Sunday, December 4, 2016

Advent Reflection - King of Peace, King of Fire

 
 
Advent Reflection, Second Sunday of Advent, Dec. 4th, 2016

“He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Mt. 3: 11

As the Church enters the second week of Advent, the readings are full of both promises and warnings about the coming of the long-awaited King. In the prophecy of Isaiah, we hear that this promised King will bring wisdom, understanding, justice, and peace, “and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” These gifts of the Holy Spirit will be poured out on all, “and the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord.” In the second reading, Paul confirms that although Christ came first to the chosen people of Israel, even the Gentiles will seek out the King of all nations, praising and glorifying His mercy.

Finally, in the Gospel reading we hear John the Baptist warning of the wrath of the expected King, saying, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

These seem like two very different images: the King of peace contrasts sharply with the image of the King of justice with His winnowing fan in His hand. But just as both wisdom and fear are numbered among the gifts of the Holy Spirit, both are necessary. Wisdom serves to remind us of the fearful magnificence and glory of God, lest we forget that the loving and merciful Father is the King whose justice never fails. He generously gives us every help and every tender mercy, but ultimately, He calls us to respond in obedience, to grow in holiness, and to bear the fruit of our repentance in our lives.

Let us prepare our hearts for the coming of the King during this Advent season by accepting God’s loving invitation to true repentance.
 
Readings, Second Sunday of Advent, Dec. 4th, 2016
Is 11:1-10 ~ Rom 15:4-9 ~ Mt 3:1-12
 
 
 

 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Advent Reflection - Building the Ark While the Sun is Shining

Edward Hicks [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


First Sunday of Advent

Reflections on the Readings


The first Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of the Church’s joyful anticipation of the birth of the Christ Child. As we await this blessed celebration, our readings remind us that the little Child in the manger is destined to be Lord and King. The prophet Isaiah speaks of the Most High Lord who will come to judge between the nations, while the Evangelists urge us to “awake from sleep… For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus also warns His disciples to be prepared for “the coming of the Son of Man” in a passage which is often misunderstood. The idea of a “Rapture” in which true believers are whisked away to heaven while the rest are left behind to face a time of tribulation has taken root in modern culture, leading to the popularity of the “Left Behind” stories and movies. But this popular interpretation does not reflect a Catholic understanding of the Gospel message.

In the Biblical flood, Noah and his family were the ones “left behind” to build a new world in harmony with God’s laws, while those who rejected God’s commandments were swept away. Jesus is telling His disciples that now is the time to start building the ark of obedience. Knowing that many will ignore His warning but desiring all to be saved, Jesus warns His followers to be prepared even though they do not know the day He will come, just as Noah started building the ark in dry weather.

Jesus does not want us to fearful, but to be faithful. Be prepared to listen to His voice, following His commandments which will keep us safe even from the flood waters, so that we might enter into His Kingdom of peace. Let us prepare our hearts for the coming of the little Child who is also the King of heaven and earth.
 
Readings for the First Sunday of Advent, November 27th, 2016:
Is 2:1-5 - Rom 13:11-14 - Mt 24:37-44

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Jesus, Remember Me When You Come Into Your Kingdom - Mercy Meditation for Nov. 20th, 2016

Titian [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
 
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” ~ Lk 23:42

How fitting that the Year of Mercy ends on Thanksgiving week, a time when our nation gives thanks to God for His abundant blessings. Even more fitting is our celebration of the Feast of Christ the King, as we praise and thank God for the gift of this Holy Year of Mercy. Our merciful King “delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”  Unlike any other king, Jesus reigns from the cross, making peace with His own blood, to open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.

Today’s Gospel describes a scene much like the drama seen in our world in these faithless times. Jesus, suffering on the cross for love of us, is mocked and jeered by the very people He is giving His life to save. I myself have stood in the midst of that crowd; my own sins crucified my King. But while I was yet a sinner, Jesus looked out into that crowd, gazed directly at me, and asked His Father for my forgiveness. He never stopped loving me, even when I was far from Him. By some miracle, over the din of voices mocking God, my ears were opened just enough to hear Him call me back to Him. He did not force me to turn to Him but He invited me. The sound of His voice penetrated my darkness, shattered my blindness, and like the “good thief” I turned to Him and asked His mercy and He washed away my sins.

If you ever think your sins are too terrible to be forgiven, remember the words on every Divine Mercy image, “Jesus, I trust in You.” Never despair or lose hope. Turn to His mercy and say, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Our merciful King will never abandon you. The Year of Mercy may be ending, but the mercy of our Lord endures forever.
 
November 20, 2016  The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
Readings: 2 Sm 5:1-3;  Col 1:12-20; Lk 23:35-43;
 
 
 

 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Speak to the World About My Mercy - Sunday, Nov. 13th, 2016



“The day is coming, blazing like an oven,
when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble…”
Mal 3:19

The final Sunday of the Year of Mercy is drawing near. The Holy Doors close today, and the Holy Year ends next Sunday on the Feast of Christ the King. Praise God for His gift of Divine Mercy! Whatever happens in these turbulent times, we can be sure that TODAY is not too soon to turn to God’s mercy. In ancient times, our Lord sent His prophets to call His people to repentance but to us, God sent His Son to bring mercy and love. But Jesus also warns us that if we fail to turn to His mercy, we will someday face His justice.

In His messages of Divine Mercy to St. Faustina, Jesus urged, “Speak to the world about My mercy... It is a sign for the end times; after it will come the day of justice. ... You will prepare the world for My final coming” (848, 429). He asks St. Faustina to “tell all souls about this great mercy of mine, because the awful day, the day of My justice is near” (965). Now is the time of Mercy. The Lord is with us as the Merciful Savior. He dwells with us in the Eucharist, the healing Sacrament of Reconciliation, and in the teachings of the Church and in Scripture. Jesus so loves us and desires our salvation that He also gave us the extraordinary gift of the Divine Mercy messages. Listen to Him.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of the strife and persecution that His followers will face. He tells us not to fear but to trust in Him and He will give us wisdom and fearlessness in the face of death. Although these persecutors “will put some of you to death,” Jesus promises, “not a hair on your head will be destroyed.” Death has no power over those who turn to the mercy of God. They need not fear His terrible Justice. Instead, for them, “there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.” Do not hesitate; turn to His Mercy. Now is the time.

 
November 13, 2016 - Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time - Readings
~ Mal 3:19-20a; 2 Thes 3:7-12; Lk 21:5-19
 
 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Stand Up for Freedom!


 

Freedom of Conscience Must Be Defended

As we countdown to Election Day on Tuesday, I’m rerunning an article that I wrote in 2013 after attending a community conversation at the Tri-City Herald. The concerns we had at that time about freedom of conscience have since become even more pressing in Washington State and nationwide.
Make your voice and your vote count! Defend freedom of conscience and uphold laws that protect the right to life from conception to natural death!  

State is Trying to Silence Moral Authority


Just before I attended a community conversation at the Tri-City Herald on freedom of conscience, I read this statement in an editorial on the history of the Herald’s community conversations, “In our 20-plus events, we have only had one raised voice,” I remembered, with some consternation, that this raised voice had been directed toward — me! I do seem to possess a talent for annoying people. Whether it’s a liberal relative, a nonbelieving friend — or participants at a community conversation — you name ’em, I’ve irritated ’em.

My opinion here may also annoy someone. But the wonderful thing about our constitutionally protected freedom of speech is that we’re free to be annoying! We’re also guaranteed the free exercise of religion — the right to put our beliefs into practice, not only in our churches but in public life. But recent attempts to redefine the free exercise clause as “freedom of worship” or “freedom from religion” should have us all worried, whether we are liberal or conservative, Christian or atheist, homosexual or heterosexual, because it puts us on a trajectory toward the loss of all freedom.
An examination of 20th century history reveals that governments wishing to replace God-given rights with state-granted rights must first silence the churches. The state “god” will countenance no other God and recognize no human rights except those that it arbitrarily grants — and just as arbitrarily revokes. State-sponsored ideologies, from Nazism to atheistic communism to the Taliban, have proved to be harsh “gods,” subjecting their citizenry to genocide, mass murder and oppression.

In contrast, the Judeo-Christian ethic dominant in America has fostered a free nation that has honored God and safeguarded human rights — while never succumbing to theocracy.

Now, using subtle but effective methods, our government has begun working to silence the moral authority of the church at home. Guised as new “rights,” many laws are being enacted by mandate, ballot or judicial action, backed by all the government’s considerable power, that cripple the free exercise of religion and freedom of conscience, placing Christian businesses, hospitals, schools, charities, and individuals on a collision course with the state.
When physicians are asked to assist a patient’s suicide; when insurers are required by federal mandate to provide contraception, including the abortion drug Ella, in their health care plans; when “reproductive rights” mean that Washington parents need not be notified of a minor child’s abortion; when the “right” to same-sex marriage means that Christian businesses must participate in celebrating same-sex weddings or face lawsuits; when our governor prioritizes passage of the Reproductive Parity Act to mandate that all employers/insurers offering prenatal care must cover surgical abortion, we are already living in Aldous Huxley’s anti-utopian Brave New World.

How should Christians respond to such laws? Pope Pius XII once advised, “When state laws attack divine law, the church is morally obliged to oppose them.” Christians must defend true human dignity and rights. We may annoy some people; voices may be raised; but we must speak out. If our religious freedom is lost, we will certainly face persecutions. The world may hate us — but take courage: Christ has overcome the world.

 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Lord of the Living - Mercy Meditation for Sunday, Nov. 6th, 2016


 

“It is my choice to die at the hands of men

with the hope God gives of being raised up by him;

but for you, there will be no resurrection to life.” 

~2 Mc 7:14

Today’s readings include the horrific story of seven brothers and their mother, brutally tortured and maimed one by one and finally put to death for refusing to disobey the Law of God. Each had to watch the deaths of their beloved family members before them. How is it possible that they did not renounce their faith to save themselves? Such courage in the face of death can only come from God. These young men and their mother knew this world with its cruelty would not have the last word. They trusted and believed that God in His mercy would raise them up eternally.

We Christians have even more reason to believe in the Resurrection than these brothers did. We have the full revelation of Jesus Christ, who suffered and died and rose from the dead to show us the way and give us hope. But are we, who live in this peaceful place and time ready to stand the test? We may think it couldn’t happen here, but it can; in fact, it already has.  It was reported that the victims of the school shooting in Roseburg, Oregon last year were asked by the shooter, one by one, if they were Christian. And somehow, these young people had the courage to say “yes” to Christ even with a gun to their head, even as they saw their classmates executed one by one. These martyrs for their faith surely live eternally with Christ.

Christians are the most persecuted religion in the world today. Worldwide, countless men, women, and children are suffering martyrdom even today for their faith Jesus Christ. Are we prepared to stand with them even in the face of death? Remember that Jesus said “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” (Mt 10:28)  Our hope is in Jesus Christ, who is the Resurrection and the Life.