4th Sunday of Advent–What Would Joseph Do?

 

Have you ever had a dream that was so vivid, so real, that you could swear that it really happened?  Have you ever had an angel speak to you in a dream? I haven’t but I have friends who swear they have and I have no reason to doubt their word.

 

Don’t you sometimes wish an angel WOULD speak to you.  It would definitely make it easier to make some decisions.  Should I change jobs? Should I invest all my money in gold?  Should I take that trip I’ve been thinking about? Wouldn’t it be nice if an angel would show up, kind of like Clarence in It’s a Wonderful Life?

 

The thing is, if it did happen, would we believe it?  Remember, George Baily didn’t believe Clarence. He thought either Clarence was crazy, or he was crazy.  Whether our angel shows up in a dream or as we’re about to jump off a bridge, we’re probably going to be skeptical.

 

So, here’s Joseph.  First his fiancé comes up pregnant with a crazy story about the Holy Spirit.  I’m sure Joseph said something to Mary like “I may have been born at night, but I wasn’t born last night.”  The relationship must have been on shaky ground. Joseph was a businessman. He had a reputation to protect.  What will people think when his young future wife’s tunic starts to bulge? Either they’ll think it’s his, which was a terrible scandal in those days, or they’ll think it’s not his, which would be even worse.  Oy, veh! What to do, what to do?

 

Then one night he has this dream.  An angel appears to Joseph and tells him not to be afraid to take Mary into his home.  Her story about the Holy Spirit is true. This child will save his people from their sins.

 

Fortunately for you and me, Joseph took the angel at his word.  He didn’t write off the dream as the result of eating pizza before he went to bed, like I might do.  No, his faith made him believe.

 

But, why do we hear this story the week before Christmas?  Why has the Church decided that Joseph’s actions are important.  The Sunday before Christmas is kind of “prime time” in the Liturgical Year.  Unless you come to mass every day, this is the last message you’re going to hear before we celebrate Jesus’ birth.

 

Face it, even if Joseph had said “forget it, I’m outa here”, Jesus still would have been born.  He still would have saved us from our sins. Heck, we don’t even know what happened to Joseph after the incident where Jesus stays behind at the temple.  We don’t know how he died and there’s not a single word spoken by him in the entire New Testament.

 

 

We don’t pray the “Hail Joseph” and there are very few songs written about him.  But he must be an important part of the story or we wouldn’t be reading this particular Gospel on this particular day.  Here’s what I think.

 

Joseph is just like you and me.  Guys, he’s the perfect role model for fathers.  He gave up everything for his wife and son. The angel said “take Mary into your home.”  He took her into his home. The angel said “give up your business and take Mary and Jesus to Egypt.”  He took them to Egypt.

 

The angel came to him again and said “Take them back” and he took them back.  All the while the poor guy was living in a home with two sinless people. Anything that ever went wrong was HIS fault.  Just imagine being the step-father of the Son of God. Imagine what God would do if Joseph let something happen to Jesus.  It’s bad enough if you let your own kid get lost, just think if Joseph let God’s son fall out of a tree and break his neck.  It wouldn’t be pretty.

 

That’s what makes Joseph a good father, but what about those of us who aren’t fathers, particularly you ladies.  How is Joseph a role model for you?

 

Joseph did everything that was asked of him and he did it not expecting any earthly reward.  There was no recognition in his lifetime. There were no “parent of the year” awards. Most of the things he did, he did in secrecy.  Even John the Baptist’s father’s words are part of our faith tradition. The Canticle of Zechariah is part of the Church’s daily prayers.  But there’s no “Canticle of Joseph”. All we know is that he said yes to the angel. Not once, but over and over and over again. And we know that from his actions because his words were never recorded.  

 

In our first reading today the prophet Isiaah tells Ahaz to ask for a sign from God and Ahaz refuses.  He’s the total opposite of Joseph. Isiaah tells Ahaz that God will provide a sign anyway. “The virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall name Him Emmanuel.”  Of course Ahaz didn’t see the sign. It didn’t come for 700 years.

 

So, as you and I go about our daily lives, we do what Joseph did.  We act in faith. We don’t expect an earthly reward. Most of us will pass through this life and move on to the next, never knowing the good that we’ve done unless we run into our own personal Clarence.  And that’s probably not going to happen.

 

The Church reminds us of our role by presenting the story of Joseph just ahead of the celebration of his step-son’s birth.  Did Joseph have to say “yes”. No he didn’t. Would Jesus have been born, lived and died, and been raised on the third day without Joseph?  Yes he would have.

 

But Joseph did say “Yes” and he stands after all these centuries as our role model.  Face it, you and I aren’t Jesus. And we aren’t Mary. We sin. We make mistakes. We fail to live up to our potential as Christians and as human beings…..just like Joseph.

 

Remember a few years ago the kids were wearing bracelets that said WWJD?  What would Jesus do. In real life, what Jesus would do might be too much for us.  We can’t walk on water. We can’t turn water into wine. We aren’t free from sin. Maybe a better question would be “What would Joseph do?”

 

It might be hard to follow in Joseph’s footsteps, but it IS doable for you and me.  So, in the few days that remain before the big celebration, maybe you can keep Joseph in mind.  When there’s a decision to be made, ask him what you should do. I have a feeling you’ll get a pretty good answer.

 

Goodbye 2017

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I know you’re sitting in front of your computer (tablet, smart phone) breathlessly waiting for your favorite blogger to give you some words of wisdom to take you into the new year.  That’s a lot of responsibility you’re putting on me and, frankly, I’m not sure I’m up to it.

There are a lot of places you can go to get inspired but you’ve chosen to come here so I guess I owe it to you to give it my best shot.  After all, I’ve been watching the Hallmark Channel almost nonstop since Thanksgiving.  I should be very inspired.  Let me say something in passing about the folks at Hallmark TV.  Like the Catholic Church, they don’t consider December 25 to be the end of the Christmas season.  They continue to run Christmas movies.  And even though they’re all the same movie, with the same plot, they’re Christmas movies all the same.

So, let me start my end-of-the-year diatribe with a few words about the Christmas season.  Holy Mother Church divides the year into seasons.  The Church year begins with the first Sunday of Advent.  This year that was December 3.  So right away we’re out of sync with the rest of the world.

Advent is always four weeks long so this year the last Sunday of Advent was December 24, which was also Christmas Eve, the BEGINNING of the Christmas season.  Today, Sunday, December 31 is the Feast of the Holy Family.  It’s also secular New Years Eve.

The following Sunday, January 7 is the Feast of the Epiphany and the next day, Monday the 8th wdead christmas treee celebrate the  Baptism of the Lord.  That’s the end of the Christmas season.  You can finally take down that tree that’s been up since the first of November.

But don’t get too comfortable with Ordinary√ Time this year.  We’ll just barely get the green vestments out and it will be time for the purple of Lent.  Ash Wednesday, 2018, is on February 14, Valentines Day.  Six weeks of Lent (and fish fries) and it will be Easter again.

So that’s your lesson on the Church calendar but it’s hardly the words of wisdom you’ve been waiting for so I’m going to borrow something from Father Z’s blog.  (If you don’t follow Father  Z, you should).  Today Father Z reminds us that a plenary indulgence is available to us both today and tomorrow.

You may ask “what is an indulgence?”  And indulgence is the release from temporal punishment for your sins.  Just because you’ve been forgiven in the sacrament of reconciliation you still have to be cleansed from your sins before you can get into heaven.  That’s what we call purgatory and an indulgence (partial) can reduce your time in purgatory while a plenary indulgence wipes your slate clean.  Here’s how you can obtain a plenary indulgence today.

  1.  Go to confession and received communion within a reasonable time (20 days)
  2. Recite or sing the Te Deum..
  3. Pray for the Pope’s intentions.  (One Our Father and one Hail Mary)
  4. Detest and detach yourself from even venial sins.

We can also receive a plenary indulgence tomorrow (January 1) by the singing or recitation of the Veni Creator Spiritus plus the other three things above.

So I guess giving you a way to cut some time off your stay in purgatory, even if it’s not wise, it’s certainly helpful.

Have a safe and blessed January 1.  Be careful out there and stay warm.

Advent Turns into Christmas

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They say that if you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your long-range plans.  This week has certainly proven that to be true.  Last week at this time I had all kinds of things that  I was going to post for the fourth week of  Advent.  It would have been awesome!  Then, last Saturday I went out with some of my adult kids and some of my grandchildren.  We were watching a Christmas parade and waiting to cross the street to go to lunch.  The next thing I knew, I was laying flat on my back on the sidewalk.  My legs just gave out on me.

As I lay there on the sidewalk I realized that all these people I didn’t know were helping me to get back on my feet (with a lot of help from a light pole that kept me from falling right back where I had been).  Lesson number 1 was that there are a lot of good people in the world.  Total strangers had stopped their celebration to help me.  People are basically good.  And God is great!

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, my adult kids and daughter-in-law insisted (demanded) that I go to the hospital.  All I wanted to do was go to lunch, but it wasn’t to be.  My lovely and talented wife poured me into the car and delivered me to the emergency room.  It would turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

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Let me say here that I have a lot of respect for doctors and the work they do.  Over the last few years, I’ve had to opportunity to meet a lot of them.  See the thing is, specialists specialize.  They each try to frame your illness in terms of their specialty.  That’s what they know and that’s the way it is.  On the other hand, ER docs are more inclined to look at the big picture.  The first thing they did to me in the Emergency Room was order a CAT scan, something none of my “team” of specialists had never done.  It turns out the trouble has been mostly in my head, literally.

Lesson number 2, what looks like a problem may turn out to be a blessing.  I’ll be going in for surgery in January which may solve a lot of my health issues.  I have something called hydrocephalus I never did get lunch.

To make a short story long, I spent three days in the hospital and my week of clever Advent posts went right out the window. Thank God for my daughter who finished my Christmas shopping for me and even wrapped everything.  And thank God for family members who are smarter than I am.  If I’d had my way I would have gone to lunch and gone home not knowing what was going on in my head.  Lesson number 3, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

So, I’ll sum up with this one Advent/Christmas offering.  The weeks of waiting are over.  Tonight our Savior comes.  What an awesome occasion.  I’ve returned to my home parish and I can’t wait for Christmas mass.  This year will be extra special, not that every Christmas isn’t extra special.  We have a God who’s so wonderful, so loving, that He sent His only Son to become one of us!  Thanks to this great gift we can look forward to an eternity in paradise!

We buried a friend of mine yesterday.  Who could ask for a better Christmas gift than to be free from pain and earthly worries and be on our way to heaven?   Prayers go out to his family, but I believe that they understand that death is just a beginning.  Yesterday’s funeral was truly a celebration of life!  We have no idea what God has in store for us.

I’m going to close this with the wish that you and your families have a peaceful and blessed Christmas.  Thank you for reading Deaconcast and I hope you’ll continue to check in.  I have some exciting plans for 2018, but you can see what sometimes happens to plans.  God’s plan is the only one that counts and we have no idea what that may be.  Our job is to continually pray for knowledge of His plan for us and for the power to make it happen.

Joy to the World, the Lord is Come!

Pope Francis: Think ‘being good’ is enough? It’s not. Go to Mass

I’m pretty sure that the followers of this blof don’t NEED this post, but it couldn’t hurt.  Possibly you have adult family and friends who spout the old argument, “I’m good.  I don’t need to go to mass.”  Maybe you can subtly share this with them.

Well, last week our Holy Father attacked that argument head-on and gave all of us something to say to those people in reply.  No, being good isn’t enough.  Yes God is everywhere, but there’s a reason why we all go to a specific building to worship him.

I can’t add anything to the Pope’s words, but I am going to tell you a short story because it’s real and because it just happened a few hours ago.

I conduct a communion service on Thursday and Friday mornings.  Today I woke up with laryngitis.  I couldn’t talk at all.  I prayed to Saint John Chrystosom, patron saint of preachers, when I got to church,  asking him to pray that I could deliver some kind of  short homily.

When it came time for the homily, I started with a very weak voice, but as I continued to speak, my voice got stronger and stronger, and the brief comments I had planned turned into a full-blown homily.  God had restored my voice!  There’s power in all prayer, but the power of prayer said in church is special.

Here are the Holy Father’s remarks, not in English, but with subtitles.  Enjoy!

December 6–The Feast of Saint Nicholas

Today we remember Saint Nicholas.  He lived in present-day Turkey from 270 to 343.  Nicholas was present at the Council of Nicea where he signed the Nicene Creed in 323.

Saint Nicolas was known for his secret gift-giving, including leaving coins in children’s shoes which led to our modern celebration of Saint Nicholas Day on December 6.  The legend of Nicholas spread northward to Holland and came to New York with the Dutch settlers.  Eventually, the legend morphed into Santa Claus and associated with Christmas.

But gifts and money are still given in some areas on December 6.  So, leave your shoes out tonight.  Who knows?  You might get some gifts.

Bishop Barron on the iGens

On this Tuesday of the first week of Advent, I want to share a video with you by

Bishop Robert Barron on the iGens..  iGens are the generation born since 1995.  The Bishop points out that this is the first generation who has no experience with life without iPhones, and iPads and all the other “i” electronics.

They are in no hurry to grow up, often waiting until their late teens to get their first driver’s license and being perfectly happy to live at home with Mom and Dad.  Where I live, in Church world, our biggest concern with these folks is that they don’t go to church, and often don’t believe in God.

We all know it, but frankly, we don’t know what to do about it.  If you have kids or grandkids. or if you’re concerned about the future of the Church, watching this will be ten minutes and twenty-three seconds well spent.  Enjoy

Monday of the 1st Week of Advent

Yesterday the Pope had this to say:

“Today we begin the journey of Advent, which will culminate in Christmas. Advent is the time that is given to us to welcome the Lord who comes to meet us, to verify our desire for God, to look ahead and prepare ourselves for Christ’s return. He will return to us on the feast of Christmas, when we will remember His historical coming in the humility of the human condition; however, He comes within us every time we are disposed to receive Him, and He will come again at the end of time to “judge the living and the dead.” Therefore, we must always be vigilant and wait for the Lord with the hope of meeting Him.”

As we begin our Advent journey, Jesus reminds us in our Sunday Gospel to watch.  Isn’t that what Advent’s all about?  We watch for Jesus’ coming.  We don’t let external distractions keep us from our Advent mission of preparing for Him to come on Christmas.  In a word, to watch.