Archive for the ‘1st Sunday’ Category

The Best I Could With What I Have 11-28-2031

Monday, November 22nd, 2021

I saw a movie once where there was a man being pulled in 2
different directions. One arm being pulled by an angel in a white outfit
with wings. The other arm pulled by a devil all equipped with a red
outfit and horns. “Do this,” one would say. “No do not, do that,” the
other would shout. The guys head was spinning and spinning.
I feel like this guy when I start thinking about Advent and
Christmas. Bring up 3 people to help demonstrate being pulled apart.
A. On one side the Church is pulling, reminding me it is Advent
again. Blue vestments, Advent wreaths, four candles, and special
environment. A time of patient waiting. Special preparations for the Re-
birth of Jesus in our life. All good stuff.
B. On the other side, Christmas carols 2 days after Thanksgiving,
advertisements everywhere, “buy this, buy now, pay later”, Christmas
decorations and parties and Santa Clauses everywhere. It is like we
skipped from Thanksgiving to Christmas in one day. Being pulled apart. I know for me I want to use the next 3 or 4 weeks, we call Advent,
to deepen my relationship with Jesus Christ. I want to be more aware of
where Christ is present in my everyday life.
I also know I will get caught up in the Christmas frenzy. That will
be ok and a lot of fun. With that being said, I want Christmas to be
different this year.
I remember one Christmas a few years back that was very different
for me. My perspective was changed by an automobile accident. 5
innocent and unsuspecting people were killed in a head-on collision.
(Snap fingers) It shook me and many others. I thought to myself, “that
could have been me”. “That is the same road I travel to go see my mom.”
It could have been me. This experience caused me to ask myself some
significant questions. Maybe I need to ask them again during Advent
2021? Perhaps you could ask them to yourself?
1. Has my life on the earth made a difference for the better?
2. Am I doing the best I can to develop and share the gifts and talents God has given me? 3. What are my priorities? Are God and my family in the top 3?
4. Are there relationships or some area of my life that needs
healing? Needs to change for the better?
5. The final question. Do I need to forgive someone? Do I need to
forgive myself? Do I believe God could never forgive me?
Pick one or two of these questions and spend a few minutes
thinking about your answers. Be honest. Ask God to help you make the
changes you need to make now! Those few minutes might be the best
way to make Christmas different this year. Pray for me as I try to do this
and I will pray for you.

Do We Need Lent? 2-21-2021

Sunday, February 21st, 2021

Someone asked me, do we need Lent? A good question.
There was a time, of course, when all Christians thought they
didn’t need Lent. After all, they had been baptized; they were filled with
the Holy Spirit and lived life quite differently from the pagans. The first
real Lenten people were not Christians, but those preparing to become
Christians. But all of that changed when the old-timers in the Christian
community noticed something remarkable at the Easter baptism. They
were struck by the joy and the radiant faces of those just baptized. They
realized that they had become too ho-hum in their faith and decided to
do something about it. And so, the next year, some Christians began to
join the catechumens in their preparation for baptism at Easter. They did
this so that they could feel once again the joy of rebirth at Easter. And
that’s how Lent gradually came to the church, out of need.
The liturgy for this First Sunday of Lent focuses on a need that
Jesus had before he began to save the world. Even though he had just been baptized and was “full of the Holy Spirit,” he felt a need to go into
the desert. In the desert Jesus realized who he was and what he was
called to do. But in the desert, Jesus learned that God cannot be bought
and that life is more than bread or fleeting moments of magic and glory.
One Ash Wednesday, a few years ago, while I was wondering how
to face another Lent, I received a phone call from a former player I
coached. He was now a struggling graduate student. The young man was
crying out for help. When I got to his apartment, I found a tortured
person, filled with self-doubt and booze. Eventually, I got him to go to
his first AA meeting. But even though he was an alcoholic, he told me
that he couldn’t go back to another AA meeting because, “I’m not like
those people.” I’ve never forgotten that line, “I’m not like those people.”
It taught me that the first temptation to avoid is to convince yourself that
somehow you are different, that you don’t share the pain of life, that you
don’t need to go into the desert.
The early Christians, even though they were baptized and
convinced of their importance, learned from the desert experience of Lent that they too were in need of renewal and of finding out who they were and who God was calling them to be. Jesus, just baptized by John
and “full of the Holy Spirit,” went into the desert and came out with a
gospel and a firm faith in his Father that he would take to Cavalry.
My young friend was wrong. We are like those people who share a
common struggle and a common pain. We are all driven by some
doubts. We sometimes make choices about the most important events of
our lives without reflection, without faith, without prayer, without God.
We cannot force Lent upon ourselves. Each of us must find a need for it,
a need to go into the desert and face both our gifts and our limits, a need
to face ourselves, our demons, our God. For those who ask the question,
do we need Lent? Trust me – we do! Let’s go into the desert together
and see what we find.

First Sunday of Advent 11-29-2020

Sunday, November 29th, 2020

It’s been a long year of waiting: waiting to determine the depth of
the danger, waiting for a sense of how long, and waiting for clear
directions as to what to do next.
For some, the waiting has been especially excruciating: waiting
and hoping that our loved one will survive – for some families, that hope
crashed into grief.
Many have lost hope that their jobs will ever return and are
desperate for some sense of what to do next.
Now, as winter begins, we continue to wait: for a vaccine, for a
return to normal, for the next crisis.
Yes, the waiting has been painful and distressing. But, for many of
us, this pandemic Advent has also been a time of change and conversion:
We’ve grown closer to our families. We have a new appreciation of
those who work hard – and mostly unnoticed – to keep open the services
we need to function. We’ve realized that God has raised up many saints
in our midst, courageous and brave prophets clad in PPE. And we understand as we’ve never understood before how much we need one
another and can’t wait to re-connect with family and neighbors and
friends and classmates live, in person, not on a screen via Zoom or
Skype.
This year of 2020 has been one long Advent – and it’s not over.
But is has been an Advent of discovery, of awareness, of insight; an
Advent for seeing with new hearts and spirits God in our midst.
The late Father Henri Nouwen wrote that our lives are a continuing
Advent, an Advent in which “the Lord is coming, always coming. When
you have ears to hear and eyes to see, you will recognize him at any
moment of your life. Life is Advent; life is recognizing the coming of
the Lord”. Waiting is often the cost of love: in waiting we realize our
powerlessness; we realize our deepest hopes and wants; we realize the
gift of those we love in our lives. As we struggle through this especially
difficult Advent of 2020, may we open our homes and hearts to the light
of God’s compassion and peace in these dark, difficult days. Amen