Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Prologue of the Gospel according to John: Daily Mass Homily--Wednesday, December 31st, 2014 (7th day of Christmas)

(Listen to this homily here).

            This morning we heard one of the most beautiful and deep passages of the Bible—the Prologue of the Gospel according to John.
            This introduction to John’s account serves as an overture to the rest of his narrative.  One could also say it is a great summary of the whole Bible.  Several different themes emerge which are frequent in the rest of the book: light versus darkness, belief (which John writes of more than any other Gospel), testimony, grace, fulfillment, God versus the world.
            I would like to reflect for a moment on one of the key verses in the Prologue—indeed a key verse for the entire Bible.  John 1:14 states: “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”  This is the great mystery of the incarnation of Jesus Christ—that God became man, that God became a baby!
            What is really cool is to know that the phrase made his dwelling could also be translated as made his tent or made his tabernacle.  By coming as a man, Jesus is tenting or tabernacling among us.  Every time we come to church we see this reality continued in a different way—Jesus is still dwelling, tenting, tabernacling with us in his real presence in the Eucharist!
            We pray that we may live out the realities expressed in the Prologue of John.  In a particular way, as we come to Mass this Christmas day we recognize that Jesus still dwells among us in the Eucharist and ask for the grace to follow him faithfully.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Simeon and Anna's example of holiness: Daily Mass Homily--Tuesday, December 30th, 2014 (6th day of Christmas)

(Listen to this homily here).

            Every one of us is called to holiness—to be set apart from the world.  St. John, in his first letter, describes such a call.  Note how he addresses children, fathers, young men, children, fathers, young men—this is a sign of the universality of this call as he writes to various age groups.
            John speaks about what it means to be holy: “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.”  We are called to live in the world, but not be of it—to be set apart for God.
            Now for the Gospel—this is the third day in a row we have heard the same narrative about the presentation of Jesus in the temple from Luke 2.  We have now listened to the accounts of Simeon and Anna twice.  Both understood that the baby Jesus was the Savior.  Remember the words of Simeon from yesterday and Sunday?  Lord, now you let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled.  My own eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of every people: a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel.”  Anna “…gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.”
            Here is a question for you—how did Simeon and Anna know Jesus was the Christ?  Have you ever thought about that?  The fact is that Jesus, Mary and Joseph were not the only family with a little one in the temple—there may have been many families presenting their child to the Lord.  When we look at sacred art, Jesus often has a halo around his head—sometimes Mary does as well.  Well they didn’t have that gold orb when they were in the temple.  They were not walking around translucently or holding a poster!  How, then, did these two individuals perceive that God was in their midst under the appearance of a baby?
            Well, Simeon and Anna were both holy.  Remember that Anna, “…never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.”  Yesterday we were reminded that Simeon “…was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.”  Both of these mysterious figures were set apart, living lives completely for God.  Because of this their vision changed as they saw with eyes of faith.  They perceived what others milling in the temple did not.
            As we grow closer to God, a similar thing happens.  The closer we get to Jesus, the more our thoughts, actions, decisions and outlook of life changes.  We see God more in others, especially in the poor, hungry, homeless and destitute.  We see Him in nature and in our own hearts as our eyes of faith become sharper.  We seek to live in the world but not of it.
            As we continue to celebrate the octave of Christmas, may we allow God to separate us from the world and from sin.  May we take small, concrete steps to draw closer to God and so love Him with all our heart, mind and soul.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The darkest, yet brightest days of the year: Daily Mass Homily--Monday, December 29th, 2014 (5th Day of Christmas)

(Listen to this homily here).

            If my memory serves correctly, this is the coldest day we’ve had so far this winter.  The Old Man W is here to stay!  Yet what bugs me more about winter than the cold is the darkness.  After all, you can put on more layers, but you can’t turn on the sun!  December 21st—the winter solstice—is the shortest day of the year.  We had eight hours and seventeen minutes of daylight.  This means we had fifteen hours and forty-three minutes of dark!  I don’t know about you, but I always buy a jug of vitamin D gummies and pop those like candy.
            Of all people, we should get the image of light and darkness used in Mass today.  Remember the opening prayer?  “Almighty and invisible God, who dispersed the darkness of this world by the coming of your light…”  St. John wrote in his first letter, “And yet I do write a new commandment to you, which holds true in him and among you, for the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.”  (On this note, I love the fact that in the northern hemisphere, the days start getting longer during Christmas!).  John adds, “Whoever loves his brother remains in the light, and there is nothing in him to cause a fall.  Whoever hates his brother is in darkness…” 
            In the nunc dimmitis prayer (let your servant go) of Simeon, light is appealed to once more: “Lord, now let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled: my own eyes have seen the salvation which you prepared in the sight of every people, a light to reveal you to the nations, and the glory of your people Israel.”
            Walk in the light of Christmas today.  The light is where we become happy, holy and healthy.  In the darkness of winter, we may take vitamins, supplements or Prozac to feel better psychologically.  Unfortunately, there is no pill to prop us up in the faith!  We must rely on God’s grace to stay out of the darkness—this is where temptation and sin take hold.  Bask in the light—Jesus has come to brighten our day!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

New Year's Resolution: Parish Bulletin--12-28-14

            Merry Christmas and a happy new year!  Remember we continue our Christmas festivities through January 11th (the Solemnity of the Baptism of Jesus).  As retail stores and the media move on to Valentines Day, don’t forget to keep celebrating Christmas!
            As we move into a new year, it is a custom for many to have a new year’s resolution.  I challenge you to pick a resolution from what Matthew Kelly calls the four signs of a dynamic Catholic: prayer, study, generosity and evangelization.  Read the book The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic, or listen to the CD (we have both at the office) for a deeper understanding of these signs.  For the purposes of this article, here are a few questions to consider under each.
            If you want to improve in the first sign—prayer—do you pray every day?  Do you read your Bible?  Would you like to do a daily devotion, rosary or prayer with your family?  Do you come to Mass each week?  January 1st is a great time to give one of these a whirl.
            What about study?  We gave out 500 resources at our parish mission and another 500 at Christmas—have you read or listened to yours?  Do you participate in our parish Bible study or follow another series to help you grow in understanding our faith?  Have you ever researched topics in The Catechism of the Catholic Church?  2015 may be the year God is calling you to go deeper in your study of the faith!
            How generous are you?  Do you know how much of your income you give to charity, our parish or school?  What percentage would you like to give this year?  How can you budget to accomplish such a goal this year?  Are you generous with your time and talents with those in need or in helping our church facilities work?
            One of the most needed gifts in Catholic parishes around the country is a greater focus on evangelization.  Perhaps this is what you want to invest in this year.  Do you talk about your faith with your spouse or kids, relatives, coworkers or friends?  Do you pass along resources you receive from our parish?  Are you someone who people come to in crisis for hope? 
            I really appreciate Matthew Kelly’s approach to our faith.  He encourages us to take baby steps toward a realistic faith goal and move toward it daily and faithfully.  And why should we make such goals?  Kelly states that it helps us become the best version of ourselves.  That’s what you want.  That’s what I want for you.  That’s what God wants!
            Make a faith resolution and stick to it!
            God Bless!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Joy: Christmas Homily

(Listen to this homily here).

            Do you know what I learned on day one of seminary?  The bigger the crowd, the longer the homily.  Buckle up because it’s going to be a long one!
            Merry Christmas everyone.  I want to welcome all of our family, friends and visitors to Mass this evening.  I praise God you made it up here safely.
            I am overjoyed being with you this night—moments like this are why I am a priest.  We gather as a family, coming to Jesus in worship.  Whether you were here yesterday at daily Mass, or it has been many years, you are here and for that I am grateful!  We have babies, children, families, grandmas and grandpas.  What a great moment for our parish family.
What we are about today is joy.  Joy is the golden thread throughout the accounts of Jesus’ early life.  After Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel, Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit and proclaimed, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”  When Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth (who was also pregnant) John the Baptist leapt for joy in her mother’s womb because he perceived the savior’s presence.  The angels heralded the presence of the newborn King by telling the shepherds: “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
But joy isn’t reserved only for Christmas.  You know we have a new pope, right?  This Francis guy has been all over the news, and for good reason!  He has consistently promoted the need for joy in our Church and he has kicked butt.  Have you heard some of his challenges?  He told us we can’t be sourpusses!  (I don’t know the Italian word for this, but that’s the English translation!)  He said that we can’t live like we are always in Lent without Easter or look like we just got out of a funeral.  He even wrote a document called The Joy of the Gospel.  Pope Francis has made known that there is no room for crabby pants because we have nothing to be crabby about!  God became man—he became a baby to save us from our sins!
Have you ever stopped to think that God wants you to experience joy?  The Catholic Church wants you to be joyful!  I want you to be joyful!  We are called for more than what the world offers.  The world—secular society especially through the media—drives us to consumerism.  We see this most clearly this time of year.  We need more presents, more sales, more cars, more lights, more money, more, more, more!  Yet no matter what earthly goal we accomplish—getting a nice paycheck, a new car, a great party—we still yearn for something more.  We are made for more than what this world offers.
This is why we are giving each of you a gift—a stocking stuffer if you will.  It’s the book Made for More by Curtis Martin.  It’s a short read, and even includes pictures!  It’s one of the best books I’ve read as it succinctly explains why we can trust Jesus and why this matters for our life.  I mean, if we really believe Christmas is more than a cute story, if this Jesus guy is really God, this should make our lives very different!
I pray that Jesus fills you and your family’s hearts with joy this Christmas.  I pray that our parish will be saturated with joy, and that everyone who walks through our doors is welcomed with open arms.  I pray that the fact that God became one of us may open our hearts to worship Him as Lord of lords and King of kings.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Mary's role in fulfillment: Daily Mass Homily--Monday, December 22nd, 2014

(Listen to this homily here).

            We continue to see the theme of fulfillment at work in our readings.  While the primary Person we speak of in such ways is Jesus, note how our Blessed Mother is an active player in God’s redemptive plan.
            Hannah prefigured Mary’s role in salvation history.  Both Hannah and Mary bore a child in a miraculous way and then presented him to the Lord.  Both sang a hymn of thanksgiving.  In the Psalm we heard Hannah’s poetic prayer.  In the Gospel we heard the Canticle of Mary, a prayer that is offered by everyone who prays Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours every day.
            These two prayers have several sentiments in common.  The first is gratitude to God, from Whom all good things come: Hannah exclaims: “My heart exults in the LORD, my horn is exalted in my God.”  Mary similarly prays, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”
            The second is a complete reversal of what it means to be rich.  Both women pray that those who are rich in earthly matters will be cast out, while the poor and hungry are to be nourished.  Jesus proved these words to be true.  He was not rich according to earthly standards (even though many thought he would be).  He was born in a manger, poor and concerned only of spiritual richness.
            We continue to ask God to help us enter the great paradox of Christmas—God becomes man, the master becomes the slave and spiritual richness replaces the earthly.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Fulfillment: 4th Sunday of Advent

(Listen to this homily here).

Last week I preached about two words—reflect and rejoice.  Today I want to leave you with one: fulfillment.
            Listen again to the words we heard from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans: “To him who can strengthen you, according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages but now manifested through the prophetic writings and, according to the command of the eternal God, made known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith…”
            The mystery kept secret for long ages is God’s rescue plan for us.  I loved Bishop Sirba’s image from the homily he gave at our parish mission—a GPS.  When we take a wrong turn, a GPS recalculates and puts us on the right path.  This is what God has done for us since the very beginning.
            After the original sin of Adam and Eve, God already began to reveal His plan of redemption.  In the first book of the Bible, Genesis, from the third chapter and fifteenth verse God says, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
            God continues this rescue mission over centuries.  Slowly—very slowly—He builds up His family.  In Adam and Eve He had a couple.  Through Noah He had a family.  In Abraham he acquired a tribe.  In Moses He built a nation and in David He established a kingdom.  Each step of the way God forged covenants with His people, promising them land, protection and redemption.  We heard one example of these promises in 2nd Samuel today: “The LORD also reveals to you that he will establish a house for you.  And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm.  I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me.”
            Keep these words in mind and listen to the voice of the angel Gabriel, whose appearance to Mary comes at the brink of fulfillment: “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
            Jesus, the Son of the Most High.  The son of David.  The ruler of God’s house and family.  The Messiah.  Emmanuel—God is with us.  Fulfillment.
            God, be with us as we conclude the season of Advent that we may be prepared for the coming of your Son into our hearts.

Welcoming Catholics at Christmas: Parish Bulletin--12-21-14

We’re going with a two part Babblings due to the end of Advent and the beginning of Christmas!

To our regulars reading this on December 20th-21st:
Did you know that in our country, one-third of those born Catholic no longer come to Church?  One of the main reasons why—they don’t feel welcome by the congregation on Sundays.
Christmas is one of the greatest times to welcome back our friends, family and neighbors to our parishes.  I want to challenge you to go out of your way to make our visitors feel right at home.  By the time our guests get into the pews, I pray the doors they entered were held open for them, they’ve heard “Merry Christmas” a dozen times, they’re hands have been shaken and they’ve experienced the joy of Christmas lived out.
Help those who are not regular Mass goers want to come back this weekend!

To everyone joining us for worship on Christmas:
            Merry Christmas!  We gather this Christmas season “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called ‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’” 
Whether you joined us yesterday for worship or it’s been a while longer, know you are most welcome coming to the heart and soul of our faith—Mass.
If it’s been a while, welcome home!  You return to a 2000 year old family that spans the globe and has 1.228 BILLION members!  Our Church has fed more of the hungry, cared for more of the sick, taught more of the ignorant and ministered to more people than any other human organization.
Are you looking to be fed?  To find true joy?  This is the place for you.  While the world offers fleeting pleasures—drugs, alcohol, immorality, greed, power, fame—Christ offers the only thing that satisfies: Himself.
You are made for more than what this world offers.  As a sign of our gratitude for joining us for Mass, we are giving you a book with the same title: Made for More by Curtis Martin.  It is an insightful (and quick) read that helps you consider who Jesus really is and what this means for your life.
On behalf of St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Columban parishes I am grateful you joined us to celebrate Christmas.  I speak for our community and the priests from which you come—we hope to see you here this weekend…you are always welcome!
God Bless!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

St. Joseph's role in Christmas: Daily Mass Homily--Thursday, December 18th, 2014

(Listen to this homily here).   

            Sometimes we overlook St. Joseph during this time of year.  Indeed, there is not one word from Joseph’s mouth recorded in the Bible!  On a side note, I sometimes feel sorry for St. Joseph.  He lived with two sinless people—Mary and Jesus.  If anything went wrong in the house, it was his fault!
            Yet St. Joseph had some amazing qualities.  First was his great love of Mary and Jesus.  Remember how Fr. Brandon talked about different levels of love?  Passionate love, friendly love and self-sacrificing love?  I’m sure Joseph experienced each type towards the woman to whom he was betrothed—Mary.  But when he found out she was with child he protected her from a punishment of death.  He wanted to divorce her quietly, giving up his hopes and dreams for the sake of his beloved.  That’s true love—agape love!
            Joseph was a man of deep faith.  He had a dream that an angel was speaking to him.  Instead of waking up and saying (as I frequently do after dreaming), “What was that about?  What did I eat yesterday?” he did as he was told.  He understood this was a genuine message from God.  To discern God’s voice in this way meant that Joseph was a man of deep faith, dedicated to prayer and Jewish worship.
            It is interesting that out of the four Gospels, only Matthew and Luke record Jesus’ birth.  In Matthew Joseph takes the lead role in the story—in Luke our Blessed Mother does.  These two accounts must be read in concert as we see how the Holy Family got its start.
            Jesus, Mary and Joseph, pray for us!

Family tree of Jesus: Daily Mass Homily--Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 (School Mass)

(Listen to this homily here).

            That was quite a long list of names we heard in the Gospel!  I’ll give someone ten bucks if you can give me three of those names now.  [2nd grade student immediately raises her hand and says] Jesse, Abraham and Isaac.  Wow.  Great job!  [Yes, I did square up with this student at the end of Mass!  I also made a mental note to remember how smart kids are.]
            This list, full of long names—many of whom we don’t recognize—gives the family tree of Jesus.  It would be like saying “John was the father of Richard, Richard was the father of John who was the father of Ben (me!)”.  I have a cool poster in my office that gives Jesus’ entire family tree.  Would anyone want to memorize this?!
            Such lists are called genealogies.  While they may seem uninteresting to us, they were very important to the people of the Old Testament.  They showed where they were from and how God worked throughout their generations. 
So why is the list of Jesus’ ancestors given in the Gospel of Matthew?  The Old Testament prophets and authors frequently said that the Messiah would come from Judah and in the line of king David.  Matthew, in the first verses of his account, shows that Jesus is a descendant of David and the tribe of Judah!  Jesus was the fulfillment of these ancient prophecies!
We gather this morning as we prepare for Christmas.  Many many many people waited for Jesus to come and he finally did.  Every year at Christmas we celebrate his birthday.  Have a blessed rest of Advent and a very merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Greatest Story Ever Told Session #10: Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah

(Listen to this session here).

We continue working through the third section of the Bible--the prophets.  Having covered three of the four major prophets last week, we begin with the last major prophet, Daniel.  We then move into the minor prophets and look at Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah.  Note that the term minor does not imply "unimportant"--just shorter works.  Themes in these books include God's fidelity, judgment of sin, necessity of serving the poor, proclamation of fidelity to God and the metaphor of marriage to describe God's relationship with His people.

Don't be self-righteous!: Daily Mass Homily--Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

(Listen to this homily here).

            Jesus’ strongest critiques were directed at the self-righteous.  One of my favorite lines from the Gospels: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” 
This principle of Jesus is also seen in the Old Testament.  This morning we heard a stern warning from God: “…then will I remove from your midst the proud braggarts…”
We must always be careful about becoming self-righteous. 
We must never judge, especially our Catholic and Christian brothers and sisters.  How often do we think to ourself, “She never comes to Church—she’s a bad Catholic” or, “He doesn’t believe that yet he comes to Church?  How dare he!”?  Jesus reminds the hypocrites who didn’t believe in him, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God before you.”  Would he say the same about you or me today?
Judgment belongs to God alone.  We may never know what is going on in a person’s life, which is why it is so important to welcome people into the fullness of our faith rather than beat people up with it.

Star and staff: Daily Mass Homily--Monday, December 15th, 2014

(Listen to this homily here).

            This past summer I read my new favorite novel—Ben-Hur by Lew Wallace.  It was a fascinating plot that paralleled the life of the main character—Ben-Hur—with Jesus.  The main questions of the book—who was this Jesus from Nazareth?  Was he the Messiah?  What did this mean?
The story begins in a desert as the wise men were led by God to see the newborn King.  Wallace portrayed in detail this journey, which captured my imagination in picturing how the real wise men followed the star. 
Towards the beginning of the novel, the Jewish Sanhedrin was convoked due to the speculation about the arrival of the Messiah.  They diligent searched the Scriptures to discern where the Messiah should have been born.  The answer?  Bethlehem.
            While this book was fiction, we would agree that the Old Testament pointed to Bethlehem as the place of Jesus’ birth.  The prophets especially nailed many features of Jesus’ life: he would be born of a virgin, of the tribe of Judah, of the line of David and would eventually suffer and die.
            We heard one of these remarkable foreshadows this morning from the mysterious prophet Balaam: “A star shall advance from Jacob, and a staff shall rise from Israel.”  Certainly the reference to a star makes sense when considering the star over Bethlehem.  Additionally, the writers of the Old Testament saw such things as stars, the moon and sun as heavenly beings.  This star—a heavenly being—would be coming to earth!
            When a Jewish reader read the second part of this line, they would immediately think of Moses.  Moses and Aaron used the staff to do miraculous deeds and lead God’s people out of Egypt.  It was a symbol for priesthood, prophecy and leadership.  Jesus fulfilled all three.
            As Christmas approaches, the Church continues to give us Old Testament readings to point to Jesus Christ.  Soak them in.  Use them as fodder for prayer.  The man the Old Testament pointed to is the same one that was born on Christmas. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Reflect and Rejoice: 3rd Sunday of Advent

(Listen to this homily here).

            A blessed Gaudete Sunday to you.
            As we are halfway through Advent, I have a two-question pop-quiz for you.  Don’t answer out loud!  In considering how Advent is going for you, have you given something up?  How has that been?  Have you been spending ten minutes a day in quiet prayer?  Have you found a time to commit to this?  What is working for you?
            Like a sports team at halftime, this is the time to consider the first half of this season.  Think about what has gone well.  Where could you improve?  Make adjustments for the second half!
            Earlier this week I listened to a homily by Fr. Robert Barron.  If you’re into podcasts, I highly recommend following his at The Word on Fire.  He spoke about how Advent is not a quaint, cute or comfortable season.  Rather, it is revolutionary.
            Following this line of thought, I would like to leave you with two words this morning: reflect and rejoice.
            First, consider the following thought experiment.  It’s a bit dismal, but bear with me.  Imagine that something like 911 happens in International Falls.  Our city has been destroyed.  Our church, schools, medical facilities have been burned to the ground.  Many of us have been killed and the rest have been separated and exiled into a foreign land.  There we are forced to learn a new language, follow a different religion and are forced to submit to different cultural practices.  How would you survive?  What would you experience?
            Now imagine that after a long period of time, we are told we could return home.  What would this be like?
            This is precisely the situation the Israelites faced when Isaiah preached the Word of God to them.  John the Baptist quoted from Isaiah, “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert,‘make straight the way of the Lord…’  Raise the valleys, level the mountains…you are going home!  Sprint home!
            I suspect this reality left the Israelites with both reflection and rejoicing.  I suspect they reflected the many tragedies they had experienced.  They would do so with sadness at what was lost but hope for a new future back in their own country.  This hope would cause them to rejoice.
            Brothers and sisters, our human family has experienced a greater tragedy than any attack, war or devastation we have faced.  God brought us into being in paradise—in a garden.  Yet our first parents turned away from God and sinned.  We cannot underestimate the devastation this caused.  Before the fall, death did not exist.  Before the fall, our minds and bodies were in perfect harmony.  Our personal experience knows this is no longer the case.  Prior to sin we lived righteously with God, each other and even with nature.  Sin has left us with darkened intellects, weakened wills and disordered passions.
We have been in exile for thousands and thousands of years.  On the threshold of Christmas, John the Baptist echoes the words of Isaiah, “Prepare the way of the Lord!”  The Lord is coming and he shows us the way home to paradise!
We pause midway through Advent to think about on our journey of faith.  How have we experienced the devastation of sin, weakness or tragedy?  In what ways do we hope for Jesus?  What do we want to surrender to him?
Today we reflect.  Today we rejoice.  Jesus is coming.

"His" or "God"?: Parish Bulletin--3rd Sunday of Advent

            I pray your Advent is going well as we continue to prepare for Christmas.  Thank you for all who participated in and helped put on our mission last week.  What a blessed time…God is good! 
I have been thinking about one of the themes from David Walsh’s talk—that we can trust in Jesus Christ and the Church he established.  Specifically, I would like to apply this principle of trust to something I have noticed in Mass.
            Think of your response after the priest says, “Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours may acceptable to God, the almighty Father.”  You respond: “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his holy Church.”  I put the pronoun his in bold because at times I have heard his replaced with God’s (i.e. “…for the praise and glory of God’s name, for our good and the good of all God’s holy Church”).
            Why address this seemingly minor issue?  Three reasons…
            The first is that our worship needs to remain united.  If I can hear this discrepancy so can you. 
            The second is that it is not up to individuals (lay faithful, priests and even a bishop) to change words in the Mass.  The Church presents the texts of the Mass to us and we can trust the Church.
            The third is that we may refer to God in prayer and worship with the pronouns he or his.  Does this imply that God is a male?  No!  God is pure spirit and thus does not have a gender.  In fact, all good traits of both male and female genders come from God’s goodness. 
            Yet consider that God sent his son to earth to reveal more fully the inner workings of the Trinity.  And how did Jesus refer to God?  Primarily as Father (Jesus refers to God as Father 186 times in the Gospels)!  We do the same all the time.  Each time we make the sign of the cross we pray, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  We begin the greatest prayer ever by saying, “Our Father…”  We can trust Jesus’ understanding of God far more than our own and this applies to our prayers at Mass.
            With this stated, please pray in the words given at Mass.  I realize habitual prayers are hard to change (remember how long it took to memorize the Mass parts when the newest translation came out?) but give it your best!
            God Bless!