Sunday, November 28, 2010

Our Unexpected Visitor

Last night I went with my daughter Sophia to a Vigil Mass which begins the Advent Season. She was excited to be “going it alone” with “Daddy” and I was even more glad that she wanted to go. It did not go as I expected...

One might expect, given it is the beginning of Advent (which means “Coming”) that the readings would have something to do with the approaching celebration of the Birth (Nativity) of Jesus Christ right? After all Christmas is approaching (fast) and Advent is “all about Christmas.” You know, decking halls and ringing bells and Fa, la, la, la, la in a nice little Manger far away? As often is the case in my Christian life I did not get what I expected. Here is an excerpt of the Gospel reading for the first Sunday of Advent:

“As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man. Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left. Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” (From the 24th Chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel)

In this teaching Jesus Christ is talking about NOT His own Birth but His second coming. “Son of Man” is the way Jesus often refers to Himself. Of course we realize that if Jesus is saying these words He is not a baby anymore. In fact this teaching takes place, chronologically speaking, soon before His death on the Cross! So why in the world would the Church decide to place this reading at the very beginning of the new liturgical year? How does this fit with Christmas preparations? I considered this further.

When we celebrate Christmas we celebrate something that has already occurred. Yes? Unless you have lived on another planet (or a very remote area of this one) you realize that Jesus Christ has already been born, already died, and has already risen from the dead! So what sense does it make to celebrate something that happened over 2000 years ago? Consider your own birthday... (some of you have had MANY birthdays Ha!) what do you celebrate? Yes, of course, you celebrate the gift of life as a whole not simply the fact that you were once a baby...this would be weird. “Yeah! I was once very small! Hooray!” No. We want to celebrate the fact that we exist and others (for the most part) want to celebrate with us. (Because they also get cake) So why all this morbid talk about floods and death and the end of the world?

This is the time we live in. We live in what is referred to as “The fullness of time,” which means, very simply, that the stage is set and the great “End of the Word” drama is set to begin at ANY moment...really...really, really. So while you’re dashing around attempting to get the “newest” thinga-ma-bob at the store for so and so who will likely need yet an ever NEWER thinga-ma-bob by this time next year because the latest thinga-ma-bob is obsolete as soon as the wrapping comes should remember: Jesus Christ is coming AGAIN. Are you ready? You might not be. If you’re not will you do something to get ready? Or, will you like so many others (including those who died in the flood) go about your life, “Business (or busyness) as usual?” Or, will this be the year that you begin to take your eternal life seriously? Stop playing “Eternal Roulette” and get yourself together. How much more plainly can it be said? Your eternal destiny depends on what you’re doing now. If you’re not seeking to know Jesus Christ in reality...perhaps you think you’re too busy or you’ll “get to it later.” You might be sorry forever...or joyful forever. Jesus Christ is real and is no longer, simply, “Away in a Manger.” He’s coming and we don’t know ready...get ready. Let your life be an eternal “Thank you” to God. I pray I'm ready.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Within You Are Full

"So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity." Gospel of St. Matthew 23:28

I love this section of St. Matthew's gospel because (though Jesus here is addressing the Pharisees specifically) it sends many flaming arrows that can potentially pierce and purify the heart and intentions. Scripture is truly meant for US who live now; it is ever timeless as there is always a way we enter and are truly included in this living history.

It is often that I see within myself a desire to appear better than I KNOW I actually am. I am a hopeless, hapless sinner on so many levels. Do I not daily deny Jesus Christ in some way? Do I not gladly adhere myself to the "false-positive" view that others often, so mistakenly yet so graciously offer me? Am I not deceptive to so often consider my outward actions and yet too frequently neglect to rely on God's mercy in my heart? How often I forget that God examines the heart! It is only when I remember and admit my weaknesses that I have any hope of being deeply changed.

All of this, of course, is not opening the door to excuse myself and say, therefore, "Hey, I'm a's human nature..." and leave well enough alone. This mindset surely leads to spiritual death. On the contrary I must yield myself always to the fiery gaze of the divine physician, that I may truly be healed, strengthened and prepared to assist in the salvation of others. This way of seeing leads to freedom~ it brings peace. To see oneself as you truly ARE before God~ a sinner too yes~ but more importantly entirely loved, cherished and even revered by your Heavenly Father. This is genuine freedom.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Change of Heart

Recently I was listening to an elderly man speak about his life. It was clear to me in the words that he spoke that there was a great deal of pain and regret. Like a battle scarred veteran who had been through it all and seen it all and had the wounds to show for it. He walked with a cane and to walk was difficult, yet, he was still able to stand and move ahead. Like many people he had been carrying a heavy load; a load of pain, anger, resentment and unforgivness in his heart. Even with his enemy seemingly long gone and forgotten by many, his real enemy had become more real and powerful with each passing year. I was able to witness, in this man, what can only be described as a change of heart; a healing of heart~ Nothing short of a miracle.

What brought about this change? Without venturing into all the details, basically, this man had been listening, with us, to a series of presentations that had taken place over several weeks. He had heard, for perhaps the first time, that God is not merely a far-off, unreachable entity of frightening and exacting perfection but a loving caring Father who simply wants “The Best” for His children. The thing that moved him the most was understanding that an encounter, a meeting with God was and is possible NOW in this present moment. And most importantly that this is something God has clearly demonstrated that He desires too. This man truly had an encounter with God and shared that, though he doesn’t fully understand it, God had changed his heart. This man said he has been more joyful, lighthearted and friendly even in his old age. "Happier than ever," are his exact words.

On the surface one could reason that there was nothing spectacular about this happening to “some old man.” But there is truly something to the saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Had this man not learned how to live in eighty plus years? Had he not had enough experience to teach him? On many levels, yes, he had learned a great deal but perhaps had not yet learned the most valuable lesson and that is: God wants each one of us and wants to change our hearts. God wants to share in your life and lead you into greater joy and peace than you ever thought possible. Sound too “pie in the sky?” Sound too good to be true? Sure, anyone can be cynical but who is willing to reconsider the possibility that God, Our Father, has a plan for everyone and wants everyone to know Him intimately? It is true and can happen to you. Want to be happy? Want to be fulfilled? Want to learn to love and truly forgive? If you’re reading this it isn’t too late. Your real life can begin today.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Amish Grace

This is a short documentary on a book that inspired a Lifetime movie called, "Amish Grace." I encourage everyone to watch this movie "Amish Grace" ASAP and let me know what you think. It offers an experience of the real sorrow and pain of loss and the power of genuine forgiveness. I can say that it has changed my own view. Watch it. (I know it's available through won't be sorry)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Third Joyful Mystery: The Birth of Jesus (The Nativity)

In the quiet of a humble place reserved for animals. Displaced and despised among the poorest of the poor comes the savior of the world, for you, Jesus Christ: through Mary the peasant-girl from Nazareth. God in the flesh, wrapped in cloths, laid in a feed-box for animals. Indeed, do we not love God all the more for coming to us in such a way? Forgotten and cast aside from His birth. Yet will we take the time to accept Him today? What do you need to know your God? He comes as a child, given to you. God has come for you.