Christmas, Midnight Mass • We have just passed the winter solstice and the world is at it’s darkest. Today on December 25th there will be 2 more minutes of daylight. Slowly the light will fill the darkness until summer comes. Christ is the light of the world. Each child born staves off death a little longer by the gift of new life. Christ is the life that is the light of the world. May His coming bring you Light and Life. (25 Dec 2010)
Christmas Eve • We all look forward to opening our gifts. What gifts would we expect from God? Maybe love, joy, peace, help for a particular situation, or forgiveness. God has sent us a gift today, what do you think it will be? We open it and we find: Baby Jesus! Why would God send us a baby when it isn’t what we asked for? There is an old story of a millionaire that explains why: Whoever welcomes the Son gets everything else too. Is there room in your home and your heart for Jesus? (24 Dec 2010)
Be not afraid! For behold,
I bring you good news of great joy which will come to all people;
for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Christmas is such a magical time. I remember when I was a child making long lists of desired gifts and dreaming of how happy I would be to play with them. I never slept well on Christmas Eve; I would check the clock every hour until it was finally time to get up. We children would gather excitedly at the top of the stairs and wait for our parents to turn on the lights; it seemed to take them forever. As we opened each gift Dad tried to catch candid shots of the surprised looks on our faces. I loved to line up all my toys on the couch and play with them one by one. We usually ate a wonderful breakfast, at which time we might remember to put the Christ Child in our family crèche and read the Gospel account of the birth of Jesus. That afternoon as I played with each toy, a feeling of sadness would settle in. I tried to enjoy what I had been given but I could not shake the feeling of disappointment. Was this all? The wonderful toys and gifts had not quite delivered the joy I had hoped for.Read More
Advent, 4th Sunday (A) Only God can Make us Ready for His Son
Are you ready? Christmas is less than a week away! Despite my advice to do less and buy less, you probably still have plenty of shopping, baking, planning, partying and internet-ordering-with-last-chance-rush-shipping left to do. Even Santa isn’t ready for Christmas yet. But ready or not, here it comes.
Have you made an effort to pray more this Advent? If so, you have probably noticed two things: First, life is a little better. Maybe you are more calm, or you took a positive step in relationships, or you have faced a fear that has haunted you for a long time. Second, you have probably also noticed that you have a long way left to go. You probably feel less ready than ever for the coming of Christ. As we become more aware of God we also become aware of how we have not given to God.
Some people are caught off-guard by holiday feelings of being lonely, unprepared, even depressed. But this is what Advent is all about. We have a longing for God, what Ron Rolheiser calls “The Holy Longing.” Advent makes us aware not only that we long for God, but also our inability to satisfy this longing by our hard work. Read the genealogy of Christ (Mat. 1). You will find some great people, some scoundrels, and some like King David who were a little of both (Jesus’ relatives include Bathsheba the adulteress and Rahab the harlot). Does this sound like our own family history? Our lives are full of good intentions but mixed results; our own efforts would never bring us the Savior we long for. So God steps in and unexpectedly makes a home for himself in the Virginal womb of Mary. You see, no amount of preparation will let us finally be able to finally sit back and say, “I’ve taken care of everything; Jesus can come now.” Advent is about discovering the humility to welcome him into the mess of our lives. When did we start thinking we had to fix it without him? Only God can fill our longing. Welcome the God you are not ready for and watch him satisfy our longings beyond our wildest dreams. (19 Dec 2010)
Advent, 3rd Sunday (A) The Best Present is His Presence
What do you want for Christmas? It’s such a common question this time of year. We spend hours thinking, planning, and shopping for the perfect gifts for those we love. I am always entertained (and a little shocked) so see what TV thinks is a good Christmas gift. Seriously, who in his right mind would buy a Lexus as a surprise gift for someone?!!! You don’t necessarily need to buy expensive gifts for anyone during the festive period. But if you are adamant in buying your loved ones something, why not look into something like Christmas gift baskets. Beautiful cheerful bows, gourmet holiday flavors and high-quality ingredients are the foundation of our holiday collection. This is a great present for anyone who loves food, cooking, ingredients and experimenting.
In all the hustle and bustle it is easy to forget one simple fact: the first Christmas gift was not gold, frankincense and myrrh, it wasn’t even Peace on Earth, and it certainly wasn’t a trip to Bethlehem. The first Christmas gift was Baby Jesus. God gave us himself for Christmas. Did you ever think of yourself as a great gift? Personalized Christmas Ornaments My friend told me they make her christmas tree very Christian. Sometimes it can be hard to see ourselves as a gift. Do you know what else is a great gift? Sometimes it can be hard to welcome others (especially relatives) as gifts. But that is what we are called to do! It helps to start by welcoming Baby Jesus as a gift. Only God would be foolish enough to give away free something worth more than all the Lexuses in the world. If we received this gift, what must we be worth? To help us meditate on the gift of Christ, I encourage you to start a habit of praying the Angelus each day at Noon. This ancient prayer has been prayed daily by thousands of Christians to give thanks for the God-with-Us, Emmanuel. (12 Dec 2010)
Advent, 2nd Sunday (A) Christ walks with Me
Think about a time that you had to spend a whole day with someone. Maybe it was a “Bring your child to work day”, or maybe you had a friend visiting from out of town. What did you do that day? Now imagine for a moment that Jesus Christ himself wanted to spend the day with you. How would you spend it? Would you go to the same places and do the same things that you always do, or would you have different conversations, leave the TV off, and avoid certain things? Would it be a stressful day or a beautiful day?
Dominus Vobiscum – Lord with You
The truth is that Jesus really does walk with us every day. He promised, “He who has my commandments and keeps them,… I will love him and manifest myself to him” (John 14:21). At Mass we say, “The Lord be with you” (in Latin there is no verb; literally the priest says: “Lord with you”). He promises, “I am with you always” (Mat. 28:19). So Christ really is with us. This is why Pope Benedict can say, “He who believes is never alone.” Prayer is not about trying to find a God who is out there somewhere. Prayer is about being open, aware, and in communication with the God who is with me every moment of the day. For many of us, this means we have some work to do. What do I have to get rid of to allow Jesus to be fully present in my life? Fortunately, Jesus provided us with the sacrament of Reconciliation. We have a service on Tuesday, December 14th at 6:30pm at Holy Trinity. We also offer Reconciliation Saturdays at 3:30pm at Holy Trinity and 4:00pm at St. Anthony, and Friday mornings from 8:30-9:00am at Holy Trinity. Please come and experience the gift that cost our Friend his life: Forgiveness, and a fresh chance to walk closer with him. (5 Dec 2010)
PS: If you would like to know how confessing your sins to a priest is a Biblical idea, see the following passages: Leviticus 5:13, Mat. 9:1-8, John 20:19-23, James 5:15-17, 1 John 1:9.
Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.
This little prayer is traditionally prayed from the feast of St. Andrew (November 30th) until the birth of Christ. Like most traditional Novenas it comes with all kinds of promises. I don’t put much stock in that stuff, but I do know from experience that you can pray it for all kinds of things, even big and difficult things, and St. Andrew seems to take care of them. Perhaps it really is a particularly powerful novena. Or perhaps it is just the time of year – God is preparing us for the coming of his Son, and willing to move all sorts of things that might stand in his way. So pray with confidence and hope.
Advent, 1st Sunday (A)
Good things come to those who Wait
I have a hard time waiting for things. When I was little and my family took trips in the car, I used to always ask, “Are we there yet?” At parties I always eat the hors d’ouvers until I am full. Sometimes when we get to the meal, I realize I have forgotten to leave any room. I know I’m not the only one with this problem. Everywhere people are playing Christmas songs, wishing each other a Merry Christmas, and getting stressed out. But it isn’t Christmas yet – Advent has only just begun.
Advent, what’s that?
Advent is a time to wait, prepare, and “stay awake.” It is a season to meditate on our need for God and to prepare our hearts to receive God. There is no better way to do this than by spending time each day in personal prayer. During the course of our Visioning process, when I asked you to think about one core commitment, change, or value that would lead our parish to be a truly vibrant place, the answer that came to my mind was Prayer. If we each committed ourselves to personal prayer every day, our parish and our lives would become more vibrant. The most fundamental part of our commitment to prayer is making the time to pray. It has to be part of your schedule and part of your daily routine, as natural as brushing your teeth or showering. I pray for a little while as soon as I get out of bed. It helps me stay grounded. This Advent, I challenge you to pray more often and more deeply. I have included one of my favorite novenas as a place to get started. How will you prepare for the coming of the Lord? (28 Nov 2010)
I’m out of the office this week, I tell people.
“On vacation?”, they ask.
“No, I’ll be on pilgrimage.”
“Yes. I’m walking from Oshkosh to Holy Hill. It’s a distance of 65 miles.”
“What?????? You’re walking???”
Yes, I am. The tradition of the pilgrimage is one of the oldest in our faith. Here is some explanation:
The Israelites were fond of pilgrimages. Their annual religious feasts often required a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Jesus, Mary and Joseph obediently and religiously participated in the yearly pilgrimage to Jerusalem to observe the Feast of Passover (Lk 2:41-42). In much the same way, Christians would journeyed from all corners of the glove to the sacred site of the Holy Land to grow in love for God’s Son. By the Middles Ages, the pilgrimages to holy places and shrines were a central part of popular religion. Setting out on a pilgrimage has become a metaphor for life itself. We are all on a journey towards Heaven and we have to continue faithfully on that journey. A pilgrimage always points us back to the miracle of Christ, who by his Incarnation hallowed time and space. To go on pilgrimage is to enter deeply into this mystery and to experience Christ not only as Lord, but also as our companion on the journey.
Holy Hill sits on the highest peak of the Kettle Moraine (which is a chain of hills and pot-shaped valleys that begins in the Whitewater area and extends northeast to Door County). Early Irish and German settlers revered the hill. There is even a legend that a French hermit used to live there. The settlers erected a white oak cross at its peak. This was later replaced with a small wooden shrine. Today the shrine is a minor basilica and visited annually by half a million people. It is under the care of the Discalced Carmelite Friars, a religious order noted for its prayer and simplicity. You can find more about this beautiful shrine by visiting www.holyhill.com
On Tuesday, May 26th., twenty people will set out to walk to Holy Hill. We have broken the journey into five days of walking. You can see our route on the Google maps. We are carrying with us as little as possible, just sleeping bags and a change of clothes. In true pilgrim spirit we depend on the hospitality of others for lodging. We will be sleeping in church basements or rec halls along the way. God willing, we will arrive at Holy Hill on Saturday, May 30th. We have a Mass scheduled for 3:00pm in the Shrine Chapel. Please pray for our pilgrimage, and especially for good weather!