May 21st, 2017…Sixth Sunday of Easter

Gospel

John 14:15-21

Jesus said to his disciples:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
And I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,
the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept,
because it neither sees nor knows him.
But you know him, because he remains with you,
and will be in you.
I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
In a little while the world will no longer see me,
but you will see me, because I live and you will live.
On that day you will realize that I am in my Father
and you are in me and I in you.
Whoever has my commandments and observes them
is the one who loves me.
And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”

Homily

Mychal Judge was a Franciscan priest in New York city. He was, at the time of his death, the much beloved chaplain of the New York city Fire Department. As the September 11th attacks were taking place, Fr Judge made his way to Ground Zero to minister to both the victims and the first responders. When the first tower collapsed, debris from the World Trade Center struck Fr Judge and he was killed. But during his life, Fr Judge’s ministry called him to feed the homeless, to comfort those living with HIV/AIDS, to counsel those suffering from addiction, and of course to minister to the needs of those working for New York city Fire Department. There is a short prayer that he is credited with authoring and considering the gospel passage that we just heard, I find it most appropriate. It reads:

Lord, take me where you want me to go; let me meet who you want me to meet; tell me what you want me to say; and keep me out of your way.

What I love most about this prayer is the total sense of abandoning our own will only to accept the will of God. I love the openness to be led by God. In today’s gospel, we heard Jesus tell his disciples, “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”

Throughout his ministry, Jesus made very clear what following his commandments looked like; loving God above all things and loving your neighbor as yourself. Simple but by no means easy. Jesus directs us to live our life placing God above all else; above family, work, money, our own wants. Leading this type of life is counter cultural in today’s world because it asks us to live a life where we are not at the center but God is.

One of the reasons that I’m drawn to Fr Judge’s prayer is that it lays out, so perfectly, the Christian life. Through prayer, we ask God to guide us. We seek his insight as we go about our lives. Deep down we all know that letting God into our lives on a regular basis strengthens the bond we have with him. We learn to trust him more. Having this perspective makes it easier to be able to trust in God’s commandments. Placing God first in our lives and seeking out his will brings a sense of peace that that is unparalleled. Nothing else will ever come close to the joy experienced in knowing that you are walking with God.

Fr. Judge’s prayer ends with, “and keep me out of your way.”

An odd way to end a prayer as it might imply a separation from God or a division. But such is not the case. There have been many occasions when I let my own insecurities and shortcomings get in the way. When faced with frustration I chose anger before patience. When I chose selfishness instead of charity. When I chose judgement instead of compassion. I think what Fr Judge meant for those who pray this prayer is to experience the freedom of letting go of the doubt that God will see us through. If we let him, God will grace us with the patience to overcome the most trying of frustrations. If we trust in God’s goodness, we can give without counting the cost because we know that god will continue to provide. If we step away from ourselves, mercy becomes easy and compassion and love pour forth.

Indeed, Jesus ends today’s gospel passage with, “and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”

When we get out of the way, when we trust God more, when we follow God’s commandments, we move towards a oneness with God. In experiencing this closeness to God, Jesus reveals himself to us. His presence is made known to us as the courage we cling to when we step forth to do his will. Jesus comes alive in us in the compassion we show when we extend our hand to help someone in need. Truly, the intimate presence of Christ strengthens us when we offer forgiveness and mercy.

When Fr Judge’s body was recovered, it was carried to St. Peter’s Church in the financial district in Manhattan. His body lay there before the alter before it was taken away by the medical examiner. A fitting repose to a man who lived out Christ’s commandments. A priest who got to experience Jesus in a most profound fashion because he got out of God’s way so that what flowed forth was Jesus’s love.

Now we found ourselves at God’s altar. We get to experience Christ in word and sacrament. We have the divine opportunity to feel his loving presence as we take a step back keep out of God’s way.

 

April 30th, 2017 … Third Sunday of Easter

Gospel

Luke 24:13-35

That very day, the first day of the week,
two of Jesus’ disciples were going
to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus,
and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.
And it happened that while they were conversing and debating,
Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,
but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
He asked them,
“What are you discussing as you walk along?”
They stopped, looking downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply,
“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem
who does not know of the things
that have taken place there in these days?”
And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”
They said to him,
“The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene,
who was a prophet mighty in deed and word
before God and all the people,
how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over
to a sentence of death and crucified him.
But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel;
and besides all this,
it is now the third day since this took place.
Some women from our group, however, have astounded us:
they were at the tomb early in the morning
and did not find his body;
they came back and reported
that they had indeed seen a vision of angels
who announced that he was alive.
Then some of those with us went to the tomb
and found things just as the women had described,
but him they did not see.”
And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are!
How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!
Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things
and enter into his glory?”
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets,
he interpreted to them what referred to him
in all the Scriptures.
As they approached the village to which they were going,
he gave the impression that he was going on farther.
But they urged him, “Stay with us,
for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”
So he went in to stay with them.
And it happened that, while he was with them at table,
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and gave it to them.
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him,
but he vanished from their sight.
Then they said to each other,
“Were not our hearts burning within us
while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”
So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem
where they found gathered together
the eleven and those with them who were saying,
“The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”
Then the two recounted
what had taken place on the way
and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread.

Homily

As many of you may know, one of the ministries that I participate in, here at the parish is marriage preparation. In addition to covering with couples the sacramental component of marriage, I try to pass on some of the practical knowledge that the past twenty-four years of marriage has taught me. One thing I tell all couples is to expect the unexpected. We may lay out for ourselves the perfect plan for our future and something will come along, at an unexpected time, and derail our plans. I assure couples that there will be a time when you look across the table from your spouse and say, “I didn’t see that coming.”.

This evening, we heard St. Luke’s description of the walk to Emmaus. Two of Jesus’s disciples were making the seven-mile journey, in what I could only imagine was a mood that could best be described as incredulous. These disciples had witnessed much at the hand of Jesus. But to believe that he was raised from the dead, as told to the women by angels, that might be a stretch. Indeed, their skepticism was easily noticed by Jesus. No, I ‘m thinking that these two disciples were engaged in a conversation that might have sounded a little like this, “Jesus did so any things, he made blind people see, he cured lepers, he calmed a storm, heck, he even raised poor Lazarus from the dead. And he couldn’t stop the Romans from crucifying him? I did not see that coming.”

Their expectations for Jesus were not even close to the reality they witnessed. One might say that the plans, etched in their minds for the messiah, did not come close to the heavenly plan molded by the will of God.

So, these two disciples now find themselves alone, confused, and most likely in a state of shock. And at this most vulnerable time, who should enter the scene but none other than Jesus, himself. This same scenario occurs in our lives. How many times have we reached out to God in prayer and laid before him our confusion, our vulnerabilities, our shock and then asked God, “Why?” “Why did this happen?” Or worse yet, “God, why did you let this happen?”

The disciples expressed this same sentiment, to a degree, when they spoke to the man who they didn’t recognize yet as Jesus. And what does Jesus do? He points out using scripture and prophesy that the answers they sought were in front of them the whole time. Jesus walks them through the Old Testament to show them that the only possible outcome for the son of God was a sacrificial death. But when it comes down to it the disciples had a choice to make. Either cling to their own expectations and plans for the messiah. Or, take a leap of faith and see that they ought to seek out instead the will of God. And as we see this story play out, it is in seeking out the will of God that the disciples gain understanding.

So, knowing how astute this parish congregation is, I can guess your question. How does one gain an insight to the will of God? Well, this isn’t always easy but I would ask you to follow the along the path to Emmaus, metaphorically speaking .

When you find yourselves, like these disciples, alone, confused, perhaps in shock, or even saying to yourselves, “I did not see that coming”, seek out Jesus. Pray. Lay before him all that troubles you. Ask Jesus to reveal an understanding to you. Most importantly, free yourselves of your own expectations or plans and take the leap of faith that all of God’s plan will be revealed to you in time. Fully embracing the idea that God’s time is not necessarily our time.

Next, like the disciples, walk through scripture. Spend time in prayer and reflecting on the word of God. There is so much wisdom contained in scripture and it’s literally right there in front of us. Spend time going through the many times, God revealed himself and his will to countless generations. I guarantee that you will walk away from scripture with a greater understanding of your own situation.

Then, look to our Catholic traditions. Everything we do is designed to put us in a position to experience the risen Christ.   Our prayers, our rituals, our sacraments, each has a purpose: to encounter God.

Remember, our greatest obstacle to experiencing Christ is ourselves. Our plans for the future and our expectations of how God should act in our lives, doesn’t leave room for the openness needed and the faith required to experience Christ on his terms.

I firmly believe and have often said that God meets us where we are. But this presupposes that we invite him in and are prepared to see him. This requires faith. Simply put, to gain an understanding into the will of God, we must truly believe that he will show it to us in a way that he chooses. More importantly, we must seek the openness to accept God’s will even if it is different from our own wants.

The Gospel passage ends in the most beautiful way. It was in the breaking of the bread that the disciples finally recognize Jesus. 2,000 years later we find ourselves experiencing that same walk to Emmaus. We each entered this church with something weighing on our hearts. We listened to scripture and have hopefully gained an understanding into the kingdom of God. And as we gather for communion, we like the disciples, recognize the true presence of Jesus in the breaking of the bread.

 

April 23rd, 2017 … Second Sunday of Easter

Gospel

John 20:19-31

On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
But he said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nail marks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples
that are not written in this book.
But these are written that you may come to believe
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

Homily

Imagine for a moment that the gospel passage that we just heard started off like this, keeping in mind that this was the first time Jesus met with the disciples after his crucifixion. On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Boys, I have some good news and some bad news.” Then Peter stepped forward and said, “Lord, you have risen from the dead! Your heavenly power has conquered even death! How could there possibly be bad news?” To which Jesus replied, “I want to talk to you guys about last Friday.”

After all, Jesus was fully human. On Good Friday, we heard the account of the Passion. Jesus bled, suffered, fell from both exhaustion and pain. Jesus cried out in anguish. And just hours before, he was sharing a meal with his closest friends who promised to be with him. But when the time came, Jesus found himself alone. Is there any doubt that Jesus felt the sting of being abandoned? I can’t speak for all of you, but if it were me who found myself alone at a time like that, I guarantee that I’d be harboring some pretty deep resentment.

But the first words spoken to his friends were, “Peace be with you.” Forget the disciples for a moment and consider the broader community of Jerusalem. Just five days prior to his death, they welcomed Jesus at the gates of the city by laying palms at his feet. They treated Jesus like royalty. Then presumably, this same crowd flip flops and screams for his execution. This community totally turned its back on Jesus in the worst conceivable way. How Christ respond? “Peace be with you.” No anger, no resentment, no bitterness, just peace.

There are two points that I really want to highlight in this scripture passage. The first, Jesus meets us where we are. The disciples were afraid and in hiding. They were the ones who turned their back on Jesus. But at the same time, they longed for him. They didn’t have to go out searching for Jesus. Christ came to them. Their desire to be with Christ brought Jesus into their midst.

The second point that I’d like to highlight is that when we sin, when we act in a way that is not Christ like, when we set our priorities so that other things or even our own selfishness come before God, we abandon Jesus. Just like the disciples did. The sting of abandonment is felt by Jesus all over again.

When, like Peter, we deny knowing Jesus, deny being his follower out of fear of being rejected or ridiculed, we are like the crowds who laid palms as Christ’ feet on Sunday only to reject him on Friday.

The beauty of Christ forgiveness is that at the very moment we lament the distance we have created between us and God, Jesus appears and says, “Peace be with you.”

The fruit of forgiveness is indeed peace. When we choose to forgive or more importantly, when we choose to let ourselves be forgiven, we free ourselves of the burdens brought on by clinging onto pain and resentment. Each time we make the decision to hold onto the past hurts, it’s as if we are reliving the suffering brought upon us. The cycle of pain continues. But embracing forgiveness brings about peace.

What Jesus endured on Good Friday; being abandoned by his friends, rejected by his followers, and the shear brutality crucifixion. This is more pain than I could possibly fathom. And at the same time, knowing all that Christ experienced, to return to the community that brought him so much suffering and then to express with the truest sense of love, “peace be with you”. This is a level of forgiveness that I will spend a lifetime trying to achieve. But this is our calling,

This morning we hears Jesus say “as the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

Our mission is clear, to love how Christ has loved us. To forgive, no matter how difficult it may appear. To be the vehicle which brings about peace. This is what Jesus has asked for us to do. When we approach his altar and receive him, when we take his presence and make it known amongst our families and communities we live out our calling.

 

 

March 19th, 2017 … Third Sunday of Lent

Gospel

John 4:5-42

Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar,
near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
Jacob’s well was there.
Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well.
It was about noon.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water.
Jesus said to her,
“Give me a drink.”
His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.
The Samaritan woman said to him,
“How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”
—For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.—
Jesus answered and said to her,
“If you knew the gift of God
and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘
you would have asked him
and he would have given you living water.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep;
where then can you get this living water?
Are you greater than our father Jacob,
who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself
with his children and his flocks?”
Jesus answered and said to her,
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again;
but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst;
the water I shall give will become in him
a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty
or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jesus said to her,
“Go call your husband and come back.”
The woman answered and said to him,
“I do not have a husband.”
Jesus answered her,
“You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’
For you have had five husbands,
and the one you have now is not your husband.
What you have said is true.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, I can see that you are a prophet.
Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain;
but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”
Jesus said to her,
“Believe me, woman, the hour is coming
when you will worship the Father
neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
You people worship what you do not understand;
we worship what we understand,
because salvation is from the Jews.
But the hour is coming, and is now here,
when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth;
and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.
God is Spirit, and those who worship him
must worship in Spirit and truth.”
The woman said to him,
“I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ;
when he comes, he will tell us everything.”
Jesus said to her,
“I am he, the one speaking with you.”

At that moment his disciples returned,
and were amazed that he was talking with a woman,
but still no one said, “What are you looking for?”
or “Why are you talking with her?”
The woman left her water jar
and went into the town and said to the people,
“Come see a man who told me everything I have done.
Could he possibly be the Christ?”
They went out of the town and came to him.
Meanwhile, the disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat.”
But he said to them,
“I have food to eat of which you do not know.”
So the disciples said to one another,
“Could someone have brought him something to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“My food is to do the will of the one who sent me
and to finish his work.
Do you not say, ‘In four months the harvest will be here’?
I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest.
The reaper is already receiving payment
and gathering crops for eternal life,
so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together.
For here the saying is verified that ‘One sows and another reaps.’
I sent you to reap what you have not worked for;
others have done the work,
and you are sharing the fruits of their work.”

Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him
because of the word of the woman who testified,
“He told me everything I have done.”
When the Samaritans came to him,
they invited him to stay with them;
and he stayed there two days.
Many more began to believe in him because of his word,
and they said to the woman,
“We no longer believe because of your word;
for we have heard for ourselves,
and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”

Homily

When I was ten years old, I was walking my dog Joey, around my neighborhood. On that walk, I found a set of black rosary beads lying on the sidewalk. Being a cradle Catholic, I immediately picked them up, dusted them off, and looked around to see if I could find who these beads belonged to. I found no one. I slipped the beads into my pocket and brought them home. I still have them. In fact, I can tell you now that I count these beads as one of my most treasured possessions. They are worn and a bead is missing and they have been repaired countless times. And for as long as I can remember, they have occupied a place on my nightstand since I that day I brought them home. When I have been worried about a decision that I needed to make I held them in my hands and prayed. When I was suffering, I clutched them even harder and prayed even longer. When I felt overwhelmed with happiness by the abundance of God’s blessings, I reached for them with great anticipation and joyfully prayed in thanksgiving. Folks have given me as gifts some very beautiful rosary beads. I recently received from my sister a gorgeous set that were crafted in Italy and blessed by Pope Francis. But my go to rosary beads are the worn set that has accompanied me most of my life. These beads have created the occasion where I can reflect on the gospel as I recited the mysteries. These beads have facilitated my need to speak with God and lay before him my desires, my concerns, my fears. These beads would have meant nothing to me if I felt that God was not listening. If I never saw the fruits of my prayers then I guarantee that these beads would have ended up in the back of a drawer somewhere. If God never revealed himself to me through my prayers I would not have continued to pray.

In today’s gospel, we see a progression in the responses given by the nameless Samaritan woman at the well. Upon encountering Jesus she says, “”How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” —For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.—

Then upon hearing of Jesus speak about the living water she asks, “Where then can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob?”

She continues, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty.”

As Jesus continues to reveal himself to her, she exclaims, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet.” Then says, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ; when he comes, he will tell us everything.”

Then, upon realizing that her encounter with Jesus brought her face to face with the Messiah she proclaims, “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Christ?”

This exchange between Jesus and the woman at the well is emblematic of one’s faith journey. We are introduced to Jesus, either formally through religious education or informally through the actions of others living out their faith. We ask questions. We experience an attraction that cannot be rationalized or explained. This draw, moves us to delve just little deeper and explore Jesus. Then the miracle happens. We find that in reaching out to Jesus, he responds. We begin to feel his presence. And like the woman at the well, our eyes are opened. Our hearts begin the lifelong process of taking in Christ’s presence. Then the beauty of proclaiming Christ is realized. We proclaim Jesus when we share with those around us the times he made himself known to us. We further proclaim Jesus when we allow him to work through us and share Christ’s love for us all by the way we treat each other.

I can tell you that my old set of rosary beads represents to me a tangible expression of Jesus in my life. I know that each and every prayer I said was listened to. Squeezing these beads and running them through my fingers, reciting prayer after prayer, pondering those events in the life of Jesus depicted by the mysteries, and laying before God my needs and wants. As I reflect upon the fullness of my life, I see the loving response of Jesus to each and every prayer that I brought to him. And very much like the woman at the well, I have the awareness that each exchange with Jesus brings with it a deeper understanding of who Jesus is as his presence inside of me grows.

Today, the living water that Jesus spoke about is present in us as the Holy Spirit. Our response to its promptings make the will of God come alive. Receiving the Eucharist as a community and bringing it beyond the walls of this church, give us the opportunity to be present to others seeking the living water.

March 12th, 2017 …Second Sunday of Lent

Gospel

Matthew 17:1-9

Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother,
and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them;
his face shone like the sun
and his clothes became white as light.
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them,
conversing with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Lord, it is good that we are here.
If you wish, I will make three tents here,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, behold,
a bright cloud cast a shadow over them,
then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;
listen to him.”
When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate
and were very much afraid.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying,
“Rise, and do not be afraid.”
And when the disciples raised their eyes,
they saw no one else but Jesus alone.

As they were coming down from the mountain,
Jesus charged them,
“Do not tell the vision to anyone
until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

 

Homily

March 11th, 2017

Sometime ago, Fr. Charlie Gagan, our previous pastor, asked me to meet him in his office. For those of you who know Charlie, you also know that you never leave his office having said, “No.” At this meeting, Charlie asked me to join the parish’s RCIA team. RCIA is the process by which adults enter into full communion with the Catholic church. Sometimes this means just being confirmed and other times it may mean being Baptized along with receiving First Communion and being Confirmed. Anyway, it really didn’t take much convincing on Charlies part to get me to say, “Yes.”

As we put together the curriculum over that summer, I found myself really anticipating the start of the classes. I was a confirmation sponsor in the past and found that experience really rewarding. And so I was eager to share my faith with those wanting to enter Catholicism.

As classes got underway, we were introduced to a host of people from various walks of life who had each made the decision to follow the call to become Catholic. Now, I’m a cradle Catholic, all I know is the faith. But there is something truly inspiring about meeting folks who choose to commit themselves to our Catholic tradition at the adult stage of their life. Their backgrounds, their stories, their motivations for joining our church, are each so intimate, so moving, and deeply touching. For me, being privileged enough to share this portion of their spiritual journey is an honor beyond measure. It goes well beyond just preparing them for the sacraments. It remains one of the highlights of my ministry. I have made lifelong friends with many of those who have been a part of RCIA these many years.

The pinnacle event in the RCIA experience is the receiving of the Sacraments at the Easter Vigil mass. On a side note, I believe that if they gave out Tony Awards for masses, Saint Ignatius would win hands down for the Vigil mass. It is far and away the most gorgeous, most majestic, and just plain awe inspiring mass of the year. At the mass, all the Catechumens and Candidates along with their sponsors fill the sanctuary and with the fullest sense of joy, receive the sacraments. It is an emotional experience with family members in the pews crying tears of happiness and the entire church smiling. It’s beautiful.

Today’s gospel passage depicts the Transfiguration. Jesus invites those closest to him, Peter, James, and John, to accompany him up a mountainside. There Jesus changes form before them. His face shown white like the sun and his clothes became white as light. Moses and Elijah were seen conversing with Jesus. The apostles stood in amazement, not knowing what to make of this.

For the longest time, the apostles walked and talked with Jesus, ate with him, and learned from him. Now they see Jesus change form and appearance. The apostles witnessed countless miracles at the hand of Jesus but this time it was Jesus who became the miracle. Jesus with Moses and Elijah in dazzling white.

As I prayed and reflected upon the Transfiguration in preparation for today, I kept envisioning Jesus in white garments. This led me to recall the Easter Vigil mass when the Catechumens who were just baptized are presented to the community each wearing white albs. They stand before everyone transformed, just as Jesus was on that mountainside.

When the disciples saw Jesus transfigured, radiating light, in the presence of Moses and Elijah, they saw Jesus as he truly was; both God and man. When the newly baptized stand before the entire assembly on the night of the vigil, dressed in white, we all see them for what they truly are; a part of the mystical body of Jesus here and now.

Ever since I heard Fr. Greg deliver this one line, I always remember it the night of the vigil mass. Greg said, “The body of Christ would be incomplete without each one of us.” Never does this sentiment ring more true than the night that we welcome the newest members of our church.

At one point in our lives, each one of us here heard Christ call us. The same call the disciples heard to follow Jesus up that mountainside and the same call the folks in RCIA heard to become Catholic. It’s listening to that call that has us all gathered here. Also, and most importantly, it is our response to that call that defines who we are. It is not our political or social views that make up who we are. It is our willingness to accept that we, now, as a community, make up the body of Jesus here on earth. This remains our identity. We model this identity when this diverse gathering of believers approaches this altar, as one, united in Christ sharing in the Eucharist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 12th, 2017 …Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel

Matthew 5:17-37

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.
I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.
Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away,
not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter
will pass from the law,
until all things have taken place.
Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments
and teaches others to do so
will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.
But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments
will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses
that of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
But I say to you,
whoever is angry with his brother
will be liable to judgment;
and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’
will be answerable to the Sanhedrin;
and whoever says, ‘You fool,’
will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother
has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.
Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court.
Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge,
and the judge will hand you over to the guard,
and you will be thrown into prison.
Amen, I say to you,
you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.

“You have heard that it was said,
You shall not commit adultery.
But I say to you,
everyone who looks at a woman with lust
has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
If your right eye causes you to sin,
tear it out and throw it away.
It is better for you to lose one of your members
than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna.
And if your right hand causes you to sin,
cut it off and throw it away.
It is better for you to lose one of your members
than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.

“It was also said,
Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.
But I say to you,
whoever divorces his wife –  unless the marriage is unlawful –
causes her to commit adultery,
and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

“Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
Do not take a false oath,
but make good to the Lord all that you vow.

But I say to you, do not swear at all;
not by heaven, for it is God’s throne;
nor by the earth, for it is his footstool;
nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.
Do not swear by your head,
for you cannot make a single hair white or black.
Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’
Anything more is from the evil one.”

Homily

Today’s gospel passage was rather long and if I’m being honest has enough material for about eight homilies. There are quite a handful of themes from which to choose.  But before I start, I’m going to ask all of you to fast forward to communion for a moment.  On occasion, as we are lined up to receive the Eucharist, we will see a host slip from someone’s hand and fall to the ground.  It is always a regrettable situation but it happens.  Now, I’m going to ask you all to think back at a time when you witnessed that happening.  Do you recall the reaction of the priest or Eucharistic Minister?  Besides being a little embarrassed, they most likely bent down, without hesitation and carefully picked up the consecrated host.  Then, they either immediately consumed it or held it in their hand to eat it after communion ended.  What you never see is a priest or minister throw the host away after it has fallen to the ground.  And we all are aware as to the reason why.  That’s because we know that at one point during the mass the host ceased being just a host.  The bread we consume has been transformed.  The same sacredness that is present in God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is now present and alive in the host.  We would never dream of tossing it in the trash if it touches the ground.  In fact the mere image of doing such a thing should evoke a response of outrage from us.  Now, please hold that thought for just a moment.

Jesus says in today’s gospel, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law…I have come not to abolish the law but to fulfill it. What did Jesus mean? You shall not kill, you shall not commit adultery, do not take a false oath. These statements are pretty clear. Killing is bad. Not honoring the sanctity of marriage is bad. Lying is bad. We get this. But what did Jesus mean when he said that he came to fulfill the law?

Let’s go back to the image I gave you of the host falling to the ground. We know that at the center of the host is the presence of Christ. Jesus wants us to fully understand that his presence, that the presence of the Holy Spirit, is equally present and alive in all of human kind. And that our intense reaction to the mere notion of a consecrated being tossed in the trash should evoke just as much indignation as witnessing others suffer or being maltreated or being marginalized, or being tossed away by society.

You shall not kill. As Catholics we recognize that each and every life is sacred, from the womb to the tomb, because God gave us life. If we truly seek to have Christ at the center of our hearts, we must understand that Jesus cannot live in a heart that is consumed with anger or filled with hate.

You shall not kill means that we care for those who cannot care for themselves. It means that we give food and clothing and shelter to anyone in need.  The face of Jesus is present in every life.  We can try to look away or simply pretend that it isn’t there.  But that would simply be foolish and wrong.  Granted, on some the face of Jesus may be very difficult to see but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t there.  It just means that we have to try harder to find it.  Loving others, showing mercy to others, forgiving others is not always easy to do.  Providing for others, especially strangers, may be downright difficult to do.  But when we direct our compassion to the sacred presence of Christ within the stranger, walls crumble and over time the face of Jesus becomes easier to recognize.

You shall not commit adultery and do not take a false oath. Honesty, loyalty, truthfulness, and integrity are the foundations of goodness. One thing that everyone in church has in common is that we all strive to be good. We each want the loved ones in our lives to view us as honorable. We want others to be able to count on us to do the right thing. So that when the time comes, we make the moral choice. Sure temptation will rear its alluring head but we won’t want take the bait because we are on a path towards goodness. Lying, gossiping, bullying, or being silent when others are be bullied. There is absolutely no honor in this. Deep down we all know this. Not honoring your commitment to your spouse or family can be a hurtful matter. Not being respectful and loyal to those around you is damaging. That’s why Jesus directs us to treat with reverence and kindness those around us. To love thy neighbor.

To do all these things is not remotely easy. At times, it may very well seem like the hardest thing that we will ever be called to do. But do it we must.

We should all aspire to have our hearts become Jesus’ heart; to be as loving and as compassionate and as forgiving as Jesus was. Our goals should be to alleviate suffering and pain just as Jesus did. Our desire should be to welcome the outcasts just as Jesus did. Truly, like the Eucharist, to let the presence of Christ within us come alive.

 

January 29th, 2017 …Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel

Matthew 5:1-12

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain,
and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.
He began to teach them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.”

Homily

Last week the stomach flu swept through our house. With the exception of Diane, we all fell victim to it.  I felt it coming on Saturday evening and by Sunday I found myself immersed in total misery.  At one point or another, I’m sure you all have succumbed to the stomach flu and you know just how dreadful the experience can be so I’ll spare you the details.  Anyway, lying in bed, feeling like death, and in between sprints to the bathroom, I sought to lighten the mood with a little humor.  So I called to Diane who was down the hall.  I said, “Diane, would you please bring me a pad of paper and a pen?”  She said, “Why do you need paper and a pen?”  I said, “I’m thinking that I should probably get to work on my obituary.”  Giving my exaggeration the acknowledgement that it deserved, she said, “Could you possibly be more dramatic?”

I share this exchange with you today not only because of its amusing nature but also because, as I thought about it later, I did actually think to myself at one point this week, what would my obituary look like. Hopefully it won’t be written for another 50 years, but still its contents bear consideration.  My Irish brother in law refers to the obituaries as the Irish sports page.  And he will, on occasion, comment on countless many he has read.  We’ve often joked about the words or images that our love ones would use to describe the completeness of our lives.  What would our family, friends, neighbors, or coworkers say about us?  This last point leads me to today’s Gospel.  The beatitudes, as they are commonly known, lay out for us the framework for leading, what can only be described as a perfect life.

“Blessed are the Poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” The poor in spirit are those who have come to a point in their lives where they truly seek to be close to God.  They have an attraction to God that can’t be explained or rationalized.  This desire can only be satisfied by taking steps towards strengthening their own union with God.

“Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean those who are sad or in pain.  Rather, Jesus refers to those who grieve the distance between themselves and God.  They weep because they have come to the understanding that they cannot achieve a sense of holiness on their own and need the boundless mercy afforded by God and modeled by Jesus.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.” Humility is a great thing; being aware of our own short coming, our faults, our weaknesses, our temptations.  To carry this awareness as we approach our daily lives, grounds us and brings forth our true and authentic selves.  Scripture tells us that God will not turn away a true and contrite heart.

“Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” To hunger and thirst for righteousness, within ourselves, is to strive for holiness.  It means that we seek a moral conformity to the character of God.  Through prayer, reflection, active participation in the sacraments, we seek the Godly counsel which will direct our lives.

“Blessed are the merciful, they will be shown mercy.” To always be patient, kind and loving.  To constantly be forgiving and empathetic.  To consistently be accepting and understanding of others.  These are the traits that define the merciful.  These are the gifts that the merciful share with total abandon.  The merciful are moved by compassion.  They remain restless until the goodness in their heart has been emptied and the serenity of knowing they have shared in God’s will is all that remains.

“Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.” Try as we may none of us here are free from sin.  We’ve all at one point given into temptation.  Whatever it may have been, large or small, we’ve all sinned.  When we sin, we create distance between us and God.  The more we fight off temptation and the less we sin, we experience God.  In part because we are allowing the Holy Spirit within us to strengthen us and fill us with the courage and determination we need to turn away from sinfulness and towards God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.” Now more than ever the voice of the peacemaker is being drowned out by the screams of division.  I don’t ever recall living in a time with so much contention and discord.  The divisions between religious, political, socio-economic, and racial lines are growing and walls of hate, animosity, intolerance, and bigotry are being erected as their monument.  Our socio economic standing, our nationality, our race or even our political affiliation, DO NOT define who we are.  Our openness to let God’s goodness flow through us, our wiliness to walk along God’s path with Christ as our guide should define who we are.

“Blessed are the persecuted.” Often times the voice that references Christ’s call to be understanding and tolerant, or just plain kind is scoffed at or ridiculed.  I’ve heard it called old fashioned and out of touch.  I’ve seen it openly belittled and insulted.  I’ve experienced our Catholic traditions mocked and laughed at.  We’ve all read recent accounts of people being slaughtered for clinging to their Christian faith.  Persecution comes in many forms.  But our response to persecution should never take the form of an attack.  We simply need to gaze upon the crucifix hanging in this church to see Christ’s response to persecution.

Our time on earth is temporary. The impact we make can affect generations.  Just what we choose that impact to be is a direct result of the way we choose to live our lives.  Christ modeled for us perfect love and sacrifice.  Through the Beatitudes he provides a way for us follow his example.

All the Beatitudes pronounce “blessed” are those who abandon control over their lives to the God who loves them in the core of their being.  This pattern is necessary for us to grow just as it was for Jesus.  At the Eucharist we give thanks by communing with Christ’s sacrificial death only to have God raise him and send his Spirit into us to have this pattern repeated in us.

Next Homily will be posted on February 12th

January 15th, 2017 … Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel

John 1:29-34

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said,
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
He is the one of whom I said,
‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me
because he existed before me.’
I did not know him,
but the reason why I came baptizing with water
was that he might be made known to Israel.”
John testified further, saying,
“I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven
and remain upon him.
I did not know him,
but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me,
‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain,
he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’
Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

Homily

Last week I was asked to fill in for a teacher who was supposed to teach a 6th grade faith formation class here in the parish.  I agreed.  The scheduled topic was the 10 Commandments.  Not the easiest of topics for children to really understand.  So my job was to prepare a lesson on sin that could easily be understood by 11 and 12 year olds while at the same time not diminishing the importance or the impact of sin.  Folks have distinct reactions when the topic of sin arises.  Oftentimes people claim that what might be considered a sin by some isn’t really sin and vice versa.  So charged with making a presentation to this 6th grade class, I prepared a few talking points.  Once the class got underway, I was so pleased to see that these kids had a genuine thirst to discuss their faith.  By the time we hit the 5th commandment, I had an “ah-ha” moment that hasn’t left since.  And as I’m sure god had planned all along, it relates directly to today’s scripture passage.

From this morning’s gospel we heard, “John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.’”

Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. This one line is as familiar to Catholics as the word “Amen”. But truly, what does it mean? An understanding that came to me while I was teaching this faith formation class was the following.

I asked one of the students to read aloud the 5th commandment, Thou shall not kill. Then in jest I asked, “Has anyone here ever killed anyone?” Immediately, the hands of the boys in the class shot up. I then rephrased my question, “Has anyone here ever killed someone …not including video games?” The boys dropped their hands. As I stared at the faces of the children, it struck me; limiting the scope of this commandment to not taking life is only part of the meaning. We are called to also preserve life in all its forms. This extends well beyond the hot button issues of abortion and capital punishment.

Thou shall not kill also means that we feed those who have no food; lest they die of starvation. It means that we provide shelter for those who have none because they might perish. It means that we provide medical care to those who need it most for simple reason that it is the right thing to do.

Time and again throughout scripture, Jesus compels those around him to care for the poor, the needy, the sick. The gospels are full of the many miracles that Jesus performed on those who needed help the most. The poor and those who found themselves suffering always received the special attention. Additionally, our faith tells us that the presence of Christ resides in each of us. Through our baptism and the subsequent receiving of the sacraments, we continually nourish that presence. Through prayer, we seek out the direction and wisdom of Christ presence within us. When we choose to do good, when we choose compassion, when we choose to love, that presence of Christ within us comes fully alive.

My “ah-ha” moment? Jesus, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. This is not an action that takes place far away from a person we can’t see. No. Jesus taking away the sins of the world is our directive, our mission, our responsibility.

When the world dehumanizes people by casting them aside, when the world chooses to hate and promote bigotry, when the world deems some lives are not worth saving, the world sins. But, when we choose to act out of mercy, charity, and compassion. When we choose to love, we answer the call of Christ within us and work in concert with him to take away the many sins of the world. We have this obligation.

Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Fr. Sam will say these words when he presents to us the body and blood of Christ. He means not only the Eucharistic bread and wine but also all of us who will receive them.

December 25th, 2016 …Christmas Day

Gospel

John 1:1-18

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;
the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.
A man named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world,
and the world came to be through him,
but the world did not know him.
He came to what was his own,
but his own people did not accept him.

But to those who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to those who believe in his name,
who were born not by natural generation
nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision
but of God.
And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only Son,
full of grace and truth.
John testified to him and cried out, saying,
“This was he of whom I said,
‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me
because he existed before me.’”
From his fullness we have all received,
grace in place of grace,
because while the law was given through Moses,
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God.
The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side,
has revealed him.

Homily

I had a difficult week, from an emotional perspective. Tim, a friend from high school unexpectedly died.  He and I were quite close growing up.  We shared many experiences together.  We helped each other through tough times; we got in trouble together, and laughed together, a lot.  As we got older, our lives took us on different courses and we drifted apart.  But upon hearing of his passing I was just so overwhelmed with sadness.  He was a husband and father.  And while an event like this is never welcome, having it occur right before Christmas is particularly heart wrenching.  For a good part of the week I found myself feeling sad and melancholy.  Christmas cheer seemed a million miles away.

At the same time, I have a dear friend who is going through a challenging time. I noticed that her usually elegant Christmas tree was missing from her front window.  So I knocked on her door and was met by one of her kids.  I asked if they had gotten a tree.  A real sense of sadness came over this child as he said that they weren’t going to putting up a tree this year.  So I suggested to him that we pick up a tree and surprise his mom when she came home from work.  A few minutes later, this boy and his two brothers were in my truck heading to pick up a tree.  And a few minutes after that we were all laughing and joking.  When we got to the tree lot I sort of just stood back and watched three brothers pick out a tree.  These kids had a great time.  There was the usual good natured teasing that is present anytime three brothers are left to do anything.  But it was wonderful to see the three of them working well together, picking out a beautiful tree, and then helping to load it into the truck.  It was simply lovely.  As for me, my sadness drifted away for a time as I enjoyed a true Christmas moment.

In this morning’s gospel we heard, “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

Christmas time brings with it so much. The rushing around getting gifts for friends and family.  Preparing to host dinners for loved ones.  Packing for family vacations.  Not to mention the many, many little holiday traditions that we have.  There’s a lot.

Today, we celebrate that one blessed, momentous, sacred event when God became man. This experience is far and away the greatest display of love ever known. For out of his love for us, God blessed human kind with Jesus. An event so impactful that 2000 years later the entire world pauses to remember it.

So, what made helping this family a real Christmas moment? Decorating their home?  Not even close.  The answer lies in today’s gospel.  “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” I let the presence of Christ shine through me. I let his love filled light radiate. It took away my darkness. And it helped clear away the some of the darkness for this family too.

The reality is that Christ’s presence lives in each of us. It shines its brightest when we respond to it and foster love. It overcomes darkness when our response is mercy, forgiveness, charity, and above all, love. True also is that we don’t need to wait until December 25th to experience Christmas. Bringing forth Christ’s presence, his light can be done every day. And for me, here’s the best part, participating in the spreading Jesus’ love to all we encounter brings the most authentic sense of peace that I know. Does it take away all that troubles us? No. But it does create the opportunity for joy. That deep sense of happiness that comes when we know that we are working in concert with Christ to spread his goodness. This feeling of true peace can never be matched by anything else.

Today as a community, we gather to receive Christ in word and sacrament. We also have the opportunity to make Christmas come alive for others as we let the light of Christ shine through us to dispel the darkness. Let’s embrace that opportunity. Merry Christmas.

 

December 11th, 2016 … Third Sunday of Advent

Gospel: Matt 11:2-11

When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ,
he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question,
“Are you the one who is to come,
or should we look for another?”
Jesus said to them in reply,
“Go and tell John what you hear and see:
the blind regain their sight,
the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear,
the dead are raised,
and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”

As they were going off,
Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John,
“What did you go out to the desert to see?
A reed swayed by the wind?
Then what did you go out to see?
Someone dressed in fine clothing?
Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces.
Then why did you go out? To see a prophet?
Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
This is the one about whom it is written:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way before you.

Amen, I say to you,
among those born of women
there has been none greater than John the Baptist;
yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

Homily

Not too long ago, our cable went out. I wear many hats at home and on occasion I have to play the role of the IT guy.   I tried the usual things to get our cable going but got nowhere.   So I had to call Comcast.  I navigated through their phone system until I finally got a hold of an actual person.  I’ll be honest, I was pretty frustrated at not being able to fix our cable and going through the tedious process of finally getting someone on the phone really didn’t help matters.  So after I gave the fellow on the other end of the line my account information, I let him know what the problem was.  The rest of the conversation went a little like this with the man saying, “We are going to have to reset your modem.”  I told him, “You mean unplugging it then plugging it back in again?  I already did that.”  His response, “What happened after you did that?”  I said, “Well, being that you and I are on the phone together might be an indication that unplugging it then plugging it back in again didn’t fix the problem.”  He then asked, “So it’s still not working?”  At this point, I could tell that my level of frustration had gotten to the point where my patience had been compromised.  So, I paused then took a breath then said, “Correct, it’s still not working.”  He replied with, “Would you like to schedule an appoint to have someone come out and take a look at it?”  My response to him was a very sarcastic, “Actually, no, I don’t want to have someone come out.  I’d like to pay to have cable, internet, and a phone but just have none of them working.”  Now, Tatiana, my oldest was within earshot.  Her reaction to my comment?  “Dad!!  Aren’t you supposed to be a deacon?!”  And you know what?  She was right.

I let my frustration dictate the way I treated someone who was ultimately trying to help me. I was not nice nor kind.  I am fully aware that my role as clergy holds me to a different standard.  A standard, I am embarrassed to say I fell short of meeting.  Now, the Comcast guy had no way of knowing that I was a deacon but my daughter sure did.  And she wanted to see her dad treat someone graciously.  She wanted to see an authentic display of goodness.

In today’s gospel we hear of John the Baptist sending his disciples to Jesus to see if Jesus was indeed the messiah. When they meet Jesus, they ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”   Jesus responds with having them relay to John what they see.  The blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised. Authentic displays of goodness. The disciples of John were looking for the good that would accompany the true messiah. After all, it was the mission of John the Baptist to let people know that the Christ, the anointed one was coming. John’s disciples wanted to experience firsthand God’s righteousness.

Jesus then addresses the crowds. He asked them, “What did you come out to see?” A prince or a prophet? John was a fiery preacher who spoke of sin and repentance.   The people who ventured out into the desert to seek out John the Baptist were in search of authentic goodness and truth. They sought out a man who could provide some insight that might bring them closer to God.

This is something that we all share. The disciples who followed John the Baptist, the crowds who flocked to see John and all of us gathered here, me included. We all seek to surround ourselves with true, authentic goodness. However, being followers of Christ means that we are not simply observers of goodness, we are obliged to take an active role in its manifestation. Simply put, we are called to model good in the same fashion that Jesus did. And going back to the little story I shared with you, it means that even when we are not inclined to feel charitable or gracious, for whatever the reason, it becomes even more important that we display a virtuous gesture of love.

The reality is this, in the same way that the disciples of John sought to see if Jesus was the one for which they were seeking, those surrounding us, our circles of family and friends are looking to each us for that same sense of good. We have a responsibility to model mercy, forgiveness, charity, and compassion at every opportunity. Believe me; I know that this isn’t easy. To always express love no matter the circumstance, no matter how we are feeling may truly be one of the hardest things we could ever do. To express patience when we are frustrated, forgiveness when we have been hurt, mercy when we don’t feel it is deserved, love when we know it might not be appreciated. None of this is easy. But know this. Jesus knew how his ministry would end. Scripture tells us that he was aware of the pain and suffering that he was to endure. And knowing this, Jesus chose love and sacrifice.

We are in the midst of Advent. A time when we commemorate the coming of Jesus. A time to reflect on what his presence means to us. It is also a time when we could extend his presence beyond the walls of this church so that others may experience Christ’s presence by our authentic displays of goodness.