Friday, December 21, 2007

Change is coming, like it or not.

December 16, 2007
Third Sunday of Advent
Mass Readings:
Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10
James 5:7-10
Matthew 11:2-11

The third week of Advent calls us to recognize that the Age of the Messiah is here. Our Gospel text has John the Baptist and his followers seeking to understand if the Messianic Age was truly upon them. Even though John the Baptist had baptized the Lord and had proclaimed his coming, he was still not sure if the message of the prophets had actually been fulfilled.

Our first reading from the great prophet Isaiah is a call to be ready for the Age of the Messiah. Many of his day were looking for a messiah that would be a powerful political/military leader who would deliver them. However, Isiah gives the people a very different image of what type of messiah was to come. Isaiah presents the people with a Messianic Age that is one of peace and healing. A world where the least are the greatest and the wounded are healed. Isaiah is clear that the Messianic Age is not one of politics and might but one of peace and restoration of love for one another and the search for the betterment of God's creation.

Our second reading from James calls us to be ready for the return of the Messiah but also to be aware of the fact that we are living in the Messianic Age now. Yes we are looking forward to Jesus' return but we are present in the Messianic Age now and that means that there is a great deal of work to be done in preparation for the second coming.

The reality that we are living in the Age of the Messiah calls us to mission. I fear that most of us are so busy with our personal relationship with Jesus that we forget our brothers and sisters around us. To be saved and to live in the Age of the Messiah means that we are to work to transform the world in the image of Christ and not merely seek to manipulate the world into our image. We can become so wrapped up in our own pass into Heaven that we forget we are a part of the world. Being a part of the world means that we have a role in Christ's ministry. We are called to work for peace and justice, healing and reconciliation all in the name of the one who is the Messiah, Jesus the Christ.

The call of the Messianic Age is to transform ourselves and then the world around us in the image of Jesus. This means change and perhaps not the change we want. I marvel as I watch the yapping heads on TV who are always mad and calling for judgment and retribution against anyone and anything they do not like. Cable news is unbearable anymore as well as radio talk. People are so angry and seem to only want revenge on those they deem their opponent. I am stunned that many of these so called "God loving" people are some of the meanest and unforgiving people around. So much for listening to James' call to be patient and not to judge. I guess peace and reconciliation doesn't pay the bills. The bigger problem is that so many of us have the same attitude in which we seek not the way of peace and service but the way of domination and control. That is not the call of the Messianic Age.

Jesus' birth, death and resurrection brought change and it wasn't necessarily the change people wanted. Jesus came so that life might flourish and be reconciled to the Father. Jesus came so that we could bring about the change that creates a world in his image and not ours.

As we approach the celebration of Christmas, I find myself pondering just how much we have left to do in preparation for Jesus' return. So many people are currently so busy claiming that Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus that I fear we completely ignore the reality that Jesus is coming back and that he will expect us to have gotten a few things done like peace, justice, compassion, support of those in need, you know, the things Jesus spent his earthly ministry doing! We can sing about peace on earth, joy to the world, and all the silent nights we can handle but our words must be followed by the actions to prove the words. Our Christmas carols are not enough to bring joy to the world or peace on earth good will to all. The words must be followed by an attitude that recognizes that we are in the Age of the Messiah and that the Messiah expects us to change and be molded in his image and not our own.

Jesus came into the world so that it could change. It may not be the change that meets the demands of our agendas and we need to get over it. We must be willing to let the Messiah change our hearts, to make us vulnerable to God's great mercy so that we can be the agents of change that seek that world that Isaiah proclaimed.

I think I need to remember the line from a hymn I always find convicting. That line goes like this, "Let there peace on earth and let it begin with me". That I believe is the call of the Messianic Age.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Be careful what you ask for...

December 9, 2007
Second Sunday of Advent
Mass Readings:
Isaiah 11:1-10
Romans 15:4-9
Matthew 3:1-12

The First Sunday of Advent calls us to watch and pray for the return of Jesus. The Second Sunday of Advent calls us to prepare the way for Jesus' return. Our readings this week give us a very familiar yet perplexing scene with John the Baptist. The prophets had been proclaiming that the Messiah was coming and that there would be a herald who would prepare the way. Problem was that the people hearing the prophecies had their own ideas of who and what the Messiah should be. For centuries, the people had been crying out for the Messiah but when he wasn't what they expected, well, you know what happened. I remember being told by my grandmother that I should always be careful about what I ask for. Her warning was a sound one. I often times get what I asked for but it isn't in the form I wanted! I think my grandmother was right on target.

Our Gospel text is an interesting one. The people had known for centuries to be on the lookout for the messenger who would prepare the way for the Messiah. So they watched and they waited. Then what happens? They get John the Baptist and he isn't what they expected! Here is this wild looking man wearing smelly animal skins and eating things that would make us nauseous! On top of that he is telling people to get right with God because he is on his way! If we saw someone like John the Baptist today we would call the police and have him arrested!

So here the people are faced with a problem. This messenger is not nice and shiny like they expected God's messenger to be. Do they ignore him or do they listen. If they ignore him then they might miss out on the Messiah. If they listen to him, then they have to suspend their preconceived ideas and be vulnerable. Hard choice. So what do the Pharisees and Sadducees do? Well they hold onto their preconceived ideas but they go out to be Baptized by John, well, just in case. They are sitting on the fence trying to keep a foot on both sides. They got what they asked for but they don't want it. They aren't sure if they want this so just take a bit and hold on to the old. Just in case, you know, they are wrong. John won't have any of it!

The Pharisees and the Sadducees are so concerned with their own salvation that they are shopping around. Just in case this wild man is the real thing, they will have him baptize them but then they will keep looking. This idea really ticks off John and he lets them have it. He knows what is in their hearts and it isn't the desire to truly be open to God but rather get a "free pass" into God's good graces. They didn't want God's messenger to be this wild man but they would dabble their feet in the water just in case. Be careful what you wish for.

We are called to prepare the way for the Lord. We have been given the Messiah and salvation is ours if we let ourselves be open to God's touch. But that means we have to be vulnerable to God's will and receive the Messiah as he is and not how we think he should be. We can't play around and try and get a "free pass" by dabbling our feet in the water. We have to dive in and let ourselves be lost fully to the Messiah. Then we go forth and prepare the way by proclaiming the Good News of Salvation.

The old saying goes, "It's all about me". John the Baptist tells us that no it isn't! To prepare the way means that each of us has to be willing to accept Jesus and his call fully. That may sound easy but it can be very hard. It requires us to step aside and let Jesus be the Messiah and we be the servants. We are not in any way shape or form the Master. We are not in control. We need to get over ourselves and proclaim Jesus pure and simple! We called out for the Messiah and God delivered. We must accept Jesus as he is and not try and make him conform to our will because it just isn't going to happen that way.

We have been given a share in Jesus' ministry and that is an amazing gift. Let us not throw away that gift because we are hung up on our own agendas. Let our agenda be one that is filled with only the desire to proclaim the Good News and transform the world with the love of God! Let us go forth and prepare the way because Jesus is coming and we don't want to miss him all because we are busy trying to find a Messiah that fits our own agendas. Let's get a little wild like John the Baptist and prepare the way of the Lord!

Monday, December 10, 2007


December 8, 2007
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Mass Readings:
Genesis 3:9-15, 20
Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12
Luke 1:26-38

I remember being in a museum at a special exhibit. The exhibit was a collection of Old Testament themed paintings. There was one that stuck with me and it was a painting about God coming to Adam and Eve after they had eaten the forbidden fruit. It was based on our Old Testament reading today.In the painting, the Garden of Eden was in a state of chaos. The sunny sky had been replaced with gray storm clouds, animals that had lived in peace were now tearing at each other, the lush fields had become wild with weeds. And there in the middle was the frightened Adam and Eve while lurking off to the side was a dark, ominous figure. That dark figure was sin. The theme of the painting was clearly one of chaos, the chaos that sin brought into the world.

I was thinking about that painting as I was preparing for our Mass. I was thinking about the many paintings I have seen of the Archangel Gabriel appearing to our Blessed Mother. The paintings are always so serene and calm, almost sterile. That has always puzzled me. Don't you think that if an archangel appeared to you and informed you that you were going to be the Mother of God you might get a little freaked out? Don't you think that being informed that you were going to be the vessel for humanity's salvation to arrive you might be more than a bit frightened? Yet the paintings are always so calm and pastoral. I can't help but think we are missing something.

I believe that our readings from Genesis and Luke are both about chaos but two very different types of chaos. In Genesis, the world is thrown into chaos by sin. Sin is the destroyer of all that is calm. Sin creates a wave of chaos that engulfs Adam and Eve and hurls the Garden of Eden into terror as God approaches. Then, in our reading from Luke, chaos once again. However, the chaos created is one that throws sin into the grips of terror! Now it is sin's turn to flee in terror from the presence of God! In the fullness of time, the light is breaking upon humanity! The prayers for salvation, deliverance from bondage are being fulfilled and sin doesn't stand a chance!

Today we celebrate a miracle, the Immaculate Conception. We celebrate the reality that God has always had a plan for us. God has always been prepared to redeem us. Although we have repeatedly refused God's intervention, God never gave up on us! The Immaculate Conception is the reality that God, even before Mary's birth, had a plan. Mary would be kept free from sin so that she could become part of God's plan for the salvation of humanity. In the invisible realm of God, God was at work to make sure that we were never abandoned to the chaos created by sin. In the Immaculate Conception and the appearance of the Archangel Gabriel, God throws sin into a state of chaos, a chaos from which sin can never be free. Sin is destroyed because of the Blessed Mother's Immaculate Conception and her willingness to say yes to God!

We celebrate today, a miracle. The Immaculate Conception is often glossed over as just a holy day that we have to come to church for. If we view it like that, we miss the miracle given to us. The Immaculate Conception is a recognition of God's power and never ending desire to redeem us and give us everything that is good. Mary, born without the touch of sin is the miracle through which our Salvation arrives. This brave young woman who said yes to God, is the miracle through which the Christ Child comes and throws sin into a state of chaos and destroys it!

Thank you Lord for the Immaculate Conception of our Blessed Mother!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Faith from the most suprising places.

December 3, 2007
Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier, priest
Mass Readings:
Isaiah 4:2-6
Matthew 8:5-11

I always look forward to today's Gospel reading. I think it is beautiful and moving. Here we have Jesus and his disciples traveling to Capernaum. As they come to the city, they are met with a scene that was probably frightening to the disciples. They are approached by a Roman Centurion. I would imagine they were terrified. Was this guy going to arrest them? Was he going to hurt them? The Roman Centurion was a feared element of the Roman Empire. They were the law and were known for extreme brutality.

And what do they get? This centurion is desperate. His servant is sick and is going to die. One would think that the centurion would just get another servant when this one dies so why is he so concerned over this one servant? He is concerned because he cares about this servant, an attribute that many probably would not have thought a centurion capable of.

But this centurion goes to a whole new level. He comes to Jesus, a man that the government would have seen as a threat. Jesus who proclaimed a kingdom not of Cesar but of God. This centurion was taking a great risk by coming to Jesus and acknowledging Jesus' authority. I would dare say this centurion could have been severely punished for seeking out Jesus and maybe he was. But the risk is worth it for this man because his love for his servant is more powerful than concern for his own well being. I can just imagine the disciples eyes bugged out when this powerful and frightening man humbles himself before Jesus. and it is more than humility for this centurion believes in Jesus, another great risk for him. He is acknowledging Jesus' power and is turning to him instead of his gods. Now that is a sign of faith! And his faith is so powerful that he knows that Jesus can heal with only a word. Amen!

This centurion's faith always makes me look at my own. Is my faith as strong as this centurion's? This man who most people would have believed beyond redemption had a faith greater than even Jesus' disciples. I know that at times I must give up my preconceived notions about what I think should or should not be and open myself to the Holy Spirit. I believe this centurion has a great deal to teach us some 2000 years later. I believe that this man who was despised and feared shows us all that we need to give up our sense of superiority and entitlement and throw our selves at the feet of the Lord and ask for his grace. I think this centurion teaches us to take a risk and set aside concern for what others might think and give ourselves to God with complete abandon. When we do that, we may just find that our faith is stronger than we could ever have imagined.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Let the insanity begin!

December 2, 2007
First Sunday of Advent

Mass Readings:
Isaiah 2:1-5
Romans 13:11-14
Matthew 24:37-44

Here we go! The shopping malls already look like one of Dante's circles of hell! The parties, the stress, the over eating, over spending, etc., etc., etc... Merry Christmas! Before I go any further, I need to confess something, I really, really struggle with Christmas. It isn't because of all the extra work. I struggle because I am very uncomfortable with what is expected of us at Christmas. I mean all of us. We are expected to join in the insanity of the consumerism of Christmas.

At Halloween I noticed that Christmas stuff was already hitting the shelves. Go into the store, buy a Jack-O-Lantern and a $1 figurine of the baby Jesus! I thought for a moment my head was going explode. And there is even an ad by one of the "big box" stores that proclaims their sale prices are more satisfying than world peace!! Again, I thought my head was going to explode! I haven't seen that ad again so I am hoping people jammed their complaint lines!

And, like clockwork, the jabbering cable news heads began their search for, insert ominous drum-roll, "The War on Christmas"! Oh yeah. That time of year again for some folk to try and score viewer ratings by proclaiming that there is a "War on Christmas". So, is there a "War on Christmas"? You bet there is. Who is waging this "War on Christmas"? Christians! That's who! You heard me. I believe that there is a "War on Christmas" and it was started and is sustained by Christians. I will explain my thoughts in a moment.

The Season of Advent is about Hope. Brilliantly, Pope Benedict released on Friday his second Encyclical Letter entitled "Spe Salvi". It is a document that calls us to Hope! We are saved by Hope in Christ! You can read the document and download it at

Hope. We are a people who desperately need Hope. Adrian Nossest O.S.B, once wrote these words, "Our world is a sad place; it seems to be without hope, precisely because its crisis is a crisis of faith and love". When we give into despair, we lose hope. When we lose sight of hope, we turn to false gods. I believe that we have lost the message of Advent and especially Christmas because we have turned to the false gods of consumerism. More on that in a minute.

The first week of Advent calls us to Watch and Pray. What are we waiting for and praying for? The fulfillment of our hope in Christ when he will return to bring us the fullness of joy and usher us into his Father's heavenly kingdom! How do we look forward? We remember the past. We remember Christ's first coming as a human being. Christ the child who took on human form and was born in a manger to a virgin and protected by his adopted father. This child became our Hope!

So how do we remember and celebrate the promise of our salvation through the Christ Child? Well we rush out on Black Friday and weeks after so that we can gorge ourselves on trinkets that are made in sweat shops by slave labor and worse of all, child labor! Oh yeah, Jesus is the reason for the season. We celebrate Jesus' birth by hording items made at the expense of the poor. I am sure Jesus is so proud.

Sorry. I should have given a hard cynicism warning!

But I am being serious. I was in a store the other day and 99% of the items I looked at were made in countries with proven track records of using the poor in slave like conditions and even children to make the products that we will consume in order to celebrate the Birth of our Lord. That my friends is the true "War on Christmas"!

How can we proclaim a message of hope when we ourselves are contributing to the loss of hope for so many of the poor of the world? Advent and Christmas should be about restoring hope and giving freely the love of Christ that he has so abundantly given to each of us! Hope is about transforming the world into the image of Christ! The love that propelled Jesus to become human so that we might have the fullness of life, should be the force that propels us to celebrate in a way that points to Jesus the Christ! Instead, I fear that the buying and selling of products that create misery for so many is almost the sole focus. Even the "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" banners are made in countries that promote the deliberate destruction of life! The "War on Christmas" is being fought and it is at the hands of Christians.

I know that this homily may be dark. That is not my intent. My intent is to try and lead us to a celebration of the Birth of our Lord that gives life to all. We are called to watch and pray. We watch and pray for the celebration of Christmas when we give thanks and worship the Christ Child. Then we watch and pray for the return of our Lord and we strive to be found deserving of the Lord's great gift of life!

If we start looking now at how we celebrate the birth of our Lord, maybe we can change our habits and truly proclaim that Jesus is the reason for the season. Let us celebrate the fact that Jesus' birth is the source of life and hope. Let us celebrate with deeds of love and charity not just in December but 365 days a year. Let us celebrate in a way that supports and nourishes one another in the life of faith.

When Jesus returns, we will not meet him with our trinkets made in sweatshops in the Third World. We will face Jesus alone, with how we have lived our life for him and our brothers and sisters. Let us live a life that proclaims hope and life to all. Let us labor so that those who are oppressed may know the Good News of Christmas, that Jesus is the reason for our joy! Let us turn away form the insanity of the consumer Christmas and instead turn to a celebration of Christmas that is about restoring hope and striving to transform instead of consume.

If we believe that Jesus is the reason for the season, then let us celebrate the season with lives modeled on the sacrifice of Christ. Let us celebrate a season of life instead of consuming. Let us celebrate with doing good deeds, the giving of alms, the restoration of hope and faith!

Let us proclaim Jesus Christ is Lord! That my friends, is the reason for the season.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Simple gets the job done.

November 30, 2007
Feast of Saint Andrew, Apostle
St. Andrew Academy School Mass

Today we celebrate the feast day of the patron saint of our great school! What an exciting day! All of us gathered here today, students, faculty, parents and parishioners are witness to a miracle. Our school is the result of a vision. We had a number of small schools who were struggling to keep going so we combined our energies and created St. Andrew Academy, a regional school with 438 students! That's amazing! Just look around at this overflowing crowd! We have come from form three small schools to this large, strong, and faith filled school! We are a part of the miracle of education here on our side of Louisville. Thank God! All of us gathered here today are living witnesses to God's command to proclaim the Good News of Jesus.

We look to our patron saint today, St. Andrew for strength and guidance. Who was St. Andrew? Well, we know that he is St. Peter's brother. We also know that he was a fisherman just like his brother and father. St. Andrew wasn't a man of power. He worked everyday at a very tough job. He was a hard worker. Being a fisherman is hard work. St. Andrew and his family would have put in long hours on the water and then come back to shore and do the hard, messy work of getting their fish to market. These guys weren't just standing with a fishing pole pulling in an occasional fish. These guys were doing back breaking, messy, smelly work. And it was to this man that Jesus came to and asked him to do something amazing, follow him.

Jesus asked Andrew and his brother Peter to come with him and proclaim his message of love and salvation. They accepted Jesus' invitation. Andrew and his brother Peter were not powerful men. They were not rich men. Andrew and Peter were simple men. They were just like you and me. And that is important to remember. Jesus did not chose the rich and powerful. Jesus chose the people who were willing to listen to him and follow him. Jesus made a simple request and gave them a simple job. But simple doesn't mean easy. The task that Jesus set for Andrew was not complex but it wasn't easy. Even a simple job can be hard work. And look at the work Andrew did! We are here today because of what St. Andrew did. St. Andrew said yes to Jesus and followed him. St. Andrew transformed the lives of countless people in his earthly ministry and now his example and work continues to transform lives!

This simple fisherman has changed the world. Each of you gathered here today has a very important task to do. Jesus is calling each of you to work hard, learn and grow in faith and then be a source of Jesus' love to others. You don't have to be powerful or rich. You don't have to be a celebrity or a famous athlete. All you have to be is yourself. Say yes to Jesus' request to follow him and be faithful to hom and you will do great things for him. Just like St. Andrew, we all have something that we can do for Jesus. All we simply have to do is say yes to Jesus.