Audio Available!

Audio Available!
Be sure to check out in each blog post the links to the audio recordings of my homilies. They are at the beginning of each post! Also, look to the right for links to Audio from other good resources!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Holy Family

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As we celebrate the octave of Christmas, we remember the gift of family life and the example of the family life.  We are invited to reaffirm and reengage in family life.  Family life is a struggle, a challenge that requires the best of us day after day after day.  Even with God's grace, this is work, a cross, but definitely worth it.
The 2nd reading: God invites us to be a part of His family.  We are united to Jesus in such a close way that we are called "children of God."  God desires to be so close to us that he draws us into the most intimate type of relation we know of, that of family.

The 1st reading: Our families are to be dedicated to God.
Hannah gives her son, Samuel, completely to God.  Our families are for God, even if it means real sacrifices.  There is a temptation to get too self-focused - or too family-focused - so that it seems to be us vs. the world, but rather our families are called to be a light for others.  Our lives are not for ourselves, nor are our families.  The same goes for the church.  We aren't here to make ourselves holy just so that we can get to heaven or be happy.  No, we are called to share this with others, and so also with the family.

Holy family is not perfect family.  There is no perfect family.  I just spent three

Poor Saint Joseph, always going to Confession alone.

A saint is a sinner who keeps on trying.  If we are trying to live our family life well, it isn't about never messing up, but is about continually rededicating ourselves to growing and improving.  Our strength lies in the little things.  The Christian life, and also the family life, is more like a marathon.

Three simple pieces of daily family life are wrapped up in simple phrases.
1. I am sorry.  apologize.  Admit we are wrong.  Seek reconciliation.
2. I forgive you.  Really let go.  Desire reconciliation and healing more than winning.
3. I love you.  This is what make a holy family.  Love as Jesus loves us, as God our heavenly father who invites us to be part of His family, loves us.

If we can say these three things and grow in them one day at a time, then our families will be what they are meant to be: a light for the world through which the love of Jesus can shine upon others who really need it, and allow our families to be a safe haven for others to come and find healing and strength they need to live their own lives in Christ Jesus.  Let us pray to Mary, Joseph, and the child Jesus, that they may intercede for us to truly live this vocation in our homes.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas - babies and God

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Christmas is a wonderful gift from God.  It is a gift that reminds us every year to never forget what is the greatest Gift of all: the Lord Jesus.  This gift of Christmas points us towards Easter, for the most important thing about Jesus is at the end of his earthly life and the beginning of his return to eternal life: His paschal mystery that sets us free from sin and death.  Anything else about Jesus means nothing if it doesn't connect to that one truth of the Good News.
          Now for today's mystery, we are led to behold how God chose to save us, how he chose to come among us.  With quiet wonders, with whispers in the night, we join the shepherds who were told the secret.  With them we are astounded to see an army of angels singing "Glory to God in the highest!" while they announce that God is present among us in the lowest, simplest, humble-est.  God comes in secret, in quiet.  God chose to save us by sending His Son to us, by taking our human nature to Himself, by becoming a little baby inside Mary's womb, and then born among us today.
          What does this teach us about God?  What is He trying to show us?
          So, let's think about this for a minute.  Now I've been blessed to have a big family and three of my siblings have had children.  My oldest brother and his wife had their first child just four months ago: Phoenix.  I met her about a few weeks after she was born and I get to keep up with her a lot through my phone - that's right, Snapchat is great for families, folks.  I love seeing my nieces and nephews.  Now This girl, Phoenix, has been so fun to watch as she grows and learns how to control her hands and arms.  So, what are some basic things about babies?
1. Babies are irresistible, and we often even call them adorable.  When you look at a baby you often are filled with wonder, with amazement, especially when they are looking back at you!
2. Babies are harmless.  Seriously, could you ever be afraid of a baby?  Babies can't hurt anyone or anything, except maybe themselves.  Is that why we often talk to babies in such silly ways?  We aren't ashamed of ourselves in front of them.
3. Babies are needy,  What happens if you leave a baby alone for too long?  They start crying.  They want something, whether it's their diaper changed or food or they're too hot or they're too cold, or they're uncomfortable, or maybe they're just too comfortable and that scares them - they just cry for no reason sometimes!  Babies need parents and other people to help them.
          These three things tell us a bit about why God became a baby.
1. God wants us to draw close to Him.  He wants us to approach Him and be with Him.  He doesn’t want us to be afraid, but wants to invite us into a relationship.
2. God wants us to trust Him completely.  He's not out to harm us, and He doesn't want us to be ashamed of ourselves in front of Him.  He looks upon us with eyes that continually wonder anew at us, with a pure love that takes away our pain and heals us.  Why should we ever be afraid of our God who loves us this much?
3. In a certain way, God needs us.  He loves us so much that He has no alternative.  He has chosen to live only with us, no matter what the cost, even if it means the Cross.  He needs you to carry Him, to hold Him, to sing to Him with your life and your love.
          There's one other point about Christmas that I think is very important: God didn't become a baby in a royal palace or in an important place, even though he deserved far better than the entire world could ever offer Him.  He didn't have a huge fanfare of noisy celebration at his birth.  Only three wise men and shepherds were able to hear the secret.  Instead, God decided to come in a humble, lowly, poor stable, with shepherds around Him so that we can remember that God wants us all to be close to Him.  We don't need to be special in the eyes of the world to get close to Jesus.  The only thing God wants from us is our love and our lives, and that is something we all are able to give.
          Finally, the manger is here year-round.  This tabernacle is Jesus's manger until the end of time.  It is here that we simple, humble, lowly people, like the shepherds of Bethlehem, get to draw close to God, to look with wonder at the face of Infinite Love that heals us and transforms us.  It is here that God wants you to be close to Him.
          Are you afraid of babies?  Of course not.  At Christmas, God is telling us, "don't be afraid of me.  Come close.  I want only you."

Advent 4 -

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When we are listening to God, we will feel the call to service.  To serve is to be like Christ, who came not to be served but to serve.  This is why Mary, as soon as her encounter with the angel is complete, sets her mind towards her relative Elizabeth, whom she had just heard about from Gabriel as well.  The angel told Mary that Elizabeth has conceived in her old age.  Perhaps Mary took this message as another invitation from God, an invitation to serve in another way, and she gets right to it.  She travels many days to be with her relative, and spends three months with her.  I think in our culture if we were to spend three hours serving someone we might find it hard to avoid panicking.
Mary was indeed "blessed among women" not because she carried Jesus within her.  It was because she was so responsive to God's grace and His will for her life that she was blessed, and thus she was invited to be the Mother of God.
I visited my family recently and I was very impressed by two of my younger siglings.  They were back for a few days at home and both work in restaurant business.  One was preparing dinner and stepped away from that to make me a quick sandwich because I was starving.  Another brought wine and got the table set for dinner that evening without anyone else helping.  All this happened so quickly and without thought that I was deeply impressed.  They noticed an opportunity for service and they did it before I could even begin to help.  They were using their skills to serve, and jumped right in.
When we are close to God, like Mary, we become like him.  This happens with friends, married couples, etc.  In many ways, not every way, they become like each other because of their closeness.  Well, since God is love, when we stay close to Him, we become more like Him.  We wish to be love, we wish to serve, we wish to give for those around us.  This is the lesson that Mary shows us today in spending three months with Elizabeth.  Truly she was blessed.  May we be so as well.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Advent 3 - Gaudete Sunday -

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Today is known as Gaudete Sunday, meaning to rejoice, as we hear stressed in the second reading.  But we aren't talking about some counterfeit joy.  We want real joy, and real joy, brothers and sisters, is not a surface-level joy.  Real joy goes all the way down to the depths of our heart and the depths of our problems, and heals and transforms them. Nor is this a compartmentalized joy, experienced in only some aspects of our being and not others.  Real joy is something that seeps into every single part of our lives.

For real joy must be founded on truth, and in true conversion.

John the Baptist, we are told, preached "Good news" (the Gospel) to the crowds who ran out to the area of the Jordan to hear his message.  All the people who went out to see John went on a sort of retreat.  It would have taken a day or more to journey to the Jordan river from Jerusalem, 21 miles.  If you were father west than Jerusalem, even longer.  Imagine the planning, preparations, and hard work it would require to go out there.  Sometimes we think it hard to make room in our lives for retreats and for prayer, but in this case, these crowds had a much harder time to get to John the Baptist's river retreat.  And for all that hard work, what did they get to hear?  It is good for us to imagine what the crowds would have thought about John's message.  I think we will see that they experience real joy at his message, but at the same time, there is some great news and some scary news.  First, John says that the Messiah is coming after him: great news! Finally, after all these centuries, the Lord is sending the promised Christ (Messiah) who will deliver Israel, and right here our own time, or perhaps our children's time.  But then John says some more mysterious and unsettling things: the Messiah will baptize with the Holy Spirit (good) and with fire (what? I much rather prefer water!) and he has a winnowing fan, and the chaff is going to be sent to the unquenchable fire.   Just a quick side-note: at harvest, the wheat was crushed on the threshing floor, then tossed into the air so the grains would drop and the chaff would be fanned away to be cast aside.

The reality is, brothers and sisters, this is intimidating for John's audience.  Ultimately, he is saying that crunch time (pun intended) is coming and we want to be wheat and not chaff.  The Good News he preaches, just like that of Zephaniah, is harsh: we need to get our act together.  And this is why the questions posed to John the Baptist make sense: people want to know what they need to do to be gathered into the barn and escape the unquenchable fire.  I would recommend reading the lessons John gives once again in full.  They may speak something to your own heart and life.  But ultimately, God is trying to tell all of us how to prepare for Jesus' coming, not next week, not when we die, but now, and we all need to hear that message.  So we ought to ask him in prayer: "God, what do I need to change now, today?  Who do I need to treat better?  What habits needs to change?"

If we do so, we will begin to experience true joy.  Let's not be afraid of John's call to conversion, which is really the call of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.  Why not change for the better?  Why not try following God more perfectly and turning away from any sins we have?  I once heard it said that the definition of "insanity" is dong the same thing over and over again and expecting to get a different result.  If toying around with surface-level joy and compartmentalized joy never leaves us satisfied, why not try the hard work and change required for real joy?  We have just over a week before Christmas.  Give God some space in your life and see what He can do.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Advent 2 -

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John the Baptist - Advent/Lent - preparation.  In Christ, the world is changing.

1 Cor 7:31 Those who use the world as not abusing it (not using it to the full), for the world in its present form is passing away.

The current order of things is not stable.

When I was a kid my friends and I would try all kinds of creative and mildly dangerous things, usually involving trampolines or bike ramps.  Using the best engineering a twelve or thirteen-year-old can conjure up, we were sure that the plan was always fool-proof.  But based off the scars and blood that often ensued, we must have had some serious mistakes in our designs.  And yet, we never noticed it: the trampoline looked solid.  After all, it was propped up on bricks and everything: what can go wrong?  Many things, my friends, can go wrong. and many things did.

Our day and age is not very different from the time of Christ in a lot of ways, but one of them is this: we often don't notice how fragile and artificial things really are.  We take for granted, just like myself as a reckless daredevil, that the apparently stable things in our world are not going anywhere, particularly the powers that be. 

Dorothy Day’s biography of Therese spoke in the introduction about how Therese showed us a little way for us who feel like our little things can’t change the world.  When faced versus "system" we may be temped to lose hope.

We see a huge quote-unquote "system" out there that broods over our life and the lives of everyone and controls the way things are, much like Luke accounts today in chapter three of his Gospel.  Luke is setting his audience up to consider the "powers that be," the "system" that controls everything: Tiberias Caesar, Pontius Pilate, Herod and the other tetrarchs, and the high priests (peculiarly two) Annas and Caiaphas.  Then he turns it upside down once again: The Word of God comes to John in the desert.  John is the forerunner who is going to start the process of turning things upside down.  In Jesus, the "system" is broken and the "powers that be" are made powerless.

The things we often hang our hat on, brothers and sisters, are not so stable as we think they are, unless it be the Lord alone that we rely on.  Everything else is idolatry and one time or another it will fail us like my poor trampoline on bricks.
Let us learn from John the Baptist and Mary and Therese to rely only on the Lord, for then God can use us for something great.

Advent - Get ready!

Sorry this is so late, I forgot to upload it!
Here's the audio from Sunday 9:30am: click here