Top Posts of 2020 – #6

December 27, 2020

Each year, during the week between Christmas and New Years Day, I re-post the Top 7 Posts of the Year – based on the number of views each post received.

Today we have Post #6 on the Top Posts countdown. The following was originally posted on October 4, 2020 and was titled, Homily For Respect Life Sunday: The Gospel of Life

Carol and I were scheduled to babysit two of our grandsons on Friday and Saturday. Knowing that would take most of our time and all of my focus, I started early on my homily preparation this week. My homily was written, edited, and practiced earlier than normal. It was deemed officially complete late Thursday night.

At 2:04 on Friday afternoon, Fr. Jim’s parish email blast arrived in my inbox. In it was a reminder that the Church recognizes Respect Life Sunday this weekend. I needed that reminder; I had forgotten that.

A part of me, the lazy part perhaps, wanted to go ahead with the homily I had already prepared. The rest of me, in particular the part of me that contains my heart, knew I needed to start over.

There has never been a time, at least in my lifetime, that people have needed to hear the respect life message more. My already-completed homily was put away for another time. (Thanks a lot, Fr. Jim)

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Top Posts of 2020 – #7

December 26, 2020

Each year, during the week between Christmas and New Years Day, I re-post the Top 7 Posts of the Year – based on the number of views each post received.

I begin today with #7 on the Top Posts countdown. The following was originally posted on February 25, 2020 and was titled, What Are You Going to Do Instead?

Often the Lenten season is boiled down to doing less of something – try to stop eating between meals, or drinking caffeine, or gossiping, or watching so much television. Or maybe we focus on doing more of something – exercise more, spend more time with our families, or make an attempt to smile more. All of these are noble gestures, but I suspect ulterior motives in many cases. It’s similar to the young boy who gives up spinach for Lent. It’s stuff we’ve been meaning to do anyway, right? After all, not eating between meals and committing to more exercise is just a weight loss program, isn’t it?

In 2010, I made the decision to fast during Holy Week. I planned an all-out, no food at all, water-only, five-day fast. I planned to begin at noon on Tuesday and end at noon on Easter Sunday. I did my homework. I researched how fasting would affect me physiologically and mentally. I learned how to prepare my body to handle the rigors of an extended fast. I knew that I was going to be spending that week at St. Meinrad’s Holy Week retreat, so I would not have to battle many of the food temptations of everyday life. I was ready.

I arrived at St. Meinrad and took a long walk before the retreat began. I sat down on a bench and engaged in a conversation with one of the monks. He asked what brought me to St. Meinrad. I shared that I was going to be attending a retreat. I also mentioned that I would be attempting to fast. He asked me why I was going to do that. I thought about it. I answered that it was an act of self-discipline that would make me stronger and that it was a Lenten act of penance. He nodded and asked, “What are you going to do instead?”

Instead?

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Guide Our Feet Into the Way of Peace

December 24, 2020

In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:67-79)

Today’s Gospel offers us the beautiful Canticle of Zechariah. It is a wonderful message of hope, a fitting focus for the final day of Advent.

The verse above acknowledges that we struggle at times. The world can weigh heavily on us. The battles and challenges of everyday life can leave a cloud hanging over us. We need a break. We need some light to shine through the clouds. We need peace.

Our God is compassionate. The star of the Nativity offers us a ray of hope. Our goal is to allow that hope to grow in our hearts and be reflected in our thoughts and actions, and “guide our feet into the way of peace.”

If we don’t open ourselves up to that possibility, Christmas is just another day.

Keep the Dominoes Falling

December 23, 2020

Thus says the Lord God: Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me (Malachi 3:1)

Today’s first reading anticipates the sending forth of Elijah as a prophet, to “prepare the way” before the Lord. The Gospel reading details the birth of John the Baptist, also brought forward to prepare the way for Jesus.

We might look at prophets such as Elijah and John the Baptist as very different from ourselves, both having received the unique call to spread the word.

The New Evangelization, however, makes it quite clear that we are all called to prepare the way of the Lord. From the USCCB: “The New Evangelization calls each of us to deepen our faith, believe in the Gospel message and go forth to proclaim the Gospel. The focus of the New Evangelization calls all Catholics to be evangelized and then go forth to evangelize.”

The people and places have changed, but the mission of evangelization has not. Our faith may be personal, but it is not private. It is meant to be shared. It is our responsibility to keep the dominoes falling.

Magnificat

December 22, 2020

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
for he has looked upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.”
(Luke 1:46-56)

Today’s gospel shares these beautiful words of Mary, called the Magnificat, or Canticle of Mary.

If you have seven minutes to spare, enjoy these images and musical versions of the Magnificat.

Homily: Responding to God’s Gifts

December 21, 2020

Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.
(Luke 1:45)

This homily was originally delivered at St. Pius X Parish, Indianapolis, IN in December 2015.

With the Christmas season approaching, I thought I would take a moment to reflect on the practice of exchanging gifts. I will focus primarily on the receiving of gifts, more specifically, how one responds to receiving a gift.

Allow me to offer three examples from the wide range of possible responses.

Example #1: After school one day, five students and I spent three hours in the rain, raking leaves for my elderly neighbor. We filled up 64 large trash bags with the leaves from her front yard. Darkness set in, and as we were putting away the rakes and leaf blower, my neighbor stepped out onto her front porch and called me over.

What was her response to this gift we had given her? Her response was, and I quote: “Aren’t you going to rake the back yard?”

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Homily: Permission to Question

December 20, 2020 – Fourth Sunday of Advent

Readings: 2 Samuel 7:1-16 / Romans 16:25-27 / Luke 1:26-38

I will be delivering the following homily at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis today (the audio version can be found at the end of this post):

When our oldest child, Mary, was around 4 years old, I remember taking her to the doctor for one of her regular check-ups. It was one of the visits that was going to require her to get a vaccination of some kind. Carol and I knew there would be a shot administered at this particular visit, so we did our best to prepare her during the week prior.

When the doctor came into the room, he joked with her a bit to try to distract her. However, Mary was not easily distracted. She knew he had a needle as well as what he intended to do with it.

When the time came for the shot, our sweet little Mary looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “Daddy, I don’t think I want to get a shot.”

Mary was a Daddy’s girl and my first instinct was to say, “OK!” and scoop her up and get her out of there.

But the responsible dad in me gave her a hug and said, “I know, but Mommy and Daddy love you very much and the medicine in this shot will help keep you safe.”

Continuing to melt my heart, she asked, “Will it hurt?”

Rather than go into a lengthy explanation, I simply said, “It might, but only for a little while.”

She looked at the doctor, closed her eyes and said, “OK”  – and got the shot.

Despite her fears and the uncertainty of what was about to happen, Mary proved to be both obedient and trusting.

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Why We Shouldn’t Be Afraid

December 19, 2020

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah… (Luke 1:5-25)

How many times have we read the words, “Do not be afraid” in the Gospels? Angels spoke these words to Mary, Joseph, Zechariah, and others. Jesus often spoke these words to calm His disciples.

With those simple words, God sends us two distinct messages:

First, He acknowledges our fear. He knows that what He asks of us is not easy; it makes us anxious. We worry about our worthiness, our ability, and the strength of our conviction. We are afraid because we don’t know if we can do it alone.

The second message addresses this fear. He wants us to know that we are not alone. He is here for us. He walks with us and wants to help.

God’s full message is: “Do not be afraid…we are in this together.”