Friday, December 31, 2010

A new year, a new work week.

I was sharing with some of the servers this past week that I understood how happy they must be to be going back to school on Monday. They were less than amused. But for most of us, the end of the Christmas season means beginning the rigors of work and school once more. Someone had mentioned this past week that Christmas seems so anticipated, only to pass by in a few short hours.
Though even in the Church year we lead up to the story of Jesus' birth, it seems we barely take any time at the manger, and then we have Jesus beginning his public ministry. But alas, Jesus himself will remind us that the reason he came into the world was to reveal the Kingdom of God, proclaiming salvation, and announcing the 'Good News.' Peter wants to keep Jesus around, his family comes to see him, and we even would like to have some quality time with the child Jesus; but the Gospels tell us that we have to work.
And the work that the Church does is to teach, preach, and sanctify. From its celebration of the Eucharist at Liturgy, its education and catechetical programs, and ministry to the sick, poor, and oppressed, the Church continues to make known the words and teachings of Jesus Christ. The teaching of the, Church in the Modern World, presaented to the world at the Second Vatican Council, makes it clear that the Church cannot be a wall flower.
It is always amusing to read comments on message boards, and in text, stating the Church needs to stay out of politics. Well in reality issues of Life, human dignity, poverty, and violence, are all moral matters and call for moral leadership. If anything the Church needs to take a stronger position on some of the problems afflicting our society.
It is an ongoing task to recognize that the Church has a place in the world today. Our going to work encompasses all of humanity, and human life from womb to tomb - and into eternal life. At St. Mary's we have spoken a lot about stewardship over the last few years. We are really speaking about discipleship and taking responsibility for the Church. I remember that Dunkin Doughnut commercial with the baker, "Its time to make the doughnuts."
For us after this feast and all of the celebrations, food, people, and fun, its time to proclaim the Kingdom.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Feast of the Holy Innocents

We were confirmed in the Eighth Grade. I choose St. Michael as my Confirmation name. It seemed appropriate and I liked the image of chasing evil out of heaven. We talked about the gifts of the Holy Spirit and even went away for a one day retreat. Anyway a week before Confirmation a young boy was kidnapped while doing his paper route. He happened to be the cousin of one of our classmates, and a well known family in the City of Rockford. There was a massive search throughout the city and in northwest Illinois. Sadly they found his body at a boyscout camp, near Stockton, Illinois, on the day of our Confirmation. Being that he was the same age as many of us, and our parish relationship with this family, our focus was less on Confirmation and more on this horrific event staring all of us in the face. Even as an Eighth grader I could not help but wonder what terror there must have been for this child.

In sort of a weird way, even a scriptural way, it was an awakening to the real world. As we put away our Christmas stuff we go back to work, school, and other activities far removed from the niceties of the celebrations of Christmas. The intention of this feast is that we might not lose our focus, and to remember that Christ comes to take away Sin and Evil. While Christmas is a Child's feast in so many ways, the reality is that Christ comes to bring salvation and peace into the very adult world where there is brokenness, pain, and division.

It is mind-boggling to read about the amount of poverty and hunger that wracks the world. Child abuse and neglect are way too common in the world today. And sadly abortion is commonly looked upon as a form of birth control. Sometime google the phrase, 'boyfriend charged with abuse.' News stories from across the U.S. will pop up. To be sure the abuse is problematic, but we enter into unhealthy relationships that foster all sorts of ugliness and pain.

I was with a family several nights ago, sharing some of the subjects that I would cover with the Fifth graders. The husband and father mentioned that he thought some of the subjects I had mentioned, should be covered in the home. I had no objection to dads and moms talking to their children about chastity, modesty, self-respect, and even sexuality. The home is the beginning of good faith formation and stewardship.

We want to respond to the overt damage and abuse that is done against children, but also that which is covert, whereas we expect schools, sports activities, T.V. stars to models and directors of our children into adult life. I don't think we have to live as monks and nuns in order to offer a moral foundation for our world today. Like the prophets we have to be aware of the brokenness and make bold in declaring the virtues and values that our lives stand for.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Holy Family

"Wives be submissive to your husbands... ." That is about the extent of the Pauline text from today most people ever hear. There are usually some nudges, side-way glances, and smirks. What people seldom hear is the continuation of St. Paul advocating that husbands should love their wives as does Christ the Church. And we can look at any crucifix and meditate on how much Christ loved the Church.

In a very real way if families are to be Holy, then the they have to follow the example of the Paschal Mystery. In love men and women come together to pledge their commitment to the other under the auspices of Christ's love. As St Paul would suggest, such a journey requires an ongoing unconditional 'Yes.' Families are formed in the image and likeness of God and need to bear witness to the sacredness and holiness of God in their very lives.

I grew up in a family with five siblings and two parents. I remember going to mass every Sunday. I don't remember if I "got" anything out of it every Sunday, but we went. I do remember the chaos that would erupt on some Sundays as our parents tried to get us ready, (as well as themselves) as we headed out the door. There were days when were not in the proper mental or spiritual framework to be at mass.

It is at these places where Paul speaks most practically. St. Paul calls for patience and understanding of one another. Moreover he reminds us that we need to act in charity within our families and communities. We are even to admonish each other, but with love and charity. Sirach goes to some lengths to describe the reverence and holiness that needs to exist in the Communion of the family. Children to love and honor their parent's as parents should love and honor their children. This is our holy call to honor and rspect each other.

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Vigil of Christmas

I think that it was in the 16th or 17th century that religious superiors were advised lock the monks in the cloister on Christmas Eve, so that in their drunken state they would not damage the church. In the last few hundred years our Christmas celebration has taken on somewhat of a religious nature again. All the while we are deluged with the message to buy stuff, people of faith recognize the religious aspects of this feast. While the vigil is not really Christmas, very much like waiting for the birth of a child, we pray and fast during these last few hours anticipating the presence of Jesus, our King and our Saviour.

There are a plethora of stories recalling the ceasing of war, if only for a few hours, during the eve of Christmas. In Paul the VI, Pacem in Terres, Pope Paul VI will expound upon the nature of the vulnerable, oppressed, and dejected in our world today. Echoing the Gospels Paul call for conversion and discipleship throughout the world. Over the next few nights we will be inundated with Christmas shows. All in all hey make us feel good about ourselves. Certainly God feels good about us because he comes in human form, to bring us salvation and peace.

I was reading another blog this morning in which the writer quotes an article finding commonality between the manger and the cross. This author sees the journey, the dangers, and the proclamation of 'Good News' to be sort of bookends in our experience of Christ Jesus. The Incarnation is the unconditional 'Yes' of God, who loves us more than we can understand or really deserve. God wants us to enter into a communal relationship with him.

To be sure this is a time of family and celebration. But there is an introspective part of this feast that asks us to look at our response to God. We want to receive God's gift of himself gratefully, and allow it to change us. The Vigil is a good to look at our preparation for the coming of Christ. I recall eons ago sitting at home with my parents and siblings prior to midnight mass, bathed in Christmas tree light, I had realized how great my family was. Previous squabbles just seemed so silly at that particular moment.

Hopefully this will be a time of comfort and joy for everyone. May the blessings of the Christ child show us the way to peace and healing throughout the year.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Its almost here

Wow, its been awhile since I have been here. This weekenCheck Spellingd is the celebration of Christmas. Now I have to say the older I get, the less excited I become over Christmas. But from a liturgical and theological point it is a most important feast.

These last few days of Advent dissect the entire feast. The birth narrative is read slowly each day, pray, fasting, and reconciliation are strongly encouraged. We are preparing for a day and for a transformation. At Evening prayer we use the O Antiphons. We can chant these at Mass too. Our best contact with these is in the song, O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

The Antiphons highlight the titles of the Messiah. So each day we chant a distinct title: O Wisdom, O Lord, O Root of Jesse, O Key of David, O Rising Sun, O King of the Nations, and O Emmanuel. This context helps us who pray in this manner to focus more deeply on the mystery we are about to celebrate. It is in particularly important at this celebration which can become watered down in the social and cultural hype. God redeems humanity and changes our lives forever.

St Thomas Aquinas says that this is really the best way that God can bring us salvation and peace. Through the coming of an infant we can reflect on the fact that we are in need of development, love, care, and compassion in order to achieve our potential. God loves us more than we can imagine. St. John will remind us that he loved us so much that he took on our human nature.

This feast also helps us to contemplate that in the Incarnation God blesses, and even affirms, human flesh. Our human nature can cause us all sorts of hardships, difficulties, and sadness. Our experience of God through Jesus Christ helps us to remember the love and the mercy which God holds out for us. We just have to say 'Yes."

As we behold the child Jesus, we remember all of the Christological titles, and most importantly that he is Emmanuel, God with us.