Sunday, November 29, 2015

Signs of Advent

Advent is here. Even with the hoopla surrounding Thanksgiving and the shopping sprees that evening and continuing even now, Advent might still seem like a surprise, "What already?" and we might not be ready for it.  Perhaps it's best not to fret over it, for we do not need more anxiety or stress, but we do need peace, and that's what these weeks are for.  Yes, they are countercultural, opposed to the hype and frenzy the media feeds us. We need to take time to look ahead and at the WHY of our existence, and, yes, the WHY of all this preparation.  We are preparing our hearts and our world for the COMING of Jesus, as a child and at his second coming at the end of time.  Our Gospel today speaks of the signs of those times, "in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves...the powers of the heaven will be shaken."  (Lk 21: 21-23).  St. Paul outlines what might be the signs of our preparation for Christmas, a plan for our Advent observances:  We urge you brothers, admonish the idle, cheer the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient with all.  See that no one returns evil for evil, rather, always seek what is good [both] for each other and for all.  Rejoice always, Pray without ceasing."  (1Thess 5:14-17)  Let us pick something that we can do consistently that, without adding pressure, we bring peace to us and to others, and allow Jesus to find a warm place of welcome in our hearts at Christmas.  Go Advent!
Bro. Rene

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Be Vigilant

On this day, which concludes the liturgical year and moves us closer to the First Sunday of Advent and the new liturgical year, we hear Jesus telling us to be vigilant. "Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man." (Lk 21:36).  Again, the busyness of the past few days might distract us from the arrival of Advent, and Sunday just becomes another day and the weeks ahead full of the frenzy of shopping, baking, sending Christmas cards,and decorating with little time left for absorbing the beautiful texts from Isaiah, or paying attention to the prayers and events that will lead us to welcome Jesus at Christmas with ready hearts.  Let us not be hardened to the "holy longing" that is deep within us:
Deep within us and all of creation, there is a longing for union with our Creator, with Jesus:  "For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.  For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.  And not only this, but also we ourselves having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body." (Rm 8: 19, 22, 23). Is not Advent the time for waiting and for longing? May we stir up our hearts to be vigilant and attentive to what God has placed within us.
Bro. Rene

Friday, November 27, 2015

Helping the Poor

Those of us who were blessed with a Thanksgiving Day full of family, food and love, are still reeling from the feasting.  We, perhaps, don't have to eat today...well, certainly not as much as yesterday!  But what of those who were not so blessed?   Churches, organizations, agencies, made efforts to give them some sort of Thanksgiving meal, but today it's back to hunger and seeking shelter.  So frequently in Scripture, these poor are looked upon as those favored by God, and certainly they occupy a special place in the heart of Pope Francis who has said,  "A Church not including them is not a Church."Their plight is a call to action from God.  Perhaps sharing some of our left-overs with these soup kitchens will help a bit.  Perhaps cleaning out our closets before the rush of Christmas shopping takes over. (For some, Black Friday, begun at midnight or before, has taken care of the shopping.  If so, then more time to spend sharing our abundance with those who have less, or nothing.)  Canned Food drives need to continue.  At Central Catholic, the focus now is on our Christmas Project, to provide food and gifts for families at Christmas.  And after that what?   Helping the poor does not stop with the calendar.   The need continues day after day.   May we accept the call to be our "brother's keeper."
Bro. Rene

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanking God

An appropriate passage from the Book of Tobit for our Thanksgiving meditation follows:

Thank God! Give him the praise and the glory.  Before all the living acknowledge the many good things he has done for you by blessing and extolling his name in song.  Before all men, honor and proclaim God's deeds and do not be slack in praising him." (Tobit 12:6).

We in the United States retreat from our ordinary schedules to gather the family around a sumptuous table (if possible) and take time to give thanks for the many things we enjoy but take for granted:  our faith, our families, our friends, our homes and the food that sustains us daily.  Many of us begin this day appropriately by attending the Liturgy of the Eucharis, Holy Mass, which is THE prayer par excellence of thanksgiving.  May we pay attention today to those "little things" we usually overlook, or even those things that are thorns in our side, and give thanks for them.  "All things work to the good", St. Paul tells us in Romans 8:28.  Let us acknowledge God's goodness that comes to us in so many ways and in so many people.  Happy Thanksgiving to all.
Bro. Rene

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

An Undivided Heart

This eve of Thanksgiving might be putting more pressure than normal on those of us who celebrate this day of giving thanks to God by gathering with our families.  Based on the tradition that the early pilgrims, after a hard beginning at their Plymouth, Massachusetts colony, served their tribal friends a meal to thank them for their help in adapting to their new home, Thanksgiving has since become a national holiday.
Today we travel with great difficulty, in many instances, to be with family, gather around a sumptuous meal, and offer prayers of gratitude to God and express our gratitude to our family for the love they give us.
In order to do justice to this admirable custom, it might be good to relieve the stress and pressure by approaching it with an undivided heart, focusing on the love we wish to share and not on the problems we experienced traveling, or the things we could be doing, or which "have to be done".  Now that another custom has crept in, that of "Black Friday" bargain shopping for Christmas, we deal with another pressure. It has now even invaded  Thanksgiving Day itself, with stores opening up in the afternoon and evening of Thursday, just as dessert is making its way to our stomachs, pulling us away from family, dividing our loyalty to them to save a few dollars.  If we want to please them with a special gift, why not give them the gift of our time, of the gift of ourselves by BEING with them.  No THING can replace a "heart full of love."  What can we do today to make it less stressful and help us to be more present tomorrow?
Bro. Rene

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Looking For Good Signs

Note:  I failed to cut a slice of bread yesterday as I took part in a surprise early morning celebration of a friend's birthday.

St. Luke's chapter 21 speaks of the signs of  the end times...the transformation of the world as we know it to the establishment of the reign of Christ.  That in itself is desirable, but the events leading up to it could be frightening with earthquakes famines and plagues.  We live in a time of frightening signs even now, with terrorists threatening us everywhere.  To balance this lopsided picture, we might look for the positive and encouraging signs that signal what this Kingdom of Christ will be like.  Bells ring in front of large businesses reminding us to share what we have so that those who have less might have a merry Christmas;  agencies are preparing Thanksgiving food baskets and meals; students are volunteering generously locally and around the world; Pope Francis fearlessly attacks the woes of the world and the Church, separating the wheat of Christ's  message from the chaff of bureaucracy and corruption.   Good things are happening; we simply need to open our eyes, and yes, find the courage to join in with them.
Bro. Rene

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Serving Christ Our King

Jesus often spoke of the Kingdom of God, and in answer to Pilate's question, "Are you the King of the Jews," Jesus eventually answers that his kingdom is not of this world and that he was born to be a king and to testify to the truth. "Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." (cf; Jn 18: 33b-37).  As followers of Jesus, we are not subjugated as disenfranchised slaves, but rather, raised up to share in his mission to live and spread the truth and to make the kingdom a reality.  Most of us are not in high positions of leadership or influence, but in simple, grass-roots ways, we can serve our King and make his Kingdom a reality even in the smallest ways.  Instead of throwing stones at the Church, which is much in the headlines these days for gross corruption, we might "make church (community) happen by listening twice as much as we speak, and when we do speak, make it constructive.  Look at others as people who have something to teach us.  We can all be quiet examples of Christ to others.  We might even step up to teach CCD, become a Lector, or Eucharistic Minister, or join the St. Vincent de Paul Society.  In small ways we can serve Christ make extend his reign in our family, our parish, our time. (Thanks to Stand Firm, and editors Matt Erickson and Tammy Drolsum for some of these ideas.)
Bro. Rene