Happy New Year!

By , November 30, 2013 4:11 am


I know that that sounds silly but I say it every year on this particular Sunday. It is accurate because we ARE starting a new year. Not a year marked by months with the names of Roman emperors, but a year that marks and memorializes all the events relating to Jesus of Nazareth and therefore relating in an awesomely important way to each and every one of us.
The first reading from Isaiah seems to me to really jump off the page. It is early in this important book of the Old Testament and the message is wonderfully hopeful and optimistic. Isaiah is writing from about the 6th century before Jesus. Everything has gone wrong. God’s people have been terribly oppressed. There have been many destructive wars but Isaiah looks into the future with confidence.
His words, which were written more than 2,500 years ago, have very helpful meaning for the Year of Our Lord 2013
Listen to Isaiah. He reminds us that we have instructions from God himself in the Sacred Scriptures. He urges us to listen as Yahweh….
“Instruct us in His ways that we may walk in His path.”
“For from Zion shall go forth instruction and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between nations and impose terms on many peoples. “
Regretfully, while that has already happened, the desired results are not yet at hand. Isaiah hopes and prays that,
“They shall beat their swords into plowshare and their spears into pruning hooks. One nation shall not raise the sword against the other nor shall they train for war again.”

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By , November 28, 2013 4:11 am


I hope everyone has a blessed and happy Thanksgiving! May God bless you and your families.

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Table Talk

By , November 27, 2013 5:44 am


I’m sorry you didn’t hear her. Actually, I didn’t either…I love my sister-in-law very much, but the in-laws are all so loud, and my hearing is certainly weakening.

I love the joy of Thanksgiving, but I must confront the fact that virtually every large family gathering across the country provides the potential of disappointment, hurt feelings and even conflict. Perhaps it’s true that your brother-in-law has not paid you back that $200, and it’s certainly true that “Maureen” talks too loudly, but this is THANKSGIVING! All those small, petty irritations that nevertheless cause discomfort at the table, can be certainly be handled next week. Or, if you are really in a good mood, think about bringing it up again on January 2nd. We don’t want to mess up Christmas either!

Let’s enjoy Thanksgiving in a spirit of love and grace, and remember to extend those warm feelings to our families.

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The Gift of Memory

By , November 26, 2013 5:31 am


While most of us are hurrying around to get ready for the great feast of thanksgiving, I would like to raise a few points for your consideration that really call for serious, in depth gratitude. I’ll mention two today- the gift of memory and the gift of imagination.

Think about it. Did you see your husband or son or daughter come home from Iraq or Afganistan? You were at the airport, and you saw him several hundred yards away. What an explosive, joyful experience! You had it then, but if you direct your memory toward that event, you can relive it again. Memory enables us to reach back to all that is beautiful and enjoyable, and in a very real sense, relive it. Recreate it. Celebrate it! What a gift!

Memory, of course, can have its down side. We have all experienced pain and no one wants to “recreate” pain. but the downside of memory is minor compared to this gift’s ability to extend joy and pleasure in our lives.

Another comparable gift, and I’ll refer to it later on, is the gift of imagination. Our brain and our mind work together in harmony, giving us the power to look into the future, and to plan on what we are going to do, how we are going to do it, and project the ramifications of this awesome faculty.

Lets take both gifts together. You’re seated at the Thanksgiving table, and without moving from your chair, you can go back to the time when your first grandchild was born beautiful and healthy. At the same time, you can look into the future, and prepare for it so that as the events unfold in your life, you can handle it as effectively as possible. These two gifts together give us a capacity for living that extraordinarily expands the moment. The moment is awesomely important, but it has meaning only in the context of yesterday and tomorrow.

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The Gift of Gifts

By , November 25, 2013 5:15 am


I think that many thoughtful people prepare for the feast of Thanksgiving by developing in a relaxed manner, the awesome number of things about which they are thankful. This is the great meaning of this feast day. It is a reminder to all of us- one and all- not to take the good and beautiful things in our lives for granted. Over the next few days, I would like to briefly remind myself and possibly you as well about some aspects of our lives that are deserving of a profound gratitude.

Today I would like to mention the SENSES. Yesterday I visited awhile with an old friend who is blind. He was not alone. He was with a wife that passionately loves him, and an extraordinary dog who really protects him in every possible way. That visit caused me to think of the fact that I tend to take the gift of VISION for granted. I look out and see trees, blue sky, fall seasonal flowers, and babies in bassinets. With the gift of sight, I am able to reach outside myself and encompass the world. What a gift! What an awesome, wonderful gift!

I’ll try not to take it for granted.

When I open my eyes in the morning, I am immediately conscious that God has given me another day. It will have its problems, and there may be some pain, but I am still here, and I find that all-together grand! Thank you, God!

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It’s OVER!

By , November 23, 2013 5:22 am


Once again, the Catholic Church brings to an end its annual liturgical cycle. For the last 52 weeks, we have been centering our Sunday worship on God’s salvific plan for the human family. It’s 51 weeks ago that you saw in your missalette that the first Sunday in Advent had arrived. We were launching four prayerful weeks to prepare us for the joy of Christmas.

Then, for almost two months, we enjoyed reading, thinking and praying about the presence of Jesus among us. Clouds come. Lent begins. We begin to live through a preparation for the awesome reality of the Resurrection and Salvation. The time after Lent ended with Pentecost, when you and I were commissioned…sent…to bring the loving message of Jesus to the world around us. Then came the many weeks of catechetics in which, in a systematic way, we reviewed and studied the teachings of our divine Lord. Well, that’s all over now. Today is the feast of Christ the King, when the Church reminds us of the obvious truth that Jesus is the cause and Lord of all that exists. Let’s listen to St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians:

“He is the image of the invisible God. The first-born of all creatures. In him, everything in heaven and on earth was created. Things visible and invisible…all were created through him and for him. He is before all else that is. In him, everything continues in being. He is the head of the body, the Church.”

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Thanksgiving Requires Pain and Suffering

By , November 22, 2013 5:07 am

Everybody is getting ready for one of the most popular holidays of the year- the great American feast of offering thanks to the God we love and worship. The pictures in the store are delightful, although I’ve never a seen a turkey that looks exactly like everyone else seems to be enjoying. I love turkey! But why do they always have to serve carrots? Everyone is in a good mood. Families are gathered joyfully. Collectively, we do indeed thank God for all of His gifts.

Nevertheless, I want to come at this great day from a different direction. Yes, we are thankful, but those who are most thankful and who’s hearts are filled with joy are those who are putting suffering, pain, trevail behind them. Perhaps you heard the doctor say, “I think are you full remission!” or your lawyer say, “we have won the case- your DNA has set you free”; or your wife exclaims, “the company just called and said they need you- come back on Monday,” and with that sentence comes closure to 3 or 4 years of unemployment.

Those are the people for whom thanksgiving is extradinarily real, explosive and joyful. The sky was dark, the road was rough, and sometimes adequate support is not present.

I hope that YOU are in a joyful and thankful mood. I also hope that you are not coming out of a dark chapter. Whatever the case, I wish you a joyful and blessed celebration for the feast of Thanksgiving.

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Christmas in October!

By , November 19, 2013 4:48 am

Image: Grimes

It started in October! Maybe I should appreciate it but I don’t! During the last week of October, we all began to see the sudden appearances of Santa Claus and the availability of Christmas trees with the electric lights already on them. Although the end of October was warm, icicles were everywhere. The merchant community is certainly eager to get started into the Christmas season. The only thing missing in all of this is any message or any word about Jesus of Nazareth.

I am not surprised about any of this. In many businesses, retail sales at Christmas represent more than half of the sales for the whole year. I am just surprised that they start so early. When I was a kid Christmas advertising always started the day after Thanksgiving. If this process continues, do you think we will be having icicles and reindeer by the 4th of July?

This period of the year dramatically reflects some of the differences between religious and secular society. Interestingly enough, the target date for both is the same – Christmas Day.
All of us are living in both environments simultaneously. The business community is really hustling to get as much over the counter sales as possible. It all ends on December 25th. The followers of Jesus are quietly and prayerfully anticipating his arrival where everything begins.

On December 26th the upended Christmas tree will be in the garbage container and the followers of Jesus have begun to joyfully celebrate Gods’ love for the human family and for each and every one of us.
Each of us should ask ourselves which environment dominates our own daily life.

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Yet Another Surprise From Pope Francis

By , November 18, 2013 7:48 am


Most of us are rather used to getting surprises from the new and beloved Pope Francis. The first reaction from many people was that the biggest difference between Pope Francis and his immediate predecessors was a difference in style. John Paul II and Benedict XVI were never seen in any context other than a very formal setting. Their speeches were always prepared with extraordinary care and delivered in a formal, unsmiling manner. However, we are beginning to see that there is much more that is different in this new papacy other than the issue of style.

One of the first moves that he made that reflected his clear understanding of a need for restructuring and modifying the day-to-day function of the church occurred when he appointed eight cardinals, scattered around the world, only one of which was from the Vatican, to be an advisory body directly to him on what changes, adaptations and modernizations were needed to increase the effectiveness of the Church on a day-to-day basis.
The second wonderful change was in the question of agenda. The basic goal of the Church has been received from Jesus of Nazareth when he told the apostles, and their successors, (the bishops) to go “into the whole world and preach the Gospel to everyone…baptizing them.” No pope can change that as a goal but the pope would be free to choose one or another aspect of that generic mission that he wished to emphasize with greater force than had been the case. Pope Francis has chosen the issue of world poverty and is publically committed to the fact that he will be guiding the Church with an extraordinary emphasis on the poor, on the need of the Church to be a poor Church and on the need of the clergy to share in a very real way in that poverty.

Now comes another substantial innovation that will most likely have tremendous ramifications to the Church itself and to the world to which the Church has been sent. On November 5th Pope Francis launched an unprecedented worldwide consultation on modern families, including the issue of same-sex couples and the reception of the Sacraments for couples in non-sacramental marriages. As a working document, the questionnaire of 39 questions has been distributed to ALL the bishops of the world and asked them to take seriously their obligation to research all the issues, positive and negative, confronting family life across the world. I will get back to some of those issues in my next blog because this one is already too long.

I can tell you this much, however. Those questions give a very good indication of just what Pope Francis wants the Church to deal with. Tune in tomorrow.

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Why the Apostles Were Confused

By , November 16, 2013 5:07 am

23rd Sunday, November 17th
From time to time I try to encourage readers of the bible that it contains many different forms of literature. Some is history, some is biography, some is poetry, etc., etc. If one is to really get the maximum meaning from a sacred text, the reader should always be clearly conscious of what literary form is being presented by the sacred author.

Of course, there is also the fact that the various segments of the bible are written over centuries and they do not tie together like a neat modern novel that begins at the beginning and ends at the end.

Today’s texts are a good example of the importance of understanding context. In the Gospel, we have our Divine Lord looking into the future and warning the apostles that tough times are coming and if they are to be faithful to him, they must be brave and courageous. He describes the end of the world and the final Judgment and it is an awesome scene of violence and destruction. The fact is that there are two points of termination in our story. The first is our own individual death when we report in as to how we have used the life that has been given. The second, of course, is the termination of history as God’s plans for the human story will have been fulfilled. What a scene.

St. Paul would know about this prophecy from Jesus but he keeps his feet on the ground, uses horse sense and cautions his followers that while they realize the end is coming, they still have to get by in a practical day to day manner. Paul was faced with the fact that many members of the early church decided that they could just sit back and wait for Judgment Day. Paul says, “No you can’t!” He says, “Imitate me! We did not live lives of disorder when we were among you nor depend on any one for food. Rather we work day and night laboring to the point of exhaustion. Indeed when I was with you I laid down the rule that anyone who would not work neither let him eat.”

Two thousand years have passed. The end of the world does not seem to have arrived but Paul’s principle is still very valid. We have to make every effort to provide for ourselves.

Since Paul was constantly taking up collections for his poor Christians, however, he also clearly understood that while our first obligation is to provide for ourselves and our families, we have a secondary obligation to provide for the poor, the sick, the elderly and helpless children.

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