Wednesday, December 29, 2010

December 29, 2010


Our faith is never as private as we might like to think because our actions speak for themselves either displaying or betraying the truth about how deeply we believe.  Sometimes we act like our faith is upheld with the tenderness Simeon the prophet shows in holding the eight day old Christ Child who, like any infant was powerless and impoverished.  He was, at the same time, divine.  We can wear our faith with the confident assurance that the Christ has saved us and we have nothing to fear.  At the same time our attitudes and actions can betray the fact that we are often greedy, judgmental, arrogant and full of sin.

In his ministry Jesus came to show that many sinful people who lived on the fringes of society actually had deep faith that led them to repent - to reform their lives - because they received the mercy of Christ.  This mercy was also given to the religious people of that day, but many of them were so prejudiced against Jesus they could not believe in or follow him. 

Our thoughts regarding our faith are revealed with a truth that either betrays or displays  what it really is.  How do we feel knowing that truth of our hearts is revealed by our actions?  Can we be at peace?  Or, would we rather hide behind a false faith hoping the truth will never be revealed?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Homily 2010


The People who walk in darkness have seen a great light. 

What a great image to ponder as we celebrate the birth of Jesus the Christ. 
There are countless reasons for us to feel like we are
shadows in the night wandering through this valley of tears;
longing for light,
searching for a reason to believe,
waiting, hoping, praying
for a graceful light to guide our feet
into the ways of peace. 
Just how dark must the night be
in order for us to see that light,
to walk in its glow,
alive in its warmth,
surprised by the joy it brings? 
How silent must the night become
in order for us to hear
the angels herald glad tidings
of peace on earth and good will
towards all people,
for this night a child is born to us,
a savior who is Christ the Lord? 
Rejoice people of God for tonight
this glorious light
has broken into the poverty of this night
to fill us with the glorious love of God
who has come to bring us salvation.

This light explodes in tender mercy;
a force that shatters the hardness of our hearts. 
Its beam revealed,
not in the joy of celebration,
not in the largess of the gifts we share,
or the togetherness we feel as we gather
from the many miles we traverse,
but in a simple,
out of the way place,
a time nothing like our own. 
Still its joyful grace radiates
in the beating of our hearts,
the quiet of our souls
and in all the confusion,
chaos and
anxieties of our lives. 
Like a beacon in the night
the Christ light
calls us to know and trust that God is with us;
Emmanuel walks with us,
embraces life together with us,
in all its reality,
in every possibility we experience,
and in every way we choose to love.

His life interacts with our own;
his divinity mingles with our humanity,
and in the darkness
he comes to save us. 
His light is not seen through the amazing miracle of our eyes,
but through the invisible secrecy of our compassion. 
So, it is heard in the annoying peal of Salvation Army bells
that impel us to dig into our pockets and purses
for a little bit of change that builds up in such a way
that the hungry are fed,
the homeless are sheltered,
the naked are clothed,
and the sick and imprisoned comforted. 
His light is experienced when,
in the hollow darkness of our doubts
we make that choice to believe what cannot be understood,
like those who listened to the shepherds
who called them to see the unlikely miracle
of the new born King asleep in a manger,
hidden away in a cave
near the poor and forgotten town of Bethlehem. 
His light is tasted as bread and wine;
a meal so simple,
so plain and small,
yet nourishing with eternal life,
a heart that beats divine grace,
and eternal salvation. 
His light is revealed as Sacred Word
to inspire and direct our souls
in prayer, wonder and inspiration.
His light is spoken in faith that is shared,
the risk of giving away a message
so often unwanted and shunned
by those who choose to follow other lights
that logic tells us make so much sense,
and yet so often lead to a darkness
the mysteries of grace cannot seem to penetrate.

When parents tell the story of Christmas
to their children whose eyes dance
with excitement and awe,
families walk in the light of Christ.
When we gather in worship and praise,
joining in communion with the saints,
our loved ones who have gone before us
marked with the sign of faith,
the Church walks in the light of Christ.
In the stillness of our prayers,
eyes closed,
hearts and souls opened in quiet solitude,
darkness vanishes,
a new dawn shines
and we walk in the great light of Christ.

His light is mercy
tenderly, abundantly
given in human form,
broken open and shared
for the life of the world. 
As we celebrate Christmas
may his light bless us
with the peace of knowing
the glory of his name, Jesus,
which means God saves us. 
May his light reveal
that he is Emmanuel,
God with us.
 And may we journey through this year
as people who walk in and reveal
the great light of his love.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

How does the soul rejoice?

We pray the Canticle of Mary every day at Vespers and in the second line we read, "My soul rejoices in God my Savior."  How does one experience a rejoicing soul in the world today?  Ignoring all Scriptural scholarship, exegesis, and pious words, there is something profound about a soul that finds joy in God. 

In a world in which antidepressants are a multi-billion dollar industry - and they do a tremendous amount of good for many people - how does the soul rejoice?  There is so much sadness, so much pain, our memories steeped in toxic nostalgia.  Is it possible for the soul to rejoice in the depths of chronic sadness?

We are a nation at war with enemies who are far away, hidden in mountains and caves, their brand of "spiritual warfare" cannot be conquered, or so it seems.  We spend billions of dollars each month paying for the machinery of war and death, we send the best and strongest of our youth who are brave, bright, and willing to make the ultimate sacrifices to fight this war so far away from home, from families, friends, and peace.  Is it possible for our souls to rejoice in God our Savior in this reality?

The economy is improving (so pundits and economists proclaim) at a snail's pace.  Meanwhile, the homes of some of my friends are being foreclosed upon in these cold winter months.  People are having a hard time paying their bills, putting food on their tables, and finding jobs that can sustain their lives and the lives of their families.  At the same time the wealthiest and most powerful people in our nation are making sure the status of their lives are being maintained at the highest levels.

Finally, we have to ask the question again, how does the soul rejoice in a culture that shuns religion, tradition, dogma and doctrine only to replace them with entertainment, technology, material possessions, and a frenetic pace that does not allow the time to pay attention to what the soul experiences here on earth?  Is it really possible for our souls to rejoice in God our Savior here in this valley of tears?

It is.  Somehow the human spirit finds it possible to be joyful in the face of all the sadness we experience in our daily lives.  It is possible for us to choose to be joyful people, but the decision to be joyful is rooted in the fertile soil of grace and discipline.  We are called, chosen, created to be God's beloved.  God does not want the suffering we experience in our culture today.  It is not God's fault that the condition of our culture is so painful.  We are called to rise above it trusting that God our Savior will reveal the strength of his arm when we are made weak in our pride and conceit.  God lifts us up to heights far beyond the mighty thrones of the powerful in the simplicity of daily surprises and graces beyond measure.  God does provide for us in a bounty that can never be outdone, no matter how much we sacrifice in our charity.

We, in turn, must choose to be joyful people in the sadness of this world.  We might look like annoyingly happy freaks, but we cannot help what people see in us.  It takes a powerful kind of discipline to be joyful in the sad abyss we call home.  But choosing to be joyful can be done.  It happens in the soul and no amount of difficulty can destroy a spirit that finds joy in God our Savior.

Monday, December 20, 2010

December 20, 2010

DECEMBER 20, 2010
We control our own shadows.  Being a lefty it’s always a good idea for me to have a source of light on the right side of my desk so that the shadow of my hand does not cover the words I write on the page.

We can make our shadows longer or shorter depending upon our distance from the light.  The closer we are to the light, the shorter are our shadows.  The further away we are from the light, the longer are our shadows.  They cover a wider swath of space.  They hide a larger amount of secrets in their darkness because we’re far away from the light.

If we are attentive to our shadows – and we rarely are unless we’re little children who are curious about such things – we can control them, make them do what we think we want them to do.  For those who love to be in control, life can be like shadows dancing in the light of our own lives.  “Behold: my life is light and see how the shadows dance and delight in the light of my life.”

But the angel said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”  The Holy Spirit is a divine light shining on the Most High who is the source of all life.  He created the light; he is the author of all life.  To be overshadowed means I cannot control the shadows of my life because the light of the Spirit casts the shadow of the Most High upon my life.

And Mary said, “Let it be done to me according to thy word.  Let this light overshadow me.  May his life have complete power and dominion over my own.  May my life be a shadow dancing in the light of his infinite love bringing the Life of eternal grace and salvation to the world.”