Tuesday of the First Week of Advent

Today’s readings

“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.
For I say to you,
many prophets and kings desired to see what you see,
but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”

How willing are we to see everything and every situation as a gift from God?  Granted, sometimes that kind of attitude can be quite a challenge.  When everything is hectic at work, or when your work goes unappreciated, it’s hard to see that work as a gift.  When your kids are making you nuts or your spouse seems distant, it can be hard to see your family as a gift.  When aging parents are suffering from illness or children suffer from disease, it can be hard to see life as a gift.  There are many obstacles to seeing the beauty of every person and situation.

Yet that’s just what Jesus tells us we should do.  We are blessed to see what we see.  When I was in seminary, working as a hospital chaplain, I saw what seemed to be more than my share of death and disease.  My fellow student-chaplains were going through the same thing.  Then, one day, one of them brought in this very Gospel reading for discussion in the morning.  When we reflected on the truth of the reading, we found that we were able to see grace in the middle of all the suffering, pain and sadness.

Sometimes even when things are hard, God can accomplish great things by helping us to carry those crosses.  Even more important, God can help us to see great grace happening that would not otherwise happen.  It’s difficult to get there, but today we can pray that we would consider ourselves blessed to see the things we see, and to hear the things we hear.  Let us pray that God can help us to see the grace in every person and situation.

The Fourth Sunday of Advent

Today’s readings
#adventnd #christmasnd #advent #christmas

What has captured my imagination as I’ve prayed this Advent is how we have been given this wonderful gift. This gift eclipses anything we’ll ever be given, anything we will ever earn, anything that will ever cross our meandering path in life. Today, the readings call that gift Emmanuel – God with us. I think sometimes we forget how wonderful this is. That the infinite all-powerful awesome God, who is not in need of anything or anyone for His self-worth, that He would choose to come to earth and take the flesh of his creatures, this is a truth too wonderful to even imagine. But not only that, this God took on our imperfections so completely that he paid the price for our many sins, both individually and as a society. He died the death we deserve for our waywardness, and then he rose from the dead in the Resurrection that assures us access to eternal life, if we will but love and follow him. No gift on earth is like this one!

The most important thing that we can know about this Gift is that it isn’t just for us. It is for us, but never only for us. We are meant to share it. Because we have been loved by God who is Love itself, with a love so complete and sacrificial and permanent, then we have to be willing to love that way too. The people God puts in our lives: our family, our friends, our coworkers, our neighbors – all of them deserve to be loved in this same way too, and it’s up to us to be conduits of that love to others.

So we have to be on the lookout for ways to do that. Think about it: those of us who are here all the time could well, and often do, get our noses out of joint at this time of year. We put in all the effort to get here every week, so maybe the lack of parking and the packed seats inconvenience us to the point of irritation. But what if it didn’t?

What if, instead, we used this as an opportunity to put the discipleship we’ve been learning about all year long into practice? What if we chose to see Jesus in all of them, to be aware of Emmanuel – God with us – in such a way that we did everything we could to make their first time with us, or their first time in a long time, a memorable one? What if we as a parish decided that a loving relationship with our God was so glorious, so important, that we didn’t want anyone to go without one? What if, as a community, we decided there is nothing we won’t do to make those who visit us on Christmas irresistibly attracted to our community, so that when they’re here they think, “Those people at Notre Dame know something I don’t, and I have to find out what it is”? Well, that’s what I’d like us to try and do this Christmas.

I liken it to the whole way Jesus came into the world. We all know the story, don’t we? The whole world was on the move, headed to their native places to be counted for the census, and there wasn’t an inn anywhere that would take Mary and Joseph, and the coming Christ Child in. But one innkeeper made some room out back and gave the newborn King the best he could offer. We absolutely know that Christ is in our brothers and sisters, so how on earth can we turn them away? As Saint Benedict teaches his monks, “Let all guests be received as Christ.”

And so I’m going to make some suggestions for things that we can all do to make people feel welcome, to help them to know that there is a joy here in our community that has to be shared. First, make some room. I know we all want to get here first for a good parking spot. But if you can walk here, would you consider doing that, just to make a spot for a visitor? I can remember when my family would try to get to Mass as soon as possible to stake out a good seat, and I’d see so many people with coats over whole sections of a pew like they were lawn chairs on parking spaces in the city! We all want to have room, but if you can move in a little and let some other folks sit with you, would you consider being a bit uncomfortable so that someone can be welcome?

Lots of times people will come here and won’t know where they’re going. We all want to get to Mass on time, but if you see someone looking puzzled, would you consider taking a moment to ask if you could help them? If they’re looking for the bathroom, would you go out of your way just this once to walk them there so they don’t get lost in the crowds coming in on a busy day? Again, as intent as we are to get to our seats, if you notice someone coming in who needs some help walking, could you offer them your arm, or hold the door open?

We all like to see our friends and the people we know at Mass. It’s a comfort to us. So it might take a little concerted effort, but would you consider smiling at someone you’ve never seen before, perhaps introducing yourself and telling them what you like about Notre Dame? Because it just takes a tiny little gesture, or a little inconvenience for us, to make a huge difference. What if every person who walked through the door on Christmas Eve or Christmas had a life-changing experience because of the way that we treated them? We can do that, and I really think that we should. Would you all be willing to do a little something extra to make someone know God’s love in an awesome way? I’m counting on all of you to do that. If every Guest is received as Christ, then as Saint Benedict also said, we will all go together one day to eternal life!

The Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Listen to that opening line from Jesus in today’s Gospel parable: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.” That is a revelation so glorious that it should have us up dancing in the aisles, praising God, and throwing a huge party. Think about it: the Father is pleased to give us the kingdom. The whole thing. Doesn’t cost us a cent. All of it is ours! If there was ever any good news to share, this is it. It’s better than a huge promotion at work, it’s even better than winning the lottery. All those things last but a moment, but the kingdom, well that’s for eternity.

So now that we know that the Father is pleased to give us the kingdom, I’d like to explore two questions. First, are we pleased to receive the kingdom? And second, what on earth do we do with it?

Okay, so are we pleased to receive the kingdom? Well, the obvious answer is “yes!” I mean, the kingdom is the great promise that brings us here to church today. Inheriting the kingdom means we are not going to hell; indeed, we will have everlasting happiness. But I wonder how readily we receive this gift of all gifts – and let’s be clear: this is the best gift we’re ever going to get. But there are so many other things out there, and we want to keep our options open. We’d rather pursue the big promotion, the latest and greatest shiny gadget, the American dream house, and so much more. Lots of things tempt us and look better than the gift the Father is pleased to give us.

Another obstacle to receiving the kingdom is maybe we feel like there’s always time to receive that gift. We’re going to live a long time, right? So why deny ourselves so many passing things in favor of receiving the kingdom? We can always receive the Father’s gift later. Except for the fact that none of us knows how much time we have in this life. Procrastination is our enemy, because some day could well turn into never. Not only that, but Jesus came to clearly proclaim that the kingdom is now, and why would we deny ourselves the pleasure of receiving the kingdom now and latch on to so many easily-tarnished things? Now is the time, and there’s no gift greater.

So if we receive the kingdom, what are we supposed to do with it? Well, just like all of God’s gifts, it’s not just for us. We’re supposed to share it. We’re supposed to live like we are part of it. So this gift of the kingdom calls us to greater integrity, greater love, greater mercy, greater holiness. And this may well seem like hard work, but that’s because it is. Jesus made it clear at the end of today’s Gospel: “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

So does that make the gift of the kingdom seem like a burden? Well, maybe. But it’s a happy burden, a glorious burden, a sweet burden. All the saints tell us as much. Even Jesus said, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30) But we’ll never realize that until we go all in and receive the gift the Father is pleased to give us today. It’s kind of like that project that seems daunting, but once we get into it, is actually kind of fun. That’s the burden of the kingdom.

So Jesus brings us Good News today: the Father is pleased to give us the kingdom. So what do we have to do, what do we have to let go of, in order to receive it? That’s what should be our to-do list this week. And then we can rejoice in that gift with the Psalmist today who sings: “Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.”

Sixth Day in the Octave of Christmas

Today’s readings

So what did you get for Christmas?  Was it everything you’d hoped for?  Perhaps you, like me, feel that the gifts are nice, but being together with family and friends at Christmas is the real gift.  Today’s first reading is exhorting us to something similar.  While the rest of the world waits in line for hours to get the coveted gift of the year, we have the consolation of knowing that nothing like that is ultimately important, or will ever make us truly happy.  The real gift that we can receive today, and every day, is the gift of Jesus, the Word made flesh, our Savior come to be one with us as Emmanuel.

St. John tells us quite clearly: “Do not love the world or the things of the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”  Because what we have is so much better than anything the world can give.  The real gift this Christmas, and really every day, is the gift of eternal life.  And we have that gift because Jesus came to earth and chose to be one with us in our human nature.  That’s why the angels sang that night, and why we sing his praise every day of our lives.

Sixth Day in the Octave of Christmas

Today’s readings

What did you get for Christmas?  Was it everything you’d hoped for?  Perhaps you, like me, are at the stage where the gifts are nice, but being together at Christmas is the real gift.  Today’s first reading is exhorting us to something similar.  While the rest of the world waits in line for hours to get the coveted gift of the year, we have the consolation of knowing that nothing like that is ultimately important, or will ever make us ultimately happy.  The real gift that we can receive today, and every day, is the gift of Jesus, the Word made flesh, our Savior come to be one with us as Emmanuel.

St. John tells us quite clearly: “Do not love the world or the things of the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”  Because what we have is so much better than anything the world can give.  The real gift this Christmas, and really every day, is the gift of eternal life.  And we have that gift because Jesus came to earth and chose to be one with us in our human nature.  That’s why the angels sang that night, and why we sing his praise every day of our lives.