Sunday, November 30, 2014

First Sunday of Advent - 2014; A Reflection

Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64: 2-7
1 Corinthians 1: 3-9
Mark 13: 33-37

We are entering the Advent season, in preparation for the celebration of Christmas.  Of course, the department stores, electronics stores, the online shopping sites, have declared that now is the Christmas season.  “So buy now, now, NOW; while prices are low, low, LOW!”  And even those who do understand the meaning of this Advent season, they focus more on the preparation to remember the first coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as a human child.  We tend to forget that Advent is a time to also reflect on the Second Coming of Christ, at the end of time.  Many of us, I think, have the attitude that the Second Coming will not happen in our lifetimes.  This is fueled by scientific speculation that the Universe has billions of years left in it’s life, that Earth itself, has millions, if not billions years of life left in it. So we become complacent, we are like the college student who slacks off most of the academic year, figuring he can cram in his studies and be ready for his final examination.

Then today’s Gospel can be an alarm for us. For Jesus is grabbing us by the shoulders; shaking us and saying: “Watch!”  He is telling us, in no uncertain terms, that we do not know the day or the hour of his coming again, his coming in glory and power.  So we need to live every day, every hour, and every second, in expectation of Christ’s Second Coming!  And our hearts and souls must to ready, every day, every hour, and every second, to greet Him when He comes.  We must strive daily, to read, reflect on, and live the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We must live in expectation of encountering Christ daily, through God’s Creation, through His Word, in each other, and especially through the Eucharist.  We must work to make our hearts open to the Presence of our Living God..

This requires work, this requires preparation; it will mean a lifetime of work.  God is with us, ready to form us in a beautiful creation; as long as we do not harden our hearts against Him.  This is what the season Advent is to help us understand, to help us begin anew the work of conversion, to prepare and watch for the coming of the Lord.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Massachusetts Boy Makes Good - Again!

National Catholic Reporter's website has reported on the election results for various positions within the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.  The NCCB is meeting in Baltimore MD. 

Among those elected was a local fella, Bishop Christopher Coyne, auxiliary Bishop of Indianapolis.  He has been elected to head the Communications  committee.  He is one of the few bishops who maintains a blog, and regularly uses other social media platforms.

Prior to being named a bishop, Bishop Coyne was a priest for the Archdiocese of Boston.  He became Cardinal Bernard Law's press spokesman, in the midst of the clergy child abuse scandal in Boston.  He handled that assignment well.  I was impressed that he was willing to be available to the media.  Especially being interviewed by Emily Rooney, on Boston's public tv news program.

Part of the New Evangelization is to use all of the new media to reach out to young adults, and youth.  I think that with his experinces, Bishop Coyne should be very effective in this  new position.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Deacons and the New Evangelization

On November 8th, I attended the annual regional gathering of Permanent Deacons, held by the National Association of Diaconate Directors (NADD).  This year's hosts were the deacons of the Archdiocese of Boston.  Our theme was the deacon's role in implementing the program of the New Evangelization, in our local parishes, and in our wider society. 

Just a couple of thoughts, while I am between Masses this Sunday.  Every practicing Catholic is called to be an evangelizer.  Called to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ, by word and action.  Called to invite those who have fallen away from the Church, by loving them.

Deacons are well positioned for this, because we live our vocation to serve, to proclaim the Good News, not just in Church; but also in our homes, offices, the marketplace, and on the streets.  A nun, Mother Olga, said that when we wake up for the day, we are deacons, open to serving others, at every moment.  Open to speaking the Good News, by word and action, to everyone we come in contact with.  And thus, we can become examples to others on what it truly means to be Evangelizers.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Homily for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time - 2014

Exodus 22: 20-26
1 Thessalonians 1: 5c-10
Matthew 22: 34-40

In today’s Gospel, we have one of those rare encounters with the Pharisees, where they were not trying to trap Jesus.  We see a scholar of the Jewish Law asking Jesus which is the greatest commandment in the Law.  This is a traditional rabbinic practice, to ask a question about the Torah, and then debate over the answer.  If you go into a school that trains Jewish rabbis, you may see a room of students, one on one, debating about the meaning of some passage of Scripture.  Sometimes, the debate is quite vigorous.  Now keep in mind, the rabbis of Jesus’ time counted 613 commandments in the Law.  Out of all those commandments, Jesus picks one as the greatest, and also describes the second greatest commandment.

“You shall love the Lord, your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”  How many of us squirm just a little when we hear Jesus say to us what it means to be in a relationship with the Lord Our God, the depth of the commitment that is being demanded of us:  all of our hearts, all of our souls, all of our minds.  It is not enough just to come here to church every week, to take a few minutes every day to say a prayer, or read some Scripture.  As good and important those actions are.  No, we are to strive to be present to God every second of every day of our lives.  We are called to live lives that give praise to the goodness of God, that offer thanks for God’s gifts to us. We are called to be in an intimate, personal relationship with the Father. 

Now, we all have to acknowledge that for many of us, this may not be easy.  We know from our own personal relationships with others, that we can fall short of the mark, that at times we will stumble, make mistakes, and not be fully present to the other.  However, the Father offers us the grace to overcome our faults and weaknesses.  Especially here, right now, He seeks to inspire us through His Word, and to strengthen us through the Eucharist.  We need only to open our hearts, our souls totally to the transformative power of the Father’s love.  We can then, in turn, be able to return that love.

And this is where the second greatest commandment that Jesus declared comes into play.  “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Now, let me repeat that, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  In order to love others, we need to first be able to love ourselves..  In other words, we need to be able to accept ourselves, with all our strengths, our gifts, our talents, and our weaknesses, our faults, and our failings.  And for some of us, maybe all of us, that may not be such an easy thing.  But if we accept the fact that God loves us, no matter how good or how bad we are, if we have experienced that wonderful love, then we can learn to love ourselves.  And if the God, who loves us, also created and loves all the people around us; how can we not care for them also.  And I am not just talking about loving our family members, our friends, and acquaintances; we are called to love everyone, the strangers, people that do not fit in our communities, the social outcasts, the “aliens” in our midst.  We are called to love those who are not nice to us, to those who have done us harm.  If we are followers of Jesus Christ, we cannot make distinctions; everyone is a brother and sister, everyone deserves our care and concern. 

“You shall love the Lord, your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Jesus describes these as the greatest of the commandments; that must be the foundation of all those other rules, laws, commandments, and as we have seen, the most challenging.  How well we strive to live these commandments to love can be an example to the rest of society around us.  That from us, the Good News of Lord will sound forth, and can, and will be a beacon of light to the world.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Reading the Good News, Living the Good News

"Secular Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the gospel, going from gospel to life and life to the gospel". (Art. 4, OFS Rule)

In a recent talk, Pope Francis encourage everyone to carry a small book of the Gospels with them.  And more than that, to reflect daily on a passage from the Gospels. It is through the Gospels, that we can encounter Christ, be guided by him, be inspired by him.

I have my copy; do you have yours?

(PS: This is my first selfie!)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

"Cry Havoc!"

On September 11, 2014, President Barack Obama stood before the nation, and declared that the war on terror has entered a new phase, with a more dangerous adversary.  The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, is proving to be the most vicious, and powerful terrorists group in the Middle East.  They have been able to defeat a regular army, and seize huge swaths of Iraqi territory; determined to restore the Islamic empire of ancient times; and impose their version of Islam on everyone, by the point of the sword or by the barrel of a gun.  They have slaughtered prisoners of war, non-Moslem Iraqi citizens, brutally executed two Americans and a British citizen. 

The President is now finalizing a strategy to fight ISIL, hoping to use American airpower, and Middle Eastern soldiers; and not have to send US troops back on Iraqi soil.  Again, we are hearing a US President, calling the nation to action, but promising that our involvement will be limited and quick.  I cannot help but recall these lines from William Shakespeare, in his play, Julius Caesar; “Cry ‘Havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of war.”  A president may wish to control the situation, but once the “dogs of war,” are set free, often circumstances beyond a leaders’ control takes over. 

I have no idea what is the right course of action.  The pacifist in me mourns the amount of blood that will be spilled; both from foe and innocent alike.  The realist in me, knows that some action, some military action is needed to curtail the advance of this group, and protect the innocent who are in ISIL’s way.  I fear we are entering a new dark and violent period, where brave men and women must once again go into harm’s way.

All that many of us can do, is pray; pray for the suffering innocents, pray for those who are going into combat, and pray that the Holy Spirit break through hard hearts, shine a new light on our violent world, and guide us to peace.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

9/11 - Remembering

Today is a day to remember the terrible events that happened thirteen years ago.  St. Anthony Shrine in downtown Boston, has created a banner listing the names of the all the victims.  The Franciscan Friars have it hung in front of the Shrine, making    It a wall of rememberance.  I have watched people stop, read the names; some stop at a particular name, and offer a prayer.  I have gone up and touched the wall, and feel different; feel the presence of the Spirit, as I offer my prayer for the victims and their families.

"Enternal rest unto them all, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them."