Mosh Pits, Crowd Surfing and Mustard Seeds

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time (June 17, 2018)

Ezekiel 17:22-24

Psalm 92:2-3,13-14,15-16

2 Corinthians 5:6-10

Mark 4:26-34

This may be hard for you to picture, but back in high school, I had hair down to my chin. Not only was it long, I was that kid who wore a ponytail and had the underneath side of my head shaved. Yes… I was a product of the 90’s. And in case you were wondering, the 90’s produced some of the best music in my opinion. Metallic, Guns n Roses, Peal Jam, Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots. Pretty much anything that caused you to jump around or bang your head back and forth was worth listening to back then. I’ve been in mosh pits… I’ve gone crowd surfing… I even have some hearing loss from listening to music entirely too loud.

Along the way, I eventually cut my hair and my taste in music expanded. After moving to Kentucky, I found two Christian radio stations that played music that actually sounded good. Air1 and K-Love. One of the first Christian rock artists that I found and really liked was Jeremy Camp. I remember distinctly going through a rough patch in my faith journey when I heard his song called, “Walk By Faith.” Here are some of the lyrics:

Would I believe you when you say, your hand will guide my every way? Will I receive the words you say, every moment of every day? I will walk by faith, even when I cannot see. Because this broken road, prepares your will for me. Help me to win my endless fears. You’ve been so faithful for all my years. With one breath you make me new. Your grace covers all I do. Well I’m broken, but I still see your face. Well you’ve spoken, pouring your words of grace. I will walk by faith, even when I cannot see. Because this broken road, prepares your will for me.

This song came to mind when I read today’s second reading from 2 Corinthians, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

This scripture verse is a daily struggle to live out. It is very easy to believe in something that you can see and touch. It takes a “letting go” to be able to put your trust into something or someone who you can’t see standing right in front of you. This is where the utmost trust in God can really shine through.

This can be understood more by looking at the mustard seed parable in today’s Gospel. The mustard seed is a tiny seed. The size of a period at the end of a sentence. If left alone, it will do nothing but remain a tiny, insignificant seed. But add water, sunlight and rich soil and it will become a bush large enough for birds to nest in and animals to lay in its shade. With proper care, it will grow up to serve a purpose. And all of that potential was contained in a tiny seed. It just needed a few outside influences to allow it to flourish into something beautiful.

Well guess what? You all are the mustard seeds. God has ingrained into you every possibility imaginable. You contain, within you, a God given purpose. But, just like the mustard seed, you need the right outside influences to allow you to flourish into something beautiful.

On one hand, you can allow the world to stimulate your growth. Television, news, Facebook, gossip… you get the idea. If these are the important things that are cultivating your growth, you will never flourish. You will never be truly happy. You will remain a tiny, insignificant seed.

On the other hand, if you allow God to cultivate you… watch out… Reading Scripture, living out God’s teachings through His Church, receiving the Sacraments from Baptism to Confirmation, helping others, respecting and honoring all of God’s creatures with the love He has shown you… these are the things that will allow us to grow into something magnificent!

Allowing God to have an active hand in our life journey, allows us to “walk by faith, not by sight” a heck of a lot easier. When we have a strong, Godly foundation and hit one of those rough patches, we know God is in control and our suffering is merely temporary. But when we are allowing negative influences to feed us, those rough patches we come across can seem almost unbearable.

So allow God to stimulate your growth. Allow God to nurture you so that you will grow and flourish into something truly magnificent.

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What Is Love?

6th Sunday of Easter

Acts 10:25-26,34-35,44-48

Psalm 98:1-4

1 John 4:7-10

John 15:9-17

When preparing to preach at Mass, in my experience, it is very easy to just skim over the 1st and 2nd readings and even the Responsorial Psalm in order to see what the Gospel message is for the week. Very often the Gospel passages proclaimed at Mass have the “meat” of Jesus’ teachings that can really change our lives when we apply them and live them out. Today’s Gospel from John is no different. It’s message is clear and to the point. Jesus tells us, “Love one another as I love you.”

But in order to better understand this “love” that Jesus is talking about, we really need to go back to the 2nd reading today from the first Letter of Saint John. It would be a shame if we just skimmed over it because I believe it is one of the most beautiful passages in the New Testament. It reads almost like a love poem. It is only 4 lines long, but profoundly powerful. So allow me to read it to you again:

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:7-10).

 So next time you tell someone that you “love” him or her… I want you to think of this passage. Because all you ever wanted to or needed to know about love, is explained in these 4 verses. Therefore, you really have to understand this passage so that you are sure that you actually mean what you say when using the word “love.”

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.” Love comes from one source… God. It’s not a man made emotion. It originates from God who is love. Therefore if you truly have love inside of you, then you have God inside of you as well. Even an atheist, one who doesn’t believe in God, in some way, knows God simply by loving others.

“Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” Therefore if God is love, it would make sense that someone who has absolutely no love for anyone can NOT possibly know God. I would take this even farther and say that love and hate can’t reside in the same person at the same time because of how opposite they are. You can’t on one hand tell your child, a friend or your soul mate that you “love” them but on the other hand hold a grudge or hate against someone else. One expresses the presence of God. The other expresses the absence of God. The two don’t mesh.

“In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him.” Here, God reveals to us what is love. God didn’t reveal love through His speech, but through His actions. God decided to show us what love looked like by sending us His Son. To live for us. To die for us. To save us. I personally couldn’t imagine standing by watching one of my children suffer a horrendous death. Even if it was for the greater good, I don’t think I would have it in me to keep going. But that’s exactly what God did. He allowed His Son to suffer out of love for us.

“In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” Love is not in the receiving, it is in the giving. Love wasn’t “created” by us out of thanksgiving towards God… Love was “born” from God when He extended it to us through His Son. This sacrifice is the height… the pinnacle of true Love.

So now you are all experts on “love,” right?? Understanding love is the easy part. But it takes a lifetime to properly put it into motion and probably won’t be perfected until you reach heaven. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try while we’re down here living in the world.

So here’s my challenge to all of you…your homework for the week. Be more aware of the level of love you are expressing towards others in your daily lives.

Meaning… if you have high levels of negativity, anger, gossip, holding tighter to those grudges, eye rolls, having to argue everything, cursing or sin in general… your love is out of balance. It means you are distancing yourself from God instead of walking towards Him.

When these things creep up, because it will happen from time to time, you need techniques to counteract them. Simply recognizing this when it’s happening is a great first step. Then try some deep breathing, meditation, prayer, read some Scripture or take a walk. Just putting a smile on your face will do wonders. And here’s the big one…go to confession. This sacrament can give you more grace and love then you’ll probably ever truly realize. It’s that important… so no more excuses! Go!!

The only way to return to love is to return to God. So when your love is low, turn to God. For He is the source of all Love. The source of all Joy.

Be A Good Shepherd

4th Sunday of Easter (April 22, 2018)

Acts 4:8-12

Psalm 118

1 John 3:1-2

John 10:11-18

We’re all supposed to imitate Jesus, right? When preparing for this homily, I read the first line of the Gospel, stopped and then just laughed to myself. It reads, “Jesus said: ‘I am the good shepherd.’” Why does this make me laugh? If we’re supposed to be like Jesus, then we’re supposed to also be good shepherds. In picturing me as a shepherd, for some reason, I thought of what happens right after the final song at Mass. And I mean right after the priest has walked down the aisle and the dismissal song has ended. At that point, I usually gather up my things, tell my family to head for the van and then off we go… after genuflecting of course! Within a few minutes, I’ve said my goodbyes, given Fr. Al a hug at the door, walked outside and just start to feel the sunshine on my face when I realize… I’m all alone.

You see… my wife is still in her pew talking with her friends. Laura is running around giving out hugs to everyone she can find. Oliver is still picking up papers that dropped out of his Sunday school folder while trying to put on his jacket. Jacob has taken off outside like a bolt of lightning with his buddy (cough… Luke Coleman). And Owen and Zach are somewhere in the foyer talking with their high school friends about “teenage stuff.” So apparently I’m not a very good shepherd because I can’t even get 7 people from our church pew to our van in under 20 minutes.

After reading the rest of the Gospel passage, I then realized that herding your family from church in an orderly fashion might not necessarily be what Jesus is meaning when he talks to us about the “good shepherd.” So in order to better understand what we are to learn from this Gospel passage from John, let us first look to Ezekiel 34 in the Old Testament. It reads:

1 And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD to the shepherds: “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? 3 You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. 4 The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them. 5 So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered. 6 My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill; yes, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them.”

In this passage from Ezekiel, God is upset with many of the leaders of the church. They were being very selfish by putting their needs above the people. This led many of God’s people to have a weak faith or to completely leave the faith behind. Reading this in light of today’s Gospel passage, we can now see that Jesus didn’t just randomly refer to himself as the “Good Shepherd” because it sounded good. No, he’s letting the people know that He is not like the shepherds they have read about in Ezekiel. He is not going to lead them astray or cause them to scatter. He is going to feed them with the Bread of Life and ultimately… He’s going to lay down His life for them.

Now remember… we’re supposed to be imitators of Christ which means that we are supposed to also be Good Shepherds. How does that look in our day-to-day lives? Very simply… we put the needs of others above our own. Instead of holding grudges… we hold out a helping hand. We turn the other cheek and help each other heal and move on. We spread the Gospel rather than gossip. We put a smile on our face and go out into the world and actually act like we are Christians.

You see… a good shepherd doesn’t motivate the flock by herding them. A good shepherd leads the flock by example. People want someone to inspire them… To motivate and encourage them to be better. They don’t need more negativity. The world throws plenty of that at us on a daily basis already.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He laid down His life for us, the flock, so that we can have a chance to spend eternity with His Father in heaven. We too can help out the flock by taking His lead. By helping others. By putting the needs of others above our own.

Be a Good Shepherd. Inspire someone. Put yourself out there and enjoy the life that God envisioned specifically for you.

Stop wondering around aimlessly like a lost sheep. Follow Christ. Our Good Shepherd.

Heaven and Fairy Tales

5th Sunday of Lent (March 18, 2018) Year A

Ezekiel 37:12-14

Psalm 130:1-8

Romans 8:8-11

John 11:1-45

Death can be a very scary thing to talk about. But first, let me clarify. As Christians, there are two types of death we often refer to. The first is dying to sin and being reborn in Christ. This is what happens in the sacrament of Baptism. It’s exciting to know that there are several among us at St. Andrew’s that will be born again in the waters of Baptism at the Easter Vigil this year. They will be further strengthened in their new Christian life that same night when they also receive the sacrament of Confirmation AND receive our Lord in the Eucharist for the first time ever. This is the fun type of death that we can talk about all day long and get those warm and fuzzy feelings because the people who “die to sin” are still with us afterwards.

The second type of death… well…let’s just say… there are not so many warm and fuzzy feelings. I’m obviously referring to the type of death where we lose a loved one, have a funeral and then mourn for days, weeks, even years after their passing.

But the question I’m posing today for your consideration is… WHY? Why do we get so excited to see someone die to sin and be born again into God’s family through Baptism… but so sad when a faithful Christian dies to this world and is granted eternal life with God?

In a way, I believe this is the question Jesus is asking us through today’s Gospel from John. It’s a long passage so I won’t read it again to you. But basically, Lazarus has died and everyone is in mourning. Many of the people blame Jesus for not being around to save him from death. You see… they believe Jesus is the Son of God, but they still don’t yet understand the resurrection since Jesus hasn’t been crucified yet. But Jesus knows. He fully knows what’s to come and has been preaching to His followers that they will have new life in God in this life AND the next.

But still, the people blame Him while they mourn the death of Lazarus. One of my favorite parts of this passage is where Jesus shows us His human side. We read two times that Jesus is “perturbed.” Yes, even Jesus got upset and irritated at people! He is perturbed because people’s faith in His teaching on heaven and the afterlife is very weak. Rather than celebrating Lazarus’ new life with God, they mourned his death and blamed Jesus for not saving him. I can see Jesus’ eyes roll, hand on his forehead, as he gets perturbed and says, “Fine, I’ll give you one more sign but then that’s it! You really need to start believing in what I’m telling you!” Then he turns to the tomb and cries out, “Lazarus, come out!” And he did.

Now, I acknowledge that we mourn over someone’s death because we won’t see them anymore. I get that. It stings greatly. Trust me, I know. But I think we struggle with death and mourn so intensely after losing a loved one because, deep down, our faith might be a little weak when it comes to heaven.

I can see someone get baptized. I can see someone receive the Lord’s Supper. I can see someone get confirmed. But I can’t “see” what happens to someone’s soul after they die.

Death is that one moment where our faith is put to the ultimate test. We are told that we will stand before God right after our bodily death. So death is the moment that we as Christians realize if this whole “Jesus, Church, Bible” thing is true or just a nice sounding fairy tale. And I think that scares us. I know I’ve struggled with this concept for a long time. I would like to think I’m a faithful Christian who tries my best to follow Christian teachings. But I still wonder if at the moment of my death, I’ll be confident in my faith or “hold my breath” (so to speak) as I wait to see what REALLY happens after I die.

I had a very real, very concrete experience that happened to me recently that has strengthened my faith regarding heaven that I wanted to share. We Catholics pray for the “repose of the soul” of someone after his or her death. It’s a very common practice that dates back to the early Church. It’s based on the teaching that people sometimes need to go to purgatory after death, before entering heaven. Purgatory being a final purification stop on the way to heaven. Think of it as a car wash. When we pray for the repose of the soul of someone, we’re asking God to speed up the process, if possible, so they can enjoy life in heaven sooner. After my mom’s death in October 2017, I’ve been praying for the repose of her soul often.

Well… I was at Mass at the Christ the King Cathedral in Lexington this past February. Angie and I were there assisting with the next class of future Deacons. I had just received communion and returned to my pew to kneel in prayer. With eyes closed and hands folded, I prayer, “Lord, I offer up this Eucharist for the repose of the soul of my mother, Joan Wentz.” And then I froze for a few moments. After that feeling passed, I picked up the hymnal and started to sing the communion hymn… but only got 3 or 4 words out and then I froze up again. Still on my knees, I put the hymnal down and closed my eyes again. I couldn’t move… I couldn’t speak. It was at that moment that I felt my mother’s arms around me. It’s as if she was kneeling to my left, giving me a side hug with her head on my shoulder. It was very real and I just kneeled there… enjoying the hug… as I cried silently. A few minutes later, she was gone. I’m not sure if that’s the moment she left purgatory and entered heaven or if God just knew I needed a hug from my mom that day.

I’ve reflected back on that incident a lot since it happened. I have even kneeled down at Mass after communion and tried to “re-create” the incident to see if it was just in my mind. But I’ve had no luck. I truly feel that God allowed my mom to visit me that day for a brief moment. Since then, I’ve had a better sense of peace that my mom is with God in heaven. I decided to tell all of you about it today because, honestly, I think we all could use a little encouragement when it comes to death and the afterlife. Many of us have lost loved ones this past year.

So yes, don’t be afraid to mourn for those that have passed away. But as we approach Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday… really pay attention and allow all of your senses to be flooded with LOVE. Because it is with LOVE that Jesus offered His body to us on Holy Thursday. It is with LOVE that he died for us on Good Friday. It is with LOVE that He overcame death and opened the gates of heaven for all of us on Easter Sunday. And if you can see with open eyes what Jesus did for us on those Holy Days… then you will absolutely realize just how much He loves YOU. And that love WILL continue into the next life because it is NOT just a fairy tale.

Lent and Donuts

1st Sunday of Lent (February 18, 2018) Year B

Genesis 9:8-15

Psalm 25:4-5,6-7,8-9

1 Peter 3:18-22

Mark 1:12-15

Well ladies and gentlemen, how’s your Lent going so far? We are only a few days into our 40-day journey through the desert. Are you going through chocolate or coffee withdrawals yet? Is your swear jar full yet? I hope whatever you picked to give up for Lent this year is both challenging and rewarding. I also hope you don’t look at Lent as “just another thing I have to do as a Catholic.” I pray that you actually get the full experience and all of the graces possible from this journey. In order to help you, I thought it might be good for a little pep talk today since we’re just beginning our desert journey. That way you can evaluate if you’re on the right path or if you may need to fine-tune something. In order to do this, I came up with two questions we need to make sure we understand.

The first question is simply, “Why do Catholics give something up for Lent?” It actually can be taken from today’s Gospel passage from Mark. It says, “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days.” And what happens after Jesus’ time in the desert is up? He begins His public ministry. So he needed time away with fewer distractions to prepare for something bigger yet to come. What can we extrapolate from this? We humans, all too often, clutter up our lives with stuff that we don’t need or with stuff we use too often. And unfortunately, these things can divert us from the bigger picture… God. Food, money, technology, stuff. These things aren’t bad in and of themselves, but often we put too much emphasis on them, which leads us to lose focus on what’s really important.

So we all need to evaluate our lives and ask ourselves, “What do I unnecessarily do or use that could be taking me away from God?” Do I spend too much time on my phone when I could be reading a spiritual book? Do I eat too much of a certain unhealthy food that is leading me to have no energy for works of charity? Do I spend too much time using my speech for negativity rather than prayer? Whatever it is you choose to give up for Lent, it should be challenging. Remember, this is our desert journey. Although I’ve never hiked through a desert, I imagine it is not a pleasant activity.

The second question that needs to be asked and understood is, “Why don’t Catholics eat meat on Friday’s of Lent?” First, understand that when we say “meat” we are referring to non-fish meat like steak, pork and chicken. Back in Jesus’ day, the “common people” lived by the water and ate a lot of fish. It was the food of the poor, it was abundant and it was cheap. The other meat like beef, pork and chicken was for the upper class since it was more expensive. Occasionally, the less wealthy would eat these meats during a special feast like at a wedding.

So not eating meat on Friday’s of Lent, with the exception of fish, reminds us that we are the common people and we’re not celebrating a banquet just yet. We should be using this time to focus on what’s to come…. Good Friday. This act of abstaining from meat on Fridays is something that Catholics around the world do universally and in solidarity with one another. We offer this sacrifice up as a universal Church. The individual things we each give up on our own are a personal sacrifice. These two sacrifices, the universal and the personal, reminds us that we are united as God’s people and that we are not attached to the material things of this world.

Sounds easy right? Nope… not really! Anyone that is willing to change and become closer to God, needs to do it with open eyes. To put it another way, living in sin is easy. Our world allows us the freedom to mess up our lives daily through sin. And once you start going down the path of the “bigger sins,” the “little sins” just keep piling up without a second thought. However, it takes effort to turn away from sin and evil. It takes effort to live with faith, ethics and morals. Why? This also goes back to today’s Gospel from Mark. Remember, we read that Jesus went into the desert for 40 days. Then there are 3 little words in the next sentence that we often skim right over… He was “tempted by Satan.” Yup, just like us, Jesus was tempted by Satan on His desert journey. When you are trying to do better and walk closer with God, it really makes Satan mad. I’m not saying you’ll by physically assaulted by evil or tempted daily, but isn’t it funny how when you decide to give up sweets for Lent, the very next day someone brings donuts to work… hot… fresh…heavenly… donuts.

So use this Lent as a time of fasting, prayer and almsgiving. Detach yourself from the unnecessary material things that you really don’t need. Instead, focus on God. Focus on the Great Banquet that is waiting for each of us after our desert journey is over… Easter. The resurrection of Jesus Christ after Good Friday opened the gates of Heaven for all of us. It gave all of us an invitation to the Great Banquet in Heaven. Use this desert journey to clean up whatever it is that keeps staining your banquet garment. Now is the time to, “Repent, and believe in the gospel” of Jesus Christ!

Three Gifts For God

The Epiphany of the Lord (Jan 7, 2018)

Isaiah 60:1-6

Psalm 72:1-2,7-8,10-11,12-13(11)

Ephesians 3:2-3a,5-6

Matthew 2:1-12

Merry Christmas everyone! Yes, according to the world, Christmas ended on December 26. But Catholics actually celebrate Christmas until the feast of the Baptism of the Lord (which is Monday, Jan 8). And this weekend, we celebrate the Magi visiting the Christ child. Imagine, they had enough faith… that they followed a star to a far off land in search of someone extraordinary. And we all know the story, right? The Magi found the new born King under a star and brought Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gold to represent Jesus’ kingship. Frankincense as a symbol of His priestly role. And Myrrh to point towards the suffering Christ will face later in life since this was an aromatic substance used in embalming.

As many of you know, my wife and I have 5 children at home. A number of years ago, back when we only had 3 children, Angie and I discussed how to try and keep the balance between Santa Claus and Jesus Christ during the Christmas season. In our modern world, that is a very tough thing to accomplish for parents. Santa is fun and magical, right? He eats the milk and cookies and, most importantly, brings the gifts! Somehow, during one of our discussions on this topic, one of us brought up this same verse that we hear today in Matthew’s Gospel.

We are told that Jesus received three gifts from the Magi. Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. We give each other gifts on Christmas (aka Jesus’ birthday). Do you see where I’m going with this? So it was decided, if three gifts were good enough for Jesus to celebrate His birthday, then three gifts from Santa were good enough for our kids as well! So we sat the boys down and explained our decision. After their eyes got really wide and the shock wore off, we reminded them that they still have grandparents, godparents, aunts and uncles that also give them gifts (so don’t feel sorry for them!). We then wrote a letter to good ole St. Nick to explain our request: From now on, just bring three gifts per child on Christmas, just like the Magi did 2,000 years ago.

Now I’m not saying that this is for every parent out there. It was just one way for us as a family to keep Christ in Christmas. But then that got me thinking. Does anyone here remember he telling you in my last homily that every weekend, you have homework to do after attending Mass? Remember? You listen to the readings and the homily and then allow them to challenge you the rest of the week to become more Christ-like. Well, I’ve got another homework assignment for you today. And this assignment will take you just under one year to complete. Sorry….

We just began a new year. 2018. This is traditionally a time when people try to begin new habits. Hopefully good habits since we always want to try and improve our lives from last year, right? But rather than making a “New Year Resolution,” I want you to think of offering three gifts. But these won’t be material gifts. Let me explain. To decide on the three gifts, I challenge you to go to prayer. Find some quiet time, close your eyes, and picture Jesus Christ sitting next to you. For a time, just be present to one another. And after a few minutes, ask Jesus, “What can I do to be more like you?” And then be quiet. Allow your brain to wonder with the Holy Spirit’s guidance. I guarantee you that, at some point, you’ll be able to think of at least three areas of your life that can be improved. And whatever those three things happen to be in your case… those are the three gifts you will work on all year.

It could be your health. Maybe you need to take better care of yourself so you can help others. It could be your finances. Wouldn’t it be nice to free up some money so you can donate to those in need? It could be to heal a broken relationship or possibly even to end a harmful relationship. Chances are it’s going to be challenging. Change usually doesn’t come easily. But changing for the better is always worth it in the end. And who doesn’t want to change and become more Christ-like?

Christmas is officially over after this Monday. That means we’ll be right back here celebrating Christmas in 11 ½ months. You and I both realize that it’ll be here in a blink of an eye. It always does. So why not start preparing yourself now to celebrate next Christmas in a richer, fuller way. Decide now on what three gifts you want to offer to Christ NEXT Christmas. You’ll have 11 ½ months to work on them. And how amazing will it be to be able to take all of that hard work and sacrifice, all of that positive change, all of that Christian transformation… and then lay those three gifts down at the manger next Christmas…

I realize it’s a long way away. A lot can happen over the next year. There will be a lot of ups and downs. But be like the Magi… let the star of Christ guide you. And once you reach the Star on December 25, 2018, you will approach the manger as a changed person. And with your head held high… with a rekindled faith… you will kneel down and lay your gifts at the feet of our New Born King!

It’s All About God

4th Sunday of Advent (December 24, 2007)

2 Samuel 7:1-5,8b-12,14a,16

Psalm 89:2-3,4-5,27,29(2a)

Romans 16:25-27

Luke 1:26-38

I’ve got a complaint to lodge to everyone here today. I got the short end of the straw and need to get this off of my chest! First of all, I take my calling as a Deacon seriously. When I get up here to preach, I spend a lot of time preparing on what to say. It’s actually very intimidating if you think about it. Talking about “religion” can be a very volatile thing if something is said contrary to one’s personal beliefs. Meaning… it’s easy to offend someone when you preach on God’s Word. This is why I go to prayer when I start preparing for a homily. I ask God to use me as a tool. To speak through me. Not my words, but His. This is important because the homily helps “break open” the Scripture we hear at Mass and gives all of you something to contemplate over the week. That, by the way, is your weekly homework. Did you know that? You’re supposed to take what you hear in the Scriptures and the homily and allow it to challenge you throughout the week. To change you and become more “Christ-like.”

And that’s where my complaint comes into play. Fr. Al and Deacon Bruce preached the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Sundays of Advent. And they did very well if I do say so myself. I’m even a little jealous that Fr. Al got to wear the rose colored vestments last week when he preached and I didn’t.

But what did I get? The 4th Sunday of Advent. Do you realize how short the 4th week of Advent is? Less than 24 hours. It ends Sunday night with the Vigil Mass for the Nativity of the Lord since Christmas is on a Monday this year. So instead of giving something to challenge you all week… I only have to challenge you for a few hours. Then you’ll forget all about what was in my homily because you’ll be too busy opening presents, eating wonderful, delicious food and sipping on wine or bourbon in your ugly Christmas sweaters!

But, like a good Deacon, I put on my big boy pants and decided to prepare this homily as best I could. And like every homily I write, I began this one with prayer and asked God what He wanted me to tell you. As I was in a deep, contemplative, prayerful state, I sat quietly and said, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”

And do you know what happened? A voice from the clouds whispered in my ear and said, “Dearest Deacon Brian, I’m sorry that you didn’t get to wear the rose colored vestments this year, it’s not your turn. Yes, the 4th week of Advent is super short. It happens every 7 years. Stop being so whiny. This is not about you. It’s about Me and My flock. So quit dwelling on the negatives and focus on what we will be celebrating is less than 24 hours. Now, go put on your purple vestment and preach the Word of God! But, just like the 4th week of Advent, keep it short!”

So, here goes… it’s not about us. It’s not about stroking our egos. It’s not about how awesome we are in the eyes of others. It’s all about God. Everything. God could have let us all rot down here on earth. He could have turned His back on us and said, you guys screwed up and I’m done with you. Or, He could have come down from heaven like a powerful military general with the entire army of Angels behind Him to annihilate us and start over.

But He didn’t.

Instead… as we hear in today’s Gospel from Luke, He came to us as a baby through the womb of a humble, poor, faithful woman. Why? Out of pure love to save us all.

So here is your homework to contemplate over the next few hours until we meet again to celebrate Christmas:

Let us all be a little more humble like Mary. Let us all be a little more thankful like Elizabeth who thought she was barren. And, like God, let us all be a little more loving.