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Touch Me

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Touch Me

Greetings on this the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

Readings: IS 42:1-4, 6-7; PS 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10; ACTS 10:34-38; MT 3:13-17

Christmas Season Ends

As we draw the Christmas season to a close we do so with the Baptism of the Lord.

It is reasonable to end the celebration of the incarnation with the depths of the purpose of the incarnation.

It is Divine Revelation, the personal revelation of God himself with father speaking, dove descending and son humbling himself to be one of us.

For each case, each person an invitation with the sweetest of intention:

  • Those who are a bruised reed he shall not break him
  • Those who are a smoldering wick he shall not quench him
  • Those who are blind he shall make his eyes opened
  • Those in confinement he shall set this prisoners free
  • Those who live in darkness he shall be the light to follow.

His baptism is a holy exchange, our misery for a portion of his divinity and friendship.

Sacramental Life

The salvation path begins with baptism. It is the first among the sacraments. It is the pathway not decided by any other than God. Permit it he said in order to fulfill all righteousness. Baptism brings forgiveness for original sin and the actual sin of each person. His Baptism opens the heavens and brings us into the interior life of God.

Mass 4:00 PM Vigil Feast Baptism of the Lord

Tell story of mother’s baptism and the chain of baptisms until this day.

Tell the story of the new baptismal rite prayers.

Remind today we will renew the baptismal promise.

Touch Me

It is this holy touch the hand of God reaches all of us through the hands of the one administering the sacrament. Touch me and I shall be healed.

Jesus, touch me.

Please we all need to be the hands of God.

Peace be with you,

Deacon Gerry

Jesus My All in All

MG Quote

Jesus – My All in All

Greetings on this the Epiphany of the Lord.

Readings: IS 60:1-6; PS 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13; EPH 3:2-3A, 5-6; MT 2:1-12

Approaching

Epiphany is always a favorite in the domestic Church. People place figurines of the Magi in proximity to the Nativity beginning Holy Family Sunday. Each day of the week the figurines are repositioned to be closer and closer to the baby Jesus. Finally on Epiphany Sunday morning the Magi have arrived to see Mary, Joseph and Jesus and present their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. It’s really a nice way to visually approach Epiphany.

Earlier this week I posted Manifest for Manifestation with some ideas to help one approach the Epiphany of the Lord, more specifically, to prepare ourselves to enter into the Manifestation. I want to add two more details that help frame this wonderful moment in human history where the Lord comes and lives among us.

Joseph and Pharaoh

The story of Joseph and Pharaoh is in the book of Genesis. We can’t cover everything but if you’ve a mind to the chapters of interest are Genesis 37 to 50.

Joseph became a trusted administrator to the Pharaoh and was a dream interpreter. Joseph warned Pharaoh seven years of plenty followed by 7 years of famine in the land is coming soon. Since Pharaoh was warned in a dream twice on this point, he immediately gave this proven slave Joseph great authority to prepare the kingdom for this major event.

When the famine came and so severe was the famine that the entire world Egyptian, Hebrew and the 7 nations (all the gentile kingdoms) had to procure their rations of grain from Joseph in order to survive. Joseph, this insignificant man from an insignificant land saved the whole world from starving. Joseph was food for the journey.

Joseph’s action were unitive:

  1. He preserved the Egyptian people.
  2. He gathered the Hebrew people together and brought peace between the brothers/tribes.
  3. He fed all the nations.

What was paid for the grain? In stages:

  1. They paid cash
  2. They paid with their livestock. Livestock is essential to worship in those days.
  3. They paid with their land and their person (sharecroppers).

In effect, Joseph received a portion of everything to keep them alive. It was a manageable deal where the sharecroppers paid 20% of the crop to Pharaoh and kept 80% for themselves and their families.

Magi of the Nations

In our romantic version of the Magi there are three wise men from Persia that come to see this newborn king. That’s fine. But I want to use some more specific biblical theological and archeological perspectives.

More likely the number of Magi were between 7 and 12 groups. Each group had an entourage of about 1,000 to 1,200 soldiers. Since they came from every point of the compass they arrived from different directions all in the same time. It is no wonder King Herod was greatly troubled and all Jerusalem with him. His capitol city was surrounded by 7 different kings with small armies all looking for a king to be born.

These Magi Kings came with gifts:

  1. Gold – their cash. Well, cash.
  2. Frankincense – their ‘livestock’. Frankincense is essential to worship in those days.
  3. Myrrh – their inheritance, the very essence of who they are. Yes, we describe this in burial ritual terms as it relates to personhood.

As you can see the Epiphany carries the same theme as Joseph and Pharaoh of old:

  1. He is here to preserved creation, most specifically people.
  2. He is here to gather the Jewish people together and bring peace between the Judea and Israel.
  3. He is here to feed all the nations.

Jesus completes the work of Joseph.

Jesus in the manger is the bread of life to sustain the people.

Jesus is reversing the curse of famine and opens the treasury of heaven for everyone to give each their rations/allotment.

Epiphany

We celebrate the realization that the Lord has not abandoned us to famine but rather to the share his vast riches of heaven.

Specifically Jesus shares himself the food of the manger. Food for the spirit. Food for the soul. Food for the ages.

Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

Peace be with you,

Deacon Gerry

Manifest for Manifestation

In the hours leading up to the Epiphany or the Manifestation, I thought to list a manifest of preparation that will help us actually experience the Epiphany.

Manifest

A ship or plane’s manifest is the list of cargo or passengers on a particular trip.

Four Basics

1. Tear down walls of separation – from within and around me root out the prejudice which erodes the depth of our humanity.

2. See the Presence of God – teach us to recognize the many forms of God’s presence in one another.

3. Assent to be holy as God is holy – with integrity of word and deed, faith and action.

4. Let God transform me and all of creation – may every heart, voice, deed, action throughout the universe be transformed.

Happy Epiphany!

Family Madness

Holy Family

CHRISTMAS ART

My Joseph – rest in peace, Dad.

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Family Madness

Greetings on this the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Readings: SIR 3:2-6, 12-14; PS 128:1-2, 3, 4-5; COL 3:12-21; MT 2:13-15, 19-23

Whew

For many of us the obligatory family gatherings are over.

Either we traveled to or had others travel to us in order to have common time again and share a meal. Ideally the gathering included attending a religious service or two together as in the olden days of our youth or maybe not? Fractures in faith are a part of modern life. Sometimes these fractures are severe.

Of course I am being dramatic!

But I ask you:

How uplifting was your Christmas gathering?

Were you able to set aside old grievances and the perceived new slights in favor of the holiness of family unity?

Perhaps this homily can be of help. Maybe you can read it without pre-loaded grievances and bias?

Honor

The Liturgy of the Hours reading this morning is straight forward. It describes honoring your mother and father in terms of your benefit.

Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God, has commanded you, that you may have a long life and prosperity in the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you. Deut 5:16

I think it is fair to say that the writer of this instruction knew that we must always account for our own self-interest or that, sadly, we are driven primarily by our own self-interest. It is the first commandment after the three commandments concerning how we relate to G-d (Protestants take note I am using the traditional accounting of the 10 commandments not the revised version).

Effects on Others

The first reading today offers a slightly elevated view taking one beyond self to otherness. Not only long life and prosperity but atonement for sin, preservation from future sin, joy in children and your prayers are always heard.

Even further and the part that begins to expand how we see family… he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother. Ah, to see a happy mother is to know rightness.

Paul and the Colossians

Paul, like usual, takes us to the heart of the matter in regards to family life. Paul prescribes these things to ‘put on’ or to do/live:

  1. heartfelt compassion,
  2. kindness,
  3. humility,
  4. gentleness and patience,
  5. bearing with one another and forgiving one another.

Bond of Perfection – Love

Over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. Paul is a smart guy, yes? He prescribes an enabling methodology too:

  1. Gratitude
  2. Prayer
  3. Scripture
  4. Psalms and holy and spiritual songs.

Best for Last

Paul then lays out how to understand each other in order that peace is present within and between us. This is not the handcuffs of moralistic thinking. This is the liberation of thought and perspective. Don’t get weird on me.

Put down your pre-loaded thoughts and bias. Otherwise, you’ll miss it all.

Person Object Subject Intention Perspective – Circumstances
Wives Subordinate Husband Proper to Lord The standard is my reasonableness.
Husband Love Wife Non Bitterness The standard is my motivation.
Children Obey Parents Pleasing to Lord The standard is my unity.
Fathers No provoking Children Non Discouraging The standard is well being and growth.

If you cross the metric with your Parents now we see that none of these are specific to the role in the family but the fact you are family.

Person Object Subject Intention Perspective – Circumstances
Son/Dau Subordinate Mom/Dad Proper to Lord The standard is my reasonableness.
  Love Mom/Dad Non Bitterness The standard is my motivation.
  Obey Mom/Dad Pleasing to Lord The standard is my unity.
  No provoking Mom/Dad Non Discouraging The standard is well being and growth.

Boom!

Gospel of Matthew

(People get annoyed with me and my focus on keeping a thread current)….

In the Gospel of Matthew we continue with the perspective of Joseph.

Let’s add his wife’s inner thoughts now.

Again the Angel of the Lord instructs Joseph this time to flee to Egypt. They are in great peril here with King Herod, the Great, wanting to kill this newborn king.

So they go to Egypt most likely to the Jewish Diaspora in Egypt/Libya (modern day) most likely to relatives of Joseph.

Perspective: we are going uninvited to my in-laws home in Egypt thought Mary and I don’t know how long I will be there.

Ahem!

The Angel again appears to Joseph in a dream, years later perhaps, saying it’s time to go back to Israel. But in hearing Archelaus was ruling Judea and being warned in a dream he diverted to Galilee. Foot note: imagine the quandary – into the pot or into the fire!

Perspective: ok, so now we are leaving our home place for Galilee where I have no family thought Mary and I don’t know how long I will be there either.

Ahem!

Can you imagine (humorously) the possible conflict points there were for this family?

How easily things could have fallen apart and family unity destroyed?

Communication v Communion

For a Catholic we celebrate the Eucharistic gift as Communion with the Lord and with one another. Cutting through our own pre-loaded thoughts and biases we are expected and given the strength to See and Hear God…. and one another.

In the secular world they even preach, if you will, Communication. We, as a gospel message, preach communion. Communion is beyond being clear about what I want, what I need and what I feel. Communion is entering into the wants, needs, and feelings of each other as a part of what we want, need, and feel together.

Go now and Communion.

Peace be with you,

Deacon Gerry

Think with Love

Wednesday night Benediction was the Gospel of Matthew 1:18-25 Joseph visited by an Angel in a dream story.

It is also the Gospel reading for the 4th Sunday of Advent. Perhaps we can use this story for our current situation.

Joseph thought in terms of righteousness. He wanted to do the right thing – at least what he thought were the available options.

He considered his options under the law: 1. Subject her to the moralists, 2. Divorce her quietly.

While he considered he had a visitation. Here is where I want to expand our understanding of Divine angelic visitation.

This invitation is to think in and through love. The third option, the one he couldn’t imagine under the law: Marry Her. Thinking in and through love he became the Protector of the incarnate one and his mother.

Yesterday the House of Representatives impeached Donald J Trump. This is the situation. This is the state of affairs. This is our predicament.

Where do we go from here? I am not suggesting The Donald is anything close to a innocent! I am not suggesting The Donald is anything close to a righteousness man!

There is no question that President Donald John Trump should be convicted and removed from office.

I’m worried about us, the People of these United States. I AM worried we are stuck between the false choice of the moralists and the quiet divorce options.

We need the same Angel to speak to us. Help us find the option of love. Which in this case is removal and full disclosure of the evil among us.

We need the contours of options knowable but only through revelation.

May God bless these United States of America.

Peace be with you,

Deacon Gerry

O Antiphons

O Antiphones

Evening prayer for the 7 days leading up to Christmas Eve contains a special focus. The Antiphon for the evening Canticle of Mary starts with the mystery of Salvation History. It starts with creation and completes with Emmanuel – God is with us!

The Canticle of Mary is given especially heightened emphasis as her great “Yes” to the Lord comes to fruition in the birth of the Son of God, Son of Man. This Magnificat prayer is directly from scripture Gospel of Luke (1:46-55). Stylized version below:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly farmer’s foot.

He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever

Below each O Antiphon and a mini reflection on each. Perhaps this can be your evening prayer leading up to Christmas Eve?

December 17
O Wisdom of our God Most High, guiding creation with power and love: come to teach us the path of knowledge!
Reflection: From the dawn of creation the Lord God had but one purpose, to share his infinite love. When we contemplate creation and even contemplate love itself, it is the Wisdom of God that informs us and makes intelligible his plan.

We desire to know. We desire to know him. Know him as like a Mother holds a baby. Mary held Emmanuel in her loving arms. Simeon did as well. So shall you, my friends.

My Soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord….

December 18
O Leader of the House of Israel, giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai: come to rescue us with your mighty power!
Reflection: The Lord God rescues us from our folly. We have this tendency to enslave others. The entire nation of Israel needed to be freed. Through His mighty power He freed them and gave Moses the Law on Mount Sinai.

The Law serves two purposes: to alert us to our negative tendencies (shall not) and to bring us to our highest perfection, to wit, Keep Holy this Day of the Lord. Mary keep and the fruit is her Son.

My Soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord….

December 19
O Root of Jesse’s stem, sign of God’s love for all his people: come to save us without delay!
Reflection: The Lord God has never forgotten. Wait on the Lord, He shall not delay. The Root of Jesse, long thought dead (400 years of no prophets speaking!). Yet now, through the earth or root of Mary comes Emmanuel.

My Soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord….

December 20
O Key of David, opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom: come and free the prisoners of darkness!
Reflection: The darkness of man is over. We are prisoners no longer to ignorance. Knowing God incarnate shall make us like Moses. We shall walk with God as one walks with a friend (Ex 33:11). Mary is the first to speak to Jesus. What did she say?

My Soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord….

December 21
O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.
Reflection: We live under the shadow of death. Each of us facing that final justice. May this Perpetual Light shine on us in this life and the life to come! May justice, the Justice Mary proclaims in her song, be ours in this Emmanuel!

My Soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord….

December 22
O King of all nations and keystone of the Church: come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!
Reflection: We are dust and to dust we shall return. But not just dust. Breath. Rûaħ. You, O God, have made this dust with your own breath. Save your breath so closely knitted and integrated within us as Emmanuel is knitted within Mary.

My Soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord….

December 23
O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law: come to save us, Lord our God!
Reflection: Divine Love. Save us as only love can save. Let us learn to love as the way Mary beheld her son.

My Soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord….

Peace be with you!

Deacon Gerry

Advent Humility

Humility

Advent Humility

Greetings on this the Third Sunday of Advent

Readings:  IS 35:1-6A, 10; PS 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10; JAS 5:7-10; MT 11:2-11

Rejoice

The Church encourages us today to Rejoice! Maranatha, the Lord has come!

Today we rejoice in the promise of Jesus Christ.

We rejoice in Advent Humility. John the Baptists is first in humility – none greater.

Vector Help

I want to include two scriptural references to aid us today in Rejoicing.

In the Temple

Let us look at the story of Simeon. A righteous and devout man awaiting the consolation of Israel and the holy Spirit was upon him. He was one who contemplated the Lord and dreamed of his person.

Upon seeing Jesus he took him in his arms and said:

Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word,  for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”  The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2: 25ff.

At the Covenant at Mount Sinai

For I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their fathers’ wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and  fourth generation; but bestowing mercy down to the thousandth generation, on the children of those who love me and keep my commandments. Ex 20:5-6

Unpacking this you can easily say:

When we make a mistake God works hard to limit the effects.

When we do good work God makes the good effect last for a thousand generations.

John the Baptist

Following the theme I proposed at the beginning of Advent, we need to dream the dreams of Isaiah.

On this joyous Sunday we remember the dreams John the Baptizer dreamed from his birth and Jesus encourages him to go still further.

How do you read John’s questions? Is John tired? Is he afraid? Was he lacking faith?

Jesus affirms him by reminding him of the dream (prophecy) of Isaiah and that the dream has been actualized.

The blind regain their sight,

the lame walk,

lepers are cleansed,

the deaf hear,

the dead are raised,

and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them (Isa 35 x-ref Mt 11:5).

Blessed is the one who takes no offense at me

John is having a crisis but it isn’t necessarily a misunderstanding or mistrust of Jesus.

It isn’t even that he expected the military freedom some expected the Messiah to bring. This is the current teaching and understanding. Rather John is blessed in that he is taking no offense in Jesus.

John is accusing himself.

John is humbly, if harshly, evaluating his own life’s work.

Does what I have done matter anyway? All this preaching, baptism of repentance, scolding and reproving seems to have developed into nothing good.

Here I sit in prison. Does it even matter?

Jesus affirms John in John’s work. Yes, John, it does matter!!

You, John and you, good reader, are a part of the salvific message. Do not be discouraged. All the good you do is in the power of and the will of the Messiah Jesus. The same power that makes the blind see is the power that makes your good work last for a thousand generations.

Jesus Reveals the Biggest Herald

Jesus reveals what John is actually revealing. We go back to Mount Sinai and the book of Exodus.

Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you. (Ex 23:20, Mal 3:1, Matt 11:10)

Jesus, Word/Law, (the Law given on this mountain) is to lead the people to victory not by arms and war but by will and divine power. The person of Jesus is given.

Humility and Adoration of Jesus

John the Baptizer was a very humble man. He was the humblest of them all.

Jesus affirms him and his work by his own power.

Do good.

Let God multiply your small good by a thousand generations.

Enter into this blessed life.

He comes!

Peace be with you,

Deacon Gerry

 

 

Faith is a Scratchy Sponge

Scratchy Sponge

Faith is a Scratchy Sponge

Greetings on this the Second Sunday of Advent

Readings: IS 11:1-10; PS 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17; ROM 15:4-9; MT 3:1-12

Remember Last Week

If you remember last week I asked Dare to Dream Holy Dreams just like Isaiah.

How did you do?

Isaiah 2 dared to dream of a time even beyond the coming of the Messiah to the time of the complete peace with the final judgment.

This week Isaiah 11 going even further or not as far, so to speak!

Peace as a Person

Isaiah 11 introduces us to one he dreams will come, who embodies all that is holy.

There will appear a restorer of right relation between all men, God and creation itself.

A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse (4th Advent we read Isaiah 7 where the Emmanuel is promised).

Peace as a person.

All that is God becomes touchable, knowable, and palpable in the incarnate one.

He does this in an interesting way.

He says the one who is to come will be the perfect and divine expression of Holy.

Any/every good attribute we can subscribe to God is this fully in this certain someone:

The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:

a spirit of wisdom and of understanding,

a spirit of counsel and of strength,

a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,

and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.

Paul Affirms the View

In his letter to the Romans:

Whatever was written previously was written for our instruction,

that by endurance and by the encouragement of the Scriptures

we might have hope….

in Christ Jesus.

For I say… (Jesus) confirms the promises to the patriarchs.

Scratchy Gospel

Faith is a scratchy sponge. One side is smooth and one side is the scratchy side.

(see picture attached).

When the sponge is new and supple it is ready to absorb and be used. It is helpful to succor hurts, apply balm and to whisk off any imperfections.

When the sponge is dried out it becomes stiff and unyielding. Am I right? Have you ever use a dried out sponge? Eek!

It is useless for applying balm and rather than whisk away imperfections a dried up sponge creates new ones!

If faith is a sponge, made to be supple and absorb holiness, than what is the solution for a dried up sponge?

This week, Second Advent, we are to be alert just like last week but now to the person who is coming. This Messiah embodied with every aspect of holiness.

This Messiah did not come to show off or to be in a glass case on display of what holiness looks like. No, he came to share who he is, and to give it away.

Isaiah is saying simply that God himself has come to impart and imbued us with these his divine self a/k/a gifts:

  1. Spirit
  2. Wisdom
  3. Understanding
  4. Counsel
  5. Strength
  6. Knowledge
  7. And Fear of the Lord and the delight of the fear of the Lord.

Literalists take note: Fear of the Lord has two parts:

  1. Awe of the Lord in his majesty and his benevolence toward us.
  2. Humility in the presence. The perfect in the presence of the imperfect. The Divine living with the profane.

Repentance is the Beginning of Acceptance

The one thing we can all confess is a resistance to the Divine’s effort to gift us himself.

We can be like dried up sponges that need the refreshing dew of these heavenly gifts: Spirit, wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge and fear of the Lord. As we soak up these gifts we become the supple instrument of grace in our own lives and the lives of others.

John the Baptizer – A Really Scratchy Sponge

John the Baptist – a super sized Scratchy Sponge. His was filled with supple holiness.

It’s really easy to project John as a mean guy with a chip on his shoulders. I suppose wearing camel hair and eating locusts might not put me in a good mood either.

But actually we would miss the story.

John is the preparer: Prepare the way of the Lord, the gospel says.

Here is the thing. Jesus really doesn’t need help. We do. John is preparing the way for us to see Jesus, for us to make our path toward holiness. The warning John the Baptist given the Pharisees and Sadducees is of the same type given the soldiers and tax collectors of Luke 3.

The added element is the degree of urgency!

Urgency!

Do you hear anger in John’s voice? Maybe your sponge is dry?

I hear a four-fold urgency:

  1. Brood of vipers – the exact example of social sin as we describe it today in modern Christian theology.
  2. Flee the wrath – do you really understand what exactly this wrath is? How urgent the need is for you?
  3. Change/repent – you can’t keep doing what you are doing.
  4. Do not presume – the most urgent warning even today! Do not presume, “Christian”, that you are safe without the living in the living Jesus.

And after all this John says, the one Isaiah promised has come and he will baptize with Holy Spirit and fire. He wants to give you these gifts in Isaiah 11.

Accept them. Accept him.

Supple Sponge

Be a supple sponge. Accept the gift that is God.

Peace be with you,

Deacon Gerry

Pity and Fear

Each Wednesday night we celebrate Adoration and Benediction.

When speaking of adoration in regards to the Divine, we say we adore the essence of the Divine.

It isn’t praise or extolling. It isn’t thanksgiving. It is uniquely a recognition not of power, might, or action but of essence.

The Gospel reading was Mt 15:29-37.

Right in the middle, between the healings and the proto-Eucharistic Bread…

My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, for they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, for fear they may collapse on the way.

The Son fears for us. The Son has pity (compassion) for us. The Son sees our hunger. In him we are satisfied.

We adore the Lord because he has made us more important than himself. The essence of the Divine is decision. The decision to love.

Come, let us adore him. He has chosen us.

Dare to Dream Holy Dreams

Shalom

Dare to Dream Holy Dreams

This post is a collection of my notes that are the foundation of a homily given 11:00 AM Mass, Sunday, December 1st, 2019. A meandering homily I admit. I usually type my homilies so they gain a certain continuity and focus but I didn’t this week. It showed. Yet a few were touched and asked my notes. So, here we go….

Greetings on this the First Sunday of Advent

Readings: IS 2:1-5; PS 122: 1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9; ROM 13:11-14; MT 24:37-44

Reading cycles

The Church reads nearly the entirety of the four Gospels in a cycle of readings spanning a three year period. Each Church year ends with the Solemnity of Christ the King, last week, and begins anew with the First Sunday of Advent. So with the beginning of the new Church year, Happy New Year 2020!

  • Advent – Cycle A – Gospel Matthew (privileged to be first among the Gospels as it is the most referenced by the Early Fathers)
  • Advent – Cycle B – Gospel Mark (with a Luke and John reading. Mark gets short shrift)
  • Advent – Cycle C – Gospel Luke

(By the way the Gospel of John is used every year in seasonal context and is just as fully covered).

Yet in all three cycles the readings are preceded by the Lesson of the Fig Tree.

Lesson of the Fig Tree

Learn from the fig tree, Jesus said. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things (signs Jesus performs), know that he is near (the Lord himself), at the gates (ready to enter).

Learn from the fig tree, Jesus said. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things, know that he is near, at the gates.

Jesus is referring to himself, of course, containing very deep theology here. The branch of David has become tender (alive) and has sprouted leaves. The second Sunday of Advent we will read about ‘a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse’.

So in our current reading Jesus says therefore, stay awake! (MT 24:42) one must ask the question stay awake or be alert to what?

In a minute, we’ll see.

Dreaming Holy Dreams

The first reading today is from the Prophet Isaiah (1st Isaiah).

Pardon the digression here. When we read Isaiah we should pay careful attention to a few things.

Isaiah had dreams that are Holy, divine dreams. And written for us are the contents of these visions which bring the first alert.

Literalists Be Alert

There has been a theory that when writing sacred scripture it was believed that Moses and the prophets were is some sort of holy trance. Pen to paper (so to speak) the writer would write or dictate the exact words of the Lord upon parchment precisely as dictated to them by God.

Not really.

It is better said that the writings of Isaiah are the writing of a person open to the voice of the Divine or, to borrow from the CCC, engaging in contemplation, study and gaining a grasp of the spiritual realities one is experiencing. Isaiah allowed the divine to penetrate him and share with him the hopes of humanity and the purpose of the Lord in our creation: Holy Presence and Holy Peace.

Isaiah dreamed holy and divine dreams. He contemplated the divine purpose in the world as a whole, the nation of Israel and for the individual person.

Here we quote Isaiah as he prophesizes Peace. Divine peace. Peace on Earth and Good will toward all.

He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

We share Isaiah’s dream. In the first coming of Jesus the Christ he shares with us the same divine dream (prophecy) about his Second Coming.

This peace is not yet fully realized.

In our reading today Jesus also looks beyond his ‘today’ except that today we are given the lesson of the fig tree to listen and be alert.

Alert to What?

Do you dream holy dreams?

Do you wonder of the purpose and presence of the Divine?

I often ask people during sessions: Do you dream? If so, of what do you dream?

During Advent we are invited into the dream of Isaiah. This is not wishful thinking. It is the dream given to him because he was open to the voice of the divine.

Days of Noah

Jesus warns about our tendency to fail to dream focused instead of the ordinary good of God (the natural blessings).

In those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark.

These are a people who won’t dream divine dreams. Instead they concentrate on the natural good as the only good.

It is a grave error that causes them to ‘be carried away’.

Contrast: In a modern Jewish Midrash, Noah’s wife, Naaham (one whose actions are pleasing to God) was busy too, collecting every seed and bulb so that the plants of the earth will also be saved from the flood (Sandy Eisenberg Sasso).

See how she dreamed divine dreams?

Literalists be Alert

Literalists struggle with complex, compound written communication.

The popular yet erroneous theory of Rapture is a good example.

Here Jesus refers to the two men in the field and the two women at the mill. One each is taken and the other remains.

This is a figure of speech to delineate those who listen and act upon divine inspiration and those who do not as reflected in the final judgment after the Second Coming. Otherwise, Literalists, you would be forced to conclude that 50% of all men and 50% of all women are condemned.

Alert to What?

One must ask the question, do I ignore my spiritual self. If I am body, soul and spirit then am I tending to my spiritual needs?

During Advent we are invited to tend to and make sure we are alert to the needs of our spirit.

Do I pray?

How do I pray and for what?

Paul gives a Contrast

St Paul always is good at providing contrast. He implores and begs us to cast of the works of darkness (things we do).

He is kind to list a few things in case we are in denial:

  • Orgies
  • Drunkenness
  • Promiscuity
  • Lust
  • Rivalry
  • Jealousy

Ooops. OK, I spotted a few I need to attend to….

He says instead our goal should be to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.

Jesus is both the strength for and the final end of such a life.

Alert to What?

What do I do that is a work of darkness?

What desires of the flesh do I hold tighter than the freedom of holiness?

When in the hospital the other day, and doing a bit of whining, the nurse looked at me and said,

Once a man, twice a child.

Nuff said.

Master of the House

You are the Master of your own house. You decide what you think, do and hope for because you have the natural divine gift of free will.

The integrity of your house is our own responsibility.

Aided by the Church and being open to divine dreams we can envision a day of peace for ourselves and others.

Then your house will not be destroyed in the final judgment but preserved in the divine presence.

Maranatha, come Lord, now and forever.

Help us dream holy dreams!

Alert to What?

Do I realize I am in control? I am not a fleckless idiot. I am empowered to be and act in the image and called to the likeness of God.

Do I know how to allow the Divine to help me gain the armor of Light?

Do I know how to allow the Divine to help be cast of works of darkness?

Advent Journey

Thank you for getting this far!

Stay Awake!

Be Alert!

May your Advent journey be like Cycle A’s scriptural journey.

Let us dream holy dreams.

Here is a link to a grid analysis for the readings of Advent Cycles A, B and C: Three Year Cycle – Four Week Advent

Peace be with you,

Deacon Gerry