Christ Is Coming!

May the hope of Christ’s light fill your hearts and minds!

The readings and the Advent season focus on the coming of Christ into the world.  Our ancestors awaited a Messiah with great longing and hope.  They looked for the coming of a Messiah who would free them from the forces of oppression, fear, injustice, poverty, hunger and hardship.  For them, he would be a great, wise and just ruler who would establish peace.  Their hope was based upon promises of the past, the stresses of the present and an enduring faith that in the future God, seeing the longing of their hearts, would fulfill the promises that had been made.  We have the same hopes today!  But what did they do in the mean-time?  They lived just like we do now –with a day to day routine but they watched for God’s activity and signs of his arrival!

Today, it seems like our lives are busy 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Constant activity with irregular hours can cause problems of fatigue, anxiety, depression, insomnia and stress.  Even those who have regular schedules frequently get over-extended with activities.  Where are such people going to find a space of peace and rest to be refreshed from weariness so they can seek and find God?

For many, Advent is the busiest time of the year.  There is always something to plan, cards to send, gifts to buy, parties to attend, visiting family, friends and neighbors.  For some, it is the most painful time of year due to loss of loved ones, broken relationships, empty promises, and disappointments.  Where do they find a remedy?

In Advent, the Church invites all of us to make a personal interior shift so that we can experience the coming of Christ and his peace that we all long for.  I know that the activities of the season are important, in fact, even life-saving because we do experience Christ’s love through each other.  But it’s also easy to get off track and forget what is really important.  We need to feel freedom from shame, guilt, fear, doubt, sadness, loneliness and longing or any other burdens we may have.  Turning to God with our hearts is the key!  The parish Reconciliation Service provides deliverance from burdens!  Jesus comes to free us; not to judge or condemn us!  Try to set aside some personal time with Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  Invite them into your home with a prayer and candles.  Spend time with them in prayer each day and make them feel appreciated and honored as your guests.  If you take the time to truly watch, you will see that God is present and actively coming into your life!  God bless you all! +++ Fr. Peter

Christ the King

Peace and Grace to all!

This Sunday the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Christ the King.  It is an appropriate finale to the end of the liturgical year and it reminds us of the principality of Christ and his universal power and authority over all that is: both visible and invisible.  This celebration should have some personal significance for each of us in our relationship with Jesus, who is King of Mercy.

As we celebrate this feast, I recall my visit to the monument known as “Cristo Rey” in Guanajuato, Mexico.  I travelled with some companions to the shrine to pray for special needs and to offer praise and thanks for the many blessings that I had received from God.  I wasn’t expecting anything but the chance to see the 70 foot statue of Jesus, which resembles that of the famous statue overlooking Rio de Janiero, Brazil.  The statue in Guanajuato was erected as part of the reconstruction of this site following the communist persecution and destruction in the 1930’s.  Many Christians were martyred defending the faith as well as this shrine during this period in Mexico.  The recent movie For Greater Glory presents many of the atrocities committed against the Church’s priests, religious and faithful while focusing on a few key historical figures.

The confrontation between Jesus and Pilate in the Gospel depicts worldly power and how it is usually corrupted by selfish interests is paralleled by the characters in the movie.  The heavenly kingdom reaches far beyond the here and now of the worldly view.  It is stronger and more beautiful for it values mercy, truth, justice and peace more than temporal life.  Like the characters in the Gospel and the movie, we must contend with the same forces in our own lives.  We can sink into selfishness, greed, lust, envy, or any other worldly allurement.  Many try to compromise only to find themselves succumbing to corruption—like Pilate.  For Jesus and the characters in the movie, there was no compromising.  Like them, we are called to rise above worldly forces and stand for something far greater and far more glorious.  We are called to take a stand for the heavenly kingdom with its eternal values and rewards with what we say, think and do which is still heroic.  What a great choice to make!

When my companions and I rounded a bend and stood before the statue at the summit of the hill, I was compelled within to kneel, while my eyes began to swell with tears—I can’t explain why.  Before my companions and I stood the large figure of Jesus standing upon the globe with his arms outstretched as if he were calming the sea.  I had the sensation that Jesus wanted me to feel his power and peace calming my soul.  As I glanced at my companions, I realized from the tears in their eyes that Jesus was giving them the same gift of this experience.  After some moments passed, we smiled at each other through tears in acknowledgement of the experience we each had.  At such times, words are of no use so we remained silent, kneeling in awe and gratitude before Jesus, our true King!  As Christians, we can be so glad and proud that we know God as a loving, merciful and tender ruler!  Although we journey in a world torn with sin and chaos, Jesus preserves our hearts in peace.  May God bless you all! +++ Fr Peter

Focus on Jesus

May the peace of Christ preserve you from all fear!

In this weekend’s readings we hear about things that will happen before Christ returns in glory.  In the first reading the prophet warns that those who do evil will be like dry stubble and consumed by fire, while the just will have reason to rejoice in their deliverance.  St. Paul encourages the community at Thessalonica to focus on implementing Gospel values in their personal daily lives as a means to avoid becoming vexed about what others are doing.  In the Gospel, Jesus gives the disciples a glimpse of the future and what to expect: wars, insurrections, earthquakes, famines, disease and signs in the sky.  Jesus also tells them not to worry for he will be present to help and save those who persevere.

In just a brief perusal of the news headlines, one can easily identify all the elements enumerated by Jesus.  There have been over 10, 436 earthquakes in the world so far in 2019, 48 occurred in one day: October 17.  The people of the areas where the largest earthquakes occurred are experiencing the ravages of the aftermath: struggles for clean water, medical supplies, rebuilding sewer, water, gas and electric supply lines and restoring stable communications.  Meanwhile war-torn areas in the Middle East are still trying to rise from the rubble of war and civil revolt.  ISIS, though subdued by US and international efforts, is expected to rise again through the current Turkish invasion of Northern Syria. ISIS’ previous murderous rampage displaced millions and killed thousands resulting in over 40 million refugees in the world.  To us who live in the Western World, it doesn’t seem that there will ever be a just and stable government in those areas.  There are a host of other violent hot spots around the globe, not to mention the continuing concern over nuclear developments in North Korea and Iran.  Here in the United States, it looks like we are anything but united.  The predominant news we get is filled with personal attacks and vicious battling over party-line agendas.  Too much drama.

There are those who would like to have us all believe that these are definite signs that Jesus is about to return but no one knows the day or the hour.  It would be easy to get caught up in that kind of fear if you didn’t have faith and a prayer life.  Fear can distort our outlook on the world, it can become like a prison that disables us from the freedom to act with love.  Fear can prevent us from focusing on what’s really important: a daily life filled with light, love and meaning.  As Christian believers, our focus and efforts are always the same: we strive to bring the Good News into the world.  Google “Medical Miracles” and be amazed at all the entries of miracles going on around us.  The blind see, the deaf hear, the dead rise to new life, the lame walk.  God is always present and working in our midst!  We just have to look!    If we focus on Jesus and trust him, we can avoid sinking into fear filled living.  In living each day in faith, we can be confident that we will be ready whenever he comes, because he is already here!

May God bless you with peace and good health! +++ Fr Peter

Life After Death

May the light of Christ dwell within you!

The readings this weekend highlight the fact of life after death and the reward or punishment merited by our actions during our earthly sojourn.  The first reading from the book of Maccabees gives a stirring account of the seven brothers and their mother enduring torture and death rather than violate the laws of God.  They believed that by remaining faithful, they would be raised up in the resurrection of the just to receive a reward from God but their persecutors would be condemned.  In the second reading, St. Paul exhorts the Thessalonians to truly live the faith despite the challenges of non-believers and evil forces around them.  The solid grounds that he uses for his encouragement is the reality of the resurrection to eternal life that they all hope for.  In the Gospel, Jesus teaches his hearers something about what the resurrection will be like.  The Sadducees doubted a resurrection, but pose a supposition that things in the afterlife will be similar or the same as they are presently in this world but Jesus informs them that such is not the case.  He says that there is in fact a resurrection and that those who are worthy to rise to eternal life will be like angels.

I think all of us try to imagine what heaven will be like.  I used to ask my parents about it frequently when I was young and they encouraged me to use my imagination.  It was fun to think about– it still is!  In fact, many of us need to remind ourselves that our efforts to live the Christian life will have a reward beyond our dreams.  A thought like that can give us the courage and strength to endure the day’s difficulties and save us from temptations to doubt.  As in every age, we are bombarded by worldly influences that draw us to focus on power, wealth, self-satisfaction and material possessions.  The Maccabees family were severely pressured to recant their beliefs to gain worldly things but they chose heavenly rewards over anything their torturers could offer.  Their faith was such that they could not live with the burden of having denied their God and their conscience.  Let us pray that we may always encourage one another in our Catholic faith through word and example of life and death.

God bless you all! +++ Fr Peter

Jesus Calls Us!

Peace and Grace to you!

This time of year is very special!  The days are shortening and the weather is getting cooler if not cold at times.  The leaves on the trees and shrubs are changing color and the harvest has been over.  It is a time of change, the end of a season, a time of transition, it is a time of dying.  It all happens so quickly!  We are reminded of the brevity of our lives.

This week we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints and the feast of All souls.  These two celebrations point to the heart of our Christian faith: eternal life!

In our celebration of All Saints, we remember our great dignity and the gift of a great destiny as God’s holy people.  Our great Saints’ lives were dedicated to living completely for God, even in the smallest detail.  These Saints understood the relationship of complete communion with God and one another that all the baptized are invited to.  They struggled against sin for a greater prize—the living love of God in time and eternity!

Through the feast of all souls the Church remembers all those who have completed their earthly sojourn.  Some of them led holy lives, others didn’t but many of them are no doubt living in God’s presence.  Some are undergoing purification.  Sadly, some others may have lost the gift of eternal life by rejecting God—we hope and pray that no one may be lost but it is possible that some are.

At the center of our reflection is the great gift and mystery of the sacramental life of the Church.  This is what the Gospel story of Jesus and Zacchaeus tells us.

We can never forget that Jesus always calls us to a deeper, personal relationship with God and share the indwelling of God’s Spirit. It is friendship!  It is communion! It is a living and abiding love!

Zacchaeus represents the one who longs for the relationship and is willing to go out of his way to find it—even climb up a tree!  Jesus’ response to those who are like Zacchaeus is the same: “today I must stay at your house!”  No matter if that person was a sinner until that moment, Jesus is watchful for the opportunity to come into your heart!  Notice that the encounter with Jesus breaks open Zacchaeus’ heart and immediately, joy, peace, charity and desire for justice spring forth from him!  Zacchaeus is really happy!

In contrast, the crowd represents all those who do not desire or go out of their way to build a personal relationship with Jesus.  Instead of turning their heart to seek him in sincerity, they do their usual thing.  They grumble, criticize, complain and judge Zacchaeus, Jesus and probably everyone else.  They have no joy because they have not experienced the salvation that Jesus brings!  In the story, Jesus is a human being.  Zacchaeus was open to that.  If you were Jesus, would you want to stay with someone who was critical and judgmental toward you?  Or would you rather stay with someone who really wanted to know you and appreciate you?  Hopefully we can all be open to a new encounter with Jesus and grow in the joy of his communion!

God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter