Sunday, December 10, 2017

Lessons from St. John the Baptist for Advent

He didn’t look like them. He didn’t talk like them. He was not part of the crowd that had always held power. But the people listened, and followed.

John the Baptist dressed in camel’s hair and had a leather belt. He didn’t dress like the Scribes, Pharisees and the Temple priests. John the Baptist talked about change that was certainly coming. The thing is for the change to take place, it was the people who had to change.
If there is going to be no more war, then people need to stop hating others. If there is going to be charity and care for all, then people needed to look inside their hearts and pull out the justice of God that resides there. If there is going to be change, then people needed to change. “Prepare for the Lord,” John the Baptist proclaimed. “Prepare for the Lord by preparing yourselves.”

And the people from throughout the Judean countryside and the inhabitants of Jerusalem went out to the Jordan River where John was preaching. And they confessed their sins. And they were baptized. And the change had begun. We all want our country and our world to be better. We all want a cure for cancer and AIDS and malnutrition, and every ailment or condition that is killing people. We all want the poor to be cared for. We all want an end to war and the poor to be cared for. We all want an end to violence. We all want peace. But what are we doing about it?

The heart of John the Baptist’s message is about it? The heart of John the Baptist’s message is that if we want change, if we really want the One who will reform the world and return mankind to God’s original plan, then we need to change. This is tough. It is just so much easier to sit back and expect the world to change, other people to change. But if we really want change we can believe in, the we need to change.
Every year we lament about how society is trying to destroy the meaning of Christmas. We are saddened that a spiritual celebration has been transformed into a series of parties. And we should be sad, but, perhaps, we should all be more concerned with how we ourselves plan to celebrate Christmas. More than that, we should be more concerned with how we are celebrating Advent.

What exactly are we doing to prepare the world for Jesus Christ? John the Baptist tells us to look within ourselves, change our own attitudes, and then trust God to allow this change to have a part in the transformation the world. Change will only take place if we are the ones who change. And Advent is a particularly Marian season. It’s hard to think of Jesus being born in Bethlehem without the image of Mary His Mother coming to mind. As we journey though this season, let us take her as our guide in preparing the way for the Lord.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Thanking God for His Eucharistic Presence

Thanksgiving, what a wonderful time of  year.  Families and friends come together to share in an abundant feast, sharing each others' company and reminiscing about the good things that have been received or that have happened within the year.  Thanksgiving certainly is a time to reflect on the many blessings we have received from God, especially ones we take for granted everyday.  By thanking God for His bountiful blessings, we ourselves grow in the spirit of generosity, becoming like Him in the gift of giving of ourselves to Him and others.
Best part of all about “Thanksgiving” is that Catholics not only celebrate it as a national holiday in November, but every Sunday or, for some, everyday.  By celebrating the Eucharist, we give thanks to God for the salvation won for us by Christ's death on the cross.  “We carry out this command of the Lord by celebrating the memorial of his sacrifice.  In doing so, we offer to the Father what he himself  has given us: the gifts of his creation, bread and wine which, by the power of the Holy Spirit  and by the words of Christ, have become the body and blood of Christ.  Christ is thus really and mysteriously made present.”  (CCC 1375)  Is it not amazing how  the words of consecration said by the priest, make Jesus Christ present under the form of bread and wine!  This is a very special gift Catholics should appreciate: to know that Jesus is giving Himself completely to his church at all times in order to help us.
“The Eucharist is a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father, a blessing by which the Church expresses her gratitude to God for all his benefits, for all that he has accomplished through creation, redemption, and sanctification.  Eucharist means first of all 'thanksgiving.'” (CCC 1360)  This is what we do each time we come to Mass, and it should be the first thing we do too, after we receive Jesus.  It is through the Eucharist that we are able to participate with Jesus to fully give thanks to the Father for everything; which includes not just material things, but also circumstances, events and people.  As St. Paul puts it, “In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” (1Thessalonians 5:18)
We must always remember to give thanks to God for all that we have whether it is big or small.  The next time we go to Mass let's reflect on the favors God has given us so that we too, can imitate and share His goodness with others.