Jesus is walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee and he notices Andrew and Simon fishing. This is no accident. The Greek used in this writing provides words that impress a mood of deliberate intent. Jesus is intentionally watching. God, himself is focused; watching these men just as he does all of us. St. John of the Cross tells us to, “Imagine God looking at you and smiling in delight”. God takes delight in us just as we delight in watching our children; our grandchildren.
In Genesis we hear that, in the cool of the evening, God would walk with Adam and the two would talk as friends. But when sin entered, the man and woman covered themselves in shame and hid from God. Sin does not send God away; it forces us into hiding. The relationship that God truly wants with us is damaged, not from God’s side, but from ours.
God still wants that friendship with us. God still wants that intimacy with us. He still looks at each one of us as his personal creation and delights in watching us. Even when we fail, he still looks upon us with love just as we see our own children stumble or decide in error. We love them past their faults and God loves us past our sins. The Old Testament is an account of God hunting for us. He wants to walk again with us, in the cool of the evening. God isn’t a simple force waiting for us to come to him. He is after us; he takes the initiative; we run away: he runs after us… the Prodigal Son’s father running towards his son with joy. With delight. It’s not so much about us finding God as it is letting God find us.
Jesus; God, sees Andrew and delights and then he seeks him. God seeking an intimate; personal relationship with his followers, with us, with the entire Church. That is what the conquest of sin is all about, making right the relationship between ourselves and God. Making right the relationship between God and his people.
Then that famous line, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Come after me…. Jesus is not imposing some new rule, doctrine or teaching. Just, come after me. Jesus is the pattern to build our lives upon. After Jesus shows us, we do. We do it after Jesus. Allowing myself to become like Jesus, to do as he does, act like he acts.
Then, “I will make you…’ God made Adam and Eve from the dust. He formed them and shaped them into his image and likeness, the imago Dei. We should let ourselves be made into what God wants us to be. But sin wiggles us out of God’s hands. We say, “I will make myself. I determine who I am for myself. Then Jesus makes Peter and Andrew, Fishers of Men. Every injunction and ethical statement given to us from Jesus is to move us; shape us into a life that looks like God. Our imago Dei reflects God.
Jesus is not beyond us. He stands with us shoulder to shoulder. He doesn’t hover - but has cast himself among us to walk, talk, sleep and eat with us. To move us towards a concrete imitation of God. “Be like me, walk like me, act like me.
Then, the men immediately drop their nets and follow. The immediacy of dropping their nets demonstrates that Jesus has stirred up their Imago Dei in them. We are made to be like God. I must Let God stir the image of himself in me. God wants us to be like Him.
God, by definition is THE Fisher of Men. Let him make us fishers of people.
But above all, remember God is looking at you and me, taking delight in us.
January 19, Deacon Tim Conley
Why does the psalmist say in reference to the Messiah: “I come to do thy will, oh God.”? Because you and I could not! In Romans chapter 2, Paul says: “all have sinned & fallen short of the glory of God.” In one place, Isaiah says: “…all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment”!
It’s not about how many times I come to mass, how many rosaries I pray, or how many spiritual books I read. These are all good and necessary things but we must always keep in mind, that there has only ever been one way that anyone was ever righteous in the sight of God; through the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
Religions try to build a ladder to get to God. Jesus Christ is the ladder God let down from heaven to get to us! Jesus suffered once for all. He died the death that you and I deserved. He opened the door to heaven for everyone who believes in him. This is the reason Paul is able to say: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father,…”
John the Baptist says: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the World. No religious leader, no other prophet, no guru or yogi, not one deity from
The pantheon of pagan gods, ever made the claim that they died for your sins and mine or that they loved you. All religions get some things right. They see rays of light coming through the clouds. Christianity pulls back the clouds and revels the sun.
In the book of acts, we read that while many converted away from pagan gods, they leaders only complained that the disciples were taking away their livelihood, when their religious system was no longer in demand. Things have not changed much today. We live in a culture in which every opinion is welcome EXCEPT the Christian opinion!
Don’t expect a welcome. Don’t be hurt & disappointed when you offer what to you is a precious gift and it’s not accepted. Jesus never ran a popularity contest. He lived his truth and offered it to all without ever imposing his good will on others. We must follow suit. As Father Jerry says: “Keep loving God, keep loving others, keep making disciples.”
Jesus is the lamb of God. He is the one who came to do God’s will, he and he alone is our righteousness.
I wish I knew how God works things out, but I don’t; none of us do. God’s ways are beyond our ways.
The Old Testament provides us with an authoritative God. A God who loves us, but he is beyond us. The presence of God on earth was within the Ark of the Covenant held within the Holy of Holies, separated from everyone except for a high priest who, one day a year, entered to plead for mercy.
But eventually, in God’s own time, the fullness of time, God comes among his people. Jesus, God himself, is sent to walk with us, teach us and demonstrate the relationship God wants to have with us. No longer a God beyond us, but God with us.
As Jesus steps out into the initial stages of his public life, his first act is to come to John the Baptist.
John, is the fulfillment of all the prophets of the Old Testament, and his concept of God is a God who beyond us. So when Jesus, God, is manifested to John, he’s puzzled.
Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. John tried to prevent him, saying,
“I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for usto fulfill all righteousness.”
Righteousness is an often used word, it means to make things right.
From the beginning, humans made things wrong. Original Sin eliminates us from the original intent of an immortal existence in a garden. Sin enters the world. We have a broken world, sin is real and we suffer.
Jesus comes to make things right. His actions open up the gates to the Garden. Original sin, which we all inherit, can now be forgiven. Jesus teaches us to love God and neighbor.
But as humans, even though we have the gift of God among us, we fail. And God reaches out over and over. A parent who loves his children past the wrongs they do. A parent who loves us, not for what we do, but for what we are: his children. We don’t love God because we’re good; we’re good because God loves us.
Jesus comes to show us God’s love. He doesn’t avoid sinners, but rather stands shoulder to shoulder with us. He is not the God that is beyond us but rather with us. He eats, sleeps, walks, talks and suffers alongside us.
Think of it like this:
There is a great football player. He’s won Super Bowls, and been an MVP year after year. He is put in charge of a little league football team as a coach.
These kids don’t know anything. The great player could give up on them saying” they can’t throw a ball, run a play or even know how to dress in their uniforms”
But he stays. “This is the way you dress. This is the way you hold the ball, hike the ball, run the play. This is how you work together to get to your goal of being a good team.”
Jesus is the coach.
Epiphany is the manifestation of something unknown. Today, the magi appear at the house of Mary and Joseph. They have read and heard of the prophecy; the prophecy of a new king to be born. A star appears and they follow. The baby is found and there is an epiphany; this baby, Jesus, is the King of the Jews.
How many magi came? How many followed the star? One? Two? Three? St Matthew doesn’t tell us today. He just says magi came but because they brought three gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh, tradition has limited their number to three. And, we’re not really sure their stations in life. The Magi had many different titles; kings, sorcerers, astrologers, magicians. What religion where they? Catholic? Jewish? At this time in history, there were only two religions from the view of the Israelites: Jews and Gentiles. The Jews believed in the one God. Everyone else didn’t. Everyone else, the Gentiles, worshiped other gods, followed other creeds. The magi were Gentiles, so they were pagans.
Now there are some issues that come to the forefront with Epiphany and these Magi. Three gifts bring to mind three questions.
- Even though the Magi Were Gentiles, they still recognized the newborn King of the Jews, the promised Savior; God. But the Chosen people were the Israelites, the Jews. Why wouldn’t this Epiphany occur to the Jewish leaders; the people who believed in the One God? Paul tells us in his letter to the Ephesians today: “.... that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” Jesus, the King of the Jews came not just for the Jews, but for everyone. God dwells in our hearts, in us. We are all God’s creations and we must see God in everyone. In seminary in New Orleans, I discovered the tradition of a King Cake, the Spanish have the same tradition, Roscon de Reyes. A cake, in the shape of a ring is baked and within the cake is place a plastic baby; the Christ Child. The one who gets the slice of cake with the Christ Child wins (in more ways than one). You can’t see the Christ child, but you know he’s there in that cake. Perhaps there are times that I fail to recognize Christ in another person. But I should know……because he is there! If the pagan Magi could recognize God, why can’t I?
- The Magi didn’t come empty handed. Gold, frankincense and myrrh. That makes me think, what gifts am I supposed to give to this King; Jesus, my Savior? And, how freely do I give those gifts. Can you imagine one of the Magi opening up his box of gold and saying, “just take a little, I need the rest?” Just take some of the frankincense, I need the rest; some of the myrrh? But what if I don’t have gold, frankincense and myrrh? I must still offer a gift, if only sometimes, the gift is myself. A gift of my presence to others or just a smile. Time, talent and treasure. What gifts do I bring and how freely do I share them? If the Magi offered gifts, why can’t I?
- These Magi made a great sacrifice to come and see the King. They didn’t live next door, or in Bethlehem. They presumably came from countries to the east. How did they get there? They didn’t fly or drive and they didn’t stay at fine hotels along the way. Our tradition tells us they traveled on camels or on foot. Weeks of traveling. The Spanish tradition is that one came on a camel, one on a horse and one on an elephant. Can you imagine how uncomfortable that would have been? And then, they had to travel back to their homes. They went out of their way to offer their gifts, their selves. They got up and acted to get to know the new King. What sacrifice do I make to get closer to God, to know Jesus better? If the Magi made a sacrifice to know Jesus better; Why can’t I?
Family is important to the Church. Look at the language we use: God, the Father. Then Jesus, the Son. Mother Mary. We call the earthly family a Domestic Church. We say that Christ marries the Church, We are members of the Family of God. Priests are called fathers and nuns; sisters. We refer to the Church as Holy Mother. Family terms. St. John Paul IIsaid, “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” And today, we celebrate the Holy Family!
As a mother, Mary, is a woman of perfect obedience. At the request of God, the Father, she obeyed. Her “yes” brings to us Jesus, the Son. Her obedience brought forth the answer to our salvation, the conquest of sin, light to the world, and God, whom we call Brother.
As a father, Joseph, followed the instructions of God to protect his family.
And as a child, their son, Jesus, is the perfection of obedience.
Great. Good. But my family is messy. Our earthly families a messy. Parents who were not good role models, alcoholism, drugs, abandonment, divorce, separation, death. My husband; my wife is not a saint and my children are not Jesus.
Where is my holy family, how does that work for me?
The Gospel today gives us the answer:
“…..the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you…… Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night
and departed for Egypt……[then] the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said,
"Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, ………He rose, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.”
Even today, it is difficult to travel with an infant; a newborn. But imagine, a new mother, a newborn infant, a camel perhaps, on foot, from one dusty outpost to another. Joseph cared for his family by doing what God wanted him to do.
Mary, the baby is in her care because she did what God wanted her to do.
Jesus, well, you get the picture.
That’s what makes a family holy. We care for one another and put God’s intentions first, even above our own wishes and desires. God first!
No father? Well, the rest of us care for one another by putting God first. No mother at home? The rest of us love one another by putting God first. Death? Divorce? Alcoholism? Emotional or behavioral issues with your children? Put God first.
Whatever is family to you, go to Mass, as a holy family. Pray together as a holy family. together. Pray for each other. Care for, love, and share by putting God first. That’s what makes a holy family. That’s what makes your family holy.
In the first reading for today, we hear about Ahaz. A young, inexperienced man, who has inherited the throne of Judah around the year 750 BC. The powerful kingdom of the Jews, which King David united and ruled over, has now broken in two separate kingdoms; Judah in the South and Israel in the North. The weakened kingdom of Judah is threatened by neighboring powers. To the East, the Assyrians, the West, the Egyptians and to the North, Damascus.
Ahaz has the advice of many but in his youthful inexperience, he is overwhelmed. What to do. Should he reach out to create an alliance with one and anger the others? He didn’t know which way to proceed. Facing much distress, Ahaz freezes and retreats into himself, into depression and failure to act.
We know about Ahaz, because, a colleague of the king, found among the members of the royal court, was the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah encouraged Ahaz. “I know you’re overwhelmed, inexperienced, but you are the king. Get out of your depression and act. Trust God.” This is the back story for what we hear today.
Then, “The LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying: Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God; let it be deep as the netherworld, or high as the sky!” This is a great opportunity for the stressed king. Ask God, anything and don’t be small about it, dream big! Trust God! Get out of your depression, out of your fears and dream big! Then Ahaz replies, "I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!" Imagine, God says to you, “ask me anything you want” and your reply is, “nothing.”
Can you relate to this? It doesn’t take much to see yourself as Ahaz. I am Ahaz…. we are all that Ahaz figure. No matter our station in life, all of us, at one time or another, feel like Ahaz. Surrounded by people, things, or situations out of our control. Beleaguered, confused, not knowing what to do. So we turn in on ourselves. And we don’t turn to God and act, we don’t trust in God. I say to myself, “God doesn’t care; he won’t do anything for me. I’m not even going to ask. Sometimes, it can be more comfortable to wallow in self-pity than go into action.
And then Isaiah says, “Is it not enough for you to weary people, must you also weary my God?” What is it that wearies God? Not that God feels pain or sorrow like we do, but what would “figuratively, wear God out?
God loves us. He made us and like a good parent, he wants us to do the right thing. When our own children misbehave, it can wear us out. Can’t you just see yourself rolling your eyes and throwing up your arms……I give up!
Often, we think and live our lives small. He hurt my feelings. I do not want to help someone else because it isn’t convenient. You hurt me, I’m going to get back at you. Pettiness when God has big dreams for us. Love one another, be happy, get out of dark and stay in the light.
Then, God gives the sign, “the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.” God thinks big! He doesn’t just dry up a river or make food appear. God comes to be with us (Emmanuel) and walk among us as a friend and brother. He shows us how to live life to the fullest, a life of action, to use love as a verb. Love God, Love Others.
Ahaz is facing a no-way-out- situation but the way out is to trust God. The prophecy has come true. This is our reason for celebrating. God, Emmanuel is with us.
3 Sun Advent ROSE - REJOICE
For the past two weeks our Readings have stressed the Lord’s coming as judge of all of us at the end of time. But this is “Gaudete Sunday”! With Advent half over, and Christmas soon to follow, it is regarded as a day of particular joy. The term Gaudete refers to the first word of the Introit (Entrance Antiphon) “Rejoice”, taken from Philippians 4:4-5.
This past Week we as a church Family celebrated the Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of Loreto and Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Last Sunday Fr. Jerry spoke about a couple characters in the Advent story. I wish to continue that theme and talk about another character in the Advent story. That PERSON is very closely tied to the three Marian celebrations of this past week. That PERSON is very close to us and we many times don’t realize it or pay attention to him/her. That person is Our Guardian Angel . The Angel Gabriel, appeared to Mary to seek her consent to carry our Savior in her womb. The Angel Gabriel appeared to Joseph in a dream and reassured him that Mary was faithful to him and that this was all part of God’s plan for the entire human race.
Mary and Joseph are people of prayer who are in awe, wonder, and reverence for the messenger of God. What about us? Do we have a working or better yet, intimate relationship with our guardian angel? Jesus, says that each of us has a guardian angel who sees the face of God and at the same time guards and guides us in this life. Faith teaches us that angels are spiritual creatures endowed with intelligence and free will. Sacred Scripture teaches us that there are good angels who choose to do the will of God and other angels – the fallen ones, who freely chose to disobey God.
In the book of Exodus God says to Moses – all of Israel, therefore US, “I am going to send an angel in front of you, to GUARD you on the way and to BRING you to the place that I have prepared. BE ATTENTIVE to him and listen to his voice; do not rebel against him.”
Yes, I have a prayerful devotion to my Guardian Angel. I know that she/HE has saved me from being crushed by a machine in Albany GA.; Saved me in an auto accident in 29 Palms CA; Saved me from drowning on a scuba outing in Hawaii; and many others. How about you, Can you site a time when your Guardian Angel has guarded and guided your life?
I find it very consoling to know that my angel prays unceasingly for me. She never tires of offering to God my good thoughts, prayers, and actions. I know that she is always with me and from time to time, inspired me to get up in the middle of night to pray for some particular intention or person. Let me say, that when this happens, I invite my angel to join me in not only the sign of the Cross, but in praying the rosary or other prayers with me and carry them to the altar of God.
This does NOT make me special. - Just because I feel inspired by my angel. It does make me RESPONSIBLE to answer the inspiration to pray for others.
Therefore, I am NEVER Alone, because of her relationship with me. Jesus says, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am in their midst.” My Guardian angel is always with me. And So is Yours. Just look at how full this sanctuary is and realize that each of us, from the baby in the womb to those of us with many years behind us has our Guardian angel next to us. And Gents, I’m not talking about your wife. . . . . . I am talking about the Guardian God has assigned to you so that you may do the work HE asks you to do.
Just think of it, When you go to bed this evening, Your Guardian Angel is standing guard over you, right beside your bed.
That being said, your should never say that your are alone in the battle against your enemies - the world, the flesh, and the devil. We have all learned the prayer to our guardian angel as well as the prayer to St. Michael the ArchAngel. If we say we are all alone, we are doing a disservice to the guardian entrusted to care for us. Will we be tested – tempted in this life? Yes, but we can depend on the reality and the intimacy of the angel assigned to our physical, spiritual, and emotional care. It is our Guardian who inspires us with the inner voice to live a life of virtue so as to give glory to God. It is these virtues that sanctify our soul and make more and more available to Love God, Love Others, and Make Disciples.
Let me close by asking us as a family to pray the prayer our parents taught us as children:
Angel of God, my guardian Dear, to whom God’s Love commits me here, ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, rule and guide. Amen.
John the Baptist, along with Mary and the prophet Isaiah are THE Advent figures. Isaiah foretells everything in prophecy in the Old Testament. The New Testament reveals all of his prophecies as truth. Without Mary, there would be no baby and John is the advance guard who “prepares the way”, by laying the groundwork for Jesus.
Besides the characters in the play, there are two additional items necessary for Advent: a desert and repentance. They complete the picture.
Regarding the desert, Luke tells us that, “the word of God came to John….in the desert.” For both Matthew and Mark, the Baptist is, “A voice of one crying out in the desert…” And St. John tells us the Baptist preached, “in the desert ….” Moses left Egypt and lived in the desert for forty years before God brings him to the Burning Bush. The Israelites spend their 40 years in the desert in penance for doubting God’s power before they enter the Promised Land. Jesus, himself goes into the desert for 40 days to prepare for his crucifixion. By Canon Law, a priest is to spend some time each year in retreat, which usually means a small room, nothing on the walls, simple food, no TV, no internet, and quiet; a type of desert. The desert is important because it is a place of penance and preparation. Advent is a desert season. A season to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. To fill in the crevasses of the heart and lay straight the crooked ways, to repent and prepare.
Next, we have the simple word of the Baptist and Jesus, repent (Greek Metanoi - Meta meaning beyond and nous meaning mind). Beyond the mind. Coming outside of the thoughts of the day to day to that which is beyond us; beyond this world to focus on the next; the Kingdom of God which is at hand. The presence of God with us which we often overlook.
Desert and repentance: quiet preparation.
But today, in our world, the quiet and preparation time of Advent is often passed over in the frenetic pace we live. When, where and how do I find some quiet in the hectic pace I live? Where is my desert? I’m not Mary with a single, perfect child and a husband who is a saint. I’m not John the Baptist; a carefree bachelor, also a saint. Neither one of them had to fight traffic, soccer schedules, or a needy spouse! I’m not a priest or religious who can afford that kind of time-away. Where is the time to retreat? Where, even is the opportunity to go and be by myself? There is no desert here for me.
Well perhaps, I can repent and try to do better but I’d really like to do some of that metanoi; to be able to go outside and beyond the worldly and spend some real quality time to search my conscience. A desert experience would really help me to repent.
“If you want something to happen, make it happen.” The fact is, we do get our children to school. We do make it to soccer, basketball, baseball, and hockey. We do have time for Facebook, the internet, shopping. If we don’t have the time, we make the time. We make time for the things that are important to us.”.
And even though a week’s retreat is not possible, there are opportunities to create small deserts. In the car on the way to play or work; turn off the radio, say a rosary. Turn off the TV for a day, the phone, for a day. Even if just for Advent, gather the family together to pray. Even the littlest ones can gather in front of the manger scene and look wide eyed as the family ponders the first Christmas.
In regards to repentance, Advent is a great time for the Sacrament of Penance; to get rid of the past so we can enter the new year fresh and clean. If you are unsure of the prayers, the priest will always help you. No big sins to confess? Go for the opportunity to gain that Sanctifying Grace of the sacrament that makes your faith stronger. The sacraments do what they say they do. Confession takes sin away; all sin. Name it, claim it, let it go, is the mantra of reconciliation and it is gone, forever. God forgives and forgets.
There are some words we use in confession that we need to be sure we know. Penance is what we do to make up for something we’ve done wrong. If I wreck your car, I hope to receive forgiveness, but my penance is to replace the car. If I put a hole in your furniture, the penance is to repair the hole.
When we sin, it is like making a hole in our soul. God forgives (he always forgives), but we do penance to repair the hole in our soul. That’s where Purgatory comes in. We endeavor to purge ourselves of sin. From our first sin, we begin our personal Purgatory. If we die before the process is completed, God mercifully allows us to continue in Purgatory until we are, “perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect”.
Then comes the dreaded “Act of Contrition prayer.” Contrition means to be sorry. An act of contrition, is an act of saying you’re sorry. Besides a memorized prayer, there are many ways to say, “I’m sorry.” Just keep in mind that there is contrition and prefect contrition; I’m sorry I got caught and dread the punishment verses I’m sorry for hurting with my actions.
Now, it has probably come to mind by now, the issue of getting your family together for all of this, for confession, for Mass. Some, or all of my children do not want to come to Mass or the sacraments. Really? Now, I’m not talking about our adult children but rather, your children still in elementary or secondary schools. Do we get them to school when they say no? Do we get them to the doctor, the dentist?
I’ve fought that fight. Feet stomping up the stairs. Feet that don’t want to do. Eyes rolled. Pursed lips. Even myself, when younger, depressed at the thought that I had to go to Religious Education. Myself, not looking forward to saying the family Rosary after dinner or having to go to Mass in the middle of the week for a Holy Day of Obligation!
We want our children to succeed, we want our children to be healthy, we want good things for them in this world. What about the ultimate success, to be happy with God, in Heaven, forever? Imagine your child telling you they don’t want to go to school (not hard to do). What is your response? I don’t want to go the Mass. What is your response?
Most of us have two boxes in our lives, either literally or figuratively. Outgoing. Incoming. These can be good and bad. An incoming check or an incoming bill; an outgoing of something completed; an outgoing of our finances.
Sometimes, depending on your point of view, the same thing can be good or bad. Outgoing artillery can be a good thing, if you’re standing on the right side of the canon. Incoming artillery can be bad.
Today we begin the season of Advent (Adventus) means, simply, something is coming. Is it something good, or something bad?
The Advent we are talking about today, also has two meanings: The coming of Christ as a baby, the coming of Christ as our judge. Joy and fear/good and bad. The image of a baby in a manger and the good Christ brings us joy, while the thought of the end of the world and the sight of our King, returning can bring fear.
Jesus tell us today that the Son of Man’s coming will be like the flood of Noah. “In those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away.” The flood covers the world and destroys all life, as we know it.
Science theorizes a great asteroid striking the earth destroyed the dinosaurs. Unaware, the end of life as we know it.
Imagine a news report that indeed a great asteroid is on the way and you do not make any preparations or it’s going to rain more than it ever has and you live near a river but you do not prepare.
The Son of Man will come and life, as we know it, will be gone. Jesus is the way. When he comes, all the false ways of our lives must go. He is the truth. All the falsehoods in our lives must go. He is the life. All of our false ways of living must go.
When he comes. Good or bad? Good if we’re ready, bad if we are not prepared.
Again, it seems easy: love God, love others. Families bond together in love. Societies and countries bond together with love. The world becomes ordered with love as the guiding force. Not violence, intimidations or fear.
We now wait for the advent of Christ as savior as a baby who grew up to love us. But in a larger view, we wait for the advent of Christ coming back, claiming the righteous and gathering the sheep.
The Son of Man will come when we do not expect. Life is short, play hard. Eternity is long, prepare.
We are entering the season of holidays; Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year. This is the time to bring families together. But our children may be grown, married, relocated to other cities, others states, or even other countries and now raising their own families. Each family has its own way of doing things. Each family, a little different.
We know how difficult it can be to bring everyone together. But still, many succeed in bringing one family; one tribe into solidarity with each other in some level of peace. The kingdom of the Smith family or the Jones family. Everyone, eventually agreeing on time, menus and places until finally, and sometimes thankfully, everyone returns to their mutual corners.
Even before there was a Christmas, gather families together was tough.
Jacob had twelve sons. Each son headed up a particular land inheritance and under each son’s direction, the tribes, or families of the twelve sons grew. Each tribe; each family had its own way of doing things. Each spread out from each other, each tribe a little different from the others. No phone, internet, or overnight mail. Think how difficult it would be to unite all these families; all these tribes. Still, everyone agrees on one leader; one king. David is anointed King of Israel. David rules over a peaceful and prosperous kingdom. It works…. for a while. David dies and Solomon assumes the thrown…then another king, another king, and another king. The Kingdom of Israel eventually separates. Led by humans, the Kingdom weakens and it falls apart.
Many kingdoms come and go. The Jews are overrun by the Assyrians. The Persians overrun them. The Greeks move in and then the Romans. Humans trying to hold people together. If not by peace, by force, power, fear and threats. But, led by human frailty and whimsy, kingdoms come and go. Man’s folly leads to failure.
Pope Pius XI looks over the world at hand in the 1920’s. The first World War has ended,.lives needlessly lost, and Europe devastated. The peril of yet another earthly kingdom is revealed as man seeks to overwhelm and control each other. Tribes, families of the modern era unable to come together and unite.
The Pope sees that God has been removed from public and private lives. God no longer reigns over countries, governments or families. Pius implements the Solemnity of Christ the King in 1925 to remind everyone that Jesus is the Eternal King with a rule that outlasts any domain of man. Losing sight of Christ as the ultimate King, we have lowered ourselves into disrepute, destruction and loss.
Christ, the King establishes a Kingdom held together not with power, intimidation or force, but by love. The Kingdom is to unite everyone, every tribe, all people and this Kingdom will outlast anything man has tried.
His message hasn’t changed. Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. That’s how we build up the Kingdom of God and live in peace. This kingdom will stand against anything, even the great Enemy; Death.
Humanity has refused to implement the teachings of this new Kingdom and so…. World War I; the Great War. The war that was supposedly to end all wars once and for all. But we humans still failed to impose Christ as the King over us and his teachings are not headed. World War II arrives, Korea, Viet Nam, the Middle East…. kingdoms fall.
Jesus’ efforts are contrary to the ways of the world. He confronts this in his opposition to the dominance by Rome. A kingdom gathered by power and controlled by fear and intimidation.
And so, today, we find our King on a cross. Not triumphant by earthly standards but by his heavenly standards. Christ, our King shows us that if we live by the world’s standards, only a crown of thorns awaits us. But by following him, we triumph over the world, the pains of this world and even death itself.
So it is up to us. Love unites us. Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God is at hand and so, we are that kingdom when we live as he taught us.
But Jesus tells Pontius Pilate that his kingdom is not of this world and he tells Dismas, the Good Thief on the cross with Him that they would both be together in Paradise. The Kingdom of God does extend throughout his people; it is with us on earth, but our reward is the eternity with Christ in Heaven; Paradise; a tangible and physical place… the court of the King from which he rules over the entirety of his Kingdom day and night, forever and ever, world without end.
Christ is not a name; it is a title. Christus means the anointed one. As presidents or governors are inaugurated into office, a king was anointed into his position. Jesus is the anointed king, the Christ, the anointed one of God.
As we live out our participation in the Kingdom of God everyone has a part to play. Everyone is a member of this Body of Christ. Each one of us anointed at our Baptism; as Priest, Prophet and King or Queen. A Priest to worship God. A Prophet to spread the word of God and a King or Queen to rule over those in our care. These are our jobs in the Kingdom of God on earth.
Humanity has tried to forge kingdom after kingdom into existence and attempted to hold them together: none seem to last. We fail to put Christ as the ultimate King over us and to implement the simple mantra of love … love above everything else.
Who can belong to this Kingdom? On the cross, Jesus, the King opens his arms to invite everyone. Everyone. The glue that holds the Kingdom of God together is love. Love God, Love Others and build up the Kingdom by making disciples.
Sojourners – Deacon CJ
Malachi 3:19-20 The SON of Justice will come
Ps 98 Sing to the Lord with Joy
2 Thess 3:7-12 We each have work to do in and for the Lord
Luke 21:5-19 “I shall give you wisdom” – Jesus “By your perseverance you will preserve your LIFE.
All the readings tell us that We are sojourners - Pilgrim on a journey to our heavenly home.
The Book of Malachi was written in the 5th century before Jesus Christ. It emphasizes the duty of sincerely living in conformity with an inner adherence to the Law of the Lord; What we call The Natural Law. The author gives much attention to eschatology, - the end of time. When we look at human history, we can see from time to time, people have predicted the end of this world because of the event at that time. Just look back to 1999. I remember full well that people thought the world was going to end. We were all wrapped up in Y2K frenzies, not least of which was that Jesus was going to come to judge the world.
In Sacred Scripture, “the Day of the Lord” signifies a privileged moment in history when JUSTICE asserts itself, a JUSTICE which has two dimensions: the Adoration due to God and the esteem due to the rights of each individual. On the Last Day, the day which will spell the actual End of time, the immense community – the Great Cloud of Witnesses of the Just will perfectly Adore God and evey man will esteem his brother according to the fullness of his dignity.
Part of the Bible’s importance to us is that it proclaims the fact that it indissolubly binds together the two dimensions of “JUSTICE.” Without God, man does not reach true human JUSTICE: and 2. Without effort of human Justice – our skin in the game – man does not attain true and full adoration of his Creator. Adoration and JUSTICE give value to each other, and they are the keystones of history. The Book of Malichi gives us two aspects the pending judgment of mankind: The chastisement of the wicked and the glorification of those who “Fear the Lord-Love God.”
In this light, St. Paul tells us, that as Catholics MUST Pray and Work for the Good of ALL, including those who hate them. Did not our Lord and Savior say while they drove the spikes into his hands, “Father, Forgive them. They know Not what they do.”
As Christians, we have no earthly home. We have the map - The Bible and guides (Moses - the prophets, Apostles and Popes) along the way who point us to the Promised Land. As Christians, we are called by Christ to live Virtue Drive lives - 2 B Holy as our heavenly Father is Holy. But how do we do this? Please, an indulgence – Please. It is easy in word to say, “Take up your Cross and follow Jesus.” It is an all together different thing to say and DO. This is part of what St. Paul is taking about in his letter to the Thessalonians. “We are not to be busybodies, but BUSY ABOUT THE TASK GOD HAS ENTRUSTED TO EACH OF US, so as to build the kingdom of God. GOD has as it were entrusted to each of us the building of the Kingdom. He has designed the Holy Temple, But We place the beautiful costly stones into the walls. These Beautiful costly stones are each of us. The beautiful costly stones are our FULL and ACTIVE participation in the Liturgy. When we fully participate in Mass, our Guardian Angels carry those prayers – those stones to the temple of God.
IF we are members of the Body of Christ, are we not, each of us called to do our part to help the body to live a life of Holiness? How do we touch one another? How do we hold one another’s hands, let alone HEARTS and aid each other on this pilgrimage of life?
Last Sunday St. Paul said, nay he prayed, “May the Lord direct your hearts to the Love of God and to the endurance of Christ.” This is the work we are called to do. We are NOT spectators at a ball game. We are the players in the arena of Life, surrounded by many roaring lions seeking to devoir and destroy us. But the bible says and Jesus reminds us to Not Be Afraid, because HE is with us. Yes, there is a struggle. It is a struggle for a woman to be pregnant and give birth. It is a struggle for this husband-father to ensure his wife and family are safe and secure. But the rewards of hearing the little ones laugh and even cry, bring the Song of Joy to our minds and hearts.
Next Sunday, the Feast of Christ the King; we hear that Jesus, The Son of JUSTICE, will come with His Angels and judge the world. He will ask whether we have fed the hungry or given drink to the thirsty. Are not our neighbors hungry for peace in their daily lives? Do they, like each of us, have a growing relationship with Christ Jesus, through scripture study, and a prayer life that we call The MASS? Perhaps, giving them the parish bulletin will open the door to a deep relationship with you as well as with Christ Jesus.
Bishop Mark likes to remind us, that we have been given much and much is required of us. Yes, indeed, for we have been given seven Sacraments to celebrate with JOY. It is therefore our responsibility to bring that joy to our neighborhood, our classroom, our work spaces and be the leaven in life. We all are sojourners holding one another’s hearts and hands, in good times and the Not So Good Times WE Need to show how our relationship with Jesus reinforces and deepens our commitment to a JUST Society. We need to live the daily prayer – the Lord’s Prayer, wherein we say, “Thy Will be done, ON earth as it IS in Heaven.”
St Augustine said “our hearts are restless until they rest in thee, Oh Lord.” That means too that the next door neighbor’s heart is restless, looking for focus, for purpose in life. As Baptized, Eucharistic, Confirmed Christians, we have found “Thee Narrow Gate” of Life. One of the Spiritual Works of Mercy calls us to teach the faith to others (Instruct the ignorant) and another calls us to Comfort those in sorrow. When we apply the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy to our daily lives, we have in fact begun to fulfill the words of Jesus from today’s Gospel. . . He has given the words to speak, so that others will Sing to the Lord with Joy, certainly in Life to come, where all of us will pray
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
The first reading for today sees the Jews under the occupation of Greece. Alexander, the Great forcibly annexes Israel as a Greek territory. Kings, sympathetic to Greece, are positioned to rule over the Jews. The Greeks bring along with them the language, traditions and religions of their culture. The seven brothers we read about today, lived under the reign of Antiochus IV, or as the Jews called him, Epimanes, the “mad one”. Antiochus ruthlessly imposes the Greek culture and religion upon his subjects. The Temple was defaced with statues of Greek gods and individuals where violently forced to abandon their practices for the sake of Greek ideals.
One man, Mattathias, led a revolt against the Greeks. Resistance grew and finally Mattathias’ son, Judas Maccabeus took up the task to lead what is known now as the Maccabean Revolt. Their stories are gathered together in the Book of Maccabees in the Bible. If you are just beginning to explore the Bible, the Book of Maccabees is a good starting point; exciting stories about the reclamation of Israel and purification of the Temple. This purification is recalled every year with the festival of Chanukah, coming up soon.
Today, in the first reading from the Book of Maccabees, we see seven brothers, and their mother brought before a Greek official and ordered to eat pork; an unclean meat as ascribed by Jewish law. The brothers would all rather die than break the law. As these martyrs are killed, their utterances reveal a belief in an afterlife. One brother states, "… you are depriving us of this present life,but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever.” And another brother, “It was from Heaven that I received these [hands]; for the sake of his laws I disdain them; from him I hope to receive them again." The seven brothers believed in Heaven. If nothing were beyond this life, they would have been mad to lay down their lives for nothing.
We hear the stories of the Bible and contextualize them as events that happened long ago, but not today. Not in our world; not in our lifetime. But martyrdom for the sake of religion is very active right now. People giving up their lives for the sake of Christ and the Church.
A few years back, in 2015, Egyptian Catholics were kidnapped in Libya, where they had gone to look for work, by ISIS forces. The kidnapped were held for many days and told to renounce their Christian Faith.
All of them refused. And so, they were taken to the Mediterranean beachfront, and dressed in orange jumpsuits (orange jumpsuits were the dress of Islamic prisoners held at Guantanamo). The setting was deliberate. Their blood would, by way of the water, mingle with the blood of their leader, Osama Bin Laden, reposed in that sea Once again, they asked their captives to renounce their faith. In refusing, their captors cut off their heads. We are told that many of these martyrs simply spoke the name, Jesus, as they died.
20 Christians were beheaded but 21 bodies were found. That 21st man was a co-worker of the martyrs. This man was not Christian himself, but by observing the conviction and courage of the other men, he proclaimed, “my God is their God” and for this, he was also killed. Martyrs of the present day.
Modern day Martyrs mirroring the seven brothers of the Old Testament with both stories holding in common the fact that each person expects a life after this. If there were no Heaven, nothing after this life, if this world ended with nothing ahead, then the martyrs would then, surely be crazy.
The psalmist professes the afterlife in the responsorial psalm we heard today “Keep me as the apple of your eye, hide me in the shadow of your wings. But I in justice shall behold your face; on waking I shall be content in your presence.” Remember the ISIS martyrs speaking the name of the one who promises a return to the Garden for those who Love him.
Seven brothers in the Old Testament; seven brothers now in the New Testament as husbands of one wife. After the death of each, another brother marries. A political and religious group, the Sadducees did not believe in life after death. They held only to the first five books of the Bible as the only valid scripture; the Books of Moses; the Pentateuch. Using scripture, they bring a puzzle to Christ. Deuteronomy 25:5-9 says, “If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband's brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her.” And so, one by one, the brothers die and the next brother marries the widow. “Teacher…. at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be? For all seven had been married to her.” This is a mockery of the notion of a Heaven and a challenge to the Savior. If this passage is true, how can you grasp a practical understanding of an afterlife?
The Sadducees take scripture to disprove an afterlife so Jesus reaches into scripture to disprove them. “That the dead will riseeven Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called out 'Lord, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; he is not a God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive."
As to Heaven, Jesus says, “Those who are deemed worthy to attain …. the resurrection of the dead…. They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God,” because they are the ones who will rise
Then there’s Jesus, who died for us. If there had been nothing past the grave, then he would surely have been mad.
“How does God see the world?
The Book of Wisdom tells us, “Before the LORD the whole universe is as a grain from a balance or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth.” A crumb on the kitchen counter when we slice fresh bread. We sweep it away without thought. We wouldn’t pay any attention to a tiny drop of dew either. However, God, who sees the entire universe as a tiny crumb, as being that insignificant, has mercy on all.
Wisdom goes on to say, “For you [God] love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for what you hated, you would not have fashioned.” Now, dwell on that; God loves all things that are. God doesn’t make anything that he hates! Our understanding of and relationship with God is anchored by this one thought. God loves everything he makes; me, you, everyone, everything.
Since God is all perfect, he does not need the world. God has everything needed within himself. Our world doesn’t add anything to God’s greatness. God is Love and out of love, God creates everything to be the recipient of his love which radiates out. You could say that everything has been loved into being. We are held in existence by God. We remain as long as God holds us in his thought. A song only lasts as long as the singer sings it. When the singer stops, the song stops. If God were to stop thinking about us, holding us in his love, we would be gone. We are literally held together by God’s love. God is continually creating us from second to second in his love. The Book of Wisdom tells us, “… how could a thing remain, unless you willed it; or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you?” Everything we see is being loved into existence by God.
Love is willing the good of the other. It is not willing our own good through the other, but for the other. Here is God’s relationship with the world. Because he doesn’t need the world, all God can do is to will the good of the other, of us, “ [because] you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for what you hated, you would not have fashioned.”
As humans, we often see love as seeking the good through the other.; if you do this for me, I’ll love you, if you are kind, smart pretty, funny…. I’ll love you) But God is different, only sending out love. He doesn’t need to be loved because he is love. So, we can say that God doesn’t love things because they have wonderful qualities but things have wonderful qualities because God loves what he makes. God does not love us because we do good; we do good because God loves us.
The Book of Wisdom begins looking at creation from God’s view and then brings us to a human perspective, “But you spare all things, because they are yours, O LORD and lover of souls!”
Rest here. Meditate on this.
God loves everything at once but God specifically loves my particular soul. Me. He knows everything about me, what I’m doing, done or fighting with. My soul would not exist if God did not love me; constantly, from moment to moment, loving me into existence.
Take all this out of the realm of theology, academia or philosophical debate. It is personal and real. God loves every soul in a personal and real way. God is constantly with us! I tell the students in Faith Formation that there are two things to know above everything else; Jesus in truly real in the Eucharist and Jesus, God is your best friend.
There are those, unfortunately who see God as “out to get us”; the angry, ever present eye. That’s how we, as humans, act. You hurt me, so I’ll hurt you. I’ll make you pay!
But God, who is love, “rebuke[s] offenders little by little, [to] warn them and remind them of the sins they are committing, that they may abandon their wickedness and believe…” And although we do apologize for our sin because we are human and feel badly, all through the Gospels, the stories of Christ, we never hear an apology requested. Go and sin no more. No matter what we do, God never stops loving us.
Then we follow from being loved to accept the commandment to love others. When we look at God, or even another human, the first thing to come to mind, should always be love. Love (God) creates everything for, with, through love.
With all of this in mind, we look at Zacchaeus.
If a tax collector was bad, (in league with the occupying Romans, skimming money off the top, cheating), so then, Zacchaeus, a Chief Tax Collector would be very bad. Still God holds Zacchaeus’ existence in love. God loves Zacchaeus.
How does God deal with this child who doesn’t follow his laws?
Zacchaeus is straining to see God as we all do. And what does Jesus say? Does he say, “come down sinner”, or “you are a terrible person”? Rather, "Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house. “Stay at his house,” a reference that Jesus is moving into Zacchaeus’ heart and soul; “O LORD and lover of souls”.
Zacchaeus becomes repentant "Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over."
Love first, repentance second. It was not because of his repentance that he was loved. Jesus showed his love and then repentance followed.
Place anyone in the sycamore tree, Your worst enemy, a thief, murderer, atheist, impoverished…. Or anyone you don’t agree with. Jesus shows us today that love comes first.
That’s our example: God does not love us because we do good; we do good because God loves us.