Saturday, December 21, 2013

Fourth Sunday Of Advent Homily - 2013

Isaiah 7: 10-14
Romans1: 1-7
Matthew 1: 18-24

How would you or I respond to an encounter with God?  In today’s first Scripture Reading and the Gospel, we see two different reactions to an encounter with the Divine.  In the reading from the Book of Isaiah, we see the Lord, through His prophet Isaiah, offering to make any sign to prove to Ahaz, that the God of his ancestors, the God of Abraham, Moses, and David; was still with His people, still had the power to defend them from their enemies.  Now, Ahaz was the king of Judah, the southern part of the former Kingdom of Israel established by King David.  Years after the deaths of David and Solomon, the Kingdom split into two smaller kingdoms, the southern one called Judah, held the city of Jerusalem.  The northern kingdom retained the name of Israel.  Now the northern kingdom would eventually be conquered by the Assyrians, and wiped off the map.  King Ahaz did not want that to happen to his kingdom, so he began paying tribute money to the Assyrians, and allowing the worship of the Assyrian gods.  At the same time, he was preparing Jerusalem to withstand a siege, and negotiating secret alliances with the other regional powers.  The prophet Isaiah tells Ahaz that all that is needed is to remain faithful to God, and his people will be safe.  And to prove it, God will give Ahaz a sign of His power.  Now Ahaz , a pragmatist, some today could call him a secularist, would rather depend on his own efforts; but to humor Isaiah, he hides behind false humility: “I will not tempt the Lord!”  God sees through this act, and through Isaiah, gives Ahaz a sign, whether he wants it or not.  Biblical scholars believe that the child of the prophecy is Ahaz’s own son, Hezekiah, whose mother had just become old enough for child bearing.  For his lack of faith, Ahaz is counted as one of the wicked kings of Israel, and it is said, he was not buried with his ancestors, David and Solomon.

Now in today’s Gospel, we hear about Joseph, and how he faced the situation with his betrothed, Mary.  The evangelist Matthew, describes Joseph as a “righteous man,” someone who is faithful to God, who has followed the Mosaic Law.  And according to that law, Joseph was within his rights to expose Mary’s “unfaithfulness,” and break the engagement; though it could expose Mary to shame, and possible punishment, even death.  Yet, Joseph was not just a righteous man; he was a holy man, a compassionate man.  He was going to protect Mary from public exposure, and quietly divorce her.  It is then that the angel of God speaks to him.  Joseph learns that child will be a son, conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit, that he is the Son of God.  Joseph is being called by God, to accept this child, care for, and protect this child, who will be the salvation of all humanity.  Now Joseph could have waken up from this dream, and his reaction could have been, “I really have to be careful of bad goat cheese,” or “This calling is too much for me, I cannot accept this.”  But he does accept the calling, because he trusts in the love of God, he believes in the prophecy of Isaiah, he believes that God will be with him, as he accepts this new responsibility.

So what about us, what would be our reaction to an encounter with God?  And let us not fool ourselves, each one of us continuously has an encounter with God, we just might be too busy, too anxious, too stressed, or too self-centered to hear him speaking to us.  And he is speaking to us, through his Word.  He is present to us through the Eucharist; he feed us and strengthens us through the Body and Blood of Christ, in communion.  He is in each of our hearts, through the Holy Spirit; calling us as he called St. Paul; “to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God.  Through the Holy Spirit “we have received the grace of apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith, for the sake of his name, “ Emmanuel “God is with us;” Jesus: “Yahweh is salvation;” Christ “the anointed,” “the Messiah.”

In the days remaining before Christmas, let us all try for just a few minutes to be still; Yes, I know, easier said than done!  But we really need to prepare our hearts for the coming of our Lord, to see the signs of His Presence among us, and within us; and to accept the call to be holy and receive the grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Bishop Deeley Of Boston Goes Down East!

The local news outlets and the Catholic blogosphere were abuzz with the news that Robert Deeley, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Boston, had been appointed Bishop of Portland, Maine, by Pope Francis.  I had not realized, until I read the press releases, that they had been without a bishop for a long time.  Currently, he is serving as the Vicar General of the Boston Archdiocese.  The Archdiocesan newspaper, The Pilot, has reported on the story.

This appointment raises the question again about how much “juice,” Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, has in Rome.  As a member of the newly formed Council of Cardinals, (also known as the “G8,”) one can speculate that he was a force behind the establishment of a papal advisory commission, dealing with the child abuse crisis within the global Church.  The Diocese of Portland is a part of the Ecclesiastical Province of Boston, with Cardinal O’Malley as the metropolitan bishop.  From so many angles, the Cardinal must have some influence in the selection of Bishop Deeley for Portland.

I read somewhere that the Cardinal could have even more influence in Rome, if he wanted to play the church political game.  However, there are indications that Cardinal Sean has no interest in engaging in Vatican power plays; it goes against his Franciscan nature.  It will be interesting to see that holds true as his involvement in the pontificate of Pope Francis continues.

Monday, December 16, 2013

First Jams And Jellies, Now Ale?

Just discovered this little news nugget while surfing the blogosphere.  Deacon Greg Kandra of the blog "The Deacon's Bench," posted the news that St. Joseph's Abbey, a Trappist monastery in Spencer, MA, is going into the beer business. Deacon Greg has a link to the Fox News website, which has details of the beer venture. The report states that the monastery has received the necessary permits from the town and are brewing their first batches now.  This will be the first Trappist ale brewed outside of Europe, and in America

If the quality is anything close to their jams and jellies, they have a winner here.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Feast Day Of St. Francis Xavier And An Epiphany About My Name

The family tale about my birth has it that my father, who was a recent graduate from the Jesuit Boston College, had a lot of respect for the Society of Jesus.  So he thought about naming his first born son after the founder of the Jesuits, Ignatius De Loyola.  Fortunately, my mother stood firm against that idea, I was named Jonathan Francis Jones.  Now, for a good part of my life, I always assumed that my baptismal name came from St. Francis of Assisi.  Then, when it was learned that the new Pope took the name, Francis, from the Poor Man of Assisi; and not his fellow Jesuit, St Francis Xavier; I had an epiphany.   In what I assumed was a marital compromise, my baptismal name came from Francis Xavier, one of the original Jesuits.

There are similarities between the two saints.  Both men felt called to be evangelizers, to go out and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.  For Francis of Assisi, it was preaching in the streets and marketplaces of Italy.  For Francis Xavier, it was to go out to the foreign shores of Asia.

Pope Francis has addressed a letter to the whole Church, calling all of its members, clergy and laity, to become modern evangelizers.  Maybe we should use this Advent, as a time of preparation, so that, on Christmas morning, we, like the angels, will be proclaiming the glad tidings to the entire world.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

First Sunday of Advent Reflection 2013

The Church calendar once again has come full circle.  We are at the beginning of the season of Advent.  The somber liturgical colors, the Gloria no longer recited at Sunday Mass, the focus on penitential practices, these all stand in stark contrast to the "Christmas" season now being promoted in the stores, and on the media.  We are bombarded by Xmas songs and sounds; colors and large ornaments; in the marketplace.  All aimed to encourage us to buy, buy, buy! 

For me, Advent is a time of preparation, and of anticipation.  Preparation, in that Advent gives us the opportunity to take another look at our personal lives, to take stock.  and in taking stock, discern what is impeding our relationship with God, and work at making changes.  Anticipation, in that as the people of Israel looked forward to the coming of the Messiah; we look forward to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, at the end of time.  However, it is not just anticipating the Second Coming, it is anticipating and encounter with Christ, here and now.  This season of Advent challenges us to be open to encountering Christ, not just in the Eucharist, in Scripture, or in prayer; but in every moment of every day. 

So I challenge all of us, to make this the best Advent ever; so that when Christmas morning dawns, it will be a fresh, and holy experience for all of us.

For a more deeper reflection of Advent, I encourage you look at at this posting by Father Dan Horan, OFM.