Monday, November 30, 2009

First Sunday in Advent

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

God made us a promise.  God promised to save us from ourselves.  It was certainly a promise God did not have to make.  Our failure, after all, was and is no one’s fault but our own.  Yet the God who created us chose to save us, even from ourselves, because God loves us beyond all our imagining. That love for us, despite our faults and failings, led God to come to us, to come as a child, to live, and die, as one of us.  Then to rise from the dead, conquering death, and giving us the chance to share eternal life with God.  Today we enter the season of Advent, a time we prepare ourselves to celebrate that coming of God, the birth of Christ into the world, the birth that makes it possible for us to share in God’s life.  After all, if Christ had not been born, he could not have lived, he could not have died, he could not have risen.  So we prepare to celebrate this birth, this promise, a promise that we are reminded of in first reading today from Jeremiah.  We enter this time of Advent to prepare ourselves to celebrate God’s keeping of that promise.  In this season, however, we also remind ourselves that not only Christ has indeed come, but Christ will come again.  The Gospel reading reminds us the we need to be ready, to prepare ourselves, because Christ will come again, this time not as a child, but in glory.  This time Christ will come to take us home, to take us to God, to have us fully share in the divine life, fulfilling the promise made to us from the beginning.  God promised to come, to save us, to save us from ourselves.  Christ came and opened the door.  We prepare to celebrate that event, that 2,000 year old birth of Christ into the world.  Let us also remember to prepare for the coming of Christ that has yet to happen, to celebrate the coming of Christ in glory, the ultimate fulfillment of the promise made to us so long ago. 

Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just One.

Deacon John
The First Sunday in Advent
Nov. 29, 2009

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Solemnity of Christ the King

Dn 7:13-14
Rv 1:5-8
Jn 18:33b-37

The ancient legend of Arthur, a Celtic tale describing a great king, is well-known to most of us who grew up in Western civilization. The great King Arthur unites the people of Britain, but ultimately falls battling evil. He is whisked away to Avalon, never to be seen again. The promise is he will return to save his people when their need is the greatest. Thus he is the Once and Future King. It is an engaging story, a tale of struggle, and ultimately a tale of hope. Hope in the belief that when he is needed, Arthur will return. It is a story meant to give hope to a desperate people. An entertaining story, but a legend, nothing more. It is a legend, and who can put their hope, their faith in a mere legend? We do, however, have the promise of a Once and Future King, a story of hope, a story of salvation, and it is not legend. Christ is our Once and Future King, our beginning, our end, and all that falls between. "I am the Alpha and the Omega, " says the Lord God, "the one who is and who was and who is to come, the almighty." Christ came to establish his kingdom, a kingdom established for us, a kingdom of redemption, salvation, hope. At the time of our greatest need, which is all the time, Christ comes for us. Christ’s kingdom is not something that existed in the past, or something that has yet to come. Christ’s kingdom is here, now, a kingdom made present in the world by us, by you, by me, by all of us who choose to follow Christ. We are called to live as citizens of that kingdom, that kingdom of hope, of salvation, of love. We can live in that kingdom, the kingdom established by Christ, for Christ is not only the Once and Future King, Christ is the king of the now, the present.
Deacon John
The Solemnity of Christ the King
Nov. 22, 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dn 12:1-3
Heb 10:11-14, 18
Mk 13:24-32

A zillion years ago, when I was a teenager, my wife and I belonged to an ecumenical singing group called the Agape Singers. Indeed that was where I met her.  The group was made up of people from all over Louisville, of different Christian faith traditions, different socio-economic levels, a diverse group.  One of the songs we sang was taken from 1 Corinthians 13:13, “So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”  The song was worded “There are but three things that last, faith, hope, and love.” The group is long gone, but my wife and I are still together, the love that developed between us surviving, despite the end of the group. Only love lasts, nothing else lasts, everything else is passing, all our plans, all our dreams, all we seem to have accomplished, fade away.  Only love, of which one could argue faith and hope are a part, only love is permanent.  The first reading today and the Gospel speak of the end, the passing of the earth, of time itself, for nothing is permanent, all things will pass.  Toward the end of the last century, the 20th century, a cottage industry grew up around the idea that the end is near, so you had better get ready.  Books, movies, television shows, all based on the idea that the signs of the times indicated that the end was at hand, maybe even by the end of the 20th century. Well, it’s 2009 and we’re still here.  Perhaps those involved in the end of the world business should have read the last line of the Gospel, "But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." So the end may be at hand, or maybe not.  Other scholars have interpreted all of this end of the world stuff as not the end of the world but the end of the age, meaning that a new age is coming, has perhaps even come.  Either way, both say look at the signs, see that things have changed.  Things have indeed changed, and we have the sign that they have, the only sign we need.  Christ said to learn from the fig tree.  When leaves sprout, you know summer is near, an obvious sign, but one we don’t often think about, one we take for granted.  The fig tree sprouts leaves, the leaves spread over the tree.  Our sign for “the end” has come.  Or perhaps not “the end” but the end of the beginning.  It’s a sign we don’t often think about, one we take for granted. Christ has come, what other sign do we need? Like the leaves on the tree Christ’s church has spread, growing, growing because of the one thing that lasts, love.  No, we don’t always show it, we often fail to live it, but if love were not present, the church would have disappeared long ago.  Only the love of God, the love that Christ makes manifest in the world, only this will last.  Only love survives the passing of time, the passing of our world.  All we do will fade away.  The only thing that does not is the love we receive from God and spread to the world around us. That love survives everything for “There are but three things that last, faith, hope, and love.”  And the greatest of these is love.

Deacon John
Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Nov. 15, 2009

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Kgs 17:10-16
Heb 9:24-28
Mk 12:38-44

Trust, it’s something we don’t seem to do very well. We don’t trust the government to necessarily do the right thing. We don’t trust big business, certain that they are simply out to fleece us for as much as they can get. We look at our neighbor suspiciously, wondering just what they are up to. We don’t trust our employers, afraid we are simply being used, that we are no more than a cog in a machine. I don’t dispute that much of this mistrust has a foundation in truth. People, all people, ourselves included, do too much to cause others to distrust us. Then we are suddenly asked to turn and trust God, to trust God completely, without question or reservation. A pretty big switch from the suspicion we hold everything else in. Elijah travels to Zaraphath. There he encounters a widow and asks her for some water and a bit of bread. There was a drought, and the subsequent famine resulting from the drought. The widow tells him I have only a small amount of oil and flour. My son and I will eat this then die. Yet Elijah urges her to trust that God will care for her, and so God did. She fed Elijah, herself and her son and the oil and flour never ran out, because she trusted. Jesus comments on those putting offerings into the Temple treasury, stating that the one who put in the least actually put in the most. The widow was poor, yet gave what she had, even though she would have little or nothing after her contribution. She was able to trust, trust that God would care for her. Were those widows just the product of a simpler time and a simpler people? Perhaps, but they were not fools, they knew what they were doing, they understood that they were placing themselves in God’s hands, depending on God to care for them. So how do we, complicated, modern, cynical people come to trust in God, trust that God will care for us? How do we break this cycle of distrust we live in? I wish I had an easy answer, I don’t. It’s a struggle, a daily struggle for all of us. We are taught to be self-reliant, depend on no one, take care of yourself, no one else will. Yet at some point in all of our lives we will find ourselves in a position we can’t take care of, a problem we can’t fix, we will need someone, we will need help. I may not be able to bring myself to trust that any authority will help me, be it governmental or corporate. I may not even trust those I should, friends and family. I should turn to God, but do I even trust that God will help me? The problem is that we do not turn to God or anyone until we need help, until our situation seems as desperate as the widow of Zaraphath. Trust can’t simply be the product of desperation, that isn’t trust. We must develop a sense of trust long before we become desperate, we must believe that God, if no one else, is for us, will care for us. We must have faith. Faith must be the basis of our decision making, the basis of our lives. It is only in having faith that we can trust. If we accept faith, have faith in God, before times are desperate, we can trust God knowing that as St. Julian of Norwich said, “But all will be well, and every kind of thing will be well.”
Deacon John
Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Nov. 8, 2009

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Solemnity of All Saints

Rv 7:2-4, 9-14
1 Jn 3:1-3
Mt 5:1-12a

I know I have done this and I feel certain many others have done the same. You begin to work on a project, a very important project. Because this project is so important you want it to be right. Indeed, you want it to be more than right, you want it to be perfect, absolutely perfect, completely without flaw. So you work on it, tinkering with this part, changing that part, always doing little things to make it better, just a little better than before, pushing it tweaking it seeking that elusive state of perfection. A state which, unfortunately you will never reach. Since it’s not perfect, you never put it out, you never put it into practice, you never use it. You wait for perfection, but it never comes. You wait for perfection, so it never gets done. You can’t wait for everything to be perfect. You have to implement your plan, your project, and correct things as they come up, otherwise you will never do anything. You are working on a very important project right now, the project of your life. None of us are perfect, nor will we ever reach perfection, not this side of heaven. That does not mean that we should not live our lives, that we should not strive to be perfect, just realize you won’t get there. That is not a bad thing, it is simply being who we are. In the Gospel today Jesus lays out a set of principles, not rules, rather guidelines, ways to assist us in our striving for perfection. We are called to live as closely as we can following these guidelines. We are called to provide comfort, to be meek, to seek righteousness, to be merciful, to be clean of heart, to be peacemakers. Will we always succeed in doing these things? No, we won’t. Does it mean we shouldn’t try? No, we must try we must strive to reach these ideals, even knowing that we will fall short. Think of all the good people you have known in your life, people who have gone on before us, people you are relatively certain have reached perfection, people who are with God, saints. They have reached perfection now, but think back, were they perfect here, or did they struggle as they strove to live as Christ asks us? They reached heaven not because of earthly perfection, they knew they couldn’t be perfect here. They reached heaven because they didn’t let their shortcomings keep them from living, from reaching out to be perfect, and fixing things as they went. They put the project of their life out there in the world despite not being perfect. They reached for what they knew they couldn’t reach here, and that is what makes them saints. Perfection comes, but only in the striving for it. Their example is the one we need to follow. Reach for what you know is out of reach here, so you may reach it in God’s time.

Deacon John
The Solemnity of All Saints
Nov. 1, 2009