Sunday Bulletin for January 7, 2018

The Epiphany of the Lord

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Fr. Tim’s Homily for December 31, 2017

Feast of the Holy Family-B

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Genesis 15:  1-6; 21:  1-3

Hebrews 11: 8, 11-12, 17-19

Luke 2: 22-40

 

A woman writes about a Christmas pageant that some children performed.  At the end, the angels and the shepherds and the wise men all exited the stage.  Joseph and Mary started to follow them, when suddenly Mary darted back to the manger, picked up the baby Jesus by the foot and then ran off the stage.

The woman said that scene inspired this thought:  that sometimes we can get so busy with Christmas activities that we can leave the Christ Child behind.  So the Church gives us several feast days following Christmas to help us reflect upon the great gift the world received at Bethlehem.

Our secular world was pretty much done celebrating Christmas at midnight on December 25.  But in the Church, the Christmas season just opened with the first Mass on Christmas Eve, and it is still going on.

This weekend we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  Monday is New Year’s Day, which is not a holyday of obligation this year, and we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God.  Next weekend we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, with the coming of the Magi – the wise men.  And Monday, January 8, is the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus, which closes the Christmas season.

So the Church provides us with lots of opportunities to reflect upon the gift of our Savior.

The Scriptures today offer us two lessons that I would like to highlight.

The first one is that God always keeps His promises.

After Adam and Eve had sinned God promised to send a Savior.  The first reading, from the Book of Genesis, and the second reading, from the Letter to the Hebrews, tell us that as part of His plan, God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations.   And Abraham’s numerous descendants followed – all the way down to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  God keeps His promises.

In the Gospel today from Luke, we hear about Simeon who was “righteous and devout.”  God had promised Simeon that “he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.”

Now picture this scene.  Here is Simeon, by now an old man, in the temple where he regularly was.  Through the front doors of the temple come Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus, forty days after He was born in Bethlehem.  Being devout Jewish people, they followed the law and brought Jesus to the temple to present Him to the Lord.

Simeon saw them, and he went over to Mary and Joseph and asked, “May I hold your Baby?”  And Simeon knew who it was that he was holding.  This was the Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah.

That was a very tender moment:  the old man Simeon holding the Baby Jesus in the presence of Mary and Joseph.  I think of that scene so often when I baptize a baby and then afterwards the parents ask me to hold their child.

Simeon knew that God had been faithful to him.

God keeps His promises.

The second lesson follows:  God does not always promise us a rose garden.

Simeon then said to Mary, “This child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel.”  In other words, “Dear Mother, a sword of sorrow will pierce your heart.”

Imagine a priest or a deacon saying that to you on the day of your child’s Baptism.

The very same Jesus who was born in Bethlehem is the very same Jesus who died upon the cross for us.

Still, God keeps His promises, but His promises do not always lead to a rose garden.

Jesus did not receive a rose garden either.  Instead He was given the Garden of Gethsemane:  the garden of blood, sweat and tears.  But it would lead to His resurrection.  There is a manger in our faith, and there is a cross in our faith.  Still, God keeps His promises.

Isaac Watts was born in 1674.  He was afflicted with a fever later on in life that left him as an invalid.  With deteriorating health and no hope of recovery, Isaac Watts penned the text for a Christmas carol that George Frideric Handel set to music:  “Joy to the World.”

Isaac Wattts still believed that God was faithful to him even when the pathway was not through a garden of roses.  But God was there with him.  And so, even in the midst of his illness, Isaac Watts could still write, “Joy to the world – the Lord is come!  Let earth receive her king.”

On this Feast of the Holy Family, we look at Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  And we want to be sure that we don’t leave the Christ Child behind in all of our holiday celebrating.

God keeps His promises, even though they do not always lead to a rose garden.  Still, God promises to be with us always, in the person of His divine Son, Jesus.

And that guarantee, brothers and sisters, should bring joy to us and “joy to the world.”

 

 

Fr. Tim’s Homily for December 25, 2017


CHRISTMAS DAY

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Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

There had been a terrible mining accident.  A reporter asked one of the rescue workers, “Are you going down there?  It is so dangerous!”  And the rescue worker replied, “There are several people trapped in that mine who need to be saved.  Yes, I’m going down there.”

I can imagine one of the angels saying to the Son of God before He became flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, “Are you really going down there to that world that is so full of sin and death, where many people will not listen to you, and some of them will kill you?  Are you really going down there?”  And the Son of God replying, “My people need me to be with them and to save them.  Yes, I’m going down there.”

Because Jesus came down from heaven and was born for us of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem, He has transformed our world forever.  How so?

Jesus brings His light into this world of darkness.  That is why, in this darkest season of the year in our hemisphere, we light up our homes at Christmas time.  We are proclaiming that Christ is our Light.  He has conquered the darkness of sin and death.

An artist was painting a winter scene. There were mountains and evergreens covered with snow and a house in the center.  When the artist dipped her brush into the yellow paint and put a flame on the candle in the window of that house, the whole scene seemed to take on a beautiful glow.

We may think that the light we bring to others is too small to make a difference.  But I remind you of the motto of the Christophers:  “Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”  The light that we bring to someone who is discouraged or despairing, overwhelmed or addicted, is the very light of Christ that they so desperately need.

Jesus brings His light to our world.   And we carry His light to others.

Jesus also brings hope to our lives.  Sometimes we can feel so insignificant.  Does what I do even matter?

And yet, in God’s eyes, every single one of us is His beloved child.  Every human life is a gift from God and is sacred from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death.  Every one of our lives has value and meaning and purpose, even in spite of our failings.  Jesus brings hope to our lives.

Some years ago when I was stationed at Saint John’s Cathedral in downtown Cleveland, a letter arrived from an inmate at the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield.  He was asking if someone at the Cathedral would be willing to correspond with him.  So I volunteered.  The prisoner’s name was Frank.

We wrote back and forth over the years he was incarcerated, and I went to the prison a number of times to visit with Frank.  I have a letter from Frank that I saved which was written on December 31, 1983 – 34 years ago.  This is what Frank wrote:

 

Dear Father Tim,

It was extremely cold here for Christmas.  The cells behind me have two broken windows, and when the cold air blows in, it’s almost like being outside.

We were allowed to cover the bars with newspaper, which makes the cell a little cozier and helps to keep the wind out, but not the cold.

At Christmas Eve Mass, Father told the story of Jesus being born in a stable just adequate enough to keep the wind out.

With that message in mind, Christmas with my cellmate was a fine day. We had good conversation and tasty goodies left by my father in my Christmas food package.

Nothing can keep the spirit of Christmas out of a person’s heart but the person himself.  And for me, I chose to accept the peace that God offered.

Well, I’m going to close for now.  I’m looking forward to when we are next able to visit again.  Thank you for being a friend.

Love,

Frank

Even in prison Frank knew that he was included in the meaning of Christmas.  He chose to accept the peace that God offered him.  And Frank had a pretty fine Christmas with his cellmate.

Maybe Frank’s story sounds a bit like yours in some way.  Maybe you are feeling a bit alone in a crowded, noisy world.  Maybe you have been a bit distant from God and from your Church family.  Or maybe you are looking for a Church family to belong to.  Look no further!  The Lord has brought you here.  Our Saint Joseph and Nativity Parishes are great families to belong to.  Welcome home!

Jesus came down from heaven to be with us and to save us.

Jesus came down to bring His light to our world and to give hope to our lives.

Jesus came down, and He will enter every heart that will welcome Him.

Jesus came down.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

 

 

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