Blog

FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT 2019

One would expect that the announcement of coming of the Messiah would be associated with the singing of angels, a blaring of trumpets, and crowds of people gathering to adore the one whom God promised. Matthew’s Gospel tells a very different story from the fanfare one would expect. Jesus, even before his birth, was to turn his parent’s world up-side-down. Joseph, to his dismay, discovered his betrothed, Mary, was with child before they lived together.

Now, Mary, after being visited by the angel Gabriel, knew that the Holy Spirit had caused her to conceive Jesus. But how could she explain this to Joseph? What person would believe that God would designate Mary to be the mother of the Son of God? Joseph, we thoroughly understand, would be hard-pressed to accept Mary’s story about her unexpected pregnancy. The only thing that Joseph could think about was how could have Mary be unfaithful to him?
Upon discovering that Mary was pregnant, Joseph felt he hand only two choices. He could have openly pointed out that Mary had been raped or had sexual relations with someone other than Joseph. If Joseph had made this choice, there Mary would have been stoned to death even if it was proven she was not at fault. This death sentence for Mary would have been the tale of the self-righteous man, who slighted by some other man, would exact retribution to maintain his worldly status.

Joseph’s second option and the one he chose was to divorce Mary quietly. While the community would have ostracized Mary for having a child outside of marriage, Joseph would not be the cause for any of her suffering. Joseph’s choice was that of a righteous man who, while troubled by Mary’s apparent unfaithfulness, remained concerned about her well-being. He had no desire to cause harm to her but knew that this unwanted pregnancy had forever changed their relationship.

However, the Lord, through the visit from an angel, presented Joseph with another option. The angel related to Joseph the truth of Mary’s story of her conception of Jesus while remaining a virgin. On awaking from the dream, Joseph responded with humility to the Lord because he was a man of faith. Joseph, a holy man, took Mary into his home. For his devotion to God, Joseph became the protector, provider, and teacher for the Son of God.
Jesus, at first unwanted, became the most beloved son of Joseph and Savior of the world. Mary, the woman that Joseph almost divorced, for unfaithfulness, became the model of motherhood. Joseph, a lowly carpenter, was blessed before all other men by being called father by Jesus, the Son of God.

How often are we listening to the voice of the angel calling us to higher achievement on behalf of the Lord? How often does the Lord present us with another choice? How do we live out our lives, in self-righteousness, righteousness or holiness when we encounter a threat to our dreams?

The Lord, in the stories of Joseph and Mary, suggests that we, too, can welcome Jesus into our lives. Initially, like Mary and Joseph, we may be challenged in our faith when we are called to the Lord’s plan. In allowing Jesus to guide our lives, we may know of suffering and distress as Joseph and Mary would experience in caring for their Son. Remember, in holiness, the result of that undying faith, as Mary and Joseph exhibited for Jesus, will reap for us one day the sweetest of fruits, the rewards of heaven.

This will be my last article for the bulletin for a month or so. As I mentioned earlier in the year, I will not be returning to Nebraska during the Christmas break. The Deacons from St. Meinrad will travel to Europe for a pilgrimage in January.

We will visit London from December 28th through January 6th. We will be visiting various historical sites, including many palaces, churches, museums, and portrait galleries. We will also have day trips to Oxford, Canterbury, Stonehenge, and Winsor.

From there, we move on to Rome from January 7th through January 18th. The schedule includes visiting the various Roman Churches and Basilicas and catacombs. We will take day trips to Florence, Subiaco, and Siena. Finally, we go to Einsiedeln, Switzerland, January 18th through January 24th.

Einsiedeln is the mother Abbey of St. Meinrad. Einsiedeln was founded in the year 835 in memory of the Benedictine hermit monk, Meinrad. We will be on Canonical Retreat for Ordination of the Priesthood while at Einsiedeln. Regular classes start again on January 27th, so not much time to catch up on sleep, which I am sure I will need after being on the go for that length of time.

So, while I will not be there to say it in person, Merry Christmas to each one of you. May each of you have a wonderful Christmas filled with many special blessings from the Lord at his birth.

 

THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT 2019

In our lives, we may, on occasion, find ourselves doubting about the presence of Jesus? That is what John seems to be indicating when he sends two of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” John doesn’t need to ask this question for he knows Jesus is the “one who is to come.”

As we know from Luke’s Gospel, John was aware of Jesus being the Messiah even before both were born.

During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Luke 1:39-45).

It was John who baptized Jesus in the Jordan River and heard the words from the Father: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Jesus was the one that John refers to when he says: I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire (Matthew 3:11). Therefore, it is not John who questions who Jesus is but those who follow John.

The disciples of John were not convinced that Jesus was mightier than John. John sent them not to satisfy his doubts, but for his disciples who were blinded by their love for John. They knew of John’s faithfulness to the Lord and his demand for repentance through baptism. Who could supersede this man, John, whose faith in God was so great that he cared nothing about his appearance or what he ate? Who could be more holy than this man who spent day after day calling for the Jews to turn away from sin and come back to God? What person other than John could be more dedicated to the Law of Moses, knowing that he jeopardized his life when he identified the adultery of King Herod? Who could there be to compare with such a man? John sent them to Jesus so that they could know the answer. How often have we failed to recognize Jesus for who he is?

Jesus’ response to John’s disciple was not with the words, “Yes I am the Messiah,” which might have been thought of as empty statements to these two who question the Divine nature of Jesus. Instead, Jesus points out his irrefutable deeds as proof. What other person could restore sight to the blind, enable the lame to walk, cure the leprous, allow the deaf to hear, and raise up those who died if he is not the one that God promised? Were John’s disciples convinced of Jesus’ cures even though they did not see them? Are we convinced that Jesus is the Messiah form the miracles attributed to him?

Jesus then speaks to the crowd asking the same question three times, “What did you go out to see?” when they went to listen to John preach in the wilderness. Each time he gives an answer that questions their motives. They didn’t go to admire the scenery of the desert. No one would be interested in watching the wind blow the reeds. No one would expect to see the robes of royalty out in the wilderness. So, what were the crowds looking for in the desert? They were looking for the prophet, the one who could identify the Messiah. We, too, seek out the Lord, in the setting of the Mass. What are we expecting to see when we attend Mass? How does the homily reshape our spiritual life?

John was worthy of going to see because he was the “voice crying out in the desert, Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” (Matthew 3:3). However, he could only be found in the wasteland. John’s desert was not a hospitable place. It was a barren, dry location where nothing seemed to grow, but that is where John was able to cause the people to repent of their sinful ways. The desert of John’s time was the location where nothing would block contact with the Lord but it was not a comfortable experience.

We, too, should be considering a visit to the wilderness, the wilderness our heart. It is there in that dark recess where we hide our greatest sins and most intense fears. We are most uncomfortable visiting that place where there is pain, resentment, and denial.

Even though we try to conceal those discomforts, that evil side of us, God is already there even in that locked hiding place. God knows of that location where we will not allow his healing light. He waits for us to listen to the words of John continually repeated ? to repent and turn to God. Prepare the way for the “one who is to come.”

At times we too doubt our faith in Jesus, like John’s disciples, and we question our belief in him as Lord. God invites us to look in the places of darkness, of guilt, of doubt in the depths of our hearts. God is working there to bring hope and new life into our desperate situations, where we suffer from the most agonizing pain. It is the Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, therefore rejoice that the Messiah is drawing near. Pray that we may open our hearts to let the joy of the season enter into us.

Jesus, are you the one for whom my heart aches? Take time to sit in the silence, and try to quiet your heart, listen for the words of peace that he offers. Feel the warmth of his healing power. It is at Christmas when Jesus’ miracles show the brightest with the hope of new life even amid doubt and suffering, for we celebrate the birth of Christ, the Messiah, “the one who is to come.”

Second Sunday of Advent 2019

Isaiah, in the first reading, describes a place where there is no strife. Death is not present at this location. Justice is a way of life, and sin does not exist. How beautiful a locale that Isaiah depicts, one where we envision a peace that is present between God, humans, and every other creature.

There was once such a spot as Isaiah describes where humans and every living creature were a part of a perfect world. This location was the Garden of Eden before the Fall, before sin came into the world. With human being’s turn towards sin, the world changed. No longer would the lion be satisfied with hay. The cow would now flee from the bear. The child now would suffer from the bite of the adder.

Yes, with the introduction of sin, the world changed. Justice gave way to greed and envy. Death was the eventual consequence of every living creature. Sin caused a separation between God and humans. Because of our transgressions, we were no longer allowed to reside in the serenity of Eden.

God, however, did not abandon us. He promised a Savior who would come to save us from sin and death. At his coming, we again have the opportunity to return to Eden, the perfect place within God’s loving presence. In the Savior, we discovered the perfect man filled with the fruits of the Holy Spirit; wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, awe, strength, and piety who sought only to do the will of the Lord.

Isaiah, in the Gospel from Matthew, identifies the one who will be the prophet for the Savior. The prophet will be
A voice of one crying out in the desert,
prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.

This prophet, as we know, is John the Baptist, who appears from the isolation of the desert, after experiencing the purification of ridding himself of any earthly desires.

John’s clothing is of camel hair and a leather belt representing the greatest of the Jewish prophets, Elijah who also wore a skin garment and a leather belt. John ate only locusts and honey representing Moses, the giver of the Law, and the one who would bring the Israelites out of slavery from Egypt. The locust represents the eighth plague that Moses brought down upon the Egyptians in attempting to release the Israelites to travel to the Promise Land. The honey reminds of the Promise Land, which flows with milk and honey. In these representing the two greatest men of Jewish history, John’s prophesy takes on an exceptional significance.

John, the Baptist, the first Jewish prophet in over 200 years, announces that the Savior is coming. He calls for repentance and a return to the Lord as the prophets of the Old Testament repeated over and over again throughout the ages. John baptizes with water for those who want to be freed from their sins. In this baptism, the repentants were publically expressing their preparedness for the coming of the Messiah.

However, not all, as represented by the Pharisees and Sadducees, come to John seeking repentance. John describes these Jewish leaders as being vipers, filled with wickedness. These two self-righteous groups do not come for baptism since they believe they are those without sin. John tells the Pharisees and Sadducees that although they proclaim to be the Children of Abraham, unless they repent of their sins, they will be cut down and thrown in the fires of hell. John tells them that the who is coming will make these events happen, for he is the Messiah. He will be judging all separate the good, which will enter heaven from the evil who will be burnt in the unquenchable fire.

Like those that John baptizes, our Baptism represents our first steps in encountering the peace of heaven. Baptism cleanses us from sin by the sanctifying waters of the font. We then receive grace in the action of the Holy Spirit by purification from sin and encountering a new birth in Christ. We become a new creation preparing ourselves for Day of Redemption. However, we cannot go through life, believing that we are without sin like the Sadducees and Pharisees. Instead, we must be at the work of producing good fruit, as demonstrated by our ongoing desire to turn award from sin and seek God with a sincere heart.

Jesus desires to return us to Eden, the perfect place where we will experience the relationship we once had with God before the Fall. There will be a return to justice and love that is heaven made. As Isaiah states, the wolf will be the guest of the lamb. A child will walk without fear among the calf and the young lion on that day when we return to Eden. On that day, we will walk with God, where sin and death no longer will prevent us from experiencing God as he truly is. And so we wait in joyful hope for the coming of Jesus, our Savior, to take us back to Eden.

12345678910 ... 2526

UA119134900-1