Christmas – The Light Among The Darkness

We are going into our third year of the COVID pandemic and it is beating us down, making us tired of the ‘new normal’ and pushing us into hopelessness and despair. It is a darkness that does not seem to have any ending. But it is still Christmas, and we are in the middle of the Octave of Christmas. We are celebrating the gift of light among the darkness. ‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.[1] Christ is born!! Light is piercing these dark times. Hope is come among us.

The Octave of Christmas allows us to dive deeply and celebrate what the Nativity of Lord means to us and our journey; and this 8 day celebration of Christmas more important this year than other years. The Octave is celebrated with different feast days that bring the import of Christ’s birth to us.

Usually, the day after Christmas[2] we celebrate the feast of St. Stephen, one of the first seven deacons and the first disciple to be martyred. He witnessed to the strength of faith and the love he had for Jesus in the face tremendous adversities. His darkness was profound, he was stoned to death, but the love of God pierced the darkness and showed him the path.

But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together upon him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.[3]

Stephen’s witness to Christ stirred the hearts of at least one, Saul, soon to be the Apostle Paul. His story shows how Jesus stirs our hearts as well if we let him. The final moments of St. Stephen show us that light is brighter than darkness is dark, Love is stronger than fear and hate, Hope defeats despair. By his martyrdom, he provides assurance that the darkness of COVID is temporary, it is God that is eternal.

The following day is the Feast of St. John. St. John testifies to the love and hope of God in his Gospel. He testifies to the birth of our Lord in those beautiful words that Holy Mother Church has used during the Mass of Christmas day for millennia:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.[4]

He witnessed to the Light that destroys darkness.

The following day we celebrate a horrible action that is yet a hopeful sign; the Feast of the Holy Innocents – a massacre of terrible proportions, a tragedy beyond all comprehension, and the hope that shines through its awfulness; the Love of God that makes good come from darkness. To mankind it seems that God allows these tragedies, but God does not will the death of any of His creation. He won’t prevent death, but He will bring good from it. We have hope in the knowledge, that God is always with us, come what may; and, that in spite the darkness, if we follow the light, we will win through to the glory and peace of our eternal home. As with the three men (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego)[5] in the fiery furnace, if we submit to will of God and embrace the light of Christ we too will triumph.

The memorial of St. Thomas Becket comes next. We celebrate a man that reached great heights in this world. He was the chancellor to King Henry II of England and the archbishop of Canterberry. All of which did not prevent him from being murdered by order of his king. His triumph was his strength in the face of trials and following God over others. He understood that ‘…because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.[6] he did not fear the darkness of men.

The Feast of the Holy Family, which is always on the Sunday within the Octave, we celebrate the strength of the Holy Family and by extension our own families. The struggles that Mary and Joseph had were considerable, overwhelming; darkness seemed to envelope them, but their faith strengthened them; they not only embraced the light but gave birth to it and nurtured it. And this is what our families should do. Our families are witnesses to this strength and love; or should be. It is within the family that faith is given birth and nurtured; parents witnessing to the love that they received and grew up on. Our family is the domestic church, where we grow within the embrace of Christ. Our family is the living witness to the Holy Trinity – dynamic, self-giving love – the help we give and receive through love. Families pass forward the light that was given to them. From our first entrance into the mystical body of Christ we have the light is given to us. In baptism we light a candle for the child and pass it to a godparent or parent hearing the words: ‘Receive the light of Christ.’ The celebrant then says: ‘Parents and godparents, this light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly. This child of yours has been enlightened by Christ. He (she) is to walk always as a child of the light. May he (she) keep the flame of faith alive in his (her) heart. When the Lord comes, may he (she) go out to meet him with all the saints in the heavenly kingdom.[7] Families are that important and God is within each to help.

The Octave of Christmas ends with the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God. She is our mother too. Her faith and life brought her to the Annunciation and God’s choice of her as Mother to His Son. This Solemnity not only celebrates the Blessed Mother and her journey in light but it brings us back to the Nativity.  Her life is a life of faith! And faith brings hope and hope resides in the Light. Throughout our lives we return to the Christmas season to remind ourselves of the Light; we are children of the Light, and we reflect this Light to those in darkness. It is important to remember and reaffirm this truth, we are children of the Light, and as children of the Light we reflect it with our lives because we know this Light brings the hope of salvation.  There is an old saying: ‘the shadow of the cross falls back across the manager’ meaning Christ was born to die for us and this is important for us to embrace; but more important is for us to realize that there is no shadow without light – the Light of the resurrection.

[1] Isaiah 9:2
[2] This year the day after the Solemnity of the Nativity of Lord is the Feast of the Holy Family
[3] Acts 7:55-58
[4] John 1:1-5
[5] Daniel 3: 8-25
[6] 1 John 2
[7] Rite of Catholic Baptism

Every Day

Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…[1]

Today’s reading for Morning Prayer (Lauds) strikes to the heart of who we are called to be. It also throws at us the greatest fear we have as devout followers of the Lord.

First, our calling: witnesses to those around us, especially those who are indifferent or antagonistic to the teachings of Christ. As His disciples we radiate our love by actions more than by words, though both are important together. If we speak with clear heart and profound logic but are broadcasting a miserable personality our words are hollow or as St. Paul wrote so eloquently ‘If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.[2]. Why? Because our faith should be affective in our lives, it should bring about in us a great change and in turn be how we live. The life of Mary and the saints are examples of how this faith brings us to live as Christ lived.

Second, this calling and its result in our lives strikes fear in us because of our doubts that we can live up to such a calling; we are weak humans after all. But so are the saints St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) said “Saints are only sinners who keep trying.”[3] and to a very, very great degree this is true. But they are saints that looked to the Lord at every moment.

Finally, take heart, trust in the Lord, the saints did every time they ‘failed’, indeed every moment of their lives. Each moment you find yourself doubting your strength and worried about your perseverance look to Jesus, pray to Him for strength and if you can’t find the words in your heart use the words of St Josemariá Escrivá: ‘Each day, O my God, I am less sure of myself and more sure of you![4]

[1] Phil 2:14-15
[2] 1Cor 13:1
[3] St Teresa of Calcutta
[4] St Josemariá Escrivá, The Way #729

Our Lady of Good Help

Today is the Memorial of Our Lady of Good Help. Up in Wisconsin, northeast of Green Bay towards Door County is the place where in 1859 our Lady appeared to a young girl Adele Briese and said:

“Gather the Children in this wild country and teach them what they need to know for salvation.”

This simple, quiet shrine is on the level with Lourdes in France and Fatima in Portugal. A place where our Blessed Mother came to us and urged us towards her son. Her son, that is what the children need to know for salvation. Her son, that is who we need to come closer to for our own journey. It is the most important lesson any person needs to know in their life – Jesus Christ.

Twice a year, I would make a pilgrimage to this site to renew in my heart what our Blessed Mother told Adele Briese. It was impactful, the quiet serenity, or as I like to call it the Holy Hush, of the shrine was just like Lourdes and Fatima where surrounded by other pilgrims you felt as if you were alone with our Lady and Jesus.

But proximity in miles is not what is needed as much as proximity in heart. We can be anywhere as long as our heart is next to Mary and Jesus. Take a few moments today (every day) and place ourselves next to them. Allow Mary to bring you closer to our heart’s desire and He will bring our hearts closer to salvation.

What is needed to know for salvation? Ask Mary.


 Jn 6:60-69

Do you also want to leave?[1] Jesus asks His closest followers. Many of his disciples had just decided that what they heard from Jesus was not to their liking. They were not happy with what following Jesus entailed. “This saying is hard; who can accept it?[2] they left: they “returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.[3]

So, Jesus turned to his closest followers to see how they felt. “Do you also want to leave?[4]  Jesus asks this to all His followers; then and now, throughout history. He has shown us the way to heaven by His actions and His words. His teachings are universal, eternal, absolute and the best for us. They are so because they are the truth; not just a truth but the truth. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…[5] He tells us. He is the eternal Word of God. He is not a truth that was good only for his time on earth but eternal Truth. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever.[6] A famous biblical quote, but do we live it?

Christ doesn’t force us to this revelation, His love for us allows us to decide. We are given the freedom to decide. And it is our understanding of freedom, brothers and sisters, that clouds our ability to see clearly.

We use the word ‘freedom’ easily, but do we truly understand its true meaning. Do we use it as a building moment or do we ‘also want to leave’ the path of eternal wisdom because it doesn’t suit us.

How many of us have run into the problem of children rebelling against our decisions and rules, only to have them, many years later, admit we were right, either verbally or by their actions. How many times have we seen decisions being challenged and the cry of independence and freedom being tossed about.

Freedom, isn’t being able to do what you want regardless of the effect on those around us; this is anarchy, chaos. We are social animals, living in community and following our Lord in trying to build a vision of Heaven here on earth. So, what is freedom? It was Lord Acton[7], who reduced all rhetoric about freedom to its base: “freedom is not the power of doing what we like, but the right of being able to do what we ought.[8]

Freedom, our free decision to choose needs truth – absolute truth. We are searching for the ability to be free and by necessity that means to follow the truth of our creation because that is how we are made, what we are made for. The old Baltimore Catechism states this right at the beginning – question #6: Q. Why did God make you?  A. God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven.

This means that there are trail markers, that there are right and wrong steps that we have to navigate to be free. So, how do we fulfill this lesson and thus come to the true understanding of freedom? Jesus Christ is the answer; and why? Because Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life”[9] Jesus didn’t condition this basic truth. He didn’t say that He was a way, the relative truth, an easy life. No, He said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.”[10]

Brothers and sisters, we are here worshipping the one true God. We are preparing ourselves to dine at the eternal banquet of salvation. When it is our turn to receive the body and blood of Lord we say ‘Amen’; meaning that we agree with everything that Holy Mother Church received from Christ and passes on to us. Not some things, and not just some of the time; but everything and for every moment of our lives. The apostles believed this even when many of the followers left the journey. Because, as they told Jesus: “You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.[11]

I pray that when Jesus looks into my heart he sees a man who is trying to answer His continual question: “Do you also want to leave?[12] with the words of His faithful apostles: “We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.[13] So, in my prays I include: ‘with your help Lord, please make me strong with your truths and set me free.’

[1] John 6:67
[2] John 6:60
[3] John 6:66
[4] John 6:67
[5] John 14:6
[6] Heb 13:8
[7] John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton, 13th Marquess of Groppoli, 1/10/1834 – 6/19/1902
[8] Lord Acton“The Roman Question” from The Rambler (January 1860). The quote has also used ‘liberty’ instead of ‘freedom’
[9] John 14:6
[10] ibid
[11] John 6:69
[12] John 6:68
[13] John 6:69

As I Love You

We are winding down Eastertide, two weeks from now is Pentecost, the celebration of the descent of the Holy Spirit and the birth of church, and as we come closer to Pentecost and the end of the Easter season, the Church brings us back to the Last Supper, the start of Jesus’ passion, with today’s Gospel[1] passage.

We are brought back to a solemn moment. Jesus is at table with his closet followers, his Twelve Apostles. He knows that this is the last time they will be gathered in this way.

Nothing is carelessly said during this solemn moment. These are the Lord’s final words to his followers before His passion. Jesus explains that He has loved us, and that He longs for us to remain in His love, to stay in His friendship, so that we may experience the indescribable joy that flows from true love. And then He lays down His summary of all his teaching and of his entire life: “love one another as I love you.”[2]

The Ten Commandments of the Old Testament were summarized by Jesus during His public life in two commandments of the New Testament: Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. But now, at the climax of His earthly mission, Jesus combines those two into a final, summarized commandment: ‘love one another as I love you’[3]. In a very real way this is the Christian journey plan. The journey map towards heaven.

At the Last Supper, with the words we just heard, Jesus was preparing His followers against evil and all the forces of darkness. And the Church He is forming through His Apostles will take that same plan; Holy Mother Church is the living witness to ‘love one another as I love you’[4]. By her witnesses – the saints, by her devotion to Lord, by her constant guidance towards the Triune God. By her radiating the love of God she points us towards the eternal light and peace of Heaven. She bleeds when we bleed, she cries when we cry, she celebrates when we celebrate and most importantly; she brings Christ to us and us to Christ.

Her witness and proclamation to us is combined with her urging us to use it in our lives and take it to the ends of the earth and to every corner of human history and culture. The plan is so simple and straightforward, summed up in this single, final, definitive command: ‘love one another as I love you’[5].

Friends, we are the loved ones of Christ, and He is our most loved. Our experiences in love with those who have been in our lives help us understand what true love is. Those who have been in our lives and have witnessed to us this special love; those who nurtured us, whether it be our mother whom we celebrate today or other special and loved people, have shown us what is most important in our lives and help us to desire to be part of the Lord’s final command: ‘love one another as I love you’[6]. This is the life we are called to, that we are called to bring to the world.

Today’s gospel is the start of our Lord’s passion, the great work that destroyed death and restored our life, it is His most intense proclamation of ‘love one another as I love you’[7]. Christ’s whole life on earth was one great action of love after another.  Holy Mother Church’s witness (mentioned earlier) is through its members, the family of Jesus, us. We take what we have received and pass it forward to those lost and looking. But the question that comes to my mind is: how do I hope to get even remotely close to witnessing like Christ, like the saints, like you?

St Josemaria Escriva said to his followers, and to us: ‘Do everything for love. That way there are no little things. Everything is big.[8]

In everything we do, we should do it for Christ, we should do it for Love. Normal little moments made special by our faith in God will be witness to those around us, and they may be a big moment for those who are lost, unloved.

Every public thing we do will be a more believable and impactful witness to others by the strength we receive from the Holy Spirit through the quiet of our soul. We do for others, we love others, because we do it for the love we have for the Triune and loving God.

During an interview, when the cameras had stopped Saint Theresa of Calcutta responded to a comment from the interviewer when he said: ‘Your works speak so strongly of the love you have for these poorest of the poor’. She answered: ‘I don’t do it for them only, I do it because my Lord loves me and He expects nothing less from those He loves and who loves Him.’ This is important, our love for God energizes our love for each other.

But I am preaching to the choir, so to speak; as I mentioned two weeks ago, there is a loving community here at St. John the Baptist. You changed my ministry to you into being welcomed to your family. You are a great example to Christ’s lived witness ‘love one another as I love you’[9]. As I leave here, and move south, I want you to know that, after five years I have come to that command is this parish’s lived mission statement. But we can’t rest on our laurels, we can’t be satisfied with how things are. As good as they are we still need to come closer to the love that Jesus gave to us and better in passing it to those around us. I am taking your witness with me and will bring it to those I will encounter, may you continue to inspire others, and may you continue to grow your love for others as you all journey towards He who is Love.

This expectation might seem daunting, and beyond our strength. But the Lord looks at the heart not the actions. He doesn’t expect us to succeed all the time. He only expects us to try with love in our hearts. I would like to finish with words that I keep in my wallet. They are words that provide strength throughout my journey. May they do the same for you on this journey.

There are times when the burden of need and our own limitations might tempt us to become discouraged. But precisely then we are helped by the knowledge that, in the end, we are only instruments in the Lord’s hands; and this knowledge frees us from the presumption of thinking that we alone are personally responsible for building a better world. In all humility we will do what we can, and in all humility we will entrust the rest to the Lord. It is God who governs the world, not we. We offer him our service only to the extent that we can, and for as long as he grants us the strength. To do all we can with what strength we have, however, is the task which keeps the good servant of Jesus Christ always at work: “The love of Christ urges us on[10][11]

Indeed, ‘the love of Christ urges us on!.’



[1] Jn 15:9-17
[2] Jn 15:12
[3] ibid
[4] ibid
[5] ibid
[6] ibid
[7] ibid
[8] The Way #813, St Josemaria Escriva
[9] Jn 15:12
[10] 2 Cor 5:14
[11] Deus Caritas Est #35, Pope Benedict XVI

Easter People

There is a liturgical saying concerning the Nativity: ‘The shadow of the cross falls back across the manager’; meaning that Christ was born to die. In fact, the shadow of the cross falls back upon all humanity, because of this very reason for Christ’s incarnation. He died for all of us. However, Catholicism is joyful faith; even on the most solemn liturgical celebrations like Good Friday we can’t help feeling joy and peace underneath our reflective sorrow. During the penitential seasons of Advent and Lenten joy bursts forth on Gaudete and Laetare Sundays. The great Exultet, at the opening of the Easter Vigil, poetically proclaims this understanding of our joy when describing Adam’s fall: ‘O happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer![1]

In short, there would be no shadow of the cross if it wasn’t for the light of the resurrection.

This is the third week of the great season of the church that focuses on celebrating the central fact of our faith – Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Venerable Fulton Sheen wrote:

The Cross had asked the questions; the Resurrection had answered them…The Cross had asked: “Why does God permit evil and sin to nail Justice to a tree?” The Resurrection answered: “That sin, having done its worst, might exhaust itself and thus be overcome by Love that is stronger than either sin or death.[2]

Eastertide celebrates this answer to the cross, our ascent towards salvation given to us by our Lord and God. It celebrates unbounded joy and peace because our Lord has done for us what we can never do for ourselves. It celebrates the radiance of divine light in a darkened world. It celebrates Love!

This action, the greatest of gifts that God gives us, opens heaven up to us. It opens our eyes to this truth, our ears to understanding, and our hearts to the Trinity. It also opens our very being to the calling of ministry, a ministry of revelation of this gift. It is our obligation and privilege of proclaiming it to everyone. But a question comes to mind, what does our witness really mean for those we witness to – what does our action do?

Today’s Gospel relates to us the importance of proclaiming the good news – we see the disciples return to from Emmaus to relate their journey with the risen Lord.

The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of bread. While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”[3]

Bringing the Gospel to others, brings Christ. Not a memory but the risen Lord; not a reminiscence but a relationship. One that we have, and God desires to have with everyone. It is our calling to bring the gospel to the world. In a very real way we follow our patron St John the Baptist, we herald the appearance of Lord in our midst. This is what we are called to do at the end of every Mass when we are dismissed, sent forth.

There are four dismissals for the Mass that the Deacon or Priest can use.

– Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.
– Go forth, the Mass is ended.
– Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.
– Go in peace.

Of the four the closest translation for the dismissal used for millennia ‘Ite Misa Est’ is ‘Go forth, the Mass is ended’. A more accurate translation is ‘Go, you are sent’; it is a sending of each of us to continue the Mass in the world by proclaiming the good news, in action and in words.

You might have noticed that I mostly use: ‘Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.’ It is a beautiful command from the Lord to proclaim the good news of the Resurrection; to bring to those around us what has been given to us: joy and peace of salvation and the path to it.

In the first reading we see Peter living this out. Peter brings the gospel to those who killed Jesus. He tells the truth, regardless of what might happen to him. He also brings the forgiveness of Christ. What Christ said on the cross when he cried to His Father ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do[4] is manifested in Peter’s actions and words. “Now I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did; but God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer. Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.[5]

Brothers and sisters, as the darkness of the COVID pandemic seems to be brightening a bit. As we look forward to a return to a more normal life let’s not settle for normal; let’s climb higher by fulfilling our calling to go forward and proclaim to the world the good news that this season celebrates. As with Peter so with us, don’t be afraid, be strengthened by the knowledge that Christ has gone before us, is walking next to us and bring him to others.

Our call to witness is an obligation, born out of Love, that we must respond to. Do we continue to just go about living our lives and passing by each other on street withholding the help Christ has commanded to us before His glorious ascension, when He said: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…[6] Or do we, you and I, respond to our Risen Lord’s command and bring Him to others by witnessing to the gift that Easter Celebrates. It is up to us, but it seems to me that this year of darkness, and the isolation and polarization that it has inflicted upon us and all society, should drive us to the light and joy that Christ has offered on Easter almost 2000 years ago. Let’s go out, sent from the Mass and show who we are to those we meet.

We are the Easter people and Alleluia is our song[7]

[1] Exultet
[2] Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Lent and Easter Wisdom, 110
[3] Lk 24:35-36 (NAB)
[4] Lk 23:34 (NAB)
[5] Acts 3:17-19 (NAB)
[6] Mt 28:19-20a (NAB)
[7] Pope St John Paul II, Angeles Nov 30 1986

Living a Life of Prayer

During the Sacred Triduum this year I followed our Lord by meditating on the ‘Our Father’ that He taught His disciples. For two millennia the Our Father has been the prayer par excellence which should be no surprise; after all, our Lord gave it to us and told us to use it:

‘Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.[1]

It was important to Jesus that we learn this prayer and use it. Countless scholars have dissected it and wrote about how perfect it is. But as Jesus shows us during His passion it isn’t just words to recite to our Heavenly Father, but a life-plan on how to live.

His ultimate lesson to His disciples, and us, on how to pray was at the end of His earthly journey. He witnessed the importance of His prayer to those with Him, against Him, and of course all His followers down to us and on. Our Lord’s Passion is His living example of the Our Father.

Our Father, Who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name.
Jesus talks to His Father. His dialog at the Garden of Gethsemane during his agony: And he said, “Abba, Father…”[2]. His dialog with His Father on the Cross, in front of his executioners and onlookers: ‘And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “E’lo-i, E’lo-i, la’ma sabach-tha’ni?” which means, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”’[3] He shows the importance of continual dialog with the Father. It is important in our life as it roots us in the solid gift of Love and strengthens us for whatever comes our way.

Thy Kingdom come. Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.
Jesus accepts the will of His Father, and in doing so the Father’s Kingdom comes to earth. At the Garden of Gethsemane, when He wishes events would be other than they are, but He says to His Father: ‘…Father, all things are possible to thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what thou wilt.”’[4]

When, at last He completed His Father’s plan, from the Cross: ‘Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.’[5] As with our Lord, so with us; our fullness as a human will be realized in heaven. As we journey on this earth we both try to grow to that fullness as well as bring a glimpse of the heavenly here. The only way for us to do this is to submit to the will of He who knows all.

Give us this day our daily bread.
On Holy Thursday our Lord gives us our daily bread as He institutes the Eucharist and those who will give it to the flock, the priesthood: ‘And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.’[6]

The Lord offers us His body to the work of bringing us to the kingdom and a little of the kingdom to earth. This communion brings us closest to Christ, and Christ, in turn nourishes us, strengthens us. He said as much: ‘He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.[7]

And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Hung on the cross the Lord turns His mercy towards His killers: ‘And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”’[8]  Then Christ, nailed to the Cross, forgives the good thief who asks for forgiveness: ‘And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”’[9]

Later, after His resurrection, on the shore of Sea of Tiberias Jesus forgives Peter’s denials: ‘When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”’[10]

True love requires us to love all, not just those who are friends and especially those who mean us evil. Communion with Christ should remove any distinction between people when it comes to our witness of love.

And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
His resurrection, the assurance that God will not leave us alone; that God will never leave us to our own devices or the designs of the prince of earth. We see Christ, again on the shores of the Sea of Tiberias tell his apostles ‘”Follow me.”[11]

Brothers and sisters, this living lesson by our Lord on the power of prayer gives us the strength to persevere in our own prayer life. It is never too late to start and always timely to correct. Let’s use the Our Father as a model of how to move from vocal prayer to mental prayer to action prayer.
[1] Mt 6:9-13
[2] Mk 14:36
[3] Mk 15:34
[4] Mk 14:36
[5] Lk 23:46
[6] Mk 14:22-24
[7] Jn 6:56
[8] Lk 23:34
[9] Lk 23:43
[10] Jn 21:15-17
[11] Jn 21-19

The Greatest Music

The Greatest Music

This day is the great day. Today, Easter Sunday, our Lord has risen from the dead. Today, death has died. Today, Jesus Christ rises from hell to the melodic sounds of rejoicing Angel Choirs. Their melody is interwoven with awe, glory, joy, majesty, and love.  If we humans could hear their beautiful hymn we would be overcome with rapture about our faith.

But there are other hymns being sung this day. Today, we echo the angel choirs with our own melodies of rejoicing. Our faith has been rewarded and indeed we have been given the chance at redemption. Death, defeated by Jesus has lost control of us. We can step away from death as we walk the path Our Lord has shown us, is walking with us.  Our hymn of loving triumph and hopeful joy explodes from us in our prayers, our actions, our love.

But, maybe the most powerful hymn sung this day is from the most unlikely source. Today, the loudest hymn is the howling rage that blows from Hell. Today, Satan has lost control of mankind. Today, he no longer enslaves us with death unless we let him. Today, his pride has been imploded by his realization that he is not the controller of destiny, that he has no power and that we have what he doesn’t; a chance of redemptive salvation. His existence is one of extreme frustration and as much as he denies it, he is forced to acknowledge his existence is from God, a God who will not allow him to ruin so many others.

Brothers and sisters, all these hymns together make one choral masterpiece. They make the greatest polyphony to the glory of God. Thanks be to God that he has chosen us to be part of Christ’s choir.

Make Easter ring in our ears and hearts, pour forth from our minds and voices every day going forward. Let us make our own, in our own beautiful voice and lives, these ancient words:

O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages.” (St. John Chrysostom, Easter Homily)

And Satan’s melody howls even louder!

Christus resurrexit! Vere resurrexit!


Closing of Christmastide is today. Boy, has he grown, last week he was a toddler and this week he is 30 years old. Don’t worry on February 2nd he will be 12 years old. This seemingly confusing liturgical year timeline isn’t confusing at all. It is not meant to be an historical timeline; it is meant to reveal to each of us Jesus Chris. Saint Maximus of Turin wrote in explanation:

Reason demands that this feast of the Lord’s baptism which I think could be called the feast of his birthday, should follow soon after the Lord’s birthday, during the same season, even though many years intervened between the two events. At Christmas he was born a man’ today he is reborn sacramentally. Then he was born from the Virgin, today he is born in mystery. When he was born a man his mother Mary held him close to her heart; when he is born in mystery, God the Father embraces him with his voice when He says: This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.[1]

Today, also is the start of Jesus’ public ministry. Today, Jesus starts His journey towards His crucifixion – from the river to cross. We start our journey with Him. But what is our goal? Well of course the goal is heaven, spending eternity with our God. The bible states what eternity is: ‘And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do.[2]

And to get there, to be with Jesus in heaven requires us to journey as Jesus did. Today’s gospel[3] proclaims to us. ‘In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.” [4]As with Jesus so with us. We desire that God is ‘well pleased[5] with each of us.

In Matthew we see that this desire, this hunger for a ‘healing’ was practically universal. ‘And there went out to him all the country of Judea, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.[6] The people desired to be whole and they knew they weren’t, there was an emptiness that they couldn’t get rid of. When the John the Baptist came they went to him to see and maybe succeed in relieving this loneliness this emptiness.

John tells them it isn’t Him but the one who comes after. ‘And he preached, saying, ‘“After me comes he who is mightier than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”[7] We hear at the start of today’s Gospel. And Jesus arrives, He participates, and He elevates the whole ritual. People see and hear the Holy Trinity – they are aware; they have an epiphany of what God has in store for them and what they hunger for ‘with thee I am well pleased’[8]

But, now the question arises: how do I please our Heavenly Father? It is to the second reading that we look to find this answer. ‘For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.[9] We please God by living the life that we are called to by Him, our creator. We embrace the Father and all that entails.

Brothers and sisters, it is imperative that as children of God we come to grips with both the goal of our baptism and the obligation it calls us to. In this past year we have witnessed horrible things here in our country. People of differing opinions have shown what happens when we push God aside and we ignore our baptismal gift. We have seen citizens turn to violence because they feel trapped and they can’t recognize the divine within each of us. We have seen what the world can be if we don’t look up. We are stubborn people; after the horrors of the twentieth century we seemingly haven’t learned anything. Technology and science have bounded forward but left morality and love behind. When God is ignored man fills the void and what happens is anything but human. Lets embrace our baptism, let’s strive to hear God speak of us: with thee I am well pleased.[10]

[1] Office of Readings, Liturgy of the Hours Friday after Epiphany
[2] Jn 17:3-4
[3] Mk 1:7-11
[4] Mk 1: 9-11
[5] Mk 1:11
[6] Mk 1:5
[7] Mk 1:7-8
[8] Mk 1:11
[9] 1 Jn 5:3
[10] Mk 1: 11

Live the Church’s Year

Happy Epiphany.

If we were celebrating it on its designated feast day it would be this coming Wednesday January 6th which is the 12th day of Christmas. Today, count yourself as lucky because you just have 2 clergy up here, not 9 Ladies dancing.

Though the Octave of Christmas ended on January 1st, the intense celebration of Christmastide still continues until next Sunday, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. In fact, even though the season is officially over then, we still wind down from it until February 2nd the Feast of the Presentation. You may have noticed in recent years the infant Jesus is still in the sanctuary until then, we just move him to in front of this Ambo. This is why the term ‘Christmastide’ is more accurate than the term ‘Christmas Season’. Seasons have arbitrary start and end dates; one turns off while the next turns on. But that is only for us; as far as our climate seasons are concerned, I do not really think the earth notices a change from December 20th to December 21st. Last day of fall was much like the first day of Winter. Tides, on the other hand ebb and flow, slowly. That is how Holy Mother Church’s Liturgical seasons really work. We still have Advent aspects in our Christmas-tide, and we will slowly ebb from it towards Lent (ignoring the ordinary time in between).

Today, within Christmastide, Holy Mother Church celebrates one of its most ancient celebrations, it even predates the celebration of Christmas. Epiphany celebrates the manifestation of Jesus to the World. The most recognizable aspect of Epiphany is the Wise Men, the Magi. But in times past, and even now in the Liturgy of the Hours, this celebration highlights three epiphanies: The Magi, The Baptism of the Lord, and the Wedding Feast of Cana. This evening, for those praying Vespers (Evening Prayer) we will pray this antiphon:

Three mysteries mark this holy day: today the star leads the Magi to the infant Christ; today water is changed into wine for the wedding feast; today Christ wills to be baptized by John in the river Jordan to bring us salvation.

These three epiphanies are celebrated in an elevated way; they are that important. They mark, as I mentioned earlier manifestations of Christ to the World. These ‘ah-hah’ moments when God’s creatures realized in a most profound way that God is among us. They are beacons of hope that, if we allow them, will change our lives and history.

But Epiphanies are constantly in front of us, not just the ones celebrated in special feast days; Christ manifests himself in many ways, such as: The Holy Bible, the word of God; Holy Mother Church, the bride of Christ. To name a few important examples.

There is one way that we can embrace the panoply of these events, at least those of special universal import.

The Proclamation of Easter and the Movable feasts that was just chanted, is more than a cute interlude in the Mass (or painful depending on how I did); it announces to us great days in the liturgical year that don’t fall on a set date. And it directly points us to the Church’s year, a year filled with great seasonal tides and many feast days of varying degrees. A year, that if we allow it in our hearts, creates within us a constant epiphany, and thus a growing change in our hearts, strengthens the direction of our journey.

This liturgical calendar isn’t just a schedule of color and readings, it is a life altering plan. By embracing the year and its celebrations we come to:

  • Know many of the graces that God rains upon us.
  • Come to understand what Jesus Christ did for and means to us.
  • Learn about how others before us, Saints, succeeded in their journey and maybe help us with ours.
  • Bring a light filled and hopeful atmosphere to each of us and our families.
  • Strengthen family bonds.
  • Strengthen us for our obligations and responsibilities.
  • Brighten our light in the world, so that we may help lead others.

And celebrate them all!

In short, build us into being the heralds of the great epiphany – Love; the love God has given us unconditionally.

Brothers and sisters, I urge you to think about diving into the liturgical calendar with your families.   Bring the revelation of God into the daily activities for your life and by doing so bring heaven to those around you. It is the best way I can think of to put into action that what we profess at Mass. ‘We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

Merry Christmas!