What if I’m
bored?

On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.

Today we are one week closer to standing before that stable. One week closer to welcoming the Lord.

That is a beautiful thought. My family puts up its Christmas decorations very late, days before Christmas. In the Advent spirit we are anticipating. We know that once the decorations are up, the vigil meal will be around the corner. We know that we will trek to church and witness the Babe born anew, and feel within ourselves His warmth – happiness, joy, peace, and the promise that because of Him we will have peace.

But what happens when we feel dead inside. What happens when all the expectation is gone – when that occasion about four weeks hence is a bore. The decorations are dusty already, the food isn’t good, and church is a function rather than a joy. Some might even think they are at peace when in reality they have just become numb.

That is where Israel was. The stump of Jesse is literally the sterility of David’s line. Jesse was David’s father and David’s male line was now impotent. Two hundred and seventy years after David was born to be King of Israel Isaiah told us that the dying, impotent, sterile kingship in Israel will produce its once and final King – the true King – the Lord Jesus.

Twenty-eight generations later. Jesus would be born of the line of David. His line – all but forgotten, dusty and dead, no flavor, nothing there and life suddenly springs anew.

John sets out for the Jordan. The prophet, the forerunner, has arrived. Word spreads – there is hope around the corner. Something amazing is about to happen. As the people came forward they acknowledged their sins – primarily the sin of lost hope, of not believing in the promise. Thy came forward to say, ‘Our dead hearts are waking up.’

Paul understood this would happen to us, so he says: May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus. Paul is telling us to keep it together, to be encouraged. Seven hundred years passed between Isaiah and Jesus. That is a lot of dust, a lot of boredom, and a lot of numbness. Life and joy lost.

What if we’re bored? What do we do? Start here: Surrender our pre-conceived to-do list. Time to change things up – to build a spirit of anticipation. Then, when the moment comes, we find in it the full power of the promise that is ours.

Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

Last year we dedicated ourselves to focusing on joy. In the spirit of one liturgical and calendar year ending and the next beginning, let’s look back. We began last year in Advent, a season of anticipatory joy. Fitting for us as Christians – God’s children – we awaited the best present ever. Then came that day standing at the stable, looking upon the baby Jesus and living the forty days of joyful celebration that followed. Knowing Jesus is always in our midst as well as newly with us. We walked though each season finding new joy in Christ and each other. Here we are – at the start – again reconnecting, celebrating, and knowing endless joy. Time to smile, shed a tear of joy at the stable, and look ahead.

Join us throughout December for a jam packed schedule of holy events, fellowship, and mostly joy. Escape the harangue of the world and find peace, time out from the madness in Jesus and the family of faith.

Send in your Polish Food Sale orders. Get a memory cross. Pick up those Christmas wafers / Opłatki. Join us for our annual Christmas Vigil / Wigilia pot-luck will be held on Sunday, December 18th following Holy Mass. Our SOCL students will present a short play for your reflection and enjoyment. Our brother, Derek Westcott will present two musical pieces he has been working on for months. Come see and support them. Genealogy, roots, stipends, college, read up…

You may view and download a copy of our December 2016 Newsletter right here.

Taking instruction.
Reaping benefits.

For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

Here we are, entering Advent. In a little more than four weeks we will stand at the stable as thousands in this parish have done since 1922, and billions of Christians do each year. If we could just imagine ourselves there for a moment, what would we say to ourselves – the person standing here today? What advice could we give ourselves?

Isaiah pegged it right when he told us to pay attention to the word of the Lord. This isn’t just a hearing, or a mere paying attention to, or a listening. Our paying attention must be converted to the integration of God’s word into ourselves. We are to make every act, word, gesture, project, task, and study a living encounter with God’s love – within ourselves and for each other.

As with most prophetic utterances Isaiah gives us both a consequence and a promise.

The promise is that our living encounters with God’s love results in this: They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. Those very real encounters within us and in our relationships come from walking in the light of the Lord!

The consequence is judgment. God looks at us and will judge whether our lives have been an encounter with His love. No one likes the thought of that because we all fall short. As such we must measure how our life in Jesus reaches reality and hold ourselves to a much higher standard. We cannot just ignore the consequence and hope for the best. We cannot walk in darkness and expect the promise to happen in spite of us.

Let’s get back to our advice to ourselves – I would say to myself – be careful each day to walk in the light of the Lord. Don’t make those mistakes. Let His word and His way be integrated in me; make it real in my every encounter. If the Lord’s promise fills me, and all I encounter, I will see His promise come to reality. People will be lifted up. Joy will be made real.

In today’s Epistle and Gospel we hear the challenge – our salvation is nearer now; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Our advise to ourselves – we cannot afford to set the light of the Lord aside or expect that the consequence is not near. So let us take up His instruction, live His promise and make every encounter a reflection of His light.

Let’s hurry
up!

Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah

If there is one thing God really likes, it is journeys. Think of all the journeys in scripture.

Noah took a great boat trip. Abraham journeyed from Ur of the Chaldeans to the Promised Land. Joseph was sold off into slavery and went to Egypt. His brothers journeyed there for food and Jacob eventually moves to settle there. Once enslaved, the Lord frees His people and they journey back to the Promised Land – a journey taking forty years. Ruth journeyed and God accompanied His people in the Ark of the Covenant wherever they went. Israel journeyed into and out of captivity.

All these journeys set the stage for the coming of the promised Messiah – our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We might think that once the stage was set the journeying would cease. Not so! Today we see Mary journey to her cousin Elizabeth. Mary acts as a sign. She shows us how to accept God’s will and how we are to put His will into action through journeying to serve each other. Mary would then journey back home, to her espoused Joseph, and together they would journey to Bethlehem to bear Him who was to shepherd his flock by the strength of the LORD.

The journeying did not end there. Having come to fulfill His Father’s will, Jesus would journey throughout the territories of Judea and Samaria to preach the gospel. He journeyed to call all to repentance – to a change of heart. Finally, He would journey to Jerusalem to His death.

Those without faith see the journey ending there – at the cross, at death. But, thanks to God that death is no longer the end of our journey. Jesus opened the door to the only destination that matters – heaven in the presence of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

In keeping with the Lord’s teaching and direction His followers have journeyed ever since. The Apostles went far and wide as heralds of the message of the risen Christ. Greece, India, Constantinople, Carthage in North Africa, Persia and Ethiopia, Armenia, Syria, Ephesus, Patmos, and Rome heard the Word preached. The Apostles’ journeys and that of their disciples, and their disciple’s disciples spread the gospel across the whole world.

As we near the end of our Advent journey and head to the forty days of the Christmas season, let us journey in haste. Like Mary, let us journey to show forth both our acceptance of God’s will and the great joy that comes from His service. Like the Apostles, let us journey to every end of our community to tell of the Great Shepherd. Let us help people see and realize His greatness, kindness, and peace. Let the urgency of our journey cause us to hurry up for the time is at hand.

Rejoice, and share
rejoicing!

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The LORD has removed the judgment against you he has turned away your enemies; the King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear.

Today we read a message of hope and rejoicing from the Prophet Zephaniah.

This message is found near the end of the third chapter of this very short book of prophecy. More than two-thirds of Zephaniah’s prophesy deals with judgment and can be considered, more than any other prophecy, as one of devastation, death, and Divine judgment. The Day of Judgment is pictured as a time of darkness, anguish, distress, destruction, plunder, and threat to all life, human and animal alike.

Israel had turned from God to false gods, fake gods of wood and stone. Israel’s leadership was unjust and abusive. Zephaniah’s prophecy occurred just before the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C.

Today’s world is much like Zephaniah’s. Political leadership in our country and throughout the world is unjust and abusive. Most of the people in our country and across the world have turned from God or have turned to false gods who promise that through some set of works and deeds a person might be saved. Our world is filled with terror. In the not to distant future we will likely know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone affected by terrorism. We are only a few degrees of separation away.

Here we sit amidst all this turmoil and tendency to fear. We ourselves fear for our families, children, grandchildren, friends, and coworkers. In less than two weeks we will gather with them to celebrate Christ’s coming among us. Today we are reminded to rejoice! To rejoice!!!

If we, like ancient Israel, only lived for today, like politicians and believers in false gods, then we have reason to fear. We, rather, live forever. We have been delivered, not by works and deeds, but by faith in the One who has saved us. As Zephaniah foretold: The LORD has removed the judgment against you he has turned away your enemies; the King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear. Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged! The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior. We need not be afraid for even if terror comes to our door, we have already been delivered to eternal joy.

We have reason to rejoice. More than that, we have reason to share our joy with the world. We must offer a share of our rejoicing to all people of good will. Those who follow false idols will be saved by our gift of joyful faith and perhaps even a politician or two might reject evil and also rejoice.

Who paved this
road?

For God has commanded that every lofty mountain be made low, and that the age-old depths and gorges be filled to level ground, that Israel may advance secure in the glory of God.

The Prophet Baruch proclaims words similar to those proclaimed by Isaiah and Sirach: prepare, make straight the path for the Lord. We hear those same words re-proclaimed by John the Baptist:

“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth…”

These prophetic words are heard in church each Advent. They easily define for us the things we are to do as part of both our Advent journey and throughout the rest of the year. We are to prepare ourselves and make ourselves ready for the coming of the Lord.

How should we prepare? The Church helps to guide us – and the guidance certainly isn’t to be busy, busy, busy all the time with decorating and shopping. The Lord is expecting a different kind of present from us – a prepared, humble, and penitent heart – a heart filled with love for Him and for our neighbor.

A far more difficult question is, even with the Church’s help, whether we are able to prepare enough. How can we fully turn our lives around so that we are perfectly ready for the Lord?

Thankfully, Baruch tells us how those high mountains will be made low, how deep valleys and gorges will be filled in, how the road will be made ready – how we will be made ready: God will do it. The high mountains in our lives – those things too difficult to overcome on our own and the deep valleys of failure will be overcome and filled in by God.

Baruch tells us that God has commanded these things. Having commanded it, that is, having made it a requirement, He had to bring His command to fulfillment.

God brought all things to fulfillment by sending His Son, Jesus, to accomplish His command. Jesus was and is the only One who can level the mountains and valleys of sin, despair, and death for us. He took all those things away and paved the road of life for us. He took away our sins – all of them. In a similar way, God stated multiple times (see Deuteronomy, Jeremiah and Ezekiel) that He would make our hearts ready.

All of this mountain leveling, valley filling, and road paving are impossible for us on our own. We cannot earn God’s favor. Rather, we make ready by accepting Him fully in faith. That is the preparation that is most important. Accepting Him and traveling His way we shall see the salvation of God. He paved the road and we just have to take it.

The on-time/early newsletter record goes on… Well sort of, posted here a few days later but delivered in church on the 29th.

December – that time for going to church for Christmas. St. Paul told us that through the Church something amazing will happen in our lives. Going to church is great,but becoming through Church is so much more. Check it out.

December continues our Advent journey of preparation and expectation. Tons of news on so many great events (2 dinners, Christmas preparation, St. Nicholas, Parish Committee nominations – get your name in. Get clued in by reading through the newsletter.

You may view and download a copy of our December 2015 Newsletter right here.

It’s all
over?

“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”

The Thanksgiving leftovers are (almost) gone. If we were well prepared, the shopping is done. If not, perhaps we completed it (or at least started it) at the end of this past week.

We live in a time of “getting it done,” completing things, finishing. Perhaps getting things done relieves some of our worries. If we don’t get things out of the way, how could we possible deal with the stresses we have in daily life – our jobs, grades, children and grandchildren, our Social Security and retirement savings, health…

It is easy to say – I’m so glad that’s over. On to the next… Jesus asks for a different reaction in His faithful.

Jesus warns us against worry, against getting caught up in the day-to-day and worldly worries. Those are for a time only – but life in Him is eternal. Jesus also asks His followers to: Be vigilant at all times and pray. That is a warning against the: I’m glad it’s all over attitude. Advent helps us in readjusting and correcting our attitude.

If we are happy that Thanksgiving is finally over what does that say about the attitude of thankfulness that should be lived every moment of every day? If we are stressed about our shopping and cooking and traveling for Christmas – getting the decorations up so we can get them down – what does that say about our allowing Jesus to be born anew in us each day? If getting Easter done next is our goal, then do we see the power of Jesus’ suffering, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension? If we stress over work and money, what does that say about where our treasure is located? If each moment is lived with the stress of getting things done, are we truly preparing for the tribulations that are imminent? If we cannot wait for the next thing to be over, checking stuff off our list, are we ready to stand before the Son of Man at the end of time?

Advent reminds us that we are to be in constant preparation and longing – not for the next thing to be all over, but for Jesus to come again. We are to feed on Him in the sacramental life of the Church – gifts he left us to strengthen us for a journey to the only completion that matters – eternal life in Him. We are to: Be vigilant at all times and pray not just to get it done and over, but so that we may overcome every trial and test and obtain true victory.

Reflection for the 4th Sunday of Advent and Confirmation

romans_1_16

Called to make the
Good News known

Brothers and sisters: To him who can strengthen you, according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages but now manifested through the prophetic writings and, according to the command of the eternal God, made known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith, to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Jesus Christ has given us His Gospel – that is the Good News necessary for us to recognize the truth of salvation. This Good News tells us two things: God desires a relationship with us, that He wants to be more than just part of our lives, but in total union with us throughout our lives; and that He loves us so much that He was willing and did sacrifice Himself to make that love and unity real forever. Truly, He came to both preach the Good News and deliver its promise.

As Claudia, Justyne, and Adam complete the sacrament of Baptism-Confirmation with their reception of Confirmation today, they acknowledge and accept as adults what St. Paul tells us: Our redemption and salvation brought about by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, are without controversy. They are true facts that they fully accept and believe in. Claudia, Justyne, and Adam take up the challenge to proclaim this Good News in an adult way. They stand before us in potential and will clearly state: Yes, this is what I want to do. I know that Jesus did this for me, for my family in the faith, and I want to invite all I meet and know to also accept this Good News.

Their potential must now come to realization. They are like bread dough. The Holy Spirit and our family in the faith have filled them with the yeast of the Good News. This has been and remains the yeast of knowing, loving and serving the Lord and each other. But if this dough remains unbaked it will spoil. The baking will come through their witness to Jesus Christ in His Holy Church and in the community. They will face trials (the baking) – for the world either ignores or hates the Good News. The Good News gets in the way of self-centered lives. It requires submission and obedience. We cannot go our own way, we must be obedient and go the way God intends in order to share in the Good News. We must become one in the great family of faith, not just in our minds and homes, but also in Church and on the street.

God’s mystery has been made known to us. This is not just the word of prophets and preachers, but the very Word of God come among us. Today Claudia, Justyne, and Adam are anointed to make the Good News known to all they meet. Christ is salvation to all who believe. Come share in Him.

Reflection for the Third Sunday of Advent 2014

3402_Upward

God is sending
me?

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the LORD and a day of vindication by our God.

John the Baptist appears in the dessert preaching a baptism of repentance. The beautiful beginning of the Gospel according to St. John notes: A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. John came with a purpose based on a call from God. We too are sent to testify to the light, so that all might believe [in Jesus] through us. This call comes to us and this commission is given us at the moment of Baptism. We publically declare our acceptance of God’s call and commission as adults in Confirmation. We are strengthened and fed for this work in receiving Holy Communion. When we fail at our task we are renewed in the Sacrament of Penance.

It is hard to think that the Lord has anointed us. Really – Who, me? That seems like such a solemn and important thing. Think anointed and we may picture (as recent events indicate) the ordination of a priest, the consecration of a bishop, or the crowning of a king or queen. Prophets were anointed, King David was anointed – and yes we are anointed. As Christians we are anointed into the royal priesthood and into the family of God, the body of Christ. We are anointed as prophets, evangelists and leaders. The gifts of the Spirit are poured out on us – wisdom, understanding, right judgment, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They are the tools given to us so we can fulfill our great commission, to proclaim the Lord’s favor to all and to baptize them into Christ.

Our anointing is solemn, it is important, and it is joyful and life-giving. That is why Jesus left us every tool and grace we need to carry out our commission. He continually calls us into unity with Him, complete unity with His eternal life-giving love and power.

Advent gives us the opportunity we need to reconnect to our anointing, our call and commission. It allows us to recollect and re-recognize the wonderful gifts God has graciously given us. It slows us to give Advent witness to a world that might think Christmas Day is the end of the season rather than the beginning of forty days and an eternity of rejoicing.

Yes, God is sending us with power and conviction. Let us bring glad tidings to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, and proclaim liberty to the captives and release to prisoners. Let us announce a year of favor from the LORD.