Archive for January, 2011

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time

January 30, 2011

Today’s readings all focus on the poor.  In the first reading, the poor are those who are oppressed by the powerful and are treated unjustly: yet they put all of their hope in God.  In the second reading, Saint Paul reminds us that God often chooses the weak and insignificant of this world and that if we are to boast, we should only boast in the Lord.  In the Gospel, Our Lord tells us that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to the poor in spirit.

Why all the focus on the poor?  First, we should clarify what we mean by poor.  Our Lord says blessed are the poor in spirit.  What does it mean to be poor in spirit?  Poor in spirit does not merely mean materially poor.  There can be people who live in poverty who are not poor in spirit just as there can be people who are quite wealthy who are poor in spirit.  Poor in spirit refers to that spirit of detachment from the things of the world.

Why should we be detached from the things of the world?  Aren’t the things of the world created by God and therefore good?  God has created everything that exists and what God created is good by its nature.  The problem comes when we allow ourselves to become inordinately attached to the things of the world, when we love creation more than we love its Creator.

There are several dangers that come with material things.  One of the dangers is greed.  The more that we have, the more we are tempted to want more.  Another danger that can come is envy: when I have lots of nice things, I can be tempted to not want other people to have nicer things than I have.  Yet another danger of material things is that they can give us a false sense of security.  When we have lots of nice things it can become easy to forget that everything that we have that is good came to us from the hand of God.  We ought to always be grateful to God for the many blessings that we have in our lives.  Hearts full of gratitude to God help us to remember that we are not self-sufficient, but we depend upon God for everything: including our next breath.

When we have many possessions in this world we can live very comfortably in this world and that comfort we can tempt us to forget that this is not our permanent home.  This life is only a preparation for the life of the world to come.  We must not allow ourselves to get so distracted by the things of this world that we lose sight of the fact that Heaven is our ultimate goal.

It might seem like God is asking a lot from us by asking us to be poor in spirit, yet He is not asking us to do anything that He did not do Himself.  From before time began the Eternal Son of God dwelt in Heaven at the right hand of the Father in perfect happiness and glory.  Yet in order to save us He willingly laid aside that glory and became one of us.  The Son of God emptied Himself of the glory that He had from all eternity and was born in a manger in the cold.  The Eternal Son, Who was worshipped by Angels in Heaven, did not cling to His place at the right hand of the Father; He willingly came to earth where the only people to welcome Him were Mary and Joseph.  Jesus became a man like us in all things except for sin and He did not come to earth as a king, He lived among us as one who was poor: He did not have a place to lay His head.  In Heaven He was served by all the Angels, on earth He washed the feet of His disciples.  He is the Lord of the universe, yet He said that He came to serve and not to be served.  Jesus came to show us the way: He came to be an example and a model for us.  We are to imitate Him; we are to be poor in spirit.

In order to be poor in spirit, we have to keep our hearts from being inordinately attached to the things of this world.  How do we do that?  We begin by calling to mind often the fact that we have received everything good from God and thank Him for all the blessings that we have received from Him.  Then, we imitate Our Lord: we seek to help others.  When I realize that God has freely given so many good things to me, how can I refuse to help others?  Jesus said that what we do to the least of His brothers, we do to Him.  When we reach out beyond ourselves to help those who are in need we help them, but we are also blessed in many ways.  We can help others in many different ways: it can come through sharing the goods that I have; it can also come through my actions.  Even if we cannot afford to help others who are less fortunate, we can always do something to help others.  We might chose to help strangers, perhaps through one of the ministries we have here at the Church, or we might help those that we know or members of our own families.  God is generous with us and we are called to imitate Him and be generous to others in return.  All that we have we have received as a gift and God calls us to use the gifts that we have received in service of others through love.  God has given us much, what have we given to Him in return?

 

3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

January 30, 2011

Today’s first reading is quoted in today’s Gospel.  In his Gospel, Saint Matthew again and again shows how Our Lord Jesus Christ fulfills the Old Testament promises made by God.  Today’s first reading describes an era of freedom and of joy which will be ushered in by the promised Messiah.  The Gospel quotes Isaiah verbatim in order to say that Jesus Christ is that promised Light: Jesus is the long-awaited Redeemer.  Jesus came into the world to show us the way to the Father and to dispel the darkness of sin and set us free.

Jesus Christ is the Light of the World: He fully reveals God to us.  The only way that we can know God is by Him revealing Himself to us.  Philosophers can make clever arguments based on reason for why God must exist but they cannot tell you Who God IS.  We cannot know God or be in relationship with Him unless He reveals Himself to us.  The relationship that we have with God did not originate from us: we did not choose God, He chose us.  Through Jesus Christ God definitively revealed Himself to the world and through the Church, through the Scriptures, and through our own personal prayer God continues to reveal Himself to each one of us.  In order for us to deepen our relationship with God we have to get to know Him: we have to learn about Him through reading Sacred Scripture and learning about the Teachings of His Church; we have to spend time talking and listening to God in prayer.

Jesus is the Light of the World: He shows us the way to the Father, but we have to walk in the way that He reveals to us.  Jesus came to free us from sin, but we still have a free will.  Our Lord shows us the way to the Father and wants to set us free, but we have to accept His offer of freedom.  We have to follow Christ, we have to give Him our hearts, we have to turn away from sin and choose to faithfully follow Him each and every day.  We became sons and daughters of God through our Baptism, but every moment of every day we are faced with choices: we are free to choose God or we can turn our backs on God through sin.  Every day Our Lord calls us to follow after Him.

We are faced with continual choices and those choices are not always easy.  The culture in which we live is full of darkness; our culture is full of things that attempt to draw us away from our God.  We live in a culture that sees the freedom that Jesus offers as slavery.  We have to remember that temptation is a lie; temptation tells us that if we give in to the sin we will be happy; but sin never makes us truly happy: sin always leaves us empty and enslaves us.

Jesus Christ came to set us free from slavery to sin.  The freedom that Jesus Christ offers is true freedom: freedom from sin and that freedom brings abundant joy with it, but we have to choose it.  We have to really turn away from sin; we have to follow Christ faithfully each and every day.

Jesus offers us freedom and calls us to be His disciples (or followers) He also calls us to share that light that we receive with others.  Jesus is the Light of the World, but He also tells His disciples that they are to be light in the world as well.  Jesus fully reveals the Father to us and we are called to bear witness to Jesus Christ in the world: both in our words and in our actions.  We are called to reflect the Light of Jesus Christ to those whom we encounter in the world so that they too can experience the freedom that Our Lord wants to give to them.

Let us continue to root sin out of our hearts that we may live in the freedom of the sons and daughters of God.  May God give us the strength and the courage that we need to be His faithful witnesses that we may bring light to those who are in so great a need of it.  Lord Jesus Christ, help us to faithfully follow You in all that we do.  May Your light shine through us, Lord, that we may be light in the world as You call us to be.  Amen.

 

January 23rd

January 30, 2011

This coming Tuesday (the 25th) is the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul.  The conversion of Saint Paul is, perhaps, one of the most famous conversion stories in the entire history of Christianity.  Paul, one of the most ardent persecutors of the early Christians, encountered the Lord on the road to Damascus and as a result of that encounter was completely transformed.  He went from trying to destroy the early Church to carrying the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

Our own personal faith is meant to be a journey with the Lord.  It is important to know our Faith and to learn about what the Church teaches and the reasons behind those teachings, but the real goal of our faith is to lead us to come in contact with the one in Whom we put our faith.  The Sacraments, the Church, the Scriptures, all devotions and prayers are meant to help draw us closer and closer to God; and whenever anyone truly encounters Christ they cannot help but be changed by the experience.

Conversion is not just a one- time experience: it is an on-going process.  Once we have encountered the Lord we have only just begun our journey.  Even after Saint Paul encountered Christ and began to proclaim the Gospel to the nations, he still spoke about the necessity of working out our faith with fear and trembling (cf. Philippians 2:12); even though he places all his confidence in Christ, he compares the spiritual life to a race and tells us that we have to strive so as to win the race.  (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:24)

We have to work at our relationship with the Lord just as we have to work at our other relationships.  Of course our relationship with God is a freely given gift and when we turn towards God it is only in response to His invitation.  Nevertheless the fact remains that we have to make our best effort to love as Christ has commanded us to love; and we still have to do all that is in our power to avoid offending Our Lord through sin.

Let us all resolve to renew our effort to respond to the graces that God offers to us.  Lord, help us to draw ever closer to You!

God bless,

Father White

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

January 17, 2011

Today, in the letter from Saint Paul, we are told that we have been sanctified in Christ Jesus and that we are called to be holy.  Through our Baptism we were all cleansed from original sin and set apart as sons and daughters of Almighty God.  By virtue of our Baptism we are members of the mystical body of Christ and as members of Christ’s body, we have a mission: we are called to be holy; we are called to be light to the world.

Sometimes, we can be tempted to think of holiness as somehow less than what the world offers.  Our culture, which promotes instant gratification, does not particularly esteem holiness.  Our culture promotes noise, constant distraction and perpetual busy-ness.  Holiness is more, not less, than the world offers.  Holiness connects me with God, Who IS the source of all true happiness and joy.

Our culture promotes radical individualism, total autonomy and absolute, unlimited freedom as the highest good.  According to our culture, happiness likes in being able to do what I want, when I want, as much as I want (as long as no one else gets hurt).  Such a culture is repulsed by the ideal expressed in today’s responsorial Psalm: “Here am I Lord, I come to do Your will.”  Yet it is precisely by fulfilling God’s will for us that we find true joy.  Only when we surrender to God and give ourselves to Him completely will we find our hearts deepest longing.

When we read the lives of the Saints we see examples of the true joy that comes from a deep relationship with God.  To take just one modern example: look at Mother Theresa.  She exuded joy; when you see a picture of her smiling you see joy and love shine through her appearance.  She completely poured herself out for Jesus Christ.  She picked up dying poor people off the streets of Calcutta; yet she had the peace and deep joy that comes from placing all her trust in God and in Him alone.  She lived the holiness that we are all called to: not that we are all called to go to Calcutta; we are all called to love as she did.  We are all called to love God with all of our hearts; we are called to pour ourselves out for God and for others.

In today’s Gospel, we hear of Saint John the Baptist on the bank of the Jordan River.  The Jordan River flows between the Sea of Galilee in the North and the Dead Sea in the South.  The Sea of Galilee is fed by several mountain springs.  It is the largest body of fresh water in Israel.  The Sea of Galilee is teeming with life both in the waters and on the shores around the Sea.  From the time of Our Lord even until today many fishermen work on the Sea of Galilee.

The Sea of Galilee receives its fresh waters from the mountain springs, as I mentioned, and then that water flows out from the Sea into the Jordan River down into the Dead Sea.  The Dead Sea has no outlets.  It keeps all the water and minerals that flow into it from the river and it is completely dead.  Nothing can live in the Dead Sea and nothing grows on the banks.  It is rich in minerals but devoid of life.

We receive many good things from God and we are called to be channels of His grace to others.  By pouring ourselves out for God and for others we are able to receive life.  God’s grace is much like the waters in Israel: if we selfishly refuse to share the grace that we receive with others we die.  If we pour ourselves out for God and others then we are able to receive the abundant life that Our Lord came to give to us.  Let us strive to love as we were created to love, so that we might attain the holiness that we are all called to and truly be light to the world.

 

Baptism of the Lord

January 10, 2011

Today we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord.  Strictly speaking, Our Lord did not need to be baptized.  In Baptism, we are cleansed of Original Sin and through Baptism we receive the Holy Spirit; through Baptism, we are given a share in the divine life of God and become children of God: sons and daughters of the Almighty.  Jesus Christ is the Eternal Son of God.  From before the beginning of time, He dwells with the Father.  Jesus is fully God and therefore He possesses divine life from all eternity.  The Eternal Son of God became fully human: a man like us in all things except for sin.  Jesus was already perfectly without sin and already had divine life within Him, therefore had no need to be baptized.

In the Gospel of Matthew that was read just a moment ago, we heard that Saint John the Baptist protested when the Lord came to Him to be baptized.  The Lord said in reply that it was fitting for Him to fulfill all righteousness.  In other words, even though He is perfectly without sin, He allowed Himself to be baptized as an example for us.  The Christian rite of Baptism has a beautiful prayer which says that the waters of Baptism were sanctified by Christ when He was baptized.

Furthermore, we should also note that Saint John’s baptism differed from our Christian Baptism.  Saint John the Baptist himself said that he only baptizes with water; but he told the people that One was after him Who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  Of course Saint John was pointing forward to Our Lord.  The baptism that Saint John was administering was only an outward sign of repentance from personal sin.  The Baptism that we receive into Christ is not a mere sign of repentance; it has a spiritual effect: it really washes sin away and pours God’s grace into our hearts making us children of God and Temples of the Holy Spirit.

After Christ was baptized, the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him and the voice of the Father was heard saying that Jesus is the Father’s Beloved Son and that the Father is well pleased with His Son.  Through our Baptism, we become sons and daughters of God.  Today we will witness the Baptism of Dylan Hogan.  When the water is poured over Dylan’s head while the Name of the Trinity is invoked the Holy Spirit will descend to dwell within his soul; once Dylan is baptized he will become a temple of the Holy Spirit and a child of God.

Another thing that happened to us at our Baptism and will happen to Dylan shortly, is that through Baptism we become members of the Mystical Body of Christ.  In Baptism, we are united to Christ; in Baptism we share in the death and Resurrection of Christ.  When we are baptized, we receive a mark on our souls that cannot be removed and that mark is a sign that we belong to Jesus Christ.  When we are baptized, we are baptized into the death and Resurrection of Christ, and as a result we are conformed to Christ.  We become sons and daughters of God in Christ.  As a result of that union with and conformity to Christ we come to share in His threefold office of Priest, Prophet and King.

We are a priestly people by virtue of our Baptism into Christ.  There is a difference between the ordained priesthood and the common priesthood that we all share by our Baptism, but every baptized person shares, in their own way, in the priesthood of Christ.  A priest is someone who is set apart to serve God.  The way that a priest serves God is by offering sacrifice.  The sacrifice that Jesus made to God was the sacrifice of Himself upon the Cross.  The ordained priest is set apart to offer the Sacrifice of the Mass.  By virtue of our Baptism, we are all a priestly people; we are all set apart to serve the Lord and to offer sacrifice to God.  Each and every one of us is called to imitate Jesus and offer the gift of ourselves to God.  Just as Jesus offered Himself upon the Cross, so too we are to offer ourselves up to God.  Jesus said that if we would be His disciples, we have to take up our cross and follow Him.  We can make an offering to God of our daily work, our sufferings, our private prayers, our thoughts, our joys, and our anxieties.  We are all called to imitate Jesus Christ and offer everything we have and all that we are back to God: that is what it means to love God with all our minds, all our hearts, and all our strength.

Through our Baptism, we are also called to fulfill the role of prophet.  A prophet is one who announces God’s message to others.  Jesus fully revealed God to us: He revealed God to us by His words, by His actions, and ultimately by His death.  By dying on the Cross, Jesus Christ demonstrated the depth of God’s love for us.  We too are called to share in the prophetic mission of Christ.  We are called to share with others the Good News that God has sent us a Savior.  We are called to share our Faith with those that we encounter from day to day.  That does not mean that we need to preach to everyone that we meet; but Scripture does say that we are always to be ready to give reasons for the hope that is within us.  (1 Peter 3:15)  Besides our verbal witness, our lives ought also to bear witness to the fact that we are Christians.  We preach loudest by our actions.  Jesus said that others would know that we are Christians by our love.

Finally, we know that Jesus Christ is the King of kings and Lord of lords.  Even now He reigns in Heaven at the right hand of the Father.  We are destined to reign forever with Christ in Heaven.  Yet while we are on this earth, we must follow the example that Our Lord gave to us.  Through Baptism, we have become a royal priestly people; but that does not mean that we are to think ourselves better than others.  While on earth Jesus said that He did not come to be served, but to serve.  Christ is Our King and yet He washed the feet of His disciples.  If we wish to reign with Christ in Heaven, we have to follow the example that He set for us while on earth.  We have to love one another as He has loved us.

Dear parents, family and friends of Dylan: today you are here to witness the beginning of Dylan’s walk with the Lord.  Today Dylan will receive the Holy Spirit for the first time; today Dylan will become a son of God; today Dylan is set apart for Christ.  As he grows up it is your duty, parents, to make sure that Dylan learns the Faith that he is about to be baptized into.  Parents are the first teachers of the Faith for their children.  Your family and friends and the entire parish family of Our Lady of Good Counsel is here to aid you in that duty, but the responsibility is primarily yours: children learn from the example of their parents.  You are the first teachers of the Faith to your child, may you also be the best of teachers.

As we celebrate the Sacrament of Baptism, we all ought to call to mind our own Baptisms; let us ask Our Lord to grant to all of us the graces that we need to live out ever more faithfully the three offices that we received in our Baptism: Lord Jesus Christ, we thank you for the gift of our Faith; we thank you for sharing with us Your divine life.  We ask you to help us to conform our hearts ever more completely to Your Sacred Heart.  Help us, Lord, to live out faithfully the mission that each one of us has received at our Baptism.  May we live out the offices that we have received in a way that is most pleasing to You.  Amen.

 

Epiphany

January 8, 2011

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany.  The word “epiphany” literally means “a manifestation.”  Throughout salvation history, God has manifested Himself in many and various ways.  The entire Old Testament is a record of God’s repeated attempt to reach out to His chosen people.

In the beginning, God created man and woman in His own image and likeness.  We were created for friendship with God; we were created for union with God.  Through the exercise of their free will, Adam and Eve chose to turn their backs on God and disobey Him; as a result they lost God’s friendship, not just for themselves but for all of their progeny.  Even though our First Parents disobeyed God and sinned, God did not abandon us to our fallen state.  Immediately after the Fall God promised to send us a Redeemer.  Again and again throughout the Old Testament we hear of how God renewed His Covenant with His people.  God established a Covenant with Noah and his family after the Flood.  God entered into a Covenant with Abraham and his descendants Isaac and Jacob.  From the tribe of Abraham, the Chosen People grew into twelve tribes: the twelve tribes of Israel.  Then, under King David, the Chosen People became a mighty nation and the Covenant grew as the Chosen People flourished and multiplied.

Even though the Chosen People grew quite populous under the reign of King David and under his son Solomon, God’s Covenant never went beyond the Chosen People: the Gentiles, or non-Jewish people were not a part of God’s Covenant.  Today we celebrate Epiphany: today we remember how the magi from the east came to worship the newborn King.  These magi were not members of the Chosen People.  These magi were the first to come and worship God in the flesh.  The adoration of the magi is seen as the prefigurement of the fact that the new and eternal Covenant, which Jesus Christ would establish in His own Blood, would extend beyond the Chosen People: the Covenant that Jesus Christ instituted is extended unto all people, Jew and Gentile alike.

Jesus Christ is the definitive revelation of God to us.  Jesus Christ is God made man, in Him we see the image of the invisible God.  Through Jesus Christ we have access to the Father.  Today we celebrate with joy this access to God that we have through Christ.  Today we rejoice in the fact that Our God was made manifest in the flesh in Jesus Christ and that He has extended His Covenant to all mankind if only we will come and adore Him as did the magi of old.

When the magi found the Child, they prostrated themselves before Him and offered Him three gifts, the Gospel tells us: gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Those three gifts were themselves prophetic: Gold was a gift given to a king, and of course Jesus is the King of kings; incense is what was offered to God in the Temple, and Jesus Christ is God become man and He is the High Priest Who will offer the Perfect Sacrifice; finally, in those days myrrh was used to anoint dead bodies, which prophetically showed that Jesus was truly man and thus capable of dying on the Cross for our sins.

The gifts of the magi can also be seen to have reference to us and to the gifts that we are to bring to Our Newborn King.  We do not bring gold, frankincense and myrrh as the magi of old, but we can see in those gifts a type or a prefigurement of what we can and ought to bring.  In the gold we can see the foreshadowing of our hearts: our hearts are to be pure.  Gold is most precious when it is unmixed with other things, when it is pure.  So, too, our hearts are to be unmixed: we are called to love God above all things; we are called to cast sin out of our hearts in order that God may reign in our hearts completely.  If we want to offer a gift to Our Lord, the gift that will please Him most is the gift of a pure, undivided heart.

The gift of frankincense, like the incense that we use at solemn Masses, is representative of our prayers ascending to Heaven.  Offering our prayers to God is certainly a pleasing offering to Him and our prayers help us to draw nearer to Him and obtain that purity of heart that we are to offer.  When we pray, we deepen our relationship with God.  Our relationship with God is like our other relationships, in many ways.  We have to spend time talking to God and listening to Him in order to grow in our spiritual lives.  We cannot have a relationship with someone we never speak with.  The gift of our time, spent in prayer, is always a pleasing gift that we can offer to Our Lord.

Furthermore, Saint Paul tells us that we are to pray without ceasing.  When we pray, we are to offer not only our vocal prayers, but we can make an offering of everything to God: we can offer everything to God.  We can offer to God our whole day; we can offer our work and our leisure.  We can offer to God our joys and our sorrows.  We can make of our daily hardships and trials an offering to God.  The myrrh offered by the magi can be for us a reminder that Jesus Christ calls us to take up our cross and follow Him.

Let us make a gift of ourselves to the Lord.  Let us offer to Him everything that we are and everything that we have.  Let us offer ourselves as a pleasing sacrifice to Him knowing that He will never be outdone in generosity.  When we give ourselves wholly to Him, He will unite Himself completely to us and union with our God is the purpose for which we were created.  Only when our hearts are in union with God will we find our hearts deepest longing: our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.

 

Holy Family

January 1, 2011

Today is a unique day in the liturgical calendar.  First of all, today is the second day of the octave of Christmas.  Certain Feasts of the liturgical year are so important that the Church extends them over an eight-day period, known as an octave, so that we might have more time to celebrate and reflect upon the great mystery being celebrated.  Even after the octave has ended, the Christmas season itself extends until the Feast of Epiphany.  The secular world and the stores have already moved on from Christmas, but the Church continues to celebrate and rejoice at the Birth of Our Savior.  We prepared for four weeks of Advent to celebrate this great mystery of our Faith and one day is simply not long enough to contain our joy that our God has become man and dwelt among us.

Ordinarily December 26th is the Feast day of Saint Stephen the first martyr to shed his blood after the death, Resurrection and Ascension of Christ.  It might seem strange at first that the Church would place the feast day of a martyr on the second day of the octave of Christmas.  The Christmas season is a joy-filled time, yet the very day after we begin to celebrate, we are presented in the liturgy with the martyrdom of Saint Stephen, the deacon who was stoned to death for professing his faith in Christ.  Part of the reason that the Church has given us the Feast of Saint Stephen the day after Christmas is to remind us that Our God became man in order to show us the way to God, yet that way is not always easy.  The fact that God became one of us and died to save us demands a response on our behalf.  The only response to the love that God shows us in sending His Son is for us to imitate that great love that Christ demonstrated upon the Cross for us: Christ calls us to take up our cross and follow Him.

I mentioned that ordinarily we celebrate December 26th as the Feast of Saint Stephen . . . this year is an exception because this year the 26th has fallen on a Sunday.  The first Sunday after Christmas is the Feast of the Holy Family; Feasts of the Lord always trump Feast days of the Saints, and so this year we forgo Saint Stephen’s Feast in order to celebrate the Holy Family.

Today’s Feast is an occasion for us to meditate upon the family life that Our Lord experienced as He lived with the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph.  Yesterday, we celebrated the fact that Our Lord was born in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago.  Yesterday we meditated upon how Our Lord was laid in a manger and how the shepherds came to adore Him.  Today, we focus on the fact that Our God came to earth and lived in a family.

There was more to Our Lord’s earthly life than what we know about in the Gospels.  The Gospels are by and large silent about what Our Lord’s life was like prior to His public ministry.  We know about the adoration of the magi and the flight to Egypt.  We know that at the age of 12 He remained behind in the Temple and His parents looked for Him for three days.  The next thing that is recorded in the Gospels is His appearance on the bank of the Jordan River several years later.

We do not know for certain what Our Lord did during those hidden years of His life.  We know that Saint Joseph was a carpenter and tradition tells us that Our Lord worked with Saint Joseph in that trade.  Our Lord was only on this earth for thirty-three short years and for thirty of those years He did not teach or publicly heal people: He lived a quiet life with His family.  Through Our Lord’s hidden years with His family in Nazareth He sanctified family life and labor.  Jesus perfectly fulfilled the will of His Heavenly Father while on earth and for thirty years, God’s will for Him entailed the simple routine of life with Mary and Joseph.

Those years of Our Lord’s life that He spent working were not wasted years.  It’s not that Our Lord was sitting around waiting until He reached the age of the thirty to start what He came to do.  Those years that Our Lord spent working as a carpenter was part of God’s plan.  Those years of Our Lord’s life teach just as much as His parables and His miracles.  Through faithfully fulfilling our daily duties, we are fulfilling God’s plan for our lives.  The path to holiness is not about doing extraordinary things; holiness is attained by doing ordinary everyday things in an extraordinary way.  It is by conforming our lives and our wills to God’s will that we grow in sanctity.  Whatever our state in life, whatever our circumstances, we can become holy.  Each and every one of us is called to become a Saint.  We are not all called to be missionaries or martyrs, but we are all called to love God with all of our heart, with all of our mind, with all of our strength; we are called to love God above everything and everyone all the time, everywhere.  God desires that we love Him the way that He loves us: totally, wholly, completely, without holding anything back.  Only when we put God first in our lives will we find our hearts deepest longing.  Let us strive to do all that we do out of love for God and for His greater glory and honor.

 

Christmas

January 1, 2011

Today we rejoice at the birth of Our Savior.  Today we celebrate the fact that over two thousand years ago our God took our human nature upon Himself and was born as a little baby, in a manger.  What a wondrous event.  Almighty God became man.  He Who had no beginning and will have no end took on a human nature: a nature that could suffer and die.  The same infinite God Who holds all things together in being, in Whom all things live and move and have their being, dwelt for nine months in the womb of the Virgin Mary and was born in Bethlehem.  The Creator of the universe and everything in it humbled Himself and took on our broken, fallen humanity in order to redeem it.

From the very beginning, right after the Fall of our First Parents, God promised to send us a Redeemer.  Throughout the Old Testament God renewed His promise again and again.   In the Old Testament God spoke to His chosen people in partial and various ways; in the fullness of time, God sent His own Son: born of the Virgin Mary.  Jesus Christ fully reveals God to us.  There is no further message to wait for: Jesus Christ is the definitive revelation of God.  In the humanity that Christ assumed, God is made visible.  Through Jesus Christ we have access to the Father.

The Father sent His Son as Our Savior in order that we might have life and have it in abundance.  We were made for union with God.  Ever since sin entered the world, that union with God has been impossible; because of the Fall of our First Parents the entire human race was doomed to be eternally frustrated.  We were made for union with God, but sin makes union with God impossible because God and sin cannot abide together.  Sin is the choice to turn away from God.  Because of sin, we are incapable of fulfilling the purpose for which we were created; and we cannot redeem ourselves.

Jesus Christ became man in order to set us free from this separation from God.  By their disobedience, Adam and Eve lost God’s friendship for the entire human race.  Jesus Christ came to restore that friendship with the Father: Jesus paid the debt that we all owe due to sin.  Jesus took on a human nature that could suffer and die in order to take the punishment that we all deserve upon Himself.  He became a man, like us in all things except for sin, in order to redeem us from our fallen state.  He descended from His place at the Right Hand of the Father so that we might ascend with Him back to the Father.  The Eternal Son of God came to earth so that we might attain Heaven.  He took on our human nature and He shares with us His divine life.  God took our fallen humanity upon Himself and in return offers us a share in His divine nature.

God became man so that we might become like God.  God created us for Himself.  He wants us to be perfectly united to Himself; He wants to transform our hearts to become more and more like the Sacred Heart of His divine Son.  Love desires union.  The problem is that sin separates us from God.  In order to restore us to that abundant life for which we were created, Jesus Christ became a man, He suffered and died for us.  Jesus Christ gave us the Church and the Sacraments so that we could have access to the divine life that He won for us on the Cross.  Through Baptism, we become children of God.  At our Baptism, we received divine life into our souls; we became temples of the Holy Spirit.  Through the Eucharist God continues to feed us with Himself.  Jesus Christ allowed His body to be broken and His blood to be shed for us upon the Cross and He gives Himself totally to us Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in Holy Communion.  Every time we receive Holy Communion, we are intimately united with our God.  We are never so close to our God on this earth as we are right after we have worthily received Him in Holy Communion.  God wants to share His divine life with us, but we have to make room in our hearts to receive Him.

When Our Savior was born all those many years ago there were not many there to welcome Him.  He came to His own, and His own received Him not.  We have to make sure that our hearts are ready to welcome Him; we ought to always receive Holy Communion with as much love and devotion as we can stir up in our hearts.  God wants to give us His divine life, His desire is that we be transformed and bear His image ever more perfectly, but we have to do our part.  Jesus Christ became a man to show us the way to the Father; He was born in order to reveal God to us: Jesus Christ enables us to see that God IS love.  Jesus is God in flesh; He is the standard for which we are all to strive.  May we all celebrate His Birth with joy; let us receive the gift that our God wants to give to us: the gift of Himself; and may we allow Him to transform our hearts and fill them with His divine life, His peace and His love.  Merry Christmas!

 

Fourth Sunday of Advent

January 1, 2011

“Behold, the Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and they shall name Him Emmanuel, which means: God is with us.”  All of the Old Testament points forward to the coming of Our Savior, Jesus Christ.  The line in our first reading from Isaiah is perhaps one of the most famous Old Testament prophecies concerning the Birth of the Lord but the Old Testament is full of prophecies that foreshadow the coming of Christ.  The advent of Our Savior was foretold from the beginning; immediately following the Fall of our First Parents God promised us a Redeemer.  Again and again throughout the Old Testament God renewed His promise until in the fullness of time He sent His Only Begotten Son to fulfill all that He had promised.

Many scholars believe that Saint Matthew wrote his Gospel to a Jewish audience.  The reason for this supposition is that Saint Matthew often alludes to Old Testament Scriptures in his Gospel and he seems to have taken for granted that his readers would be familiar with those allusions.  There are many places in his Gospel which are similar to what we heard in our Gospel reading this morning: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the Prophet.”  Saint Matthew wanted to show, in a particular way, how Jesus Christ fulfills the prophecies of the Old Testament.  Our first reading is, of course, the place to which Saint Matthew was referring to in today’s Gospel.  The Prophet Isaiah lived several years before Christ, yet God spoke through him to foretell that Jesus would be born of a virgin.

The season of Advent is a time set aside for preparing our hearts for the coming of Our Savior.  For the past few Sundays, the Church has had us focus on the forerunner of the Lord, Saint John the Baptist and his message to prepare our hearts and make straight the path.  This Sunday, the Church turns our attention towards the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The time to celebrate the Birth of Our Savior draws near; today’s Gospel puts the Blessed Virgin, already with Child, before our mind’s eye for our meditation.  Mary, with the Child Jesus in her womb, is an image of that expectant hope that we are to have in our hearts.  All of the Old Testament Patriarchs and Prophets longed to see the coming of the One concealed in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  From the beginning, Mary was chosen to be the Mother of the One Who would come to crush the head of the ancient serpent and set us free from sin and death.  Mary took on a great mission when she said “yes” to God’s will for her life.  Through Mary, the Eternal Son of the Father, Who is equal and co-eternal with the Father, became a man and dwelt among us; the Child born of Mary truly is Emmanuel: God with us.

This season of Advent, which is quickly drawing to a close, is a time to prepare our hearts and to watch and wait with expectation.  It can be so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of preparing for Christmas in a merely materialistic way.  Many of us undoubtedly still have much that needs to be done in order to prepare for Christmas and those preparations for family celebrations are important.  We ought not forget, however, the most important part of preparing for Christmas: preparing our hearts.  May we not lose sight of the purpose that we celebrate Christmas in the first place.  Christmas is first and foremost the celebration of the Birth of Our Savior.  At Christmas we give gifts to one another as a reminder of the greatest gift ever given; the gift that God gave to the world: the gift of His Son.  Let us make use of the remainder of this Advent season to prepare our hearts and make room for Him Who is coming soon.  Let us, together with Mary, wait in joyful hope for the coming of Our Savior.  Amen.