Meet Jesus with Confidence

December 3, 2016

Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. (Luke 21:34-36)

These are challenging words Jesus presented to His disciples in today’s Gospel. “That day” He describes is Judgment Day, when our time on this earth ends.

When we meet Jesus face to face at the end of our days, who will He see?

Will He see someone who was only concerned about his own needs? Someone who lived carelessly and recklessly, always thinking, “I will make amends tomorrow”? Someone who rolled the dice, always assuming he had plenty of time left to get his life back on the right path?

Or will He meet someone who understood that how he lived his life on this earth mattered? Someone who understood God’s plan for him, and lived his life in service to Him and others? Someone who was prepared for this day, and meets Jesus confidently and joyfully?

Near the end of today’s Gospel, Jesus advised His disciples to “be vigilant at all times.” He wants us to heed that advice as well.

We never know when our time will come. May we live our lives in a way that ensures we meet Jesus with confidence and joyful anticipation, rather than fear and doubt.

Pope Francis Speaks on Advent

December 2, 2016

From Pope Francis’ Angelus for the First Sunday of Advent on November 27:

Advent encourages us to reflect on the contrast between our daily routine and the unexpected coming of the Lord. The Gospel, the Pope said, is not trying to frighten us, but “to open our horizons” to further dimensions, giving meaning even to everyday occurrences.

This perspective, he continued, is also an invitation to “sobriety, to not be dominated by the things of this world” but rather to keep them in their proper place. If, on the other hand, we allow ourselves to be overpowered by a concern for material things, we will not be able to perceive what is much more important: our final encounter with the Lord. And so, the Pope said, Advent is “an invitation to vigilance, because, not knowing when He will come, we must always be ready to depart.”

During Advent, Pope Francis concluded, “we are called to enlarge the horizons of our hearts, to be surprised by the life that is presented each day with its newness. In order to do this we need to learn to not depend on our own securities, our own established plans, because the Lord comes in the hour which we don’t imagine.”

Source: http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/11/27/pope_francis_advent_calls_us_to_enlarge_our_horizons/1275187

Homily: Advent – Prepare Your Heart

December 1, 2016

The following is the homily I delivered at the Bishop Chatard school Mass yesterday. We used the Gospel reading for the day – the feast of St. Andrew (Matthew 4:18-22). For the first reading, we used a passage from Proverbs, chosen by the sophomore class. Sophomore class rings were blessed and distributed after Mass, so this was a special Mass for the Class of 2019.

There are two images from my childhood that pop into my head every year when Advent begins.

First, when I was young, there were certain times when the house got a special cleaning. Someone special was coming to the house – such as a relative we hadn’t seen for awhile, the parish priest, or dad’s boss.

We did the basic cleaning on a regular basis, but these events required us to take it up a notch. So each of the kids got a list of jobs we needed to complete. The house got the full treatment – wiping down baseboards, taking everything off the shelves for a thorough dusting, removing the drip pans from the stove and scrubbing them, and so on.

I remember asking Mom what the big deal was. Why spend so much time preparing for these guests?

Her answer: “It will show them that their visit is important to us.”

I think of her words every year as we begin Advent. Continue reading

At Once They Left Their Nets

November 30, 2016 – Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle

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As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.

He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-22)

The more time I spend with scripture, the more fascinated I become by the deliberateness of word choice by the evangelists. The words “at once” speak volumes about the affect Jesus had on people, and the incredible faith shown by some of those who chose to follow Him. Jesus must have inspired such certainty of purpose.

I can’t think of very many “at once” decisions I have made in my life. Most of us reflect on a situation, weigh the pros and cons, talk it over with our spouse or friends, and then mull it over for a few days. Even then we doubt ourselves, wondering if we have made the right decision.

The apostles knew very little about Jesus, and followed Him anyway. We know so much more about Him. We understand who He is and what He wants from us; and yet, we struggle to respond to His call.

The finality of leaving our nets may be too much for us. Fear, doubt, and lack of trust tend to creep in.

Why don’t we start by setting our nets down next to us, within arms length, and giving Him some of our attention? Who knows, we might discover we don’t need our nets after all.

Choose to Create Such a World

November 29, 2016

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together…the baby shall play by the cobra’s den…for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD. (Isaiah 11:1-10)

Isaiah foreshadows what Jesus will refer to later as “the one Body of Christ.” In this ideal world, where love is the focus, there are no divisions. In this ideal world, we are of one mind and live our lives according to the two greatest commandments – to love God with all our hearts, and to love others as ourselves.

What conflicts could exist in such a world?

We cannot just hope this ideal world comes about on its own. We must be deliberate in our actions. We are blessed with free will. We can choose to create such a world.

Division and conflict take advantage of every opportunity to take root and grow. This will continue to happen as long as our focus is diverted away from God’s message.

Until we gain focus on that, I wouldn’t let your baby play by the cobra’s den.

A Great Gift (If I say so myself)

Embracing Our Unworthiness

November 28, 2016

The centurion said in reply, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed. (Matthew 8:5-11)

These words, spoken by a Roman centurion and used as a part of the Communion Rite of our Catholic Mass, convey a powerful statement of faith. The centurion does not feel worthy of having Jesus come into his home, but trusts that Jesus can heal his servant simply by saying the words. He believes that it is possible.

These words are certainly memorable, and teach a great lesson on faith, but how do they fit into the Mass? Why include them as the words the faithful proclaim prior to receiving Holy Communion?

If you think about it, we are expressing a faith similar to that of the centurion. We are not worthy of receiving so precious a gift as the real presence of Jesus in Holy Communion. By saying these words, we are admitting our unworthiness. We are also saying, “We believe!” We are expressing a firm belief that all things are possible with God. Jesus does not have to be with us in human form for us to recognize His presence.

It is a bold statement.

When we receive Holy Communion the Eucharistic Minister says, “The Body of Christ.” We respond by saying, “Amen.” This puts an exclamation point on our belief in His presence. By saying, “Amen” we are saying “I would stake my life on it.”

None of us are worthy. God’s gift is that He comes to us anyway.