you shall be called by a new name pronounced by the mouth of the LORD.

Jesus again enters the public scene. What better place to do that than at a wedding?

From Christmas forward we see the revelation of Jesus increasing. First, His obvious revelation to Mary and Joseph, the first to behold Him. Soon the crowd starts finding their way to Jesus. Helped by angels, the shepherds see Him, believe, and go forth to proclaim Him. Simeon, the priest and Anna, the prophetess, behold Him in the Temple. The wise men, guided by a star, find Him and the nations of the world pay Him homage. The people of Egypt come to know Him as a refugee and exile. Next, it is the inhabitants of Nazareth, the crowd on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the teachers in the Temple, John and his disciples at the Jordan and the heavenly proclamation: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

What’s amazing about the Christmas season is the repeated opportunities the world had and has to encounter Jesus. We don’t just jump from shepherds to Magi to John the Baptist to Cana. Rather, it is thousands of smaller, more intimate encounters with Jesus. It is chances (focus on the plural) to encounter Him, be changed by Him and be something different.

The wedding at Cana is a reminder of the encountering and the changing, as well as the work of those who point to Jesus (at Cana, it was Mary). Cana reminds us that things have changed. We are called to reconnect, to re-recognize the ways in which we are different and the ways we fall short of how different we must be. Things have changed – we are changed by our meeting with Jesus. We have more capacity and room for encounter and change.

At Cana, the usual was changed. The good wine came our later. The disciples came to believe. The usual became wonderfully unusual.

Isaiah reminded us that things would be and must be different. We get a new name – we are called differently. What was usual in us becomes wonderfully unusual. Encounter to change, change to further encounter, more change.

Encounter be changed. Call to mind and bring to action the discipleship of being something different in Jesus. 

Getting to
work.

“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.”

One more week has gone by, and how many years have passed in Jesus’ life? Twenty-eight more!

Jesus, having been baptized by John, is praying alongside the Jordan, and the Father and the Holy Spirit reveal him. In other gospel accounts, we find John pointing to Jesus and telling His disciples: “Look, the Lamb of God!” This is similarly a form of revealing, of pointing out and pointing to Jesus. The next sentence after that pointing out tells us what happened: When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.

This year, we are asked to dedicate ourselves to discipleship, to set to work in better following Jesus: To trust, to be willing, and to get to work following Jesus.

If you read our Bishop’s Pastoral Letter, you will see, simply explained, the ways we can do that. If you have looked at our parish newsletter, you read about the parallels between discipleship and apprenticeship. Are we ready to sign our Jesus Union Card and get to learning and working?

Whoa Pastor, what do you mean? I have to do what?

That shock might come from some sort of self-assessment – I am not strong enough, willing enough, I don’t have the skill for, or I am simply unwilling to set to that kind of work. Others could then turn around and comment, judging from afar – oh, look at them – they do so little. What we do not do is scrape away the top layer; we don’t look deeper. Underneath that attitude we may very well find poor self-opinion, a belief in one’s unworthiness or fear of disappointing God; guilt, past error, or fear weighing people down. If that is the case in your life, and it certainly has been in mine, then look at what Peter said in the house of Cornelius – “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.” Serious words – God chose us, allowed us to be baptized into His family, His Union, His discipleship. God does not choose stupidly. Trust that.

When John’s disciples (learners) ran up to Jesus to be His learners, Jesus didn’t ask for an application or a resume. There was no test – only willingness. Be willing.

Jesus has been revealed. With trust and willingness, we must take the first step – and the next – learning from Him, modeling His life, getting to work. Not stopping. Following Him.

A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.

The new year. Time to learn something new? There are lots of areas we could concentrate on. Learn to live a healthier life. Learn to cook like Julia Child. Learn plumbing, blacksmithing… Get another degree? One area long neglected and re-emerging in learning circles is apprenticeships. Apprenticeships offer many advantages. Millions leave college each year with long term debt, little practical training, and difficult job prospects while apprenticeships cost nothing and provide learners with health care and pension benefits, paid practical training, highly marketable and in-demand skills, no debt, and earning prospects of $145,000 to $175,000 per year. We might feel it is difficult to go back and start over, but there is one apprenticeship that is always open and available to everyone: Being a Disciple of Jesus. Factually, that is what being a disciple means – a learner, a student, an apprentice. In 2019 we are called to renewed discipleship, to apprenticing with the Master and Teacher of all. This year we are to dedicate ourselves to learning and doing with Jesus as His disciples! This apprenticeship is to focus on aligning our lives with that of the Teacher, learning His ways, first imitating and then integrating His behaviors, approaching people as He does, and inviting them into this school of discipleship. The key to this year of learning is our doing. A plumber’s apprentice has to get in there and carry the pipes, sweat them together. An electrician’s apprentice has to splice wire with his teacher. In the same way, as Jesus sent out the seventy-two learners/apprentices/disciples, we must apply our efforts in practical ways alongside our Master. Ready to learn something new, and put that learning into practice? Ready to do the one thing that guarantees success and great benefits? Sign the Jesus Union card and Disciple now!

January, the New Year, and we wish all of our followers, Jesus’ disciples in training, a very happy and blessed new year.

There is much going on – and we want to make sure you are well informed and ready to put your resolutions into high gear. It is about doing what is healthful and positive and we cannot get any greater health and positive force than from Jesus.

Read about our upcoming annual meeting, put yourself in running and do something to keep YOUR parish going. For the 18th year we are participating in the SouperBowl of Caring – feeding the hungry in our local community. Get your Valentine’s Raffle tickets sold and in. It is really important. Offer Holy Mass for a loved one. Set up a house blessing. Get in on Music Scholarships. Read and integrate “The Most Important Thing We Can Do To Be Successful In The New Year.”

Check out all this and more in our January 2019 Newsletter.

I adore
You.

on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage.

It has been a quick two years. Mary and Joseph have established a home in Bethlehem and are now taking care of a toddler. Suddenly, the door bursts open and three men, with their entourage, burst through the door, dressed in the regalia of the wealthy and honored. They look, they see, and they “fell down” and “did obeisance.” 

Obeisance – a very old and very cool word. It means they gave deference to Jesus. They showed respect, homage, worship, adoration, reverence, veneration, honor, and submission. They paid what was owed in obedience to the King of kings. Their gesture was elaborate, even extreme.

These wise men are called that for a reason, they wisely paid obeisance to a Baby. They wisely saw, in the midst of a poor house, with its few meager sticks of furniture, the truth. The Eternal King had come into the world.

The path, first tread by the expectant family, followed on by poor shepherds, and now tread by foreigners, outsiders is come to completion. In a few short days the gifts fit for a king: gold, frankincense, and myrrh, would fund the escape of the refugee Holy Family as they fled into Egypt.

Have we ever done true obeisance? I was listening to the Sinatra channel as I ran errands the other day. I enjoy those mellow songs so replete with love, longing, and adoration. A guy meets a girl: Flash! Bang! Alakazam! Wonderful you came by… at least according to Nat King Cole.

They adore each other. That is until they get deeper into their relationship and suddenly the object of the adoration begins to feel self-conscious – It’s too much! I don’t deserve it. Somehow, for some reason, we humans struggle with adoring love like that. 

We should get over it! Why? Because Jesus says we are worthy of that kind of love.

There is the hidden mystery. He, who is to be adored and paid obeisance in turn loves and adores us.

As Jesus’ disciples, His students, we are to learn from Him. As He accepted obeisance, we are to accept His extravagant and extreme love. As He accepted gifts, so we must accept the gifts He provides – using them to make Him known. As He accepted the poor, the outsider, so must we, loving like Him always.

God’s
got it.

For the Lord has redeemed Israel from those too strong for them. They will come home and sing songs of joy on the heights of Jerusalem. They will be radiant because of the Lord’s good gifts

The average temperature, that night, outside Bethlehem is forty-two degrees. Not exactly summer picnic weather. Shepherds never had an easy life. The average salary of a shepherd – while in that day there wasn’t any – and I’ll get to that – is today only $26,200.  That is less than half of the median household income. It is barely enough to cover housing and a little food. It is the definition of poverty.

I mentioned that shepherds in Jesus’ day did not really make a salary. They were typically elderly or younger family members who couldn’t be trusted in any other role. So they got to watch the sheep.

Cold, in poverty, unwanted and thought useless. They are who we celebrate today. We celebrate them because they were the first to see and get the message. They were the first to tell of it, to spread the Good News. God has entered the world to bring to fulfillment what He spoke through Jeremiah: I will turn their mourning into joy. I will comfort them and exchange their sorrow for rejoicing.

This has been a strange Advent and Christmas season for me. A movie, a song – I’d find myself getting emotional. This holds a deeper meaning and lesson. God was teaching me a lesson.

We must never let the cold of the world, the constant just above freezing forty-two degree spiritual environment around us shut down the warmth of our hearts. If the cold of the world has gotten to us – today we must recognize and acknowledge that God’s got it. He will not let the cold win.

Are we impoverished and weakened, poor for want of physical, spiritual, or intellectual gifts? Today we must recognize and acknowledge that God’s got it. He will not let poverty win.

Are we unwanted, estranged, facing deep loneliness, rarely thought of, shuffled into the elderly corner or to the kid’s table? Today we must recognize and acknowledge that God’s got it. He will not let separation win.

We long for so many gifts, as did the shepherds on that hill.  We long as individuals, a community and neighborhood, and as Church. Suddenly, life was different and it IS different now because God’s promise is fulfilled- He has us.


Do not be afraid. Listen. I bring you news of great joy.

Twelve words in three sentences. With those words, the angel who was anointed to first deliver the Gospel message, announced it to the shepherds. Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, Immanuel had arrived. The Word made flesh had come. God is among us. You are going to have joy!

We often get so caught up in our dramas, and even in church bureaucracy, that we miss the essential and constant message given to us this night. The Good News of great joy!

Jesus came to bring good news. His news takes away all that is scary, all that is condemning, and that which rises to bring us down by accusation. His news is strong enough to overcome any negativity in our lives. He literally set aside His glory and crown in that impoverished stable to bring us victory, a crown, a trophy we can proudly display.

His victory – our salvation.

His crown – given us as the crown of eternal life.

Our trophy – new lives, changed lives, un-fearing, brave lives of witness and proclamation wherein we say with the angel, to all who will hear us, Do not be afraid. Listen. I bring you news of great joy.

Do not be fooled by this gentle sight – for within it is symbolized Jesus, the great warrior King who comes toward us. He came to do war with fear, condemnation, and accusation. He came not to war with us, but rather to deliver us from the war the world makes. He came toward us and invites us to stand with Him as our great shield. Behind His shield we go forward with twelve words in three sentences, saying to all who will hear us: Do not be afraid. Listen. I bring you news of great joy.

We have God’s great Good News. Good news of great joy. How wonderful, how blessed is this night. Do not be afraid. Listen. I bring you news of great joy.

A name which means “God-is-with-us.”

 

Indeed, God is with us. He is here, in the person of Jesus. The perfect gift.

 

Did you catch all the names in the genealogy of Jesus? These were the great men and women of faith history through whose line Jesus inherited the earthly kingship of Israel.  He, who was King from the very beginning and before time, would now take His throne on earth. From that throne He would deliver us.

 

Those men and women of faith history were indeed great. Some were great from birth, some had greatness cast upon them when they received God’s call. Yet each was flawed, imperfect. They fell, lost faith, did wrong, messed up, didn’t follow through. None of them could save us, they could not even deliver themselves from sin. They were like beautifully wrapped presents but broken inside. Their greatness was found in the God ordained messages they delivered. How, despite brokenness and flaws, they pointed ever forward and called their fellow Israelites to right relationship with God.

 

Did people listen? Not always. But the message was clear, be faithful, live right with God, and prepare for the coming Christ, the Messiah, Immanuel. For He is coming to live with us. He is immanent. In Him we will be saved.

 

As we gather at this vigil time, we are called to recollect history and to plainly see the difference Jesus’ coming made. For out of this genealogy, this long line of great, yet flawed people, would come the One who is, was, and always will be great – and flawless, the perfect present. His flawlessness accomplished deliverance, salvation, and freedom. His flawlessness allows us the opportunity to accept His perfect gift, what He has done for us. His flawlessness, His perfect gift, is available to each of us for the price of YES.

 

In the history of a flawed and broken world, from a line of flawed and imperfect people, God broke into the world. While the ancients could do nothing but point to the future, Jesus came to deliver the future. That is why we rejoice today. It is why we, like Joseph, are called to wake up and see Jesus, our gift, free of flaws and offering us the chance. Say yes – take the present, unwrap it, and live with and in Jesus – God-with-us.

Love filled
results.

Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.

We have focused on being checked in and its results from three perspectives. Those are: The peace that comes from being prepared, ready and refusing to give up; Stepping out into the world to announce the kingdom, to proclaim a renewed and joyful life in Jesus. Plugged in people have God’s true joy, a joy that doesn’t leave us; and Hope lived everyday, in every moment – Jesus is near! Peace, joy, and hope, three hallmarks of being checked-in with Jesus.

Peace, joy, and hope – wonderful gifts that are essential elements of our checked-in lives, essential elements of the one thing that wraps them all up together – love.

As we prepare to enter into the Season of Christmas, we are called to take the gifts of peace, joy, and hope and to wrap them together in love and deliver them to the world. This is our charge from Jesus, to take what most consider conceptual and out-of-reach and make it real. More than make it real, show it forth, we are to use God’s grace to get results with those gifts.

Getting real results, love filled results – that is the message of today’s Gospel, that is the message of Jesus first coming, and His anticipated return.

An angel visits Mary, ensconced in her home. She is asked to literally give up everything for love, for the love necessary to bring a child into the world. She is asked to show forth love, and to get real results with her love. Showing forth that love would not gain Mary any love. Her espoused was ready to abandon her. Her community rejected her. Making love real meant ridicule and abandon, yet Mary did it and topped it off with service to her cousin Elizabeth in her need. Mary wrapped the peace of God, joy and hope, in love, stayed checked-in. She made it real to her expected Son and her cousin.

We are recipients of Jesus’ showing forth the fullness of God’s love, and its reality. The results are within us – our sins washed away, our hearts and minds fed by His word, and ready to receive Him. We march forth into the world like Mary with a gift wrapped in love, not to be stored under a tree or on a shelf. Let us never shy away from opening God’s gifts of peace, joy, and hope in love, putting them to work for real love filled results.

The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Two weeks ago we discussed our call to stand up, to hold our heads high for the Day of the Lord, our hearts focused on plugging in and being ready, rather than on giving up and checking out. Last week we took that message a step further. When we are plugged in and prepared we are able to step out into the world announce the kingdom, calling sinners to a renewed and joyful life. Plugged in people have God’s true joy, a joy that doesn’t leave us.

The faithful, truly plugged in and ready for the Lord’s return, filled with joy, have a unique gift. It is the gift of hope bringing awareness.

Awareness is a unique gift. It is a gift that implies knowledge and insight giving us hope. Look at the awareness and hope evident in today’s readings and Gospel.

Zephaniah was a prophet living in very dark times. Most of his message was dark. People had closed their hearts and minds to an awareness of God. They unplugged, and lived in unjust and abusive times. They pursued what they thought would buy them happiness. Zephaniah spoke of devastation and death, Divine judgment on the “day of the Lord.” Yet, in his plugged-in-ness, Zephaniah stayed aware – This is not the real end. He acclaims with great hope: Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult, the King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear.

Similarly, St. Paul reminds us that our awareness leads to the same joy and that joy provides us with steadfast hope. He says: Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all.

John went out with joy and hope. Because of that, he did amazing things. He provided sinners with a taste of that hope and joy, the removal of anxiety, freedom from desolation in promise of the Messiah Who was on the horizon.

The promise of Jesus is on the horizon. Set aside anxiety. See the peace and hope that is ours, not just on Sunday, or in Advent, or in the coming of Christmas, but everyday, every moment. Let us stay hopefully aware, on top of Jesus’ closeness. He is near!

Checked in and
joyful.

And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

Last week, we discussed our call to stand up, to hold our heads high for the Day of the Lord. Our hearts focused on plugging in and being ready, rather than on giving up and checking out.

If indeed we plugged in and walked in the path of readiness, something wonderful happened. I know I felt it.

It was a long week for me. I left on Tuesday morning for San Diego. Everyone encouraged me, Oh, you’ll have fun, its sunny and warm. Well after about six hours of traveling, I arrived to a setting sun. Not as warm as I expected, but I packed wisely, just in case. Two days of rain and flooding later, it got sunny and warm, just as I entered the airport for the trip home on Friday.

I knew I’d be home late – actually early Saturday morning. I’d be exhausted. As you might imagine, traveling is no joy in this day and age. My trip had its share of what normally would be annoyances. There were a few additional things that go thrown on my plate mid-week as well. But something was different. Expecting Jesus really changed my days and turned annoyances into moments of prayer. Jesus turned times of dread into opportunities. I am so thankful.

Dreading being alone, eating alone, away from friends and family – a brother priest happened to be in the same city at the same time. Neither of us had to be alone. The person snoring on the plane, directly across the aisle from me, for three hours? I had the chance to pray for that person, for healing and better health. There were other moments like that too.

Like the Israelites returning to the Promised Land, we who are checked in and preparing are able to hold our heads high, to march forward with joy knowing the Lord has us in the palm of His hand; is protecting and guiding us.

Like John the Baptist, we are taking charge and doing God’s work with joy. In many ways we announce the kingdom, call sinners to a renewed and joyful life, and heal hurt. Even when the work is hard, and we are down to our last few locusts for dinner, the light of true joy doesn’t leave us.