Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas Homily

I had this thought: GIVING GIFTS REQUIRES TRUST. Think about it... what is the reason for spending time thinking about what gift you will give to the person you love? Is it not because you want that person to like and accept the gift? In order for that to happen you have to trust that he/she will like what you will give.

I stand here offering the gift of my preaching, I have to trust that you will receive what I have to say.  But what I say is more than just the message, the words I speak. In fact my preaching is about who I am as a person, about what I believe, and therefore I have to trust that you will not only accept my message, but I must trust that you will accept me - even to the sound of my voice.  When I have to preach homilies in special circumstances - when I am invited someplace to preach - often I will record myself. When I play back the recording I often catch words or phrases that are just not right. BUT, have you ever recorded your own voice and then listened to it? My thought is: “do I actually sound like that?” “Yikes, I sound like a dork!!!” I find I can’t stand listening to the sound of my own voice. So as I stand here, I think, “if I don’t like to listen to me, will you?" I have to TRUST you will listen to me, that you will HEAR my message, that you will accept what I offer.

I don’t think its too difficult to make the leap from that to say that GOD had to trust Mary would say yes when the angel appeared to her and announced that she was to be the mother of His Son.  Now we have sense that Mary was PRE-DESTINED to be the mother of Jesus - as if to say, she was the one and she had no choice in the matter. She was chosen, not me, not you, she was to be the one and there was nothing that she could do about it.  I don’t think so, I do not thing that she was pre-destined, rather she was PRE-DISPOSED! Her soul was not stained by original sin (Immaculate Conception) so that she could be a worthy vessel to carry the Son of God. She was, however, given the same gift of free will you and I have: she could have said no, but because she was not stained by original sin, she made the only logical choice: she said yes! 

Now, Luke tells us that having heard the message of the Angel - that she would give birth to a son - she responded, “how can  this be?”  This is not a question of doubt rather, it is a statement of wonder. It is as if Mary is saying, “WOW, God trusts me! How can I say NO?”  How could she possibly say no to the trust that God has for her?

I read the long form of the Gospel of Matthew with all the "this one was the Father of that one" - the genealogy of Jesus. I know it seems crazy (why is this even there?) and is often left out. In past years even I have chosen the short form option of that Gospel which begins with, “This is how the birth of Jesus happened…” Matthew starts his gospel with genealogy of Jesus because it is important on many levels - first century Jews who read it or heard it proclaimed would have understood it’s importance. For us, this Christmas it is important because it is a story of God’s willingness to TRUST his people - even when they say NO! Even when they didn't listen to Him, even when they doubted Him.

God trusts us even when we say no!

No matter what they did, God continued to trust them with the many gifts he had in store for them.  Here’s one example: Matthew reminds his listers (that includes you and I) of the trust God has for us: “David was the father of Solomon whose mother was the wife of Uriah.” Even after David made of mess of things God still remainder faithful! God’s trust never faltered.  (You do remember the story of David and Bathsheba?) 

Then of course the ultimate story of TRUST that someone would accept his gift: “Joseph, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife.” If anyone could have said no, it was Joseph, consider his circumstances… he could very easily said NO!  But he didn’t! HIS WILLINGNESS TO ACCEPT MARY AND JESUS - becomes our blessing.  Because of the yes to God’s trust, because of Mary and Joseph we too have received so great a gift: Jesus, God’s very self.  We sing, “O little town of Bethlehem” tonight.  Think of this: what was the manger Jesus was laid in? A food trough! What does the word Bethlehem mean? House of Bread! Jesus is food, bread, He gives us Himself as the bread of life, as food. God trusts you and I with the gift of his very self, Jesus, in this Holy Eucharist…

How could we possibly say NO?

Friday, December 27, 2013

I've finally gotten around to starting the parish Facebook page - find St. Jerome Church, Tamaqua on Facebook and "LIKE" us - and "FRIEND" us!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Why is Christmas Celebrated Mainly at Night? « Archdiocese of Washington

I came across this meditation and thought you might enjoy it as I did.

Peace and blessings this Holy Season as we celebrate the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Why is Christmas Celebrated Mainly at Night? « Archdiocese of Washington

Monday, December 16, 2013

Homily for Third Sunday of Advent

Tell John what you see and hear was what Jesus said to the disciples of John when they asked Jesus if he was the ONE - the Christ, the Messiah.  I began to think about that statement as a question: What do you see and hear happening?  What do YOU see and hear happening here in the parish, in the Church? Jesus sends them back to John with that response, there is healing, restoration, proclamation of the Good News. He then tells them:  "Blessed is the one who takes no offense in me.” Obviously there will be many who will take offense in Jesus. I suspect that some that will take offense in me! I am sure that there are those who have been offended by some of the things that I have said over the years.  Maybe some are even offended because they might think I have a hidden agenda. 

The truth is, I do have an agenda.  It is only the agenda of the Gospel. That is simply to bring people, to bring you, into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, to share with you the healing, restoration, and Good News that I have experienced.  I have been reading a new book, entitled Forming Intentional Disciples. The author of the book writes on the meaning of discipleship, not simply for priests and religious, rather for all people serious about their faith. In the first chapter the author offers some startling statistics. One of those is the huge percentage of people have left the Catholic Church, not because of scandal, not because of money, RATHER, because they seek and cannot (or do not) find in the Catholic Church an  understanding, an experience of a personal God. There is no sense of, no possibility for personal relationship with God.  “We are here, and God is there and there is a sort of wall between the two that can never be crossed.”  There is nothing further from the truth of Gospel.  In fact the whole reason that Jesus came to earth was so that we COULD know God in a very personal, intimate way!

So after sending the disciples of John away, Jesus turns and asks the gathered CROWD, “why did you go out to desert to see John?” (Who would want to even go out into that desert - it is desolate, very desolate!).  I thing they recognized that John gave them something that no one else was giving them, a personal encounter with God.  Think about John’s message of repentance.  A message not of (beating my chest) “Oh, woe is me a sinner!” rather a message that is of one who will come to restore a broken relationship. By sending disciples back to John, "tell them what you see and hear," Jesus is SAYING, “John is point you to the ONE who wants to bring healing and reiteration in to your lives so that you can have a personal relationship with God. I am that One.”

NOW, in and through the person of Jesus Christ you can have a personal relationship with God, because he wants to have a personal relationship with each of us.  It is a relationship that is rooted in healing and hope. THIS IS THE GOOD NEWS that Jesus proclaims! 

How do enter into this personal relationship?  All you have to do is ask!  Ask HIM to come in and be a part of your life.