CYO TRACK and FIELD Grades 3rd thru 8th and Coach Pitch Baseball Grades 1 and 2 SIGN UPS NOW Open! St. Joseph’s Athletic Association offers a Sports Program including: Cheerleading for the football and …
PARISH SCHOOL OF RELIGION (P.S.R.) 2019-2020 PSR Mission: To help develop the children as faith filled, committed Catholics ready to serve our church and our world by instructing them in the ways of …
St. Joseph IMMERSION Youth Groups *The purpose of IMMERSION is to feed the teen’s soul in an active, interesting, and practical way. Through understandable, bite-sized morsels, it is designed to uplift, motivate, encourage, …
2019 Stewardship Ministry Guide Catalog- click here STEWARDSHIP COUNCIL Mission: The Stewardship Council helps the pastor guide the development of stewardship within the parish. The first duties of Council members are to …
New link please click above St. Joseph Church has teamed up with myEoffering to enable parishioners to give your weekly offering electronically from your bank account or credit / debit card in …
Friends, in an effort to continue the practice of our faith in these trying times, when many parishes have closed due to restrictions around the coronavirus, we invite you to join us online for daily and Sunday Mass.
You can watch daily and Sunday Masses with the one of the following links below, just click and you will redirected.
Although churches remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic and the obligation to attend Sunday Mass is suspended temporarily, the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland is offering opportunities for the faithful to view and privately participate in Holy Week liturgies. Please click on the link to be redirected for the Holy Week live online Mass schedule. Schedule, broadcast times announced for 2020 Holy Week liturgies.
Attached are documents from the Diocese of Cleveland and from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops about concerns involving the coronavirus and public worship. We will follow directives as they come to us. Let us pray that everyone remain healthy and that those who have been affected in our country and throughout the world may regain their health.
In Christ, our Divine Physician,
Fr. Timothy J. O’Connor
Below are the memos mentioned above regarding Church, CYO, Catholic Schools and PSR. Please click on the links to read.Coronavirus-updatee-Memo-wedding-funerals-and-other-pastoral-matters-17-March-2020
St. Joseph Church Enhancement Pledge form. Click here. You may download, print and fill out. This form can be dropped off at the Parish Office, mailed back or you may fill out, sign and email back to the following email: email@example.com. Thank you. (rev10/2019)
Weekly Enhancement Updates
Weekly updates on construction – just click each date to read
I am happy to let you know that our Saint Joseph Church Enhancement Project has begun on Monday, 18 November 2019.
The weekend of 16-17 November was the last time that we used the church until this project is completed. Our Saint Joseph Social Hall will serve as our temporary church and, beginning on the weekend of 23-24 November, all our Masses will take place there.
The John G. Johnson Company, our construction management team, confirms that this will be a 5-month project and the clock began to run on Monday, 18 November. We hope to be finished in late April.
These will be some exciting times for Saint Joseph Parish as we prepare to celebrate the 50th birthday of our beloved third church in 2020. Thank you for your support and encouragement. And, of course, your financial gifts and pledges are still needed and appreciated for our Saint Joseph Church Enhancement Project which is now going on.
Gratefully in Christ,
Fr. Tim O’Connor
20 October 2019
Dear Saint Joseph Parishioners,
I want to give everyone an update on the launching of our Saint Joseph Church Enhancement Project as we get ready to celebrate the 50th birthday of our beloved third parish church building in 2020.
On 9 May 2019 we interviewed three construction firms and we selected John G. Johnson to be our “construction manager.” On 4 June we reviewed the bids for the project and found them to come in much higher than our original budget figure of $1.4 million. While this figure was a good estimate in the fall of 2018, materials and labor have risen considerably. Adding to this was the wet spring and wet early summer that caused many contractors to be behind in their seasonal schedules and so were not in need of additional work.
We went out for bid again and reviewed them on 9 July. While the bids came down considerably we were still about $275,000 over the original budget of $1.4 million, and that was after quite a bit of value engineering and listing some project items as “alternates” for a later date. And then came the news about our leaking church roof that I shared with our parish at all the Masses on 20-21 July.
Brady Burmeister of the Diocesan Facilities Services office has been a great help to us. We have had three evaluations of the roof situation. We know now that the steeple base and the roof finial base are admitting water. And the steeple needs immediate restoration, due largely to weather. The consensus among those who did the evaluations is that taking care of the steeple and finial first just might solve the church roof situation. And this needs to be done anyway. We will know for sure after some heavy rains whether or not we need to proceed with a complete tear-off and re-shingling. And the roof restoration was not part of our Church Enhancement Project fund-raising.
And then, as you may have noticed, the bell tower is also in need of attention. After evaluation, we have been told that the bell tower is unsafe, with chunks of brick from its upper parts having already fallen to the ground. And, of course, the bell tower was not included in our original Church Enhancement plans.
All in all, we are going to get started this month with our Church Enhancement Project beginning with the outdoor work before the inclement weather is here. I know that so many people are anxious to see this project get underway – including me.
We do need to raise some more funds so that the project is delivered as promised and without incurring debt. As I am sure that you know, when working on an older structure there can be some unplanned challenges that arise.
How much more do we need to raise? We are looking at an additional $500,000. I am very grateful to the Catholic Community Foundation of the Diocese of Cleveland for their advice and counsel in laying out a plan to raise these additional funds during this fall and winter season while the Church Enhancement Project is underway.
Is raising an additional $500,000 do-able? I believe that it is. With 300 households from Saint Joseph Parish having contributed to our Church Enhancement Project capital campaign and enabling us to raise $1.4 million, we still have another 1700 households from whom we would welcome a pledge or a gift. Might you be among them?
Enclosed in this bulletin is a pledge form. And please note that this new pledge fulfillment period continues until 31 January 2022, one year longer than before. We want to make pledge payments easier for those who are pledging now for the first time or for those who would like to increase their original pledge by adding an extra year of contributions.
You are going to be seeing our Church Enhancement Project getting underway very soon. These are going to be some very exciting times for Saint Joseph Parish. If you have not already done so, may I please invite you to lend your support promptly with a pledge or gift to our Church Enhancement Capital Campaign? Every gift counts and every gift will help us achieve our goal to celebrate the 50th birthday of our beloved church in 2020.
May I please count on you to be “all in” for this exciting parish project?
I thank you from my heart for helping to make this dream come true for our parish. And I appreciate your personal support and encouragement for me.
May the Lord continue to bless you, and those you love, richly and warmly.
Gratefully in Christ,
Rev. Timothy J. O’Connor
St. Joseph Church Enhancement Pledge form. Click here. You may download, print and fill out. This form can be dropped off at the Parish Office, mailed back or you may fill out, sign and email back to the following email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you. (rev10/2019)
Lent begins on Wednesday, February 26th
Third Sunday of Lent – A
Exodus 17: 3-7
Romans 5: 1-2, 5-8
John 4: 5-42
Sunday Readings – click here
Sunday Weekly Bulletin – click here
An engaged couple was meeting with the woman who would be baking and decorating their wedding cake. The soon-to-be bride and groom were very devoted to the Scriptures and chose this verse from the First Letter of John 4:18 for their wedding cake: “Love has no room for fear. Perfect love casts out all fear.” When they entered their wedding reception hall they saw their cake for the first time. The baker knew a lot about cakes but not much about the Bible. Instead of the First Letter of John 4:18, she opened to the Gospel of John 4:18, and on the cake she had inscribed: “You have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband” – a quote from today’s Gospel about Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well. Samaritans and Jews did not get along. Jesus had come into Samaria with His disciples. He was tired and sat down by a well while the disciples went into town to buy lunch. The Gospel says it was noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water from that well, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”
Notice that she was there by herself. The townspeople would have come early in the morning while it was still cool. And they would have done what people still do today around office coffee machines and water coolers: they gossiped about people who were not there.
This woman was probably being shunned by the townspeople, so she went when nobody else would be there. She was totally startled when Jesus, a Jewish man, asked her, a Samaritan woman, for a drink of water.
Jesus said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.” That struck a chord with her: “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Then Jesus said to her, “Go call your husband and come back.” You can picture her getting very nervous, maybe looking down at the ground, and then saying softly, “I don’t have a husband.”
Then Jesus looks into her heart and says, “You have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true.” Notice that Jesus did not shun her. Nor did He dismiss her guilt like it wasn’t anything of importance. But He saw in her someone loveable.
And then she changed the subject. Wouldn’t we have done the same thing? She said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus listens, and then He says, “Believe me, woman, there is going to come a day when people will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.”
Notice: Jesus called her “woman.” In our society that comes across rather rudely. If you are trying to call after somebody and you shout out, “woman!” it doesn’t sound right. We would expect “madam” or “ma’am” or “miss,” but not “woman.”
But in Jesus’ day “woman” was a respectful title and could mean “special lady.” “Special lady” – that’s what Jesus called this person who had been shunned by the rest of the town.
Jesus called His own Mother Mary “woman” on two occasions in the Scriptures. There is the wedding feast in Cana, when they were running out of wine. He says to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me?” On the cross, He says to Mary and John the Beloved Apostle: “Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother.”
“Special lady.” That’s the warmth with which Jesus treated that spurned Samaritan woman.
Then something powerful happens. She says, “I know the Messiah is coming… and when He comes He will tell us everything.” Jesus says to her, “I am He, the one speaking with you.” And then – and this is really neat – one spiritual writer says that she might have left her water jug at the well as a ploy. It gave her an excuse to come back later. Haven’t you done that: planted a reason for a return visit?
She goes back into town and she blabs the whole thing to everybody. The astounding thing is that now people listen to her – the same woman that nobody had wanted anything to do with. She says, “He told me everything I have done! Could He possibly be the Christ?” And they follow her back to the well to meet Jesus.
Then the Samaritan people say to the woman who had been at the well, “We no longer believe because of your word. For we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”
Isn’t that the point of the Gospel? I would venture to say that all of us, except for the tiniest of children, have messed up in life before. We come to Jesus and, in His mercy, He forgives us – and He calls us His “special ones” – “special lady,” “special gentleman.”
What does He expect us to do in return? To go out to others – like the Samaritan woman did – and tell them what the Lord in His mercy has done for us.
And we can tell them from our own experience, “There is certainly a place in Jesus’ heart for you, because He has already made a place in His heart for the likes of me. He is truly the savior of the world.”
Second Sunday of Lent– A
2 Timothy 1:8b-10
On this Second Sunday of Lent, the first reading comes to us from the first book of the Bible – the Book of Genesis.
The Lord is talking to Abram, who was later called Abraham. Let me read just four verses of that lesson to you, and notice, as I noticed this week, that in every single line we find the words bless or blessing.
And the Lord said to Abram, “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you.
“I will make your name great so that you will be a blessing.
“I will bless those who bless you.
“All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you.”
God was telling Abraham that he was going to be a vehicle of God’s blessings to lots of people, even to people that Abraham did not know, and to people that did not know Abraham. God was going to bless His people through Abraham.
And that is our calling too as followers of Jesus. We are to carry the Lord’s blessings to other people.
And it works in the opposite direction too. Other people are vehicles of God’s blessing to us. So how does this suggest that we are to live our lives? As the Lord promised Abraham: “I will bless you…so that you will be a blessing” and “I will bless those who bless you.”
Captain Charles Plumb was a U.S. Navy jet pilot during the Vietnam conflict. He had flown 75 missions, and then he was gunned down. As he was bailing out of his plane, his parachute opened and he landed on the ground safely. But he was soon captured and spent six years in a Communist prison. After his release, Charlie Plumb began giving lectures about his ordeal and what he had learned.
One day he and his wife were in a restaurant, and a gentleman came over to their table and said to him, “Your name is Plumb, isn’t it?”
“And you were a Navy pilot, and used to take off from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk, right?”
“And you were shot down?”
“Yes – how did you know that?”
The man standing at the table said, “I know because I packed your parachute.”
Then he added, “And it looks like it worked!”
And Charlie Plumb said, “Yes, it did! Thanks to you I’m here today.”
End of story? Hardly. Charlie racked his brain trying to picture who that man was as a young sailor. He could not place him. But that sailor remembered him.
Charlie wondered how many times he had seen that sailor and never spoken to him. “And why would I have,” he thought. “After all, I was a jet pilot and he was just an ordinary sailor.”
Then he began reflecting more deeply. That sailor must have spent a lot of time down in the bowels of that ship at a long table, carefully folding and packing parachutes every day. In folding those parachutes, that sailor held the lives of so many people in his hands – people that he would never know or who would never know him.
That made an impact on Charles Plumb. So he added something to his lectures. He would turn to his audience and ask, “And who is packing your parachute?” Meaning: we don’t do it all by ourselves in life – other people are a blessing to us. Perhaps people we do not even know.
And so I ask you today: Who packed your parachute this past week? Who made your lunch? Who did your laundry? Who fixed your car? Who picked up your garbage? Who took your pulse? Who waited on your table? Who delivered your mail? Who packed your parachute this past week?
And, of course, this being the Second Sunday of Lent, we can ask this the other way around: Whose parachute did you pack this past week, or fail to pack? For whom were you a blessing, or whom did you fail to bless when you might have?
With all the activity in all our lives we can easily miss the things – the people – that are most important. Wishing someone a good morning sincerely. Or saying “please” and “thank you” from the heart. Noticing something good about somebody and telling them. Doing something kind for somebody else simply because you could.
As the Lord promised Abraham: “I will bless you…so that you will be a blessing” and “I will bless those who bless you.”
And what might be a good resolution for this Second Week of Lent? Simply reflecting upon these questions: “Who is packing your parachute?” And, “Whose parachute will you be packing this week?”
First Sunday of Lent – A
Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7
The Gospel for the First Sunday of Lent has Jesus spending forty days and forty nights in the desert, fasting and praying – on a long retreat. And Satan, the devil, comes along and presents Jesus with three temptations. And Jesus three times says “no” the devil and “yes” to His Heavenly Father.
You and I are now in the forty days of Lent – a time for prayer, for fasting, for almsgiving – a retreat time for the whole Church. We look back at the dead ashes of Ash Wednesday, and we look ahead to the living waters of Baptism at Easter and the renewal of our baptismal promises. We use this time to say “no” to temptation and sin, and to say “yes” to God and God’s will for us.
This Sunday at the 11:00 Mass, we recognize people who are participating in our RCIA – the Rite for Christian Initiation of Adults. We are going to call them to Easter sacraments.
We have one who has asked to be baptized. We have others who have already been baptized in another Christian Church and want to become members of our Catholic family. And so on Holy Saturday evening, the Vigil of Easter, we will celebrate Baptism and Professions of Faith, and the Sacraments of Confirmation and First Holy Communion.
This is a very special Lent for our RCIA candidates. And it is also a very special Lent for all of us as we say “no” to temptation and sin and “yes” to God and God’s will for us.
I am sure that you have made your plans for Lent this year, but I thought I would give you four additional suggestions that really won’t get in the way of what you are doing, and maybe will even enrich your Lent.
First: Say “yes” to spiritual reading and spiritual listening. On Ash Wednesday, Pope Francis gave us this advice for Lent: “Put down the phone. Pick up the Bible.”
Say “yes” to growing in your knowledge of the Church, the Scriptures and the saints. Pick up a good Catholic book, maybe our Christmas gift book by Matthew Kelly, Rediscover the Saints. Watch Matthew Kelly’s daily video series, “Best Lent Ever,” which you can access through our parish website homepage or with the information in this weekend’s bulletin. It is based on his book, Rediscover the Saints.
Participate in the retreat on Saturday, 14 March, which is hosted by our Stewardship Council, for our Saint Joseph and Nativity Parish Families. It will take place at Nativity Parish from 8:30 AM until 3:00 PM. It includes a continental breakfast and a full hot lunch. The retreat leader is Deacon Dennis Corbin from Dallas, Texas. I participated in a retreat that he led a few years ago and he held everyone’s attention the whole day. And when he finished, we all wanted more. There is no charge to attend this retreat. The only cost to you is the gift of your time. You may sign up after Mass. I hope that you can come.
And you might also listen to an inspirational CD. We have a number of them on the display stand in the corridor. You can create a daily retreat atmosphere right where you are. Say “yes” to spiritual reading and spiritual listening.
Second: Say “yes” to the needy and the poor. Put a coffee can or another container in your house where everyone will see it. Every day, throw whatever change is in your pocket into that can. Maybe put a picture or a saying on it to remind you of some need, some charity. And then at the end of Lent, give it to them. Say “yes” to the poor and the needy.
Third: Be a “stitcher.” Be an encourager of others at home, at work, at school.
A man was seated on an antique window seat in his home. It was late fall and raining. This is what he wrote:
“The gloomy look of the garden seemed to match the mood of hopelessness that had come over me: problems at work had made me fearful of the future. Basic questions that had surfaced with the coming of middle age had made me fearful of life itself.
“I started to light my pipe and I accidentally spilled some hot ashes which burned a hole right in the middle of the window seat cover. Seeing what had happened, my wife calmly threaded a needle and stitched a beautiful flower over that charred spot.
“When I looked at the finished work, I realized what a striking symbol it was. I had married a repairer of broken spirits, a healer of wounds, a harbinger of hope in times of darkness and despair.”
Every day, work at being a repairer of broken spirits, a healer of wounds, a harbinger of hope. Pick up somebody who has fallen. Offer a word of encouragement to a person who received a put-down. Give someone a pat on the back who just received a shove. Be a stitcher. Be a person of encouragement every day. Your life and someone else’s life will be all the better.
Fourth: Work at nurturing relationships with your spouse, with family, with friends, with God.
We’re all so busy, aren’t we? And relationships need to be nurtured and this requires our time. Seize opportunities to reconnect and strengthen those important relationships.
A newspaper columnist writes about being in Paris and riding in a taxi that was driven by a man from Africa. He noticed that the driver had a television monitor on his dashboard and that he was also talking incessantly on his cell phone.
And here he was, in the back seat, typing on his laptop and listening to music through his phone.
It dawned on him that the driver might be talking to a family member on another continent, and here he was in the back seat typing an article in France that he was going to e-mail to his newspaper in New York. Yet he and the cab driver hardly communicated. And they were only two feet from each other.
We have all seen two friends walking down the street, each one on his or her own cell phone, talking to someone else as they are walking together. They are both everywhere else except where they are. They are not connecting with the person right next to them.
We have seen couples having dinner in a wonderful restaurant and both have their phones right in front of them. Then one of them starts responding to a text. Their companion might just as well be a table place- setting.
We need to nurture our relationships in this digital age – with our time and our full personal attention. Lent is a graced opportunity to reconnect with other people and with our God.
“No” to temptation and sin. “Yes” to God and God’s will for us.
Say “yes” to spiritual reading and to spiritual listening. Say “yes” to the poor and the needy. Say “yes” to being a “stitcher,” an encourager. And say “yes” to nurturing your relationships with God and with others.
With God’s grace these are ways that can lead us from an Ash Wednesday “no” to an Easter Sunday “YES!”
Happy Lent, everybody!
Leviticus 19: 1-2, 17-18
1 Corinthians 3: 16-23
Matthew 5: 38-48
A pastor was opening his mail. One envelope contained a sheet of paper that had four big, bold letters on it, spelling: F-O-O-L. So he took it with him into the pulpit on Sunday and said to the people, “I have received many letters over the years from people who forgot to sign their names. But this is the first one that I ever got where someone signed their name but forgot to write the letter!” FOOL – we heard that word in today’s second reading, from the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians. Paul wrote: “If anyone among you considers himself wise in this age, let him become a fool, so as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God.” What is “the wisdom of this world” that Paul called “foolishness”? In the chapter 2 of Rediscover Catholicism, Matthew Kelly talks about “the wisdom of this world” found in three ancient philosophies that are still with us today: individualism, hedonism and minimalism.
Individualism asks: “What’s in it for me?” It is based on the conviction that “the world is all about me.”
The second one is hedonism. Hedonism asks: “Will this give me pleasure?” If not, a hedonistic person would not get involved.
The third one is minimalism. Minimalism asks: “What is the very least that I need to do?”
These three philosophies – individualism, hedonism and minimalism – are at the heart of “the wisdom of this world” that Paul called “foolishness.”
Where do we find the “wisdom of God” that Paul is talking about? We find the wisdom of God in Jesus, the Son of God, whom God the Father sent to become human like us in everything except sin, so that we could become like Him.
And Jesus teaches us this “wisdom of God” today: “You have heard it said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Heavenly Father.”
And how does Jesus act? His life is total self-giving. If we are to be disciples of Jesus, we must imitate His self-giving. Or, to use another expression, we must imitate His “self-donation.”
Do you know where the word donation comes from? It is from the Latin word, donum, which means “a gift.” A donation is “something given as a gift.” Jesus offers us the gift of Himself. So the wisdom of God involves self-giving, self-donation.
We are pretty good as a people in giving to a need. There’s an earthquake, a hurricane, a fire and we rise to the occasion and we give to the need.
But as followers of Jesus we not only give to a need. We also need to give. Self-giving, self-donation are part of who we are as disciples of Jesus.
I am going to propose two ways of looking at parish life. One model is the gas station. The other is the family. You may be thinking, “Oh come on, nobody thinks of a parish as a gas station!” Well listen to the description and then see what you think.
The gas station is a place where we don’t want to linger any longer than we have to. Filling the gas tank, we don’t build a lasting relationship with the person at the next pump. But the gas station is not the destination. We want to get in and get out of there as soon as we can. Does anybody ever say to you, “Let’s go spend the afternoon at the gas station!”?
Does that sound like parish life at all? Don’t want to linger too long, Don’t want to get to know anybody or get too terribly involved. It is not the destination; where I am going after Mass is the destination. Just get my Sunday Mass obligation out of the way so that I can get on to more important things. Hanging around at the parish – are you kidding???
The gas station model.
How about the family model? Where it is a great place to spend some time and linger. Where we strive to build lasting relationships with each other. Where it is the destination. And you really could say to someone else, “Why don’t we go up to our parish and spend some time there?”
Which model of parish life sounds more accurate: the gas station or the family? Which model do you embrace? I hope it is the family model, for we are St. Joseph and Nativity Parish Families.
St. Paul tells us: “If anyone among you considers himself wise in this age, let him become a fool, so as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God.”
The “wisdom of this world” sees self-giving, self-donation as foolish. “What’s in it for me?” [Individualism] “Will this give me pleasure?” [Hedonism] “What’s the least I have to do?” [Minimalism]
Disciples of Jesus know what they get out of it. Ask them. Observe them. Disciples of Jesus – we – are called to show where true wisdom can be found.
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A
Sirach 15: 15-20
1 Corinthians 2: 6-10
Matthew 5: 20-22a, 27-28, 33-34a, 37
A mother was helping her son with his spelling assignment. They came across the words conscious and conscience. She asked him, “Do you know the difference between those two words?”
He said, “Sure, Mom. Conscious is when you are aware of something. And conscience is when you wish you weren’t.”
As followers of Jesus, and as people who are trying to grow as His disciples, we need to examine our consciences consciously and regularly. We look at God’s Ten Commandments to see how we are doing. We see where we have rejected God’s grace and sinned – and where we have cooperated with God’s grace and grown in virtue.
We examine our consciences, of course, as we prepare to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance, before we go to Confession. But we should also examine our consciences each evening before we call it a day.
Part of this process is looking at what is outside of us – what I said, how I acted. But the other part is looking at what is going on inside of us: my thoughts, my desires, my attitudes. Why? Because so often what is going on inside of me strongly influences what happens outside of me.
Perhaps the battle within is even greater than the one without. It can be like looking at the ocean and only seeing the surface of the sea – the ripples and the waves – but not being aware of the powerful currents that are below.
Here is an example. A man considered himself to be a very good driver. He had never had a traffic ticket, so he was clean with the law. He had never been involved in an accident, so his insurance company recognized him as a driver deserving discounts. But was he a good driver? The answer is no: he was a lousy driver because his attitude was all wrong.
When this man got behind the wheel, he acted like he owned the whole road. He never yielded the right-of-way. Many times he didn’t use his directional signals. And often, on the freeway, he was a left-lane driver, preventing other people from passing. He would get impatient with other drivers and swear at them and even make gestures at them. He never thought twice about drinking and driving.
He considered himself to be a very good driver. But actually he was a terrible driver. His attitude was all wrong.
Jesus is teaching us in the Gospel today that to be His loyal followers involves not only what we do externally but also what goes on internally.
Jesus says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’” And then He adds: “But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
We can break the commandments not only by our words and deeds but also by our thoughts and desires and attitudes.
Pornography is a big business in our world. It is against that Sixth Commandment: “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” and the Ninth Commandment: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.” Someone defined pornography as “an affair of the mind.” It is a big business, which indicates that lots and lots of people subscribe to it.
What leads people to indulge in pornography? Oftentimes it is because what is going on in their minds is not held in check. Rather, those desires are given free reign, with excuses like: “That commandment doesn’t apply to me.” “I’m not hurting anybody.” “I am autonomous over my own body.” “I make my own decisions about what is right for me.”
But Jesus is teaching us that we can sin not only by our words and deeds but also by our thoughts and desires and attitudes. Living as His disciple is certainly not always easy. But it is possible, with His grace.
Mike and Marcia met in college and their friendship clicked right from the start. They discovered that they grew up in neighboring towns. Although they went to different high schools, they both played in marching bands and would have distantly encountered each other at their football games.
And then they found out that their grandfathers worked for the same company and in the same building but had not spoken to each other in over thirty years. In the elevator they would talk with other people, but never to each another. And if it was just the two of them, they maintained their code of silence.
Eventually Mike and Marcia became engaged. One day on the elevator it was just the two grandfathers. One said, “Looks like the kids are getting pretty serious.” And the other replied, “Sure looks that way.”
Months later, at the wedding reception, the two grandfathers sat at the same table and spent the whole evening recounting the happy events of their earlier days, and had wiped out whatever it was inside that had kept them silent outside for all those years.
Marcia believes that it was a miracle of grace that God arranged through her love for Mike and Mike’s love for her. Two lives were changed and a friendship was reborn, all through God’s grace and the transforming power of love.
To live the Christian life well, we need to examine our consciences consciously and regularly. We need to look at our lives very carefully – externally and internally.
And here we find God’s mercy, here we find God’s grace to change our lives: enabling us to become even better disciples of Jesus, even better versions of ourselves, and even more grateful and generous stewards of God’s bountiful blessings – day by day, and through and through.
The Presentation of the Lord-A
Malachi 3: 1-4
Hebrews 2: 14-18
Luke 2: 22-40
The 2020 Catholic Charities Appeal will take place next weekend in the parishes of our diocese. Please see the material in this week’s bulletin.
This year’s appeal theme is “Faces of Hope.” Your generous support will help to transform the lives of others: to offer dignity, possibilities and companionship to those who are most vulnerable.
As in the past, an in-pew commitment process will take place at the Masses next weekend. So if you have not already received a mailing from Bishop Perez, please think about this week what you would like to pledge to support the ministries and services provided by Catholic Charities.
As your grateful pastor, I thank you very much for being the “Faces of Hope” for so many people who are truly in need.
This is a powerful Gospel that we have just heard. It is not just the story of Mary and Joseph and Anna and Simeon. It is also the story of our lives.
First, there are Mary and Joseph. They are coming to present the Baby Jesus to His Heavenly Father in the Temple 40 days after He was born in Bethlehem. They are people of such meager means that they bring the offering of the poor to the Temple: a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons for the dedication of the Child Jesus.
And they are like so many parents who bring their children to the Church to be baptized.
What do parents wish for their children on the day of their Baptism? Happiness, health, a long life, and that they grow up to be good people and faithful Catholics. But parents also have fears. That their children be safe from harm. That they not get into trouble with alcohol, drugs, violence or sexuality. They hope that their children will never break their hearts, or ever have to go to war.
Like Mary and Joseph, parents dedicate their children to God and hope for the best for them. Yet they are aware of the real possibility that a sword of sorrow might pierce their hearts as Simeon prophesied would happen to Mary. So today is a good day to pray for all parents who feel the pain of that sword in their hearts right now.
Then there is Anna, who is eighty-four years old. She has seen it all, including the death of her husband and perhaps even one or more of her children. She lived in a time when her nation was occupied by Roman soldiers. There was political corruption, unjust taxation, payoffs, embezzlement and greed all over the place.
And yet, there was Anna: the faithful, holy woman who fasted and prayed in the Temple every day.
Today is a day to think of and thank God for the Annas of this world. They see it all, they feel it deeply, but they remain faithful. They do not avoid the public arena but try to make it better. They do not flee the Church but stay in it, praying and working for its purification and renewal. They are our hope, our anchors, our faithful ones. Let us remember and notice the Annas of our world.
And then there is elderly Simeon. He is a man on a mission, always looking, always searching, always hoping that he will not die until somehow, somewhere, sometime he might see the face of the Lord – as the Holy Spirit had promised.
Simeon is like the senior citizen facing the prospect of death and wondering if they will be seeing the face of the Lord very soon. Simeon is like the parent who has lost a child and who wonders if God is still near. Like the friend at the bedside of someone who is dying. Like the person weighed down with depression. Like the husband or wife hoping for the recovery of their spouse.
That is why Simeon is so compelling. Throughout his life he struggled and searched, prayed and pleaded for some sign of God’s presence. He did not want to die until he had a glimpse of the Lord’s face.
In today’s Gospel Simeon received that sign when he took the Baby Jesus into his arms and blessed God, saying – or perhaps even singing: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”
I love this Gospel because it is my story and it is your story. But more than that, it is the Word of God and it gives us hope.
God will honor His promises. Those who are faithful to Him will see His face one day.
And we will sing again. Our lives will supply the melody. The Gospel has already supplied the words: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”
And may God be praised for all of the Marys and Josephs, for all of the Annas and Simeons in our world, in our parish families, and in our lives.
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time-A
Catholic Schools Week
Word of God Sunday
Isaiah 8: 23–9: 3
1 Corinthians 1: 10-13, 17
Matthew 4: 12-23
To our Saint Joseph Parish School families, our dedicated teachers, staff and volunteers – and those of our area Catholic high schools – happy Catholic Schools Week!
To all of you, our Saint Joseph and Nativity Parish Family members – we have a school together. Thank you for your commitment to and support for Catholic education!
This Sunday from 12:00 Noon until 1:30 PM, Saint Joseph Parish School, under the leadership of our principal, Mrs. Amy Makruski, will be welcoming you to an Open House and student craft show. There will be tours to showcase what our gem-of-a-school has to offer.
Saint Joseph Parish School has received designation from the State of Ohio as a STEM school – with a curriculum emphasizing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, in a Catholic learning environment, preparing our students for the job-market of this 21st century.
Whether or not you have school-age children, please come and see. If you have children in another school, we would love to welcome you here. If you would like to return to Saint Joseph Parish School, we would love to talk with you!
On this Word of God Sunday, as we open Catholic Schools Week, in today’s Gospel, Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee and He saw two brothers, Simon Peter and Andrew, and He called them: “Come after Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” And then He saw two other brothers, James and John, and He called them too. And they all followed Him. For three years, they were with Jesus. He taught them. He formed them. He made them “fishers of men.” Jesus has called each one of us to be His follower. And He teaches us and He forms us. He makes us “fishers of men and women.”
During this Catholic Schools Week, I was thinking about three teachers in particular who have had a powerful continuing influence on me.
Sister Redempta was my second grade teacher at Saint Peter’s School in Huron, Ohio. Sister Redempta helped me prepare for First Penance and First Communion. The Act of Contrition that I pray when I go to Confession – as I did this past week – is the same one that she taught me in 1956.
Sister Mary Valory was my seventh grade teacher at Saint Mary’s School in Elyria. She was a grammarian, teaching us: lists of prepositions, the subjective and objective pronouns, the difference between a transitive verb and a linking verb, and so on. I didn’t realize at the time what a great foundation she gave me until I began studying other languages, and eventually became an English major in college. She provided me with a great understanding of how grammar works, and I am still grateful.
Dr. Michael Williams was my professor of homiletics (preaching) at Saint Mary’s Seminary, the year before I was ordained a priest. One of my longtime fears was public speaking. At that time in my life, when I would try to read in front of others, I would stumble over words. And when it came to speaking in front of other people, I was petrified. One year before I was ordained a priest, Dr. Williams taught me not only how to speak in public and but he also convinced me that I could. To this day, I am grateful to him.
I think about the many fine teachers I have known, and I am sure that you do this often as well. Our teachers can have a powerful and lasting influence upon us.
A daughter was talking with her mother about something that she learned in class that day from Mrs. Brown. And as she was describing that lesson, her mother was thinking to herself: “I’ve said that a thousand times here at home, and it’s as though she heard it for the first time today from Mrs. Brown. And I’m her mother!”
The mother taught the lesson, and Mrs. Brown drove it home.
Our world’s events, our life situations can become very fearful when we do not have all the information that we need in order to deal with them effectively. We say things like, “I don’t understand. I don’t know what to do.”
This is one of the reasons we come to Christ our Teacher. He has a full grasp of what is going on. We ask Him to teach us and to help us to know who we are and what He wants us to do.
Jesus continues to teach us through His Holy Word and through His Body, the Church.
So we pray:
Jesus, teach us your ways. Guide us in all truth.
Help us to be your good and faithful disciples.
And assist us in our callings to teach and to share your way of life with others here on earth until, one day, we happily meet in heaven and see you, our Lord and Master Teacher, face-to-face. Amen.
Isaiah 60: 1-6
Ephesians 3: 2-3a, 5-6
Matthew 2: 1-12
We call the visitors from the East who followed a star and came to Bethlehem by different names: the Magi, the astrologers, the wise men and the three kings. But in spite of their many names, they came for a single purpose: to worship the Christ Child, the newborn King.
Their reason for following that star is found in the name of today’s feast: “Epiphany.” It means “a manifestation,” “a showing.” Jesus, the Son of God and the Son of Mary, manifested Himself, showed Himself, to the entire world
through these non-Jewish visitors.
“The Gentiles are coheirs” with the Jews, “members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel,” Paul tells us today in his letter to the Ephesians.
There are many legends about these wise men.
One says that after the star that was leading them came to rest over the stable in Bethlehem, it then dropped into a well. And that if you have a pure heart, you can look into that well and see that star shining beneath its water.
Another legend claimed that there were twelve wise men. But later on, it settled upon three, although the Scriptures do not tell us how many there were. The number three is very logical since they brought three gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Another gives them names: Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar.
But the Scriptures do tell us that these visitors from the East were not Jewishbut followed a star and found the Christ Child, offered their gifts and paid Him homage. And in the three gifts that they brought we find a lot of symbolism.
Gold was a gift for a king. We have a practice today that, when you visit someone’s home for dinner, you take a small gift with you to present to the host or hostess. In the East, if you were fortunate enough to be invited to visit the king, you would take a substantial gift to present to him. And gold was considered the most appropriate gift to give to a king.
The gift of gold was the Magi’s acknowledgement that Jesus truly was a king – but a different kind than the rulers of this world. Jesus did not rule by fear but by love. He did not reign from an earthly throne but from the throne of His cross. And we need to submit to His kingship.
There is a story from years ago about Lord Nelson in the British Navy. He was known to be kind and gracious when other military officers came to him to surrender. One day an enemy admiral boarded Lord Nelson’s ship to surrender and approached Lord Nelson with an outstretched hand. And Lord Nelson, with his arms at his side, said to him: “First your sword and then your hand.” He needed to submit.
Christ our King comes to us in friendship, making us a part of His family. But first we must submit to his kingship. And so gold was the first gift of the Magi to Christ the newborn King.
The gift of frankincense was for a priest. In temple worship, incense was used as a sign of our prayers rising before God with a pleasing fragrance before Him.
The Latin word for high priest is “pontifex,” which means “a bridge builder.” Jesus our Priest – as true God and true man – is the bridge between God and the human race. Jesus makes God available to us and takes our prayers to God. And so frankincense was the second gift of the Magi to Christ the Priest.
The gift of myrrh was for someone who was going to die. In those days, a body was prepared for burial with a spice called myrrh. It was an early form of embalming. This gift of myrrh was a sign that Christ, the newborn King and Priest, would one day die on the cross so that we could live forever.
There is a painting by Holman Hunt that depicts Jesus in His teenage years. He is working hard in the carpenter shop late one afternoon and is tired. So He goes to the doorway and stretches out His arms against the door frame. And the sunlight comes through the door and casts a shadow on the back wall of the carpenter shop.
In the background is Mary who sees the shadow of the cross on that back wall and her face registers sorrow because she catches a glimpse of what will happen to her Son one day. He – our King and our Priest and our Saving Victim – will die on the cross so that we can live forever.
The gifts of the Magi are full of meaning: gold for a king, frankincense for a priest, and myrrh for someone who would die. This feast of the Epiphany celebrates the manifestation of Christ to the world: to Jew and Gentile alike.
And so the response to Psalm 72 that we sang today after the first reading continues to ring true down to our own day: “Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.” And so we are doing at this very moment.
Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph-A
Sirach 3: 2-6, 12-14
Colossians 3: 12-17
Matthew 2: 13-15, 19-23
Today we celebrate a very warm feast – the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. And this Feast of the Holy Family, during this Christmas season, invites us to reflect on our own home and family life.
Some time ago, Reader’s Digest carried “a family quiz.” Here are three of the questions: 1) If, on a TV show, a teenaged boy kissed his mother and father good night, would your children consider this normal? 2) If you and your spouse were both reading in one room, would your children come in and sit with you? 3) Have your children ever told you that they want to have a family just like yours when they get married?
All three of these questions involve the whole family at the most basic level of family life: the love level. Let’s take closer look at this level.
One of Bob Hope’s favorite jokes was about his love for his friend, Bing Crosby. He said: “There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for Bing Crosby, and there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for me. But that’s the trouble. We spend our lives doing nothing for each other.”
Bob Hope’s point is a good one. In family life it is so easy to take each other’s love for granted. Perhaps we rarely express our love in a verbal or visible way. For example, when was the last time that you told a family member, in a conversation or in a letter, that you loved them?
In his book, My Father, My Son, Dr. Lee Salk describes an interview with Mark David Chapman, the convicted killer of Beatle John Lennon. Chapman says, “I don’t think I ever hugged my father. He never told me he loved me. I needed emotional love and support. I never got that.”
Asked about how he would treat a son, if he ever had one, Chapman says, “I would hug my son and kiss him… and just let him know… he could trust me and come to me… and I would tell him that I loved him.”
Dr. Salk ends his book with this advice to fathers and to sons. [It applies equally well to mothers and to daughters]: “Don’t be afraid of your emotions, of telling your father or your son that you love him and that you care. Don’t be afraid to hug and kiss him. Don’t wait until the death-bed to realize what you have missed.”
Ann Landers received a letter from a mother, asking her at what age a father and son should stop kissing and saying “I love you” to each other. Ann Landers gave the mother a one-word answer: “Never!”
Shortly afterward, Ann Landers received a letter from a father. He told her: “A few weeks ago I kissed my son for the first time and told him that I loved him. Unfortunately it was at the funeral home. My son had taken his own life.”
The father continued: “The greatest regret of my life is that I kept my son at arm’s length. I believed that it was not manly to show my son affection. I now sadly regret my ignorance and stupidity.”
What is true of fathers and sons is also true of fathers and daughters, mothers and daughters, mothers and sons, and brothers and sisters.
It is not hard to imagine Jesus, who cried at the tomb of his friend, Lazarus, embracing his mother, Mary, and saying, “Mom, I love you.”
It is not hard to imagine Jesus, who told how the father and son embraced in His parable about the Prodigal Son, hugging Joseph and saying, “Dad, I love you.”
Today’s Scripture readings for the Feast of the Holy Family pose a very important question to think about: “How well are we contributing to the love level of our own family life?”
We are so blessed to have the prayers, the love and the example of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Holy Family, to embrace us and help us all along the way.
I welcome members of our Saint Joseph and Nativity Parishes to this Christmas Mass. And I also welcome your guests and members of other parishes.
I also want to offer a special word of welcome to those here who might be looking for a church to belong to. We would love to have you in our parish families.
And there may be someone here today who hasn’t been to church in a while. I am glad that you came. And I am personally inviting you right now to come home to your parish family. Coming to Mass each week will have a profound effect on your life during the New Year ahead, I promise you. I welcome you here today.
Christmas is a season of gifts. And today I would like to focus on our “Christmas gift-getting” – rather than on our “Christmas gift-giving.”
When someone gives you a gift, it doesn’t necessarily say a lot about who you really are. But it does say a lot about who they think you are, or who they would like you to be.
Now, imagine someone giving you that “perfect gift” that they have selected. And they want you to open it in front of them. You do – and you are stunned! You look for something to say: “Isn’t this interesting?” “Oh, who would have ever thought?” “Where exactly did you find something like this?”
That is what you are saying. But what you are really thinking is more like: “What am I supposed to do with this?”
It is sometimes more difficult than we think to be the perfect gift-getter. And today, we celebrate the greatest gift that God could ever give us: His Son, born as a baby in Bethlehem. “Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.” God is the perfect gift-giver. And God waits to see how we will be as gift-getters.
We exchange gifts with one another at Christmas. And this involves a three-part process: the gift given, the gift received, and the gift accepted.
Someone who cares about us chooses a gift carefully and gives it to us.
We receive the gift and open it to see what it is.
The gift given and the gift received are fundamentals in the gift-giving process. But the third part – the gift accepted – is sometimes missing. How many Christmas sweaters are never worn? How many bottles of cologne are never opened? How many games are never played?
The stores were crowded through Christmas Eve with shoppers looking for gifts to give to loved ones.
The stores will also be crowded during the days after Christmas with loved ones returning Christmas gifts they received – but did not accept.
Look at the mounds of returned items in the stores after Christmas, which are no longer being handled carefully by the customers or by the sales personnel. They are clear evidence of gifts given and received – but not accepted.
God gives us the gift of His Son, Jesus. We receive God’s gift. But will we accept God’s gift? Or will we return God’s gift right after Christmas – thinking perhaps that what Jesus has to offer does not fit the way that I want to live my life, or that Jesus is Someone that I don’t really need?
“Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.” God gives the gift of His Son to us. And today God hopes that each of us will receive and accept His gift.
We have a gift to give you, as you leave church today: a copy of Matthew Kelly’s new book, Rediscover the Saints. It is easy to read with 4 or 5 pages about each of 25 holy people, each chapter beginning with a life-changing question and concluding with a prayer – and the book is only 124 pages!
This book does not just give a summary of each saint’s life. Plenty of great books already do that. This book brings the saints to life and puts them front and center in our lives. Why? Because the saints remind us that, with the gift of God’s grace, holiness is possible and that we have great friends in heaven who are always cheering us on!
An anonymous Saint Joseph parishioner has given this gift to you, our Saint Joseph and Nativity Parish Families and our guests.
Please receive and please accept this gift. It will help you know Jesus and His friends, the saints, even better during this New Year.
May the Christ Child bless you richly and warmly in your gift-getting – as well as in your gift-giving. Merry Christmas, everyone!
Fourth Sunday of Advent-A
Isaiah 7: 10-14
Romans 1: 1-7
Matthew 1: 18-24
I would like to focus today on a man who often escapes our notice as we prepare for the Feast of Christmas, although he is one of the principal characters. His name is Saint Joseph.
We pay lots of attention at Christmas to Jesus and to Mary, but we almost seem to ignore Joseph. Now from heaven, I don’t think this bothers Joseph one bit, but it seems to me that, here on earth, we ought to give a little more attention to Joseph and his role in the Christmas drama.
So I would like to offer a little Advent meditation on Saint Joseph from three angles:  Joseph teaches us about the treasure of silence.  Joseph teaches us that our actions so often speak louder than our words.  Joseph shows us the power of God’s grace when we are under pressure.
The first: the treasure of silence. How many words of Saint Joseph are recorded in the Gospels? Not a single one. And so we assume that Joseph must have been a very quiet man.
Many people are not used to a lot of quiet time. This is a hectic world with a lot of noise and distraction. We are forever trying to stay connected.
Someone asked Saint Padre Pio, “What language does God speak?” And he answered, “God speaks the language of silence.”
Isn’t that when we hear God speak to us – when we are quiet? Sometimes people complain, “God isn’t answering me!” I ask, “Have you been quiet long enough to hear what God is trying to say to you?”
A priest wrote that every time he visited a nursing home, he noticed a man seated next to his bed-ridden wife. He had learned that, because of illness, she had not spoken a word in eight years. But her husband still went there every day to be with her. And then one day she died.
The priest went to the funeral home, and that gentleman came up to him crying and said, “I am going to miss her. I am really going to miss her.” Her presence was still powerful to him, even when her words had failed.
There is power in silence.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the stillness of the night. His first thirty years we call His hidden life. Almost ninety per cent of His life here on earth was spent in veiled quietness. During the three years of His public life, He would often get away to pray alone with His heavenly Father. I like to think that maybe Jesus learned this love of silence from the example of his foster father on earth, Saint Joseph.
Saint Joseph teaches us about the treasure of silence.
The second: Saint Joseph also teaches us that our actions often speak louder than our words. In today’s Gospel, Joseph had learned that Mary, to whom he was betrothed, but before they came to live together, was expecting. And Joseph was not the father. He didn’t know what to do.
An angel came to him in a dream and said: “Joseph, Son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary, your wife, into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
What did Joseph do? He didn’t argue. He didn’t dawdle. He woke up and he did what the angel told him that God wanted him to do. Our actions often speak louder than our words.
Later on Jesus would give us the teaching that, “None of those who cry out, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” [Matthew 7: 21]. Perhaps when Jesus spoke those words He was thinking of His foster father, Saint Joseph.
On 13 May 1981, Pope Saint John Paul II was shot in Saint Peter’s Square by a would-be assassin. Three bullets entered Pope John Paul II’s body. What did Pope John Paul II do when he recovered? He went to the prison where his would-be assassin was. He sat with that man and forgave him, encouraged him and embraced him. The photographers of the world were there to capture those moments, and perhaps John Paul II did more to proclaim the mercy of God by that visit than he did from all the wonderful words that he wrote and spoke.
Saint Joseph teaches us about the treasure of silence, and he teaches us that our actions so often speak louder than our words.
And the third: Saint Joseph shows us the power of God’s grace when we are under pressure.
Saint Joseph had a lot of pressure in his life. We know about some of them. In today’s Gospel, Mary, to whom he is engaged, is pregnant. What is he supposed to do? There is a census and he has to go to Bethlehem to register. Mary is near-due delivery. They get to Bethlehem and there is no room for them in the inn. So they end up in a stable with a manger for a bed for the baby Jesus.
Jesus is born and then jealous King Herod decides to kill all the boys two-years-old and younger in the area because he is afraid there is a rival king. So Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus leave their homeland and go to Egypt, where they don’t even know the language and Joseph doesn’t have a job, and they stay there until they are told to come back.
And then, when Jesus is twelve years old, He stays behind in the temple in Jerusalem – and for three days Mary and Joseph search for Him “in anguish.”
What did Joseph do in each of these trials? He relied upon God’s grace, which comes to us one day at a time, one event at a time.
We have those times when we feel that our life is a procession from one crisis to the next, times when we wonder: “How am I going to make it through today?” Look to Joseph. Pray to Saint Joseph. Ask him to intercede, that you receive the grace you need for today, for what is before you right now.
And so on this Fourth Sunday of Advent, what lessons does Saint Joseph teach us?  Cultivate the treasure of silence in your life so that you can really listen to God.  Remember that our actions so often speak louder than our words do.  And rely upon God’s grace every day, but especially when you feel under pressure.
And we pray: Saint Joseph our patron, husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus, pray for us.
Third Sunday of Advent-A
Isaiah 35: 1-6a, 10
James 5: 7-10
Matthew 11: 2-11
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There was a businessman flying from New York to Los Angeles. He knew exactly how long the trip would take and brought along work to get done. Boarding the plane he had that look that said, “Don’t bother me. I’m busy!” And then a mother and her little boy sat down in the two seats next to him. He tried to remain distant but the little boy kept talking to him.
The man began listening to him and found that he actually liked the boy. That whole flight he put aside his work, talked with the boy, read him stories and played games. When they arrived in Los Angeles the mother said to the gentleman, “Thank you so much for paying attention to my son. You see, his father died several months ago, and you were very good to him.”
Later on the man realized what had happened: that child had really gotten into his heart. He felt a deep satisfaction that he had opened his own heart to someone who truly needed his attention.
Children can get into hearts that have been locked for years. The Child Jesus came to enter our hearts and fill them with His love. One of His names in Scripture is “Emmanuel,” a name which means “God is with us.”
There was a play written some years ago entitled, “Green Pastures.” In it, God is on the stage with the Archangel Gabriel, who has his trumpet in hand. God is looking over the world and saying, “I have sent prophet after prophet, and still they won’t listen.” Gabriel suggests, “Lord, how about if I blow my trumpet and call an end to the whole thing on earth?” And God replies, “No, this time I’m not going to send another messenger. I’m going to send my Son to them.”
And so the Son of God left His throne in heaven and became man. And not only that. Jesus Christ became our “Wounded Healer.” He is Emmanuel, “God with us.” And this Child wants to enter our hearts.
This Advent season shows us that, so many times, God comes to us through some very unexpected people and in some very unexpected ways. Today, the Third Sunday of Advent, we have John the Baptist before us. And Jesus says to the crowd, “Why did you go out to the desert? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.”
John the Baptist is the greatest and last of the Old Testament prophets, pointing the way to the Messiah, to Jesus Christ, who is “God with us.” But, to so many people, John was a rather unexpected messenger and in a rather unexpected place, the desert.
There was a Christmas pageant in his church and young Bradley wanted a part. However, Bradley was “an accident waiting to happen.” The previous year, his angel wings caught on fire and he nearly burned down the church. But the director knew that Bradley really loved Jesus with his whole heart. And she just had to give him a part.
This year, she decided, he could be the innkeeper. All that he needed to do was open the door and deliver a line.
Everything went smoothly at the rehearsals, but then came opening night. When Mary and Joseph came to the inn, Bradley opened the door and said, “Be gone. I have no place for you.”
Mary and Joseph turned to walk away. The people in the front of the church could see tears welling up in Bradley’s eyes and his lower lip quivering. Then Bradley shouts to Mary and Joseph, “Wait! You can stay in my room!”
Pandemonium broke out in the church. Once again, Bradley had sabotaged the Christmas pageant. The director, after wiping away Bradley’s tears and then a few of her own, quieted down the audience and said, “Perhaps this year Bradley is God’s unexpected messenger to us. Because it is only when we make room in our hearts that the Christ Child can come in.”
The world around us is already celebrating “the holidays,” and we can run the risk of missing out on the Child who made all of this possible. After all, it is His birthday that we celebrate, and it is His coming again in glory that we look forward to.
There was a four-year-old named Sarah who had been an only-child. And then her baby brother was born. Sarah’s mother and father were worried about some sibling jealousy, so they watched her carefully. Sarah began asking for a some “time alone” with her new brother. So they allowed her to go into the nursery all by herself. But they stationed themselves just outside so they could see and hear what was taking place.
Then Sarah put her face next to his and said, “Baby brother, tell me what God is like because I’m starting to forget.”
So how do we find ourselves on this Third Sunday of Advent? We can be casual observers that look at the crib and say, “Isn’t that nice. See you again next year.” Or we can be like Bradley and say, “Wait! You can stay in my room…. in my heart.”
Children can draw so much out of our hearts. The Christ Child can put everything into our hearts, if we make room for Him. And as we come close, like Sarah, we can whisper in His ear, “Baby Jesus, tell me what God is like because I don’t want to forget.”
First Sunday of Advent – A
Isaiah 2: 1-5
Romans 13: 11-14
Matthew 24: 37-44
Advent isn’t exactly a comfortable season. And I don’t just mean the frost on the windshield and the certainty of January bills. Advent has a strangeness about it that won’t be tamed by the caroling that begins at Thanksgiving or by the outdoor lighting displays.
The measured sobriety of Advent clashes with the festive rush in the stores. And the urgency of the Scripture readings clashes with our secular culture of materialism and individualism. And, if the truth be told, the threat of final cosmic judgment in today’s Gospel grips us no more than the “eager longing” of the Advent hymns.
Just how are we to identify with this season of Advent? Its purple sobriety contrasts with the red and green festival of an American Christmas that begins with October advertising. And for all of the expectancy we feel for the coming of “the holidays,” the coming of Christ Himself can seem so remote and even unlikely.
What are we to do? We can, of course, feel guilty. But guilt is not the keynote of the Advent season either. Joy is so characteristic of Advent that nearly every Responsorial Psalm is a Psalm of rejoicing. The Advent Psalms don’t say: “Feel guilty that you are not rejoicing.” They just say: “Rejoice!” But it is not exactly the rejoicing of the office party either.
Advent seems to be such an untidy season. Here a comforting Scripture passage, and there a threat; unusual John the Baptist at the edge of the desert and meek Mary in Nazareth; the purple of repentance and the songs of rejoicing; the “last day” in the Gospel on the first Sunday of Advent is a day of final judgment and we pray to greet it with joy. What a mess! No instant relevance and not even a tidy thematic.
How, then, should we deal with Advent? As a cherished heirloom, annually dusted off for a churchly For Auld Lang Syne? As a little bit of “liturgical Williamsburg”?
But here is another possibility: that we attempt to penetrate what the Bible and the liturgy are saying to us during this season – without asking them to say what we would like them to say, and without asking them to say it in a way that we would like to hear it.
For both the Bible and the liturgy are about the relationship of God with His people. And relationships – in case anybody hasn’t noticed – aren’t always tidy.
And the Bible and the liturgy are not always communicating information about the relationship between God and His people. In many cases, they are more concerned with the meaning of the relationship between God and His people.
And while the passages we read in the liturgy are grounded in the past, they are here for us to reflect upon their meaning for today.
Advent’s thematic is so simple that it is not likely to make the banners this year: God is present to us. For “Emmanuel” means “God is with us.”
Advent looks to that great feast of God’s presence to us: Christmas.
God is present to His world through His Son, Jesus – who became one of us so that we could become one with Him.
Our medieval ancestors, in their statues and iconography, often portrayed Mary as pregnant.
In our “enhanced” church at Saint Joseph, there will be a new shrine in the back with a statue of Mary expecting the Christ Child, the Pregnant Virgin, Our Lady of the Advent of Christ. And this image has so much to say to our age which is in serious danger of forgetting that the God-given gift of human life begins at conception.
As mothers know, pregnancy isn’t a very comfortable thing. Its hope is tinged with morning sickness. You know that your child is living within you. You can feel your child kicking. But right at the moment, you can’t see the face of the one who is soon to be born. But you will.
And that is what Advent – the coming of Christ – is about. The splendor of God’s presence is hidden within the everyday untidiness of our lives – and lies beneath the pain and poverty of this world.
But we live in hope. God is present to us — in His Son, Jesus. We long to see His face, and one day we will. But even now we can feel His presence within us and among us.
This Advent season – like the pregnant Virgin Mary – is short on explanation and heavy with meaning.
Today trust in Church leadership is falling. Confidence in government and politicians is sinking. We long for trustworthy leadership but, in our times, can we ever hope to find it?
So where does our longing for trustworthy leadership lead us? To today’s feast – Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.
It was given to us by Pope Pius XI in 1925. It falls on the last Sunday of the Church year. Next Sunday opens the new Church year with the First Sunday of Advent.
Pope Pius XI was looking at the world and he saw dictatorships arising. Mussolini [1883-1945] was parading around Italy with arrogance. Hitler [1889-1945] was just released from jail and his scary Nazi party was gaining strength.
Pope Pius XI wanted to remind the world of its Divine Lord and Master. And so he established the Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.
In America, presidents are voted in one day and out on another. But a king is in office for life. In today’s First Reading, from the Second Book of Samuel, David is anointed the King of Israel, and the people pledge their ongoing loyalty to him.
In Jewish thought, if you were loyal to God’s anointed one, the king, you were also being loyal to God. But you and I know that King David, who he did a lot of good, also committed some very serious sins. And we know that with human leadership there will always be flaws and failures.
So who is the trustworthy leader for us to follow? It is none other than the Son of God and the Son of Mary. And what does Jesus our King teach us about leadership?
Jesus describes Himself in the Gospels by saying, “I have come not to be served by others but to serve” [Matthew 20: 28, Mark 10: 45]. He is our Servant King. That is the kind of leadership that He exercises and that He teaches us to follow.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus, our Servant King, is reigning from the Cross and suffering out of love to redeem us poor sinners. And two thieves are crucified either side of Him.
One, in a very cocky way, says, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.”
The other one, very humbly, says, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly… but this man has done nothing criminal.” And then he – the one we call the “good thief” or Saint Dismas – says to Jesus, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus hears his confession on that cross. And Jesus says to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Someone entitled this Gospel scene, “The Thief Who Stole Heaven.” At the last minute, the good thief opened his heart to Jesus, and Jesus’ heart was already wide-open to him. That is the kind of leadership that Jesus teaches us to follow: being servant leaders with loving hearts.
Several years ago [December 1997] a young man in West Paducah, Kentucky took a gun to school and killed seven of his classmates. Parents were frantically praying, “Not my child, Lord. Please don’t let anything happen to my child.”
One mother’s prayer was not answered as she had wished. Her son died in the shooting. In spite of her shock and grief, that mother didn’t hesitate when doctors asked if she would donate her son’s organs to others in critical need.
Many months passed, and the mother discovered that her son’s heart had gone to a Methodist pastor. She contacted him and asked to meet him.
The day of their meeting, the grieving mother and the grateful pastor talked and prayed and celebrated the life of her precious son who had died so suddenly and tragically.
And then the mother surprised the pastor by asking him, “May I put my ear next to your heart? May I hear my son’s heart beating one more time inside of you?”
We are each called to be a person who has received a transplanted heart, the heart of Jesus within us. There are so many people today who are discouraged with scandals in the Church, with corruption in government and politicians, with violence and terrorism, with overwhelming greed and the outright rejection of God-given morals.
They desperately need to hear the blessed reassurance of His beating heart. They need to be able to put their ears to our hearts and know that Jesus Christ our King still reigns.
And so we pray: “Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like yours.”