Sunday, December 28, 2014

Feast of the Holy Family

God considers the family to be of such importance that when He came into the world He revealed Himself in the midst of family.   It was to a woman betrothed to a man that He entrusted His only Begotten Son.  It is among family, Mother and Father that God chose to have His Son, Jesus brought into the world, nurtured and raised.  

It is in family where Jesus developed, and learned; growing into manhood.   Among family, Jesus learned compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience.  As part of family, Jesus learned to be one with us; sharing our human nature.  It was among all his aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers and sisters that Jesus shared our lives – joys and sadness – all the conditions that we share as part of the great human family.

Jesus learned love and forgiveness from his parents, Mary and Joseph.  They were Jesus’ primary teachers, not only of the necessary skills of living and social association, but of faith and obedience to the laws of faith found in the commandments.  In his human family Jesus was closely held, loved and cherished: where he grew strong and was filled with wisdom, where his divinity and humanity united to become one with us, in all, but sin.

The whole structure of Christianity is modeled on family: God, the Father, Mother Church.  We are brothers and sisters to Jesus and to one another.  We are sons and daughters of God: beloved children of the Father.  Our faith is filled with references to family and the good of family held by the Father.

God’s fourth commandment is ‘Honor Thy Father and Mother’.  So important is family to God that He made this commandment – our relationship with one another of primary importance, second only to His commandments of our relationship with Him. His commandment, to honor Father and Mother, speaks to all generations, past, present and future.  For love of God and love of one another, faith and practice: are traditions of such significance to the human condition that the Father holds them in high esteem, to be handed down – generation to generation within family by our primary teachers of God’s love found in Father and Mother.  

The obligation to teach, within the family structure, rests with Father and Mother together.  In their role as teachers of the faith, their children and all future generations - come to know, love and serve God through Jesus Christ.  The story of God’s gift of love and salvation for His people is learned within the family, so all members may model – by thought, word and deed – the traditions of our faith.

The evil-one works in many ways to destroy the family - because he knows that family is where faith and love of God develops, strengthens and matures.  He attempts to convince us that there is no need for a father and a mother to make a family, or that any group or combination of people can be called a family or that there is no need for sacramental grace in the formation of a family.  The evil-one fears God’s love found in family.

God’s gift of salvation, by the forgiveness of our sins and His promise of everlasting life, comes to us in family.  His creation of mankind in our first father and mother, Adam and Eve, who the evil-one sought to destroy by sin, was redeemed through the Holy Family.  In the Holy Family, Father, Mother and Son, we find the power and glory of God – the hope for all mankind found in Jesus’ promise of eternal life. ~Amen.

Deacon Don

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas 2014 - "Do You Hear What I Hear"

One of the endearing songs of the Christmas season is “Do You Hear What I Hear?”  It is a song of the birth of Jesus, as whispered by angels on the wind to a little lamb, who in turn, tells a shepherd boy, who reports the news to a mighty king, who spreads the Word to people everywhere.  This is a song of the humble beginnings of a Jesus, the Word of God made flesh that ignites the world with the message of God’s peace and love for His people.

So, on this Christmas I ask, do you see what I see?

  • Do you see the majesty and wonder of God?  
  • Do you see the gift of God’s creation of this world?  
  • Do you see God’s gift of life found in Jesus, a child conceived of God’s Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary?
  • Do you see gift of God who sent Jesus into the world: to bring glad tidings to the poor, to give liberty to captives, to give sight to the blind, and to set the oppressed free?
  • Do you see in Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven the glory and love God?

Do you see God’s gift of love in Jesus Christ?

On this Christmas, do you hear what I hear?

  • Do you hear the voice of God – the Word of God made Flesh - Jesus Christ?  
  • Do you hear the Word proclaiming the kingdom of God is among us?
  • Do you hear God calling all His children to seek Him through His Son, Jesus Christ?
  • Do you hear Jesus, asking forgiveness, healing and reconciliation for all whom the Father has given Him?
  • Do you hear the voice of the Good Shepherd calling by name, all His lost and wandering lambs; seeking them in dark, dreadful and lonely places wherever they may be?
  • Do you hear the Holy Spirit in your heart whispering God’s song of love for you?

Do you hear God’s gift of love in Jesus Christ?

On this Christmas, do you know what I know?

  • Do you know that God is with us - Jesus is Emmanuel – God-with-us?
  • Do you know Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Holy One of God sent into the world to bring us the Truth of God’s love for us?
  • Do you know that Jesus, the Son of God, gave His life in ransom for us, so we may have eternal life?
  • Do you know that Jesus, both divine and human, understands all our weakness, trials and faults with a compassionate heart; giving us the Father’s unconditional love, consolation and forgiveness?
  • Do you know Jesus promises to come again; bringing all God’s beloved children into the glory of the Father’s heavenly kingdom and life eternal?

Do you know God’s gift of love in Jesus Christ?

On this Holy day - Do you hear God’s song of love – Jesus Christ – Emmanuel – God-with-us – His most precious and greatest of gifts for His holy people, freely given, so we may rest in His – Peace, Love and Eternal Life of heaven - forever and ever ~Amen.  

Peace & Merry Christmas
Deacon Don

Sunday, December 21, 2014

4th Sunday in Advent - Luke 1:26-38 - "Not by Man"

“Let it be done unto me according to your word.”  

The Annunciation
This is Mary’s ‘Yes!’ to God.  This is her ‘Yes!’ to being the vessel for bringing God into the world to be one of us; living among us, sharing in our humanity.  We celebrate Mary’s ‘Yes!’ that opened us to God’s love and His gift of salvation for His people.

As much as we are thankful to God for His gift of eternal life, we are also thankful for Mary’s gift of ‘Yes!’ as it fulfilled the prophetic call that the Messiah would be born of a virgin: to come into the world to bring us all into God’s heavenly kingdom.  

But let us consider Mary’s other statement.  Her very human question of what seemed to her to be an impossibility, in response to the Angel’s announcement:

“How can this be, since I’ve had no relations with a man?”

What a very human response!  In our humanness and our human understanding of things, we would also ask the same question.  How is this possible?

While her question seems to only serve as a confirmation by Mary of her virginity, it really speaks more profoundly to us as a statement of God’s grace and His power to do what is impossible for man, but is possible for God.  It directs us to see that the world and all the things and all the creatures in it, come from God, and God alone.

In all the preparations for the coming of Jesus into the world, there was nothing that Mary did to earn the honor of being chosen as the Mother of God.  It was through God’s grace alone that Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin.  Nothing Mary’s parents, Saints Anne and Joachim, did that merited them the privilege of conceiving a daughter who was to be the new Eve, the Mother of God, the holy vessel of God’s love.  

God’s answer to this humble couple’s prayers, made because of their shame of childlessness, was to bless them with a daughter.  It was not their intention to be a part of God’s salvation plan for His people.  They were ordinary people; unremarkable villagers who only wanted to be like all the other families – blessed by God with children.

It is not the worldly, the powerful or the strong that are chosen by God to bring about His saving action in the world.  His grace is freely given to whomever He chooses.  God uses the meek and lowly, the weak and humble who, undeservingly, serve His plan of salvation: showing that the graces received come from Him alone and not through anything people have done to earn His love.  Mary, a child of ordinary people, was chosen by God, selected and named by Him, before she was even born. She was conceived, “full of grace,” to serve God’s plan.  

Mary, having no ‘relations with a man’ confirmations that it was God alone who graced her with His favor.  The conception of Jesus was entirely God’s holy action.  Man or woman played no part in it.  In Mary’s womb, God and man, Divine and human, came to be through God’s power and grace alone.  Mary was the holy vessel; serving God’s salvation plan, His love for His people, giving Jesus his humanity, so that He became one with us in all things except sin.  

On this fourth Sunday in Advent, during this time of waiting and expectation, as we celebrate the coming of Jesus, our Savior into the world through the cooperative ‘Yes!’ of the Virgin Mary, let us remember it is God alone who makes all things possible.

Through His grace alone God brings us everlasting life through His Son, Jesus Christ.  Let us reflect that it is by God’s holy desire and not by our own hand that we receive His love and gift of salvation.  
Through His grace alone, His complete and perfect love for His children, He takes away our sins, in the sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus Christ, so we may be gathered into His kingdom of heaven. 

We children of the Almighty, await in joyful hope for the day of fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to come again, so that all the righteous may come into the peace of the Father’s heavenly kingdom, where we will dwell forever and ever ~Amen.

Deacon Don

Saturday, December 13, 2014

3rd Sunday in Advent - John 1:6-8, 19-28 - "Rejoice!"

Brother and Sisters: 
Rejoice in the Lord!  
Sing praises to the Lord!  Rejoice! 
Let your soul, your whole being magnify His greatness! 

Rejoice!  The Lord comes with mercy and salvation for His people.  
He, the Lord is holy.  He is faithful to His promise and will gather all His beloved children to Him as He has promised.

Rejoice! Give praise and thanks to the Lord for all the great things He has done for us.  
Pray unceasingly to the Lord, trust in His love and mercy!  
Holy is the Lord and holy is His name! 

Rejoice!  Let the Spirit of the Lord be upon you.
Turn your face toward the Lord and let His peace overshadow you.
Hope in the Lord! Reject what is evil and accept what is good.
Be filled with joy in the Lord!  Rejoice!

Open your ears to hear His Good News!  
Open your lips to proclaim His Name to all nations!  
Be heralds of His saving Word: messengers of His peace and love for all the world! 

On this Gaudete Sunday, this Rejoice Sunday let us rejoice in the Good News of our Lord.  Let ours be the voices crying out in the desert of today’s world.  Jesus, the Christ, our Lord is coming again into the world.  Make straight His pathways!  Prepare the way of the Lord, for he comes with love and mercy to gather all the righteous to Himself.  Prepare your hearts, make straight crooked ways: remove all obstacles and distractions, mend rifts with all others.  Return to the holy path that leads to life eternal through our Lord, Jesus Christ.

The Lord, Jesus has told us that the Father has prepared a place for us in the eternal kingdom of heaven.  He, the Good Shepherd is coming to gather all His sheep, all that the Father has given Him; bringing them all into the peace and glory of God’s heavenly kingdom.  Be ready!  Be ever watchful, for we know not the day nor the hour when He will arrive.  Let Him find us, whether in day or at night, ready to welcome Him.

When He comes again, let our Lord Jesus find us ever faithful; going about the mission He set before us.  In His absence, He told His disciples: (Mat 28:18-20) 
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
As good and faithful servants, let the Master find us diligently going about His work: comforting the sorrowful; the lost and lonely, - caring for the suffering and wounded – all who are troubled by the worries of this world.  Let Him find us teaching the young, - counseling the doubtful - and loving one another as He loves us.  We are His heralds spreading to all the world God’s message of love, peace and joy to all people.

On this 3rd Sunday in Advent, this Gaudete Sunday, this Sunday of Rejoicing - let us truly Rejoice: sharing in the love we have received from our Lord as we wait, Rejoicing - in the fulfillment of His promise of salvation and life everlasting in the peace of God’s heavenly kingdom. Rejoice in the Lord for His love is never-ending. 

Rejoice! ~Amen

Deacon Don

Saturday, December 6, 2014

2nd Sunday in Advent - Mark 1: 1-18 - "Make Straight the Pathways of the Lord"

"Make Straight the Pathways of the Lord"
Christmas is a celebration of our Lord, Jesus coming into the world.  The gift from God to His people, given unconditionally in love, so that we may be with Him for all eternity; resting in His kingdom of heaven.  On this day, through a virgin, God’s gift came to us; sharing with us our human condition, so He may help us recognize Him as our loving Father.

Advent is our beginning, and our anticipation, in receiving God’s gift of love and salvation through His Son, Jesus.  It is also our reminder of His Christ, Jesus fulfilling His promise to return, to come again into the world, to bring all the righteous into God’s heavenly kingdom.

“Prepare the way of the Lord!”  “Make straight His pathway!”  Open your hearts to the love of God!  Turn your face toward the Lord and let Him enter your heart!  

These words spoken in early times, still have great meaning for us today: for every Christian.  Rooted in Isaiah, for a people suffering from loss and destruction, written again by Mark to remind his people of God’s promise and heard today, by a people suffering attacks on and denial of religious freedoms, persecution, exile, marginalization and death for their belief in our Lord, Jesus Christ.  

These word, “Prepare the Way of the Lord” remind us to be patient and remain faithful: for the Lord is coming, as He promised.  We know not when, but we must be always vigilant, always ready for His return, as we go about His work – never straying from the path of righteousness, never faltering in faith, never turning away in disappointment or disbelief.

The early Christians expected Jesus to return in their lifetime to bring them into God’s heavenly kingdom.  As time passed and He did not come back, many grew impatient with waiting.  Some were disheartened; turning away in disappointment. Denying that Jesus was returning, they went back to their past sinful ways.  They failed to, “Make straight the pathways of the Lord.”  

Today too, many grow impatient.  Belief in Christ’s return falters and many have gone back to sinful ways: failing to keep faith, turning away from God’s love to follow paths of their own design and choosing.  They have allowed the distractions of the evil-one - of this world - to place doubt and disbelief in their hearts.  They have chosen a way that is not God’s way, their path is not the pathway of the Lord, but the path to destruction and death.  In their impatience they fail to heed the cry, “Prepare the way of the Lord!”

This Advent and every Advent is our time of preparation, not just to celebrate the Nativity of our Lord and all that we’ve allowed this day to become, - but to, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths!” We are called to make our hearts ready and to wait patiently, in preparedness, - in faith, for the day our Lord, Jesus returns to bring us into the promise of God’s heavenly kingdom.

Today we have two joyful events taking place in our community of disciples in Christ Jesus.  At the 9:00 AM liturgy we welcome two adults into our community.  LaTonya and Jenna have heard the call of the Holy Spirit in their hearts and are now prepared to enter into the Catechumenate on their journey of discipleship in Christ in His Church. They are preparing the way of the Lord by studying the Word of God and the ways of Christ in His Church.  With your prayers and guidance they hope to enter fully into the life of Christ at the Easter Vigil. 

We also have two infant baptisms today.  The parents of these children, gifts of love from God, have chosen to “Make straight the pathway of the Lord” by having their children baptized.  So begins their journey of discipleship in Christ Jesus which will lead them into a life of faith and the loving embrace of God.

As a community of believers, who each Sunday profess our faith that Jesus will come again to bring us into the peace of God’s kingdom, we rejoice in welcoming these two adults and these two children into our community of believers.  Together, in Christian love and fellowship, we go about doing the Lord’s work: “Making straight the pathway of the Lord” by our thoughts, words and deeds – teaching our newest members the Good News of Jesus Christ, as we live good and holy lives in expectation of our Lord’s return. ~Amen

Deacon Don