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Andrew: Advent Adventure

30 Nov

The First Sunday of Advent is always the Sunday nearest the Feast of St. Andrew, November 30.

Since today is November 30, and since today is a Sunday, this is as close as the First Sunday of Advent every gets to the Feast of St. Andrew.

For Catholics throughout the world today is also the beginning of the Year of Consecrated Life. And for us at St. Andrew it our patronal feast day.

Here is what I said after the Gospel at this morning’s 8 o’clock Mass in Milford:

Here is the text and the music of the song we sang at the end of Mass – and which we will sing on every Sunday during Advent and often during this year of consecrated life:

Andrew Advent Adventure WAKE UP song words

This is the official soundtrack of the song:

You gotta love this smile and that scarf:

Andrew Advent Adventure SCARF

Don’t miss the words of Francis at the bottom of the picture. 

Where’s the Line to See Jesus?

20 Dec

Look at this …

Now listen to this …

no pickled peppers on “Joy Sunday”

14 Dec

The third candle of the wreath is lighted today. It is rose. Most often we say that it is pink. This week’s color: rose, pink – whatever. It is Gaudete – Rejoice – Sunday!

The most recent official writing of Pope Francis, released November 24, the first that comes directly and solely from his mind and heart, has the Latin title, “Evangelii Gaudium,” which translates “The Joy of the Gospel.” With me find it helpful to ponder the fact he calls it “the joy of the Gospel” and not “Gospel joy.”

Here is a much quoted sentence from that apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis: “One of the more serious temptations which stifles boldness and zeal is a defeatism which turns us into querulous and disillusioned pessimists, ‘sourpusses.’”

pickled peppers 01

At his morning Mass on May 10 Pope Francis talked about the joy that Christians have deep within them from knowing that Jesus is with them and that they are loved by God: “Sometimes these melancholy Christians’ faces have more in common with pickled peppers than the joy of having a beautiful life.” Sad Christians hinder the witness and mission of the Church.

pickled peppers 02

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.”

when we hear snow is coming

7 Dec


What effect might it have, if we were to prepare for the coming of Jesus into our lives, as we do when we hear that snow is coming?

‘Tis the Season for Big Surprises

21 Dec

Right before leaving for a few days away, one of my friends told me that she couldn’t figure out what they (she and her husband) could get me for Christmas. I said, “Nothing. Don’t get me anything. I don’t need anything.” She said, “I knew you’d say that.”

My being away took me up toward Deerfield Village in Michigan and to what I call Arab-Dearborn. There was a huge mall a mile and a half away from the Drury Inn where I was staying. It would be a nice place to walk on a cold day. It might give me an answer to Susan’s question.

The mall was three floors high, with a skywalk that connected to another building of two floors. There had to be an idea in there somewhere.  

photo skywalkIn the main gathering area was a castle

photo castlein honor of you know who.

photo santaWatching all the parents hugging, kissing and primping the children, getting them ready for a photo with Santa, I saw them as an image of God and us, and I wondered what the God-version of “slobber kisses” and “mom spit” might be. I noticed, too, that each mom or granddad protected, pranced about and played with their own offspring as if their child was the only one that existed or mattered in the whole wide world. There seems to be an image of the divine in there, too.

The sound was “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” The smell, at first I couldn’t identify it but it seemed to be pumped into the air, was caramel popcorn, I think. The food court had a marquis that boasted of “more than 12 kinds of Mac n’ Cheez!”

photo mac

My favorites of all the stores, the only two that I actually entered, were Brookstone, filled with fun things like a hand-held digital luggage scale and a bunch of other things that I did not need, and Sur la Table, with gadgets of all kinds, but not the cheap, plastic orange peeler that I thought I might find.

The name of one of the stores startled me. How in the world could this name make any sense?

photo real religionA store named “True Religion.”  Really?

This window message made better sense.

photo surprise“Tis the Season for Big Surprises.” Yes, what surprise does God have in store (pun intended) for each of us this season?

Of all the windows, in which were showcased models and mannequins (more or less clothed), this store most caught my attention.

photo destinationThe woman in this poster was the most beautiful.

photo preg closeIn her I saw the face and the form of all the young women in the parish carrying children. I whispered a prayer for all those women who long to arrive at maternity (“destination maternity” was the name of teh staore) but have not yet been so blessed. It was an Advent poster and prayer, of sorts.

After walking the entire mall on two different days, and looking at the windows of all the stores, I came up with an answer to my friend’s question. I didn’t see anything I needed for Christmas.

She knew I’d say that.


Our Every Hope and God’s Every Promise

14 Dec

 advent third Sunday photo

“O God, fulfill his every hope in you, and make good on your every promise to him.”

That is a prayer worthy of praying over someone who is dying or who has just passed. But it is also appropriate as you pray for someone, like your mother, who is having some struggle or challenge. “O God, fulfill her every hope in you, and make good on your every promise to her.”

Hope and promise, promise and hope: that is an Advent prayer, an anytime prayer.

In life itself and in our own lives there are valleys: low points. There are mountains and hills: challenges and struggles. Winding roads and rough paths – we see them in the world; we know them in our lives.

Have you or are you experiencing a valley in life, a low point? Do you have a mountain or a hill, a struggle or a challenge? How about a winding road or a rough path? Name the valley, mountain, hill, winding road or rough path that you see in our world or in your world.

Then hear the prophet John as he quotes the prophet Isaiah: “Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

Your valley shall be filled. Your mountain and hill shall be made low. Your winding roads and rough paths shall be made straight and smooth. You will see salvation by God.

Advent speaks of the great promise in which now we dare to hope.

May God fulfill your every hope in him, and make good on his every promise to you.

The Line to See Jesus

22 Dec

At his first coming at Bethlehem, shepherds and kings stood in line to adore him.

In Galilee, the sick and the unworthy stood in line to see Jesus, hoping that he would touch them with some healing or some hope.

At his second coming, all the nations will stand in line before his throne, and every head will bow, and every knee will bend, and every tongue will proclaim, “Jesus Christ is Lord.”

Where is the line to see Jesus now?

Think of a line in which you have stood or in which you have seen others stand. Allow one “standing in line” to come to mind. (Go ahead. I will wait.)

Is it a line in which you can see Jesus?

Last Sunday there was a line of people standing in the sanctuary of our parish church to take a tag off the “Giving Tree.” A line to see Jesus?

Sometime this week those people will stand in a line of another kind, as they purchase the gifts? A line in which to see Jesus?

Next Sunday they will stand in line again in church, as they bring their wrapped offerings and lay them at the altar. A line to see Jesus?

And after the last Mass, after all the gifts are sorted according to family units, there will be another line at church: people standing in line to receive the gifts and take them home, so that they and their children will celebrate Christmas with a gift. A line in which to see Jesus?

At the end of the homily on Sunday, I asked all present at Mass: What is the next line in which you will stand? All of you, together, standing in line? Before leaving this church building? In about 12 minutes? Right after the priest holds up the consecrated bread and wine? Right after that “Behold the Lamb of God. Behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb? Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed” – right after that invitation and preparation?

“The next line in which we will stand is the communion line. As at Bethlehem, we stand in line to adore him. As in Galilee, we stand in line, humble and in need, hoping and confident that he will touch us with some healing or hope. We stand in line, as one day we will stand in line before his throne. In the communion line our heads will bow, our knees will bend, and our tongues will proclaim, with all the others, that Jesus Christ is Lord!”

The Body of Christ.  Amen.

The Blood of Christ.  Amen.

Sirens of Hope

12 Dec

In a 911 emergency call there is that assuring, “Help is on the way.” It is followed almost all the time by, “Hurry! Please hurry!” – and another reassuring, “Help is on the way.”

It is actually just a matter of minutes, but for the one waiting for the help and the one on the way to help, it seems like forever. The one coming sounds the siren, to clear the way, to straighten the path. For the one waiting, the siren is the sound of hope. The louder it gets, the better.

In the corners of the sanctuary, and from the ambo and on the altar in between, we find hope and help.

Out in Brown County, there is a mission called, “Hope Emergency,” run by two of the Ursulines of Brown County, who live in our parish and worship with on Sundays. On the days before Thanksgiving, their Hope Emergency fed 503 families, that is, over a thousand people. The Sisters and the volunteers heard over and over again, “We don’t know what we would do without Hope.” Is that an Advent theme, or not? With the wrapped gifts that you brought to church with you today, you provide something for over 700 people. The gifts go out in many directions. Some of those gifts go to Hope Emergency. On the days before Christmas, the Sisters will hear, “Without you there would be no food on our table. Without you, we would not have Christmas.

In the Scriptures, Isaiah and John the Baptist are the sirens. Isaiah sirens: Hope is coming (in the Messiah). In John the Baptist the siren gets louder and louder: Hope has arrived (in Christ). Isaiah and John are the sirens, the sounds of hope, the voices crying out in the desert, clearing the way for help and hope. Christ is Hope. In Christ, hope has come, hope comes now, and hope will come again. 

With the prophet and the Baptist in the Scriptures, with the pink candle and the rose vestment of Gaudete Sunday, with the wrapped gifts piled in the sanctuary, and most especially and most lastingly and most lavishly, with the divine gifts consecrated on the altar, we keep hope.  Help is on the way. Hope is here.

We make this three-fold proclamation of God’s mercy:

Lord Jesus Christ, without you we would not have Christmas.

Lord Jesus Christ, without you we have no sacrifice on the altar; we have no food on the table.

Lord Jesus Christ, without you we are without hope.

But with you …..

Women of Nazareth, Women of Hope: Basma, Hala and Mary

9 Dec

On yesterday’s Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception we heard Luke’s proclamation: “In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth …”

Hearing Gabriel’s greeting to Mary of Nazareth, I cannot help but send a greeting to two other women of Nazareth: Basma and Hala. These two extraordinary Christian women are counsellors in Catholic schools in Nazareth. Hala and Basma visited Cincinnati with other teachers from Latin Patriarchate schools from the West Bank and from Jordan, as part of a project called HOPE: Holy Land Outreach to Palestinian Educators. They are pictured below receiving gifts at the Farewell Dinner, in a photo taken by Mark Bowen.

Mary of Nazareth, responding to God’s desire and invitation to enter our world as one like us, brought Hope into the world, translate, brought Jesus, who is our hope, our only hope, into the world.

Basma and Hala, women of Nazareth, responding to God’s desire and invitation to bring reconciliation and justice into our world, bring hope to their students and build opportunities and dignity into their lives.

Beneath the Basilica of the Annunciation, in their beloved hometown of Nazareth, Basma and Hala visit often the grotto of the Annunciation, the very place of the conversation between God’s angel and God’s mother.In this place, as Mary did, so Hala and Basma respond with, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

Greetings, Basma and Hala. The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women. May the angel never depart from you.

a bit of Spiritual Genius or a God-Incidence

8 Dec

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” (Revelation 12:1)

The stained glass window in the sanctuary of our church depicts Mary with head bowed and tilted downward, and with arms folded at her heart. Was it a stroke of spiritual genius or a God-incidence that this window is the one nearest the tabernacle? It is as if she is looking down lovingly at her son in the tabernacle and on the altar. It is as if she is caressing him at her heart, as she held him, body and blood, soul and divinity, when he born to her at Bethlehem, and when he was taken down from the cross and placed in her arms.

After Mass on today’s solemnity of the Immaculate Conception I got on a ladder, and took a photo from Mary’s eyes toward her Son … 

 And then a photo from the tabernacle up toward the window …On this feast of the Immaculate Conception, we place ourselves in her arms for her to hold us. We feel her embrace and her protection. We feel her eyes on us, in her everlastingly motherly way.

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