Friday, November 30, 2007
Each year, in thousands of cities big and small, the same ritual plays itself out as the Holiday Season begins. Even though our society makes ever so bold attempts to trivialize and secularize our winter holiday season, the truth is that at this time it is natural to look back to the sacrifices and hardships endured by the pilgrims, to the sacrifice and powerful witness of the Maccabes, to the ultimate sacrifice of God becoming Man in the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. We consider these events and recall our own family members, living and dead, and we consider their witness, their sacrifices, both small and great, for their families, for us who have followed them. Yes, despite our society’s best efforts, each year we almost instinctively look back and give thanks for those who have defined us in our families, in our nation, and in our Christian faith.
During this time of reflection, the Church focuses our attention, not on the past, but on a totally new year, as the liturgical year 2008 begins with the First Sunday of Advent. Interestingly, the church year begins not with a glance backward at the manger in Bethlehem, but with a look forward to the Second Coming of Christ in all of its power. The first three weeks of Advent remind the Christian that Christ will come in majesty and power at the end of time to restore all creation into one in Him. This is why we wear violet during this season, the color of kings and the color of penance. We wear violet because we are only too aware of our own unworthiness to stand before the King of all creation and give an account of our lives. We understand only too well that of our own merit we are not worthy for the Lord to come under our roofs. We are all too convinced of our own need for redemption, for a Savior who can save us from our own depravity.
This leads us to the second focus of the Advent Season: The coming of Christ as Man, the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. On about the fourth Sunday of Advent, the church changes the focus from what will come, to the reality of what has already happened in a small out of the way town 2000 years ago. Society wants to reduce the birth of Christ to an event that is marked by love, warmth, and an outpouring of an insipid charity, sort of a prolonged “Dr. Phil” moment of warmth and fuzziness. Others in the world want to see Christmas simply in terms of the economic benefit that derives from the massive sales of toys, jewelry, and foods.
No matter how much the world tries to hide it, the fact of the matter is this: The Nativity of our Lord stands as a witness to God’s enduring love for all of mankind. The Nativity, the very enfleshment of God, stands as a witness to the Devil and his legions that God loves His creation and will sacrifice everything, even His only Son for those whom He has made. He will even become one with them, taking on human flesh, and suffering the most humiliating death in order to free man from his sin. That is what we come to adore. This sacrificial love of God, this enduring love of God, is the true point of Advent and Christmas and is the reason that Christians remember the Incarnation and look forward with trembling and anticipation to Christ’s return.
So this Advent 2008 looks forward and backward, as it does every year. As we proceed to Christmas, let’s remember and give thanks for the love of all who have made sacrifices so that we can worship the God of steadfast love. Let’s remember and give thanks to God for the gift of His Son and let us look forward to his glorious return.
Monday, November 26, 2007
When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten. Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.---
Beginnings and endings have always been important times. We mark them with rituals and, in the church, set them apart with sacraments. When babies are born we bring them to Church and baptize them, washing them from original sin. When children reach an age of decision, we come again to the Church and, through the imposition of hands by the Bishop and the anointing with the holy oil of Chrism, they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit through Confirmation. In fact, all of the Sacraments stand as markers and consecrators of time and our passage through it. Next to the Eucharist, the most prominent markers of the church are baptism, matrimony, and burial. Or, as some clerics call it, “hatch, match, and dispatch.” This desire to mark beginnings and endings has its counterparts in the secular world, as any graduation ceremony will show. Beginnings and endings are indeed important and few times in the Church year show this more than our celebration today on the Sunday Next Before Advent.
The Church Year runs on a different calendar from the secular world. Each liturgical year begins on the First Sunday of Advent. So, next Sunday, December 2, 2007, will actually be the first Sunday of Liturgical Year 2008. On first thought, this seems somewhat odd. Why wouldn’t the two calendars correspond to each other a little better? Maybe this answer will help: Starting the church year almost a month before the secular reminds us that God’s time is not our time. It reminds us that God’s timetable works off a different standard, a standard that is based on the salvation of souls rather than the accomplishments of secular power. Perhaps our task on this day is to take stock of where we are in our Christian journey and see what our Gospel can tell us about the road ahead.
Today, we hear the story of Jesus feeding the multitudes. But this story is different from the others. First of all, it occurs in the Gospel of St. John. All the other stories are found in the first three Gospels, so this marks one of the few occasions that all the Gospels record the same story. Jesus looks up and sees a great multitude before him with no money to buy food for them all. So he takes five barley loaves and two small fish. Following a clearly Eucharistic formula, Jesus blesses and feeds the multitudes taking care to gather up all the crumbs, so that “nothing be lost.” In this story, we learn two simple truths on which we can meditate as one year ends and another begins.
The first truth is this: Christians find their source and summit, their beginning and end in the Eucharist. As Christ gives His Body and Blood to us, we are healed and strengthened for our Christian journey. To a certain extent, then, we are the multitude in this story, hungry and lonely, without provision. We are the multitude that needs the healing bread that only comes from the loving hand of Jesus. We are fed miraculously by what appears to be a small piece of unleavened bread and a cup of wine, but is actually the food and drink of the Angels. We share in the Eucharist, the Great Thanksgiving, where Christ offers Himself to the Father in an unending Sacrifice, and offers Himself to us as the Food of our Salvation. Yes, for us the beginning and end of all things is the Eucharist.
The second truth follows: As Christ fed the multitudes so we, as the Body of Christ, are called to feed the multitudes of our day with the truth that comes only from Jesus Christ. We live in a starving world, a world that can almost seem insane. In our time we are told that there is no such thing as truth, that salvation is a meaningless illusion, and that sin is not something that demands justice but a behavioral condition that can be fixed with the right psychological and sociological solutions. The world in which we live is confused, hungry, and isolated. Our task as Christians is to feed them with the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation. Our task to is to let the world know that there is a Word of Truth and that Word is Jesus Christ. And as Jesus Christ fed the souls of the early Christians, as He feeds our souls today, so too He will feed the souls of all who will come to Him with outstretched hands, a humble heart, a desire to become new creatures in God.
On this Last Sunday of the year, let’s give thanks for this great gift, this Eucharist, this Thanksgiving. And as we begin the liturgical year 2008, let’s resolve to call all the hungry, all the lonely to the truth that is Jesus Christ, so that no fragment, however small, be lost.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Here's the link:
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Have a great Thanksgiving. I'll be away from all computing until Monday, Nov. 26th.
An atheist was walking through the woods.
"What majestic trees"!
"What powerful rivers"!
"What beautiful animals"!
He said to himself.
As he was walking alongside the river, he heard a rustling in the bushes behind him. He turned to look. He saw a 7-foot grizzly bear charge towards him.
He ran as fast as he could up the path. He looked over his shoulder & saw that the bear was closing in on him.
He looked over his shoulder again, & the bear was even closer. He tripped & fell on the ground. He rolled over to pick himself up but saw that the bear was right on top of him, reaching for him with his left paw & raising his right paw to strike him.
At that instant the Atheist cried out, "Oh my God!"
The bear froze.
The forest was silent.
As a bright light shone upon the man, a voice came out of the sky. "You deny my existence for all these years, teach others I don't exist and even credit creation to cosmic accident." "Do you expect me to help you out of this predicament? Am I to count you as a believer"?
The atheist looked directly into the light, "It would be hypocritical of me to suddenly ask you to treat me as a Christian now, but perhaps you could make the BEAR a Christian"?
"Very Well," said the voice.
The light went out. The sounds of the forest resumed. And the bear dropped his right paw, brought both paws together, bowed his head & spoke:
"Lord bless this food, which I am about to receive from thy bounty through Christ our Lord, Amen."
Tuesday, November 13, 2007