I know better
than God.

Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire, leaving them neither root nor branch, says the LORD of hosts. But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.

I have always wondered, really wondered about those who predict when the end will come, when the last days will arrive. More than that, I wonder why anyone would follow someone claiming to know.

As I mentioned last week, some people try to do biblical math, adding up various aspects of scripture, especially from the Books of Daniel and Revelation to reveal when the last days will come. As I also mentioned, I am not very good at regular math, and even if I were, I would not attempt it, it would be a foolish exercise. I do not know better than God. Consider also the many failed end time predictions that started with the Essenes in the 1st Century and continue through today. There are even predictions for the future stretching out as far as a googol (10100) years from now. So many think they know better than God. Don’t be fooled.

As Christians we need to act smartly, not foolishly. We need to have an understanding of last things that only comes from taking Jesus at His word – that not even He knew, and that we must be prepared. Sure, lots of things will happen as history unfolds, but those must not dissuade us. Justice and healing await us. 

As far as the end times, we cannot know it, we cannot predict it or figure it, but we have to live constantly expectantly for it is immanent. We must be Eschatologically focused. So, how do we do that?

We do that by looking to the totality of Jesus’ encounter with us and our encounter with Him. History did not start with His human birth and did not end with His Ascension. He is, after all, the Alpha and Omega. When we encounter Him in the Eucharistic celebration we are pulled into the totality of His eternity. We stand with Him from before time to beyond time. We must then stay Christ focused, following His model for life so that we are well prepared. We must live without fear, ready to give witness to Him by active ministry, mission, proclamation, and invitation. We don’t know better than God, but we know, as Jesus promised, that by our perseverance, we secure our lives.

Prepare, expect and
live it out.

And the Lord replied, “Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute the food allowance at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so. Truly, I say to you, the master will put the servant in charge of all his property. But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk, then that servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish the servant severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful.”

In an Ameritrades commercial a lazy husband is on the coach as his wife tells him to do one thing that day – establish an online investment account. He says, “Sure.” Then goes back to watching television. Finally he falls asleep only to wake up as his wife is pulling into the driveway. He jumps to his feet, rushes to the computer and opens an account in seconds. He jumps back on the coach as his wife walks in and asks: ‘Did you set up the account?’ His reply, ‘Of Course.’

It may be possible to wait till the last possible moment to establish an Ameritrades account, but there are some things that are far too important to take a chance on. It is like our athletes in Rio. To be ready to compete they had to train – years of training and lesser competitions just for this moment. They took no chances. So too for our relationship to God, we cannot wait and just take a chance on being ready. We must prepare ourselves and be ready for the moment – whether it be His calling us home or His glorious return. Would the loss of heaven be worth the risk of ignoring preparation?

Jesus spoke often of his return. There are over 260 chapters in the New Testament, and Christ return is mentioned at least 318 times.

In today’s gospel we find the first extended teaching on the Second Coming of Jesus and here He warns us to be ready. To prepare! Today we hear about three distinct characteristics of a “good waiter.” For us, waiting must not be a static state but a time of preparation, expectation, and faithfulness.

The first characteristic of a “good waiter” is preparation. As our athletes prepare not just their bodies but their equipment as well, we are reminded to “be dressed and ready.” Jesus’ servants are those who do not give in to the fatigue or frustration of waiting. Rather we are to keep ourselves joyfully ready no matter how long it takes.

The second characteristic of a “good waiter” is expectancy. No matter the time, Jesus’ servants have not given up on His return; have not said that it is so long that He’ll never come. The time of the Lord’s return is not our major concern. What is important is that we remain alert, expectant, and that we do not grow lazy in living our witness.

The third characteristic of a “good waiter” is faithfulness. The faithful one who stood ready is rewarded. The one who is not faithful is fearfully punished – that is Jesus promise. Too often we lose sight of that, as if heaven is a given no matter what. As with our athletes, the unprepared, the unfaithful, the one that doesn’t walk the walk will be really disappointed. Today is the day of salvation. It is the day for us to start living by preparing (prayer, worship, Scripture), expecting, and faithfully walking with Jesus.

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.

quarantine

Picking at
scabs.

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “If someone has on his skin a scab or pustule or blotch which appears to be the sore of leprosy, he shall be brought to Aaron, the priest, or to one of the priests among his descendants. If the man is leprous and unclean, the priest shall declare him unclean by reason of the sore on his head. The one who bears the sore of leprosy shall keep his garments rent and his head bare, and shall muffle his beard; he shall cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean!’ As long as the sore is on him he shall declare himself unclean, since he is in fact unclean. He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp.”

We don’t often hear of quarantines anymore. Quarantines are used to separate and restrict the movement of people; it is enforced isolation. Quarantines were used quite a bit in the past in connection to disease and illness, especially communicable disease. Quarantines were used during the plague, to prevent the spread of leprosy, yellow fever, cholera, diphtheria, infectious tuberculosis, and smallpox. More recently for Ebola and influenza.

The text we read from Leviticus serves two purposes.

The Law was meant to protect the people of Israel against the disease of leprosy at its most practical level. People who were sick had specific rules to follow so others wouldn’t get sick.

The text symbolically points out that the things that are unclean and sinful, including sinful people, should be kept apart from God’s people. God’s people were set apart as pure and holy and as such needed to avoid the infection of sin.

This symbolic meaning is quite depressing, not because its fun to hang out with those who would lead us down the wrong road, but because they were left alone. They could sit there and pick at their scabs-sins, sin again, contemplate their sin, but never get clean. They would dwell apart forever – apart from the community, apart from God. Their fate was painful and hopeless. With that sort of hopelessness there was not reason to repent, to turn away from sin, and no possibility of being welcomed back.

This is our hope, the abundance that we have been given. A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.”

Jesus came to call us to repentance. He tells us to stop picking at our scabs in isolation, quarantined away, and reaches out to heal us. He makes us clean and new. As we enter the season of Pre-Lent we are given the opportunity to reflect on the scabs we have been picking, and to begin the walk back to Jesus who will heal and free us.

Reflection for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – 2014

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Living a life
prepared.

For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, console one another with these words.

As we discussed last week, the Thessalonians accepted the Word and were faithful to it. They modeled what it means to be Jesus’ Church working in such a way as to advance the cause of the gospel in their lives and the lives of others.

They did have one concern. It was common in the early Church to believe that Jesus would return quickly and that all believers would be there to greet Him. They began to worry because, of course, some had died. They wondered whether their loved ones had done something wrong. They thought that those who had fallen asleep would not be there to meet the Lord. Paul set out to clarify that both those who were still alive and those who had fallen asleep would both be there on that wonderful day. Paul told them to hold onto that hope: For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep.

We are like the Thessalonians. Centuries have gone by and we begin to think – when will Jesus come? Will it be soon or in the distant future? Furthermore, Jesus is telling us that we always have to be ready, that we must be prepared: “Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

The last few weeks of Ordinary Time focus on the last things, on preparation. What does it mean for us to be prepared? How do we keep our lamps filled with oil and the flame burning?

Make no mistake, Jesus is coming again. When you look at our parish church you see the altar facing liturgical east. Why? Because that is the direction from which Jesus Christ will return in glory with the rising of the eternal Sun. We worship and pray in a way that shows our preparedness, facing the east, waiting for Him.

In our parish life we receive the sacraments that strengthen us and prepare us. We fill up our “oil stocks” with the gifts of grace – forgiveness of sins, the body and blood of our Lord. We encourage each other in reforming our lives, serving others not out of obligation, but out of joy, for we want them to experience the love of Christ. We invite others to come and worship, to be baptized and to believe so that they too may meet the Lord with lit lamps. What more must we do? The key to being prepared is to reject focus on our trials, to live, even when we suffer, with eyes focused on Jesus’ return.

Reflection for the 1st Sunday of Advent – A – 2013

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Yesterday, Today,
and Always

“Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

In the Holy Mass we participate in doing something extraordinary. When Jesus left us the gift of His body and blood and said, do this in memory of Me He gave us an explicit command to do what He had done that night.

Each of us has a special role in carrying out the Eucharist. Our gifts and sacrifice in the form of the bread and wine we offer is changed into Jesus’ body and blood by what the priest does during the Eucharistic prayer. Jesus’ role as servant is exemplified in the work of the deacon who serves at the altar. Each of our roles is essential. Jesus didn’t do any of what He did alone, but in the midst of community.

Jesus didn’t want us to just remember what He had done. Memory is fleeting and can fade with time. Rather, in asking us to carry out the same action as a family, to live the roles He exemplified, we are part of Jesus’ yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

In the Eucharistic moment we are at once transformed and present with Jesus at His birth and in His ministry. We are there at the Last Supper, at the foot of the Cross, His burial, His resurrection, His Ascension, and at His return.

How amazing it is that we are there with Him, that we can be so very close to Him.

We might think that this is enough. Certainly Jesus’ coming was that moment in time where our redemption occurred. We, who have accepted Jesus into our lives, have received His assurance of salvation. We have been justified. Yes, but greater things are yet to come.

This Advent, this day, is the moment we must be awake and ready for that greater thing. Those greater things are the miracles we bring to the lives of others by our ministry and by the proclamation of Jesus’ word. Faith and salvation will come to them through us as St. Paul tells us: [by] what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ.

The greatest thing yet to come, our greatest hope, is that day of Jesus’ return in glory. We cannot know, or even predict when that day will be, but it will come. We are already part of that always and this season of preparation is our moment to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand.

Special Note – Events and Times for Sunday, December 16th

Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out – Acts 3:19

Next Sunday, December 16th, we observe the Third Sunday of Advent, the lighting of the Third Advent Candle. On this Sunday we traditionally add to our Advent preparations during Holy Mass with a special Advent Penitential Service.

Proper Advent preparation requires that we free ourselves of sin. This is our opportunity. In this special preparatory moment we are better able to examine our conscience and put forth our best effort to make things right with God and our neighbor. These special penitential services occur only twice a year – so it is vitally important that we attend, participate, and celebrate together.

Following Holy Mass we will take time to enjoy fellowship, our Youth Christmas presentation, and join in preparing all those wonderful meatless dishes we will share with each other at our Vigil Dinner starting at 11:30am.

To allow sufficient time for our Penitential Service, Holy Mass, our Youth Presentation, and our Vigil Dinner we will begin at 8:45am with the lighting of the Advent Wreath immediately followed by our Penitential Service, receipt of the Sacrament of Penance, and Holy Mass. We are pleased to have Fr. Rafał Dadiełło from Holy Spirit Parish in Little Falls join us to administer the Sacrament of Penance and to offer Holy Mass.

St. Paul reminds us: All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation2 Corinthians 5:18. God gave His Holy Church the power to loose us of our sins -– come and be made free once again in the love of God who has reconciled all things to Himself in Christ Jesus. Then free, join in celebrating the coming season with each other.

Reflection for the First Sunday of Advent

Are you full?
Just fulfilled, thanks.

“The days are coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah.”

Oh, to be full! Sometimes overstuffed is a better word. We eat everything on our plate because we don’t want food to go to waste or, because when we were growing up our parents would tell us there were starving children in another country. In the end we may be full but are we fulfilled? 



A typical day for a busy parent: Wake at 5:30am get breakfast, make lunches, get everyone out the door, clean the house, grocery shop, maybe wash a couple loads of laundry, pick kids up from the bus stop, help with homework, make dinner, clean kitchen, bathe kids and put them to bed, and THEN sit down for a few minutes. It was a full day, and tomorrow will be an equally busy and productive day, but are they fulfilling? 



Full is an adjective meaning completely filled; containing all that can be held; filled to the utmost capacity
 or volume. Fulfill is a verb meaning to carry out, or bring to realization, to make complete.

The days of preparation are upon us. These are the days in which we need to move from being filled up with things to finding real fulfillment in Christ. We need to move toward the place and moment where our cup overflows with the joy of being complete in God.

St. Paul exhorts us: May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father.

Jesus wants us to be fulfilled, to be complete. It can be great to be full, but we have to be careful not to mistake fullness for fulfillment. We cannot make a full day or full stomach a substitute for a heart fulfilled in Jesus.

This Advent we need to prepare ourselves for fulfillment. We make a start by emptying ourselves of our failures, our sins, and our shortcomings. By doing so we make room for the Holy Spirit who will fill us with new attitudes and motives. Then, with a heart full of love and good, blameless in holiness, we are ready to be fulfilled, completed in Jesus.

Fulfilled in Jesus we become receivers of His promise. In Him we are made free, free to stand erect and raise our heads because our redemption is at hand.

Our hope is set on God’s promise and His fulfillment. He is coming to fulfill our lives. In receiving Him and His promise we become more than full, we are completely fulfilled.