May the light and joy of Christmas and the New Year fill your hearts and minds!
This weekend we celebrate the solemnity: Holy Mary, Mother of God. We also 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
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 and 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
May Christ, the Light who is near, fill you with hope!
The readings from the fourth Sunday of Advent draw us to focus on the theme of trust. In the first reading, Ahaz doesn’t trust the prophet Isaiah when he is invited to ask God for a sign; Ahaz is afraid that it would be a sin. In the face of king Ahaz’s distrust, which is accounted as wearying to God, the prophet reveals that God wants to give a sign to show that he will always help his people. In the Gospel account, we begin after Mary trusted the message of the angel that God would favor her and make her part of his plan. Now her trust must be stronger because she has returned from Elizabeth’s house to an extremely difficult situation back home in Nazareth: Mary was obviously pregnant and Joseph, along with everyone else, was wondering what happened. Joseph had to choose whether or not to trust Mary’s explanation. At first, he simply doesn’t want any harm to come to Mary, but as a just man, Joseph turned to God to help him decide. In answer to Joseph’s trust, God revealed to him the truth about Mary and charged him to name the child Jesus and Joseph did as the angel had commanded him. In their journey to Bethlehem in the cold of winter and beyond, Mary and Joseph learned to trust in God and each other.
The examples that we are given today show us that people of our faith tradition grow in holiness through trust in God. It doesn’t happen automatically but only in the face of challenges and often times when there is no other place to go do people learn to use their faith and trust in God. Something stands clear through today’s readings: God is doing everything he can to convince us that he wants to help us. Even if we’re like Ahaz and constantly afraid, God doesn’t get tired of demonstrating that he loves us. As we approach the celebration of our Savior’s birth let’s try to be more open and trust in God. Let’s try to accept the challenge to confront those things that burden us and separate us from the joy of God’s kingdom. Let us live holier lives by saying “yes” to the gift that has been given to us by the One who gives new life: let us try to do God’s will lovingly and graciously. God bless you all! +++ Fr. Peter
May the nearness of the savior fill you with joy!
In Mary and Joseph’s time, there were 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
May the light of Christ bring you peace!
At the time that John the Baptist was on the scene, religious observance was often strict adherence to laws and customs. For some, being holy was an ostentatious display swollen with pride and arrogance which reduced the practice of religion to just another form of politics. In John however, there was no arrogance or pride, no attempt to impose his personal agenda or promote himself as the focus of attention. John’s only interest was to fulfill the task that God had given him: to prepare the people to meet Christ, the Savior. John’s baptism was one of repentance, which means turning the heart to God. In this, John was reminding the people, especially the leadership of Israel, that there must be a real and tangible connection between their religious rituals and their convictions. Their beliefs and faith experience of God should be a matter of heart reflected in the actions of their daily lives. In this context, baptism was an opportunity to re-establish the harmony and connection between one’s thoughts, words and actions.
Today’s Gospel account of John’s call to repentance reminds us of our own need to turn to God again and again. It also reminds us that Christian baptism goes further and deeper than just repentance. As Christians we are plunged into the life, death and resurrection of the Lord. We have become a new creation in Christ, we are members of his body the Church and called to be the eyes, the voice, the hands of Christ to the world. For us Christians, there is not supposed to be a dichotomy, proclaiming one thing and living in a manner that does not reflect those values. Obviously being a Christian is a lifelong journey that involves challenges, trials, achievements and failures, laughter and tears. But we believe that our efforts of conversion to grow in holiness will bring us grace for wholeness and salvation. Today, we are invited once again to turn to God with our hearts, to invite Christ’s saving power into our lives to overcome for us what we cannot do for ourselves. As we do this, others come to recognize what we know: that in Christ, God has come to dwell in our world to save!
May all blessings be yours! +++ Fr. Peter