Peace and grace to you!
In the first reading we are given an encouragement to be watchful or vigilant because God is soon going to fulfill a promise. In the Gospel, Jesus says that there will be changes in weather and signs in the heavens and events that seem like the end of the world which include the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. To many, these events will be terrifying and overwhelming. But to those who are disciples, Jesus says stand erect and raise your heads! Then he warns us to beware not to become drowsy in our faith or grow slack in discipline or let things overwhelm us to the point that we forget or miss what is truly important.
As you know, Advent is a special time of waiting and expectation for the coming of Christ into the world and into our lives in a new personal way. We know that God always comes through when he makes promises but we are not always sure how they will be fulfilled! That’s why we’re not supposed to get drowsy or distracted, we are supposed to watch with eyes of faith!
Consider what you find encouraging and exciting in these three weeks before Christmas. Is it bringing out the old, beautiful Christmas decorations for your house? Is it the memories that they bring with them as you set them up and place them in just the right spot? Is it the fresh scent of the Christmas tree? It could be children or grand children thinking about Santa or re-telling stories of Christmas in the past. Getting together with friends and family always brings a certain excitement and energy with it. There are also the cards and letters that bring us close to those who are far away reminding us that the love of the Heart of Jesus encompasses all people everywhere. There are movies, music and special dishes that are part of the season that coincide with expectation, anticipation and surprise.
We know instinctively that this is indeed a very special time of year and it comes with a sense of hope in God’s goodness and we know that he is a promise keeper. We also know that we can get lost and distracted with busyness and pressures. The light of generosity and goodness can momentarily be extinguished by the impatience we feel with crowds and pushy people we encounter while we are negotiating parking lots or waiting in line at stores. There are also the relationships that can feel draining or acute sadness from separation or loss of loved ones. Sometimes we have to struggle for equilibrium and inner peace so that we can encounter goodness and peace in the people around us.
It would be good to make the effort to pray more and try to focus on watching for God’s presence. God loves and cares for each and every one of us, personally. Lift up the eye of your mind and open the arms of your heart to embrace God! Receive the promised gift and surprise that he has for you in Jesus! Advent Blessings to you! +++ Fr. Peter
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 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 wealth and power. 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 faithful 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, there are no words 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
Peace and Grace to you!
As we near the end of the Liturgical year, the Scripture readings always reflect a cosmic chaos. As we listen to them and think about the imagery, we can feel powerless and helpless as the world seems to be spinning out of control. Watching headlines in the news and world events can bring a similar experience because it seems like everything Jesus is referring to is happening! Think of it: there have been record numbers of shootings in the US this year, every 24 hrs one military veteran takes their own life.
The US/Mexico border is a disaster zone with hundreds of bodies along the trails used by traffickers and coyotes. The Darien Gap estimates a 15% mortality rate and if you’re a woman, no matter what age, you’re guaranteed to be raped. The refugee camps and war-torn areas and places of natural disaster where struggles for clean water, food, medical supplies abound. Earthquakes and storms result in need of rebuilding sewer, water, gas and electric supply lines and restoring stable communications. There are more refugees in the world today than ever before and many countries in Europe are struggling with floods of people fleeing from the ravages of industrialized hatred and extremism. None of us have ever seen anything like this before and it’s at a higher level almost daily. To us who live in the Western World, it doesn’t seem that there will ever be a just and stable government established in the Middle East and the chaos is spilling over into relatively peaceful countries. Even the US political sphere is filled with agenda laden bickering and lies while just accountability doesn’t seem to exist and issues go on unresolved. The whole world seems out of control and is careening toward unprecedented destruction.
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 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: God is actively protecting us from destruction! For our part, we strive to bring the Good News into the world. We remember the words from Psalm 23: “even though I walk through the dark valley, I fear no evil, for you are at my side.” When we lead lives steeped in the Gospel, we are reminded of the original chaos and how God’s Word always brings things to order and harmony. As we embrace it and put it into practice, we experience God’s presence and protection and we look forward to his second coming with hope and peace. One helpful reminder of God’s presence and action in the world is to Google “Medical Miracles” and be amazed at all the 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
Peace and grace to you all!+++
This weekend we are reminded that all that we have comes from God and when we are asked to give for God’s sake, God will see to it that our faith offering is blessed!
The first reading and Gospel’s main characters are widows—that is significant. Typically, women in the ancient near east were among the most vulnerable in society who depended greatly upon the men for protection, sustenance and wealth. If a woman was a widow, then she had to go it alone and be the home maker and the bread winner for the household—even build the dwelling. Life was a challenge indeed and having extremely limited resources didn’t help. One gets a sense of the level of poverty that they had in the first reading when the widow tells Elijah how little they have and after it is consumed, they will die; presumably of hunger. Again the level of poverty appears in the Gospel when we hear that the few cents given by the widow was a greater sacrificial gift than all the others.
On the one hand, we are reminded of social justice issues and the fact that 26% of American households have a single parent. Of those, 23% are single moms. We need to be aware of how difficult it is for a single parent to raise their children and watch for ways to support them. I remember how hard it was for my mother to raise 7 children after my parent’s divorce. I was keenly aware and appreciative of those who helped my mom in special ways. One thoughtful gentleman owned a car dealership and gave her a station wagon car. When the car needed repairs, there was a service station where the owner gave mom a break on the price of repairs because he knew she had lots of kids and limited resources. Other anonymous helpers contributed toward our tuition to remain in a Catholic school. Periodically, friends of the family would stop by with a surprise gift of food or clothes or something useful. It was humbling to have little and at times to need but it also opened our eyes to see people’s goodness and generosity. It also helped us realize how important it is to give. My mother gave too when it was her turn and when she knew someone could use it. She gave in a quiet respectful way because she knew what it was like to need.
Real poverty is when people who are able to give don’t or they give very little. Real wealth is when people who have little, are rich enough in faith and generosity of heart to give something of what they have. May God bless you and help you prosper in every way but most of all in love and grace! +++ Fr. Peter