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Monday, December 4, 2017

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

“What are you looking for?”  This is the question Jesus put to Andrew and another of John the Baptist’s disciples in today’s gospel from John 1: 35 – 42.  Andrew, Simon Peter and the others were looking for the Messiah, the Savior of Israel, the person who would liberate them from Roman oppression.  Andrew followed Jesus because he believed John the Baptist’s testimony, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”   Simon followed Jesus because of Andrew’s testimony, “we have found the Messiah.”   Following is one thing but believing is something entirely different.  Although Andrew, Simon and many others followed Jesus, it took them a long time to believe that Jesus really was the Messiah – and not necessarily the kind of Messiah they were seeking.  What they were looking for is not what they got. 

If Jesus asked you, “What are you looking for,” how would you answer?  Andrew and the other disciple answered with another question, “Rabbi … where are you staying?”  They didn’t want his address, they wanted to spend some time with him, they wanted to listen to him, and they wanted to learn more about him and from him.   And so, Jesus invited them to “Come, and you will see."  Curiosity may have been their initial motive.  However, after they spent time with Jesus, Andrew, Peter and many others became true believers and followers of Jesus, the Lamb of God. 

 But what are you looking for?  As we begin this New Year we should all reflect on this question.  Our answer isn’t for God because God already knows what we are looking for.  The answer is for each of us to help us in our journey through this year and through life.  What are you looking for?  What are your goals and expectations?  What are your hopes and dreams?  What role will God play in your life in 2012?  Will you accept Jesus’ invitation, “Come, and you will see”? 

Father, you know us
and called us by our name
even before we could know and love you.
Help us hear and heed your word
to follow Jesus your Son.
Open our ears to listen to his word.
Open our hearts
that we may experience his message
as a call addressed personally to each of us.
And may each of us say,
"Here am I, Lord;
I come to do your will."
We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord.

Amen

Epiphany

Since childhood the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord has been one of my favorite celebrations of the Christmas Season.  The idea of the wise men following a star to unknown places captured my imagination then.  And it still does.   The story of the Magi presents Jesus as the Messiah of the Gentiles (us) and to all the people of the world.  When I was a child, it was an adventure story.   There were good guys, the Magi, on an amazing quest, following a star to the far reaches of the earth. There was a really bad guy, Herod who wanted to kill the baby Jesus.  And in the end, the good guys won.  They found the baby Jesus, gave him wonderful presents, tricked Herod and then they returned home safely.   This is a good story! 

Looking at this story with adult eyes still excites my imagination.  The idea of following a star across the world is a very romantic notion.  Almost everyone has a star they want to follow.  For some people that star might be the allure of wealth or power.  For other people the star might be fame or the thrill of adventure.   Still others seek love and will travel to the ends of the earth to find it.  But this story isn’t about seeking love or self-fulfillment or achieving our dreams.  The story of the Magi is about a journey of faith.   These pagan astrologers represent all the people in the entire world including us.  And so, this story is about us finding spiritual meaning in our lives.  It is about our search for Jesus. 

Like the Magi, we have to put aside our preoccupations and fixations.  We have to drop everything to follow the new star, the Light of Christ.  There is adventure in seeking and then following Jesus.  We don’t know where He will lead us in our journey of faith.  For me following the star, the Light of Christ, lead me to Peachtree City, Georgia.  The journey here was not easy but I know that this is where God wants me right now.  I don’t know where the Light of Christ will lead you.  My prayer is that each one of you will seek the only star worth following and let it guide your journey to the Lord. 
 
Father, we your people rise up in splendor,
for your light has come;
your glory now shines upon us.
We are grateful for this light,
who is Jesus Christ, your Son.  
Make our lives with that same brightness 
and help us walk as one in your light.  
Open our eyes that we may recognize you
in all the signs you send us.
All glory be to you, FATHER,
through your SON Jesus Christ,
who draws all people to himself
that together with the SPIRIT
we might give you praise,
forever and ever.

 AMEN

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Holy Family

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family.   Pope Leo XIII established this Feast to promote the sacredness of family life and to present the Holy Family as the model for all Christian Families.  Many people struggle with the notion that all families should model themselves on the Holy Family.  After all, Mary, our Blessed Mother was conceived without sin and Jesus is the Son of God.  No other family on earth has members who achieve this level of perfection.   This is not to imply that the members of the Holy Family did not suffer.  They did and in today’s Gospel from Luke 2: 22 – 40, Simeon outlines some of the suffering they will endure:  "Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted —and you yourself a sword will pierce— so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."

Although none of us can achieve the perfection of the Holy Family, we can strive for holiness within our families.  The key to achieving the ideal modeled by the Holy Family is found in our second reading from Colossians 3: 12 – 21.  In this reading St. Paul provides the Christian community of Colossae in Asia Minor with some guidelines for living the ideal Christian life in the world: “Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body.” 

If each one of us follows St. Paul’s guidelines for Christian living, and applies them to our own lives and to our families, then we might come close to achieving the holiness modeled by the Holy Family.   St. Paul certainly gives us great material for making our New Year’s resolutions.  Happy New Year!   

What love you have bestowed upon us,
O good and gracious God,
in letting us be called your children,
and in giving us your Son, Jesus,
to live as a child among us
in the family of Mary and Joseph!
Let all who seek the face of Christ find him,
not only here, in this house of prayer,
but in the households, large and small,
where your love is revealed
in our love for each other.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.
AMEN


4th Sunday of Advent

Today is the 4th Sunday of Advent.  In a few hours we will celebrate Christmas.  For us, it has happened so quickly.  However, the historical lead up to the birth of Christ took thousands of years.  Our readings for today span about one thousand years of that history.  We hear the story from the perspective of two very unlikely people, King David and the Virgin Mary.  Although David was the King of Israel, he had humble beginnings.  He was the youngest son of Jesse from Bethlehem – an obscure village.  David was a shepherd, which was the lowliest job possible.  Yet David became a great King and through the Prophet Nathan God promised David an eternal dynasty, that reached its’ pinnacle in the birth of Jesus.  God promised David an heir, “I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever" (2 Samuel 7: 13 – 16).  

In today’s Gospel, Luke 1: 26 – 38, we meet Mary the person who made Christmas possible. Like David, Mary was of humble origins and from a village even more obscure than Bethlehem; Nazareth.   Mary probably was only fourteen or fifteen years old when the Angel appeared to her at the Annunciation.  Yet her openness to God, her willingness to say yes, “may it be done to me according to your word,” set in motion a monumental series of events that changed the world forever.  God promised Mary that her son “will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end "(Luke 1: 32 – 33).  Through Mary’s humble obedience and acceptance, God became Incarnate.  He came to us in human form. He became Emanuel, God with us.   Emanuel, God with us is here now.  Emanuel, God with us was here yesterday and will be here tomorrow.  God is present in our world working through each of us every day. 

At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Christ.  And every day of the year we should celebrate the birth of Christ in us.  St Paul tell us in 2 COR 6: 16 that “we are the temple of the living God; as God said: ‘I will live with them and move among them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people’.”

May the peace of Christ be with you this Holy Season and throughout the year. 

Almighty God and Father of light,
a child is born to us and a Son is given to us.
Your eternal Word leaped down from heaven
in the silent watches of the night,
and now your Church is filled with wonder
at the nearness of her God.
Open our hearts to receive His life
and increase our vision with the rising of dawn,
that our lives may be filled with His glory and His peace,
who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
Amen



3rd Sunday of Advent

The theme for the third Sunday of Advent is REJOICE!  Celebrate!  Be glad!  The Entrance Antiphon for today’s Mass from Philippians 4:4 tells us why: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice!  The Lord is near.”  St. John tells us in the first chapter of his Gospel, that we should rejoice because “The true light, which enlightens everyone, [is] coming into the world” (John 1: 9).  Jesus is “the light of the world” and he came so we can have “the light of life” (John 8: 12).    For us Advent is a joyful season because our salvation is already near.  

John the Baptist came roaring out of the dessert “to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.”   He proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, to prepare people for the coming of the Lord.  When we received the Sacrament of Baptism, we received new birth through the Holy Spirit and became members of the Body of Christ.  As members of the Body of Christ and children of the light, we share John the Baptist’s mission “to testify to the light.”  

During this time of year, Peachtree City is covered with beautiful Christmas lights.  Traditionally Christmas lights symbolize Jesus, the light of the world, who came to save us.  They illuminate the darkness of our Advent world.   In Matthew 5: 14, 16 Jesus tells us “You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden….so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”  

We are called to witness to the light of Christ in our world and in today’s second reading St. Paul prayed for the people of Thessalonica and he prays for us, “May the God of peace make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will also accomplish it” (1 THES 5: 23 – 24).

Father in heaven,
Our hearts desire the warmth of your love
And our minds are searching for the light of your Word.
Increase our longing for Christ our Savior
And give us the strength to grow in love,
That the dawn of his coming may find us rejoicing in his presence
And welcoming the light of his truth.
We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord.

Amen

2nd Sunday of Advent

Last Sunday our Advent message from Mark 13:33 was: “Be watchful! Be alert!  You do not know when the time will come.”  The message this week is a little different.  Isaiah (40: 3 – 4) calls us to action: “prepare the way of the LORD! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God”!   St. Peter tells us to hasten “the coming of the day of the Lord” (2 Pt 3: 12).  And John the Baptist cries out “REPENT.” “Make straight his paths” (Mark 1: 1 – 8).   The action these great prophets call us to is not what we normally think of at this time of the year. 

In our commercialized world, we fill the weeks before Christmas with frenetic activity. Our lives are a frenzy of shopping, attending parties, sending Christmas cards, decorating and other commitments.   Just look at our schedule here at Holy Trinity.  Something is going on almost every day.  There is so much to cram in before Christmas!   However, this is not the type of action Isaiah meant.  Preparing “the way of the Lord,” is not about making sure that Wal-Mart and Macys meet their sales quotas, or that all the Christmas lights are perfect or that the cards get out on time.   Isaiah is calling us to make the pathways into our hearts and lives as straight as possible before Jesus gets here.  John the Baptist calls us to repent, to change our attitudes, our actions and our words.  St. Peter reminds us to “conduct [ourselves] in holiness and devotion.”  What we are called to is interior activity. 

In today’s second reading, 2 Peter 3: 8 – 14, St. Peter reminds us that the world as we know it will end.  The “heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out.”  Once again, we hear about the Second Coming of Christ.  When the Second Coming happens, the Lord expects us to conduct ourselves “in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God…”   St. Peter tells us that “What we are waiting for … is the new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.”  And, finally, he tells us that while we are waiting we must do our “best to live blameless and unsullied lives so that he will find [us] at peace.” 

And so, on this Second Sunday of Advent our goal is to find peace in the midst of the frenzy.  We are called to look beyond the commercialism of the season, we are called to look into our hearts and to make sure our hearts are prepared for the coming of the Lord. 

With tender comfort and transforming power
you come into our midst,
O God of mercy and might.
Make ready a way in the wilderness,
clear a straight path in our hearts,
and form us into a repentant people,
so that the advent of your Son
may find us watchful and eager for the glory he reveals.
We ask this through him whose coming is certain,
whose day draws near:
your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.
Amen.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

1st Sunday of Advent

We begin Advent 2017 with the Prophet Isaiah crying out to God to rescue his people. Isaiah reminds God that “You, LORD, are our father.” And because God is our Father, Isaiah expected and many of us expect God to do what we think is right, forgive us and fix all of our problems. Sadly, for Isaiah and for us, God doesn’t work that way. In today’s second reading, 1 Corinthians 1: 3 – 9, St Paul tell us what God does do. God enriches us “in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge,” assuring that we “are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The children of Israel waited for thousands of years for God to “return” to them. And Isaiah prayed that when God did come, “Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways!”. Advent calls us to be mindful. We are reminded over and over again during these four weeks, that we are to watch and wait. What are we waiting for? God sent his son Jesus to us several thousand years ago. That is what Christmas is all about, celebrating the birth of Jesus. God has already returned once.

We celebrate Advent in 2017 to remind us that when Jesus does return again, it will be a time of judgement. It is about that unknown, future time when Jesus returns, the Second Coming, the Day of the Judgment of the Nations we heard about last Sunday. We observe Advent to help us prepare for that event.

In today’s Gospel from Mark 13: 33 – 37, Jesus tells us to “be alert” because we “do not know when the time will come.” Advent reminds us of our spiritual responsibility to be prepared. St Paul tells us that “God is faithful.” And so, on this first Sunday of Advent, we watch and wait and we pray that we may be as faithful to God as God is to us.

Open wide the heavens and come down, 
O God of all the ages! 
Rouse us from sleep, deliver us from our sinful ways,
 and form us into a watchful people,
that, at the advent of your Son,
 he may find us doing what is right.
Grant this through him whose coming is certain, 
whose day draws near;
 your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, 
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
God for ever and ever.
Amen.