“Unto Us a Child is Given!”

Merry Christmas! Although, this has been the most, shall we say, “unique” Christmas Day we have ever had. There have been Christmas Days we have celebrated during times of conflict, hard economic times, times of disasters, both as individuals, families, communities, and nations! But never, in my memory, have we a time of such as this Corvid pandemic!

We are in grave situation that affects the whole world. Millions of people have been stricken! Millions have died! Economies have gone south, thousands unemployed! And our political leaders seem incapable of breaking out of their ideological strait jackets; arguing, stonewalling, while millions suffer. And we are all getting worn down by it all. It is coming to a point where saying, “Merry Christmas;” sounds very hollow.

Yet, for the Church, the community of believers, this day the cry goes out “Rejoice!” For “ unto us a child is given;”on this day God fulfilled His Promise to send a Savior, His Son! On this day, we are reminded that God has not left us alone, He is with us in our times of suffering, of doubt, of feeling hopeless! We may not be able to acknowledge His Presence, but Jesus is with us, around us, within us. He shares His Spirit through Scripture, prayer and other people we come in contact with! He shares Himself in the Eucharist, Holy Communion, Bread for the hard journey, whether within ourselves or without, that we are on!

So this day, whether it is clear and sunny or cloudy and stormy; remember what this day is truly about. Rejoice!! For “unto us a child is given!”

Gaudete Sunday, “Rejoice!”

Today is called “Gaudete Sunday;” it comes in the middle of Advent. “Gaudete” which is a Latin the that translates into “Rejoice.” The penitential season of Advent is almost over! So, Gaudete! Rejoice!


But I can almost hear the thoughts, the whispers, the outraged complaints! “Rejoice? Are you kidding me? We are in a world wide pandemic! Cases of COVID are surging again! Millions have gotten sick world wide! Over a million have died! Businesses have in this country, have closed, people have been laid off. The economy is suffering! Rejoice? There is turmoil in our government, our politics. The country is sharply divided, people cannot agree to disagree civilly; the word “secession” has been voiced! In the land of Jesus and John the Baptist, the Children of Abraham are each other’s throats! Even in our churches, there is fierce disagreements over liturgy, doctrine, pastoral approaches! How can we rejoice!?!

To which the Church responds, in the words of St. Paul; “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks,…”. Because God has been fulfilled His promises to His people. He has sent His Son, the Messiah, Jesus Christ; who showed us how we are live as children of God. By His death and resurrection, he has broken the chains of sin and death, and freed all of us. We are all now children of God, brothers and sisters, members of the Body of Christ. What the prophet Isaiah proclaimed in the first reading “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners,…!” It is a mission call for all of us, guided by the Holy Spirit!


So rejoice, because we have been given new life in Christ! Rejoice, because Christ is still with us, as the Word, in the Good News we read and hear proclaimed. Rejoice, because Christ is with us in the Eucharist. Rejoice, because Christ is with each us here and now, during these troubled times; that are in our world, and also within us, as we try come to terms with the stresses of life during a pandemic! And above all, rejoice, because Jesus has promised to come again, to bring all us into the Kingdom of his Father. So I say again, Rejoice!,

Giving Thanks!

Happy Thanksgiving!,

Alleluia!

I will thank the Lord with all my heart, in the meeting of the just and the assembly. Great are the works of the Lord, to be pondered by all who delight in them

You give food to those who revere you; you are mindful of your covenant forever. You have shown mighty works to your people by giving them the heritage of nations!” Psalm 111

Thanksgiving 2020! This will be a holiday that few will ever forget! A national holiday taking place during a deadly worldwide pandemic, in the midst of political turmoil, and a worsening economy! Yet, we would do well to remember this holiday, it’s roots and how it has developed. And why we should celebrate it.

The first recorded celebration of a day of Thanksgiving was said to be by the small group of Pilgrims at Plymouth colony. We forget that they were a religious group, dissenters of the Church of England, persecuted by officials of the Crown. They came to America, not for economic reasons, but for religious freedom. They found their way to Massachusetts Bay by accident. They had to build a settlement by scratch. Their first harvests were poor, many died by starvation and illness. They had a good harvest in 1621, and declared a day of thanksgiving to God for it. Yes, there was feasting, but also prayer.

During the Civil War, shortly after the Union victory at the Battle of Gettysburg, Lincoln declared a national day of giving thanks to God for preserving the Union. President Ulysses S. Grant signed an Act of Congress that made Thanksgiving a National Holiday.

The current pandemic is challenging us as a country; we long to be with family, yet, we need to do all we can to keep each other safe. That may mean being physically separated from each other. But whether we are able to communicate through the Web, by telephone, or by old fashion letter; we must not forget that we are united as a family.

And we must remember that we are all united in Jesus Christ. We are all tightly embraced by the Father. And He will give us the strength, the hope, and the faith to get through this. For this, we should give thanks!

“Most high, all powerful, all good Lord! All praise is yours, all glory, all honor. And all blessing.” The Canticle of Brother Sun – St. Francis of Assisi

Happy Feast Day of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, Patroness of the Secular Franciscan Order

“Father, you helped Elizabeth of Hungary to recognize and honor Christ in the poor of this world. Let her prayers help us help us to serve our brothers and sisters in time of trouble and need.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.”

From the Franciscan Supplement for Liturgy of Hours.

In times like the ones we are going through right now, we need St. Elizabeth’s example to inspire us; and her intercessions to strengthen us!

Feathered Parishioners

Waiting!

Feathered parishioners waiting for the 4:00 PM Mass to begin last Saturday at St. Peter’s Church in Plymouth, MA!

“All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all.

Each little flower that opens, each little bird that sings, God made their glowing colors, and made their tiny wings.

All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all.

All Things Bright and Beautiful, Text by Cecil Frances Alexander

Homily – Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

A long time ago, when I was in college, a group of us decided to go on a trip to climb one of the White Mountains. We rented a cabin and got an early start in the morning. I soon learned that I was not in shape for mountain climbing! I soon learned that I was not in shape for mountain climbing! I sat down on a rock outcropping, and told my companions to go own ahead, I would wait for them when they came back down. My classmates were not going to allow it. They literally dragged me up to the summit! And what a view awaited us, the beauty of the White Mountains range, it was breathtaking, it was a spiritual experience.

In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah is revealing a special mountain, the mountain of the Lord of the hosts. He calls on the people to climb the mountain, to reach the summit, and experience the joy of the Lord. There is promise of healing, the promise of a feast! Something like the feast Jesus described in his parable about the king and the wedding feast. He tells of a powerful king who is having a wedding feast for his son. He invites the important people of his kingdom to come, but they “diss” the king, they insult him by not coming. The king makes those people pay for their insults. And he then calls the common folk to come to the feast.

Many writers of the spiritual life use the metaphor of one climbing the mountain of the Lord, striving reach the summit. Climbing a mountain can be hard, very hard some. The same with striving to live the Gospel, it can be hard, full of challenges spiritually! Some of us may not bother, just stay where we are, live where we are. But if we open our hearts to the Holy Spirit, we can feel the pull to move on, we will have Jesus walking besides us helping us forward. Every moment we take the time to read and reflect on Scripture; every moment we enter into prayer, every time we come here to worship, to receive the Eucharist and experience intimately the presence of the Lord; we continue the journey upward, towards the summit. There have been those who gone before us, some living, some deceased, who have recorded the experience of their own climb, who can teach, but mostly inspire us onward. Jesus Christ, the King, calls out to us, “Behold, I have prepared my banquet, everything is ready, come to the feast!”

September 11th – Day of Remembrance

Our Lady of Sorrows 91119 years ago today, the United States was forever changed.  Terrorists hijacked four airliners, intending to make suicide attacks on certain institutions of the United States.  Two planes were crashed into the World Trade Center, in New York City, NY.  A third was plowed into the Pentagon, command central of the U.S. military, in Washington, DC.  On the fourth airplane, passengers and crew attempted to take back control of the plane, the terrorists dove the plane into the ground in Pennsylvania.  The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, from the structural damage caused by the crash, and the fires that followed, collapsed in on itself, killing all those trapped inside.  The Pentagon suffered severe damage, and many military and civilian personnel were either killed or injured.  All together, there was 2,977 victims of the attacks, who died.

On the day this happened, I was working in an office, in downtown Boston, MA.  I could listen on a radio, while I worked; so I was listening to public radio news.  I was shocked when I heard of the first plane crash into the Twin Towers.  The historian in me, remembered a similar crash in 1945; when a U.S. Army Air Corps bomber accidentally crashed into the Empire State Building.  But as time went on, and more stories came over the air waves, I could tell that what was happening was no accident.  Further down the street from where our office building was, was another building that housed the Boston Stock Exchange.  In front, they had a display window, that held large TV screens, showing news and how the markets were performing.  I could see a large crowd gathering in front that display window.  The size of the crowd extended out into the street.

Our bosses called us together, gave us a rundown of what was known, and told us to go home.  I stayed for a bit, I know it seems not to make any sense; but I was not going let any act of terror, keep me from doing my work.  It took a nervous call from my wife to get me to stop and leave the office.  Once outside our building, I found streets and sidewalks normally bustling with cars, trucks, and pedestrians, deserted.  Also, deserted was the train station.  The following mornings, when I would be waiting for the commuter train to take me into the city; I looked up into sky.  Normally, I would see a half a dozen contrails of airline jets flying to and from Logan International Airport.  That day, I only saw a few contrails, and they were circling overhead.  They were jet fighters.

There is not much more I remember of those days that followed the tragedy of 9/11.  I know I attended prayer services.  Prayer intentions for the victims and their families were mentioned at Masses I attended.  Little did I know what the long-term effects would be, resulting from those acts of terror.  Two wars, conflicts in the Middle East still being fought, with its share of dead, wounded and families shattered.  And there are still victims of the 9/11 attacks who are dying; dying from the cancers and other illnesses brought on by the smoke and contaminated dust from the Trade Center.

We are now struggling through another crisis; fighting a foe that is invisible, but very, very deadly. And to me, there is a different feeling throughout the country. We are not as united as we were once were against a common threat. Conflicts over individual rights versus the common wellbeing. A government on national, state and local levels splintered over politics; rather than the common good.

However, we still cannot forget those who lost their lives in the attacks; we must continue to remember them.  We must pray for and support the survivors; those who lost love ones; and those who are still trying to deal with the effects of those days on their minds and souls.  And honor to those first responders, in the past, today, and in the future; those who charge forward into danger, when others may flee.

I close this reflection with a prayer to Mary, Mother of Sorrows, asking her intercession for us all in these dangerous times:

Remember, most loving Virgin Mary, never was it heard that anyone, who turned to for help, was left unaided.  Inspired by this confidence, though burdened by my sins, I run to your protection for you are my mother.  Mother of the Word of God, do not despise my words of pleading, but be merciful and hear my prayer.  Amen.

 

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.  And let the perpetual light shine upon them.

And may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen.

Review of “Christ in Crisis” by Jim Wallis.

In the times we are in currently, all Christians need to read this. Those that do, may not agree, may even strongly disagree with Mr. Wallis; but his words may cause serious thought. Some of the serious questions it raised for me was, how closely do we ally ourselves to a particular government, a particular party? And will that alliance water down the Gospel message? We are challenged to reconsider what it means to be a practicing Christian in today’s world. I have doubts about my own strength, knowledge and faith! It calls for deep reflection and above all prayer.