Sunday, December 26, 2010

Feast of the Holy Family 2010

    Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family. This reminds us that when the Father sent his Son to be with us (Emmanuel) he sent him as a little child, born of the Virgin, raised by St. Joseph, his foster-father. It seems perfectly natural to us to see this manger scene here with Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. But, this is really a great mystery!

    Why did God send his Son into a family? The eternal Word of the Father is not bound by human structures. God did not have to become Man by being born into a family. Christ could have just descended upon a cloud. The fact that Jesus becomes human in a family tells us something: God loves the family. When the Word becomes man he does so in the midst of a communion of persons, the human family. John Paul II left us quite a few blessings, once such, I think, is his theology of the Body. This theology of the Body is complex but if there is one underlying theme it's that we are made in God's image and likeness, God is a communion of life and love, therefore, we fulfill our design most completely when we are living in a communion of life and love. In other words, we are made in God's image and likeness and we fulfill this no more perfectly than when we are living in families. God loves the family, and sent his son to live in the midst of a family because the family is meant to be a reflection of the very life and love of the Trinity. Now, I don't know about you and your family, but my family never quite lives up to this billing. But, this is the idea! We are supposed to be an image of the Trinity in the world. How do we get there? How do we get our families to become if not THE Holy Family, then at least A holy family?

    St. Paul gives us some insight. I know that we might all instantly focus in on what he says about being subordinate. Many of us bristle at this line, and for good reason. We know that domination goes against our fundamental freedom as God's children. But, if we jump straight to that line we don't hear how this order comes about. Earlier in the reading Paul says: Put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. He says this way before the bit about subordination. Just imagine if every person in the family was full of compassion, kindness, and humility. I don't think anyone would be afraid of subordination if we were all full of these fundamental virtues.

    How can we grow in these virtues as families? We should look to the Holy Family as a model for us. What made the Holy Family possible? First, the Holy Family would not have been possible without trust. Mary trusted in the message of Gabriel and Christ was conceived. Joseph trusted in the angel and the family was preserved from danger. What a great lesson for us, we must put our trust in the Lord, allow him to be the one to lead your family. Second, the Holy Family would not exist without Christ. It is the person of Jesus dwelling in the midst of the Holy Family that makes it Holy, invite Christ into your life as a family. Make the home a place of prayer and Sunday Mass an anchor for the whole family.

    There has only been one "Holy Family." As for the rest of us, we all have problems. But, Christ was sent into the midst of the human family to help us overcome the shortcomings in our families. We must believe and trust in the power of Christ to overcome all sin and division, even and especially, in the midst of our human families.

    Today this feast of the Holy Family teaches us about God's love for the family which is also meant to be a reflection of God's love in the world. We see that the family should be governed by love and compassion. Finally, we see the Holy Family as our model, because they trusted in God and kept Christ in the center of their lives. May it be so for our families as well.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas 2010 Mass at Dawn:

    The Feast of Christmas, the birth of Christ, is such a grand feast in the Church that we celebrate it at not only one Mass, but actually there are 4 different Masses for Christmas. Each of these Masses has their own prayers and readings. At this Mass we are celebrating the Mass at Dawn. There are also the vigil Mass, which anticipates the birth of Christ, the Mass at Night, which celebrates the Birth of Christ, and the Mass of the day which reflects on the impact of the birth of Christ. This Mass at dawn reminds us of those first moments in the life of Christ. Listen again to the words of our opening prayer: Father, we are filled with the new light by the coming of your Word among us. This Mass at dawn is held during the first moments of the day as the new light breaks over the horizon. The new light of this day helps to remind us of the new light of Christ that came into the world the first Christmas morning. At this Mass we relive, so to speak, that first morning when Christ, the light of the world, was born for us and to us.

    As we listen to the gospel today, it seems to me that we are like the shepherds. They are types or images for us. Shepherds were common, ordinary people. But when we reflect upon the Christmas story we hear that even when the great king Herod was unwilling to accept the birth of the new king, the humble, poor shepherds believed the message. So we should see ourselves as the shepherds in the Gospel. If we do so, we will see many similarities between our lives and the lives of those shepherds.

    The gospel tells us that angels appeared to these shepherds and told them the good news about the birth of Jesus. The same thing is true for us as well. When we think of angels we normally think of the celestial, spiritual beings who are servants of God, and rightly so. Now these angels we may have never seen. However, the word angel comes from the Greek angelos which simply means messenger. So the shepherds heard about the good news of the birth of the savior because messengers made it known to them. The same is true of us. None of us would be here if it weren't for the work of some messengers. None of us would know the first thing about Jesus if it were not for the work of someone who spread the message.

    After the angels left the shepherds, they had to make a decision. What would they do next? If the message of the angels is true, the shepherds had to go looking for Jesus. If we believe that the child born in the manger is God, we must look for him. If we believe that this child grew up and proclaimed the good news of salvation, we must look for him. If we believe that he suffered and died on our behalf to take upon himself the sins of us all, we must look for him. If we believe the he rose again and that we too can overcome sin and death by the power of this resurrection, we must look for him. We have to search for him. The shepherds in the story heard the message, they believed the message, but knew that was not enough, they needed to find Jesus. This became their focus, nothing else mattered. It says they went in haste to find Mary, Joseph, and the infant in the manger.

    The same is true for us. If we believe the good news, if it inspires within us a desire to follow Jesus, we have to go looking for him. There are many places where we find Him. We find him here at church, we believe that when the Christian community gathers together Christ is in our midst. We find Jesus when we pray, or when we serve others. But, most of all we find Jesus when we approach the manger.

    What is a manger? It is a place where the animals eat. This is not a coincidence. We continue to look for Jesus at a place where we eat: this altar is such a place. Having heard the good news, believing it, and knowing that we now need to find Jesus, there is no better place to look than this altar. Right here on this altar, this manger, we find Jesus really and truly present in the holy Eucharist. This is the place where we meet Christ.

    So, we have heard the message about Jesus, we look for him, and we find him in this Holy Eucharist. However, we cannot forget the last step. Once the shepherds heard the message, believed it, looked for Jesus, and found him, there was one last thing that they did: they told others. This good news was so amazing that they knew they couldn't keep it to themselves. Rather, everyone needed to hear about this good news. We too have a responsibility and we should have the desire to share this good news with others. We do this by what we say, sure. But, we also do this by our example.

    It seems to me that our lives as disciples of Jesus is presented to us by this story of the shepherds. This story takes place after the birth of Jesus. We live after the birth of Jesus. The shepherds were sent messengers who told them of the good news, we have heard this message from others. They believed this message, which made them search for the lord. We too believe and realize that if this good news is true we must follow Christ. They found Jesus lying in a manger, we find him here on this altar. Once they found Christ, they told everyone else about him. When we meet Jesus here at this Mass the last words we hear are: Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. Merry Christmas to all of you, and may God bless you.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bible Study Week 6 Audio

Here is the audio for week 6 of the Bible Study.

Also, just a reminder that we will not be having Bible study for the next several weeks for a bit of a Christmas break.  God bless,
Fr Jake

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Audio for Eucharist Talk

Wow, I cannot believe it is Sunday already!!!  Sorry I haven't gotten this audio online already.  Here is the audio from our talks on the Eucharist.

Joy


3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A:

Rejoice in the Lord always, I say it again, Rejoice: the Lord is near. This is the opening antiphon for today's Mass, which is why we call this Gaudete Sunday, Latin for rejoice. It is one of only two days during the Church year that we wear pink or rose colored vestments, which are symbols of joy. You may wonder where we get this color. The color of Advent, and Lent, is purple, the color of penance. And, we wear white during Christmas and Easter as a sign of our joy. The pink vestment is a mixture between purple and white. It reminds us that even in the midst of our time of preparation, we should not forget the joy of the approaching feast of Christmas. Rejoice in the Lord always, I say it again rejoice. This is a season of Joy.

I've always loved Advent. When I was little, I loved it for 2 reasons. First, because it meant I was closer to getting presents! There was nothing quite as exciting as opening a stack of presents on Christmas morning. Also, I loved it because I knew that when Advent began, Christmas vacation was not far behind. So these were the two reasons I loved Advent: school would be over soon and I would get my grubby little paws on some presents. These were not the best of motives, but they did make me love Advent.

But, something can happen to us the older we get. Sometimes we lose some of that sense of anticipation. Part of that is natural, of course. I mean if we look at what causes us that sense of joy and anticipation when we are little, much of that is gone. There is not always a pile of presents under the tree, nor do we all get a long vacation at Christmas time. Instead, for many of us Advent becomes a time of worry and anxiety. It is filled with trips, parties, shopping, and bad weather, all of which can lead to stress. How can we renew our sense of Joy and anticipation during the season of Advent? How can we heed the command of Gaudete Sunday to rejoice in the Lord always?

Our readings give us some insight. In the book of Isaiah we hear about many wonderful things. We hear about exaltation, joyful singing, the strengthening of our hands and hearts, the eyes of the blind opened, and the ears of the deaf being opened as well. When will these wonderful things happen? These things will happen when the Lord comes with salvation for his people. Jesus tells us in the gospel that this has already taken place. Jesus has already come into the world: he has already opened the eyes of the blind, healed the deaf, and made the crippled whole. We should be joyful because we remember that Christ has already come with salvation for his people.

    So, while I might have been filled with joy at the prospect of presents and a vacation when I was little, how much more should we be filled with joy if we remember what Advent is all about? Jesus Christ has come with salvation for his people. This is certainly a stressful and difficult time for many of us. There is much to do and there are many responsibilities. But, if we can keep the coming of the Lord as our focus, our joy will be great.

    For many of us, all this talk of joy can ring hollow. With my work in the confessional I know that many of us are hurting, many of us face problems in our lives, problems in our family, moral problems, financial problems, etc. Hearing me talk about joy might make you think that joy is something that we can just create out of thin air, that it is some kind of bubbly or Pollyannaish denial of the harsh reality of life. Rather, I would say that joy is a gift from God. We cannot create joy by our own willing it. If you are feeling a lack of joy in your life, pray to God for the gift of joy. Also, joy is not simply bubbly enthusiasm. Rather, joy is the quiet confidence that in the midst of our crazy lives Christ has already won, that Jesus, who was born of Mary, suffered and died, but rose for the sake of our salvation.

The command of our opening antiphon this morning (rejoice in the Lord always) is really a command to ponder the truth of the gospel. To acknowledge the fact that the Lord truly comes to save us. As a kid I may have been motivated by presents and vacations. It is not so different now. The gift is the person of Christ, truly made present even now in the Holy Eucharist, and the vacation we await is the salvation Christ won for us on the cross.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Homily for Marian High School on the feast of the Immaculate Conception

Immaculate Conception December 8th 2010:

    Today we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception. This is the title given to our Lady to denote the fact that she was conceived without any stain of sin. This title also tells us that she was preserved from sin he whole life. This dogma of the Immaculate Conception has been around in the history of the Church for thousands of years and it was finally made an official teaching of the Church in 1854 by Blessed Pius IX.

However, when it comes to a teaching like this, many of us believe it without problem, but we can often wonder: why does it really matter? How does the Immaculate Conception of Mary make a difference in my life? Why did the Church decide it needed to go out and declare this teaching?

It got me thinking, you know it's amazing what we can get used to! There are so many situations in the world where there are terrible things going on and people have just plain gotten used to it. You all know, I'm sure because you go to Marian and we try to tell you about this, that a majority of the people in this world barely have enough to eat, have difficulty finding clean water, do not have access to things like electricity, or indoor plumbing, much less American essentials like internet and HDTV. But, we just get used to people being poor, and it makes little difference to us. Every year millions of babies die from a terrible disease. You might be thinking that I'm talking about abortion, but not really. Abortion is a symptom, the disease is the fundamental disorder in our Western approach to sexuality. As a nation, we seem to have forgotten the importance of chastity and the role of sex within marriage. The result is catastrophic: abortion, rape, pornography, diseases like AIDS, and even unwanted pregnancies, but as a nation it seems that we have gotten used to this. How many of us might be guilty of absorbing the culture's understanding of sexuality and the human body?

Perhaps the most stunning thing that we have gotten used to is death itself. Human beings were not made to die. Any time we encounter death among our friends or family, we feel their loss and we experience pain. Why? Because, death is not natural. But we have gotten so used to death, that we call it natural.

When we look around it is easy to think that the evil of sin or the evil of death is just natural. I mean we see it everywhere, so it must be right, it must be natural. The good news of the gospel is that sin and death are not natural!

Why does the Immaculate Conception matter? It is proof that the good news of the gospel is true. Mary is a bright, shining light in a world often tinted in darkness. She shows us that a human person can exist in a state of holiness. She shows us that human person can exist without sin, through her assumption she shows us that a human person can already live a life with God. Mary is for us hope! She shows us that we don't have to put up with sin, we don't have to put up with death.

How does this happen? How is Mary conceived without Sin? Our gospel tells us that answer. How does the Angel greet Mary? He doesn't say Hail Mary, like we say in the prayer. He actually says, Hail, full of grace. This title for Mary tells us exactly how Mary lived without sin: she was full of grace. There was no room in her for darkness because she was completely filled with God's light, God's goodness, in a word, Grace. What about all of us? Mary was filled with grace from the first moment of her existence. We are filled with grace gradually over time. Yet, it is the same grace, the same loving presence of God that can transform our darkness into his own light. We can never settle for sin. We can never settle for our darkness. We can never buy into the lie that we are made for sin, that sin is natural. It is not natural and it harms us. Mary shows us that we can live without sin. Human nature is compatible with grace, we just have to be open to it.

Mary did not make herself full of grace. God did the work in her. God continues to do this work in us. Every time a baby or adult is baptized, God is going this work. Every time we go to confession, God is doing this work. Every time a person is confirmed, a couple is married, a sick person is anointed, a man is ordained a priest, God is doing this work. In a few moments we will receive the Holy Eucharist, where God will continue to do this work. Mary experienced being full of grace from the first moment of our existence. We will not experience being full of grace until our last moment, in the Kingdom when it comes in its fullness. But, this does not mean that we settle for mediocrity and sin. Rather, with the help of God's grace, especially in the sacraments, God works within us to make us holy.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A radical gospel:

    Most of us, I think, fail to recognize just how radical the gospel really is. Now, this word radical has 2 meanings. First, we speak of something as radical because it is so new and startling.

    The gospel really is news. We call it Good News, but we usually focus on how it is good, not so much on how it is new. Perhaps this is one of the built-in problems of living 2000 years since the birth of Christ. We miss just how amazing this news really is. Every year as we contemplate the mystery of Christmas, the birth of the son of God into human history, it should amaze us, for we would have done things differently. Jesus is the prince of the cosmos, but he is born in a stable. He is the word through whom was made the universe, and he was born as a child, unable to speak. Wisdom itself, grew in knowledge and experience. The great savior was heralded by a humble man preaching repentance, dressed not in costly vestments but camel hair. One thing I think that we all should do during Advent is to spend some time with these Bible stories. Advent is a time for us to join in the long preparation for the coming of the savior. Try to put yourselves in the shoes of the pre-Christian people. Try to regain an appreciation for just how radical this good news is.

    Also, the word radical applies in another way. The word radical comes from the latin word radix which means root. The coming of Christ gets to the very roots of humanity and society. We hear about this in our readings today.

    First, Isaiah paints for us an interesting picture. He describes a human person, but a perfected human person. This person is filled with wisdom and knowledge, vested in justice and righteousness. We often apply this prophecy of Isaiah to the person of Jesus. In the person of Christ we see the human person healed to its very roots. In Jesus, humanity regains wisdom, knowledge, justice, and righteousness. Because of our common humanity, all of the human race is elevated and healed at the coming of Jesus. This gets to the very core of our nature. The incarnation is radical in the fact that it goes to the root of the human person. As we take an honest look at ourselves during this season of Advent, we might see within ourselves many shortcomings and faults. Ask Christ into the very core of your being. Let him enter you to your very roots and let him heal you.

    Many times in our readings we hear about the nations or the Gentiles: the root of Jesse will be a signal for all the nations and because of Christ even the Gentiles might glorify God. The coming of Christ is radical because it heals not only the brokenness of the human person, but even the brokenness of the human family. Because of the coming of Christ, all nations have access to the God of the universe. This is a new and radical concept. Remember, that God chose the people of Israel. God chose Abraham and Moses. Yet, in Christ, all of us have become God's sons and daughters. In Christ, God chooses the whole world. The divisions that exist among us can be erased through common faith in Christ. Isaiah speaks of an ideal future where natural discord is vanquished, where the lamb and the lion lie down together. We might think that this is impossible, but this has already happened in the Church. In the body of Christ there many different peoples. There are Christians from every tribe and nationality, peoples who have historically been enemies share in the same faith, the same baptism. And, if we are honest we could all do a better job of putting behind our differences and focusing on our communion with Christ.

    How does this radical communion take place? How does Jesus heal us to our roots both personally and as a human family? Isaiah says that the root of Jesse will be held up as a signal to all the nations. Jesus is the root of Jesse, and he was lifted up on the cross to draw all nations to himself. He is lifted up again here on this altar drawing all of us to himself. At every Mass we lift the Lord and we all gaze upon him is, and he becomes the source of our communion. As we await the coming of our savior we look upon him here in this Eucharist. We ask him to come into our lives. Allow Christ to heal us to our very roots and ask him to help heal any divisions we face in our lives, so that we too might glorify God for his mercy.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Bible Study Week 5 Audio

Here is the audio for week 5.

Also, please note that next week the Bible study will meet on Thursday at 6:30, not Tuesday.  Thanks!