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Second Sunday of Advent

December 11, 2017

NEWNESS IN THE DESERT

Years ago, I was assigned to the deserts of Southern New Mexico.  Only after living there for a time, did I understand why it was often in the desert where our ancestors encountered God.

The desert is a place of simplicity and poverty – a place where all the distractions go away.  I would often go out for long runs through the desert in the cool of the morning.  In the beginning, it was almost unnerving because I felt so exposed.   The desert requires a unique balance of confidence and humility.  Because too much confidence got your in trouble and too much humility would keep you inside all day long.

Not only are there no distractions – no building on the horizon, no clouds in the sky, not hustle and bustle, but there is nothing to be attached to.

The people whom I met in New Mexico were often from this part of the world.  The went to reinvent themselves, many of whom are now artists, writers, farmers, and artisans.  But only discovered the art in them after a period of time.

You see, we need silence and stillness in order to hear our inner voice – the voice of God.  It is the same reason John went out into the desert – so that his voice could be heard clearly.  Of course, the people who went to see him couldn’t just drop in, they went out to see him.

And that is the thing about the desert – you don’t understand it in five minutes.  You have to dwell in it for a period of time before the simplicity allows you to see yourself for who you really are and who you really want to be.

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Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

December 9, 2017

THE IMPOSSIBLE

In our first reading, we hear that after eating from the tree of knowledge – Adam realized he was naked.

Now, as many of you know – knowledge wasn’t the problem, it was power – the desire to be AS God. . .which is quite different than trying to be LIKE God.  That thirst for power left Adam feeling exposed.  The lesson is one many people only learn the hard way:  if you take power for yourself – it can (and most likely will) be taken from you. However, if you allow power to be bestowed upon you, then it will be yours – precisely because you will realize it was never really yours in the first place.

And thus the contrast with Eve and Mary.  With the fall and the redemption.

When we take power – we fall; when receive power, we are redeemed.

Mary’s grace was that she accepted what she did not want for herself.  Her grace was that she believed God could do the impossible.

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First Sunday of Advent

December 4, 2017

RESILIANT PREPARATION

This past Thanksgiving was my first Thanksgiving that did not involve a plane trip in a very long time.  I must confess that it is still a bit strange for me – being back home.  The places are familiar, and yet my life is life is very different than anything I could have ever imagined it would be.

I didn’t really know what I wanted to be when I grew up – I considered all the normal boyhood careers:  firefighting, astronaut – and since my father was/is an engineer – that was also a possibility.

Be Prepared is the scout motto and it has stayed with me ever since those early teenage days.  It is also the motto of Advent in many respects.  Today’s readings tell us to be prepared for surprises – we don’t know the hour or how God will come into our lives.

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Solemnity of Christ the King

November 26, 2017

JUDGED BY THE “OTHER” TEACHINGS

What you hear in today’s readings are the qualifications for Christ the King.  You could think about this like his campaign promise, which is also a rather brutal commentary on the incumbent party.

If you were to read the section of Ezekiel just before what we hear today, you will understand Ezekiel tells them, “Woe to you who feed yourselves.  For you consume the milk, cover yourself with wool and kill what was fattened.  You did not feed my flock.  You did not strengthen the weak, heal the sick and because you did not lead them, they were dispersed and killed.”

And so we hear today, what the leaders would not do, God will do on his own.  Through Ezekiel, God promises to save Israel – not just to send a Messiah, a savior, but to be the savior.  God promises to come down and save us from ourselves.

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33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 20, 2017

LIVES THAT ARE BEAUTIFULLY OUT OF BALANCE

I have always been intrigued by the reaction of the third slave, whom I consider to be the “cautious” or “careful” slave. He seems to be an upright, honest man.

He was not the smartest of the three, for he got the least amount of money, but if he weren’t a decent person, his master would have hardly entrusted him with a share of his money at all. The first and second slaves were shrewd operators; they knew how to play the market and doubled their investment.

The third slave lived in fear because his master was a greedy, demanding man who liked his money and did not look kindly upon the foolishness and failure of those in his employ.

I know many people who behave like this third slave.

The problem with this third slave is that he refused to take risks; he would not step out into the unknown.  But life is a risk.  Using your talents is a risk, because it typically means we are working outside of comfort zone, but I also think that is why we hear from Proverbs today:  specifically, the proverb of the “Good Wife”.

I say this because it is the women in my life who have helped me develop my talents the most.  And more and more I am convinced that our world will not be the place it is supposed to be until it more fully embraces the feminine side of our humanity.  The is true of our politics, our church, our streets and our homes.

As Referenced in the Homily:  “A Woman’s Place” by Kathryn Beaty, Howard Books, 2016.

 

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32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 6, 2017

KEEPING VIGIL FOR “WHY”

Unless you have been to a Jewish wedding, the idea of waiting for the Bridegroom may seem a bit strange.  For us, the focus is the bride, but Jewish customs focus on the bridegroom.

In the first century, the high point of the wedding was not the entrance of the bride but when the groom, accompanied by his attendants, went to the family house of the bride to transfer her to his home.

In his home the rest of the ceremony would occur and in his home the groom’s sisters and cousins would wait.  These are the “bridesmaids” that would have been waiting – not as we understand them, but those who had been asked to prepare the home for the great union of love.

And so what does this parable say about us?  We are likened to those bridesmaids who have been asked to prepare the earth for the great union of love between God and the Church.  And just like the parable, some of us have prepared well, some of us have not.

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30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 29, 2017

LOVE + FORGIVENESS = COMMUNION

Over the years, one of top searches in Google, if not the top depending on the year, is “What is love?”  In fact, throughout all of human existence, Love is undoubtedly the single most thought about topic of all time.  Though it is at the heart of our being and essential to the greatest commandment, this idea – noun – verb – seems to cause us the greatest difficulty.

Think for just a moment:  how would you answer the question:  What is love?

A few years ago, The Guardian took on this question from various perspectives.

Some explain love as a neurological condition or a survival tool used for safety and security.  It can be blind, one-sided, tragic, misguided, fickle and unconditional – though not usually all at once.

In a sense, love depends on you.  If you are secure in love – it can seem as easy as breathing.  If you are deprived of love, it can literally become a physical pain.

I think love is subtle and very personal.  You cannot just define it or explain it – you can only really experience it.  For most, love is most easily described in the embodiment of another – a person, a pet, a God.

Thus, it seems impossible to love God and not love your neighbor; and when considered that way – to love your neighbor is to love God, because love after all is God, and God is love – not as a noun, so much as a verb.