Location: St. Joseph School Door D – Blue Canopy
COVID -19 Updates Letter to the Parish from Fr. Tim. 5-18-20 Dear Everyone,Attached are 1) a memo to priests and deacons regarding starting public Masses on Monday, 25 May 2020, and 2) guidelines for returning …
Electronic Giving made simple and cost effective. Click here to sign up! St. Joseph Church has teamed up with myEoffering to enable parishioners to give your weekly offering electronically from your bank account or credit …
If you click here you will see the plan layout for the Church Enhancement Project. This is in PDF form and printable. St. Joseph Church Enhancement Pledge form. Click here. You may download, print and …
FALL SPORTS SIGN-UPS OPEN ON MAY 20th St. Joseph’s Athletic Association offers a Sports Program including: Cheerleading for the football and basketball seasons Football for boys grades 4-8, August through October Flag Football grades 1st-4th …
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, strengthen and …
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 …
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.
COVID -19 Updates
Letter to the Parish from Fr. Tim. 5-18-20
Attached are 1) a memo to priests and deacons regarding starting public Masses on Monday, 25 May 2020, and 2) guidelines for returning to public worship in the Diocese of Cleveland.
These two documents were issued this morning, 10 May 2020. I wanted you all to have a copy right away as this returning to public worship involves a lot of planning and coordination, as you will see.
I also want parishioners to be able to view this on the website to help them understand what we need to do to keep everyone as safe as we can as we begin to celebrate Mass publicly once again, after a long period of fasting from the Eucharist that began on 17 March.
Let’s keep each other and our parishes in our prayers. You are all in mine every day.
Gratefully in Christ,
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)
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FIFTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME-A
Isaiah 55: 10-11
Romans 8: 18-23
Matthew 13: 1-9
Advertisers know they must target a specific audience if they are going to make a sale. The “one size fits all” approach is not effective. People need to feel personally addressed.
There are many audiences that advertising appeals to. I would like to point out two today: “the belongers” and “the achievers.”
For many people, it is important to feel that they belong, and so advertising targets that group. The fashion world does this all the time. People want to fit in with the latest styles. They are “the belongers.”
Another group is “the achievers.” Achievers are often very successful people. And they don’t want to be like everybody else. They want to set the style. And so advertising might say to the achiever, “This is something that most people can’t afford – but you can! After all, you are not like everybody else!”
In today’s Gospel, Jesus demonstrates how different audiences will receive His Word in different ways. He delivers the same message – the same Word – but not everyone will hear it in the same way.
Jesus tells a parable about the seed as the Word of God: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.” And then Jesus adds, “Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
Unlike the fixed personality types to which the advertising world appeals, we choose the kind of soil we offer the seed of God’s Word to grow in – or not grow in. The condition of the soil symbolizes our response, our receptivity to God’s Word. There were two sisters, Lisa and Shelly. Both liked to swim. Lisa practiced faithfully and fruitfully, and had just won a competition.
Her dad was talking about this as he and Shelly were snacking in the kitchen.
He asked, “Shelly, don’t you want to do something like Lisa did?” Well, Shelly wasn’t into practice. She just enjoyed being in the pool.
So Shelly replied, “No, I really don’t want to do that, Dad. I’d rather just sit here and have cookies and milk with you.”
We can take that approach with our discipleship – just sitting back and admiring the Christian life. Or, we can commit ourselves to practicing it faithfully and fruitfully, day after day. There was a young man who wanted to enter the seminary. He went through the admissions process, listed the college he attended, but did not include a graduation transcript.
The admissions counselor contacted the college and found out that this young man had indeed been there for four years. But he used the tuition money from his parents to enjoy college life. And he audited every single course – no assignments, no exams and no academic credit. Although he had been there for four years, he didn’t earn a graduation diploma.
The writer who cites this illustration says that sometimes that is what we do in the Christian life. We become mere auditors of the Christian life, rather than being full participants. And there is a great deal of difference between being interested and being committed. Jesus teaches us that we choose how we hear His Word. And with God’s grace, we can cultivate our soil so that it produces fruit “a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.” There is an invitation at Mass right before we receive Holy Communion. The priest takes the Host and the Chalice and holds them up – the Body and Blood, the soul and divinity of Jesus Himself – and says, “Behold the Lamb of God. Behold Him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.” And we all respond, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof. But only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” “But only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
Lord, we ask you, please say that word and enable each of us to “yield a fruitful harvest” [Responsorial Psalm 65], “a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”
FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME-A
Zechariah 9: 9-10
Romans 8: 9, 11-13
Matthew 11: 25-30
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest,” Jesus tells us in the Gospel today. And this is an important message for us to remember.
Sooner or later most of us sense that the life we are living is not exactly the life we hoped it would be. We realize that life has its burdens, three of which are prominent.
The first is the burden of daily irritations: standing in a long line, being forced to listen to elevator music while on hold for a half hour, figuring out the endless conditions of Medicare and HMOs. The daily irritations of life are burdens that we all bear. The second burden includes the more serious stuff like poverty, illness and loss. The hurts that don’t want to heal, the anger that won’t go away, the success that is just beyond our grasp. The third burden we carry is the deepest of all, although we tend to suppress it. It is the burden of identity: who am I really? Beneath the cosmetics, the role-playing, the pressures of fashion and belonging, who am I? All our life we deal with this crucial question: who am I really? The first answer we come up with is: “I am what I do.” There is some truth to this. When I do good things and have a little success, I feel good about myself. But when I fail or grow old or sick or am down-sized, I can wonder: now that I am no longer able to do what I used to do, who am I? Or we might say: “I am what other people say about me.” And sometimes this seem to be the most important. When people speak well of me, I can walk around quite confidently. But when someone starts saying negative things about me, I may have doubts about myself. I might even put on some false appearances, trying to please others to reclaim their approval. Finally, we might say, “I am what I have.” For example, “I am an American with successful parents, a good education, fine health and lots of money and clothes and cars.” But as soon as I lose any of these, I can become insecure and feel like a nobody. Still, we can put a lot of energy into maintaining beliefs like: “I am what I do.” “I am what others say about me.” “I am what I have.” And when that is the case, our life quickly becomes repetitive ups and downs. And before we realize it, most of our energy goes toward trying to stay above the line we consider success, and we call this “surviving.” Where do we look for direction? “Come to Me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” We look to Jesus who knew who He was as He lived His life with all of its ups and downs. At His baptism, His Father’s voice was heard: “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” People praised Jesus and people rejected Jesus. People cried out, “Hosanna” and later cried out, “Crucify Him.” No matter what, Jesus held on to this core truth of His identity: “I am My Father’s beloved Son. Not because other people say that I am, but because My Father says so. My Father forever calls Me His beloved Son.” If there is anything that I want you to hear today, it is this: that what was said of Jesus is also said of you: “You are God’s beloved son, you are God’s beloved daughter. This is your core identity. You must hear this truth not only in your head but also in your gut.
You are the beloved child of God before, during and after all the burdens of life. Every time you are tempted to despair, to become bitter or jealous, every time you feel rejected, remind yourself: “No matter what happens to me, I am God’s beloved child.”
The line at the airport was long and the man at the counter was furious. “I demand to be seated right now! I have a first-class ticket!” And he ranted on. The attendant behind the counter was patiently trying to explain the delay, but he would have none of it. Finally the angry man shouted, “Do you know who I am?” Then the sharp-witted attendant picked up the microphone and announced: “Attention, we have a gentleman here who doesn’t know who he is. If anyone can identify him, would you please come to the ticket counter?” We laugh at his arrogance, but here is a man who has his identity all wrapped up in what he does, in what people say about him, and in what he has. When these are threatened, he cries out in pain. For what is left when this material identity is challenged or taken away? What is left – if he only knew it – is that he is still a beloved child of God. No matter what is going on in your life right now, I beg you to remember who you are: you are God’s beloved son, God’s beloved daughter.
And listen to what Jesus is saying to you right now: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” We can take Him at His word because He means it. We can count on Him.
2 Kings 4: 8-11, 14-16a
Romans 6: 3-4, 8-11
Matthew 10: 37-42
Long before we all had to be six feet apart, a son took his mother to the Social Security office. As they entered, the security guard stopped them and asked, “Ma’am, are you carrying any weapons?” “Oh, yes,” she declared quite jubilantly as she began to reach for her purse. The guard ran out from behind his post and grabbed her arm. Horrified, the son shouted, “Mom, what are you doing?” “I was just getting out my driver’s license to show the guard,” she replied. “He didn’t ask you for your driver’s license. He asked you if you were carrying any weapons.” “Oh,” she said to the guard, embarrassed. “No weapons. Sorry, I don’t always pay attention.” Thankfully neither of them went to jail that day. But they both learned a valuable lesson: it is incredibly important to pay attention and listen attentively and then respond appropriately. In our first reading, from the Second Book of Kings, we see the welcome given to the prophet Elisha by a childless “woman of influence” and her aging husband. The woman recognized the holiness of Elisha. She showed him hospitality by inviting him to dine with her and her husband and by arranging a guest room in their house so that Elisha could stay with them whenever he visited the area. In response, Elisha promised her: “This time next year you will be fondling a baby son.” And that promise was heard and fulfilled by God.
Both the woman and the prophet were attentive listeners and appropriate responders. She recognized Elisha’s holiness and responded with warm hospitality. Elisha recognized her unspoken desire for a child and responded as the instrument of God’s answer to her prayers: “This time next year you will be fondling a baby son.”
It can be so easy to become frustrated with people who do not pay attention. A parish office had to close when the power went out. They placed a sign on the door that read: “The parish office is closed due to the power outage. We will re-open tomorrow morning.” A woman stopped the pastor outside and asked: “Is the parish office closed, Father?” “Yes, we placed a sign on the door. We lost power.” “Oh, yes,” she said. “I saw the sign. When will you re-open?” “Tomorrow morning,” he replied. “I thought that’s what the sign said,” she answered. “And is this because of the power outage?” Ten minutes later a man stopped the pastor. “Father, I called the parish office and got a recording saying that you were closed today. So I drove up here to find out for sure. Are you really closed?” The pastor could hardly believe what was happening: either he was going bonkers or everyone else needed remedial “Hooked on Phonics.” In our own relationships with God, perhaps we are not much different. Struggling to trust God during this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Questioning His plan – or even wondering if there is a plan – when our lives face so many unforeseen and annoying changes. Wondering if God is really there when our prayer life seems so dry and unsatisfying. However, God continually reminds us that He is always with us, especially when times are tough. But we need to pay attention and be attentive listeners and appropriate responders. There are those infomercials for hearing devices. [I hope that the lady at the Social Security office can check on one before her next visit with airport TSA.] I truly wish, though, that we all could have one for our prayer. God’s voice is often so quiet, but it brings so much peace and reassurance when we listen for it attentively. The philosopher Blaise Pascal remarked, “All our problems boil down to our inability to be happy in our room by ourselves.” Silence – no distraction, no opportunity to browse, spend or talk too much – isn’t so bad if we learn to be at peace with ourselves, all alone. Yes, too much silence can drive us berserk. But still, making the most of our quiet time is a talent worth cultivating. I hope that this start to the summer season brings you some peace and joy and quiet. God is still speaking to us. Let’s just hope that we are all paying attention as His attentive listeners and appropriate responders.
TWELFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME-A
Jeremiah 20: 10-13
Romans 5: 12-15
Matthew 10: 26-33
St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, used to ask her grade-school classmates: “Have you ever seen a saint praying?” She would then add: “If you haven’t, come to my house this evening. You will see my dad on his knees in his room praying for us, his children, every day.”
Father’s Day challenges Christian fathers to be great role models for their children.
In Ernest Hemingway’s short story, “The Capital of the World,” a Spanish newspaper, El Liberal, carried a poignant story about a father and his son. The teen-aged boy, Paco, and his very wealthy father had a falling out, and the young man ran away from home.
The father was crushed. After a few days, he realized that the boy was serious, so he set out to find him. He searched for his son for five months to no avail.
Finally, in a last, desperate attempt to find his son, the father put an ad in a Madrid newspaper that read: “Dear Paco, Meet me at the Hotel Montana at noon on Tuesday. All is forgiven! Love, Papa.” On Tuesday, at the Hotel Montana, over 800 Pacos showed up, all looking for love and forgiveness from their fathers.
What a magnet that ad was! Over 800 Pacos! We all hunger for interior peace. We know what it is like: those times in our lives when we yearn for someone who can assure us that “All is forgiven.” Father’s Day reminds us that we need lots of loving, forgiving fathers.
A man tells about how, when he was a small boy, his father’s birthday rolled around. And all he could come up with to buy him a present was 17 cents. He put the dime, the nickel, and the two pennies in an envelope and gave it to his father with a note: “I love you, Dad. Happy Birthday. Thanks for being the best dad in the whole world. Sorry I couldn’t buy you a gift. This is all I’ve got.”
Years later, when he was going through his father’s possessions after his death, he discovered, tucked in his father’s wallet, the envelope, the note, the dime, the nickel, and the two pennies that his father had carried all those years.
Why had his dad kept these tokens of their relationship? Because they represented pure love and pure gratitude. And this reminds us of the gracious, unconditional, unmerited, awesome love that our Heavenly Father has for us. Here is what Jesus tells us about Him in today’s Gospel: “Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge…. So do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.” Pure love on our Heavenly Father’s part calls for pure gratitude on ours.
Many fathers today are great role models, like St. Louis Martin (the father of the Little Flower, St. Therese of Lisieux). In fact, both he and his wife, "Zélie" Guérin Martin, were canonized as saints by Pope Francis in 2015. They are parental heroes of our Faith. But while the ideal of fatherhood is a noble one, the reality we see on earth is sometimes quite different. This Father’s Day weekend is a good time for all fathers to reflect upon their duties as responsible and well-integrated men. True fatherhood demands commitment. Commitment demands maturity, sacrifice and love. Our nation has an urgent need for great fathers.
A favorite gift for Father’s Day is a cap emblazoned with the words “World’s Greatest Dad.” You may see more of them than ever this year on the heads of proud fathers.
There is one Dad who is absolutely the “World’s Greatest Dad,” our Heavenly Father. We can lean on Him in times of pain and hurt. We can call on Him in times of fear. We can depend on Him for all our needs – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
Let us take this Father’s Day to honor Him, the absolutely “World’s Greatest Dad.” Let us pray the Our Father during this Mass, savoring the meaning of each line and welcoming the love of our Heavenly Father for us.
May all earthly fathers draw strength from their Heavenly Father.
And on this Father’s Day, please also pray for us, your spiritual Fathers – men who are called to be Fathers of our parish families through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the Priesthood.
To all fathers, grandfathers, stepfathers and Godfathers, and all those men who show a fatherly influence over others: Happy Father’s Day. And through the intercession of Saint Joseph, the foster father of Jesus, may the Lord continue to bless you and your families, now and forever. Amen.
PACO, ALL IS FORGIVEN
No one could really say why he ran away. Or perhaps he didn’t, but was kicked out of his home by his father for something foolish that he said or did. Either way, Paco found himself wandering the streets of Madrid, Spain with hopes of entering into a profession that would most likely get him killed – bullfighting. Those who train under a mentor have a good chance of surviving this profession, but Paco’s memory of his mistakes and guilt over what happened blindly drove him to this one way street to suicide.
But that was the last thing his father wanted, which is why he tried something desperate which he desperately hoped would work. There was little to no chance that he would be able to find Paco by wandering the streets of Madrid , so instead he put an advertisement in the local newspaper El Liberal. The advertisement read,
“Paco, meet me at the Hotel Montana at noon on Tuesday. All is forgiven! Love, Papa.”
Paco is such a common name in Spain that when the father went to the Hotel Montana the next day at noon there were 800 young men named Paco waiting for their fathers…and waiting for the forgiveness they never thought was possible!
From the short story The Capital of the World by Ernest Hemingwayin The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway
THE MOST HOLY BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST-A
Deuteronomy 8: 2-3, 14b-16a
1 Corinthians 10: 16-17
John 6: 51-58
I was ordained a priest 45 years ago today. And I celebrate five of those years being with you here at Saint Joseph and Nativity Parishes.
I remember my ordination morning so well. It took place for me and my classmates on 14 June 1975 in Holy Family Church in Parma, at the hands of our then-Bishop James A. Hickey. The only sadness for me that day was the absence of my father, who had died of melanoma at the age of 44, three years earlier. But then I remember looking at my mother and my family and realizing that my dad had the best seat in the house from the vantage point of heaven!
Jesus gave us the Sacrament of Holy Orders so that we could continue to do what He did at the Last Supper: to celebrate the Eucharist. “Do this in memory of Me,” He said. And we continue to do what He told us to do.
During Mass what happens to bread and wine runs counter to what our senses tell us. After the consecration they appear to be the same as they were before. But our faith tells us that they are substantially different. While they still appear to be bread and wine, they no longer are. What – or Who – is before us is none other than Jesus Christ Himself, with His Body and Blood, His soul and divinity.
At the beginning of creation, the Book of Genesis tells us, the Eternal Word of God spoke and said: “Let there be light.” And there was light. At the Last Supper, Jesus, the Eternal Word of God made flesh, said: “This is My Body. This is My Blood. Take and eat. Take and drink. Do this in Memory of Me.” The Living Word assures us that the Eucharist, the Blessed Sacrament, Holy Communion is really what He declares: it is truly Himself. Mary carried Jesus in her womb for nine months before He was born in Bethlehem. She was a living tabernacle, a sanctuary of His presence.
We carry Him in our bodies when we receive Him in Holy Communion. We too are a living tabernacle, a sanctuary of His presence.
As Saint Paul tells us in the second reading today: “Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf” [1 Corinthians 10: 17]. Paul means what he says: the Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of Jesus. In the Eucharist we are one with Christ and one with each other in Him.
There is a refrain from a hymn called “Sanctuary” that says:
Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary,
Pure and holy, tried and true.
With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living
Sanctuary for You.
When did you receive Jesus in the Eucharist for the very first time? I made my First Holy Communion on 5 May 1957 in Saint Peter’s Church in Huron. I remember so well that day and the preparation that led to it. How many times have you and I received Jesus as of today? I have no idea. But the temptation that we can face is to treat the Mass as “routine.” Routine can be a very good thing when it helps us establish good habits or virtues. But it can also lead to “just going through the motions” – even in celebrating Mass and receiving the Eucharist. Returning to the public celebration of Mass, after all those weeks of fasting from the Eucharist, can help us to re-kindle our appreciation for Jesus’ gift to us of Himself. Saint John Vianney said that “an entire lifetime would not be enough to thank God for one reception of Holy Communion.” Another holy person said that “all of the good works in the world do not equal the value of one Mass.” Saint John Bosco taught wisely that “we don’t receive the Eucharist because we are good, but to become good and pleasing to God.” Another person said that “the words of creation are not greater than the words of the consecration – that bring to us our Creator.” And, “if the angels could receive Holy Communion just once, they would spend eternity thanking God for the privilege.” “Sanctuary” says it so well:
Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary,
Pure and holy, tried and true.
With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living
Sanctuary for you.
This really puts us in the right frame of mind today for this feast of Corpus Christi, the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, the feast of the Eucharist.
With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living
Sanctuary for you.
THE MOST HOLY TRINITY-A
Exodus 34: 4b-6, 8-9
2 Corinthians 13: 11-13
John 3: 16-18
Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity: one God in three divine persons. The Trinity is “the central mystery of our Christian faith and life” [The Catechism of the Catholic Church, #234].
I ask you to make the Sign of the Cross with me now as we acknowledge the Trinity: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
Yes, the Trinity is “the central mystery of our Christian faith and life.”
And on this Trinity Sunday we are face-to-face with two pandemic crises: 1) COVID-19 and 2) racial injustice.
I stood at the top of Saint Joseph Drive and Cleveland Avenue yesterday [Saturday, 6 June] afternoon at 1:00 PM to support those who were marching for racial justice – and who were doing so, for this important and timely cause, in a very spirited and respectful manner.
Archbishop Wilton Gregory, the African-American Archbishop of Washington, DC said this week that “the Church lives in society. The Church does not live behind the doors of the structures where we worship.” He went on to say that racism is similar to a virus in that both “are things that impact our lives and frighten us, but also come in silent and oftentimes undiscoverable ways.”
COVID-19 has us wear masks and keep a social distance from one another to protect our health. Racial prejudice causes people to wear masks of privilege and to keep their distance from anyone they believe is different from them, resulting in social injustice and an unhealthy society.
The life of the Trinity calls us to see others not as “those people” but as brothers and sisters, and children of our One God.
The feast of the Blessed Trinity offers insights on today’s challenges.
We can at times find the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity cerebral and up-in-the clouds. One God in three divine persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. What of this?
Wait a minute, though. Two very practical lessons flow from the lofty doctrine of the Trinity.
For one, the Blessed Trinity is not way up there! The Trinity dwells in our souls. We have the very life of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – deep within us. This gift was given to us at our Baptism, is nurtured by faith and prayer, and is renewed and strengthened by the Sacraments.
This means, as the Bible tells us, that we are each temples of God, with the Trinity abiding within us!
Think of the moral implications of that. Would we ever do anything to hurt or disrespect ourselves, or someone else, if we really believed that we are all temples of God’s very life? From this comes our conviction about the God-given dignity of every human person and the sanctity of every human life, whether in the womb or on the sidewalks of Minneapolis or the streets of Lorain County.
The second pointer the mystery of the Blessed Trinity gives us is that Almighty God – who always was, is, and forever will be – exists in a community of persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Made in God’s image and likeness, we are to reflect right here in our hearts and in our living that community of persons. We are called to banish ideologies of hate. And to live as brothers and sisters of Jesus, as sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, no matter what our race or country of origin. We are all God’s children.
We have seen inspiring evidence of our human family coming together during these last ten weeks of the dreaded coronavirus. We have seen our community at its best in our families, health care professionals, essential services, police and fire and emergency responders.
God forbid that the turmoil and injustice of racism – that can keep us apart even when we can be together – would now tarnish the luster of the community that has made so many strides to become more closely one in life-giving relationships – like the communal life of the Trinity. Today it is crucial that we stand together and declare that every life is sacred and matters, and that all people are to be treated as equal before the law in our nation and in our world.
We are living in some tough times. And we all need to do our part so that we come out of these crisis-times as better individuals, a better Church and a better society.
May Almighty God protect us from the pandemics of COVID-19 and racial injustice. As children of our One God and as brothers and sisters of Jesus, let us ask all these things, as always, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
Acts of the Apostles 2: 1-11
1 Corinthians 12: 3b-7, 12-13
John 20: 19-23
Today is the Feast of Pentecost. We celebrate: 1) the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples – their Confirmation – 2) the birthday of the Church, and 3) the close of the Easter season. We also celebrate the re-opening of our Catholic churches in the State of Ohio and our return to the public celebration of Mass – and now with many protocols and restrictions to be followed, as Ohio gradually re-opens.
The coronavirus pandemic is being contained, but it has not been conquered with a sure remedy or vaccine. We wonder where to go from here. But through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can learn valuable lessons from our vulnerability that will make us even better disciples of Jesus.
Right here, right now, is the place that we grow in our discipleship. The disciples, along with Mary, were practicing “social distancing” – being apart from their families and townspeople – as they awaited the descent of the Holy Spirit upon them on that first Pentecost. They were “sheltered in place,” in fear and in prayer, in that upper room. They were afraid that what had happened to Jesus would happen to them, now that He had risen and ascended to heaven. They clenched their teeth and perspired in panic.
Our world right now is much like that upper room. We have been locked down, schools and businesses have been closed. Technology has become one of our lifelines. And technology may well be the Holy Spirit’s tool to increase our hope during these times of isolation. So I encourage you: allow the Holy Spirit to speak and to console you, even online.
My brothers and sisters, let us take hold of the opportunities these dawning “new normal” days present, and allow Pentecost to change our hearts right now. In the wake of disease and loss, we can break down walls and barriers that have kept us apart – even when we were able to be together [such as racial prejudice]. The Church desperately needs us to minister to one another – and to those who need God right now.
When we take Pentecost seriously, we live with a new sense of the abundance of God’s blessings, and not the scarcity – and minister to each other with the conviction that God is never outdone in His generosity.
God blesses each of us in different ways with His bountiful gifts of time and talent and treasure. And, in our gratitude, we all have something to share. So very often God uses us to be the instruments of His blessings to others, and others to us.
We hope and pray that the end of the coronavirus pandemic will soon come. Pentecost is our blueprint of hope as we leave our rooms of fear and begin to re-enter the world with love and confidence and conviction through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus came and stood in the midst of His disciples and said to them, “Peace be with you.” He says the very same to us right now. “Peace.”
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.”