Thursday, December 31, 2015

Homily for 1 Jan 2015 Mary Mother of God

1 Jan 2016
Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

“Mary, did you know?” is the title of a popular Christmas song.  And it asks that question over and over again: “Mary, did you know?”  “Did you know your baby boy will someday walk on water?  Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?  That this child you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you?  Mary, did you know?”

Did she know the child born to her was God himself?  And that’s a tough question.  But Scripture seems to show that she was a path of discovering exactly what and whom her child was.

When the angel Gabriel came, he told her: “You will bear a son and you shall name him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  But there were lots of “sons of God” around at the time—and they were all entirely human: Julius Caesar, King David, the kings of Israel, Samson, Samuel.  Did Mary know that her child would be the one and only true Son of God?

And then Mary ran and visited Elizabeth.  And Elizabeth cried out and said: “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”  And John the Baptist leaped for joy in his mother’s womb.  Elizabeth called Mary’s child her “Lord.”  But how did Mary understand that?  Did she know that her child was the definitive Lord of all creation?

And then Mary gave birth, and the shepherds came to the manger, sharing all that had been revealed to them about who and what this child was.  And we find that Mary “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”  The more she heard from others about her child, the more she wondered about him.  She loved him as any mother would love her child, and yet, she was coming to realize there was more to him than perhaps she imagined.

And this was confirmed when Mary and Joseph presented the child in the Temple.  We know about the old man, Simeon, and the prophetess, Anna—both of whom saw the little child as the long-awaited Redeemer.  Luke tells us that “the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel.’”

Later on, when the twelve-year old Jesus was found in the Temple, Mary and Joseph didn’t know what to think when he’d said he was in “his Father’s house.”  There, again, she kept this “close to heart” and pondered it. 

And, finally today, on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, we hear that Jesus is given his name.  Even his name—Jesus—is another revelation about who Mary’s son really is.  Of course, the name “Jesus” means “God saves.”  He truly is the Savior, the Messiah; “God-with-us.”    

“Mary, did you know?”  Did you know . . . that the child born to you was God himself?”  And the answer (it seems) is: Not entirely.  But, of course, in time, she came to know it.  Just as Jesus himself “grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him,” so Mary also grew in understanding of who Jesus was and is.

And we might ask the same question of ourselves.  When we hear the words of Scripture, do we know it’s God speaking to us?  When our conscience tells us to do something, or not to do something, do we know it’s God right there inside us?  When we come up at Communion and let that little host fall into our hands, do we know what we’re holding?  Chances are, the answer is: Yes and No.

Just like Mary, we’re gradually coming to understand who and what Jesus is to us.  Of course, when she was assumed into heaven, she could see him in all his glory.  Then her pure faith in Jesus as the Son of the Most High came to fruition.  She could (and does) enjoy him for exactly who he is: the Son of the Living God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.

This side of heaven, Jesus will always be somewhat of a mystery to us.  We know he’s our Lord, our Savior, our Friend; he is Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace; he is divine Wisdom, the Word-made-flesh.  And for Mary, he was her first-born son, the child that others spoke highly of; he was the twelve-year old who was in “his Father’s house.”  He was something of a mystery to her, and is a mystery to us.

But Mary came to know who Jesus was only after she’d let him draw her to himself.  There, in heaven, after a life of faith, she knew.  And if we want to really know who Jesus is, we have to let him draw us to himself.  God is always dropping clues to help us understand him.  God is always coming to us in the words and the lives of other people.  God is always speaking to us in our desires for happiness and health, love and peace.

All we need to do is let him reveal himself to us—a little bit at a time.  And then, like Mary, “reflect on those things in our heart.”  Ponder them, wonder about them, and accept those little revelations of God . . . in real faith.  Then, someday, we’ll come to see Christ as he really is; there in heaven, as the brothers and sisters of God that we are, alongside Mary, the Mother . . . of God. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Homily for 31 Dec 2015

31 Dec 2015

In psychological terms, we might talk about “self care;” the idea that in order to “be there” for others, we have to take care of ourselves.  And this idea of “self care” seems to fit our situation today as Christians-in-the-world. 

Saint John says: “I write to you not because you do not know the truth, but because you do.”  And that reminder that our faith in Christ is correct, is part of the “self care” we should probably do more often as Catholics.  You don’t have to go too far in the media today, or even among family and friends, to find the naysayers bashing the Catholic faith or tearing Jesus down as some sort of joke.

After a while of that, we can begin to question our faith, or our understanding of Jesus as the Son of God.  Saint John is correct: many “anti-christs” have come into the world.  They’re all around us.  But John also gives us the very beautiful (and deep) prologue to his gospel as a bit of “self care” for the faithful: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” 

We may not understand fully what that all means.  But we do know it means that the Word of God who existed before time, took on human flesh in the person we know as Jesus the son of Mary and Joseph, Jesus Christ.  Jesus is God; we know that much.  And the “self care” we might do from time to time is to remember this about Jesus, and to let ourselves be awed in silence by the great mystery of the Incarnation.

If we ourselves are awed by Jesus as the Son of God, then we can help others to see Jesus as the Son of God.  Then we can do battle in the world: if we are strong in simple, childlike faith that Jesus is who he says he is: the Eternal Word of God . . . in the flesh.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Homily for 30 Dec 2015

30 Dec 2015

We want to be careful not to “over-spiritualize” our life.  It can be tempting to think that heaven and perfection is completely divorced the world.  Even Saint John might seem to suggest that when he talks about “not loving the world or the things of the world.”    

But John describes what he means when he talks about “the world.”  He describes “the world” as “sensual lusts, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life.”  In other words, his notion of “the world” is really more about an attitude toward what we consider the physical world.  And so, he cautions against turning the things of the world into little idols, little gods.  But that is merely a caution.  He’s not saying the physical world is bad; he’s not saying “Don’t enjoy life on earth.”

Of course, the birth of Christ in the flesh is a major reminder that God values physical life.  Our bodies, the natural world, the arts, exercise, architecture, food, a warm fire and a cup of hot chocolate on a cold evening . . . they’re all good—as long as we try to see God in them and through them.

When we see a piece of handcrafted furniture, or a painting, or when we hear a piece of music, we experience something of the artist right there in the creation.  God makes everything good thing—whether it’s a physical thing or something else.  And so, the world has the potential to draw us into the life of God the divine Artist, the Creator, the Redeemer.  The world has the potential to help raise our minds and hearts toward God.

And so, we want to be careful not to “over-spiritualize” our life.  We want to caution against making a stark divide between the physical and the spiritual, between heaven and earth, between this life and the next.  And that’s because Christ came in the flesh.  His physical humanity was the way he touched others.  And it’s through his Body and Blood and the whole good world that he still comes to us.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Homily for 29 Dec 2015

29 Dec 2015

In this season of peace and goodwill, we might have more compassion and love than otherwise.  And that’s a good thing.  Hopefully, Jesus the Prince of Peace and the Light of the World would have that effect on us.  As we heard, Simeon was overjoyed to see the salvation of God in the infant Jesus.  Jesus was the Light; he was the Presence of salvation to the old man. 

And that’s the sort of effect that the Spirit of Christmas moves us to have on others.  But sometimes the question is how to be the Light of Christ to others.  How do we bring peace and happiness and goodwill toward others?  Well, of course, we’ll spend our whole lives answering that question.  But right off the bat, a good thing to consider is how Christ himself is the Light to others.

You know, so often, he doesn’t just do things for people.  He doesn’t say: “Stand back, let me take care of that.”  Instead, he might give somebody a helping hand . . . and then let them get back on their own two feet by themselves.  Sometimes being the Light of Christ means to step back and let them do it themselves—whatever “it” is.

We hear about this in the social teaching of the Church.  There’s a certain dignity in human work.  By laboring and even struggling, we humans fulfill our potential as thinkers, as problem-solvers, as creatures given the ability to be industrious and creative.  Sometimes being the Light of Christ to others means encouraging them, offering support and help, but then standing back and letting them do it themselves.

In this season of peace and goodwill, may we see our brothers and sisters in need not as charity-cases, but as brothers and sisters in Christ; as fellow human beings who have the ability to stand on their own two feet.  May salvation come to them (and us) through simple words of encouragement.     

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Homily for 27 Dec 2015

27 Dec 2015
The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

One of the verses of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” goes like this: “O come, thou Wisdom from on high, who orderest all things mightily; to us the path of knowledge show, and teach us in her ways to go.”  In Advent we prayed for Wisdom to come to us, and it did come to us (and keeps coming to us) in the person of Jesus.  Jesus is many things, of course, but one of those is Wisdom.

On this feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, it’s good to see that Wisdom (among other things) is at the core of their life together.  And that isn’t necessarily wisdom in the sense of “being smart.”  It’s Wisdom in the sense of there being a partnership at work.  Obviously, if Wisdom is to passed along, there has to be a teacher and a student; there needs to be somebody who knows and somebody who’s learning

At the center of the “holiness” of the Holy Family is Wisdom.  Each person there: Jesus, Mary and Joseph is putting into practice that Wisdom which says: God alone is God.  Jesus is kind of a special case, of course, because he is God.  But, nonetheless, his relationship with the Father is such that he knows he doesn’t exist without God the Father.

The Holy Family is holy because God lives among them and teaches them how to love each other.  They’re not holy because they’re perfect; they’re holy because they’ve set themselves down to be real students and children of God.  And this relationship between God the Teacher, and the Holy Family the children is seen in a smaller scale right in the family itself.  As God the Father teaches Mary and Joseph, so Mary and Joseph teach their son, Jesus, what they have learned from God.

And, ideally, this is what happens in every family.  You know, there’s a husband and a wife, 2.5 kids, a dog, a cat, and a mini-van.  And they go to Church every Sunday and pray the rosary together every night, and they sit down for supper where they pray and share their lives together.  There are never any disagreements, and the children follow the parents’ perfect example of Christian living, and everything is always happy and well.  The kids are eager soak up all the wisdom and knowledge their parents want them to know.  That’s how it works, right?  Well, no, not exactly.

Again, the Holy Family isn’t holy because they’re perfect.  They’re holy because they’ve dedicated themselves to learn from God who is Wisdom itself.  Our families don’t need to be perfect to be holy; but the people in the family do need to have God as their Mentor and Guide. 

Now, here in the parish when a couple decides to get married, we connect them up with a married couple who’s been together for a number of years.  Of course, the idea is to let the engaged couple learn from the wisdom of the older couple.  And after that young couple gets married, they can also turn to their own parents for advice, or to other couples who they see as having a “good marriage.” 

And this is an image of the Holy Family in a slightly broader scale.  It isn’t just individuals in a single family; it’s one holy family trying to help another holy family come into being.  When the Church talks about “the family being the nucleus of society,” this is what the Church means.  Out of the family, comes more families.  And out of those families, come more families.  And so on, and so on.  But this isn’t just in a biological sense, it’s in the sense of values, beliefs, and practices.  Out of the family comes more families.  But out of holy families, more families of faith in God are born.  

And so, broadly speaking, the idea of “the family” is a group of people with shared beliefs and ideals.  And in that family there are “elders,” you know, people who have wisdom and experience, and there are the “students” or the “children” who are learning and picking up on beliefs and practices and traditions.  And so, obviously, the parish is a family.  The Church is a family—not necessarily in a sentimental sort of way, but because we pass on what we have received. 

And all these “families” become “holy families” when they’re working toward seeing God as their ultimate Mentor and Guide.  We heard in the Psalm: “Blessed are they who dwell in your house, O Lord!”  Blessed are they who live under the umbrella of God’s love, God’s wisdom, God’s peace, and so on.  Blessed are they—happy and holy are they.

Even in my short time as a priest, I can say without hesitation that no family is perfect, no parish family is perfect.  In the confessional, I’ve heard a lot of the big sins that we do with regard our families—whether that’s at home, or with fellows parishioners, or even friends and mentors we consider part of our “family.”  Every family has its problems.  But, at the same time, there are a lot of families (and people in those families) who are learning from their mistakes; families who are learning to bring God’s wisdom and love and mercy into their homes; into their hearts.

And that’s what makes for holiness, at least, here in our fallen world.  Holiness in individuals, holiness in families, holiness in the parish and Church happens when we commit ourselves to let God be our Teacher.  And an instrument of God’s Wisdom that he’s given us is the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Each of us as individuals, each family here, and we as a whole parish are given the Holy Family as our mentor family.  We don’t have to pray to them for help; we don’t have to see them as a guide or mentor.  But Wisdom would tell us otherwise.  And God who speaks in the growing holiness of our mind and heart would tell us otherwise.  The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, pray for us.  Pray for us children of God.               

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Homily for 25 Dec 2015

25 Dec 2015
The Solemnity of Christmas

“Tonight I want to tell you the story of an empty stocking.  Once upon a midnight clear, there was a child’s cry, a blazing star hung over a stable, and wise men came with birthday gifts.  We haven’t forgotten that night down the centuries.  We celebrate it with stars on Christmas trees, with the sound of bells, and with gifts.  But especially with gifts.  You give me a book, I give you a tie.  Aunt Martha has always wanted an orange squeezer and Uncle Henry can do with a new pipe.

“For we forget nobody, adult or child.  All the stockings are filled, all that is, except one.  And we have even forgotten to hang it up.  The stocking for the child born in a manger.  It’s his birthday we’re celebrating.  Don’t let us ever forget that.  Let us ask ourselves what He would wish for most.  And then, let each put in his share, loving kindness, warm hearts, and a stretched out hand of tolerance.  All the shining gifts that make peace on earth.”

Now, this was a little sermon given at the end of a Christmas movie in 1947, “The Bishop’s Wife.”  The US and Europe were still recovering from World War II.  The Cold War was just beginning; people were suspicious of the Russians and Communists.  And everybody was trying to get used to a new situation in the world: the new reality of hostility, the possibility of nuclear war, and of questioning who your friends and allies were.  It was into that world that this little sermon about an empty stocking was given.

Of course, we can relate.  My goodness! it seems like every day we hear about some terrorist group oppressing this group of people, or killing that group of people.  Even here in the United States.  The images of 9-11 are still fresh for those old enough to remember.  Or we might think of the depths to which political corruption has sunk, or the de-Christianization of our culture.  We’re in the midst of a new reality; the reality of hostility and of questioning who our friends and allies are. 

And it’s into that world—into our world today—that Christmas comes, again.  Wherever there are tough times, we can expect Jesus to be there.  After all, he was born in the cold of midnight, out in a cave because there was no room in the inn.  His little body was wrapped so tightly he could hardly move, and he was laid in the manger—in the rough made trough where the animals were feeding from.  It wasn’t a pleasant place, there in the stable.  It was crude and even cruel.  But that’s where Christ was born.

That little child brought peace to an otherwise harsh place.  Of course, that’s our hope: that Jesus the Son of God will bring peace; peace, joy and love where there is none.  That is our Christmas wish—that a Word of Hope and Light will come and bring us peace.  But, of course, that Word is given to us—maybe not under the glowing lights of the Christmas tree; but certainly under the glimmering stars of Heaven.

He is born to us—Peace is offered to us—not just one day a year but throughout the whole 365.  And he comes to us in such mild and gentle ways as to almost seem weak and ineffective—not unlike a helpless infant.

He comes to us in the cool waters of baptism.  His peace washes over our skin, and he unties us from whatever ropes of sin and despair there are that keep us down.

He comes to us in holy oil, that softens and penetrates the skin.  And the sweet perfume in the oil soaks down deep into our soul.

He comes to us in the laying on of hands, when one person touches another in a gesture of prayer, companionship, and healing.  It is a warm touch, a gentle touch.

He comes to us, too, in spoken words: words of blessing, words of encouragement, the inspired words of Scripture, words of peace and truth.

He is born to us is so many ways, not the least of which is here on his Altar.  The Son of God born to the Virgin Mary all those centuries ago, is the very same Son of God born to us here.  The rough and crude manger has become the Altar.  The song of the angels has become the hymn we know as the “Gloria.”  And the shepherds and the animals who come for rest and food . . . well, they’re us.

Right here at Mass is the real “living Nativity scene.”  And at the center is Jesus, the Word of Peace and Love and Hope in the flesh—given to us as food to fill the “stockings” of our heart and mind.  Given to bring peace on earth.

As we celebrate this Christmas Day, and we’re enjoying the company of family and friends, all the food and treats, and getting our fill of what brings us happiness, let’s remember to hang up our stockings and let Christ fill them with what brings us--and the whole world--peace. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Homily for 23 Dec 2015

23 Dec 2015

Here at the end of Advent we’re sort of back where we started: with John the Baptist.  A few weeks ago, we heard those words: “Prepare the way of the Lord.”  Prepare the way by getting rid of all those mountains of things that distract us from seeing what God is doing.  That was the challenge: to put more weight on what God thinks rather than on what others think. 

Of course, John’s father, Zechariah, had a hard lesson to learn about doing that.  After all, he was made mute until he could put God’s will ahead of his own thinking and the traditions of his people.  He prepared the way of the Lord, and so he was finally able to say most definitely that his son would be called John; because that’s what God wanted.  He didn’t care what others thought, even though they wanted the baby to be named something else.  All that mattered was being true to God, and seeing that God was trying to do something through John.

And so, here at the end of Advent, with the birth of John and the coming celebration of the birth of Jesus, it’s a good time to ask: Have I prepared the way of the Lord?  Have I made some extra room in my soul for Christ to come in?  Have I prepared myself to be more at peace, more joyful, and merciful?  If not, don’t worry, there’s still time.

Even in the midst of Christmas (and Lent and Easter, and throughout our whole lives) we’re always preparing the way; we’re always opening our minds and hearts to let him in.  We’re always trying to put more weight on what God thinks rather than on what others think.  The spirit of Advent continues . . . we’ll always be “preparing the way.”  It doesn’t stop with Christmas.

Homily for 22 Dec 2015

22 Dec 2015

Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months—right up to the time of John’s birth, and enough time to see that she herself was pregnant.  Scripture doesn’t say anything else about their time together.  But we can imagine that for those two women, it was three months of sharing, anticipation, comforting and being there for one another.

What would Elizabeth’s child bring to her life?  What would Mary’s child bring?  What would Zechariah and Joseph think?  What did the present life in their wombs foretell about the life of the world?

As we get closer and closer to our Christmas celebrations, we remember that each of us has Christ within us.  All of us—men and women alike—are part of the Church, the Bride of Christ; it doesn’t matter how old we are or what our health is like.  And there’s something of Christ within us waiting to be borne, waiting to be shared and given to others.

And we begin by sharing Christ with each other, just as Elizabeth and Mary stayed together and shared their hopes and dreams, their worries and concerns, their faith and their love of God.  Even after Christmas is over this year, we’ll still have Christ within us, waiting . . . waiting to be shared and given.

May we find joy and peace in knowing that Christ is in us.  And may we find even greater community and love in sharing God who is with us.    

Monday, December 21, 2015

Homily for 21 Dec 2015

21 Dec 2015

Even though we haven’t had much of a winter, it still is something to remember that today is the Winter Solstice.  And with that, the Lord says to us: “Arise, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one, and come!  For see, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone . . . and the song of the dove is heard in our land.”  Today is the last of the long, dark nights.  And it’s the beginning of longer, brighter days. 

Of course, this is what we’re preparing to celebrate: the birth of Light into our lives.  And, as the psalmist says: “In him our hearts rejoice!”  We’re like John the Baptist who “leapt” in Elizabeth’s womb when Jesus came to him.  We’re like that Bride in the Song of Songs: “Hark! my lover—here he comes, springing across the mountains, leaping across the hills.”  And there’s playfulness as the Lord “gazes through the windows, [and] peers through the lattices."

The world has begun its turn from darkness to light, and so do we.  Light and Peace have come to us in Christ Jesus—the Lord, the Infant, the Playful One who says: “Arise, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one, and come!” 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Homily for 20 Dec 2015

20 Dec 2015
4th Sunday of Advent, Year C

He was born in 1945 and died in 1947.  And his name was Mike.  And Mike was a chicken living on a farm in Colorado.  But he wasn’t just any chicken.  When the farmer went to the hen house to get supper one night, he found Mike and chopped his head off (mostly).  But Mike kept on going!  He lived for another year and a half and walked around the farmyard . . . without a head.  He was a body without a head!

It was a strange thing to see, for sure.  But it’s not entirely unrealistic.  In fact, Mike the Headless Chicken is kind of a metaphor for us human beings sometimes.  How many times do we hear political opponents on tv and our reaction is: “What are they thinking?!  That doesn’t make any sense—what they’re saying!”  Well, maybe so.  Maybe they’re not thinking; maybe they’re going around without a head—figuratively speaking.

Even we as a people of faith do it sometimes.  We might go to Mass completely disengaged; we go through the motions of our rituals without really thinking about them.  Of course, this is what we hear about in the letter to the Hebrews—God’s not interested in empty rituals.  He wants us to think about what we’re doing, and to be soulfully invested in it.  But, you know, sometimes, we’re like Mike—we’re like a chicken with our heads cut off; we’re a functioning body, but we’ve lost our head.

Now in the letter to the Hebrews, we hear Jesus’ prayer to the Father: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me.”  And we can take that to mean two things.  First, Jesus takes on human flesh from his mother Mary, in the Incarnation.  This is the body we celebrate at Christmas and the same body we receive in the Eucharist.  And, second, God the Father has given Christ the body of the faithful, the Church.  This is what St Paul calls us in his first Letter to the Corinthians—“you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

Jesus says: Father, “a body you prepared for me.”  We were like sheep without a shepherd; we were like a body without a head.  But God has prepared us to receive Christ as our Head.  Remember John the Baptist: “Prepare the way of the Lord.”  Prepare the way of the Lord.  Prepare for Light and Wisdom, Truth and Knowledge, Grace and Salvation to come by way our Head, Jesus the Son of God.

If sometimes our world, or our leaders, or even people of faith seem like they’ve lost all common sense and are acting and speaking like a chicken with its head cut off . . . well, maybe that’s what happened.  Maybe they (and we, sometimes) have lost the connection with Jesus our Divine Head.  Advent has been a time to consider that possibility and to be reconciled with him, our Head and Shepherd.

You know, we as a Church are a “hierarchy.”  But that doesn’t mean some of us are “higher and better” and some of us are “lower and more pitiful.”  “Hier-“ comes from the Greek “hierus,” which means “sacred things; divine things.”  And “-archy” means “to be ruled by,” or “to be governed by.”  We, as a Church—as a people of faith—are governed by “divine things;” namely, God.  We are a hierarchy.

And we see the idea of hierarchy already at work in people such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  We see it in Moses, the Prophets, and all people of real and living faith.  We especially see it here in the gospel in Elizabeth and Mary.

Elizabeth proclaimed Mary “blessed” because Mary “believed that what was spoken to [her] by the Lord would be fulfilled.”  The Blessed Mother believed; and she trusted . . . in God, her divine Head.  From the early centuries of the Church, the faithful have seen Mary as a metaphor and an image of the Body of Christ, the Church.  And so, when she says: “Let it be done to me according to your will,” she’s acknowledging that all Wisdom and Goodness, all Truth and Love come from God.  It’s a beautiful image of true hierarchy at work. 

Mary is “governed by divine things;” not as an unthinking, unfeeling, disengaged slave, but as a fully engaged, fully alive partner with God.  She was no chicken with its head cut off.  And because of it, she was “full of grace;” full of Wisdom and Knowledge, full of Humility and Gentleness, full of what we might call “common sense.”

In these days, when the Church and all society is increasingly polarized, it would be good to consider how often we say to God: “God, let it be done to according to your will.  You are my Divine Head; lead me.  Lead me into all that is good, true, and beautiful.”  How often do we say that, and then let God lead the way?  My guess is: Not often enough.

But every day we have a chance to get grounded again in Christ, our Divine Head, our Shepherd, our Source of Wisdom and Knowledge.  Every time we’re tempted to fly off the handle at some nonsensical remark, go to Jesus.  Every time we want to shoot back a defensive statement without thinking first, stop and go to Jesus.  Every time we think have it all figured out, stop and go to Jesus.

We don’t live in anarchy.  We live in a hierarchy.  We’re governed by our Divine Head—if we let ourselves be governed—not as a slave, but as a partner with God.  And thank God for that!  It sure beats running around like a chicken with your head cut off. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Homily for 19 Dec 2015

19 Dec 2015

All Advent (and throughout our life) we pray: “Come, Lord Jesus, come!”  But, of course, he’s always been with us.  The stories of Samson, John the Baptist, the Blessed Mother, and many others remind us of this.  The psalms remind us, too, including today’s: “On you I depend from birth; from my mother’s womb you are my strength.”

From the beginning, God is with us; and we are in God (even if sometimes we forget).  And there’s something so simple and pure about that.  You know, trying to follow the precepts of the Church, the commandments of God, our traditions; delving into theology and Church history, spirituality, liturgy and prayer; trying to be socially conscious and “up” on what it means to be a Catholic . . . all that can seem so overwhelming.

And while that’s all good to go into the mysteries of our faith, and the challenge of how to live our faith . . . it’s even more important to remember where we came from and where we’re going.  We started life in the bosom of God, as a little baby staring in wonder at him . . . and that’s where we’re going—back into the bosom of God, as his beloved children loving him with simple wonder and awe.

It’s never too late to live your childhood.  And God almost asks us to do just that: to be (again) his simple children, who pray “Come, Lord Jesus, come!  Bring us back home.”

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Homily for 18 Dec 2015

18 Dec 2015

The angel of the Lord entrusted Joseph with an important task: naming the child “Jesus.”  And he came through, as we know.

Jesus the Son of God has lots of names.  We heard one from Jeremiah today: “The Lord our justice.”  The psalm gives us another one: “The God of Israel.”  Even the Alleluia verse gives us two names for him: “Leader of the House of Israel,” and “Giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai.”  And, of course, the gospel gives us the name “Immanuel:” that is, “God with us.”

They’re all names for God, or Jesus the Son of God.  Or you might have in mind that line from the prophet Isaiah: “They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace” [9:5b].  “Son of David” is another one.  Jesus has lots of names, and they all reflect something of who and what he is to his people.

Jesus is “Immanuel” because he came in human flesh: he is “God with us” [which is what “Immanuel” means].  We could also say he is “Immanuel” because of Pentecost, because of the Holy Spirit, because of all the Sacraments and Scripture and Tradition—he is “God with us;” Jesus is “Immanuel.” 

The angel entrusted Joseph with the task of giving Jesus his name.  And this is something God has inspired people to do for thousands of years.  We give Jesus not the name Jesus, but other names to describe who he is to us.  Maybe he is “Friend.”  Maybe his name is “He Who Upholds Me.”  Or maybe Jesus is “The Merciful One."

Jesus is his name.  But like any close relationship, you may have another name you call him; a name that reflects who he is to you.  What name do you give him? 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Homily for 17 Dec 2015

17 Dec 2015
(Elementary School Mass)

When I was younger, I used to think that Christmas would never get here.  And when Christmas Eve finally came around, it took me forever to fall asleep, and the clock was moving . . . so . . . slowly.  We all just wanted Christmas to get here!  We “couldn’t wait” for Santa to come.  But, of course, we had to wait

About thirty years ago (your parents would probably remember this), it was very popular to say: “Good things come to those who wait.”  Now, at the time, people said it because Heinz Ketchup used it in their commercials.  But we can think about that today . . . as we wait for Jesus to come.

In the gospel, we heard all those names of people who lived before Jesus was born.  And that was a lot of people.  Hundreds and hundreds, thousands of years had to go by before Jesus was finally born as a baby in Bethlehem.  The people of God had to be very, very patient.  But they knew the Messiah would come.  And so, they always had hope inside them.  They knew that “good things come to those who wait.”

And that’s important to remember.  Christmas is only eight days away.  But, you know, even after Christmas is all done this year, we’re still going to be waiting for Jesus to come.  We know he’s coming.  He’s always growing stronger in our hearts; he’s always trying to shine his Light on us in a brighter way.  He’s coming; he’s always coming.

But we have to keep waiting to see him completely.  But we wait with hope and joy and peace because we know that “good things come to those who wait.”

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Homily for 16 Dec 2015

16 Dec 2015

He made the blind see again, the lame walk; he cleansed lepers, made the deaf hear, raised the dead, and proclaimed good news to the poor.  How strange it is, then, for Jesus to think others might take “offense” at him.  I mean, we usually “take offense” against somebody who aggravates us—not against somebody who’s doing good things for us.

But maybe Jesus knew that—as good as his miracles were—eventually he would let people down.  He knew that peoples’ expectations of him would make him (and his gospel) something to take offense at.

Yesterday, I heard of a man’s daughter and granddaughter who’d been killed in an accident just before Thanksgiving.  And just a couple years ago, his wife died of cancer.  Now, he’s a Catholic.  But he might take offense at the proclamation of the “good news;” he might take offense at the idea that God is all-powerful and good.

And what about friends and neighbors who’ve been disillusioned by the Church, or by some of the clergy, or by Catholics who don’t practice what they preach.  They might take offense at the mention of Jesus—the leader of a bunch of “hypocrites,” they might say.

Jesus did many wonderful signs: he made the blind see, the deaf hear; he raised the dead.  But one miracle he could not do was to soften the human heart.  He could not keep people from expecting him to be a “miracle worker.”  And we do that today: someone gets cancer, and we expect a miracle of healing.  A marriage is falling apart, and we expect a miracle to make everything okay again.  The values of society are falling apart, and we expect a miracle of God to set everything right.

Jesus knew people would “take offense” at him . . . not for the good he does, but for the expected good he does not do. 

As we approach this last week of Advent—this season of waiting and anticipation—it’s good to recall that the Messiah came not as a political and military leader, but as a weak and helpless infant.  And in a week’s time, we’ll be celebrating the fact that God did not give humanity what it expected in a Messiah, but rather, what humanity needed in a Messiah.

“Blessed are those who don’t take offense” at Jesus.  Blessed are those who see what God is doing, regardless of their expectations.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Homily for 15 Dec 2015

15 Dec 2015

Political opponents bother us.  You know, they say and do things that just go against our beliefs.  Of course, it isn’t just political opponents; they can be people of other cultures, other religions, other socio-economic backgrounds.  And it’s easy to dislike them for their thoughts and beliefs.  But—sometimes—they say things we can agree with . . . and that really bothers us.    

The chief priests and elders of the people were bothered a lot by those tax collectors and prostitutes.  They went against God’s law and their own personal sensibilities.  But those sinners turned around and found God; they were like that son who didn’t listen to his father at first, but eventually got it right and made better choices.

Just then, those sinners and the chief priests and elders were all on the same page.  They were in agreement.  They both professed faith in God and they were both seeking God’s mercy.  But the leaders of the people couldn’t stand it.  They refused to bend; they refused to “cross the aisle” and shake their opponents’ hand.

It’s easy to dislike our political and cultural opponents.  But it’s especially annoying when we realize there are things we agree on.  Maybe there’s a fear that if we extend that hand “across the aisle” we’ll be “giving in,” or that we’ll be seen as compromising our values and our integrity.  Maybe.  Maybe that’s what went through the minds of the Jewish leaders.

When we consider our own opponents in the world, and how we might actually agree on some things from time to time, it might be good to recall exactly what our values are, and what it means to be a Catholic of integrity.  We believe in the value of mercy.  We believe in forgiving others the benefit of the doubt (when it seems appropriate).  We believe in the value of humility; the value of seeing Christ as our model of living.

And Jesus has no problem “calling a spade a spade.”  When something is bad, it’s bad.  When something is good, it’s good.  And no human—regardless of their thoughts and beliefs—is entirely wrong or entirely right.  May we be happy for those who earnestly seek God—regardless of who they are and what they think.  And we do that because we hope they will extend the same kindness and mercy to us.  

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Homily for 11 Dec 2015

11 Dec 2015

Trying to be a faithful disciple of Christ is probably going to make somebody annoyed with you.  If they said John the Baptist was “possessed by a demon” and Jesus was “a glutton and a drunkard,” you can rest assured that somebody’s going to look at you weird if you try to put your Catholic faith into practice.  Just expect it.  Expect it and don’t worry about it.

It’s more important—and better—to just keep our minds and hearts focused on the Lord.  Let him tell us what’s important in life.  Let him be our model of mercy; our model of wisdom and joy.  Let him be the Light that lights our wandering paths in life.  Isaiah offers us challenge we take up every day as Christians: “If you would hearken to [God’s] commandments, your prosperity would be like a river.”  “If we pay attention to God;” that’s the challenge – the word: “if."

Following Christ isn’t an order; it’s an invitation.  He says: “If you choose to follow me . . . if you choose to follow me.”  The challenge is to follow him in faith, regardless of what others say about us.  All that matters is what Christ says about us.  And what does he say?  He calls us “blessed:” “Blessed are they who follow the Lord.”  Blessed are they.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Homily for 10 Dec 2015

10 Dec 2015

The idea of “taking the Kingdom of heaven by force” sounds kind of odd, as it should.  I mean, we think of the Kingdom as a good thing, a beautiful existence . . . and that kind of life can’t be forced.  But, of course, we know what happens when a vision of the Kingdom (or the vision of any perfect utopia) is forced to happen.  Then we get people like Hitler and his vision of a perfect society.  We get the Muslim terrorists today who aren’t shy about using force to build up their view of heaven—and who is and who is not part of that vision.

In a less dramatic way—but still with force—is the way people put each other down, or make disparaging comments about whole classes of people.  Criticism and judgment are ways the Kingdom of heaven can try to be taken by force.  Whether it’s people we don’t like, people on the other side of the political aisle, people of a different race or religion or whatever . . . to cut them down to make room for the Kingdom of heaven is to try make God’s reign happen by force.

And for us Christians, that should sound odd . . . because it is.  The Kingdom of heaven—that vision of perfect happiness, peace, and love in God—is presented to humanity as an invitation.  Isaiah talks about God opening up fountains in the desert valleys, turning dry ground into springs of water, and making plants and all sorts of life spring up where there isn’t any . . . all as an offering and an enticing invitation for humanity to see and understand the goodness of God, the goodness of the Kingdom.

When Jesus offers his Body and Blood to us, it’s precisely that . . . an offering.  He doesn’t force himself or the Kingdom on us.  He offers himself to us; and we’re left to reject him or accept him.  And that’s the most we do for others.  We offer the Kingdom to our friends and neighbors; we offer God’s grace and mercy to them; we invite them to share the life of faith we enjoy.  And we leave it at that.

While we certainly hope that the entire world would come to know our God, we cannot take the Kingdom of heaven by force . . . because that would be contrary to what the Kingdom is all about.  Instead, we bring to our friends and neighbors what we ourselves have accepted: the offer from God to enjoy the Kingdom.

Whether or not they accept that offer is up to them.  Just as it is up to us, every day, whether or not we’ll let the Kingdom of God grow in our hearts.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Homily for 9 Dec 2015

9 Dec 2015

For some people—even fellow Christians—this is not a very happy time of the year.  Maybe it’s the weather: the gray days, the long nights, the cold wind.  Maybe for them, it’s like what Ebenezer Scrooge says: “What’s Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer.” 

Or maybe it’s all the “good cheer” that goes around and the happy songs of Christian hope and love that people sing.  Maybe all that just reminds them of how little cheer there is in their own hearts.  When they’re surrounded by the Spirit of Christ’s coming into the world, maybe it’s all just a teasing, mocking, wrenching reminder of their life’s troubles, and how love (they think) has never visited them.  Maybe all that good cheer just reminds them of how alone they are.

For some people, this is not a very happy time of the year.  Poor souls, indeed.  If only, perhaps, they could hear Christ speak to them: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”  Come to me, all you who feel rejected and hurt; you who only punish yourselves by letting envy and jealousy, hatred and judgment of others into your hearts.  Come to me, and see why you have no reason at all for being cold-hearted at this festive time of the year.

Poor souls—those who are unmoved by all the lights, the candles, the songs, the well-wishes of passersby, and the promise of Christ to come.  What can we do, but pray for them.  And if we should have an encounter with one of those Ebenezer Scrooges, and we feel brought down because of it, we have only to remember our reason to hope and have good cheer: Christ himself, who says: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”  Come to me, you who are burdened for love of others and for the desire to see happiness and peace reign on earth.  Come to me.

For some people, this is not a very happy time of the year.  But for we who know Christ in our hearts, and are moved by him and the beauty of the season, it is indeed a wonderful time.  The horizon in our souls is not all black and starless.  Instead, within us is a purply sky, and just on the horizon are the first rays of the rising sun.  How happy are those who see the coming of the Light and are of good cheer.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Homily for 8 Dec 2015 Immaculate Conception

8 Dec 2015
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

With the Immaculate Conception of Mary, we celebrate the “marvelous deeds” of God.  Even though you won’t find any explicit reference to this work of God in Scripture, the faithful have known and believed since the first centuries of Christianity that God had done something different when he created Mary, the daughter of Anne and Joachim. 

We don’t celebrate Mary’s immaculate conception in the womb of her mother as a miracle.  Instead, we see it and we celebrate it as God bringing into creation a new creation, a new standard, a new beginning for humanity.  The Fathers of the Church were very quick to pick up on Mary as the new Eve; where Eve failed, Mary succeeded . . . by a special grace from God.  And what God succeeded in doing through Mary’s immaculate conception is that he “set the stage” for the world’s Savior to born.

In fact, that’s one of the “proofs” we have as a reason to believe in Mary’s Immaculate Conception: the fact that the Word of God became incarnate through her.  There was only one Christ born, and he came into the world through her alone.  Something about Mary was unique; more unique than any other woman before or since.  And the angel Gabriel says very clearly what it was: “Hail, full of grace!”

Of all women (and men) she alone was “full of grace” (emphasis on the word “full”).  In Greek, the idea is that God’s grace was freely and fully received by her—not just in that moment when Gabriel came, but from the beginning in her mother’s womb, in her created being.  The angel Gabriel declares to her (and to us) the nature of this woman—she is “full of grace” because there is nothing in her that obstructs God’s grace—there is no stain of sin in her.  And because she is so “full of grace” she is the one who carries God himself in her womb and gives him to the world. 

Eve could’ve been the one (perhaps), but she turned from God and let just enough sin into her to not be “full of grace.”  God could still work through her and Adam, but in a limited way.  From Eve—the “mother of the living”—all of humanity became a carrier of that spiritual disease we call “sin.”  But with Mary, God gave humanity a new start.  Sin never took root in her heart, and so she could give birth to the Sinless One—Jesus the Savior.

But, you know, on the Cross (in the Gospel of John), Jesus says to his mother: “Mother, behold your son” (meaning, the beloved disciple standing there by Mary).  And he says to the beloved disciple: “Behold, your mother.”  In that instance, Jesus says to that disciple (and to all of us): “I want you to have a new start, a fresh start.  You are no longer to be children of sinful Eve; you are to be children of my mother, the sinless Mary.”

God desires us to be sinless, to be immaculate in heart and soul.  What better way to accomplish that than by giving us his only Son to be our Savior and Lord, and the uniquely Immaculate Mary to be the mother of us all.

With the Immaculate Conception, we celebrate something new in the annals of human history: a fragile and otherwise average human being kept free from sin.  We celebrate a “marvelous deed” of God, done so that God’s re-creation of heaven and earth could begin.  How blessed are we to hear Jesus say: “Behold, my disciples . . . behold your mother, full of grace, who will help you into a life of grace.”

Homily for 7 Dec 2015 St Ambrose

7 Dec 2015
Memorial of St Ambrose

We don’t have too many deserts around here, except one: Winter.  It isn’t quite upon us yet, but when it does come, we won’t see too many flowers blooming.  The snow will cover the ground—and it’ll be pretty—but everything will be still and quiet, and maybe even a little harsh.  But out of that desert will spring a little flower, the so-called “Christmas Rose,” the Hellebore.

It’s kind of a odd thing to see a flower (outside) blooming in the middle of winter.  Just like it would be odd to see what Isaiah is talking about: “Streams will burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the steppe.  The burning sands will become pools, and the thirsty ground, springs of water.”  But that’s what happens when God is at work: the unexpected is seen.

Certainly, the idea of somebody being healed on-the-spot from paralysis would be unexpected.  But that’s what Jesus did.  Right there in that house, where the people tore a hole in the roof and lowered their friend down on a stretcher, a “stream burst forth in the desert” of his paralysis, and “the Christmas Rose bloomed in the middle of the winter” of his fears.  And the people said: “We have seen incredible things today.”    

God makes beauty where there is apparent ugliness.  He makes truth be known in times of deceit and disarray.  And he makes goodness rise above evil and hatred.  But, in order to see God doing these “incredible things,” we have to go into the desert.  To see the Christmas Rose, one has to go out into the winter.

To let God into our lives—to “prepare the way of the Lord”—we have to admit (first) that we sometimes put up obstacles to keep us from getting too close to God.  To admit that, and to realize it, is like going out into the desert; it’s like going out into the blustery winds of winter.  It’s not a happy thing.  It’s an uncomfortable place.  But going to that place in our soul and saying: “Why do I keep God at a distance . . . why do I do that?” opens the way for “incredible things” to happen.

St Ambrose, a “Doctor” of the Church, would prescribe such a remedy for our spiritual problems: Go into the desert and into the winter harshness of self-honesty, and there God is waiting for us.  Not to punish, not to scold, but to keep us warm, and to make a flower of his grace and mercy bloom for us.  God makes “incredible things” happen in our spiritual deserts, in our spiritual winters . . . if we just out there to see for ourselves.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Homily for 6 Dec 2015

6 Dec 2015
2nd Sunday of Advent, Year C

“A shepherd boy was tending his flock near a village, and thought it would be great fun to hoax the villagers by pretending that a wolf was attacking the sheep; so he shouted out, ‘Wolf! Wolf!’ and when the people came running up he laughed at them for their troubles.  He did this more than once, and every time the villagers found they had been hoaxed, for there was no wolf at all.  At last a wolf really did come, and the boy cried, ‘Wolf! Wolf!’ as loud as he could.  But the people were so used to hearing him call that they took no notice of his cries.  And so the wolf had it all his own way, and killed off sheep after sheep at his leisure.”

That’s one of the great fables written by Aesop: The Boy Who Cried Wolf.  And sometimes—just sometimes—it can feel like we’ve heard John the Baptist say about a million times: “Prepare the way of the Lord!  Prepare the way of the Lord!”  Every Advent it’s the same thing: “Prepare the way of the Lord!”  But where is the Lord?  What’s changed since last year at this time?  Or since the year before that, or the decade before that, or the millennium before?  Where is the Lord that John keeps telling us to “prepare the way” for?

He’s beginning to sound like that shepherd boy who cried: Wolf!  And a lot of people throughout history have given up on the Lord because they see in John the Baptist (and in the Church) that boy who cried wolf.  Many people have given up hope.  And this is what the Prophet Baruch was trying to head off in his writings.

The big temptation with the Israelites when they were in their Babylonian exile was the temptation to give up.  They were tempted—constantly—to abandon God because, well: “Where was God?”  “If God is faithful,” they thought, “where is he?  Why doesn’t he come?”  And so, Baruch was out there giving them all a pep-talk: “Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever! . . . Up, Jerusalem! stand upon the heights; look to the east and see your children . . .  rejoicing that they are remembered by God.”

Some of the Israelites probably thought: “What is he talking about?”  But for a lot of others, the encouraging words of Baruch were just that: they were encouraging.  We hear—again—this year from John the Baptist: “Prepare the way of the Lord!  Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low.”  Prepare the way of the Lord!

And some people say: “What’s he talking about?  He’s been crying wolf for two thousand years . . . and nothing’s happened.”  But for a lot of others, the words of John the Baptist awaken us—again—to the hope inside us that makes us come and worship the Unseen God.  Of course, God is not necessarily meant to be “unseen.”  After all, Isaiah does say that “all flesh will see the salvation of God.”  God—or, at least, the salvation of God—is meant to be seen; it’s meant to be known and encountered.  And that’s what we hope for, isn’t it?  To know salvation really and truly? 

John the Baptist isn’t like the boy who cried wolf, because the boy who cried wolf was lying and just having fun with the villagers.  John the Baptist is quite serious.  And we have to hear his message again and again and again, year after year, century after century because to “prepare the way of the Lord” means to change our habits of thinking; it means changing our concepts of ‘love’ and ‘forgiveness.’  It means reorienting our whole lives back toward God.  Preparing the way of the Lord is no small task; it takes time, discipline, patience, humility, forgiveness, suppleness of heart, wisdom, love, curiosity, even a sense of “adventure.” 

The Lord is already here.  But it takes work to “prepare the way” so we can see him.  But we have on our side the grace of the Holy Spirit, and the power of water.

Water has the capacity to wear away even the hardest materials.  I think of stones in a riverbed that begin as all jagged and rough; but, in time, the water wears them down until they’re smooth.  Also in rivers I think of wood—you know: sticks, bark, logs—floating in the water.  Now, wood is hard.  Even pine is kind of hard if you get hit with a 2x4.  But, there, floating in the water, wood becomes nice and soft.

Or you can think of places like the Grand Canyon.  Miles of canyon cut through solid rock by the power of flowing water.  Just imagine what baptismal water—infused with the Holy Spirit—can do for all those “jagged” and “hard” parts of our souls.  How many of us have mountains of pride or self-righteousness in us?  And what about those valleys of spiritual drowsiness and apathy about faith? 

Maybe there’s the mountain in us of “being busy all the time.”  Martha certainly had one in her: she was constantly preoccupied with this or that—never any time to just sit down and be with God.  And that’s a big one . . . for her and for us.

In St Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he writes: “Brothers and sisters . . . this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more . . . to discern what is of value.”  He’s praying (and is still praying today) that the flowing love of the Holy Spirit will wear down what we think is important in life so that we can focus on what really is important; what is “of value.”

To “prepare the way of the Lord” is to let our baptismal grace flow in us so that we can focus on what’s “valuable” in life, and so to really “see God at work.” 

One particularly valuable aspect of life (although it’s easily overlooked or dismissed) is in the assertion that “God loves you.”  That’s important.  It’s important to know it.  It’s important to believe it.  And it’s important to accept it.  It’s just a little bitty statement: “God loves you.”  And it can be steamrollered over in a heartbeat by other things we may hear.  But preparing the way of the Lord (and coming to see the Lord) requires us to accept God’s love for us as something “of great value.” 

Today, we spend so much time and effort trying to be somebody else.  And, sometimes, that’s good.  You know, maybe we need to be more patient with others, or more forgiving, or less judgmental, or whatever.  Maybe we could exercise more and eat better for our own health.  Who knows.  Sometimes the call to change is good and legitimate.

But such a call only comes from Somebody who loves us absolutely.  Even without making those changes, even without becoming a perfect saint, even without eating better and exercising, there’s one Person who loves and accepts us absolutely and unconditionally—and that Person is our God.  Lucky us!  How blessed are we!

That’s an important bit of truth inside each of us that the waters of our baptism are trying to keep exposed.  The Holy Spirit is constantly trying to keep God’s absolute love for us from being covered over.  Covered over by what?  Well, you name it: people criticizing you because you’re not fast enough, or you’re too loud (or not loud enough), or your hair looks weird, or you have some interest or hobby that’s off-the-beaten-path. 

We human beings just have the nasty habit of running each other down.  We also have the nasty habit of listening to people who run us down.  We let them tell us who we are.  We let other people tell us whether we are worthy or acceptable.  Of course, that’s what a lot of commercials are all about on tv or the internet: “Buy our product or be a loser.”  “We have what you need because you aren’t good enough the way you are.”

“Prepare the way of the Lord,” John the Baptist says—again.  Get rid of all those lies and garbage you hear people tell you about yourself.  “Prepare the way of the Lord.”  Let the waters of the Holy Spirit expose—again—that basic truth that’s inside each of us: the truth that “God loves you . . . as you are.”

It’s a thing “of great value,” a fundamental truth that many people dismiss: “So what if God loves me?  How’s that gonna pay the bills?”  Or, worse, “What do you mean ‘God loves me?’ God can’t love me; I’m unlovable.” 

Prepare the way of the Lord . . . get rid of the mountains of excuses, the mountains of lies we believe about ourselves, get rid of your worries about what others think about you . . . Prepare the way of the Lord.  When we finally begin to do that, then we’ll see the salvation of our God.  Then we’ll see that—really, truly, absolutely—we are deeply loved by God, as we are, today and always.

Prepare the way of the Lord.