on the first pass but most often we have to “go back to go” and start again. My favorite quote, Oh, Lord, why is it that every time I take two steps forward I fall back three. .. but I usually get there anyway because most of the time I was headed in the wrong direction!”

Then, when we hear today’s Holy Gospel we are told about fig trees coming to bloom as a sign that the end is near. However, I’ve probably heard this same Gospel more times than I can remember and I’m 75 + years old and still here on this poor earth! How can we find some meaning and a point to these scripture passages that give us hope that we’re on the right path and doing the best we can? I think that the “frantic tone” of these last few days of the Church year are meant to give us hope. The image of the fig trees in bloom is a seasonal occurrence that is meant to give us hope. Hope that, if we don’t get it right this time around, we’ll get another change next year!. I think, that hearing these scripture readings just the day after our US celebration of Thanksgiving is a good thing. Here at St. Dominic’s we gathered in an overflowing church to take some special time to thank our God for all the blessings that have been given to us. In a couple of days, we’ll move into the Advent Season – a time when we go back and start all over. Again! And that’s exactly the point of our entire Christian walk; If I don’t get it right this time maybe I’ll do better next year! But the overriding point is the fact that we are given many more chances to get it right. That’s the beauty of our Church Year that has a built-in system for us to always have the chance to do it right this time. Will I have to go through all this again, next year? Yes! And maybe one of these times around I’ll get it right!

I’ll repeat that quote from the top of today’s reflection so that you can find some hope in these days of Advent., Oh, Lord, why is it that every time I take two steps forward I fall back three. .. but I usually get there anyway because most of the time I was headed in the wrong direction!” Amen!