Saturday, December 25, 2021

Christmas 2021


“She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger”


Saint John Chrysostom said about Christ’s birth, that Christ could have come forth moving the Heavens and making the Earth shake, and shooting forth His thunderbolts – but his goal was to trample human pride from the very beginning of his birth, choosing to be born poor, settling for a manger where there could have been a cradle.


And in being placed in the manger, lots of early saints saw this as a reference to Christ’s desire to nourish us with his flesh and blood, we who so often refuse to capitalize on the gift of our intellect, and instead prefer lawlessness which makes us into little better than the animals in Nativity scenes, Christ comes forth not with thunderbolts but as food for us that slowly, over time, turns us more and more into Himself, as Saint Augustine famously notes in his conversion story.  The Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Jesus, over time make us more and more into Jesus, while still maintaining our own identity.


And we know from our human experience, the birth of a child changes everything.  I am the firstborn in my family, and My Mom tells the story about how my Dad, when I was born, ran out and got new tires on the car and how he had forgotten to change his contact lenses and so his eyes were totally red but he didn’t even realize it!


How often we see children being born and totally changing the course of a family!  I have seen it in my brothers’ and sisters’ lives and in my friends’ lives, and I have seen it in my life as well.  I have shared before, but on my drive out to Brazil, when I was first made a pastor, I almost threw up from nervousness.  There is no course in the seminary you can take to prepare you to become a Father of souls.  Annunciation was my first born child, and it totally rocked my world in a good way!


The Catholic Church says I am a father to all my parishioners, and indeed to all those living in my parish boundaries.  People have said, “Father, I hope you get to spend some time with your family over the holidays.”  I know what they mean, but I do get to spend time with my family – I am doing that right now at this Mass!”  You all are my family and you call me “Father”…it is not a metaphor!


So if the birth of a child can change the course of an entire family, how much more the birth of God as a human person, how much more does that change the course of our entire human family!


As we prepare to celebrate the Eucharistic prayer where my words will change bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, who once was resting in a manger, we will sing, along with the Angels in Heaven “Holy Holy Holy, Lord God of Hosts!  Heaven and earth are full of your glory, Hosanna in the highest!”

Sunday, December 19, 2021

The Metaverse: 4th Sunday of Advent 2021


4th Sunday of Advent December 18th and 19th 2021


Mark Zuckerberg recently announced plans to merge Facebook, Instagram and all other Facebook properties into what he is calling the metaverse, or meta.  Metaverse means a more comprehensive universe and an improvement on the universe.

Universe, on the other hand, means the unity of all created things – a oneness if you will.

So God created the universe   

And Mark Zuckerburg has created the metaverse, a supposed improvement on God’s creation

We ought to pay REAL close attention when someone claims to have an improvement on God’s creation.


In our Gospel today, we read that Mary set out and traveled to the hill country to visit her relative Elizabeth, a hike of more than 80 miles.


And here is the thing, it had to be a difficult journey – you can’t walk 80 miles without struggle and dust and pain, but at least it is reality.  As a person who has spent his life hiking I can relate that hiking is both painful but also tremendously refreshing!


What we celebrate next weekend is our Lord entering into the universe from beyond the universe – his taking on human flesh, and Jesus did not offer a world free of pain… He took the road precisely that led to pain…Jesus chose reality.  And Jesus taught that in some mysterious way, known only to those who choose suffering as He did, that suffering leads to our happiness both now and also in the life to come in Heaven.

Hell is for those who choose comfort as their top priority and choose to run from the suffering. The atheist John Paul Sartre wrote a play in which one of the characters said that Hell is other people.  The metaverse offers a way out of interacting with other real people in reality.  Last week took me to 4 different airports as I was traveling for my retreat.  Everyone was either scrolling on the phone or eating or both.  The Metaverse did not just spring up, we have been slowly moving closer to it; death by 1,000 cuts if you will.

I, for my part, choose to live in the real world of reality, with all of its death and pain and harshness and suffering, awaiting the Return of the King at the end of time.

There is an improvement coming to the universe, but it will only be accomplished by God the Father.  The book of Revelations says “I saw a new Heaven and a new Earth coming down out of the clouds for the first earth and the first Heaven had passed away.”  We who strive to be followers of Jesus await that improvement of the universe, and will not settle for any false upgrades.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

2021 Gaudete Sunday Homily

 Gaudete Sunday, December 11th and 12th, 2021


Saint Paul urges the Philippians in our 2nd reading today to “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I shall say it again:  rejoice!”


Saint Paul, in this passage, is not asking us to have joy.  We are told, (and even to some extent commanded) to rejoice, which of course is a verb.  It is an action to rejoice.  


As Saint Paul continues in his letter to the Philippians, “Have no anxiety at all”  Anxiety and Rejoicing are mutually exclusive – as in you cannot be rejoicing while being anxious.


At this point, I would like to introduce a powerful saintly intercessor for people suffering from anxiety or any other mental illness.  Of course I am not saying that if you ask for this saint’s intercession, you do not need any other medical intervention nor counseling, but if I could share my own testimony briefly, over the last year and a half, I had 2 awful bouts of anxiety, both side effects of different drugs I was taking related to surgeries and chemo.  Panic attacks were the most common manifestation, particularly at night when trying to fall asleep, and I would almost always sweat so much that I would soak my clothes.

And it is at this point I turned to the intercession of St. Dymphna, an Irish saint from the 600’s who is the patron saint of people afflicted with mental illnesses.  Every time I reached out to her asking her intercession, whether it was to help me fall asleep, or to calm down, I almost instantly felt better.  Not cured but better.

We live in the most anxious time in the history of humanity.  Social media, normal media, fears about the coronavirus, fear and anxiety are almost inevitable…but we are commanded to rejoice…and I think in some ways that is the best way to evangelize our community…to be people who rejoice IN THE MIDST of fear!

Psalm 23 encourages us telling us even though we walk through the valley of death we shall fear no evil, and the Bible mentions 365 times, including our first reading tonight, to not be afraid.


As Christmas approaches, let us be people who make the decision to rejoice, and may that rejoicing transform both us and the culture around us.  St. Dymphna, patron Saint of all those suffering from mental distress, anxiety, depression, mental illness, etc. please intercede and pray for us!

Immaculate Conception 2021

 Immaculate Conception 2021


6 chapters of the book of Exodus are dedicated to the details of the construction of the tent of worship, including the minutest details about how to build and construct the Tabernacle, the inner sanctuary where the high priest would enter once a year.  Instructions for the Tabernacle included the use of gold and precious metals, exact measurements, and only the best of the material was to be used.  Here is just one excerpt from the 26th chapter of Exodus:

“The tabernacle itself you shall make out of ten sheets woven of fine linen twined and of violet, purple, and scarlet yarn, with cherubim embroidered on them. The length of each shall be twenty-eight cubits, and the width four cubits;  Then make fifty clasps of gold and join the two sets of sheets, so that the tabernacle forms one whole.”

Another chapter says in part “These are the contributions you shall accept from them: gold, silver, and bronze; violet, purple, and scarlet yarn; fine linen, acacia wood; oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; onyx stones and other gems for mounting on the ephod and the breast plate for the high priest.  They are to make a sanctuary for me, that I may dwell in their midst.”

Any engineer or construction people – you need to read these chapters and see that your mind and God’s mind function in a similar way!  Literally every detail is specified and it is almost 20% of the book of Exodus!


When the Israelites finally make it to the Promised Land, there are particular instructions very similar to the tent that are handed on from David to his son Solomon of the same detail, precious metals, exact measurements, gold, the Tabernacle has a very specific veil…


So when we see how much care God asks for the Tent and Temple Tabernacles, we should not be surprised that God would prepare a pure vessel for his Son!


Today we celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Mary’s being conceived without the stain of original sin. 


In today’s Gospel where the Archangel Gabriel visits Mary, when He promises that she will conceive through the Holy Spirit, the same word “Overshadow” is the word that is also used for the tent Tabernacle and later the Temple Tabernacle.  What we celebrate today, then, is God giving the same care and attention to the crafting of Mary who would be a Tabernacle of her pre-born Son.  Nothing but the best of Human material – and so that is why she was conceived without the stain of original sin.


In conclusion, all of us are imperfect, but through our reception of the Eucharist, we become walking living breathing Tabernacles for the Lord as well.


May we see the care and devotion God required in crafting His Tabernacle in the desert, His Tabernacle in the Temple and His Perfect Tabernacle the Blessed Virgin Mary, and thus seek to make ourselves the best Tabernacle we can be, cooperating fully with the Grace of God.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Advent


Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Advent, December 4th and 5th, 2021


Our first reading today is from the Prophet Baruch, and he notes that “God has commanded that every lofty mountain be made low, and that the age-old depths and gorges be filled to level ground”


Saint John the Baptist, the last of the prophets, mentions in today’s Gospel quoting the Prophet Isaiah that “Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low”


The Catholic Church teaches that every biblical passage has both a literal sense – an application to the current situation.  The literal sense of both the prophets Baruch and Isaiah prophesying that every mountain will be knocked down and every valley filled in are trying to encourage both those who remained in Jerusalem and those who were in exile.


But the Catholic Church also says that every passage in the Bible has a spiritual sense in addition to the literal sense.  And so what about the spiritual sense of this passage predicting that every mountain will be knocked down and every valley filled in? 

There are lots of Church Fathers that interpret the mountains being knocked down and valleys filled in as being a positive thing, and there are also lots of Church Fathers who see mountains being knocked down and valleys filled in as being a negative thing, spiritually, and they are both right!

One of the early Church Fathers sees the mountains and valleys being our sins.  So often we put obstacles in the way of Christ.  Sometimes we attempt to build mountains of pride, lust, gluttony and lots of other sins, and sometimes we sink into valleys of fear, sadness, loneliness, and 1,000 other things.

John the Baptist is encouraging us to make straight the path of the Lord

What should be clear is that Jesus desires a relationship with every single person today, right now, and that we should remove the obstacles that we are placing in His way.  He can overcome anything, but he will not come into our souls unless invited.

This Advent, as we focus on preparing the way of the Lord, let us roll out the red carpet for Jesus in our hearts, allow him in, make straight Jesus’ path, and continue to knock down the mountains and fill in the valleys through the Sacrament of Confession and Reconciliation.  We do not have an Advent Penance Service, but there are approximately 10 hours of confession offered between now and Christmas, in addition to my being available for appointments.  Do not hesitate to reach out if you have sins you want absolved so as to make straight the road of Christ into your soul.