Nativity of John the Baptist

People in Biblical times looked at things a lot differently than we do today.  Our reading from Luke’s Gospel is a good example.

“When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child, she gave birth to a son.  Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her.”

 

Remember, Elizabeth was no kid.  That was part of the miracle.  The angel told Mary, “behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age.”  Looking around this church this morning I’d say we’re a pretty mature crowd.  If one of us, or our wife, was to come up pregnant would we think the Lord had shown us “great mercy”?  We might think exactly the opposite.  Would our neighbors and relatives come to rejoice with us?

 

Luke tells us that  the people asked “What, then, will this child be?”  They had no idea what he would become.  In the continuation of this passage, after he gets his voice back, Zechariah will tell John what he is to become, but no one knows it yet.

 

I guess you’d say these people’s glass was always half full where, today, we tend to see it more as half empty.  When God called on them, they usually said yes, even when they didn’t know what they were saying “yes” to.

 

It’s the same thing with John’s name.  The angel had told Zechariah what to call the child.  “Call him John.”  The relatives and neighbors objected.  Babies were given family names.  It was unheard of to give a child, especially a son, a different name.  But Elizabeth insisted that he be called John and Zechariah confirmed it, writing on a tablet “John is his name.”  It’s a good thing he did because that’s when he got his voice back.

 

Family names aren’t so important today.  In fact a lot of parents seem to go out of their way to hang strange monikers on their poor, innocent children.  But how many couples would give their kid a name because an angel told them to?  Probably not many.

 

Here’s the thing.  People in Jesus’ time were open to the will of the Father.  They put God first and themselves second.  That’s not so common today.  Separated from them by 2,000 years and half a world away, I think it’s hard for us sometimes to understand just how obedient those people were and how much we come up short.

 

Some might say that God has never asked them to do anything.  They would be wrong.  God speaks to us in any number of ways including through the Scriptures and through signs.  The problem is that most of us don’t take the time to listen.  We need to be open to the Father’s word and to listen for it.

Trinity Sunday

I can’t believe how long it’s been since my last post!  I apologize for my inactivity.  I will try to do better in the future.

Here’s my homily for Trinity Sunday/Father’s Day.  I hope you like it.

Today is Trinity Sunday, the day we celebrate the unique nature of our God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Here in America it’s also Father’s Day.  It’s unusual for the two celebrations to coincide since the Church calendar and the Hallmark calendar are two very different instruments but here we are.

I’ll get to human dads in a minute, but first I want to take a look at the relationship between God the Father and God the Son.  We know that both of them have existed since the beginning of time.  In the very beginning, in the Book of Genesis, we hear God talking to someone.  Who’s He talking to?  He’s talking to His Son.  How do we know?  John tells us at the beginning of his Gospel.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was at the beginning with God.  All things came to be through him, and without him, nothing came to be.”  The Son, Jesus, was with God from the very start.

 

So God creates this beautiful world for us, “through His Son.  Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan just as you and I continue to be tempted by Him today.  Remember that God the Father said to God the Son, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”  This was His “pet project”.  He wanted everything to be perfect, a regular “Garden of Eden”.  But Satan was waiting.  The father of lies wanted to get back at God and this was his chance.  He couldn’t attack God directly so he went after His greatest creation, you and me.  And we fell right into his trap.

 

We know all the Old Testament stories; all the examples of how human beings were tempted, how often they failed, and how often they succeeded, with the help of God the Father.  God the Son is silent in the Old Testament.  The prophets gave hints that He was coming, but it’s only in hind sight that we make sense of the prophecies.  The Old Testament is much more about the battle between good and evil, God the father versus the father of lies.  The world was a mess.  What was God to do?  He’d warned us over and over that we were headed down the wrong path and we didn’t listen.  How could He get through to us?

 

“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”  Jesus must come to earth and live as a man so we’d listen to Him.  We may have been made in God’s image and likeness, but we don’t have anything remotely like His intellect.  To use a modern phrase, God had to “dumb down” the message so we’d understand it.

While Jesus was here He lived like a man.  He did everything any other man would do EXCEPT SIN.  In spite of being tempted many times, he remained sinless, just like His Father.

 

Since the people of the time were expecting the Messiah to come as a mighty and powerful savior, we know that many of them didn’t accept Jesus as the Son of God.  He had to perform signs and miracles, just like His Father to prove that He was who He said He was.  He was God’s son and anyone who spent any time with Him came to understand that.  The signs were all there for anyone who took the time to see them.

 

Which brings me to Father’s Day.  For those of us who have been blessed with children, we know that they’re formed in our image.  Not just the physical image, but their thoughts and their actions are all formed by what they’ve observed in us.  For good or bad, we’re their role models and their first teachers.  People may identify our kids as being ours by their eyes or their noses or by their smiles but they also may pick up on other qualities like integrity, honesty, or love of God and say “Isn’t she just like her dad?”  Or “Isn’t he a chip off the old block?”

 

Jesus may have been the Son of God but He was also the stepson of Joseph.  He may have been a little easier to raise than some other kids, or maybe not.  Joseph went through a lot.  Not just the visit from the angel, or the unexpected pregnancy of his young bride.  Twice the angel came back to him to tell him he must give up his business and take Mary and Jesus to another place.  We don’t know when he died.  Not one word of his is recorded in the scriptures.

 

But he taught Jesus how to be a carpenter and how to be a man.  He nurtured Him and protected Him and His Mother and when Jesus got lost in the temple his heart must have been broken when Jesus said “Didn’t you know I’d be in my Father’s house?”

 

Joseph wasn’t an essential part of the story….or was he?  Mary was Jesus’ mother and God was His Father.  Why did the Blessed Mother have to be married?  One obvious reason was that single moms were frowned upon in Jesus’ time.  Life would have been much more difficult for Mary and her Son had they lived alone.  But while Jesus showed us the way to heaven by becoming a human Son and Mary showed us the virtue of surrendering ourselves completely to God’s will, Joseph showed us how to be a father.  I don’t think he gets nearly enough credit for what he did.

 

Joseph must have been just like every dad.  Kids don’t come with instruction books, especially a kid like the Son of God.  We do the best we can with our limited experience but most of us are pretty clueless.  I know I was, and still am, even after four kids.  Anything we do right is either a result of observing another dad, usually our own, or by divine providence.

 

As a father I’ve always trusted in God to smooth over my mistakes and my constant prayer is that He’ll watch over my kids and forgive me for my shortcomings as a parent.

 

Did Joseph ever fail as a father?  I’m sure he did.  After all, he was the only person in his household who was capable of committing sin.  Imagine what that must have been like.  If somebody ate all the cookies, it had to be Joseph.  If somebody left the front door unlocked, it had to be Joseph.  It couldn’t have been easy being the only sinner in the house.

Today  as we celebrate our dads, and granddads, and uncles, and older brothers and anyone else who has filled the role of father in our lives, remember that it’s not an easy job.  God the Father, Joseph, and all of us earthly dads have an important role to play, one for which we may or may not be properly prepared.  Fortunately we have Joseph, the stepfather of our Lord to use as a role mode.   And we have the Father of us all, the creator of the universe, the all powerful God to fall back on.  He’ll never let us down and is always there for us.   He answers all our prayers.  All we have to do is call on His name:  whether it be in the name of the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

30 Pieces of Silver

30 pieces of silver; that’s what they thought Jesus was worth.  It’s the price that the Jewish leaders paid Judas to betray our Savior.  Silver is worth about $45.00 an ounce as of today, so if the pieces used to buy Jesus were about an ounce each, then Judas got a whopping $1,350.00 for turning Jesus in.  Seems like a bargain to me, especially when Judas gave the silver back when he realized what he’d done.

That raises a question.  I wonder what Judas thought they were going to do to Jesus?  Surely he didn’t think they were going to throw him a party?  Or maybe ask Him to join their little club?  Jesus had been telling the twelve that bad things were coming, did Judas not listen?  I guess we’ll never know.

But, back to the 30 pieces of silver.  It seems like small change to betray the son of God.  But, at what price do we betray Jesus today?  Will we give Him up in exchange for a night of drinking and hitting on the neighbors’ wives?  Will we give Him up for a couple of hours looking at a porn movie?  Maybe we give Him up for a few office supplies?  Or, maybe we give Him up for the pleasure of talking about our friends behind their backs?  Maybe Judas’ $1,350.00 wasn’t such a cheap price after all.

I know people who give Jesus up so they can sleep in on Sunday morning.  I also know people who give up Jesus so they can play golf on Sunday.  Maybe a good parking spot for the Cardinal’s game is enough to tempt some people to pass by church on their way downtown.

Today is Holy Thursday, the day we remember the Lord’s Last Supper and Judas’ betrayal.  Many of us will go to mass (some of us will go three times, but that’s another story) but most of us won’t.  It’s Thursday night.  Some folks are willing to trade an hour with Jesus for an hour of CSI.  That’s too bad.

Living in a very secular world, where devout Christians are looked on with scorn by many of our brothers and sisters, we need to be reminded once in a while of what Jesus did for us.  The holy trifecta of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday is just the place for us.  An annual reminder of what actually happened twenty centuries ago doesn’t hurt.  In fact it’s good for us.  Yes, I know these liturgies can get a little long some times.  So what!  Three or four hours, once a year is a small price to pay.  Trust me.  You’ll get more than thirty pieces of silver worth of peace and blessings in return.

4th Thursday of Lent

In today’s first reading (Ex: 32-7-14) the Lord chastises Moses because his people have made a molten calf and are worshipping it.  We Catholics are often accused of doing the same thing.  “You Catholics worship statues!”  Anyone who would make such a comment is displaying their ignorance of the Catholic faith and of basic human nature.

In my church, we have more statues than you can count.  Besides the usual Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, we have statues representing virtually every Czech saint, plus Saint Louis IX, and a number of angels, including Saint Michael the Archangel.  The point is, we don’t worship saints, as opposed to the Jews who actually did worship their molten calf.

We use statues, and icons, and other pictures to remind us of the person the statue they depict.  They serve as reminders or as visual aids to help us pray to the saints, and to Jesus himself.

To put it into perspective, I’m sitting at my desk right now.  I’m surrounded by pictures of my wife, my kids, and my grandkids.  Do I love the pictures?  Of course not!  Do I love the people the pictures represent?  More than anything.  The pictures are just a reminder; something to stand in until I can see my loved ones in person.  I’ll see my wife and daughter in a few minutes.  It will be a while longer before I see my sons and grandkids, especially the ones who live out-of-state.  Until then, the pictures will have to do.

(Hopefully) it will be a long time before I see Jesus face-to-face.  Until then, His image, whether it’s a statue, a painting, or a crucifix, remind me of who He is and what He did for me.

Thursday of the 1st Week of Lent–Saint Patrick’s Day

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me. From the Breastplate of Saint Patrick
So, what does the Patron Saint of Ireland, this 5th Century missionary, have to do with green beer, corned beef and cabbage, and leprechauns.  To tell you the truth, I haven’t the faintest idea.  All I know is that I’ve partaken of my share of the first two and may have seen, at least once or twice, the third, depending of course on how much I’ve had of the first two.
Saint Patrick’s day became a big deal in the US because lonely Irishmen who had left their families behind to come to America needed a way to escape from their loneliness, at least for one day.  (Here in Saint Louis, Paddy’s Day is more of a multi-day affair.  We have two parades, one on the Saturday before and one on the day itself.  But that came later.)
Here’s the thing:  I plan on being at the parade today.  Though I won’t be drinking any green beer, I will enjoy the corned beef and cabbage (a foreign food on the Emerald Isle, by the way.)  But I’ll also remember that we are in the midst of Lent, I’ll take time to remember dear ol’ Paddy for the saint that he is, and I’ll lead Stations of the Cross tomorrow evening.
If you plan on enjoying the secular festivities today, I hope you’ll take time out to do the same.

9th Sunday in Ordinary Time–Becoming a Saint

Saint Wenceslaus

Jesus makes two points in today’s Gospel.  First He talks about salt.  Salt that’s lost its flavor is good for nothing except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.  We know all about that, don’t we?  I don’t know about you, but I’ve trampled on more salt this winter than I ever wanted to.  I’d be more than happy if I never trampled on salt again…..at least for this year.

 

Since we’re all tired of salt let’s look at His second point.  “You are the light of the world.”  Don’t hide your light under a bushel basket. This is one of the many things that Jesus said that have become part of our everyday language.  Even an atheist can understand that you wouldn’t hide a light under a basket.  Light is meant to be seen and to be shared.

 

When I was ordained, each of my kids gave me one of the four volumes of the Liturgy of the Hours, our daily prayer book, and each of them wrote something in their book.  In her volume, my daughter wrote “remember that a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” What a profound statement!

 

My former spiritual director, the late Monsignor Edward Eichor used to tell a story about a mass that he attended at the old Arena on Oakland Avenue.  The building was totally dark.  Someone struck one match and lit one candle.  That candle was used to light the candles of the people nearby.  They lit others and soon there were thousands of candles burning brightly, lighting up the whole place.  All that light and the original candle was still burning as brightly as it had to begin with.

 

That’s what Jesus calls us to do with our light.

 

As I’m learning about this beautiful church, I can’t help but be impressed by all the amazing statues depicting saints, especially Bohemian saints, who have lived inspirational lives.  Of course we have our Beloved Savior and His mother and father, Mary and Joseph. We’re all familiar with their lives of virtue and holiness.  Above the altar we have our patron, Saint John of Nepomuk.  John is depicted holding his fingers in front of his mouth in the traditional “shhh” sign.  John is the patron of the seal of the confessional.  As most of you know, the legend is that John refused to reveal details of the Queen’s confession to her husband, the King.  John’s faithfulness to his priestly vows ultimately led to his death.

 

What about Saint Elizabeth of Hungary? She was the daughter of a king, but rather than live a life of luxury, she built hospitals and worked in them herself, dressing the wounds of the sick.  She only lived twenty-four years, but she took Isaiah’s words in our first reading to heart.

“Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own.  Then your light shall break forth like the dawn……..”

 

When Elizabeth’s husband died, she became one of the poor herself.  But, nearly 800 years after her death, her light continues to shine.

 

Saint Wenceslaus was a brave and pious king.  His father had been a good Christian but his mother was a pagan.  Wenceslaus took after his dad.  He was so devoted to his Christian faith that it’s said he grew his own wheat and grapes to make bread and wine for the Eucharist.  He took good care of all his subjects.  He was so good that he has his own Christmas sont.  You know “Good King Wenceslaus looked out on the feast of Stephen.”

 

Remember how the song goes.  Wenceslaus was sitting in his warm castle, looking out the window when he saw a poor man gathering firewood.  He called his page and the two of them went out into the cold.  They took food and firewood to the poor man.  The page didn’t think he could make it, but Wenceslaus told him to follow in his footsteps, which he did, adding yet another phrase to the language.

 

Wenceslaus’ brother was a pagan like his mom and in 938 AD, he killed the good king, making him a martyr for the faith.

 

Don’t panic, I’m not going to talk about every saint represented by a statue in our church.  We’d be here a long time if I did.  My point is that every saint is different.  Each one lived a life of heroic virtue in his or her own way.  Some were rich, some were poor.  Some were highly educated, some had no formal education at all.  God created each of them to perform a job here on earth and they all came through with flying colors.

 

Some of our saints were saintly almost from birth.  Some had a conversion at some point in their lives.  Remember, Saint Paul, the man from whom we learn so much about our faith, was a murderer before Jesus knocked him off his horse.  He was even responsible for the stoning death of our first deacon, Saint Stephen.

 

Saint Augustine, one of the great scholars and teachers of the faith was a terrible sinner until his conversion, which was the answer to his mother, Saint Monica’s constant prayers.

 

We have statues, and icons, and paintings of the saints to inspire us to live saintly lives.  But God doesn’t intend for us to mimic them.  There’s already been a Saint Wenceslaus.  If you or I try to be him, we’ll just be a second rate imitation.  A copy is never as good as the original.  Do we really need another “Hawaii 5-0”?  Or another “Dallas”?

 

The point is that God wants to see OUR light.  You may not be a king, or a queen, or a great scholar, or have the money to open a hospital.  God created you and me to be the best version of ourselves that we can be.

If you’re a parent, He wants you to be the best parent you can be.  If you’re a husband or wife, He wants you to be the best spouse you can be.  God has given us the saints as inspiration, but not as blueprints.

 

See, if we hold up these men and women on too high a pedestal, we may think we can never measure up.  But notice that Jesus didn’t say “let your light shine, but only if it shines a certain way.”  He calls us to let our particular light shine in our particular way, making it the brightest it can possibly be.

 

Remember the story I told you before.  One tiny match lit one tiny candle which shared its light with its neighbors eventually lighting up an entire arena.  Work each day to be the best, the brightest, version of yourself, and only God knows what you can accomplish with His help.

 

 

 

Discernment

Just a short post today on the topic of discernment.  To paraphrase Father Thomas Merton, God never gives us the whole answer.  He reveals the truth to us in pieces, but the sum of the pieces never equals the whole because, if He told us exactly what He wants us to do, we would have no free will.  If we knew with 100% certainty that God wanted us to do a thing, we would have to do it.  After all, who can refuse God?

Lately, I’ve been trying to make a decision on a path that I believe God wants me to take.  Unfortunately, there are a number of very good reasons to decide yea or nay, one being my personal capability.  Yesterday, as I was preparing a homily on the feast of Saint John Neumann I read this on the Saint of the Day web site:

For Christ does not give a mission without supplying the means to accomplish it.

Subtle, huh?  That pretty much does away with my last concern.  I have to say that God has always provided me with enough rope to hang myself but He’s also always given me a pair of sharp scissors to cut the rope.  I’ll tell you more about my decision in a few days, but for now, I’ll just say that God speaks to all of us on a regular basis.  The problem is that we don’t always listen.

 

Simeon

I don’t know why, but Simion has always been one of my favorite characters in Scripture.  He didn’t have a big part in the story, in fact this passage is the only time we hear about him, but he had a crucial part.  His single appearance in Luke’s Gospel is part of the daily prayer of the Church.  It’s part of night prayer and it’s called the Canticle of Simion.

 

Simion’s been waiting for a long time, hanging around the temple, because the Lord told him he wouldn’t die until he had seen the Messiah.  Today’s the day!  He actually gets to hold the Child in his arms.  His time on earth is complete. “Lord, now let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled: my own eyes have seen the salvation which you prepared in the sight of every people, a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel.”

 

But, then Luke says something that seems confusing.  He writes that “The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him.” Didn’t they already know?  Hadn’t the angels revealed to them who their Son was?  I think they did.  But, maybe they were amazed that Simeon knew.  After all, at this point, the baby was just days old.  As far as Mary and Joseph knew, the truth about their Son was known only to the shepherds in Bethlehem.

 

But Simeon knew.  If he knew, who else knew?  Could it be that reality was starting to sink in.  Even raising a normal, everyday baby is a whole lot different than most parents expect.  Mary and Joseph were to raise an extraordinary baby.  There would be challenges and difficulties that they couldn’t possibly imagine.  Their meeting with Simion was just the beginning.

“Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted
(and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Mary and Joseph must have left the temple thinking, “what have we gotten ourselves into?”

You and I face challenges every day.  Sometimes God asks us to do things that we never expected; things we think we can’t possibly do.  But, like Mary and Joseph, He always gives us the grace to do whatever He asks.  All we have to do is say “yes”.

 


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.  And we know that from his actions because his words were never recorded.

 

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.

 

 

Saint Therese of Liseux

One of our more popular saints.  A google search turns up a half million hits on her name.  It’s really quite remarkable considering she only lived to be 24 years old.  She lived from 1873 to 1897, recently enough that there are photographs of her and she was quite beautiful.  She was canonized in 1925, just 28 years after her death.

In 1997, Pope John Paul II declared her a doctor of the church.  She was the youngest person ever to be declared a doctor and only the third woman.  Her memoirs, The Story of a Soul, were published after her death and became a world-wide best seller and devotions to her spread all over the world.

Therese was a sickly child. In fact, they didn’t expect her to survive, partly because her mother wasn’t able to nurse her.  Her parents sent her away for fifteen months to live with a friend who nursed her and took care of her.  When she returned home her parents found that she was very intelligent and very stuborn.  She learned to read by the time she was three.  Her mother died when she was just four.

At about the age of eight, Therese began to suffer from illness, an illness that the doctors couldn’t cure.  But, after staring at a statue of the Blessed Mother, whe was cured.  At fifteen, she wanted to follow her two older sisters into the convent, but was told she was too young.

In 1887, her father took her and her sister to Rome.  At an audience with with Pope Leo XIII.  She begged him to approve her entry into the Carmelite convent.  The Pope told her to do as the superiors said.  She refused to leave until her request was granted and she had to be removed by the Swiss Guards.  Remember, I said she was stuborn.  Shortly after that, the local Bishop instructed the prioress to admit Therese.

Therese was remarkable in that she suffered ill health most of her life and that in just twenty-four short years, she was recognised as the saint that she was.  She was a hard worker in the convent in spite of her illness.  Her life in the convent made it difficult for her to perform great things.
She once wrote, “”Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.”

A lot has been said and written about the Little Flower.  As I said, there are hundreds of thousands of places on the Internet where you can read about her.  I think her greatest lesson for us is that it’s possible to live a saintly life just by doing little things, and that it doesn’t really matter how long you live.

Saint Therese of Liseux, pray for us.