Friday, December 18, 2009

Can you tell me what to do???

Day by day - Day by day - Oh Dear Lord - Three things I pray - To see thee more clearly - Love thee more dearly - Follow thee more nearly - Day by day

Well, while I cannot answer the question in the title of this post is a specific manner for every one reading, I will respond in a general way. Oh, and yes, the Godspell kick continues.... LOL Ok, so, What should I do? is the question the people approached John the Baptist with as the Gospel continued from St. Luke during this 3rd week of Advent.

It is interesting, and maybe not so interesting, but anyway, that what John tells the people is not something over the top nor did he reinvent the wheel so to speak. Rather, John calls the people to take up and follow through with the things they have been called to originally and to stop wandering from that call. For example, those who have clothing or food to share and those in charge of money or authority to be honest and responsible. So we see the essential element here, is faithfulness to what we have been called to do in the first place. If we shed ourselves then of any dishonesty or other sinfulness and negativity that has crept into our lives and be about the business of responding faithfully to who and what we are called to be then indeed the paths will be straight within and we will be disposed to receiving God's grace properly.

Often though, many times we think we have to come up with some new random over the top solution to our problems or be really creative or unique. While sometimes there are situations that will call for a little more ingenuity than others, on the whole, if we are faithful to God's call and abandon our wandering then in turn we will experience the grace of God's always faithful love for us! Now onto Wicked!!! ...just like Elphaba sings: Like a ship blown from its mooring by a wind of the see we can drift and so it is then during this season of Advent to bring ourselves back to the dock, to stop the drifting and secure ourselves properly in doing God's will.

...and if we do this day by day then does not Christ grow within us all the more? Is Christ not then born in us again? And while yes we celebrate the birth of Christ which happened some 2000 years ago and anticipate His return, we also celebrate the Christ born in each of us day by day. Christmas, if you want to wrap it up in a bow is a time of thanksgiving, anticipation, and embracing Christ in us is what Christmas really draws us to rejoice in, hope in, and live in!!! see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Point in the right DIRECTION

On the 2nd Sunday of Advent we heard that we are to make straight the ways of Lord, so on and so forth, a familiar Advent message from the Gospel of Luke:

“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Lk. 3:4b-6)

Now while at first, you may, like myself, have the song Prepare Ye from the musical Godspell running through your head. Ok, so seriously now, the descriptive and metaphorical language of paths, mountains, valleys, hills, and the like are meant to draw us to a self examination of our own ways.

For how often is it that we tend to forsake the age old principle of the shortest distance from point A to point B is a straight line and make long and tangled roads in our lives? How often are we all too comfortable with letting good ol' "time"* solve our problems and allowing things to become drawn out and twisted as opposed to marching directly straight down the road to forgiveness and mercy?

The paths we are called to make straight and valleys we are called to fill are the ones in our own lives. The lack of love, charity, and so on, we are called to reconcile, make straight, and allow the grace of God to flow in us freely rather than with all the roadblocks can put up.

If we allow this grace to flow in us freely, we prepare the way of the Lord, and allow, through a renewal of our own discipleship, Christ to be born in us once again!!! Which reminds us that Christmas is not simply a celebration of what happened approximately 2,000 years ago, nor is it a celebration of anticipation of when Christ will come again, but it is also an ongoing event everyday. A process of letting Christ be born in us today and everyday by being vigilant towards our anxieties and drowsiness of heart and of making crooked ways straight is also what we rejoice in, and celebrate on December 25th.

Let us not over complicate things, make crooked ways, or devise ways to get from point A to point B that we hope or think are quicker!

*Like the saying, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people," the same is true of time. Time doesn't solve problems, people with the help of God solve problems.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Advent... time of vigilance

As many Advents, or really all, let's be honest, do, the readings this past weekend spoke of anticipation and being on one's guard. Specifically Jesus said that we should be vigilant.

Now with this vigilance, and specifically when it comes to anticipating Christ or the end times, we must always decipher what we are focused on. What do I mean by this? Well, our culture has some O.C.D. going on surrounding end time events such as cosmic disasters, violence, famines, etc. as personified by the movie 2012, the history channel special The Nostradamus Effect, and a new facebook app I saw today about 2012, all of these teach us to be vigilant about big things that really do us no good.

While Jesus did elude to cosmic events taking place in the end times in the sky and such, he mentioned that we should be vigilant in preparing our hearts and shaking off the anxieties that weigh us down. Ultimate Jesus points to an interior focus regarding vigilance not an exterior one. In fact, think about it; has not all the hype of 2012, especially if you buy into it, cause more fear and distress and anxiety too rather than goodness and hope and spiritual growth? Furthermore, are we not lacking in faith and placing our trust in a false hope if we buy into the dooms-day 2012 predictions? Are we saying that the Mayans or Nostradamus know more or are more in charge then God? Let's just say there's going to be one big event that wipes us all out, wouldn't our time be better spent getting to know the God we will meet? And, lastly, not to sound shallow or anything but really, if the world were to end in 2012, isn't that God's job to take care, worry about, and handle, not ours?!

However, if we are vigilant about matters of the interior, i.e. of the heart, mind, and soul, such as, the virtues we struggle with or where we will strive to grow, don't we stand more to gain? Yes, we do!!! For if we are vigilant about shaking off needless anxieties and worries do we not gain the freedom that comes with that? If we concentrate and standing erect before the Lord and purifying our hearts, confronting our struggles, naming and claiming what we do well and where we need to grow, do we not stand to gain a whole bunch more? We do!!!

For if we strengthen what we do well as Christ's disciples and seek to improve where we are lacking, in our quest for growth, Christ is born again within us and amongst others we come into contact with.

While hype and vigilance in the uncertain seems so alluring, we can grow in God's grace which is assuring. While we can buy into hype about what 'might' happen some day, we can grow in God's grace today and everyday. In all of this, we need only to name and claim those areas of strength and growth, be specific and challenge ourselves to allow hope, to allow Christ to be born within us again and again. Should we not place our focus here?

PIE Mania!

With the passing of Thanksgiving, the time for pie mania came and went too. I had a good Thanksgiving with my parish and immediate families. I also had a wonderful time baking Thanksgiving pies... yes, one of my hobbies includes baking pies... put me in a kitchen and I'll bake all day and be completely content. That is exactly what I did!!! While I don't mean to brag, all I can say is: "Bring it on!" Baker's Square and Marie Callendar!!!

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving found me baking 19 pies! And, I baked a 20th pie on the weekend, the final of the Thanksgiving pie season. With recipes based on basic recipes I've collected online and from other sources, I went to work. The Tuesday prior to Thanksgiving, with some help from my good friend Fr. Chris, I put together 22 crusts in preparation for the big baking day. Then after a good night's rest and some last minute shopping for the freshest ingredients possible, the baking commenced!

Wednesday saw the yield of 6 dutch caramel apple pies (my signature pie), 3 pumpkin pies, 3 french silk pies, 2 triple berry pies, 1 pecan pie, 1 chocolate pecan pie, 1 blueberry and cream pie, 1 strawberry and cream pie, 1 cherry pie, and a triple berry cream pie on Saturday. It was a full days work that concluded with making fresh whipped cream.

I must say it is quite a joy to know that others enjoy these pies and I'm thankful God has blessed me with this talent that I can share. I am also very thankful for the help I received in the kitchen from making the crust to two wonderful assistants who helped clean and prep utensils and ingredients on Wednesday. Now, it's on to including the eggnog pie on the Christmas list.

Friday, November 20, 2009

102.1 FM in Cleveland... it's too soon for Christmas music!

Ok, so everyone I'm sure has an opinion on this and you may find that you disagree with me... I'll say it anyway!

102.1FM playing Christmas music today, it's just too soon! It only further enforces an idea of celebrating Christmas now and getting it over with! It isn't even Thanksgiving yet!!! I remember the days when Christmas music and other things did not start until the day after Thanksgiving, giving us a chance to be thankful, to celebrate and give the holiday of Thanksgiving due process and time, rather than turning it into "ThanksPreChristmasgiving Day" I'm not opposed to playing Christmas music after Thanksgiving Day but I am concerned about a danger in overdoing it!

By celebrating too soon, we end-up taking the celebrating out of the celebration. What I mean by this is that when Christmas day actually rolls around, the trees and other decorations are on the front lawn by the next day and no one seems to care. In the end we treat Christmas more like a time to get through and over rather than something sacred to be treasured. There is no time to cherish the gift of the birth of Christ, to really take to heart and ponder the deeper meaning of the Feast.

I hope that we take time to really engage the deeper meaning of each holiday and feast in it's proper time; we don't want the birth of Christ, the most important thing besides Jesus' death and resurrection, to become one more thing we just 'get through' because we're sick of it by December 25th. Let us not, miss the Christmas season which starts on December 25th... not today 102.1!!!

The wise shall shine...

“But the wise shall shine brightly
like the splendor of the firmament,
and those who lead the many to justice
shall be like the stars forever." (Dn 12:3)

This verse from our scriptures this past weekend speaks of wisdom leading to justice and those who seek the wisdom of the Lord and act upon it leading may to justice and in doing so shining brightly like stars. What is necessary to do this? If anything, in a world of moral relativism and wishy-washiness, to seek the wisdom necessary to lead others to justice really requires an uncompromising conviction of faith and moral values on each of our behalves. The sort of conviction I am thinking of reminds me of the character: Walt Kowalski from the movie Gran Torino.

In Gran Torino we find Walt, a retired Ford auto worker and Korean War Veteran whose wife has just died living in a neighborhood that has gone from great prosperity to despair. The neighborhood is not what it used to be, now mostly immigrants from Asia and infested by gangs, you could say Walt was out of place. Walt is also a person that tells you how it is, or at least speaks with an unfiltered mind, even saying to the young priest in the movi
e: “The problem is I think you're an overeducated, 27-year-old virgin who knows nothing about life or death and holds the hands of superstitious old women and promises them eternity."

What we also know about Walt is that he is bitter and crusty, and nothing ticks him off more than when people do not do the right thing, do not take care of themselves, do not take of each other, and do not take care of others. The selfishness of his grandaughter and the violence of the gangs drive him crazy. Now we could easily lable this as well, crude? But! Not to justify some of Walts less than admirable language or drinking, Walt does in the end have a point. For Walt was uncompromising in his values and in his convictions about right and wrong, about doing the right thing and standing up for what you believe in. This is the lesson we should take from Walt.

If we are to be the lights, the stars, the ones burning brightly leading others to justice, then we should have that same conviction of faith and values Walt Kowalski had. Walt's firm convictions helped neighborhood boy, Tao become a man rather than get sucked into the gang his cousins were in. Walt teaches Tao the value of an honest days work and about taking care of family and neighborhood - to stand up for what is right. Walt out of his firm convictions, also stood up for Tao's sister Sue. Lastly, Walt brought justice through his convictions to Tao and Sue and also their cousins in the gang. Walt in many was is a star. If we wish to be the same for others, then we too, again must have that same sense of conviction and fight for what is right, what is just.

Ultimately then, where do we find ourselves in relationship to justice? Are we burning brightly like stars in the Book of Daniel? Or do we find we need to get going on this?

Thursday, November 12, 2009


WOW! The LORD does good work! (yeah, I know that but...)

Last weekend, St. Charles had it's annual high school youth group retreat and it's them was: Your Grace is Enough and of course, the awesome song by the same title by Matt Maher was our theme song! The talks were designed around using the word grace as an acronym as follows: G = growth, R = relationships, A = attitude, C = chastity, and E = empowerment. The idea is to see God's grace working through all these aspects of our lives.

As I may have mentioned in previous posts, leading up to the retreat Sr. Denise, myself, and the team encountered many hurdles and challenges right up to getting to the retreat. However, once the retreat started, it was quite evident just how much God's grace is indeed flowing in our lives. In a word, everything was: "perfect"! The witnesses really hit home, the video presentations really worked well, and the participation with the teens in singing, small group time, and prayer especially Confession and Adoration were amazing!!! Sr. Denise and I were and still are totally blown away!!! From start to finish I found myself marveling at the beauty of God's grace unfolding! When all was said and done, Sr. and I were quite tired but it was a good tired one of satisfaction and thankfulness.

I'm thankful God used all of us on the team in the way He did! Even in our brokeness and challengedness going into the retreat, God took what we had and with it, His will was done! I can't wait until the reunion this Sunday to hear how people's lives were changed! There were about 100 teens on the retreat and you can tell that everyone left with something and were changed in some way I'm sure of it!!!

Thank you God!

Monday, November 2, 2009

TRUSTING in the Holy Spirit

This week I, along with the nun I work with, Sr. Denise Marie :), find ourselves just a few days away from our annual High School Youth Group Retreat. It always amazes me when this time comes around, how much work we have done and how much is yet to be done. Overall, in these sorts of times, I am reminded of how much we are called to trust in the Lord. Yeah, I know in some ways its simple, and I'm sure you and I hear this all the time, "just trust in the Lord." However, how seriously do we do this? It's easy for us to say this but to do it ourselves is another thing.

I am taking this time to renew my trust in God. This year for the retreat there still so much to do and we've faced new obstacles. However, I know that this retreat will happen the way God wants it to happen. I know the work that needs will get done. The goal is to remind myself in the moments I feel weak or faint in terms of trust, that I need to dig a little deeper and trust a little harder because ultimately God is in charge, I am not. I am an instrument of God's grace, not God's grace itself. It is trust in God and God working through us by way of the Holy Spirit that allows us to rely upon his grace and do the work we are called to do. This trust also allows us to be reassured that everything is going to not only work-out, but will happen the way God intended it to happen, not the way I or anybody else intended. I know if I do my part as a priest, God will indeed do His part, the Holy Spirit will flow through me, and use me to do what God wants.

How often do we take the opportunity to renew this trust in the Lord that we have? Keeping in mind of course, that to trust in the Lord implies we are also open to how God wants things to unfold, and we shouldn't be disappointed if the end product is different from our original vision.

So yes, trust in the Lord, allow God to use you, and do not be afraid to let God be in the driver's seat.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Saints, a summary of my Solemnity of All Saints homily

There are so many ways, so many things we can say about the saints. By and large though, who are the saints? First, we can say they are people in heaven. But! To be more relatable, they are people like you and I who sought to live out their faith to the best of their ability. They are people who took their faith seriously, even those whose histories were at times somewhat checkered. As the saints took their faith seriously, they listened to what God called them to do with their lives and they made God's will theirs. Sort of like Bartimeus in the Gospel last week who when Jesus said to him, "Go on your way," chose to make his way, the way of Christ as Bartimeus with his new found sight, followed the Lord. For us in this day and age, faced with the fact that we are the saints of today, we are called to claim our own sense of sainthood in our lives. Contrary to the casual laxidaisical comment: I'm not worthy; nothing could be further from the truth. What makes us saints is if we, like those before us, seek to live out our faith to the best of our ability everyday in every way and follow where the Lord calls us to be. It is possible for each and everyone of us to do this, it simply comes down to a choice to do so. Dear Lord, who calls us to be the saints of today, help us be unwaivering witnesses to you, now and forever more. Amen!