Monthly Archives: December 2017

A Thursday Reflection 12.21.17

For this last reflection in 2017 (yes, “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” will resume in 2018), I am neither going to create a Christmas message that oozes with “sweetness and light” because, frankly, it’s not reality.  Nor will I play the role of a crude Mr. Scrooge and give you all a “bah humbug” since the power of Jesus and what we celebrate at the Feast of the Incarnation is so wonderful that I refuse to play the role of cantankerous curmudgeon!

But my friends, my sisters and brothers, let’s keep focused on what is terribly and truly important: the “message” of Christmas is the Message of Easter!  This fact of remembering that God chose to become enfleshed in a human body and thus into human history is a call to remember that every aspect of the Christmas story points to a deeper reality marking the greatest mystery of all: The Death and Resurrection of Jesus for our Salvation.

Don’t forget that a child born into poverty and for whom no one would share hospitality prefigured a time when a popular peasant preacher would be turned on by the crowd of supposed followers and abandoned by his own.  And who stepped up to shelter him then?  And just as the machinations of a corrupt emperor forces a young family to migrate to be registered, so the decisions of a corrupt Procurator will bring about this child’s death as an adult.  As the baby would be laid to rest and bound on to a wooden feeding trough (“manger”), so one day he would be bound to another harsher piece of wood (“cross”).

But never forget that if the place of his birth is seen as a CAVE where no one human should be (only animals hung out there), so his intended final resting place (another cave) would become the site of mystery and light, redemption and reconciliation: from that cave would emerge He who IS the way, truth and LIFE.  Born in a cave / resurrected from a cave.

And finally, in both cases, those who are totally “other” than we – call them “angels,” call them messengers of the Divine – proclaim the Good News.  The announcement to Shepherds of the child’s birth (“Today is born for you a Savior”) and to the women who had come to anoint his broken dead body at the empty tomb (“He is not here.  He is risen.”) is the same message:   Do NOT be afraid!  Be at PEACE.  REJOICE.  Your God is greater than human evil. And God’s “redeeming grace” is far more powerful than human tragedy.

Please don’t forget what we celebrate each Christmas:  A memory of Jesus that prefigures His (and our) most important moment.  And don’t forget that no matter the darkness of our world, that He has been born for us, and lived for us, and taught us, and died for us and rose from the dead to give us life.  And what better gift could we possibly need or be given this or any season of the year!


Fr Joe

A Thursday Reflection 12.14.17

I often preach about opening your ears to actually listen to God speaking to you.  Lest you think that this is a merely academic exercise, let me explain how this works – and let me be the example of being hard of hearing!
Since my medical “adventure” these past weeks, I have been trying to ignore the unpleasant (to me) truth that for the time being, while I am still “recovering,” I need to slow down and not “do” as much as I usually do.  I must deal with change. There is a weight restriction on what I can lift.  I am forbidden to shovel snow (or anything else).  I must come to grips with an 11th commandment: “Thou shall no longer eat anything that either tastes good or once had a soul.”  I am likely to pass on some evening meetings if strength disappears.
Not only must I deal with “change,” I am told that I must let others “do” for me, for a little while anyway.  And while I try my best to hide all this, I am grumbling within.  Obviously, this is a rather busy time in a parish’s yearly cycle of events.  There is also the wrap up of expectations and demands from being an adjunct seminary professor.  Don’t forget family responsibilities.  Don’t tell me to “not do” things!!!
But this is exactly the entire point of Advent – and God has been screaming at me.  What is it we celebrate but a fact involving a truth who is a person!   What Advent celebrates is the fact that humans cannot make things right with each other or their God.  Never have; never will!  All that must be “done,” has been done for us in the coming of the incarnate God who is “the way, the truth and the life” for us.  The daily and Sunday readings from Holy Scripture are really in your face reminding, me at least, that none of the people we remember and none of the events we celebrate were initiated by human desire or caused by human ability.  It is God who does: we simply ARE the recipients of “his redeeming grace.”
Through these weeks, I have to keep listening to the haunting themes of O Come O Come Emmanuel because I am the one who needs to be “ransomed” from my foolish beliefs that the world is all about me or that I have to make everything right for everyone.  God has done this already.  I need to be silent, and to listen, and to learn to let God love me.  –  Any of this ring true for you???

– Fr. Joe

A Thursday Reflection 12.7.17

I want to do a little Bible Study 101.  It’s too easy to hear (or read) a text of Scripture so often that we lose its significance or we are closed to new possibilities.  Let me show you how a change in punctuation leads to a change of meaning which can enrich our spiritual lives.
Remember, punctuation is a modern construct!  Ancient texts written in Hebrew, Aramaic and koine Greek do not have punctuation. When John the Baptist begins to preach to people and calling for them to look at their lives, he refers to himself and quotes from the Prophet Isaiah.  But did he say:
(1)    the voice of one crying in the wilderness:   prepare the way of the Lord.
(2)     the voice of one crying:    in the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord.
Bible texts usually print and we usually hear the first line.  But what if John is telling them (and us) that to prepare a place for God in your life, you need to listen to that voice but you have to listen in a different place.  Maybe due to our crazed, time consumed, frenetic, overly consumer, ridiculously secular, obsessive, harsh, text filled, non-communicative world of ours, we need to get away from all the noise, find a place of “wilderness” and make a space for God in our lives.
This season is not about saccharine Hallmark TV Christmas films, or running about trying to find the perfect gift for that imperfect person in your life.  It is about preparing for the one who has come in history and whom we believe will once again come to make things right.   It is about redemption and belief in a God who has loved us more than we are able to love each other.  It is about preparing for God’s presence in your life.  You might need to go to a quiet desolate spot – figuratively speaking – to hear that voice.   But I guarantee you: the trip is worth it.

– Fr. Joe