1st Sunday of Advent, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

This was the homily for my final mass at my old assignment.  I began my new assignment at Saint Bernadette, my former parsh, on Sunday.  Enjoy

This is my last mass at Saint John Nepomuk. For the last seven years I’ve been blessed to be your director. I told Deacon Joe that this is the best deacon job in the Archdiocese. There have been a few rough patches, but for the most part I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time here. It wasn’t planned this way, but I think it’s entirely appropriate, and a sign of the Holy Spirit at work, that I’m leaving on the last day of the Liturgical year and Deacon Joe is taking over on the first day of the Liturgical year.

 

Tomorrow is the first Sunday of Advent. That makes today the last day of the Church year, New Years Eve. It’s an end and a beginning, so HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

happy new year

One thing you can’t escape during Advent is the song, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. You may love it. You may hate it. But you can’t avoid it during this season. I imagine we’ve all heard it hundreds of times. And I’ll bet most of us have never really paid attention to the words. Take your missalettes and turn to page 278. Take a look at the chorus. “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”

 

The time before Jesus coming was dark; very dark. The Israeli people were being held captive in a foreign land. The word “rejoice” might not have been on their lips. They were waiting for a redeemer. The word “redeem” comes from the Latin redemere, which means to buy back. Jesus would buy back the people from their captivity and release them from the darkness of sin.

 

Look at the first verse of the song. “O come, O come, Emmanuel. And ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lowly exile here, Until the Son of God appear.” They were waiting for Jesus (even though they didn’t know who Jesus was yet) to ransom them from their exile. They were mourning in lowly exile waiting for the Son of God. When Jesus did come, many of the Jewish people rejected Him and eventually He would be tortured and crucified by the very people He came to save.

 

“O come, thou Wisdom from on high, and order all things far and nigh: To us the path of knowledge show, And teach us in her ways to go.” As we make our way through these four weeks if prayer and reflection, Lord, give us wisdom. Show us the path of knowledge and teach us to go in wisdom’s ways.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” They call that the serenity prayer, but it could just as well be called the courage prayer, or the WISDOM PRAYER.

“O come, thou holy Lord of might, who to thy tribes on Sinai’s height In ancient times, did give the Law In cloud and majesty and awe.” Of course, this refers to the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai. Like every verse of the song, it begins “O come”. That’s what Advent is all about. Come, Emmanuel, come wisdom, come holy Lord of might. We’re waiting patiently. (or maybe not so patiently).

 

“O come thou Rod of Jesse’s stem. From every foe deliver them. From death and sin thou people save, And give them victory o’er the grave.” We want Jesus to come. We want our friends, our fellow Christians, to be delivered from their foes. Of course, that also includes us. And we especially want to be saved from sin and death. Lord, give us victory over the grave.

 

Twenty centuries later we know that all of this has come to pass. Jesus came and we no longer fear death because we’ve been given victory over the grave.

 

“Oh come, Thou Key of David, come. And open wide our heavenly home. Make safe the way that leads on high, and close the path to misery.” This one may be a little confusing but notice that Thou Key of David” is capitalized. Jesus is the Key of David and the Key to Heaven. He will open wide our heavenly home. And, as we know from the New Testament, Jesus gave Peter the keys to the kingdom. Here the song implores God to make the path to heaven save and to close the path to misery.

 

“O come, desire of nations. Bind in one the hearts of humankind. Bid every sad division cease. And be thyself our Prince of Peace.” Here we’re asking for peace and unity among all men and all nations. We know that Jesus is the Prince of Peace.

 

And finally, “O come thou day-spring come and cheer our spirits by thine advent here. Disperse the gloomy clouds of night. And death’s dark shadow put to flight.” This song was written in the 12th century. We don’t know who the author was but we do know it was written in Latin and that the music, probably French, was added around 100 years later. The words were translated into English by John Mason Neale in 1851.

 

This final verse is the only time the word “advent” appears in the song. Notice that in the notes before the verse, this 7th one is supposed to be sung on December 24, the last Sunday of Advent. It has a lighter feel than the first six. Cheer our spirits. Disperse the gloomy clouds of night. Death’s dark shadow put to flight. Jesus is coming and He’s almost here! Halleluiah!

 

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, a local boy who’s made good has a book of Advent Reflections cleverly titled Advent Reflections.  He says “The older I get, the more I’m convinced that life is all about advent.” He’s right. We’re all waiting to meet our Savior face to face.

advent reflections

 

We’re living in a time that’s at least as bad as the days of the Old Testament, probably worse. Crime is running rampant. People hate one another for being different. Our national, state, and local leaders are corrupt and pass laws that are detrimental to the poor, to the elderly, and to the unborn. People we trust are turning out to be sexual predators and there seems to be another revelation every day.

 

We don’t need to pray for a Savior. We already have one. No, what we need to pray for is that people will come to Jesus. We need to fill up our churches and to spread the Gospel. It’s a big job, so big it almost seems impossible. But remember, this whole Christianity thing was started by twelve men in the Middle East. There was no Internet. There was no television or radio. There weren’t even newspapers. It would be fifteen centuries before the invention of the printing press. No, they did it by word of mouth. One person talking to another. The twelve Apostles spread the Word throughout the known world, usually traveling by foot. For the first 300 years they didn’t even have Bibles.

 

In more recent times, immigrants from Eastern Europe came to Saint Louis. They built this beautiful church and at one time it served hundreds of families. There’s no reason it can’t return to its former glory. It will be hard work but I know you have the will and a capable new leader and I expect to see big things from Saint John Nepomuk in the years ahead.

 

God bless you all, thank you for putting up with me for the past seven years, and have a blessed and holy Advent and a Merry Christmas.

Advertisements

30th Sunday of Ordinary Time

What I’m going to say today may make some of you mad. If so, I’m sorry. But the word “Gospel” means truth and my job is to tell you the truth, so that’s what I’m going to do.

 

In just over a week and a half, we’ll be asked to vote in an historic election. For several weeks Father and I have been receiving letters and emails from the Church telling us what we can and can’t do or say before we all go to the polls. We recently got a 2-page document called “Is It Legal? What Churches Can and Cannot Do During Elections.”

 

The gist of the thing is that a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization (that’s us) can’t support or oppose a candidate for public office under the threat of losing our tax-exempt status. Some of the things we can’t do are to give a homily urging you to vote for or against a particular candidate or label a candidate in the bulletin as pro or anti-abortion (I’ll come back to that one in a minute) We also can’t distribute materials or allow others to distribute pamphlets on church property. There are some other things, but I think you get the point.

 

Not to be outdone, the US Conference of Bishops, who never use a single word when a paragraph will say the same thing, has issued their own 42 page document called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” which says exactly the same thing, “don’t tell ‘em who to vote for”.

 

But, here’s the thing. There is a way around this, and I quote: “It should be noted that the Internal Revenue Code applies to tax-exempt corporations and not to individuals. Individuals are free to participate in the political process, to endorse and support candidates.   Individuals who are officials of a tax-exempt organization, however, should make it clear when speaking publically that their endorsement and support is being made in their individual capacity, not on behalf of the tax-exempt organization.”

 

So, let me be clear. What you’re hearing today is me, not Saint John Nepomuk Chapel.

 

Normally I wouldn’t wade into such deep water but several things are different about this election cycle and I think they’re worth talking about. One is that a lot of prominent Catholic clergy have spoken out about our choice next month. Among them are Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, RI Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Archbishop Kurtz of Louisville who is President of the US Conference of Bishops and local boy made good, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York.

 

As you probably know, Wikileaks has released a batch of emails from Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. Among them are several from Clinton campaign operatives bashing the Catholic Church. Here’s what Cardinal Dolan had to say: “The remarks attributed to John Podesta, who is Mrs. Clinton’s chief of staff, are just extraordinarily patronizing and insulting to Catholics. What he would say is offensive. And if it had been said about the Jewish community, if it had been said about the Islamic community, within 10 minutes there would have been an apology.” As of today, there has been no apology. In fact, Tim Kaine, Clinton’s running mate, who claims to be a devout Catholic said on FOX News, “I don’t think an apology is necessary because what they were essentially getting at here was just a difference in opinion with the Catholic hierarchy.” 

 

That “difference of opinion” includes calling the Church medieval and sexist. It also calls for a “Catholic spring”, a revolution within the Church to change its views. This is an obvious reference to the Arab Spring.  The Arab Spring was a revolutionary wave of both violent and non-violent demonstrations, protests, riots, coups and civil wars.

 

So, speaking for myself, and not as Saint John Nepomuk Chapel, I think that if (1) the Clinton campaign has attacked our Church and (2) if Bishops, Archbishops, and even a Cardinal have spoken out, then the IRS probably isn’t going to come after a lowly deacon. Besides, since this church has been operating in the red for years, there’s nothing for them to tax.

 

Mrs. Clinton, herself, in a speech to a women’s group said that we (Catholics and Evangelical Christians) were just going to have to change our religious views. “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.” Seriously, that’s what she said. And here I thought our Constitution guaranteed religious freedom. Silly me.

 

Of course, all this controversy involves abortion. Mrs. Clinton has pledged to uphold and even increase the availability of abortion throughout the entire nine months of pregnancy. She has also promised to overturn the Hyde Amendment which means our tax dollars would be used to pay for all those abortions. Mr. Kaine, her allegedly Catholic running mate has used the tired liberal cliché, “I’m personally opposed to abortion, but I don’t feel like I can impose my views on others.” Maybe somebody should send this guy a copy of the Catechism. Here’s what it says, “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception.” And, “Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense.”

 

The Church tells us that “formal cooperation” includes passing laws that legalize abortion and voting for so-called “pro-choice” candidates.

 

Granted, neither major party candidate is perfect. Donald Trump’s stand on immigration and keeping certain immigrants out of the country based on their religious beliefs is contrary to Church teaching. But he’s never attacked our Church and, while he’s not said a lot about abortion one way or the other, he’s not promised to make abortion easier to get, or to make you and me pay for it.

 

And, it’s important for all of us to remember that in four or even eight years, our next president will make appointments that will shape the Supreme Court, and all courts, for decades. As Catholic Christians we need to step up and defend our rights or we may wake up one day and find we don’t have any rights.

 

I don’t expect anyone to vote one way or the other because I said so. In fact, your vote is between you and God. All I’m asking you to do is pray about this before you vote. Ask for guidance from the Holy Spirit. And do your homework. Go online and Google “Clinton and abortion” or “Clinton and Catholic”. You’ll be amazed at what you find. This election will shape our country for decades. Please take it seriously and don’t sit it out.

 

 

 

Follow Up

musialYesterday I posted a homily about being a great Catholic.  Yesterday Saint Louis, and all of America, lost one of the greatest;  Stanley Frank Musial.  Stan was a man, no he was The Man, who used the gifts that God gave him and never was willing to accept the praise that he received.  Everyone who knew him says he was a humble man, a considerate man, and a man of faith.  Cardinal Timothy Dolan tells us that one of Stan’s greatest thrill in his amazing life was being able to meet his fellow Pole, Pope John Paul II.

I never had the privilege of meeting The Man but I know people who did and the reaction is always the same.  He was a great human being. He carried a box of autographed memorabilia in the trunk of his car which he handed out freely to anyone he met.

I was blessed to see him play on television and in person.  He was my hero.  In fact, when I was a kid I used to play baseball in the back yard with my neighbor, Freddy Vincent.  He was always Kenny Boyer and I was Stan.  I even batted left-handed, and I can’t do anything left-handed.  Of course, I wasn’t very good batting right-handed either.  You might wonder why I always got to be Stan.  That’s easy.  It was my yard and my ball.  Freddy’s yard wasn’t big enough to play even two-player baseball.

Our city, and much of Major League Baseball will be in mourning for quite a while.  We share a great loss.  But Jesus’ baseball team has just gotten a huge boost.  The only question is whether he’ll play first base or in the outfield.  One thing is for sure, his beloved wife of 70+ years, Lillian Musial,  will be in the stands cheering him on.

RIP, Stan the Man.

Here’s an interesting footnote.  Last night the Saint Louis Blues opened their shortened season at home.  There were a lot of baseball people at the game, in town for the Cardinals winter fan event.  Musial wore number 6.  The Blues beat the Red Wings 6-0.  Coincidence?  What do you think?

perfect warrior