Thursday of the 2nd Week of Advent

Yesterday I posted that the Holy Father had joined Twitter, an excellent example of how we can all use social media to evangelize.  One tweet in particular caught my attention.

 

Screen shot 2012-12-12 at 11.21.22 AM

 

How do you interpret this?  I think this quote shows how poorly written English can express a point of view.  Is he saying that since we live in a world without hope we can’t live our faith in Jesus?  If so, it’s a very disturbing thing to say.

Or, is he saying that, since we do live our faith in Jesus, this is most definitely not a world without hope?  I think it’s clearly the latter.

Those of us who write and speak about our faith must be careful with our choice of words.  Since Benedict tweets in several different languages, I’m sure someone in his office translated this thought into English.  Even though he is the Pope, he still has to work within Twitter’s 140 character limit.  That’s why I seldom use Twitter myself.

We can all be thankful that the Holy Father is taking the time to communicate with us via this new medium.  I’m pretty sure that Jesus would have a Twitter account, a facebook page, and a web site.

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Wednesday of the 2nd Week of Advent

12/12/12 and the Holy Father Tweets

Today is the twelfth day of the twelfth month or the year 2012 or 12/12/12.  There’s no particular significance to the day except as a curiosity of the calendar.  It is worth mentioning though that this won’t happen again in most of our lifetimes.  The next triple number day will be January 1, 2101 or 1/1/01.  So if you enjoy this sort of thing, today is your day.

Maybe the most significant thing about 12/12/12 is that it’s the day that our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI joined Twitter.  As I write this, he has posted five times in six hours and has 840,750 followers.  I don’t know if that’s any kind of record, but it’s very impressive.  Sadly, many of the comments to the Holy Father’s tweets so far have been negative and hateful.  That should be a lesson for all of us.  When we put ourselves out there, proclaiming the Good News, we’re going to attract haters.  I say this from personal experience.

Like the Benedict, we’re called to ignore the negative, hang on to the positive, and continue to fight the good fight.  If you’re into Twitter, I hope you’ll follow the Holy Father and show your love and support.

Stop the presses!  In the time it took me to write this, the Pope has tweeted two more times and now has 845,766 followers or about 15,000 more in about ten minutes.  Considering that it’s still early morning in a big part of the world, I suspect he’ll have 1,000,000 followers before the day is over.

Follow the Holy Father on Twitter.

Tuesday of the 2nd week of Advent

For what should we pray?

Let me start by saying that I don’t like winter.  I don’t like the cold.  I don’t like the fact that it gets dark in the middle of the afternoon.  I miss riding my bike.  Like I said, I don’t like winter.  Fortunately for me, last winter and this winter (so far) have been very mild.  [I know, winter doesn’t actually start until next week.  That is if the world doesn’t end first.]

But today on the local news they interviewed a man who owns a local ski resort.  His snow making machines are running full tilt, trying to put down a surface for the skiers.  Sadly for him, the weather forecast is for highs in the mid-50s and possibly thunderstorms over the weekend.  So, hypothetically, if I’m praying for warm weather and this guy is praying for cold weather, what’s a Divine Being to do?  The resort owner has a family to support and a lot of customers who want to slide down a slippery hill with boards strapped to their feet.  It would seem the advantage would go to him. But the local meteorologists seem to be on my side.

To put things in perspective, I live in Saint Louis, MO.  Today is the 11th of December.  By all rights, it should be cold.  If I want it to be warm in December, I should move to Florida.  Now, I’m not here to argue for or against “global warming” except to say that the “global” part would imply that the whole world should be warm.  As I write this, there is plenty of cold weather all over the world.  But I digress.

I’m going to be outside a lot this weekend.  It would be nice if the temperatures were warm.  But is that something I should pray for?  Why should my comfort override someone else’s enjoyment or livelihood?  I’d also rather not get rained on.  Buy the midwest is seriously behind in rainfall.  The farmers, and all of us for that matter, could use a few inches of the wet stuff.  Wouldn’t my prayer time be better spent in talking to God about my neighbor’s cancer, or my secretary’s husband’s surgery today?  In general don’t we all spend just a little too much time telling God how to be God instead of asking Him what we can do to help?

Remember, Jesus did tell us how to pray:

Our Father who art in heaven,

Hallowed be Thy Name.

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,

On earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses

As we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not to temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Not one word about the weather.

Monday of the 2nd Week of Advent

Here’s something a little different.  It’s sort of a follow up to yesterday’s post about Joy and hopefully something to help you relax and reflect on what the season of Advent is all about.  As you probably know, jazz great Dave Brubeck passed away last week.  In 1996 he released an album called A Dave Brubeck Christmas.  In this clip, from the album he plays Joy to the World. It’s just short of three minutes.  Find a comfy chair, a cup of coffee (or maybe something stronger) and enjoy.

 

2nd Sunday of Advent

Joy to the world!  The Lord is come!

Joy to the world! The Lord is come!

All four of our readings today have something in common.  They all speak about joy.  In the first reading, the prophet Baruch tells Jerusalem to take off their robe of mourning and misery and to put on the splendor from God forever.  “Up Jerusalem!  Stand upon the heights; look to the east and see your children gathered from the east and the west at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God.”

 

Then, it’s our turn.  We respond to the first reading “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy!”  “Although they go forth weeping, carrying the seed to be sown, they shall come back rejoicing, carrying their sheaves.”  Are you beginning to see a pattern?

 

In the second reading, Saint Paul writes to the Philippians, “Brothers and sisters:  I pray always with joy (there’s that word again) in my every prayer for all of you.”  Remember, Paul has visited Philippi and he’s writing to them after he’s gone, reminding them of the great gifts they have received.

 

Finally, we have reading from Luke’s Gospel.  Luke’s introducing us to the grown-up John the Baptist.  He’s a voice crying out in the desert:  “Prepare the way of the Lord!”

Four readings, all with the same central point.  We should be filled with joy.  Here we are at the 2nd week of Advent.  Jesus is coming!  He’s coming to save us.  We’re floundering in deep water and He’s the life boat.  All we have to do is reach out to Him and we’re saved!  We should be the most joyful sons-of-a-guns on the planet.

 

But what is joy?  It doesn’t mean running around with a silly grin on your face all the time.  Webster says it means “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.  That’s a pretty good definition.  Joy is an emotion.  That last bit about the prospect of possessing what one desires is all about our joy as Christians.  We have the prospect of possessing the thing we desire most, an eternity in the presence of God. “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy!”

 

What has He done for us?  He’s sent His Son to become one of us and to die so that our sins may be forgiven.  What more could anyone do?  Jesus has paid the ultimate price for you and me.  If we follow His instructions and His example, we have faith that when this life ends, we’ll go to heaven.  We come to mass to praise and worship God.  We come to give Him thanks.  We come to receive His very Body and Blood.

We had a wedding here Friday evening.  I love to do weddings.  Everyone is dressed up.  They’re all smiles.  They’re taking pictures because they want to remember the day.  It’s a happy occasion.  It’s also a sacrament.  It’s the only sacrament I can think of where the congregation bursts into applause when the sacrament is performed.

 

Now, ask yourself, “are you filled with joy right now?”  You just said you were, five times. “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy!”  That’s what you said.  I heard you.  Did you mean it?  If not, then maybe you should prayerfully consider what’s happening on this altar.

 

Did you know that mass actually begins when the second person gets here?  It’s true.  That’s what the Church teaches and it’s what Jesus meant when He said, “whenever two or more are gathered in my name I’ll be there.”  That’s all it takes, just two and He’s here with us.

 

So, what do you do when you get here?  Do you prepare yourself for the miracle you’re about to witness?  Do you kneel before God and ask Him to put you in the right frame of mind for the liturgy?  Do you look over the readings and pray for understanding?  Do you greet your friends and any visitors who might be here?  All worthy ways to spend the minutes before mass considering that Jesus may be sitting right next to you.

 

Or do you spend your time in church gossiping and talking about others behind their backs?  Or do you silently pass judgment on those around you?  C’mon, you know what I mean.  Maybe you’re critical of the way someone’s dressed.  Maybe somebody’s child is making a little too much noise.  Maybe, and this is surely one of the greatest sins of all, maybe someone is sitting in your seat!  Yikes!

 

Look, I can talk about these things because I’ve done them myself.  God help me, I still do sometimes.  It’s a common human fault.  When we put someone down, either by speaking ill about them, or just by thinking it, it may make us feel good for a short time.  We’re saying we’re better than that other person.  But honestly, we don’t build ourselves up by tearing others down.  What we really do is replace the feeling of joy that we should be experiencing with something else.  Maybe the responsorial Psalm should read, “The Lord has done great things for us; we should be filled with joy!” 

 

We should recognize this great church as the holy place that it is and act accordingly.  We should be welcoming to friends and strangers alike.  We should participate in the recited prayers and the sung prayers.  We should see that the sacrament of the Eucharist is just as exciting as the sacrament of matrimony.

We should be beacons of light in a dark world.  As we prepare for the birth of the

Christ child, we should examine our consciences and count our blessings. “Up Jerusalem!  Stand upon the heights; look to the east and see your children gathered from the east and the west at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God.”

 

 “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy!”

 

 

Saturday of the 1st Week of Advent

Here it is, the last day of the first week of Advent 2012.  How’s it going so far?  To paraphrase a question that was often asked during the recent political campaign, are you better off today (spiritually speaking) than you were a week ago?  I hope the answer is “yes.”  The fact that you’re reading this is a good sign that you’re trying to increase your spirituality.  I hope my humble postings help you in some small way.

I did a wedding last night.  I love doing weddings because the bride and groom are so full of hope for the future.  They don’t know what the future holds.  They’re optimistic about their lives together but none of us know what’s going to happen today, let alone in 20, 30, or 40 years from now.  What they know is that they’re in love and that they want to spend the rest of their lives together.  That, and Jesus’ presence in their marriage is all they need.

Sometimes things don’t go the way we planned.  Sickness and accidents and financial problems can come to any marriage.  Frankly, I feel sorry for couples who don’t have the grace of a sacramental marriage to help then weather the storm.

As we prepare for Jesus’ coming, why not spend a few minutes thinking of all the times Jesus has been there for you (even the times you weren’t aware of) and tell Him thank you.

Friday of the 1st Week of Ordinary Time

The Two Blind Men (Matthew 9:27-31)

Obviously Jesus knew a little bit about human nature.  He was forever telling somebody not to talk about what He had done and invariably the person or persons would then go and blab it all over town.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus heals the two blind men.  “Jesus warned them sternly, ‘See that no one knows about this.”  What did they do?  “They went out and spread word of Him through all that land.”

Jesus didn’t have much of a marketing plan.  News of Him had to be spread by word of mouth.  And, it seems like the simplest way to get that done was to tell people to keep their mouths shut.  Here’s the thing.  Jesus was so wonderful, so amazing, so spectacular in His own humble way that people just couldn’t keep from telling everybody they could get to listen about Him.

So what’s happened to us today?  Instead of spreading the Good News, most of us seem to be afraid to speak.  Is Jesus the problem?  Is He less wonderful today?  Is He less amazing?  Or have we gotten so jaded that we’re not that easily impressed?  With phones in our pockets and televisions that fill up a whole wall are we just immune to being dazzled?  If I can see my granddaughter on my computer screen even though she’s hundreds of miles away, maybe a guy who can walk on water isn’t such a big deal.

No, Jesus is still a big deal.  He’s the biggest deal of all time.  He gave His life so that you and I could have our sins forgiven.  We’re the ones who have changed.  Is it any wonder that only three out of ten Catholics come to mass?  We, and I mean you and me, are failing in our calling to share the Good News of the Gospel with everyone we meet.  Here’s an idea.  I have a message from Jesus.  He said to tell you not to talk to anyone about Him.  Maybe it’ll work again.