Archive for the ‘Joy’ Category

Asking and Receiving — Friday, 4th Week in Ordinary Time—Year II

February 5, 2010

King Herod said to his daughter, “Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you.” He even swore many things to her, “I will grant you whatever you ask of me, even to half of my kingdom.” If Herod, who was wicked, could be moved to give his daughter gifts, how much more will our heavenly Father give us good things if we ask Him. Praying for good things is something Jesus commands us to do.

While many Christians fall into the mistake of only praying when they want something from God, there are other Christians, who pray every day, who make an opposite mistake. These Christians pray for good things for others, but they never ask anything for themselves, fearing that this would be a selfish prayer. But the danger in this, in never requesting and never expecting God’s gifts and consolations, is that we’ll become discouraged and gradually embittered.

If we never ask for a share in the Father’s gifts we risk becoming like the older brother in Luke’s parable of the prodigal son. Eventually we’ll say to God, “Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never even gave me something to feast on with my friends.” But our generous and forgiving Father would say to us, “My child, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours for the asking.”

Jesus said, “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” So ask God to give you gifts—this is not a selfish prayer, for it will strengthen you in holiness and glorify God. I suggest that you try out a little experiment. Pray, “Lord, please treat me to something special today,” and then watch for his gift to come.

‘Tis Better to Give — Tuesday After Epiphany

January 5, 2010

(The Micro Machines Aircraft Carrier – Not the Summum Bonum)

When I was a kid, in preparation for Christmas, I remember how my sisters and I would explore those big Sears and J.C. Pennies catalogues and circle the things we really wanted. I also remember the intensity of my excitement when I would open my presents to discover the toys that I had dreamed about. But over the years, I saw a pattern develop that maybe you’ve begun to start noticing for yourself.

Christmas after Christmas, I would play with all my toys, but I discovered that I would never get as much happiness from as I had imagined they would give me when they were still in their boxes. No Christmas toy ever delivered the supreme happiness I had hoped for from them. I was blessed through these experiences to learn a very valuable lesson. I learned that that getting stuff would not and could not complete me—it couldn’t make me truly happy.

Stuff won’t make you truly happy, but there are lots of people who don’t know this. Why do you think it is that TV and advertisers are always going after that “target demographic” of 18 to 34 year-olds, especially that younger segment of 18 to 24 year-olds? It’s because these consumers have significant amounts of disposable income, perhaps for the first time in their lives. And, since they do not have the wisdom of years, many of them can still be fooled into thinking that this or that product will really make them as happy as advertised.

Don’t let yourself be fooled into taking that bait. Keep in mind the words Jesus who said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 2:35). It’s really about giving that I want to speak to you today. There are many ways that we can give of ourselves, of our time, talent and treasure, but this morning I want to address the importance and blessedness of giving from our incredible wealth.

Now I doubt that you would describe yourself as a rich person. In terms of our society, you’re probably not. But realize, that when compared to the rest of the world, you are a very wealthy individual. Did you know that about half of the people in the world live on less than $2.50 a day?

From our great material blessedness comes the great responsibility to share. Yet, the fact that we are far richer than many other people is really beside the point. Even if we were poor compared to everyone else, Jesus would still ask us to share of what we have. For whenever we give out of love, and a desire to spread and advance God’s kingdom, we imitate Jesus Himself, who gave of Himself to us first.

Maybe you feel like you have nothing much to give. The disciples thought they had next to nothing to give too, and they were right. They had just five loaves of bread and two fishes, but Jesus said to them, ‘Give the crowd some food yourselves.’ The disciples wondered what good so little could do for so many, but in Jesus’ hands their small gifts multiplied.  Their deed first feed thousands, and then, through its retelling in the Gospel, it feed untold millions.

It would be hubris, or foolish pride, for us to think that if only we had a million dollars, a billion dollars, a trillion dollars, or any sum, that we by ourselves could save the world. Yet, when we place what little we have into Christ’s hands, giving where and when the Holy Spirit prompts us, Jesus blesses it and our deed does more good within His kingdom than we realize.

Though you never fully see all of the good your giving causes on earth, you can immediately feel some of its goodness inside yourself. Part of the blessedness of charitable giving is in the joy you feel in always knowing that you have done a good deed. When you consume something you may enjoy it for a moment, but when you give something away in love you can enjoy that act forever. If fact, when we get to heaven, we should find ourselves made the instant friends of many strangers when it is revealed to us how our lives were profoundly connected through the smallest gifts.

To help in put our faith into practice, to love our neighbors and advance the Kingdom, we are going to begin taking more regular collections at our weekly school Masses in support various causes. We will be starting by helping a number of area organizations suggested by the Student Senate. And, once our Liturgy & Campus Ministry Committee is up and running, about which Mr. Zimmerman will be speaking to you about at the end of Mass, the selection of worthy charitable causes will one of the important tasks that will fall to them.

Today our collection will be going, in its entirety, to support the Hope Lodge here in Marshfield. The Hope Lodge provides temporary accommodations for patients and their family members while they are receiving cancer treatments at the Marshfield Clinic. Please give as generously as the Holy Spirit may prompt you and know that you will certainly be blessed.

Saying Amen — Golden Mass

December 26, 2009

Can you guess what word I’m thinking of? It’s a Hebrew word… it’s four letters long… and you’ll say it seven times in this (weekday) Mass. Have you got it?  I’ll give you one more hint… It starts with “A” and ends with “Men.” That’s right… “Amen.”

What do we mean when we say “amen”? Sometimes we say “amen” as a declaration of our faith. In this case our “amen” translates to us saying, “I believe it; this is true.” The sign of the cross, the Gloria, and the Creed all end with “amen’s” by which we declare, “This is true.”

At other times, we say “amen” to entrust our prayers (and ourselves) to God. Whenever we come to the end of our prayers, whether we’re alone or in a group, we always conclude by saying “amen.” With this “amen” we are saying, “Please, Lord, let this be done for us.”

What do we mean when we say “amen”? We’re saying “This is true,” as a confident profession of our faith, or we’re entrusting our prayers to God, saying, “Let this be done for us, Lord, according to your will.” That is what we’re saying when we say “Amen.”

Now here’s another riddle… Who was the first Christian, by which I mean, the first person to believe in Jesus Christ? You might be thinking it was John the Baptist, or one of Jesus’ apostles, but it wasn’t. Mary was the first Christian; she was the first person to believe in Jesus Christ. (Adam and Eve believed in the Redeemer, but they did not know His name.)

The angel announced to Mary, ‘Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. …and He will be called the Son of the Most High.’ And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

In a word, Mary said “Amen,” in both senses, to the angel’s message: “I believe it, Lord; let this be done.” With this word, the Second Person of the Trinity took on flesh within her. Jesus the Christ was small within her, but truly present as God and man. Imagine the joy Mary must have experienced as she thought of His presence within her.

Just minutes from now, you will stand before a Eucharistic minister who will say to you, “The Body of Christ.” And you will answer “Amen,” like Mary answered the angel. “Amen, Lord, I believe you that are truly present in the Eucharist,” and, “Amen, Lord, let this be done to me, let me become your body; your presence in the world.”

With this word, you will receive the Christ; small within you, but truly present as God and man. When you return to your pew today consider Jesus’ presence within you and ask Mary that you be given a taste of her joy from the day the Lord first dwelt in her.

Tuesday, 3rd Week of Advent

December 16, 2009

Is it more important to say the right thing, or to do the right thing? As people like to say “Talk is cheap,” but “Actions speak louder than words.”

Some Christians say that if we merely confess Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior then we are assuredly saved. But Jesus Himself says that ‘not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

It is easy to feel righteous like the chief priests and the elders if we subscribe to the right and enlightened opinions, but we should be humbled by the fact that scandalous sinners have turned to Christ and today harvest more fruit in the vineyard than we do.

We have to do more than talk a good game, we have to show up on the court. For example, you say you oppose the killing of the unborn? Good! But what are you doing to end it? Do you pray for mothers and their babies? Do you march for life?

You say that hatred between peoples should end. Absolutely! But is there someone here that you cannot bring yourself to pray for, or say “hello” to in the hallway?

You say that we must care for people in need. Indeed, and Jesus says the same. But do you give of your time, talent and spending cash until it hurts a bit, like an actual sacrifice?

If I were to end this homily here and now with an exhortation that you should go out into your world and to work hard for good in that vineyard, you might decide to listen and your life might change a little bit for a little while. But I would not expect your life change a great deal, unless you also respond to another calling; the calling from our Father that you work in another vineyard first. This vineyard is within you, it is an inner-vineyard. You work it alongside Christ in prayer and what you harvest from it is intimacy with God.  Of this encounter, St. Augustine wrote:

“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you!  You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you.  In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created.  You were with me, but I was not with you.  Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness.  You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness.  You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you.  I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more.  You touched me, and I burned for your peace.”

In the labor of prayer (and it does take a daily effort) you encounter God. He surprises you with gifts of consolation and peace, and you overflow with His love. This overflow is what makes the saints the saints. It is what makes their holy lives possible. The saints are not self-made men and women. Their cups runneth over within them, and it is from out of this abundance that they love the vineyard of the world and work in it for the better.

You say that you believe in God, and in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. So come to the work of prayer each day, or your devotion and service to God will remain forever little more than lip-service.

3rd Sunday of Advent—Year C

December 14, 2009

Advent is a season for penance and conversion, for the confession of sins and the changing of lives, but this Sunday of Advent reminds us that it is also time for joy. Today we celebrate Gaudete Sunday, a name which comes from the Latin command “rejoice!” This command is heard from St. Paul in today’s second reading:

“Rejoice in the Lord always.
I shall say it again:  rejoice!”

But is it that why do we need to be reminded, even commanded, to rejoice? Why are we not a people of constant joy and peace, even though we have great reason to be? I think it is because our hearts and minds give in to fear.

God is near, but when we give in to fear we do not trust that He really cares about us and really provides for us. In fear we become anxious about our future. In our fear we feel too stressed-out to be thankful. And in fear we forget or refuse to pray. St. Paul seems to have realized all this, that may be why he followed his command to rejoice with these words, words that it would do a lifetime of good to know by heart:

“The Lord is near.
Have no anxiety at all,
but in everything,
by prayer and petition,
with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God
that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Today I would like to share with you a true story about two friends of mine who had every seeming reason to afraid, but who kept God’s peace. Let’s call them Andrew and Christi. I have changed their names to conceal their identities, but I know they wouldn’t mind me sharing with you their story because it can teach us all a lot.

To say my friends had a difficult first year of marriage would be to understate it. Andrew, a hard-working man with rough hands and a good heart, became afraid that marrying Christi had been a mistake and he seriously considered getting a divorce. Christi, a beautiful woman inside and out, prayed fervently to God, for both Andrew and herself. She honestly did not know how God would provide for her, but God gave her a peace that surpassed her limited understanding of His plans. Then, as Andrew tells it, God intervened, giving him a sign that this marriage was indeed His will and that Andrew should not be afraid. This divine reassurance strengthened Andrew and he resolved to remain faithfully at Christi’s side no matter what.

A few months later, forces beyond their control forced Andrew and Christi to leave their hometown, away from all their family and friends, and to move down south to a town where Andrew had some distant relatives. But, once they got down there, all of these relatives proved to be too distant or too busy to care enough to lend this vulnerable couple a hand. Their first Advent season together, Andrew and Christi were jobless, homeless, and with child.

It would have been so easy for them to give in to despair that first Christmas Eve, for Andrew to feel like he had failed his wife as a husband, or for Christi to feel anxious and afraid about their future as a family. Yet, Andrew and Christi trusted that the Lord was near. They would pray together as a couple, and gain courage and strength, peace and even joy through their prayers.

Indeed the Lord was near them, through it all, and their first Christmas together turned out to be was the brightest and the most joyful that they, or the world, had ever seen. As I said, this is the true story of two friends of mine, but they’re also friends of yours and you knew their story even before I told it to you today. For Andrew’s real name is St. Joseph and Christi’s real name is St. Mary.

Today we rightly call them saints, not because they lived in a world free from difficulties, an imaginary world different from our own. Joseph and Mary are saints because they knew and practiced how to live in this world well; with joy, kindness, prayer, thanksgiving, and peace. And so brothers and sisters:

Rejoice in the Lord always.
I shall say it again:  rejoice!
Your kindness should be known to all.
The Lord is near.
Have no anxiety at all,
but in everything,
by prayer and petition,
with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God
that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.