Saturday, December 15, 2018

I have a secret for you!

HOMILY FOR THE 3rd SUNDAY OF ADVENT, December 16, 2018:











There was a particular monastery a while back had reached a point of crisis. The monks were leaving, no new candidates were joining, and people were no longer coming for prayer as they used to. The few monks that remained were becoming old, depressed and bitter in their relationship with one another. But, the abbot heard about a certain holy hermit living nearby and decided to consult him. He told him how the monastery had diminished and now looks like a skeleton of what it used to be. Only seven old monks remained. The hermit told the abbot that he has a secret for him. One of the monks now living in his monastery is actually the Messiah, but he is living in such a way that no one could recognize him.

With this incredible revelation the abbot went back to his monastery, summoned the monks and recounted what the hermit told him. The old monks looked at each other in disbelief, wondering who among them could be the Christ. Could it be Brother Mark who prays all the time? But he has this holier-than-thou attitude toward others. Could it be Bother Peter who is always ready to help? But he is always eating and never fasts. The abbot reminded them that the Messiah had adopted some bad habits as a way of concealing his true identity. This only made them more confused. At the end of the meeting what each one of the monks knew for sure was that any of the them, except himself, could be the Christ.

From that day, though, the monks began to treat one another with greater respect and humility, knowing that the person they are speaking to could be the Messiah. They began to show more love for one another, their common life became more brotherly; their common prayer more fervent. Slowly people began to take notice of the new spirit in the monastery and started coming back for to be spiritually fed. Word began to spread and, before you know it, candidates began to show up and the monastery began to grow again in number as the monks grew in joy and holiness. All this because a man of God drew their attention to the truth that is so easy to overlook – that Christ was living in their midst.

We heard in Luke’s Gospel today, “The people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ.” As our Advent moves steadily on towards Christmas, we are filled with a joyful expectation to welcome Christ once again into our hearts and our lives. But, we also realize that our celebration is not a mere commemoration of the arrival of Christ 2,000 years ago – something that happened long ago and far away, but we are being called to wake ourselves up again to the reality God is in our midst – all around us – here in this Church, in His Word proclaimed, in the Sacraments shared, in each one of us gathered in His Name – but also out there in the streets, in all of the many people we encounter – whether friend or foe, family or stranger, rich or poor, happy and healthy or hopeless and in need – our God is present everywhere and is just waiting for us to discover Him.

But the world is working overtime hoping that we won’t recognize Christ among us. There are instead voices of fear and anxiety that would rather have us be suspicious of one another and afraid; that would prefer if we demonized each other and treated one another as anything except brothers and sisters. But, this is not God’s message. This is not the message that this season hopes to renew in our hearts. God has come among us in the hopes that we will realize that we are all luminous beings and that God fills us and surrounds us with His presence so that we will be united in peace, mercy, love, joy and compassion – that these are the things that will transform us and our world into the Kingdom He promised.

My friends, I have a secret for you today – Christ is actually living in our midst but in such a way that perhaps we do not recognize Him. So, what are we to do? John the Baptist, today shows us. He calls us to faithfulness and care in the normal circumstances of life: If you have more than you need, share with those who have less; be honest; do not take advantage of the vulnerable; cherish your children; be faithful to each other; live in peace – and open our eyes to the presence of Christ all around us.

But, most of all we are being called to bring Jesus, the Light of the World into the darkness of our world. Let that Light be born in us and let Jesus use us to fashion a new world and bring forth the Kingdom of God. On our part, we must open our hearts and look with new eyes and hearts, and welcome everyone we encounter as though it were Christ Himself. Only then can we both be the presence of Christ in our world, but also meet Him in the people we encounter.

My friends, “Again, I say, rejoice! The Lord is near!”

May the Lord give you peace!

Friday, December 7, 2018

God is stronger!












HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF MARY, December 8, 2018:

A woman was having a very busy day at home caring for her five children. On this particular day, however, she was having trouble doing even routine chores - all because of three-year-old Kenny. He was on his mother’s heels no matter where she went. Whenever she stopped to do something and turn around, she would nearly trip over him. After stepping on his toes for the fifth time, the young mother began to lose her patience. When she asked Kenny why he was acting this way, he looked up at her and said, “Well, in school my teacher told me to walk in Jesus’ footsteps. But I can’t see Him, so I’m walking in yours.”

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our commemoration of the reality that Mary was conceived without sin in the womb of her mother Anne. This is a belief that dates back to the earliest days of the Church, and is not a feast about an abstract theological concept, but rather it is a concrete sign to us of God’s care for us, and of God’s triumph over the darkness of the world.

And I think that our world needs to hear this message more today than any time in my memory. We live in a world of chaos. We live in a world of violence and division. We live in a world of suspicion and fear. And to that confusion and fear we hear the words spoken by the angel to Mary in our Gospel: “Do not be afraid.”

Pope Francis, echoing perfectly the message of today’s feast, said, “Around us there is the presence of evil. The devil is at work. But in a loud voice I say: God is stronger.” My friends, let that message settle deeply into your hearts tonight – God is stronger. Today’s feast reminds us that God was stronger than the stain of original sin in the life of Mary. God was stronger than the darkness that enveloped the world at the time of Christ’s birth. God was stronger even than death itself in the resurrection of Jesus. God is stronger than the evil that fills our world today. He is stronger than anything that might seem insurmountable in our lives today.

There are no shortage of voices in our world today that are proclaiming the opposite message, that says, “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” It is a message that says we should look at one another with suspicion and fear; with doubt and anger – that we should treat our brothers and sisters as something less than human, something less than men and women who have been created in God’s image. But to that message of fear, we are reminded today that God is stronger, “do not be afraid.”

Pope Francis when he inaugurated the Year of Mercy a few years ago said, “Two things are necessary to fully celebrate the day's feast. First, to fully welcome God and His merciful grace into our life; second, to become in our own times 'workers of mercy' through an evangelical journey...In imitation of Mary we are called to be 'bearers of Christ' and witnesses of His love, especially towards those who are most in need."

The Holy Father reminded us that fear takes root when we fail to welcome God’s mercy into our lives. We are reminded that our call is not to be messengers of fear, but workers of mercy, imitators of Mary, bearers of Christ, witnesses of love. Do not be afraid. God is stronger than evil. God is stronger than any darkness in our world; any darkness in our lives.

My friends, Mary reminds us today that we are called to be holy people; to draw near to God and be united with Him. Belief in the Immaculate Conception of Mary is belief in a provident God; a generous God - a God who provides for the future, who prepares us for life even before we are born, a God who foresees and equips us with all the natural and supernatural qualities we need to play our role in the drama of human salvation, a God who is stronger than the darkness of our world.

Let us today be inspired by our caring God and by the example of Mary; let us follow in her footsteps. Let us strive to conquer the fear of our world; the fear in our hearts; and to be the workers of mercy who bring God’s gentle, kind, loving and compassionate presence to our world so desperately in need.

Let us ask our Blessed Mother’s intercession for all these things as we pray together, Hail Mary…

May the Lord give you peace!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

"Have you not seen me?"













HOMILY FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT, December 2, 2018:

Let me begin today by sharing one of Leo Tolstoy’s stories called “The Cobbler and His Guest.” In the city of Marseilles there was an old shoemaker named Martin who was loved and honored by his neighbors. One Christmas Eve, as he sat alone in his little shop reading of the visit of the Wise Men to the infant Jesus, and of the gifts they brought, he said to himself. “If tomorrow were the first Christmas, and if Jesus were to be born in Marseilles this night, I know what I would give Him!” He rose from his stool and took from a shelf overhead two tiny shoes of softest snow- white leather, with bright silver buckles. “I would give Him these, my finest work.” Replacing the shoes, he blew out the candle and retired to rest. Hardly had he closed his eyes, it seemed, when he heard a voice call his name...”Martin! Martin! You have wished to see Me. Tomorrow I shall pass by your window. If you see Me, and bid Me enter, I shall be your guest at your table.”

Martin did not sleep that night for joy. And before dawn he rose and tidied up his shop. On the table he placed a loaf of white bread, a jar of honey, and a pitcher of milk, and over the fire he hung a pot of tea. Then he took up his vigil at the window. Soon he saw an old street-sweeper pass by, blowing upon his thin, gnarled hands to warm them. “Poor fellow, he must be half frozen,” thought Martin. Opening the door he called out to him, “Come in, my friend, warm yourself, and drink a cup of hot tea.” And the man gratefully accepted the invitation.

An hour passed, and Martin saw a young, miserably clothed women carrying a baby. She paused wearily to rest in the shelter of his doorway. The heart of the old cobbler was touched. Quickly he flung open the door. “Come in and warm while you rest,” he said to her. “You do not look well,” he remarked. “I am going to the hospital. I hope they will take me in, and my baby boy,” she explained. “My husband is at sea, and I am ill, without a soul.” “Poor child!” cried Martin. “You must eat something while you are getting warm. Let me give a cup of milk to the little one. What a bright, pretty fellow he is! Why have you put no shoes on him?” “I have no shoes for him,” sighed the mother. “Then he shall have this lovely pair I finished yesterday.” Martin took down from the shelf the soft little snow-white shoes he had admired the evening before. He slipped them on the child's feet...they fit perfectly. The poor young mother left, two shoes in her hand and tearful with gratitude.

Martin resumed his post at the window. Hour after hour went by, and although many people passed his window, and many needy souls shared his hospitality, the expected Guest did not appear. “It was only a dream,” he sighed, with a heavy heart. “He has not come.” Suddenly the room was flooded with a strange light. And to the cobbler's astonished vision there appeared before him, one by one, the poor street-sweeper, the sick mother and her child, and all the people whom he had aided during the day. And each smiled at him and said. “Have you not seen me? Did I not sit at your table?” Then they vanished. At last, out of the silence, Martin heard again the gentle voice repeating the old familiar words. “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me…Whatever you did for one of the least brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Today, my friends, is the First Sunday of Advent and for us it is the start of a new Church year. We find ourselves today once again back at the beginning of our great story; back to Chapter one of the story of how Jesus came and saved us.

We begin again with the things that prepared us for the coming Savior and so today we heard from the prophet Jeremiah who said, “The days are coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah.” That promise of course, was fulfilled in Jesus. Likewise our Gospel called us to seek the signs that something momentous is on the horizon, something unprecedented, something that will forever change our lives.

Advent is preeminently a time to prepare for the arrival of Jesus. We remember both His arrival 2,000 years ago and we look forward to His return again in glory. But, as we look both back and forward, don’t forget to look down right where we are to become always more aware of Christ’s daily arrival in the ordinary events and the ordinary people in our lives. He wasn’t only present 2,000 years ago and at some point in the future – He is present right here in our midst today – if our eyes are open to see Him.

Our Gospel today reminds us that we should be vigilant to recognize and welcome the Lord who comes to us without warning everyday in the people, the places and the events we least expect. If we are preparing for the Lord’s coming by looking up to the sky, Luke today invites us to instead look out, to look to the person on our right and our left, to see the arrival of God that is before our eyes every day, to look into the story of our daily lives and recognize the Lord who comes to us in the ways we least expect.

Jesus doesn’t care how much money we make, how many fancy cars we own, how nice our home is, how many people work for us. Jesus won’t even ask us how many times we went to Church, or how many times we prayed – because those things only have value if they have lead us to the main criteria for salvation – did we love – without restraint, without condition, without measure? Our spiritual lives and prayer practices are crucial, necessary, we can’t live or be saved without them. But, these prayers are only working if they lead us to action, to love, to reaching out, to actively loving “these least sisters and brothers of mine.”

So, let us so resolve on this first day of a new Church year, to be people ever more aware of the presence and action of Jesus in our lives in the big ways and in the small ways – in the many ordinary people He sends into our lives every moment of every day. And let us be people who witness to that presence in the lives of others – especially in those places that need God’s presence more than ever. Let us make this a holy Advent, leading to a holy Christmas, an even holier year for us all.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel! Make us new!

May the Lord give you peace.

I have a secret for you!

HOMILY FOR THE 3rd SUNDAY OF ADVENT, December 16, 2018: There was a particular monastery a while back had reached a point of crisis. The ...