Monday, December 24, 2012

Navidad--Misa Vigil: Todo es para este noche!

Por muchos días, durante el tiempo de Adviento—el mes de diciembre—nosotros hemos tenido muchas cosas para prepararnos—para prepararnos por este día hoy.  Por la Navidad.  Pero, que cosas?  Que hicimos durante este tiempo?


Tuvimos el novenario para Guadalupe.  Muchas noches con las oraciones, las ave marías, los padre nuestros, y las letanías.  Casas diferentes con personas diferentes: pero todo el tiempo el mismo dios, el mismo Jesús.  Muchas noches con comida, comida y más comida.  Nos preparamos nuestros corazones para recibir nuestra madre, y la madre de Jesús, la Virgen de Guadalupe. 


Y todo lo que hemos hecho es para hoy.  Pero que mas hicimos durante este tiempo para prepararnos?


Tuvimos la celebración de la Virgen de Guadalupe.  Los momentos de la preparación y organización de la comida, la fiesta, la obra y la baila.  Tuvimos personas de muchos lugares lejos, nuestras familias y amigos y otras que querían ayudarnos.  La danza, la banda, la obra y la comida.  Mucho comida.  Muchas tómales, tómales y más tómales.  Y ahora, pienso que,  nosotros tenemos tómales en la mente. 


Y tuvimos la procesión, las canciones, el incienso, la homilía, el olor de comida durante la misa, y la primera comunión. Gracias a dios por la primera comunión. 


Y todo lo que hemos hecho es para hoy.  Pero que mas hicimos durante este tiempo para prepararnos? 


Tuvimos las posadas.  Las posadas de María y José y nosotros.  Los rosarios, las canciones y la comida.  Si, la comida: chocolate, y chocolate y chocolate.  Y gracias a dios mas tamales!! Y mucho ponche, frijoles, chicharrones, pan dulce y hot dogs (no se porque tuvimos hot dogs!!).  Pero, hubo hot dogs.  Y ahora, posiblemente, nosotros pesamos un poquito más.  Pero, ay aha. 


Porque todo lo que hemos hecho es para hoy. 


Pero, que celebremos hoy?  Por qué hemos preparado para este día?  


Porque hoy es el día de Jesús.  El día que dios entre nuestro mundo como un bebe.  El día en que dios muestra su amor y compasión para nosotros.   Y Jesús, con su amor y compasión, dice: yo quiero salvarles.  Yo quiero ayudarles.  Yo quiero estar con ustedes.  Yo nunca voy a salir.  Yo nunca voy a abandonarles.  Ustedes son mi pueblo.  Ustedes son el pueblo de dios.


Y por casi más de un mes, nosotros hemos preparado mucho.  Hemos preparado nuestros corazones para recibir el niño.  El niño esta aquí.  Dios ha venido al mundo.  Jesús esta con nosotros.  Siempre. 


Feliz Navidad.

Tonight Everything is Different---Christmas Vigil Homily in English

Wrapped in her worn robe in front of a crackling fire in her living room, an elderly woman sits alone and sips her tea.  Alone.   Alone on this Christmas Eve.  Alone, back in the hollers of some long forgotten range of mountains.  Her husband recently passing from this life and her kids having abandoned her because the pain was too great.  And so she sits.  Alone. 


Oh come, oh come, Emanuel. 


Bent over in both heart and body a Syrian man sifts through ashes, glass and rubble, that are still smoking from the blast the day before.  He reaches for a charred photo, blowing the dust from the faces on the print.  This is all they are now.  His family.  Just faces on a print.  Everything that ever had meaning in his life:  gone in an instant.  His heart explodes into pieces like the shattered debris around him as he realizes he is alone. 


Oh come, oh come, Emanuel.


A few signatures are all it took.  A few signatures and 20 years came to an end.  20 years of living in basements, buying and crying their first home, kids, kids and more kids.  20 years of memories: camping, moving, laughing, and loving.  A few signatures are all it took to end that which God had joined together.  A few signatures to find herself wondering how she will raise her kids alone.  A single mother with four kids.  Alone.


Oh come, oh come, Emanuel.


He has been set free. Free and not really free.  Free from a system that placed him in one broken home after the next.  Homes that were supposed to be havens yet turned out to be hell.  As a wayfaring foster child he was moved from one place of abuse and misery to the next.  And now turning of age he has been set free, free and not really free.  And the very system he learned to loathe is the only place he wants to be.  For he walks the streets on this cold, dark night:  alone.


Oh come, oh come, Emanuel. 


The snow settles on the fresh roses and overturned dirt covering the sadness of the last week.  No one is supposed to bury their child.  No one.  And yet this cross came to so many in that town in the Northeast.  It came to so many.  And so the snow falls like a blanket over the stone marking just 7 years in this world.  7 years and now that precious body is alone.

Oh come, oh come, Emanuel.


For four weeks now we as a church have been begging our God to come.  Come to us and set us free.  Come to us and lift us out of our loneliness.  Lift us out of our despair.  Lift us out of the sadness.  For each of us journeys through this life and cannot help but feel at times, deep down in the very recesses of our heart, that we feel alone.  We find ourselves surrounded by people and noise and busyness and phones and computers and tablets and TVs and yet we cannot completely drown out that silent hint inside---the hint of loneliness. 


And sometimes it is more than a silent hint.  Sometimes it overwhelms us.  For who of us has not had the experience of feeling abandoned by those who are supposed to love us? Who of us have not lost loved ones and felt at their death that our very heart was ripped from our chest and nothing could replace that loss?  Who of us has not been faced with the task of carrying a responsibility far too great for two people: and now is faced with carrying it on their own?  Who of us has not meandered from one broken relationship to the next wondering if love will ever come to rest in our lives?


But tonight it all changes.  Tonight everything is different.  Tonight nothing will be the same.


For tonight our very gathering here, here in this storefront in this small town nestled in East Tennessee we make a witness to our each other.  We make a witness to the state.  We make a witness to this country, to the world.  And even to the cosmos.  Because the event we celebrate tonight has cosmic consequences.  With our presence here and the sound of the Gloria and the lights and the trees and the presents and the love shared together we make a witness that we no longer beg for Emanuel to come.  Emanuel is here.  Our God is with us.   He has called us from the north and the south, from the east and the west.  He has called some of us every day for years and years and some of us have just been called.  But he has called us all to gather here together to witness to all people that God has come.  We are never alone.  We are never alone.  God is with us.  Jesus came as that little child as God and man.  The perfect marriage of humanity and divinity.  And only from this precious miracle can we say that we are never alone.  Never.


And so our song changes.  No longer do we sing Oh Come oh Come Emmanuel.  But now, our voices carry a new tune.  A tune of joy: Joy to the world, the Lord is come.


For the lonely widow nestled in the mountain…the Lord is come.

For the Syrian father without a family… the Lord is come.

For the single mother raising her kids…the Lord is come.

For the foster child without a home… the Lord is come.

For the despair in Connecticut…the Lord is come.

For us…the Lord is come.


And from the depths our own loneliness we look to one another seated here in this church.  When we have been the grieving widow or the Syrian father or the single mother or the foster child or the despairing parent.... the Lord is come.  The Lord is come for each of us--each of you sitting in this church—and your neighbors, families and friends.  For he has come for each of us and so we come together to give glory to the one who has set us free.  Yes, tonight, nothing is the same.  Everything has changed.  And so as we make our ways to celebrate with family and friends, to eat and be merry, we have the confidence to say both now and in the deep recesses of our heart:


Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her king.  Let every heart prepare him room. And heaven and nature sing.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I Dreamed a Dream in Time Gone By---Connecticut and the 3rd Sunday of Advent

I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving

But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
As they turn your dream to shame

I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I'm living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.


Those words from the Les Miserables speak great wisdom at a time like now.


For many dreams came to an end with the tragedy that occurred in Connecticut on Friday.  Dreams of children playing on the playground.  Dreams of kids building a fort or climbing in a tree.  Dreams of innocents playing in the snow and making an angel.  And life has killed the dream they dreamed


And there were the dreams of parents.  Dreams to celebrate birthdays.  Dreams to see their kids play soccer.  Dreams to teach their son how to shave.  Their daughter how to curl her hair.  Dreams to witness that first prom.  Dreams to see their kids have kids.  And now life has killed the dream they dreamed.


Our dreams died too.  For those kids are our kids.  Those parents are our parents.  With our heavy hearts we realize that the loss experienced in Connecticut is our loss too.  Their innocence lost is our innocence lost.  Not only of life that is so precious, but also of our hope in humanity.  We think we are making progress and that senseless violence will be a thing of the past.  But this loss of innocence hits us in the gut like a thousand knives as we curl up in bed asking God to make it better.  So we hug our children tighter before they go to sleep.  We call up our brother to tell him we love him.  We stop by our mother’s home to see if she is doing ok.  For we had dreams too.  And with those kids’ lives, life has killed the dream we dream.



No words can be spoken to alleviate the pain and suffering that exist from these terrible events.  And pushing an agenda such as gun control or better health care might give us a temporary outlet for our grief, but they will hardly present a solution.  Unfortunately, violence such as this has become common place in our lives.  Who of us has not entered a public place recently and thought about what we would do if someone entered wielding a gun?  Or who of us hasn’t started locking our doors in recent years or decided we ourselves need to carry a gun to be safe.  And our violence pales in comparison to the extreme violence of civil war in Syria, the bomb blasts in Tel Aviv and Gaza, or the starvation of thousands throughout the world.  What is to become of their dreams?


This weekend we celebrate Guadate Sunday: the Sunday for us to rejoice.  That’s why I am wearing Rose colored vestments.  But with the violence of the past days, it seems more fitting to wear the color red for martyrs.  However, the church is consistent in her message even though it is sometimes so hard to see or experience: central to the Christian experience, central to the life of being a Catholic, is to be a person of joy.  As we move towards the celebration of Christmas, we are invited to be filled with joy in anticipation of our savior.


So how do we do that?  How in the world is it possible to be people of joy in the midst of so much sadness?  How can we possibly be expected to have joy in our hearts when all we want to do is vomit up the vile of evil we sense around us?


Now I am going to invite us to consider something that might come across as extreme for many.  You might reject it completely.  You may even think I am out of my mind.  And if that is the case then take my words and throw them as far away from you as possible.  But I only ask that at least give this a chance to enter your heart. 




How are we to experience joy? 


The path to joy that is to be the part of every Christian’s life can only be found in recognizing that in our own way, all of us are the gunman up in Connecticut. 





We think it easy to point fingers, make excuses and say that these events are horrible and there was some reason that made this person do what he did.  We try to write off this person’s actions claiming that he was insane.  We do whatever we can to avoid the invariable truth that our faith teaches us:  that deep down inside, all of us, in our own way, are the gunman.  All of us are fallen.  All of us are broken.  All of us are weak.  All of us are depraved and fall short of the glory of God.  All of us.


Not we may not enter a school and take the lives of so many innocent people.  But we all have violence that is part and parcel of our DNA.  It runs through our blood.  For how many of us ride the bumper of someone who pulls out in front of us on the road.  How many of us have flashed the middle finger at those have cut us off on the highway.  How many of us let the vile message of insidious lyrics so common on the radio touch our ears.  How many of us have threatened in our hearts to hurt another person.  How many of us have physically hurt another, in small or in severe ways.  How many of us have shouted angry words of hatred to those we love the most.  How many of us are infected by the cancer of racism and bigotry—even if in a small way.  How many of us have wished great ill upon another person or been so filled with jealousy or envy we wished another to be removed from our presence.  Or how many of us have been the victims or perpetrators of violence right in our own homes.   Can it possibly be true, that each of us in our own way, has a streak of this gunman running through us?


When a shooting occurs like what did in Connecticut, this is the dream that we ultimately lose.  We each look in the mirror before we go to bed at night and we realize, in some quiet recess of our heart, that we too are just as guilty as that shooter.  We too participate in fallen humanity and we too, but for the grace of God, or our upbringing, or certain happenings in life could easily find ourselves thinking of such violence or even perpetrating the same thing.


Now nobody wants to think about this.  Nobody wants to be told by their priest or any other person that at the core of our hearts we all have this kind of evil inside of us.  But accepting this reality, accepting that evil flows through our blood just as goodness and beauty and truth—but evil too, is the only way we can come to experience the joy of this Christmas season.





Our joy comes in realizing that the very fallenness, brokenness, fragile state of each of our souls is why God chose to come to be with us.  Our joy comes because we realize that no matter how many Connecticut shootings take place, no matter how many acts of violence are perpetrated, no matter how easily in just a few days we all forget about these horrible events and go on with life as normal, our God still has come to save us.    And we are filled with joy because we see how without our savior, without his love and grace, we in our wretchedness would be deserving of so much worse.  We fall on our knees and realize how much we need God in our lives.  We crawl like the woman caught in adultery to his feet and hold on for our dear lives because we know that we are desperately in need of a savior.  Desperately. 


That is how we experience joy.  And it hurts.  It is painful.  But it is the only way.  To go deep into ourselves and truly see that which exists—that the gunman is also there.  And then to realize that God loves us even with the gunman inside each of us, and has come to save us, and set us all free.

I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living



The dream is still alive.  Life is still worth living.  Joy is possible.  For our God has come.  Jesus has come to save us all and set us free.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

2nd Domingo de Adviento

A veces, el camino es muy largo y peligroso, y parece que nunca va a llegar a su destino.  Pero al final, el destino vale la pena.


Hace cinco años, yo estaba en Guatemala visitando unos amigos.  Y yo tenía un amigo que vivía muy lejos de una ciudad o centro de la población.  Él vivía en una aldea en las montanas.   Entonces, yo pase en un autobús—se llama un chicken bus—por más de cinco horas para visitarlo.  El autobús escalaba montañas muy peligrosas y altas.  El autobús pasó muy cerca de los precipicios.   Llegamos a un puente para pasar sobre de un rio, pero el puente ya no existe.  Entonces, el autobús paso por el rio---en el agua!!  Y el agua en el rio se estaba moviendo muy rápido.  Yo tenía mucho miedo.  Muchas veces durante este viaje yo pensaba que iba a morir.  Yo dije:  “Ahora, voy a morir.  Nunca voy a llegar a mi destino.  Nunca voy a ser sacerdote.  Dios ayúdame!!”    Pero, como un milagro, llegue a la casa de mi amigo.  Gracias a Dios.  En la casa de mi amigo, ellos tenían una gran fiesta con mucha comida, música, baile y diversión.  El destino valió la pena del viaje.




A veces, el camino es muy largo y peligroso, y parece que nunca va a llegar a su destino.  Pero al final, el destino vale la pena. 




En nuestras vidas de fe, también, el camino es muy largo y peligroso, y parece que nunca vamos a llegar a nuestros destinos. 







Por ejemplo, nosotros tratamos de seguir a Jesús.   Asistimos a misas todos los domingos.  Asistimos a las clases de formación de fe.  Oramos con nuestra familia.  Y a menudo, pensamos que la fe es más importante en nuestras vidas.  Y luego, las malas cosas empiezan pasar.  Tenemos una persona en nuestra familia que está muy enfermo.  Y él vive allá en México y no podemos visitarlo.  Y es muy triste y duro.  Luego, tratamos de mandar nuestros papeles del gobierno, y el gobierno no acepta.  Y todavía más, trabajamos mucho y con mucha fuerza, pero no le caemos muy bien a nuestro jefe y perdemos nuestro trabajo y no podemos apoyar a nuestra familia.  Empezamos a decirle a Jesús: porque me pasan cosas malas en mi vida?  Yo tengo fe, yo hago cosas buenas en mi vida de fe, pero ahora me pasan cosas muy malas en mi vida. Porque?  Y en este momento, es posible que comencemos a perder nuestra fe.




Desafortunadamente, comenzamos a darnos cuenta que una vida de fe esta llena de cosas difíciles.   Y en la vida de fe, el camino es muy largo y peligroso, y parece que nunca va a llegar a nuestro destino.





Pero, hay esperanza en las escrituras hoy.  Las escrituras dicen que en el camino de nuestra vida, en el camino de fe, Dios ha ordenado que se abajen todas las montanas y todas las colinas.  Él ha ordenado que se rellenen todos los valles hasta aplanar la tierra, para que Israel—nosotros—caminamos seguros bajo la gloria de Dios.  Esta es la promesa y esperanza de las escrituras.  Esta es nuestra promesa y esperanza. 


No tenemos una promesa de no tener dificultades.  No tenemos una promesa de no tener sufrimientos.  Y no tenemos una promesa de no tener tristezas. 



Pero, tenemos una promesa, que el hijo de Dios, Jesús, va a venir.  Él va a venir y nos guiara en nuestras vidas.  Él va a abajar todas las montanas.  Él va a rellenar todos los valles en nuestras vidas.


Cuando nosotros tenemos una persona en nuestra familia que esta    enfermo y no podemos visitarlo….Jesús esta con nosotros.

Cuando nosotros tenemos un miembro de nuestra familia que entre a los   Estados Unidos pero no podemos encontrarlo…Jesús esta con     nosotros.

Cuando perdimos nuestro trabajo y no podemos apoyar a nuestra     familia…Jesús está con nosotros. 

Cuando no podemos recibir nuestros papeles de gobierno y estamos           nerviosos…Jesús esta con nosotros. 


El camino no es demasiado difícil incluso cuando tenemos mucha dificultades y problemas porque sabemos y creemos que Jesús esta con nosotros.  Y Jesús prepara el camino para nosotros.  


Y cuando nosotros lleguemos a nuestro destino, cuando nuestra vida termine, vamos a realizar una cosa más: Jesús prepara una celebración para nosotros.  En esta celebración hay comida, música, baile, y paz.  Y estamos unidos con nuestras familias.  Y no hay más preocupaciones con papeles, enfermedades, o trabajo.  Solamente hay paz, diversión y alegría.  Porque nosotros estaremos con Jesús en el cielo.


A veces, el camino es muy largo y peligroso, y parece que nunca va a llegar a su destino.  Pero en el fin, el destino vale la pena.

La Virgen de Guadalupe

Quien es nuestra madre, nuestra señora de Guadalupe?  Este es una pregunta muy importante.  Porque muchos reúnen hoy para celebrar este día.  Y es un buen día con comida, baila, obra, diversión---muchas cosas que son muy buenas.  Pero, quien es nuestra madre, nuestra señora de Guadalupe?  La respuesta de esta pregunta es muy, muy importante.  Porque si nosotros aceptamos a María, la virgen de Guadalupe como nuestra madre, estamos los hijos de María, la virgen de Guadalupe.  Si estamos los hijos de María, estamos obligados para vivir en una manera que es apropiado como hijos de la señora de Guadalupe.  Pero, quien es nuestra madre?


Nuestra madre es una madre de los pobres.  Ella tenía experiencias de tiempos de mucha pobreza.  Entonces ella entiende las dificultades de los pobres.  Y ella da apoyo a ellos.  Ella ruega por los pobres.  Ella cuida a los pobres.  Y ella trae los pobres a su hijo, Jesucristo. 


Entonces, nosotros, también, como hijos de María, necesitamos cuidar a los pobres.  Necesitamos ayudar a los pobres con dinero, comido, y ayuda todo el tiempo.  Necesitamos orar por los pobres.  Y necesitamos realizar que todo nosotros estamos pobres: porque sin la gracia de Dios, nosotros no podemos hacer nada.  No podemos vivir.  Nuestra señora de Guadalupe es una madre de los pobres, entonces nosotros, como hijos de María, necesitamos cuidar a los pobres.


Quien es nuestra madre?


Nuestra madre es una madre de los inmigrantes.   Ella tenía muchas experiencias de tiempo en otros lugares que no son su hogar.  Ella necesitaba viajar muy lejos de su familia.  Ella necesitaba tener momentos alegres y tristes muy lejos de su familia.  Ella tenía experiencias del rechazo de vivir en un país diferente y extraño.   Entonces ella entiende el rechazo de los inmigrantes hoy.  Ella entiende las tristezas de los inmigrantes hoy.  Ella quiere cuidar a los inmigrantes hoy.


Entonces, como hijos de María, podemos ir a María cuando estamos tristezas.  Cuando estamos separados de nuestras familias, podemos ir a María para su compasión y comodidad.  Y necesitamos cuidar a los inmigrantes que están muy lejos de su familia.  Sí, un país puede tener leyes para ordenar la gente; pero, el amor de nuestra madre es más grande de todas las leyes del mundo—de cualquier país.  Primero, necesitamos imitar nuestra madre, que cuida y tiene respeto por los inmigrantes.  


Quien es nuestra madre?


Nuestra madre es una persona que ama mucho su hijo, Jesús.  La virgen de Guadalupe, María, dedicaba toda su vida a su hijo, Jesús.  Ella sacrificaba todo para el.  Cuando su hijo, Jesús estaba en la cruz, María estaba muy cerca de su hijo.  Y María ama a Jesús y quiere liderar todo el mundo a su Señor y dios, Jesucristo. 


Como hijos de María, nosotros necesitamos imitar nuestra madre, María.  Necesitamos dedicar nuestras vidas a su hijo, Jesús.  Necesitamos ir a las misas todos los fines de semana porque en la misas nosotros sentar abajo de la cruz, para soportar Jesús en su crucifixión, y también, nosotros recibimos el hijo de María, Jesús, en la Eucaristía.   Si nosotros amamos nuestra madre, la Señora de Guadalupe, necesitamos dar todas nuestras vidas a su hijo, Jesús.  Cuando nosotros celebramos nuestra señora de Guadalupe, celebramos la vida de su hijo, Jesús, y también, celebramos que nosotros somos hijos de María.  Como hijos de María, dedicamos a nuestras vidas al hijo de María, nuestro salvador, Jesucristo.


Este día es un día para celebrar.  Gracias a dios que nosotros estamos aquí para celebrar, alabar, y dar gracia a dios por todas sus bendiciones.  Paz. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Freedom for a Choice: Solenmity of the Immaculate Conception

We loving having many choices; we really love being able to decide.


Walk into any supermarket to pick out cereal and you see clearly what I am talking about.  Endless racks of oats and honey and bran and raisins and wheat and nuts and flakes—they’re generic and popular, boxed and bagged, healthy and heavy, sweetened and salty. We love having many choices; we really love being able to decide.


And the same thing goes with our phones: some flip and some flop, some slip and some slide, some with screens to be touched and some with buttons to be pushed and some with both; some are 4G and some 3G and some are, sorry to say, still 2G.  Some are pay as you go and some are to be paid off forever.  Some come with family plans and business plans and single payer plans and weekend plans and night plans and plans by the minute.  And this does not even begin to touch on the apps.  We love our choices; we really love being able to decide.


Adam and Eve had a lot of choices too, there in that primordial garden of paradise.  And God let them choose---God let them decide: choose to name those things around them, choose to have dominion as they will, choose to frolic where they wanted, choose to love and be fruitful and multiply as they felt.  To choose to walk with God, hand in hand, all through that bountiful land.  Then there was the choice of the tree, too.  That tree.  The fruit.  A constant reminder that not everything was a choice.  That not everything was theirs to decide.  But why should God choose what is good and evil?  We are special.  We are capable.  We are intelligent.  We can decide those things for ourselves; can’t we?  For we really love being able to decide. 


And so it was when the fruit was decided upon and the freedom of choice—real choice, came to an end.  In one choice all other choices became clouded.  Adam and Eve couldn’t see things the way they once were and so they hid in shame: shame of the decisions they had made, shame of the choices they had lost, shame of what God would think. 


On through time that greatest choice, that perfect use of freedom was lost.  Lost to humanity was the ability to say yes to God, the ability to choose the greater good above all other goods.  The ability to use freedom as freedom is supposed to be used:  Freedom for virtue, freedom for love, freedom for God.  But it was all lost. 


Until one day the New Eve from Nazareth in Galilee who was barely a woman was startled in her rest.   The words Hail, full of Grace, a grace that had been lost in the ancient sands of time came to rest on her ears.  Mary, so young and so innocent had her entire life ahead of her.  She had marriage and children and happiness and love and joy and freedom.  She had her choices.  She could decide.  But for her, she really only had one choice.  For she was truly free—free from that stain which her son was soon to set free.  And so it was never a question in her mind.  And with her choice, with her decision, she empowered us all to be able to choose once again.  To be able to decide once again.  To be able to live once again.


In her FIAT—her proclamation—in her complete and utter choice of God and God alone she set in motion the clock ticking towards our salvation.  In her FIAT she gave us all the chance to say yes.  Not yes to the millions upon billions of banal, insignificant, insubstantial, inconsequential and damnable choices we toil with so often in life.  But yes to the One Choice that matters.   Yes to the One Choice that ever did matter.  Yes to the One Choice that ever will matter.


The angel of the Lord has declared unto us all:  what will our choice be?  What will we decide?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Advent, Here We Come! Shake us up, Lord Jesus!

While in the seminary, my friends and I had the routine of traveling down to the gulf in the early spring season.  As soon as we were in distance of the ocean, we would roll down every window in the car and let the salty, humid air refresh our winter wearied souls.  The smell is still palpable in my mind.  At night before going to sleep, we would open the sliding door to the patio to listen to the sound of the waves crashing on the beach.  Those two things—the smell of the air and the sound of the ocean—were worth the entire trip for me.  And yet, even after a few days their luster would wear off.  We would forget to roll down the windows in the car, and fall asleep without noticing the sounds of the ocean. 


John and Abbey had been married going on ten years.  They had two children to whom they devoted their lives.  They had been through death, job changes, joys and sorrows.  They were still deeply in love, but not without asking the big questions neither of them ever anticipated asking.  But much to their ignorance, life seemed to move from one event to the next, leaving little time for slowing down and really taking in what occurred.  They would come to the end of the day so exhausted that any attempts at deepening their relationship were less desirable than laying their head down on a pillow.  One night, though, just before turning off the light Abbey noticed John staring at her.  She sort of had to rub the sleep out of her eyes to figure out what in the world he was doing.  She finally said to him jokingly, “do I have toothpaste on my chin or what?”  Fixated on her face, John simply responded:  “I am sorry to say that I forget the beauty you had when we were first married.”  Feeling a little insulted and saddened by this comment, Abbey’s face contorted and she held back a surge of emotion.  But before she could respond, John finished his statement:  “Though I can’t remember your beauty from of old, I can’t believe the beauty you now possess, and how for so many years, I have forgotten to gaze upon it.”


It is a somewhat sad reality of human existence that we become accustomed to the beauty around us.  Whether it is the waves crashing, the salt water air, or the face of our beloved, we become accustomed to life.  We buy something new and in days the newness has worn off and we place it aside.  We start a class in school with great excitement and before we know it we cannot wait for the end of the semester.  This experience is also something that can affect our faith.  The excitement of being a new mission church in the county fades away and we are not as motivated to come to church or be involved.  The mass becomes simply something we attend each weekend, but we hardly engage the profound mystery before us.  That new bible we purchased at retreat has creases in the first few pages, but the rest lays untouched.  The journal we wrote in has a few entries, but each has gotten shorter and shorter, and now they have stopped altogether.   


The Gospel today paints yet another picture of turbulent times that will take place in the world and in the cosmos: Heaven and earth coming in contact, clashes of power, tribulations.  There is spoken of a great dismay and a shakeup.  Sometimes we are afraid when hearing these readings. Sometimes we write them off that they will never really happen.  Or we simply hope that they won’t.  But I think what we need right now, what this Advent season can be for us, what the best thing we can do to be vigilant and prepared for the great mystery of the Incarnation is to be shaken up in our life of faith.





In the psalm today, we sang “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.”  The word for soul here in Hebrew is Nephesh.  This can best be translated as one’s whole life being.  We are invited by the psalmist to consider lifting up our entire life being to God in a manner likened to a friendship—a relationship.  This is not a novel idea.  But the very essence of our Catholic faith revolves around entering into a relationship with our God. This becomes the joy of our faith.  It is the only way to shake up our faith, to keep ourselves vigilant, to restore its life so that we do not miss the beauty that surrounds us.


This relationship is none other than one of pure love.  Just as we would love another human, we can love Jesus, who was truly God and truly man. The Incarnation is the best evidence we have that God actually wants to be close to each of us.  God is not some deity far off in another universe.  God is not distant and uninvolved in our lives.  God chose to be so close to us that he actually took on our human flesh.  Therefore we can have a relationship with him.  This relationship is us talking with him, us walking with him at every step of our lives. This relationship is the thing that gets us up every morning.  It’s how we love our spouses and children in a greater way.  It inspires us to want to come to mass because the mass is the place where we meet the very one we love.  It inspires us to want to learn more about our faith because it means we learn more about the beloved—about Jesus with whom we have this relationship. 





I grew up as a so called cradle Catholic.  I rarely missed mass and rarely missed our faith formation evenings.  Yet after I was confirmed there was not much fueling the fire of faith inside of me.  I went off to college and slowly faded away from the Church.  It was only when attending a Protestant retreat with my Protestant friends where I was reminded of the core of my Catholic faith, the very thing that I had forgotten about:  God was calling me into a relationship with him through his son, Jesus.  A relationship that if I cultivated, would change my entire life.  From that moment Catholicism began to make so much more sense.  And I found that there was no better place to build that relationship with Jesus than in the Catholic Church. 


The month of December presents to us all a time of busyness.  We begin to panic wondering if we will ever get ready for Christmas.  We have lights to hang, presents to buy, traveling plans to arrange.  But I ask us all as a Church to consider one thing that we can do that is far more important than any other preparations we could make for the Holidays:  I invite us all to deepen our relationship with Jesus. 


Deepen this relationship, so we won’t miss smelling the intoxicating air of our Catholic faith.  Deepen this relationship so we won’t miss hearing the beauty of the waves of love and compassion crash on the shores of our lives.  Deepen this relationship so we won’t miss gazing upon the face of our savior that has loved us into existence.  During this Advent time, allow yourselves to be shaken up, set in dismay, pulled out of comfortability by this relationship. When advent is over and it is time to open those Christmas presents, we will have found we already received the greatest gift ever:  a loving relationship with a loving God who fulfills all our hearts could ever desire.