Sunday, December 31, 2006

Feast of the Holy Family

On Being Twelve
1 Sm 1:20-22, 24-28
1 Jn 3:1-2, 21-24
Lk 2:41-52

Each time this Gospel is read, people always begin to question Mary and Joseph. How could they not know where Jesus was? How could they have lost their kid? Well, how many of you have ever dealt with a twelve year old? Twelve year olds have a disconcerting way of disappearing. They can vanish, making everyone think someone else knows where they are, until you realize no one knows where they are. Perhaps a better question would be, what was Jesus doing? Why would he have gone of from his parents that way? Certainly he had to know they were looking for him. The short answer is Jesus was being twelve. Now, of course there are differences between being twelve then and being twelve now, indeed under Jewish law Jesus was nearly an adult. An adult in a religious sense, much the way we see our children after confirmation. Adults in the faith, but not in much else. But, Jesus was simply being twelve. Twelve year olds may not be adults, but it is an age when they begin to stretch their wings, they begin to separate themselves from their parents, they begin to take the first step toward independence. Too often they like to think they are capable of that independence, but we know, and they may learn, that they are not. They still need their parents, the guidance, the protection, and the help. Jesus was just being twelve. When Mary and Joseph found him, and asked why he was doing this, his answer was vintage twelve year old. He was determined that he had to be about the work he came to do, but, he was not ready, it was not time. Obediently, he went with them back home, back to Nazareth, where he grew in wisdom and favor in the eyes of God and man.
All of us are twelve years old, all of us. We like to believe that we are independent, that we don’t need anyone or anything, but we do. We are twelve. We long to break free, to do things on our own without any help, but too often we find that as much as we like to think we are independent, we are not. We do things on our own and all too often make a spectacular mess of it. We are still dependent, we still need God. No matter what we do, we cannot escape our need for God. When we do break away, God comes to find us, to bring us home so that we may grow in wisdom and favor in the eyes of people, and in the eyes of God. We aren’t ready yet, we need God. When God finds us, and wants to bring us home, we must do as Jesus did, follow, and stay with God. After all we’re only twelve. We’re just not ready yet.
Deacon John
Feast of the Holy Family
Dec. 31, 2006

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

On the Feast of Stephen

I sat here much of today trying to think of something pithy to say on the Feast of St. Stephen. After all, we celebrate Stephen as protomartyr and protodeacon, and since I am a deacon, this is an important feast day for me. But I struggled with what to say, nothing seemed to be there. Then the juxtaposition of this day, the Feast of St. Stephen, and Christmas day, struck me. It is indeed interesting that the feast of St. Stephen follow the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Jesus is the absolute model of servant, the example we all learn from. Stephen is an example of one who learned. Stephen was a servant, but a servant leader, one who led through the example of his service, the example he learned from Christ. Stephen spoke about Jesus to all who would listen, without hesitation or fear. Even when his zealousness for Christ led to his death, Stephen continued to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. Indeed, he even followed the example of his Master to the last, forgiving those who stoned him. As a deacon, I look to that example, that courage, that fearless proclamation of Jesus, and pray that I can live up to it. As a deacon, particularly, I feel the urgency of that call, and the need to follow that example. All of us are called to follow that example. We find it difficult, though few of us will ever face the dire consequences faced by Stephen. May Stephen's example be a model to us all. St. Stephen, Protodeacon and Protomartyr, pray for us.
Deacon John
Feast of St. Stephen
Dec. 26, 2006

Monday, December 25, 2006

Chritmas thoughts

Last night, at the Vigil Mass for Christmas, I stood in the back of the Church waiting to process in with the acolytes. As I stood there waiting, the Chritmas lights blazed in the church, the main lights not yet on. The choir above me in the loft sang beautifully, and I looked over this scene and thought to myself, this is why I am a Catholic. The reality of what we profess to believe was palpable, and ther was no where else I wanted to be at that moment. May you experience the peace and joy of this day, may you walk in the light of the newly risen Son.
Deacon John
Christmas Day, 2006

Christmas Day

May the peace and joy of the newborn Christ be with each of you this day.

Is 9:1-6
Ti 2:11-14
Lk 2:1-14

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” This time of year the debate over the celebration of this season is unavoidable. What exactly are we celebrating? People will make reference to ancient winter solstice festivals, celebrations of the coming of the sun, the return of light into the world. Almost every culture I can think of has some type of winter solstice celebration. Each celebrates the rising of the sun. Many will say that that is all we are really celebrating, that Christmas is simply one more solstice celebration. To which I ask, what exactly is your point? You celebrate the rising of the sun whose light prepares to warm the earth. We celebrate the rising of the Son, whose light shines throughout the gloom and darkness, to prepare our souls to return to our God. What time of year could be more appropriate to celebrate the coming of the Son than the time of year that sees the return of light. Just as the sun brings more physical light into the world, the Son brings the light of salvation, of joy, of peace. We see because of this light. We see that we need not continue to live in the darkness of our sin, but can now step into the light, the light of the Son. May that light shine on each of us and illuminate for us the path to our God. May this Christmas Day bring you the blessings of the Light of Christ.
Deacon John
Dec. 25, 2006

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Fourth Sunday in Advent

Mi 5:1-4a
Heb 10:5-10
Lk 1:39-45

Now is the time for us to believe that what the Lord has promised will be fulfilled. Mary chose to believe. She accepted what God wanted to accomplish through her, and thus made possible the birth of Jesus, the day we now prepare to celebrate. Mary heard God’s call, and allowed God to work through her. Now is the time for us to hear that same call, and to allow God to work through us. God can and will work through us, but it must be our choice. The Lord is fast coming, and the time for preparation draws to a close. Now is the time to decide. Do we allow God to work through us, or not? The time to prepare ends, the time to decide arrives. Will we accept the one who is coming? Elizabeth asked Mary, “how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” We may well ask how does this happen to us that the Lord of the universe come to us? It happens because we are the children of God, God’s own creation. God comes and soon. The time for preparation draws to a close. Now is the time to believe, to accept, to know that what God promises will be fulfilled.
Deacon John
Fourth Sunday in Advent
Dec. 24, 2006

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Third Sunday in Advent

Zep 3:14-18a
Phil 4:4-7
Lk 3:10-18

I think it may be safe to say that in order to accomplish almost anything, it is important to understand the rules surrounding what we want to do. To play a game, for example, I have to know how to play the game, I have to know the rules. In chess, if I do not understand how the various pieces can move, I cannot play the game. Once I learn the rules, I can play. The problem, just knowing the rules and abiding by them isn’t enough. Knowing the rules of chess does not make me a chess master. To become a master I have to find a way to transcend the rules, to go beyond them. I have to master the rules so that I can make them work for me. The rules can be limiting, or they can open new horizons we were not able to see before. Knowing the rules of chess will allow me to develop a strategy to use in playing the game. But first, I must know and understand the rules. In the Gospel today john the Baptist is preaching and admonishing each group he speaks about obeying the rules. He tells them to know and keep the law. Yet John acknowledges that simply knowing the rules isn’t all there is. One can transcend the rules, go beyond them and use them as a way to develop a strategy for living. Getting there, however, will take more than John has to offer. John can lead, but only so far. To go beyond the rules, beyond the law, requires the advent of the one John is preaching about. John is making ready the way, opening the door, making the law available so that we might learn it, so that we might hear the voice of the one who is coming, a voice that leads us beyond simple obedience, a voice that helps us craft a strategy for living, living the word of God.
Deacon John
Third Sunday in Advent
Dec. 17, 2006

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Second Sunday in Advent

Bar 5:1-9
Phil 1:4-6, 8-11
Lk 3:1-6

John heard a call. John heard a call urging him to out and preach repentance, a call urging him to bring people back to God, and to prepare them for what was to come. John was to prepare the way of the Lord. John was o prepare the people for the one who was to come. John knew that someone was coming, but I don’t believe he knew when. The one who was to come surely must have been close, but as far as John Knew it could be tomorrow, or next week or next year, or in a hundred years. It didn’t really matter, his job was to get the people ready, no matter when the one who was to come would arrive. I wonder if at times John wondered if what he was doing was worth it. Did he ever wonder if he was wasting his time? Yes, big crowds came to hear him and to see him, and John had a loyal group of followers. Just because a lot of people came, it doesn’t mean a lot of people heard what John was saying. Many came from simple curiosity. Let’s go look at the wild man in the desert, it ought to be a good time. Remember, they didn’t have movies or television, so maybe John feared at times that he was no more than cheap entertainment. It may have all seemed difficult and pointless until the day the one John preached about came. He came, and John knew that all he had been doing was worth it. He had done his best to prepare the way of the Lord.
We have that same call. We are called to prepare the way of the Lord. Whether it be through preaching, or simply through the way we live our lives, we are called to make ready the way for the one who is to come again. It can be difficult to live a life devoted to following God. You will be seen as different, you will seem, at times, out of place. People will disagree with you, mock you, or just ignore you. After a while it can seem pointless. It would be easier to just give in. After all, unlike John, we haven’t seen him yet, he hasn’t come back around, or so we may think. But he is with us, he is with us everyday, he comes to us every day. He come to us each day in the celebration of the Eucharist, he is made manifest to us in the Most Blessed Sacrament. He is with us, he has, does, and will come to us. When the struggle begins to seem pointless, go to Jesus, present to us in that Eucharist. Just like John, we can see the one who was promised. We simply must look.
Deacon John
Second Sunday in Advent
Dec. 10, 2006

Sunday, December 03, 2006

First Sunday in Advent

Jer 33:14-16
1 Thes 3:12—4:2
Lk 21:25-28, 34-36

Anticipation, waiting, it can be a good thing or it can be a bad thing. When we were children the anticipation of a good thing, like Christmas, was almost unbearable. As Christmas approached the days got longer and longer. Days were weeks, weeks seemed like months, and the big day seemed like it would never arrive. The joy of the day made all of the waiting worthwhile. Indeed, the waiting, the anticipation, made the day that much bigger. Then there is the other anticipation, the anticipation that is better expressed as dread. You know what I mean, you did something stupid, and your parents send you off to your room to await the decision, the decision that you are sure will affect your fate for the rest of your life. The longer you waited, the worse you were sure the punishment was going to be. Maybe they were even checking to see if what they wanted to do was legal! The fear of what was to come made the wait unbearable. As we enter this season of Advent we prepare, we anticipate the birth of the Christ child, an occasion of great joy. So, if we are preparing to celebrate such a joyous occasion, why does the Church start us off with a reading about an event that we anticipate, but not quite so gleefully? We anticipate the return of Jesus, even say that we look for it, long for it, but, do we really mean it? Really, if you asked 10 people if they looked forward to the Second Coming with joyful anticipation, I believe they would say no. We don’t look forward because we are afraid. Afraid that we won’t measure up, that we will somehow fall short. Well, of course we will. We can never measure up and we will always fall short. We fall short because we forget to rely on the grace that is available to us because of that first coming of Christ, the one we are supposed to be getting ready to celebrate. But the grace of that first coming, the grace that entered the world because of Christmas, makes it possible for us to look forward to the Second Coming of Christ as well. Advent is a time of anticipation, a time, hopefully, of preparation. Prepare, prepare by calling on the grace that God has granted each of us through Jesus. His birth is our birth as well. There is no need to fear, accept him, accept the grace he brings us, for he has given us much to look forward to.

Deacon John
First Sunday in Advent
Dec. 3, 2006

Advent Thoughts

Ah, December, and the beginning of the Christmas season. Just think, seemingly endless parties, social obligations to be met, presents to be bought, more stress than anyone should have to endure. We struggle through December, dreading the next obligation, hoping we didn’t forget anyone, longing for that ideal Christmas from the past, you know, the one that never really existed in the first place. It’s enough to make you wish it was August instead. We invest so much time and energy to get to the big day the only thing we are when it finally comes (and goes) is relieved. Somehow, I don’t think relief is supposed to be the dominant feeling about Christmas. I say we remember an older tradition, a time that has been lost in the commercial glitz of Christmas, I say we remember Advent. Advent, a season set aside to prepare for Christmas, not commercially, but spiritually. Advent is a time for us to stop, reflect on the year that is passing, and reflect on what the day we are about to celebrate really means. During this hectic month of December, take a little time out each day, not much, just a couple of minutes, and think about why we are doing all of this celebrating in the first place. Stop, and think about the One who came and is to come again, and maybe the arrival of Christmas Day can mean more than just a sigh of relief.
Deacon John