The Holy Family

Peace and Blessings to you!

God gives us the Holy family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph that is entirely human as a gift to encourage us an provide an example of how our families can be holy.

The instructions we receive from Ben Sirach are words of wisdom.  Employing the principles of mutual respect and honor between children and parents preserves family unity for life-long love.  Listening, obeying, the Word of the Lord guides us in the way of peace.  The Letter to the Colossians elaborates principles for Christian living for all families and the Church community.  Imagine a family that gathers to pray, sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to the Lord!  Hmm, the Holy Spirit is going to dwell in them!  The Gospel shows how God is always watching over the family.  God is the ultimate protector, provider and guide for all families.  Jesus taught us to call God “Our Father.”

The Holy Family we honor today was not a family of wealth or privilege.  From the beginning, they were beset by problems.  Mary’s pregnancy was outside the law and she was not officially married, Joseph was uncertain about what to do while she faced a death penalty.  The birth of Jesus was traumatic by today’s standards, but they did find emergency shelter in a stable.  They had some surprise visitors and then they had to flee for their lives.  They lived in a foreign land as refugees not knowing the language or the customs of the people where they settled.  They had nothing.  We assume that Joseph found work, as a carpenter, and it was enough for them to live on.  The one thing they did well that kept them together was love.  They loved God and each other.

The story of the Holy Family is an inspiration and guide for our families.  The readings and instructions we are given today, plus the example of Jesus, Mary and Joseph show us how our homes and families stay together.  We will always have problems in life but when we put God first and follow his instructions, when we commit ourselves to love, respect and honoring each other, we create a holy sphere where children learn to trust God and our families grow hardy and strong firmly rooted together in Christ.  God Bless you always! +++  Fr. Peter

The Christmas Season

Merry Christmas everyone!

The Christmas season has officially begun!  For a lot of people, Christmas season seems to have begun much sooner.  I noticed this year that decorations, advertisements and Christmas theme items began to appear the day after Halloween instead of the day after Thanksgiving.  I guess there are a couple of different ways to view that but it seems to me that our world longs for the Christmas season because we long for more of Jesus in our lives.  Although we may complain about commercialism and a loss of the sense of the sacred in our society, to believers it is truly Christmas that we prepare to celebrate!  I have a special attraction to Advent and to Christmas so I don’t mind the extra hype.  To me, it all serves to extend the reminder of Christ’s special presence among us and God’s incomparable gift of redemption, forgiveness bringing peace, reconciliation, joy and salvation to the whole world: That is truly worth some hype and celebration!  In one of the traditional popular songs, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” it mentions that a special gift was received on each day of the Christmas season, which continues to the Baptism of the Lord.  The song reminds me that one way of making Christmas Season special may be to space out our opening of gifts and gift giving through the season.  As you know, the song mentions that the gifts received came from “my true love.”  We offer tokens of love and esteem to each other in the form of presents and this is important because the love we have for each other flows from and points to God who is the source of love within us.  We also know that our most true and lasting gifts are God’s love and mercy!  The Christmas season is interspersed with special feasts: Saint Steven, The Holy Innocents and The Holy Family.  Each of these feast days offers a particular window from which to view the mystery of Christ and his mission to save us.  Let us ponder with Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and kings the gift of Christ our true love! Christmas Blessings of peace and joy to you all! +++ Fr Peter

Recognize Jesus!

May the nearness of the savior fill you with joy!

There were probably many different ideas of what things would be like when the Messiah would come.  It is probable that Jesus didn’t fulfill the expectations that many people had of the Messiah.  For one thing, the Kingdom that Jesus came to establish was not of this world; it wasn’t focused on power and domination, it wasn’t centered on money and luxury, it wasn’t a display of wealth and finery.  However, his kingdom did become evident in the fields, hillsides and little towns around Galilee.  Many of the people did not recognize the Messiah when he came.  John the Baptist, his herald, even had to ask.  I think it would be good for all of us to be as direct as John and ask ourselves the same question “will I recognize him when he comes?”  “What will the signs be that he is truly the one?”  Jesus’ response to John’s question indicates the fulfillment of the prophet’s words – the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame leap, the mute sing, the ransomed are filled with joy and gladness.  The king was clad in a carpenter’s clothes with worn sandals.  The riches of the Prince of Peace were not in stocks and bonds and safe in a treasury.  They were freely deposited in the hearts and minds of those who came to believe in him.  This Sunday is referred to as Gaudete Sunday, which means “Rejoice.”  We are the ones who believe that Jesus is the Messiah.  Jesus has ransomed us from sin and death and many of us experience being freed from our sins through our communal penance service.  We know and believe that Jesus reaches out to us and it is our joy when we reach out to others.  Jesus entered our world of hate to give us the power to build a world of love. We believe that Jesus understands us, even when we don’t understand ourselves.  We believe that God is always with us, even when we aren’t always with God.  God is our Father because he has treated us as his children in Christ and for this, we do have reason to rejoice!  After all, each one of us is considered greater than John the Baptist!  Share the joy of Christ’s presence in your life with others! +++ Fr. Peter

Say Yes Like Mary!

May the light of Christ fill your hearts and minds!

The Church celebrates the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary as an event of joy-filled hope for all people! Mary was conceived without sin!  This reverses the fall of Eve.  Mary is the New Eve born free from sin and Christ is the New Adam!  We remember both of these events at this time of year so as to really understand and enter into the full meaning and joy of Mary’s “yes” to God’s plan of salvation and the birth of Jesus Our Savior!

The first reading from Genesis recalls the sin of Adam and Eve and the results of sin: shame, guilt, disharmony, enmity, and the various forms and degrees of disorder that bring darkness and corruption into the world.  This original sin of not listening to God, took away the true original freedom from all human nature.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is a hymn expressing joy, gratitude, and hope for our salvation that we have in Jesus.  Although our human nature is still impeded and burdened by sin, in Jesus we find freedom from the darkness of sin!  We recognize this freedom as God’s plan for us from the beginning of time!

True freedom means being unimpeded and completely open to God’s Word and completely willing to follow God’s plan!

Mary had to give a response when the Angel Gabriel came and revealed God’s word to her.  We see from her disposition and response that she was somewhat surprised at the encounter with the angel and that she didn’t fully understand what was going to happen.  We also see that she did demonstrate complete openness and total freedom when she recognized that it was truly God’s word and God’s plan!  When Mary declared herself  “the handmaid of the Lord,” she defeated human pride, selfishness and anything that could ever impede the true freedom that God wants us to have.  Mary’s “yes” embraced God’s plan to save human nature by uniting it with God in Jesus who is human and divine.

There were times of sorrow and struggle for Mary but she said “yes” at every moment.  We are invited to be with Mary, to say “yes” when we discern God’s desires for us, desire for our freedom from sin and the sadness and burdens that take away our joy.  One of Mary’s titles in her Litany is “Cause of Our Joy.”  Mary shows the way that we can have the joy of salvation when we say “yes” to God by our words and actions in the little things we do each day in the home, at work, at school and everywhere.  Let everyone bless God by the goodness and joy they see in you! +++ Fr. Peter