Sunday, November 28, 2010

God Is Waiting. . .For You!

Advent is traditionally a time for waiting.  We await the birth of the Christ child who is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.  We look to the future for His return and the final judgement that will take place on that day.  We look to the festive holiday ahead when we celebrate the greatest gift ever given to mankind, Jesus Christ.  We wait for the first significant snowfall in many parts of the land.  We wait for the first Christmas lights to dazzle the nighttime.  It is a time of waiting for something to happen.  The closer we get to Christmas itself, the more anxious we become for the holiday to be upon us.

But I would like to propose a waiting that many of us are most likely unaware of.  Do you know that God is waiting for you?  Do you know that one of the main reasons the human race has been created is because God loves us so much that He wants us to draw near to Him in order to return that love and bask in His graces.  From the sin of Adam and Eve, God has waited for us!  We are that important and that loved. 

But because of sin and our own blindness, we often turn our backs on Him, choosing instead to go our own way.  That, ironically, is also a gift from God.  It is called free will and it was freely given to us by the Divine Creator.  His promise is that He will never interfere with our free will no matter how misguided we may become.  He has lived up to that promise!

God will not force our hands nor will He force us on to some path that will inevitably lead us to Him.  He presents us with numerous opportunities to turn our hearts and minds to Him daily.  He awaits us in the sunrise, that spectacular moment when the life giving star we know as the sun appears over the horizon without fail.  He awaits us in the lonely souls living in nursing homes who have no visitors or families.  He awaits us in the hunger and cold of difficult economic times which try the souls and fabric of family life.  He awaits us in the homeless who drift from one spot to another in the cold at this time of year.  He awaits us in the downcast and trodden under foot who society has deemed unimportant, insignificant.  He awaits us in the frightened young girl who finds herself pregnant and can think of abortion as the only way out.  He awaits us in our neighbors, those who live around us and who we see coming and going daily but we don't know their names or much about them.

Yes, God does wait for you in all of these things and many more.  He especially awaits you in the moment when we commemorate the coming of His Son into this world to bring us the good news of salvation and eternal life.  He knows our heart deeply yearns for Him for He created that heart, a heart that has been emptied by the pain and loneliness of sin.  Yet, He is willing to forgive and accept us back into His loving arms as we continue on in our life's journey.

During this busy Advent season, as you wait in line to buy your Christmas presents, look around you and you will see Him everywhere and in everything, waiting and wondering when you will come to Him in humility and love, seeking only His great heart and mercy.  God does indeed reveal Himself to us in every way, shape, and form imaginable.  We must simply have the trust to see Him.  For He is there, waiting!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mary's Answer

"Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be it done unto me according to Your word."  (Lk 1: 38)  With this reply, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, changed the course of history.  She was responding to the Angel Gabriel who had been given the task of asking Mary to become the Mother of God.  Mary, devoted to the word of God, did not have to think about her reply for one second.  It was God's will.  There was no question as to what to do.  What is even more astonishing is the fact that Mary had the perfect right to refuse God's request and remain within His good graces all because of His gift that all of us share, free will.

Mary had the ability to reject God's offer without any explanation.  God bestowed upon man the freedom to choose to do what he pleases even if what he chooses is in direct conflict with the will of the Father.  God promised that He would never interfere with this freedom and, true to His word, He has never forced anyones hand into doing His will.

Mary's answer determined the course of history.  Christianity would become a dominant religion based upon the teachings and life of her Son, Jesus.  In our country, for instance, had there been no Jesus, our laws might look much different since this country was founded upon the principles found in the teachings of Jesus and those of the Old Testament.  Had Mary declined God's breathtaking offer, it is likely that the books of the Bible would not have taken on the relevance that they have.  It is also more than likely that if Mary had refused to become the Mother of the Redeemer, Jesus may never have been born!

God created Mary for one very specific and one very special function, to be the Mother of the Savior, the Messiah.  Everything else that she might do with her life was secondary.  Mary understood this and also understood that she would not have had to agree with God's offer.  But she did not hesitate.  In her answer, she reassured the world that the Messiah would soon walk among us, teaching us the Father's will, and supporting all who follow that will. 

Mary was singled out by God to be the Mother of His Son.  For this reason, Mary must necessarily be conceived without the stain of sin.  No impure vessel could ever be the home to the Divine Son of God.  If Mary had refused God's offer, would He simply have chosen someone else to bear His Son?  That cannot, of course, be known for certain one way or the other since Mary did indeed consent to be the Mother of Christ.    

In light of the fact that Mary was but a young peasant girl when she consented to such an enormous request, one must stand in awe of her self-sacrificial nature.   She did not pause for one moment to weigh the consequences or to try to determine what was in it for her.  Rather, she boldly accepted God's offer and never looked back.  She moved forward through time, using her life as an instrument of praise of the Father.  Once her Son was born, she introduced the world to Him and every day in every way led the human race to Him.  From the manger to the Cross, Mary stands by, pointing the human race not to herself, but, rather, to her Divine Son. 

We must never worship Mary for worship is reserved for the Blessed Trinity.  However, we must honor Mary for her selfless decision that allowed her to become the human vessel for her Son.  She is to be admired for her tireless devotion to her Son and constant quest to bring mankind to His love and mercy.  Mary's answer was an answer that quietly shook the foundations of the world and changed all our lives for the better.  Through Mary, we come to know Christ as only a mother can come to know a son.   May we come to understand Mary's action in the light of faith keeping always in mind that she was only the vessel that brought the Savior of the World into our midst.  And for that, we need to be eternally thankful.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Meeting the Extraordinary in the Ordinary

In the Catholic Church, we move through the year observing liturgical seasons.  We have Advent, those four Sundays before Christmas dedicated to our preparation for the coming of the Messiah.  Then we have Christmas, the season in which we celebrate the Incarnation, God become man.  Soon thereafter, we observe the season of Lent beginning with Ash Wednesday.  This is a time for self-examination and reevaluating our relationship with God.  It is a solemn time of atonement and a firm resolve to change our lives.  Then comes the glorious season of Easter, that time when our salvation was won by the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, completing the sacrifice necessary for that action.

But what of the rest of the year?  The year is not made up of one celebration after another.  Often, there is considerable time between celebrations.  On Sunday, November 14, 2010, we mark the last Sunday of this long season called Ordinary Time.

Ordinary Time is any time outside those periods throughout the year designated as feasts or special seasons of observation.  Ordinary Time is fittingly named because, after all, that is where we live. 

Most of us have what we would refer to as ordinary lives.  Our jobs are not extraordinary.  In fact, they seem downright mundane and very often boring.  When we get off work, most of us do not head to some exciting destination where thrills rule the day.   Most head home to some dinner and TV and some evenings perhaps a movie or a concert.  This cycle is repeated day in and day out giving a certain pattern and rhythm to our lives.  And while many of us come to find this pattern annoyingly uneventful, it does form the framework of our lives.

Jesus must have felt the same way.  Don't forget that He was a carpenter who worked for years before beginning His public mission.  He, too, faced the mundane daily chores that we call life.  He, too, knew the frustrations of the work day, the grinding boredom of endless hours spent at His craft.  Yet, His life, too, was framed by this day-to-day activity.

While we encounter our Lord in all seasons of the year, the fact is that we meet Jesus mainly in what we have come to call Ordinary Time.  The Gospel readings at Mass during this season recount the everyday life of the Messiah.  We see Him fishing with His Apostles.  We are there when he speaks with the Samaritan woman at the well after journeying several miles in the intense desert heat of the region seeking a cool drink of water.  We sit on a hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee, listening to Him give us guidelines to living called the Beatitudes.  We marvel in wonder and amazement as He teaches us to pray to the Father in heaven with the use of the simple, yet holy and elevating language of the Lord's Prayer.  We sit at the roadside with He and His disciples as He watches an impoverished widow contribute nearly all she has to the Temple.  These are ordinary days in the life of Jesus and that is just how we encounter Him.

As we move through our ordinary days, opportunities arise each and every day to bump into the Savior through our ordinary actions.  Perhaps a co-worker is having a bad time of it at home.  When we reach out to them in kindness, we encounter Jesus the comforter.  Maybe one of our children is having a difficult time in school with bullies.  When we listen to that child and hear their fears, we become Jesus to that child in that moment, listening to the pleas of Martha and Mary on the death of their brother Lazarus.

We meet Christ most frequently in our lives through the ordinary days that we lead.  And those days are elevated by this encounter.  We come to know Jesus in an intimate way.  We have time to form a more personal relationship with Him.  Unlike major celebrations where hoards of people crowd in around the Savior, Ordinary Time allows us to gather at His feet as He continues to teach us through His Holy Spirit.

Look into the eyes of your spouse, your significant other, your brother or sister, or even your best friend and tell yourself that they are just ordinary.  What they do on a daily basis may be ordinary, but they, themselves, are anything but ordinary.  They are unique, special people in our lives so we should learn to treasure them and our time with them just as we would treasure our time with Jesus should He suddenly become physically present to us in the flesh.

Revel in the ordinary times of our lives.  For it is in these ordinary times that we meet the Extraordinary person of Jesus Christ in one another and in our ordinary lives.  There is a great comfort to know that we do not have to have a celebration each time we encounter Jesus in the ordinary.  He is comfortable with us as we go through our daily paces.  Reach out to Him in your ordinary way and experience the Most Extraordinary person you'll ever encounter.  Jesus Christ!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Standing At the Foot of the Cross

What must it have been like,
O Mother of God,
to stand and watch your beloved Son
suffer an ignominious death for the sins of man?

What must it have been like,
Mary most Holy,
to see the blood of your precious Son
flow down the wood of the Cross
onto the ground,
cleansing mankind through His
selfless act of sacrifice?

What must it have been like,
O Blessed Virgin,
to feel the sword of death
pierce your heart as foretold
by the Prophet Simeon so long ago?

What must it have been like,
O chosen Woman of God,
to cradle the lifeless body of the Savior
in your loving arms,
knowing all along that
this was His destiny?

What must it have been like,
O grieving Mary,
to carefully and tenderly lay to rest
the mortal remains of your Son,
most Holy, in the quiet
recesses of the newly-hewn tomb?

And what must your joy have been like,
O Queen of Heaven,
to see for the first time
your risen Son?

Allow me,
Mary, most gracious Mother of us all,
to stand by your side
at the foot of the Cross
so that you may touch my heart
with your broken heart,
so that in my hour of sadness you may
bring me comfort through our
shared sufferings.

Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows,
pray to your beloved Son,
our Lord Jesus Christ,
that our poor suffering may atone
for my sins and be offered
on behalf of the poor souls in

Teach me by example
how to suffer with dignity,
honesty and integrity.
Grant all of this in the name
of Your Son, our Lord
Jesus Christ!