Sunday, March 18, 2018

Trusting God with the impossible

HOMILY FOR THE 5th SUNDAY OF LENT, March 18, 2018:

A man was standing on the edge of a cliff admiring the beautiful scenery. Suddenly, without warning, the ground beneath his feet broke away and he began to fall. In desperation he grabbed a small branch and held on with all his might as he hung over the edge. The rocky ground was hundreds of feet below his dangling legs. He began to yell, “Is there anyone up there! Help me!” Suddenly the man heard a loud voice that said, “This is God. I will help you. Put all your faith and trust in me and I will take you safely to the top. All you have to do is let go.” The man paused for a moment, looked intently at the ground far below and then back to the heavens and yelled, “Is there anyone else up there?”

Letting go and fully trusting in God is one of the most difficult things we’ll ever face in our spiritual journey. But, it is also one of the most necessary parts of truly living as people of faith. Jesus tells us as much in today’s Gospel passage, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.” Jesus asks us to trust fully in Him – not to trust in ourselves or our own ability – but to trust that His way is the right way – even when we can’t see the bigger picture; even when we don’t know the outcome. He simply asks us to trust and to follow. It may be the most difficult thing we are asked to do – simply trust.

There is a story about an emperor trying to choose his successor. He decided he would choose from among the children in his kingdom. Calling them together he said, “I am going to give each one of you a very special seed today. Plant it and care for it and return in one year with what you have grown. I will then judge and the one I choose will be the next emperor!” One boy, Jack, went home and excitedly told his mother what had happened. She helped him get a pot and planting soil, and he planted the seed and watered it carefully. Every day he would water it and watch to see if it had grown. Weeks and even months went by, and Jack faithfully cared for his seed, but nothing ever grew.

Finally the year went by and everyone brought what they had grown back to the emperor. When Jack arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other youths. They were beautiful - in all shapes and sizes. But still all he had was an empty pot. He put it on the floor and the other kids laughed at him. When the emperor arrived, he said, “My, what great plants, trees and flowers you have grown.” Then he spotted Jack at the back of the room with his empty pot. He called him to the front and asked his name. He looked at the boy, and then announced to the crowd, “Behold your new emperor! His name is Jack!” Jack was stunned. He couldn't even grow a seed. How could he be the new emperor?

Then the emperor said, “One year ago today, I gave everyone here a seed. But I gave you all boiled seeds, which could not grow. All of you, except Jack, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Jack was the only one who trusted to do what I asked no matter what, and so he will be the new emperor!”

Jack trusted even when it seemed difficult; even when it felt like his actions were not accomplishing anything; even when he felt like he was failing. How many times in our own lives are we unwilling to offer pure and honest trust and instead try and change things ourselves, without God’s help. We try and force the outcome that we want and ignore God’s bigger plan because we can’t see it in the moment. Scripture shows us time and time again, that when we fail to trust in God, things don’t go our way. Just think of Abraham who didn’t trust God’s promise to him and his wife Sarah, just think of Jonah who didn’t trust God’s mercy for the people of Nineveh, just think of Thomas who didn’t trust Jesus’ promise to rise from the dead, Jack couldn’t understand what was wrong with his seed, yet he didn’t change his course; he continued to trust and for that he was rewarded. How much more so for those who trust and follow God.

So today, place all your cares on the Lord. Cry out to Him with all the challenges that burden your heart. Share all your hopes and dreams with God. And, then simply trust that all will work out for the good; that all will work according to God’s plan. “The Father will honor whoever serves me… And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”

May the Lord give you peace.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Walking, talking Temples of the Holy Spirit


I want to invite you to think about a simple question today. Why was this church built? There are a couple of ways to answer that. Historically, our Church was tied directly to the Cape Cod Canal that sits right out our front door. For those who didn’t know, St. Margaret’s was built in 1915 as a mission of Corpus Christi Church in Sandwich mainly to serve the population that suddenly appeared here as a result of the digging of the canal at the same time. We didn’t become a separate parish until 1946 when two mission churches – St. Margaret’s and St. Mary’s (which was a mission of St. Patrick’s) were formed into a single parish community.

So, history is one answer to the question of why this church was built. But, there is also another answer – this church was built to be a temple. Every Catholic church was built to be more than a merely ordinary space. This isn’t a meeting place or an auditorium or a theater where we go to see a play or a concert. A temple is a building that is built for a singular and unique purpose – to immerse us in the drama of our relationship with God. And, notice that I said “our relationship with God,” not “my” or “your” relationship with God. Because while we may come here for private prayer from time-to-time, the main reason for this building is to serve as the place where we come to meet God in Word and Sacrament to be formed once again into members of His family. It is a unique place of real encounter with the living God.

A temple is, of course, a building dedicated to God. But it's more than that. It's a sacred space, a space unlike all others and one where we enter so that we can be truly present with our God. A temple is God's house; a place where we can be together with God. God is really and truly present here; as this is His house. The flickering red candle with its eternal flame always burning is a signal telling us that the Eternal One dwells here, in this place.

And, it is because of that real dwelling of God that we act differently here than we do everywhere else. Have you ever thought about that? We have a whole set of rules and customs and behaviors that we do only here. We enter with a spirit of prayerful silence. We genuflect to the Presence of Christ dwelling in the tabernacle. Men remove their hats. We dress respectfully. We stand and kneel and bow and show a special reverence that says we know that God dwells here and we have come here to worship Him.

And this brings us to our Gospel today. This extraordinary passage is really the only recorded angry outburst of Jesus in Scripture. What explains the anger we see today as Jesus turned over the money changers’ tables and drove them out the Jerusalem Temple? The Gospel gave us the answer, “Zeal for [God’s] house will consume me.” In today’s passage, Jesus found the Temple being treated like a shopping center or a bank. Jesus viewed this as an insult to God – treating God’s dwelling place differently than the sacred space it is meant to be. And how right Jesus is. I’m sure we, too, would react the same if our church were being used in a way that somehow insulted God.

But, there is something more to this passage today as well. The Jerusalem Temple was not the only temple. This Church – any Church – are not the only structures where God dwells. In His resurrection, Jesus reminded us that each of us, too, is a temple. That, through our baptism, through Confirmation, through each and every Eucharist, God dwells in us. Each one of us here is a Temple of the Holy Spirit; a dwelling of God’s presence. Each one of us here was brought into being and designed by God for the purpose of making Him present to others, especially when they encounter us – believers in Jesus. Each one of us is a walking, talking, living temple of God’s presence through which we are meant to make God present to others. We receive the living Body of Jesus in Holy Communion so that God might dwell within us. Here we become what we truly are - the living stones of God's temple here on earth.

Remember what was said of the early followers, “See how these Christians love one another.” As living, breathing, walking, talking Temples of the Holy Spirit; Temples of the Presence of God, we are meant to be visibly different in the world – different in a way that makes others feel as though they have encountered something of God when they meet one of His followers; when they meet us.

”Zeal for [God’s] house will consume us.” The fundamental question for each of us today is simply this: What sort of Temple am I? Am I a Temple of God that would find favor with Jesus? The answer to that question is what Lent is all about. Lent is given to us each year so that we might examine and perhaps change what is inside of us that keeps us from being a truly holy Temple.

My friends, as you receive Holy Communion today – God’s true and abiding presence – welcome that same living God into the Temple that is you once again. Let zeal for God’s Temple that is you consume you and be renewed this Lent.

May the Lord give you peace.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Becoming luminous beings


We just heard a truly amazing story unfold in our Gospel. Jesus “was transfigured before them; his clothes became dazzling white.” Take a moment to take in that sight. Imagine what must it have been like for the disciples to see something so incredible – Jesus is transfigured, glorified, wrapped in the mantle of God’s wonder – all in the sight of three simple fishermen, Peter, James and John. For them, this moment of Transfiguration was a defining moment in their lives. Up until now, they had seen Jesus in normal, everyday ways. He had not yet really revealed His divinity. But, in this moment they saw Jesus in a new and spectacular way; they experienced this miraculous presence of Moses and Elijah. They heard the very voice of God echoing from Heaven, “This is my beloved son. Listen to him.” From this moment, everything was different. From this moment, they began to see Jesus in a new light.

It was an experience they would never forget. We know this because St. Peter himself tells us in his second letter, “With our own eyes we saw his greatness. We were there when he was given honor and glory by the Father, when the voice came to him from the Supreme Glory, saying, ‘This is my own dear Son, with whom I am pleased!’ We ourselves heard this voice coming from heaven, when we were with him on the holy mountain.” St. Peter wrote those words 35 years after the resurrection; shortly before he would be crucified. He remembered that moment for the rest of his life.

Now we may not have had quite the experience that Peter, James and John did; but hopefully, we have had some experience of transfiguration in our own lives. Hopefully, we have had moments when, even for a split second, we seem to glimpse a reality beyond this one. Those moments when for an instant we see beyond the ordinary to something extraordinary - God’s true presence in our midst.

The Eucharist we gather for every week is our preeminent experience of transfiguration. We gather around this simple table and present mere bread and wine. And just as amazingly as on that mountain, it is transformed in our midst; transfigured into the living presence of God. We begin with elements that are common, ordinary, mundane. We end up with something heavenly, extraordinary and miraculous. It is as if the voice of God says to us, “This bread and this wine are my beloved Son. Listen to him.”

The challenge for us is to live with an openness that believes that God can be transfigured in our midst today, just as He was then. It is an invitation to not close our selves off to the heavenly, to the miraculous because the reality is that Jesus is constantly revealing Himself to us. When our eyes our opened we can see that we live in a near constant state of Transfiguration – that Jesus reveals Himself to us in countless ways every day. He invites us to climb that mountain of transfiguration with Him and experience something of His divine glory.

A few years ago, the BBC did a story on St. Mother Teresa and her sisters at a shelter that they ran for the dying in the slums of Calcutta. The shelter where they brought the TV crew was poorly lit inside and the crew thought it would be difficult to get any usable footage. To everyone’s surprise, the footage turned out to be spectacular. The whole interior of the shelter was bathed in a mysterious warm light impossible to explain. Writing about this, one journalist said, “Mother Teresa’s shelter is overflowing with love. One senses this immediately on entering. This love is luminous, like the halos artists make visible around the heads of saints. I find it not at all surprising that this luminosity should register on film.”

My friends, Jesus takes us up that mountain of transfiguration with Him once again today and invites us to recognize His presence in our midst. But, it isn’t just Jesus who becomes transformed and transfigured. We see how transfiguration changed St. Peter’s life forever; and how it changed the life of Mother Teresa forever. God is inviting us to become transfigured too and change our lives forever.

My friends, let us open our hearts to experience transfiguration together. Jesus is calling us all leave the ordinary behind and ascend the holy mountain. He wants to take us up to be with Him as he did with Peter, James and John. And here, in this moment, Jesus reveals Himself to us if we only open our eyes. Let us see Jesus made new before us and become once again the luminous beings that this encounter makes us. Let us together stoke the flame of our faith so that we might see Jesus more clearly all around us; and be His luminous presence in the world.

“This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.”

May the Lord give you peace.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Coming home

FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT, February 18, 2018:

An Irishman walked into a pub one day and ordered three beers. The man does the same for the next several evenings, and curious the bartender finally asks him why. The man answered, “Well, you see, I have two brothers, and one went to America, and the other to Australia. When we lived in the same town, we always enjoyed each other’s company over a beer each night. We promised each other that we would always order an extra two beers whenever we’re at the pub as a way of maintaining that tradition.” One day, however, the man came in and ordered only two beers. The bartender poured them with a heavy heart certain that something must have happened to one of the brothers. The bartender said, “I’d like to offer you my condolences on the passing of your brother. You know-the two beers and all...” The man chuckled for a moment, then replied, “You'll be happy to hear that my two brothers are alive and well... It's just that I, myself, have decided to give up drinking for Lent.”

“Weary or bitter or bewildered as we may be, God is faithful. He lets us wander so we will know what it means to come home.” That is a passage from one of my favorite books called Home by Marilyn Robinson. If you’ve never read it, it is good Lenten reading. Home is a sort-of prodigal son story as it tells of Jack, the black-sheep of the Boughton family, who returns home after many years to reconcile with his father and come to terms with the mistakes he’s made in his life. But, when I read that particular passage, I couldn’t help but think how fitting a description it is of our annual Lenten journey. “Weary or bitter or bewildered as we may be, God is faithful. He lets us wander so we will know what it means to come home.”

Lent, after all, is a journey that is all about coming home to the constant and eternal faithfulness of our God. And this is the message in our Gospel passage from Mark today. Mark gives us a familiar story; that of Jesus’ temptation in the desert, but Mark gives us the Cliff’s Notes version of it. We’re more accustomed to Matthew’s rendition which gives us the details of each of the specific temptations between Jesus and the Devil. But, Mark’s version cuts to the chase. We hear only that Jesus was in the desert for 40 days, that the Devil tempted Him and angels served His needs. And, then, we hear from Jesus, who says, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Now, don’t be fooled by the brevity of the proclamation. Although Matthew gives us more detail, even this brief statement in Mark is packed full of meaning. Jesus, first tells us to “repent.” What does it mean to repent? We often think of the word “repent” in terms of sorrow. When we repent we are sorry for what we’ve done or what we’ve failed to do. That is true enough, but repenting, especially in its Lenten sense, has an added quality to it – the quality of return. When we repent, it isn’t only about what we leave behind, but about what we go towards – we return to the ways of the Lord. Our sorrow for our sins doesn’t leave us in our sin. We don’t say “I’m sorry for my sins,” and then just keep on sinning. Rather, when we repent, we recognize that we have wandered, to use Robinson’s language, and that we need to we turn ourselves back around; not only express sorrow for our sins, but go back in the direction of home; in the direction of God. When we repent, it is the very beginning of the journey of return.

Secondly, Jesus tells us to “believe in the Gospel.” This belief is the effect of our repenting, our turning around, because you see for the believer, the Gospel is our home. When we turn away from sin, we return to the home of the Gospel. The word Gospel means literally, “Good News” and our return home is the good news of our salvation, the good news that God loves us, God cares for us, God desires us to be close to Him; God wants us to come home. Whenever we are far from that home, God stands at the door waiting for our return. So Jesus says, don’t merely hear the Good News, but believe it. Jesus commands us to live it; to live in it, as we would live in our home. Hold that Good News in the certainty of our hearts with the knowledge that what we have heard proclaimed is true! We have wandered away from that Good News and during Lent we come to learn what it means to come home.

“Weary or bitter or bewildered as we may be, God is faithful.” My friends, we may find ourselves here today feeling any of these things – weary or bitter or bewildered; maybe other things – overwhelmed, tired, sinful, even far from God. But, God calls each of us today to come home once again; to be renewed in His love and in His grace; to leave behind our sins; to turn around and head towards God once again; to be the people He created us to be. Just like in most prodigal son stories, there is nothing so great that would ever keep the Father from welcoming us back into our home. How strongly our God wants our own 40 days to bring us back into closer, more intimate relationship with Him.

So, my brothers and sisters, come home this Lent; return to God with all your heart; repent and believe the Gospel; the Good News that God loves you, that God cares for you, that God wants to hold you so very close to His loving and forgiving heart.

“Weary or bitter or bewildered as we may be, God is faithful. He lets us wander so we will know what it means to come home.”

May the Lord give you peace.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Why does God allow suffering?


Two men shipwrecked on an island. One of them started screaming, “ There's no food! No water! We're going to die!” But, the second man sat comfortably against a palm tree as calm as could be. He said, “Don’t worry. We’ll be fine. I make $100,000 a week.” The first man said, “What difference does that make?!? We're stranded with no food and no water! No one will find us! We’re going to die!” The second man said, “You don’t understand. I make $100,000 a week and I give 10% of that to my church every week. So, don’t worry. My pastor will find me!”

Our Scriptures today invite us to contend with the most difficult question in all of religion: Why do we suffer? It is a question that each one of us has thought about at one point or another on our spiritual journey. Our first reading today is the most iconic story of suffering in Scripture in the story of Job. We heard his desperation, “Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again.” Job lost everything; his land, his possessions and even his family; add to that a plague of boils and other horrors. Listen to the anguish in his words, “My days come to an end without hope…I shall not see happiness again.”

Job sees no purpose in his suffering. He can’t make meaning of what he’s enduring and so he complains to God. Job feels helpless and hopeless. I imagine that when we hear these words of Job, we can identify with him in one way or another – either in trying to make sense of our own suffering or in trying to understand why others suffer. We’ve all felt like Job wondering why things have to be the way they are. Why bad things happen; especially to good people.

The story of Job reminds me of my good friend Fr. Mike’s mother Adele who passed away a number of years ago. Adele was a wonderful, joyful, beautiful woman, but she also had many Job-like moments in her life. She lost her father when she was very young, her brother died at 16, she had 7 miscarriages before finally carrying a baby to term in her 40s, she suffered through cancer, heart attacks, lost her kidneys and had to undergo dialysis for years, and she suffered from diabetes that in the end required the partial amputation of a leg. She had sufferings that could give Job a run for his money and she could have very easily said like him, “I have been assigned months of misery, and troubled nights have been allotted to me.” But, Adele never spoke the words of Job. Instead, she said regularly, “Don’t waste your suffering. Offer it up and unite it to the suffering of Christ.” Even when faced with amputation, she didn’t ask how she could avoid the pain and suffering of that procedure; she didn’t ask why this was happening to her. Instead she asked, “What does God want me to do with this suffering?” And before she was taken into surgery, she prayed thanking God for the use of her legs all those years, for carrying her around, and allowing her to be a good mother. She was an incredible witness of faith to the transformative power of suffering.

The famous dramatist Paul Claudel said poignantly, “Jesus did not come to explain away our suffering or remove it. He came to fill it with His presence.” You see, for we who believe in Christ, suffering is never without meaning. With the eyes of faith, in our suffering we can participate in the great act of our redemption. What our world forgets in our no-pain-day-and-age is that suffering is an opportunity to be united with Christ in the greatest moment of the history of the world – we can be united with Him on that cross and in the salvation of the world. Souls can be redeemed and saved and prayers answered when we direct our suffering, offer it up, to this spiritual end. And, importantly, in our suffering, we are not alone. Jesus is right there by our side carrying the cross with us, filling our suffering with His loving presence.

So, we can continue to ask why there is suffering in the world, but the evidence would suggest that we are not going to get an answer to that question. Suffering and pain seem to be part of the human condition. We do know this – they are not caused by God. We do not have a spiteful God content with afflicting people. When we stop asking why is there suffering, we can move on to the more meaningful question, “What can I do with this? How can I invite God to be with me in this moment?” These are the questions worth asking and the ones that invite us into the amazing opportunity to invite God into our suffering to transform it. Let God fill it with His presence; fill it with His grace, His mercy, His forgiveness, healing, and the very salvation of souls. Remember that even Job in the midst of his suffering was able to proclaim, “I know that my redeemer lives.”

My brothers and sisters, let us bring whatever pain and suffering we experience; as well as all of the suffering that we see around us and in our world – let us bring it all to the Lord and ask Him to fill our suffering – as well as every part of our lives – with His presence and then let us bring that presence; and God will transform it into nothing short of glory.

May the Lord fill you with His presence, especially through this Eucharist, and may the Lord give you peace.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Off to Nineveh again!


We hear today the well-known story of Jonah. As a child, I had one of those illustrated children’s Bible’s that I’m sure many of you had. In addition to the Scriptures it was filled with amazing artwork to help bring the stories to life. To this day, I can call to mind the image of Noah’s Arc being tossed by the storm. I remember the dramatic image from Mark’s gospel of the story of the man who was lowered through the roof of the house by his friends so that Jesus could heal him. And I remember Jonah with the dramatic picture of him thrown on the beach from the belly of the whale that brought him to Nineveh.

Our passage from Jonah today picks up in the next chapter of his story. It’s an understatement to say that Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh. In fact, that is the whole point of the whale. Jonah will not go where God is sending him and it takes a God-directed whale to bring him there. The city of Nineveh represented the worst of everything – it was a place of godlessness, immorality, and corruption. Nineveh was the capital of the empire that had conquered the kingdom of Judah. They looted and destroyed the Temple, and carried people into exile and slavery. For religious Jews like Jonah, Nineveh was a literally godforsaken place, and there was no hope it would change. As far as Jonah was concerned, announcing God’s message in Nineveh was a complete waste of time. Of course, the great surprise in the story is that as soon as the so-called “godforsaken” people heard the Word of God, they received it with eagerness, repented with sincerity, and regained God’s mercy and forgiveness. They found God in their lives again. And, they were a reminder to Jonah and to us that “nothing is impossible with God.”

My friends, the message for us today is that what God asked of Jonah, God asks of us. God wants each one of us to be His witnesses, His servants, His messengers. He wants us to be the deliverers of His message that no one is beyond His love, no one is beyond His forgiveness; no one is beyond the ability to be changed from darkness into light, from sorrow to joy, from sin into glory – all by the loving mercy of our God.

It doesn’t matter what education we possess, or how dedicated we may be, or what we have to bring to the mix; it doesn’t matter what others think of our ability to be holy; or even the sins we have committed. God doesn’t look at what we have done, but rather God sees who we can be. God doesn’t worry about who or what we are; His concern is what we can become when we follow His will for us. If God calls us, it is only because He knows that we can accomplish what He asks. After all, remember what our Gospel shows us today – that in and through God, fishermen are transformed into fishers of souls. Their work is transformed from self-centered to God-centered, from self-seeking to seeking only the glory of God and the benefit of all people.

My brothers and sisters, God is still sending each of us on mission to Nineveh today. He wants us to bring His Word to any and all of the places where it is missing; even to the places that seem the farthest away from Him. God invites us to be the Good News spoken to unimaginable places and “impossible” situations. The good news for us is that these “hopeless” cases are not hopeless after all. For if even Nineveh could turn back to God so can any situation we encounter in life. Nothing – no difficulty, no hurt or pain, no illness, no broken relationship – nothing, is beyond the power of God to heal, to change, to turn into glory.

God once again today wants to form us into His disciples making a difference in the world, just like the Apostles and just like Jonah. All we need to give Him today is our humble, open and willing hearts.

May the Lord give you peace.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

What are you looking for?


Tim was driving down the street looking for a parking space anxious because he had an important meeting that he was soon to be late for. Looking up to Heaven he said, “Lord, take pity on me. If you find me a parking place I will go to Mass every Sunday for the rest of my life and even give up my Irish Whiskey.” Miraculously, a parking place appeared right before him. Tim looked again to Heaven and said, “Never mind, Lord, I found one.”

Jesus asks a poignant and direct question in our Gospel today, “What are you looking for?” Of all the things that Jesus says throughout the Gospels, this is the foundational question that every follower of Jesus has got to ask at some point in their journey with the Lord. What are you looking for? It’s a profound question and I think John’s Gospel wants us to hear it that way. John wants that question to hang in the air a bit to let it do its work on us.

There is an interesting, and even humorous, pattern in John’s Gospel. In John, Jesus often makes deep and profound statements, and those He speaks to just as often miss the point. For example, Jesus tells Nicodemus that to see the kingdom, “you must be born again, from above.” Nicodemus misses the point as he tries to figure out the logistics of being physically reborn, “How can a person once grown old be born again?” he asks. Or when Jesus says to the woman at the well that He can give her living water springing up to eternal life, she responds, “Where are you going to get that water? You don’t even have a bucket!”

Similarly in today’s passage, when Jesus asks the disciples, “What are you looking for?” he’s asking them the deep, profound question of faith. Their response, “Where are you staying?” It reminds me of the early days of St. Francis of Assisi’s conversion. In a spectacular and miraculous moment, Jesus spoke to Francis from the cross in the chapel of San Damiano. Jesus said, “Francis, rebuild my church which you can see has fallen into ruins.” St. Francis physically and literally rebuilt four churches before he realized that Jesus was calling him to lead a renewal of the universal church, not become the church’s new contractor.

It is easy to miss the incredible experience of the living God that is presented to us over and over. Just think of the Eucharist. This is the most incredible encounter possible on Earth. God miraculously transforms mere bread and wine into the real Body and Blood of His Son, and more incredibly invites us into the same transformation by our reception of the Blessed Sacrament. And yet, how often do we come to Mass with eyes that are not fully open to this miracle before us? We come from the busyness of our lives; we come consumed with our cares and concerns; we come with a sort of boredom because even this miracle can become ordinary. And yet, God will come down upon this altar once again today; and He wants to enter our lives once again today. What are you looking for?

Today, Jesus puts that same profound question before us, “What are you looking for?” Let us not be so dulled to the question that we miss the invitation that it represents. When Jesus asked the first disciples, “What are you looking for?” it was His way of seeing what they think is important, what matters? Because if they are going to follow Him, they will have to discover what is important to Him. Their response, simply because they don’t seem to grasp His deeper meaning, is to ask, “Where are you staying?” Although they don’t understand the question, it isn’t really a bad answer. It says that they are willing to learn. They are willing to spend time with Jesus. Jesus responds, “Come and see,” and they go stay with him. There they begin learn from Jesus what really matters. They learn what it means to be invited into His kingdom of love, compassion, joy, and forgiveness.

As we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday on Monday, it is fitting that we reflect on what his life taught us about what matters. He showed us that what matters is the unity of humanity; what matters is peace, dignity, justice, and love. He said, “Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it, because those who are searching forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others.”

So Jesus places the question one more time before us: what are you looking for? If you are looking for a life of meaning; a life that really matters; a life that can change what ails our world; a life centered in love, and centered in Christ: then you can find it and in fact have found right here as God reveals Himself to us all. Let God transform you once again by His presence, and into His presence and then go from this place to live that truth out as a disciple of the Lord.

May the Lord give you peace.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Home by another way


Our Christmas season is quickly coming to a close. It will be all over on Monday with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. I hate to see all of the Christmas music go for another year. I love singing all of our Christmas songs. There are wonderful Christmas hymns for this day, the best known, of course, is We Three Kings. But my favorite song for Epiphany is one you may not have heard of. It is by James Taylor and is called Home By Another Way. It is a song about the dream that the wise men had following their visit with Mary, Joseph and Jesus; the dream that told them to avoid King Herod and seek a different route home.

This notion of moving in a new direction serves as a good image for Epiphany. Epiphany is about our call to change course in our lives and set our direction clearly on Jesus. Just like the Magi, we have seen the star that called us to move towards Him. When the Magi saw that star they had no idea who Jesus was or what He would mean to the world. They were literally far from Him and made a choice to move in His direction. We too might find ourselves in the same position. Maybe we have always desired to know Jesus more intimately, more powerfully, more personally in our lives and yet have not come close. The star again calls us today. Maybe we have been hurt, wounded, or are sad or grieving and feel a great distance from Jesus today. The star calls to us. Maybe our relationship with Jesus feels stagnant, like it isn’t growing or moving or changing, and we don’t know what to do to make it better. The star calls to us again today.

Jesus wants to reveal Himself to each one of us today, just as He did to the wise men so long ago. And, He wants that revelation to change the course of our lives. Whatever parts of our lives have been distant – perhaps we have been full of anger or fear, anxiety or judgment. Perhaps we have old wounds and broken relationships that we’ve not tended to. Jesus wants to be the healing for all of the broken places in our lives.

Pope Francis said of the wise men, “[The Magi] had to discover that what they sought was not in a palace, but elsewhere. In the palace, they did not see the star guiding them to discover a God who wants to be love. For only under the banner of freedom is it possible to realize that the gaze of God lifts up, forgives and heals us. To realize that God wanted to be born where we least expected. To realize that in God’s eyes there is always room for those who are wounded, weary, mistreated and abandoned.”

The story of the visit of the Magi opens our eyes to the fact that God shows Himself to us in so many ways. The shepherds came to know of Jesus’ birth through a vision of angels. The Magi came to know through a reading of the stars. King Herod’s scribes came to know through searching the scriptures. Visions, stars, scriptures – very different ways that communicated the same truth – that God is in our midst and is calling us to come to Him.

Today, as always, God invites us into renewed and deeper relationship with Him through His Son. God is revealing Himself to us in Word, in our hearts – and so powerfully in the Eucharist. In just a few moments, there will be another kind of Epiphany of the Lord – this one will take place on our altar. God will reveal Himself to us in the Body and Blood of His Son. At that moment we will be invited once again to “come and do him homage?”

My friends, this is the “other way” that a living encounter with Jesus sends us. If we once again alter our course and head straight toward God, we too will be sent forth by another way. We too will be called to not take a road of selfishness, but instead take a road of empathy, care and concern for others; a road of forgiveness, healing and hope.

The star shines brightly today guiding us to change our course and head again toward Jesus – so powerfully here in this Church as He reveals Himself in Word and Sacrament. And, when we leave this encounter, Jesus tells us as a dream told the Three Kings to have the courage to go home by another way, to embark on the path that opens our eyes and our hearts, our minds and our lives, to the presence of Jesus that we will suddenly see is all around us.

Let us be the mercy, the forgiveness, the healing, the joy and the hope that the Baby Jesus came to bring to our world.

May the Lord give you peace!

For those who would like to hear the James Taylor song:

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Jesus the migrant, Jesus the homeless, Jesus the refugee


We hear a phrase regularly this time of year – Jesus is the reason for the season. It invites us, in the midst of our gatherings with family and friends, to enter into the incredible faith reality that we celebrate – the amazing truth that God became one of us in the child Jesus. Jesus is the reason for our celebrations and our joy. Today’s feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph – so close to the Feast of Christmas – asks us to take that a step further. If Jesus is the reason for the season, what is the reason for Jesus? And, that is a really interesting question.

All of our songs, symbols and prayers this time of year are also drawing us into a deeper experience of the incarnation of the Lord. Perhaps none more profoundly than our Christmas mangers. They are so beautiful and probably the most treasured of decorations in most households. In fact, in many families, Christmas mangers are even handed down from generation to generation. And, we are so blessed here with beautiful Christmas manger both inside and outside of our churches.

If you know the history of the Christmas manger, you know that it was our own St. Francis of Assisi, who originated this custom in 1223. St. Francis did this because he wanted to truly understand the impact of the reason that Jesus, God Himself, became one of us. He wanted to imagine what that moment was like, and so he recreated the scene; the first Christmas manger. And it is powerful for us to likewise take a moment do the same.

The feast of the Holy Family in particular reminds us that when God decided that the time had come for Him to enter into our human reality; to come to earth and take on our human flesh, that we need only to look at the manger to how He chose to do it. God chose to enter humanity not in a grandiose way, not in flurry and splendor, not with trumpet blast and glory, but in the simple way that you and I entered humanity - within a family. And, not only that, He chose to enter humanity as someone who was homeless – they could not find a place to lay their head. He chose to enter humanity as a migrant as they were on their way to another land for the census. He chose to enter our world as a refugee, as they had to flee to Egypt to avoid Herod’s wrath. And, He chose to enter our world as a little baby, as someone who was helpless and had to rely upon the aid and assistance of others if He were to survive to an age where He could complete His mission among us of spreading the good news and bringing His promised salvation.

God chose to enter our world precisely in the places and in the people and in the ways that we, today, so often struggle to see God. When we look at the immigrant, the refugee, the homeless, the helpless, what do we see? Do we realize that they are icons of the very image of God as He was on that first Christmas morning?

Our Christmas mangers are an image of a homeless, migrant family who had no place to lay their head. And every day there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people here on Cape Cod who are also homeless, or hungry, or facing a basic need. As we encounter these people, do we recognize that their image and the image of the Holy Family are the same? Do we recognize that when God came to earth, He associated Himself precisely with these same people? This is where God is present today.

In a few days or weeks, our Christmas mangers will be carefully packed and put away for another year, but these urban mangers that surround us on our streets remain in the men and women in need all around us. I think this is exactly why Jesus came to us, God Himself came to us, in a family, and one that was homeless and migrant and in need of the help of others. Because He wanted us then and now, to look at our own family, to look at the homeless and helpless around us, and to see that God is present there; they are not the “other”; instead, they are our brother, our sister, our family – and to reach out to them in need.

My friends, Jesus is the reason for the season; and this is the reason for Jesus. He came among us so that we might see God’s presence in our midst; that we might see God’s presence in one another; that we might see God’s presence in the most unlikely of places. If we want to become a Holy Family, this is how we do it. We say yes to that presence, yes to that invitation before our eyes, just as Joseph and Mary did so long ago. And it will make all the difference in our lives, in our world and in our families. May we become one, united and holy family under our loving and compassionate God this Christmas and always.

Merry Christmas and may the Lord give you peace.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

"Do not be afraid!"


Join me in a little sing-a-long: “Silent night, holy night. All is calm. All is bright. Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child. Holy Infant, so tender and mild. Sleep in heavenly peace. Sleep in heavenly peace. ” Is there any hymn that captures the quiet, the holiness, the hopes and the peace of Christmas than Silent Night? Just singing that song fills me with the peace of Christmas – and I hope you too.

I am such a big fan of all the traditions that surround this time of year. I particularly remember as a child all of the Christmas TV specials. During that time from Thanksgiving to Christmas we were so excited when any of them would come on. After dinner, we would hurriedly take our bath, put on our PJs and sit in front of the TV to watch, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, The Year Without a Santa Claus, or How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It wouldn’t be Christmastime without watching It’s a Wonderful Life, and my all-time favorite, A Charlie Brown Christmas.

I recently saw something online that made the message of A Charlie Brown Christmas even more profound. At the heart of A Charlie Brown Christmas is the scene were young Linus reminds every one of the true meaning of Christmas as he recites the story of the birth of Christ from the Gospel of Luke. It is the same passage we just heard proclaimed tonight. “The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.’”

But, for as many times as I have seen that special, there was one small but important detail that I had never noticed before until now. Charlie Brown is best known for his striped shirt, and Linus is most associated with his ever-present security blanket. Throughout the story of Peanuts, Lucy, Snoopy, Sally and others all are always trying to separate Linus from his blanket. And they always fail. Even though his security blanket is a source of ridicule for the otherwise mature and thoughtful Linus, he refuses to give it up. It makes him feel safe and secure.

Until this moment. As Linus is sharing the story of Christ’s birth, he drops his blanket. In that climactic scene when Linus shares what Christmas is all about, he drops his security blanket, and most telling is the specific moment he drops it: when he utters the words, "fear not" or in our translation “Do not be afraid.”

This cannot be a coincidence or something unintentional. It seems instead that Peanuts creator Charles Schultz was telling us something so simple, so important, so brilliant. The birth of Jesus separates us from our fears. The birth of Jesus frees us from the habits we are unable (or unwilling) to break ourselves. The birth of Jesus allows us to simply drop the false security we have been grasping so tightly, and instead to trust and cling to Jesus.

We all know that 2017 has been a difficult year for our nation, for our world. So much of the struggle of this last year has been based on fear. Fear of the other, fear of the immigrant, fear of the refugee, fear of the poor and the homeless and the addict. Fear of war, fear of terror. Fear seemingly everywhere. We may be among those who find ourselves grasping at something – anything – that offers a sense of security, whatever that might mean.

But, in the midst of it all, Jesus comes once again to remind us of something profound and deeply meaningful – “Do not be afraid…For today a savior has been born for you.” My friends, we are reminded today of this eternal truth: We were not created for fear. We were created for hope. We are the “light of the world”. We are the “salt of the earth”. We are called to be the leaven in our society, lifting the world out of its fear and anxiety and negativity; lifting it into the joy, love, compassion, forgiveness and healing of Jesus. My friends, we have been created for hope. Do not be afraid.

In his homily for Midnight Mass tonight Pope Francis spoke of hope. He said, “The faith we proclaim tonight makes us see God present in all those situations where we think he is absent. He is present in the unwelcomed visitor, often unrecognizable, who walks through our cities and our neighborhoods, who travels on our buses and knocks on our doors. Christmas is a time for turning the power of fear into the power of charity that does not grow accustomed to injustice, as if it were something natural, but that has the courage to make itself a land of hospitality. In this Child, God invites us to be messengers of hope, to become sentinels for all those bowed down by the despair born of encountering so many closed doors. In this child, God makes us agents of his hospitality. Moved by the joy of the gift, little Child of Bethlehem, we ask that your crying may shake us from our indifference and open our eyes to those who are suffering. May your revolutionary tenderness persuade us to feel our call to be agents of the hope and tenderness of our people.”

My friends, we were created for hope. Let this Christmas child make us the agents of hospitality and sentinels of hope our world so desperately needs.

Merry Christmas and please join me again: Silent Night…

Saturday, December 23, 2017

What's in a name?

HOMILY FOR THE 4th SUNDAY OF ADVENT, December 24, 2017:

Shakespeare famously wrote in Romeo and Juliet, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” Names are interesting things, and they usually come with a story. Let me give you an example. I have a beautiful black and white cat named Lucky. I have had lucky for about 17 years, and he was originally a rescue after he had been injured as a kitten. The local vet was looking for someone to adopt him or they’d have to put him down. So, being a good Franciscan, I took him. I asked my then 6 year old niece to give him a name and she came up with Lucky because as she said, “He’s lucky to be alive.”

Names have something to say about who we are and where we come from. For example, a few years ago, I lead a pilgrimage to Ireland. I am of Irish-American descent, so this trip also gave me a chance to connect with the roots of my family and our origins. During the journey, we traveled to some of the places that my family came from in Ireland which gave me a sense of my roots. When I came back, I did some additional research and was amazed when I looked up my great-grandfather, Thomas Mitchell, who was born in Ireland, whose name I share. I never knew him, he returned to the Lord before I was born, but you feel a connection when you share a family name. Well, as I was doing the research, l came across his baptismal record and was stunned to discover that he was born on September 1, 1879. My birthday is also September 1, just 89 years later. For me, sharing his name, and sharing the same birthday, deepened my connection to this relative whose name I share.

Names usually have something to tell us about who we are. You probably have great stories about your own name or some of the names in your family. So much of our Advent reflection is also about names; two names in particular. All through Advent, we hear the name Emmanuel. We’ve sung each week, “O come, Emmanuel.” And, of course, the second name is Jesus, for child whose birth we eagerly await.

When we look a little deeper, we realize that these two names have great meaning for us. The name Emmanuel tells us something very important about the birth of this child. This is no ordinary child.

When He is born, His birth will mean, as His name means, that “God is with us.” His birth signifies something different in the whole of human history. We do not have a God who loves us from afar; a God who communicates to us always through someone or something else. Our God comes to us directly – to be in our midst as one of us; to know our joys and hopes; our struggles and challenges. To proclaim His love to us directly. God is with us!

And then we have the name Jesus – the name that the angels tells Joseph that he is to give to this child. This name also tells us something more about what this presence of God among us means. The name Jesus means, “God is salvation.” The name tells us that Jesus is not here only to be among us, but that His presence in our midst will also do something so amazing – Jesus presence in our midst will open the gates of salvation for us. When we look at these names together we learn what we’re really meant to hear: that the birth of this child will mean that our God is with us and He is our salvation!

As we enter these final hours of our Advent journey, let us be mindful of what we celebrate – the fact that our God loves us so much that He became one of us; that He enters our world, our lives, our struggles and our joys. That our God loves us so much that He opens the gates of salvation for us so that He can be with us and we can be with Him forever.

And let us also remember that through our baptism, we also received a name – the name Christian, a name that means “little Christ.” We remember that the effect of this visitation of our God is that He calls us to be like Him; that when people see us, they see Him; that we are a living reflection of the God who is with us and comes to save us. God is not distant. He is right here, by our side, in our hearts, on our altar. He is sharing our struggles, walking with us in our suffering, laughing with us in our joys, sharing with us in our triumphs, always there when we need Him; and always calling us to reflect His image to the world. This is Emmanuel, this is Jesus. God is with us and will save us. So, what's in a name? Nothing less than our salvation!

May the Lord give you peace.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

I have a secret for you!

HOMILY FOR THE 3rd SUNDAY OF ADVENT, December 17, 2017:

There is a story about a monastery that was going through a time of crisis. Some of the monks had left the monastery; no new candidates joined them in years; and people were no longer coming for prayer and spiritual direction. The few monks that remained became old, depressed and bitter in their relationship with one another. But, the abbot heard about a holy hermit living alone in the woods and decided to consult him. He told the hermit how bad things had become and that only seven old monks remained. Praying on this, the hermit told the abbot that he had a secret for him: one of the monks currently living in his monastery was actually the Messiah, but He was living in such a way that no one could recognize Him.

With this revelation the abbot returned to his monastery, and recounted what the hermit told him. The aging monks looked at each other in disbelief, trying to discern who, among them, could be the Christ. Could it be Brother Mark who prays all the time? But he has a holier-than-thou attitude toward others. Could it be Bother Joseph who is always ready to help? But he is always eating and could never fast. The abbot reminded them that the Messiah had adopted some bad habits to disguise His true identity. This only made them more confused and they could not figure out who was Christ among them. At the end of the meeting what each one knew for sure was that any of them could be Christ.

From that day on they began to treat one another with greater respect and humility, knowing that the person they were speaking to could, in fact, be Christ. They began to show more love, their common life became more brotherly and their common prayer more fervent. Slowly people began to take notice of the new spirit in the monastery and began coming back for retreats and spiritual direction. Word began to spread and, before you know it, candidates began to show up and the monastery began to grow again in number as the monks grew in zeal and holiness. All this because a man of God drew their attention to a simple truth: that Christ was living in their midst as one of them.

My brothers and sisters, Advent is for us a time to prepare for the coming of the Lord: we recall His birth 2,000 years ago; we look forward to His return at the end of time. But, now, suppose that we were told, like the monks in our story, that the Christ for whom we are waiting is already here in our midst as one of us, what difference would that make?

In today’s Gospel John the Baptist tries to announce the same powerful message to the people of his time who were anxiously awaiting the coming of the Messiah. John tells them: “There is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”

The reason the people of Jesus’ time could not recognize Him as the Messiah is that they had their own ideas about how the Messiah was going to come. The Messiah would suddenly descend from heaven in His divine power and majesty and establish His reign by physically destroying the enemies of Israel. No one would know where He came from because He came from God. So when Jesus finally arrived, born of a woman like every other person, they did not recognize Him. He was too ordinary, too unimpressive, and so, far too many people missed the very presence of God in front of them.

We face the same challenge today. We too have our own expectations of what the presence of God in our midst should look like. It is different for each of us. And, it is good for us to anticipate God in our midst as long as our expectations aren’t more important than God’s actual presence. God is right in front of us in Word, in Sacrament, and perhaps where we miss Him most often – God is present within us, and in every single person we meet. After all, this is what we mean when we respond, “And with your spirit” – words that recognize God’s presence in those around us.

And so, my friends, listen carefully today. I have a secret for you. One of the members of our community is actually the Messiah, but they are living in such a way that they aren’t quickly recognized. “There is one among you whom you do not recognize.” So, how will we recognize this Godly presence in our midst? Because God is right here before us, waiting for us to invite Him in. My friends, let us pray that God will continue to open our eyes, our minds, our hearts, our very lives to see His presence in us, and to see His presence around us today. Do you see what I see?

May the Lord give you peace.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Made new!

HOMILY FOR THE 2nd SUNDAY OF ADVENT, December 10, 2017:

A few years ago, I watched a documentary called Untattoo You. It told the remarkable story of a program on the West Coast that offered to remove unwanted tattoos from the bodies of young people – their focus was helping young people escape from gang life and remove the tattoos that were associated with it; tattoos that had literally physically marked them as part of these destructive groups. The film is told from the perspective of these young people; about how their lives got into these difficult places and about how difficult it had been leave gang life, not to mention the challenge of removing the actual tattoos.

Although dramatic, the ideas behind this film get at an important point in all of our lives – the reality that all of us have probably at some point done something that we regret and would like to erase. Usually these things aren’t as visible as a tattoo or as dramatic as joining a gang, but we all make mistakes; we all make poor decisions; we all say things we wish we could take back or have broken friendships or relationships that we wish we could repair. It is part of being human and sometimes we just wish we could make these mistakes disappear; that they could be erased. We’re looking for the way to undo the things that we wish we could change.

If we take a moment to slow down this Advent Season, to listen to the words of Scripture and the songs being sung, to take a few moments out of all the hustle and bustle, we might discover that this is in fact the message of Advent too. That it is the message of Jesus. It is what is offered to us every time we enter the Confessional; every time we gather around the altar for the Eucharist. Jesus is constantly inviting us to welcome Him again. He is saying, “I am always right here to change your darkness into light; to change your sin into holiness; to change your sadness into joy. I am here to make all things new for you.”

We hear these words today of a “voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord.’” Those words, my friends, are being spoken to us, telling us to prepare once again; to ready our hearts once again that Jesus might find a home there; to clear the pathways so that He can enter in.

Pope Francis has been a similar voice crying out inviting us to prepare. He has reminded us of powerful realities like the fact that “God never tires of forgiving us.” So, we should never tire of seeking out that forgiveness. And in The Joy of the Gospel he said, “Now is the time to say to Jesus: ‘Lord, in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord. Take me once more into your redeeming embrace.’”

So, as we hear the words of Scripture today, “Prepare the way of the Lord,” what are we to do? Well, these words are not historic, they are present and alive, meant for each one of us just as much as they were meant for the women and men who first heard them more than 2,000 years ago. These words, here today, are an invitation to you and me to become new again in Jesus. To leave behind whatever tattoos, whatever marks, there are on our souls that we regret – let God have them, let God heal them, let God change and transform them. As St. Francis of Assisi said, you should “hold back nothing of yourself for yourself, so that He who has given Himself completely to you, might receive you completely.” So, my friends, don’t let this Mass be like every other Mass, any other Mass. Today, look into your heart and leave it all here. Today, let God have all those things you want to change. Let Him have the words you wish you never said, the things you wish you never did. Today, prepare the way, make some room, let Jesus in this Eucharist fill you completely.

Pope Francis said, “I have this certainty: God is in every person's life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else - God is in this person's life. You can - you must - try to seek God in every human life.” My friends, God is in our lives and He wants to be in them more and more and more. That is the message of Advent. To prepare ourselves because God is coming. Prepare ourselves because God wants to make His home with us, to make His home in us.

So, as we enter into this Eucharist today, let us open ourselves completely to Him. Hold back nothing of yourselves. Put all that you are – even and especially the parts you want to change – spiritually on the altar along with the bread and wine and just as Jesus changes them into something miraculous, let Him change you into something miraculous – let Him make you everything He knows you can be; the very person He created you to be. Prepare the way today, once more.

May the Lord give you peace.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Wake up!!!!

HOMILY FOR THE 1st SUNDAY OF ADVENT, December 3, 2017:

If you’re like me, especially at this time of year, I love to watch all of the cooking shows on Food TV. They make the most incredible things there, and they make it all look so easy. But, of course, they’re always looking for something new and different to keep things interesting. I saw one recently where they were cooking a TurDucKen. The TurDucKen is a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken. It makes your normal turkey seem so boring, doesn’t it? Here’s another one I saw – a holiday dessert called CherPumple. It’s essentially three different pies – cherry pie, pumpkin pie and apple pie – all stacked one on top of the other all brought together with a sugary frosting. Guaranteed to put you into a diabetic coma! It will go nicely with your TurDucKen. This time of year seems to bring out the desire for these kind of mash-ups, and not only with food. For example, I there is the ultimate mash-up of ChrismaHanuKwanzakah – a mash-up of Christmas, Chanukah and Kwanza into one mega-holiday. I’m not sure why we are so fascinated with mash-ups is this time of year. I think maybe it’s because we feel like there isn’t enough time to get it all done.

In the midst of this silliness, though, the Church gives us this beautiful, peaceful, and calming season of Advent. I think it is purposefully given to us right in the middle of the busiest time of the year; right in the thick of holiday parties, and shopping. The Church invites us today to stop, to breathe, to reflect, to take our time, to be renewed and refreshed once again in Jesus.

We’re invited to stop and spend some time pulling apart all that the world has tried to mash together for us. Despite what everything outside of the Church says to us, it isn’t Christmas yet. Wait for it; it will come. There in fact aren’t a million things to be done. You haven’t fallen behind. Stop, pause, and let the wonder of truth of this season unfold. Embrace the waiting and watching and anticipation that Advent welcomes us into – because there is a great value in the waiting, a great value in the anticipation.

Our readings today also have a message for us: wake up and pay attention to the waiting! Our second reading encouraged our waiting, “I give thanks to God always on your account…as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And Jesus encouraged us to wake up, “"Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.” We are being reminded to stay awake because something is on the horizon; wake up because something is about to happen; something new is around the corner and we don’t want to miss it. We want to prepare; we want to be ready; to see with new eyes.

What are we waiting for? What are we meant to be awake for? Of course, for Jesus. But, not merely to recall His birth on Christmas Day. But, to be awakened to remember, once again, that He never left; that He is always right here and if we are not awake, we might be in danger of missing the presence of God in our midst.

My friends, here we are, all of us, often living in apprehension and anxiety; trying to make sense of our world, coping with our struggles as best we can – sickness, death, disappointment, loss, loneliness and fear. And in the eternal now that is our God, Jesus comes to join us; to comfort us as only God can comfort us and make us feel loved, as only God can make us feel loved. And, that is the point of Advent – to slow down, to wait, and to wake up, to see that Jesus is right here. So, let Him wrap you – wrap your struggles, your anxieties, your fears and disappointments; as well as, your joys, your triumphs, your love and your blessings – let God wrap all of that tightly in His loving and cradling arms. He wants to be present to you; to comfort you and share His profound love for you and with you.

The world wants to tempt you with its busyness, with its activity, with its ChrismaHanuKwanzakah and even with its CherPumple. But, resist the temptation and instead enter Advent time – a place to slow down, quiet down, and awaken ourselves to the Lord – in this Advent space Jesus wants to enter that busyness and be made present to us once again; present on this altar as bread and the wine become Body and Blood for us; present in our hearts and in our lives, so that we can become the comfort and love that He wants to extend to everyone we meet.

My friends, let us stay awake so that we may not miss the Visitation of Christ in our midst. Stay awake and let God comfort us, love us, and prepare us to welcome Him with renewed joy at Christmas.

May the Lord give you peace.