Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Seventh Day Truth

On this seventh day of Christmas and final day of the year, our first reading can seem a bit strange, but only if you get your theology from the movies.

In the movies the "antichrist" is depicted as some supernatural being. How do they come up with this? They take a bunch of different verses from the bible mix them all together and create an image. The saddest part is that even some Christians have fallen into this trap.

If we just read the words of the fist reading today from John's letter we see that the antichirst is someone much more mundane and unfortunately common.

Children, it is the last hour;
and just as you heard that the antichrist was coming, so now many antichrists have appeared. Thus we know this is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of our number; if they had been, they would have remained with us. Their desertion shows that none of them was of our number. But you have the anointing that comes from the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. I write to you not because you do not know the truth but because you do, and because every lie is alien to the truth.

We like to imagine the early Church as being filled with love peace and harmony. It was in reality filled with people, people like you and me. There were those who joined but when it turned out to not be what they wanted or expected they left. They not only left but they spread lies about the apostles, and the message of the Church. These deserters were referred to by St. John as antichrists.

As the quote often associated with Mark Twain goes,“A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on.” And now with electronic media it travels literally at the speed of light.

On this last day of the year, we are reminded that a part of being a Christian is the belief that there is such a thing a the truth. The truth is knowable. And most of all we must be people dedicated to searching for the truth, speaking the truth, living the truth.

There is something in us that loves a good rumor, a salacious story, a scandal. The early Christians were accused of eating flesh and drinking blood. After all, that's much more interesting than the actual theology of the Eucharist. St. Patrick was accused of stealing. St. Gerard was accused of having an affair. And the list goes on. The antichrists have been around since the beginning of the church. They thrive on our willingness to believe the worst about others particularly those with whom we disagree. The dark side in us seems to like to see good people fall down.

Perhaps this reading today will encourage us in the new year to rededicate ourselves to the truth, to give others the benefit of the doubt, and be less quick to believe the worst— in short, to love.

Monday, December 30, 2013

On the sixth day of Chrstmas

For those who want to get caught up in issues of gender, the first reading from chapter two of the First Letter of St. John can seem to be patriarchal, because most English translations use children, young men, and fathers as the translation for the three Greek titles that he uses to address his readers. In Greek the terms are less gender specific. And the letter is addressed to everyone.

In fact, St. John is using the words metaphorically to describe three stages of Christian maturity: infancy, youth, and adulthood. (For the Star Wars fans the second word is paidion.) To underscore this point today's gospels ends by telling us that even Jesus:

The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

On this sixth day of Christmas the Church reminds us that being reborn, or born again in Christ is only the first step. Baptism at whatever age gives us an initial forgiveness of sin and incorporation into the body of Christ, the Church. But the goal is still a long way off. There remains in us the tendency to focus on self, to measure our success or failure by worldly standards, and to allow our hungers, both physical and psychological, to drive us.

As we are preparing to enter 2014, now might be a good time for that spiritual assessment. At what stage of spiritual life are you? More importantly, what concrete steps are you going to take to mature in your faith? We humans are not like fruit, we do not simply mature with the passing of time. As time passes we grow older, but that does not mean we mature. To mature requires effort, intentionality;choices must be made.

In this new year are you going to simply grow older or are you going to actually mature? The choice is yours.

Sunday, December 29, 2013


Often the Church reveals her theology in the pairings of readings for a particular mass. Today we see that the Church is using the phrase Holy Family with a double if not triple meaning.

There is of course the most basic, literal reference to the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. But if we stop and think about it for a minute we known almost nothing about this family, as a family. Matthew tells us Joseph was a "tekton", artisan, understood usually to refer to one who worked with wood. We have them living in Nazareth. And we are told of the flight to Egypt in today's gospel, and the trip to the temple in Jerusalem, but really nothing of their day to day existence.

For this reason it becomes even more important that Church pairs this gospel with the Sirach reading, and the reading from Colossians extending the title Holy Family, not just to individual Christian households but to the Church.

As we bring this year to a close and prepare to begin a new year, the Feast of the Holy Family reminds us that with God as Father and Mary as Mother, we are not only called to be the Holy Family but we have within our hands the ability to do it. Empowered by the grace we receive in the sacraments we can be a sanctuary, that holy place where people can come and, from the moment they walk through the doors, know that they are home.

It would be nice if everyone lived in loving families but that is often not the case. And even many very loving families are still racked with disfunction. It is the human condition.

The word church ekklesia means "called apart." On Sundays we are called apart, we are called to step out of the world and into the church, to gather as brothers and sisters of the same father and mother. For an hour each week, we gather to worship, to praise, and in the Eucharist to have our holiness renewed. We gather as the holy family of God.

Hopefully, we carry that grace home with us, and each of our homes is transformed in a domestic church. Hopefully we strive to live as holy families. But even if you "live alone", God your father, Mary your mother, and Jesus your brother are always there with you. Just as we hang pictures of our earthly family members, we have pictures of our heavenly family.

Today's feast is about so much more than three people 2000 years ago, it is a reminder that we are all adopted children—adopted into the greatest family in the history of the world, the Holy Family of God.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The third red day

Today we celebrate the fourth day of Christmas and the third day of on which red is the liturgical color of the day. Why today? The children known as the holy innocents.
As St. Matthew tells us,

When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi.

It is difficult for us to even imagine the terror and pain suffered by the entire community in and around Bethlehem, as parents watched helplessly as their babies were massacred.

We would like to think that this kind of violence is something that has disappeared into the barbaric past, when in fact it still takes in places around our world where ethnic and tribal identity takes precedence over a sense of our common humanity.

Here in the US people love to go on about "my rights", lately there has been a great deal of talk about the right to free speech. What we seem to forget is that every right carries with it, responsibilities, obligations. While our government should not police speech, if we are to be a civilized society, we have the right and obligation to police ourselves.

From the book of Genesis where God "spoke and it came into being" to the Gospel of John where we told that "In the beginning was the word.." we are reminded of the power of speech. Words lift up and tear down. It is via words that we pass on from one generation to the next either the love of God or hatred. Any parent knows that the simplest slip and suddenly a new word is added to their child's vocabulary, often a word they do not want the child to repeat.

Some of this we can laugh about; other times the results are no laughing matter. In how many of our recent mass killings was the perpetrator incited by words, words in books, words on the internet. Simply because we have a legal right to do something doesn't mean we should either do it ourselves, or tacitly encourage it in others, particularly in public venues.

Today we remember the massacred children in Bethlehem, around the world and right here in the U.S.A. We pray for the holy innocents, but most of all we pray for their parents and other family members who will never in this life cease to grieve.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Birth and more birth

At first glance it may seem strange that the day after Christmas the Church celebrates St. Stephen, the first martyr (protomartyr) of Christianity. It may appear an odd juxtaposition, until we remember one thing. According to our faith, neither he nor any other martyr, really died. As we all hope to do, they simply passed from this life to eternal life. They were, in effect, reborn.

On the day after we celebrate the brith of Christ, we celebrate the day on which St. Stephen was born into eternal life.

And it is also worth noting that word martyr is not primarily about dying. It is the Greek word for "witness." Christian martyrs gave witness to their faith by being killed. No Christian martyr committed suicide or homicide. This would be a misuse of the word martyr.

Today as we celebrate the second day of Christmas, and commemorate St. Stephen, let us look for some ways large or small that we can sacrifice ourselves for others.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The rarely celebrated mass

Here in Richmond dawn was just a few minutes ago. At 6:55 am the first light appeared in the sky. The sun will not rise for another 10 minutes, but the light has come.

Of the four masses traditionally celebrated at Christmas, the Mass at Dawn is probably the least common, but in many ways the one that best symbolizes the true meaning of the day.

It is not celebrated in darkness or in the full sun. After all, the fullness of the light of Christ we will not see until his second coming. But we are not left in the dark either. It is right in the middle.

Is there still darkness? Yes. For many, this Christmas is a difficult time, especially for those whose loved ones have recently passed from this life, or those who have fallen on hard times. But the dawn reminds us that the light is not only coming at some distance time in the future, but is already here.

Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest.

That is the faith we proclaim every time we celebrate mass.

The magnificence of those first streaks of light. And for those of us who live on an east coast, is there anything more beautiful than watching the sun come up over the water.

Today the greatest light in the history of the universe has dawned, God born as one like us. May that light of Christ be reborn in each of us this day, and may it shine more brightly every day, until he comes in glory.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Dream Bigger

In the next 24 hrs the Roman Missal provides for four distinct masses that can be celebrated. Working backwards: Christmas during the Day, Mass at Dawn, Midnight Mass, the Vigil of Christmas and this morning there is one last mass for Advent. It is the first reading for the last mass of Advent, that I would like to reflect upon.

It comes from 2 Samuel chapter 7. The kingdom of David is at peace and David is relaxing comfortably in his palace. One can only imagine what it must have been like.

There was only one problem. The Ark of the Covenant was still in a tent, just as it had been when the Hebrews were living like nomads. If David had built himself a palace surly others had now built homes. But God was relegated to a tent. So David decides that he should build a dwelling place for God, which seem only right.

But that night the LORD spoke to Nathan and said: “Go, tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: Should you build me a house to dwell in?

Ultimately David's son Solomon will build a temple and after its destruction a Second Temple will be built and in 70 AD it will be destroyed. The sight of these temples is still considered a holy place. But as magnificent as these temples were none can compare to the "house" the Lord promises to build for David. As Nathan reveals to David:

The LORD also reveals to you that he will establish a house for you. And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his Kingdom firm. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. Your house and your Kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.

From the house of David will come the dwelling place of God, Jesus, God incarnate. And with the outpouring of the Spirit all humanity will have the opportunity to become the dwelling place of God.

In the reading today we hear the beginning of David's plan for the first dwelling place of God, but more importantly we hear God's plan for his ultimate dwelling place on earth, humanity, beginning with the incarnation.

Yes, almost a millennium will separate these two events: David's plan and the Nativity. But such is the working of God in our world. While we measure time in nanoseconds God measures in centuries. While we can plan a building, God plans a universal kingdom. On that night in Bethlehem one baby was born and today there are more than 2 billion Christians on earth. That my brothers and sisters is the power of God.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Don't overlook the angels

On this last day before we start our Christmas masses, the readings focus our attention on John the Baptist. Particularly at Christmas we tend to think of angels with wings and halos. We can forget that the word at its root means messenger. And while God sometimes uses actual angels, often enough the angel (messenger) is another person.

In the case of John, it was his mother. In today's gospel his father is mute, it is time to name the child, and the men in the family, filling in for the father have decided to name him after his father. But the mother intervene, and does the unthinkable; she names the baby. Not only does she name him but she gives him a foreign name.

John's father could have, if for nothing else than to show that he was in charge, disputed with her and sided with his family. Instead, he does what she says.

Over the next few days we may be with people who are, to be polite, difficult. We have a tendency to simply dismiss or ignore what these people say. Certainly, that is how the men of John's family would have thought of Elizabeth.

Today's gospel reminds us that God can often use as his messenger someone whom we least expect. In these season when we celebrate the miracle of God coming into our world, perhaps we need to keep our ears open. Perhaps if we listen carefully, we may hear for the least expected place a message God wants us to hear for Christmas.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The courage to me the fool

March 13 Pope Francis was elected and May 1 the name of St. Joseph was added to the Eucharistic Prayers.

Today is ever so slightly longer, the light is coming back. And on this last Sunday of Advent the Church turns our attention to the role of Joseph.

It is so easy for us to devalue the sacrifice that Joseph made for Jesus. We focus on the angel and we forget that St. Matthew tells us that it was a a dream. No angel showed up glowing in his bedroom like the movies.

Based on a dream St. Joseph sacrificed is reputation, his manhood, according to his culture, to care for a woman and a child that was not his.

We should not kid ourselves, people back then could do baby math as well as today. Do you think that people in the village didn't talk about the two of them? And if he told any of his friends and family about the dreams, how many thought he was crazy?

What happened to him? We have no idea. He disappears as most of us will into the mists of history. There are legends and not much else.

Today, before we get focused on baby Jesus, Mary, wise men, and shepherds. The Church reminds us of St. Joseph, the model of courage, the man who knew the truth. Even if no one would believe him, he was willing to sacrifice his good name, and the normal relationship of husband and wife. He sacrificed it all, out of a singled-minded desire to do God's will.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Long night's journey into Day

We have finally hit rock bottom. Today is the darkest day of the year. Here in Richmond we get 9h 33m of daylight, St. Petersburg Russia less than 6 hrs.

How do we respond. Tomorrow we light the final candle of the advent wreath, and Tuesday night we gather to celebrate the coming of the Son.

Today's first reading is in complete opposition to the darkness. It is often associated with weddings. From the Song of Songs we hear:

Hark! my lover–here he comes springing across the mountains, leaping across the hills. My lover is like a gazelle or a young stag...For see, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of pruning the vines has come, and the song of the dove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance. Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come!

As winter is beginning the reading reminds us that it is only a temporary thing. The Son of God is coming into the world, the Sun of Justice. He will bring not just a temporary Spring but the eternal Spring, when all things will be made new. He is the light that no darkness can overcome.

On this darkest day, let us shine the light of Christ ever more brightly on the world around us. In just a couple of days we will gather to remember the moment when God was born as one like us, and changed the universe forever.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The fourth O

While I suspect O Come , O come Emmanuel may be the best known Advent song in the world, you may not understand its place in the liturgy.

Beginning on December 17th as part of Evening prayer we sing one of the O Antiphons to accompany the Magnificat. Each provides an Old Testament linkage to Christ.

Today's is the fourth: O Key of David

For us Christ is that key which opened the gates of heaven, and made it possible for humans to enter where only God and angels had previously been. In many ways however Christ is not simply the key to heaven, but the universal key. He is the key that can open hearts, open minds. He is the key to forgiveness and reconciliation.

A part of the stress of the holidays is that we are often forced to come together with people, sometimes even family members, who we may not honestly like. Rather than gritting our teeth and putting on the fake smile, perhaps the best thing we can do is pray and invite that key of David, to change us, to open our hearts to see and love whatever good there is. And there is always some good in everyone. Pray for the key of David to lock the chains of old angers and resentments that keep us bound, that we may know the freedom to which we are called.

This way every "Merry Christmas" that we utter can be sincere and come from the very depths of our heart, carried by God's grace.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Nazarite before Nazarere

Today's first reading is the story of the birth of Sampson. We must remember that in the Old Testament they thought human reproduction worked liked agriculture. The man planted the seed and whether it grew or not depended on whether the soil (the woman) was fertile or barren. Simpson's mother was thought to be barren, also erroneously understood as a curse from God.

So the angel appears to the woman and promises that she will bare a son and he will be consecrated (nazir) to God from birth.

The three rules for a Nazirite were:
— no alcohol
— no cutting of their hair
— no contact with dead bodies

Samuel also was known to have taken the Nazirite vow, which could be taken for a period of time.

Most important to us is the fact that it was when all hope seemed lost that God brought new life into the world in a place that was thought to be barren.

We are once again reminded that even in our darkest moments, we Christians remain people of hope.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Why Balaam?

Not really a familiar name, his story which occurs near the end of the Book of Numbers is a great narrative. But the reason we read this brief passage today is that the blessing of Israel was proclaimed in the time when the people of Israel had spent their 40 years in the desert but had not quite reached the promised land. The fulfillment was almost at hand, just as for us Christmas is near but not here yet.

Two things worth remembering about Balaam.

The first is that he was a prophet, but not an Israelite, a sign that we can never put limits on where, when, and with whom God works.

Secondly, and perhaps more useful to us, he refused to speak anything that was not from God.

While none of us are likely to be prophets in the Old Testament sense, over these days surrounding Christmas we are going to spending a lot of time talking. Particularly with family, it can be challenging. Perhaps we should take a lesson from Balaam, pause before we speak, and ask one question: would God approve what I am about to say? And if the answer is no, it's time to change the subject.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


In the history of Christianity there have been individuals and groups who have accepted the notion of predestination. Most notably John Calvin and the churches that trace their roots to him. There are many variants on the idea from simply God chooses some as the elect for salvation to what is often referred to as double predestination, the idea that every person is predestined either for heaven or for hell. The Dutch who settled in South Africa carried with them a particularly pernicious form of this, believing that black Africans were all cursed because they were the descendent of the cursed son of Noah, Ham.

In its mildest form you hear people, often without thinking, say things like, "You can't escape fate" or "You can't escape your destiny." From the Catholic perspective both of those statements are wrong.

Our starting point is in today's gospel:

it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.

So we start with the notion that God wills and offers salvation to all people. But what actually happens to us has nothing to do with fate or destiny. It is the result of our free will.

Yes, God created each of us with a purpose, and endowed us with gifts. But what we do with them rests squarely in our hands. I am free to seek to do the will of God, or stubbornly head down my own path.

The best news is that because God does not will that even one of us be lost, God is constantly ready to help, constantly ready to forgive. All we have to do is let him in.

Perhaps some people like the notion of fate or destiny because it absolves us of responsibility. But that isn't Catholic. We believe that the responsibility is ours right until we draw our last breath. We choose. If we are smart, we don't try to do it on our own, but always with the help of God's grace. Like the shepherd in today's gospel God is always ready to bring us back to the flock, to the pasture, to the right path.

Walk with your shepherd today.

Monday, December 9, 2013

What difference does it make?

Some people ask in the 21st century what difference does it make whether or not the Mother of God was born without original sin? On one level they are correct, had it been God's will he could have been born of the lowliest most sinful woman in the world.

All of the miracles of Jesus are important not in themselves but for what they teach us. The healings, even raising Lazarus from the dead were only momentary events. After all, did not all these people eventually pass from this life as we will? Lazarus is not still here.

The point of each of the miracles was to teach us something about God and his plan for the human race.

One of the many things we learn from the Immaculate Conception is that there are no accidental people. My birth mother was 16 year old high school girl. She may have never intended to get pregnant. She may have thought that getting pregnant with me ruined her life. And I have no doubt she was traumatized. But from the moment God created my soul and placed it in my microscopic body God had a plan for me. God saw how I fit into his universe.

And so it is that God participates in the creation of every human being. In the case of Mary, being conceived without original sin was a unique gift she needed to fulfill her role in the plan. But God does the same with each of us. God gave you the gifts you need to fulfill your place in the world.

People ask why the Church seems "obsessed with sex." For us, sex is meant to be this magnificent collaboration between a man a woman and God, out of which come a unique new person. Each person is born with a unique mission, each born with a unique combination of gifts. Even so called identical twins are not truly identical.

Today as we celebration the moment Mary was conceived offers us a chance to reflect on each human life, including our own. And give thanks to God.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Light another candle

As is the way during advent, it is definitely colder and darker and more wintery than last Sunday, so we light the second candle.

It seems most appropriate that the weekend our readings turn to John the Baptist, the world mourns the death of Nelson Mandela. The year he entered jail I was two. The year he came out I celebrated my second anniversary as a priest. And yet when he came out, he did not come out angry, vindictive, and bitter. 27 years in prison and yet he remained a man of truth, a man of hope.

St. Paul describes God as "the God of endurance and encouragement."
The word translated encouragement here has at its root the image of someone who stands at your side providing constant comfort. Imagine the person you love most standing beside you with their arm around you. That is our God. And it is that faith that enables the endurance to which we are called.

Nelson Mandela said, "I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying." While I am not canonizing him, the truth is, that is our understanding of a saint. Mother Teresa put it slightly differently, "God has not called us to be successful. He has called us to be faithful."

We should not forget that John was beheaded, and Jesus was crucified. And according to St. Mark the plot against Jesus started after he healed the man with the withered hand.

If we strive to be good Christians, if we remain people who speak the truth, we should expect suffering. But with God by our side we can be people who fight the good fight and simultaneously remain people of peace. Knowing that in the "a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse."

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Whole new meaning

Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.

So ends today's gospel.

We have just past both Black Friday and Cyber Monday and in the next two weeks how many millions will be spent, much of it on stuff that we neither need nor want? How much of this shopping will be done on credit cards that people can't afford to pay off?

While I'm not suggesting that we all turn into Ebenezar Scrooge, perhaps this reading reminds us that the best presents we can give this year may be things that cost us nothing. What does it really cost me to reach out to someone who is alone this season? What does it cost to let someone go ahead of you?

Give freely what we have received freely. — Love.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

More than ever

As our society becomes more and more mobile, the primary image from today's readings becomes ever more necessary— the Rock.

In the first reading Isiaiah instructs us:

Trust in the LORD forever! For the LORD is an eternal Rock.

And in the gospel Jesus instructs about the house built on Rock.

In our modern world where we can easily live hundreds if not thousands of mile away from family and even our close friends, we are reminded of the need to maintain a solid foundation in our lives. Like the image of the wellsprings, this foundation is not something external but internal, spiritual.

God does not change, God is that eternal unmoving rock. Unfortunately we can and do move. Sometimes we intentionally move and sometimes it is just a case of unintentional drift. Often we don't even notice until one day we look down and there is either sand, or even quicksand under us, and then we panic.

The readings remind us that we need to make a part of our daily lives to look down and check our footing. We must stay firmly planted on the Rock. This does not mean that we should be intransigent.

When we are standing still with our feet firmly planted on the rock we call earth, it is rotating at over 1000 mph, and orbiting the sun at over 67,000 miles per hour. We are in motion even when we think we aren't.

Change and motion are both constant and inevitable. Change is good. It is how God created us to be. But we need both and anchor and a destination.

Look at the things you are doing today. Where are you standing? Where are you going?

And, by the way, don't forget to put out the shoes.
Tomorrow is St. Nicholas.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Pass it on

Lately we hear a lot in the Church about evangelization and the New Evangelization. Truth is, there is nothing new about it. From the beginning the task of the disciple has been the same. Once we have come to an awareness the love of Christ in our own lives, we must necessarily share that love. Just as real faith will necessarily produce good works, a real awareness of the love of God in our lives will radiate out.

In today's Gospel, Jesus feeds the crowd but indirectly. Jesus takes the 7 loaves, blesses them, breaks them, gives them to the disciples. It is the disciples who feed the crowd. They pass on what they have received.

An even more important message is for us who live in a culture of zero sum games where we think that if one person gets another loses. In this gospel every one is satisfied and there are 7 baskets left over. Once again the number that represents perfection. But such is the nature of love; it comes in infinite supply.

Evangelization is not a program. It doesn't require a committee, and it certainly isn't new. It is the fundamental way of life of every Christian. From the moment our soul is created, we are loved by God. From the moment of our baptism we are adopted as sons and daughters of God, and God who is love dwells in us. That love of God wants to reach out and spread, through us, to others.

The natural movement of love is outward. Restraining it and turning it inward is what take effort, and is unnatural and is called sin.

When we evangelize it is not that we are bringing someone something new. Because they are created in the image and likeness of God, and their soul is from God, every human being is loved by God and has an innate experience of that Love. We merely help others to see it, to name it, to enter more deeply into it.

Share the light today!

Monday, December 2, 2013

The precarious balance

All week we will be reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah. While the images of the actual cleansing of Jerusalem can be startling the results are magnificent.

For over all, the LORD’s glory will be shelter and protection: shade from the parching heat of day, refuge and cover from storm and rain.

Notice though that there is no promise here that God is going to set the temperature of the sun at a perfect 72°, or change the world so that there is no rain or storms. Life is going to involve parching hot days, rain and even storms.

First of all because none of those things are evil in themselves. Even things like wildfires serve a purpose.

Secondly, we are once again we are reminded that free will remains. Even now that Jesus has come free will remains, and some people will still choose to do bad.

The good news is that we do not need to be afraid. During the worst storm, we know where to find our shelter. As St. John reminds us:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.

As we move through this season of Advent may the perfect love of God, cast out all fear from our hearts. In the storms of life may we find shelter in God.

And, don't forget to share the light of that first Advent candle with someone today.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Here comes the darkness

Like it's Jewish predecessor, the Catholic calendar is built around the natural cycles of life: the daily, monthly, and annual cycles that we see year after year. That is why our calculation of Easter uses a combination of solar and lunar cycles and and choice of December 25, is not based on a belief that Jesus was born in December but is symbolic.

From now until December 21, every day will get darker and darker until December 21 the darkest day of the year. How do we as Christians respond to the ever increasing darkness? Are we afraid of the dark? Do we sink into depression? No, we light a candle. And with every darker week, we light another candle. This year, dec 1, dec 8, dec 15, and dec 22 we light another candle.

And on December 25, as the days begin to grow brighter we proclaim the prologue to John's gospel

this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it

Bring on the darkness. We remain fearless. In today's second reading reading St. Paul tells us to "put on the armor of light."

Today as we start a new liturgical cycle it is time for us decide. This year let us be children of light in the darkness. At home, at work, every day let us be the one who bring the light. At the end of each day, we should be able to look back and name at least one time during that day when we brought light.