May the light and joy of Christmas and the New Year fill your hearts and minds!
This weekend we honor the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph and recognize the monumental role of the family in salvation history. It is only through the context of family that God entered our nature and it is through the same context of family that we know Mary as Mother of God. Jesus and Mary could not have survived without Joseph to protect them and provide for them.
God chose the family as the place where salvation begins! The family is the first building block of society. God’s plan through nature shows that no child is conceived outside of a relationship between a man and a woman. This is the first fundamental relationship that images the love between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This natural cell of social life is where the husband and wife are called to give themselves to each other in love and to give themselves in love to the mystery of the gift life, the family. It is in the family home that we all first learn about God, about authority, stability, freedom, responsibility, respect, justice and honor. In the family we learn moral values and how to interact with each other in ways that do not cause hurt or harm. It is in the family that boys learn how to become men and girls learn how to become women and that they are different than each other—they are not the same. The family teaches that men and women each have a special role to play and all need to give and receive the dignity and respect that God intended they have in their special roles. Family life is where we learn how to participate in society, which is the family of man stretching across the globe.
Today, our family of faith, the Church, needs holy families. As depicted in the scripture stories today, holy families regularly practice the faith with the community. Without them the Church won’t be holy; it will be weak and there will be a lack of vocations. Without holy families and vocations, society will drift away from God. Staying close to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph will always give you joy and peace! +++ Fr. Peter
The Lord is near, let us look toward him and be radiant!
When David proposes to build a house for the Ark of God, God’s response is to establish the house and throne of David forever—God cannot be out-done in generosity! All nations, even the non-Jewish people, receive this news with great joy as St. Paul tells us. But what kind of house and kingdom is it that God establishes? We get a glimpse from a billionaire, Ross Perot. In an interview about his early years, Ross related that when he was growing up in North East Texas during the great depression a lot of hobos would come to their home asking for something to eat. His parents, although poor themselves, never tuned them away but always gave them something to eat. One day his mother asked a hobo why so many came to their house and not their neighbor’s. Because, the Hobo replied, the sign scratched on the curb in front of your house makes it known that you always give. Ross asked his mother if he should remove the sign. She said no, we must always share with those who have less. Ross related that the example of his parents’ generosity even in hard times was a powerful influence in his life.
A great story! But what is in a house that makes it a home? The people! And God’s house, his true dwelling, is in the hearts and minds of his people! Jesus came among us in poverty and simplicity. He still does, but he generously gives a greater wealth and treasure than the world can know. He told us that his kingdom is within us—and it is! He nourishes us with his own life in the Eucharist and as we grow in his life, we do his works in the world. Mary’s joy could hardly be contained and prompted her to visit Elizabeth. The little everyday things she did for Elizabeth and Zechariah in the name of God manifested the love and joy she had within. We too are sent by God and led by the Spirit to do God’s will so that all might come to God’s house and find salvation! May God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter
May Advent joy glow within you!
As you know, the third Sunday of Advent is also called “Gaudete Sunday” which is a Latin translation of the word “rejoice.” When we hear the readings from Isaiah and John we do get a sense of joyful anticipation for the one who is to come. It is also striking that this Sunday is situated very near two occasions when the Blessed Virgin Mary is honored in a special way: the Immaculate Conception (est. Solemnity 1708) and Our Lady of Guadalupe (est. Feast 1999, apparitions 1531). One of the titles we are given for Mary in the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary is “Cause of Our Joy” and this title seems especially appropriate for her as we prepare with her for the coming of Christ on Christmas.
Isaiah’s message is joy-filled because it promises good news, liberation, healing and blessing. It promises forgiveness and renewal of the Covenant for God’s people. In John’s Gospel, we see John the Baptist calling the people to repentance: turn your hearts to God! Ask for forgiveness! Forgive others! The Lord is near, and he comes to save; not to condemn. We know this from Scripture, the teaching of the Church and our own experience!
Both messages are vibrantly relevant for today and they invite us into the joy of the kingdom but to do so, we cannot hold on to any form of sin or contribute to it. We cannot become imprisoned by fear, retaliation, negativity, unrealistic expectations or bad behavior. It is Advent now and stress accompanies busy-ness with shopping, parties, and too many details to count. There is also our own historical context of widespread confusion and fear about COVID-19, the corruption and lies of political leaders, judges, media and so on. Many are experiencing grief, loss, brokenness and loneliness. Some are just emotionally more sensitive because of stress and little things get to them. In order to “not quench the Spirit” or “despise prophetic utterances” we can follow Mary who invites us to be quiet, focus and reflect on God’s activity in our lives. It is also important for us to know that we are invited to ask Jesus for help with anything we need especially, healing and forgiveness. God bless you all! +++ Fr. Peter
May the coming light of Christ give you peace!
This Sunday’s readings affirm in us the characters of hope and peace that Advent calls us to. In the first reading, the Prophet Isaiah announces that God does not hold grudges. God is aware of the longing his people have while they are captives in Babylon. God is aware of their suffering. Carried away as captives because of their sins and hardness of heart, God announces that He will gather them and lead them back to their homeland, and to their rightful place of freedom and worship. This is exciting news for them and brings them great consolation!
St. Peter encourages the Church to conduct themselves in holiness and devotion so that they may always have an inner peace and be spared from worry, fear, dread, sorrow or any other pain resulting from sin. When he reminds the people that a thousand years are like one day, and one day is like a thousand years, he helps us grasp the importance of how we live each day of our lives and how mysterious are God’s ways. St. Peter teaches us that God’s patience with human beings is directed toward salvation because he is full of love and wisdom, he is tender and compassionate toward all his creatures! How wonderful is our God!
In the Gospel, John the Baptist is at work bringing burdened hearts and souls back to God. The invitation is there for all of us today as it was for them. It is easy to do: go to Confession acknowledging our own sins and ask Jesus for mercy, then drop the grudges, the bitter feelings and attitudes that creep in and bring pain into our own hearts. Realizing how good God is with us then we can forgive others too. As we grow less self-centered and more open and generous toward God, he can work through us to improve all of our lives and bless our communities. The wonderful thing to remember in all of this is that this is actually God’s work in us! God removes the rough ways and the crooked paths. It is God who levels mountains and fills in the valleys so that our lives become more smooth and even! For our part, we are invited to turn to him who is our Redeemer and our Savior. Please take a moment to check the schedule for dates and times for the Sacrament of Penance. The Lord is waiting for you! May God bless you with peace and hope! +++ Fr. Peter