The Doxology Prayer in the Eucharistic Prayers

Do you know what the Doxology is in the Eucharistic Prayer (EP)?

It is the big prayer of the presider to be followed by the Great Amen.  It is the special prayer during the action of the elevation the Body and Blood of Christ in finish of the Eucharistic Prayer (I,II,III,IV, others), as the presider (and perhaps deacon) lift(s) up the paten and chalice vessels with the Lord as Sacrament in them.

The priest prays/sings “Through Him, and with Him, and in Him, O God, Almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, forever and ever.”

The people answer in song or prayer (with some gusto):  Amen!

That’s the Doxology.

What does the prayer and it’s Amen mean to us? That Only “through Christ, with Him and in Him” can we arrive to the Father.

The word “doxology” comes from the Greek “doxa” which means “glory”. Doxology, therefore, means glorification.

Each celebration of the Mass has this function of praise, of blessing, and of glorification. However, the Eucharistic Prayer is the heart of this liturgy. The Eucharistic Prayer begins with the preface, lifting our hearts up to the Father. Then comes the Sanctus, proclaiming God’s holiness and glory that fills the universe.  God’s people pray or sing Holy, Holy and Blessed is He Who Comes and Hosanna!   The EP goes on, but takes a break for the Mystery of Faith, the people’s prayer in the middle.  Then, at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, the presider (priest) recites this concluding doxology, praising the Trinity. In this prayer, the priest elevates the Sacred Victim up high, above all temporal realities, and says:

“Through Him, with Him and in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever.”

It is quite a Doxology, and it is meant for quite an Amen!    IMAG0751_2_1

We are now presented to God with the Sacrament of Christ among us.  We are standing with Jesus.  The Holy Spirit has come down.   The Father is drawn to Christ appearing as our Salvation in present form as Sacrament (just as Jesus said He would provide us), and we look up to the Father in this Doxology to say:  Here we are.  We are yours.  Let this Sacrament come to us and claim us anew.   May the Real Presence of Jesus really renew us!   May we please You, O Heavenly Father!    Amen!  Amen!

Then we speak to the Father in the Lord’s Prayer— as with Jesus, as in a Spirit led miraculous meeting/encounter.

The Church believes in the mediation of Christ alone and His supreme Priesthood. Only “through Him, with Him and in Him” can we reach the Father. “No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Jn 14:6) We know that our deeds are pleasing to God through Christ. Our lives united to His life, to His death and to His resurrection, are glory and honor to the Trinity.

The Church exists to glorify God: this is precisely why the priestly Christian people have congregated together– to elevate toward God, in the Eucharist, the maximum praise possible and to gain, on behalf of all humanity, countless material and spiritual goods. This is why the Eucharist is where the Church completely manifests and expresses herself.

Now is a good time to point out the fact that the active participation of the faithful does not consist in reciting together with the priest this doxological prayer. According to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, “The concluding doxology of the Eucharistic Prayer is spoken (sung) solely by the principal priest celebrant and, if this is desired, together with the other concelebrants, but not by the faithful.” (GIRM, 236). The presider of Mass, in his unique Holy Orders , prays Person Christi in this Eucharistic Offering.  The people participate in the EP with the Sanctus prayer ( Holy,Holy), their sole recital/song of the Mystery of Faith, and then their Great Amen.  The EP is now prayed through to an Amen, as we are presented to God in Christ via the Mass/ Body and Blood of Jesus.

The Christian people make the Eucharistic Prayer their own and complete the great Trinitarian Doxology by saying “Amen.”   And they are to say or sing it heartily!    I can recall being taught this when the People’s Mass was begun in the early 1970′s and the religious sisters of St. Joseph of St. Pius X School (here in Bowie) told us to almost shout this response to the priest at the Doxology.   So we did!

There was a movie back then called “Lillies of the Field” with Sidney Pointer helping a community build a church.  He taught the religious sisters of the parish how to exuberantly sing a musical gospel style of “Amen.”   I recall our good sisters in St. Pius X finding great affirmation in that (and we ending up singing that Amen from the movie for awhile as the Doxology response song ).  Yet we got the message:  It’s the Great Amen of Holy Mass!

The people’s response to the Doxology of the EP IS one of the two very solemn “Amen’s” of the Mass.   (The other is in reception of Holy Communion.)  In the third century, the principal privileges of the Christian people were listed as: hearing the Eucharistic Prayer, pronouncing the Amen and receiving the Divine Bread. With this ‘Amen’, the faithful ratify the holy Sacrifice of the Mass. St. Augustine says, “To say ‘Amen’ means to endorse.” Even up through the Carolingian dynasty, the last words of the Canon were not spoken in silence so that the people could respond ‘Amen’ out loud.

The word ‘Amen’ is possibly the principal acclamation of the Christian liturgy. The term ‘Amen’ proceeds from the Old Covenant: “The Levites shall proclaim aloud to all the men of Israel… And all the people shall answer, ‘Amen!’” (Dt 27:15-26; 1 Cron 16:36; Neh 8:6). According to different contexts, ‘Amen’ means: “This is it, this is the truth, so be it”.

The ancient ‘Amen’ continues to resound in the new covenant. It is the characteristic acclamation of the celestial liturgy. (Rev 3:14; 5:14, 7:11-12; 19:4) In Christian tradition, it conserves all of its ancient expressive vigor. (1 Cor 14:16; 2 Cor 1:20)

As in the whole liturgy, saying ‘Amen’ has a vital meaning. It shouldn’t be a mere response with the lips, but rather, it has the value of uniting us to the mystery that we celebrate. Saying ‘Amen’ means uniting ourselves with Christ, desiring to make our whole life a doxology, that is, a glorification of the Trinity, united to the Paschal mystery of the Redeemer.

An essential part of the Christian vocation is to be “the praise of His glory”. Once again we see how the liturgy should be lived. A summary of the glory of creation in Christ is found in the doxology. Through His obedience and love even unto the Cross, Christ has carried out the perfect glorification of the Father: “Father, glorify your Name” (Jn 17:5), and has achieved the perfect glorification of His humanity, united to the Incarnate Word: “Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began.” (Jn 17:5) We must unite ourselves, with our lives, to this glorification of the Trinity. Uniting ourselves to Christ, offering our whole life with Him, joys and pains, success and failure, work and everything that we do, we will become praise of the glory of the Trinity “through Him, with Him and in Him.”

Consider these points the next time you are praying the Holy Mass.

 

The Meaning of Saving Grace; the Living out of it out

Let us study what is the meaning of “Saving Grace.”  A good starting point is the consideration of it as the undeserved favor we have been given of God–for means for our salvation.   As God puts it:  “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  It is the sobering message of Romans 3:23  Each human person needs salvation–so says The Lord God Whom made us, and saw us fall from grace.   Yet there is Good News all through Romans (and the whole New Testament) as we are told of Jesus Christ as His Gift and Favor to us.  Grace has appeared in Him.

Grace.   Saving Grace.   Think about it.  It is so generous of God of even wanting to save us in the first place.   We were all lost in our fallenness, our sin, and our end in death—but then God did something amazing for us.  It was an Amazing Grace displayed.  He came as Savior.  God came as man and salvation and sacrifice for us.  Just out of love.

I think Romans 5, verses 6 to 8 expresses clearly of what saving grace is all about.  “Christ, while we were still helpless, died at the appointed time for the ungodly.  Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die.  But God proves His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”

Let’s comment on that…  You see, grace is the helping power of God poured out so lavishly and so kindly for us, because we are the helpless.  Left to our own ability of self, we can’t help but to keep sinning in our actions or in failing in our sins of omissions.  Even if one would think of himself to be a decent sort of chap, the further reality is that he just can’t save himself into perfection for heaven or everlasting life, for sure, lest even become the person who could help save things on this planet, helping to bring all peoples and creatures and nature together in this world.   We just all do fall short in so many ways, not reaching anything near our potential as people on the earth.   Because of sin.  Because of living outside of The Lord and the full power of His grace.   The fullness of human life and spirit is helpless to us, and out of our grasp–without the direct aid of God.  We call this His Saving Grace.  That He has dramatically reached out to us.

Today in the readings you heard the phrase of “the poor in spirit” or “the remnant people of faith”– these phrases identify those who know to rely on the help of God, and not on their own selves.  These are people who know their souls are meant to be inhabited and led by God, and in all humility, not in our own selves dictating things to God.  Because we are the helpless without Him.

That is the truth of it, if all could just admit it– but far too many just will not admit it.

In fact, some people see themselves as just fine as they are, not as helpless, but fit enough to even go blame others for anything or all things wrong on earth, as if it that’s all somebody’s else fault or problem.  They look for distractions that become as idols to not pay attention to life’s biggest reality–that people need saving.   They deny there is any real problem.   I call it “the deft dodge of the daft denier.”   “The deft dodge of the daft denier.”

The Cross of Christ is the sign of truth.  It stands in the way of man’s pride.  The Cross testifies that we needed life-saving.  God’s Son Jesus would not have gone so far if we hadn’t really needed saving, as that humanity could save itself.   Yet we were not all OK as we were.  But many ascribe to secular humanism of today, and claim independence from God in a self-righteous arrogance and aloofness to any need from a Higher Power.  These people today may be the most pitiable on earth, and they certainly need our prayers the most, because they are people drowning to death that don’t even acknowledge it, nor would care to grab the life saver.   It seems that they have a blind spot, too, to death itself, and not only for just their own selves and their own helplessness to it, but also to the tragedy of death around them in their world, in famine, sickness, abortion, and etcetera.  We are sorry for these people, not in a superior way, but that Grace has not broken through their defenses, as it did with ourselves.

We Christians look straight on at the reality of death.  We look for salvation from it. Humankind is helpless without God and a Savior and a salvation plan.

In the NIV translation of Romans 5:6-8, we return again to the text of the amazing grace story that Our Lord God has taken care upon us to be our Savior, even to we people of a world who were even turned against Him.  “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.  Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good.  But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”

If you fundamentally know what grace is, then you know yourself as the helpless sinner that needed God-Saving (and still needs it).   The Cross of Jesus was meant for you—you know that—you needed saving and you needed a Savior–and that’s the present reality–you need a Savior piloting your life.   If one doesn’t “get” those points, then such a person may not know “grace’ yet or the meaning behind Jesus’ coming.

But we know Saving Grace.    It leads us on to the Beatitude life that Jesus was teaching in our gospel today.  We keep cooperating with God’s saving of our lives.  Grace leads to our letting the reign of God inside of us, so that we shall be humbly becoming fit for the eternal Kingdom in the end.

Some of the old Christian hymns have some of the best words about Saving Grace:

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured, There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.
Grace, grace, God’s grace, Grace that will pardon and cleanse within; Grace, grace, God’s grace, Grace that is greater than all our sin!                  
                                          (by Julia H. Johnston, 1910– the rest of her song’s words are at the end of this blog)

God wants to reach all his needy people so much.   Even to save or bring back in salvation just one among a hundred.  We read a Gospel verse in the children’s First Reconciliation service on Friday night, how Jesus said there is “so much joy in heaven over one sinner who repents but just quiet sadness over those 99 righteous persons in no need of repentance.” (Luke 15:6, 7)  The boys and girls basically knew what joy Jesus was speaking for, as they made their first confession of their sins, to have His healing help.   They know of a Saving God to turn to.  They saw themselves as like little lambs coming home to the Shepherd of Grace.  They decorated our altar front as such.

Application.  You know, in the aftermath of the March of Life this past Friday (and its vigil), I reflect on how so many demonstrators were confessing Jesus and Grace as why they were reaching out to help save the unborn of America.

The outreach to the most helpless in the Right to Life or Respect Life movement is often born in humility and faith.   As the CDC reports that at least 6 1/2 million children are in a woman’s womb right now in America–this outreach is to hopefully save the 600,000 of them destined to be aborted, as by our tragic, historic, annual recent numbers.  Why won’t all of the children have a chance to see the light of day on earth,  like we all did?  Among the people less than 44-yrs.-old in the March and rallies, they realize they were born in helpless percentages like that , because a few hundred thousand to a million abortions over that lifetime were dicey numbers against their welcome to the world.   That’s why many of them now work for justice to better prospects for life for incoming babies!

Relating it to faith and salvation– if once we were helpless without God’s grace in Christ, then why can’t we help the helpless, to do unto others lovingly what God has done for us lovingly?   ‘Right?!

The signs being carried saying “I regret my abortion” in the March for Life and its Masses and rallies each witnessed to a person who had met Christ and His Grace.   His saving grace helped them, and now they in turn are reaching out to save another.   In a spin on Romans 5:6 I pondered “While they were yet helpless children, who reached out to them in that same Master’s Love?”

In our Zephaniah reading of today’s Fourth Ordinary Time Sunday, it sounds like a Respect Life movement campaign slogan: “Seek the LORD, all you humble of the earth, who have observed His law; seek justice, seek humility; “

With the rally cry of Life lovers in Washington’s streets, I compare it to the Psalm verse today:  “The LORD gives sight to the blind; the LORD raises up people.”  The marchers were people no longer blind to America’s greatest plight (the sin of abortion), and the Lord is raising up people in the Gospel of Life.  The Psalm continues with:  “The fatherless and the widow the LORD sustains, but the way of the wicked he thwarts.”  Apply the verse to the newly marching young men and young women in the March for Life, those boys without fathers, because the man responsible for the pregnancy left their mothers alone to a crisis pregnancy, and how they were born and raised by moms and a supportive community without the dads.  Fill in Big Brothers/Big Sisters or step-parents or compassionate grandparents and parishes and churches have come forth to care for those once-unwelcome children– the almost aborted or the ones born in crisis pregnancies. “The fatherless are sustained” by the remnant faith community, says the Psalm.

I can apply it to a good single friend I know who is committed, life-long caregiver to a fatherless boy.  His big Respect Life Catholic action in life was to be of one fill-in father role life in sustaining a young child into now becoming a young man.  It’s been a 15 year commitment so far.   Hail, to you, Chuck!    He was a lapsed Catholic who came back to the Church, and just in time to help be the difference maker in a fatherless child’s life.   And the Gospel today of the Beatitudes reflects your heart, brother, once a fellow parish member in Laurel, for blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. For your missing years of faith, due to your mourning a loss and hurting in some put distance from God, blessed are you now who are comforted.  God has given you a good way to live out love, which you would have had for your spouse who died, which is outpoured now to a needy boy—as you have loved the Lord, and found your present vocation, you were raised up to help a child survivor to thrive.  That is Grace led living.

###  End of homily                                 Next is the full text of the Grace Song

IMAG0502_1

  1. Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
    Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured, There where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.                                                Refrain:
    Grace, grace, God’s grace,
    Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
    Grace, grace, God’s grace, greater than all our sin!

Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold, Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold, Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.

Dark is the stain that we cannot hide; What can we do to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide, Brighter than snow you may be today.

Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace, Freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see His face, Will you this moment His grace receive?

 

Movie “Silence” is not so silent as is it lost at the end

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Actor Garfield, above, has an Oscar deserving performance. A supporting actor with him here also was quite convincing in his role.  However, what happens in the film story’s end is so bad and disturbing– that I discourage anyone from seeing “Silence.”. It is upsetting.  The film is such a disappointing message.

Famed director Martin Scorcese has made another film with a religious background.  It is “Silence” with Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield  and Adam Driver playing three beleaguered Jesuit missionary priests in Japan of a few centuries ago.  From after the first 20 minutes or so of the film, the scenic landscape of coastal Japan in the film will lose out to one torture scene after another or of a grueling psychological abuse interrogation of some Japanese convert Catholics and priests to terrifying lengths.  A person has their head sliced off, many others are slowly bled to death, others are drowned to death, or punished into utter misery—so it had me asking: What is the purpose of this film to do what?  Was it to show us how hard the missionary work was long ago in Japan?

One might think that’s it’s direction,  but the ongoing carnage and suffering and death just keeps racking up–giving far worse violence depicted than in any of Scorcese’s gangster films, even maybe all of them put together.  (Those people in Goodfellas just got shot to death in that Marty film– no biggie.)  

The film (based on an Endo novel) is leading the audience to accept a denial of faith, with dramatic acts of apostasy made in the finale. This film has you squirm for 2-plus hours, and it seems then it wants you to root for the priests in the story to give up their Catholic profession, so to stop the cruel Japanese authorities from going even further in their anti-Catholic effort.  

Well, I won’t tell everything here, but I’ll never look at Liam Neeson the same.  I won’t like seeing that actor, because he’s no relentless “Taken” man here, but is a pitiable character.   

Another actor, Adam Driver, plays another priest in the story whom I think makes the only good final choice in the tale.  (Driver gets to be the good guy here, after recently playing the Dark Side Darth Vader!)

The film features all the many ploys of a Japanese authority Ionoue Masashige to stop the growth of Catholicism by concentrated efforts to dissuade the Jesuit missionary clergy. They are quite conniving and evil in it, and the inquisitor actor Issie Ogata played quite a convincing part in the movie, and you ask: Does the inquisitor win in the end?-

So why was this lifelong ‘Catholic’  film project made by Scorsese, some 30 years in the making?  I was left wondering upon leaving the theatre.  Was it a defense of gray area excuses for infidelity, or showing the point where one can deny faith while not really denying it? Was it an apology for the Church’ s mission to save souls? Was it a message that proud westernism gets in the way of our spread of the Gospel?

The filmmaker Marty Scorcese is a self-defined “lapsed Catholic” and I’d say he doesn’t have the Catholic faith quite right in his films due to that problem.   Even with a Jesuit advisor for the film (whose press interviews are rather odd about this film), the film left me confused and upset.  When Scorsese made “The Last Temptation of Christ” it played as mockery to the Savior, and when he made “The Mission” it was a good film but used the controversial liberation theology as its backdrop, and in this recent film he uses Endo’s book with its ok wink at apostasy in approval.   That the story might end with its using apostasy as its controversy (as Endo’s book probably did–but I don’t read it) is a disgrace.  

You feel like almost becoming an apostate yourself in the movie audience, just to save a few actors from those awfully violent and long scenes at the end.   But has the Japanese inquisitor and his samurai sword intimidated you so much in the way that it has you theologically ready to ask Jesus Himself to come off the Cross, just because disciples in the crowd are getting too grossed out?

The conniving plan of the Japanese authority played by Inoue Masashige is played out devilishly. They try to put a stop the Christian infiltration, by making the leaders of the missionary movement suffer in watching all the others get humiliating punishments for being on the Christian side.  Like a Nazi Gestapo officer, the ex Samurai inquisitor (Masashige) pulls out every stop of psychological trickery to make it seem that his bombastic violence versus the Catholics is not caused by him, but is due to the presence of the Jesuit priests landed on the island. It’s their fault everybody is suffering, they insist, rather than own up to what evil darkness his forces are doing.   

(I don’t ever want to see the actor Issei Ogata again either, so convincing was his role as the head of torture and killings by the Japanese.   I suppose that the wicked witch of the West in Wizard of Oz had a hard time getting roles after scaring so many in her movie role, too.)

If you are into 161 minutes of punishment for your money, then this is your film.  I hope you’ll get your money’s worth, if you go, from the amazing cinema-photography, the great acting by Andrew Garfield (sorry, Neeson looked absolutely drugged or stoned most of the film), and the riveting re-creation of this period in history in Japan (which Marty films all in Taiwan).   Torture actually did take place in near Nagasaki (where the film shows it historically happening near), and as I walked out of the film I thought, Nagasaki will get it again in real-life bombing torture.   The city must have a big target over it for pain.  And the Silence of God about why it all has to occur, I guess, is the title and point of the story.

Caring for people; and Caring for the planet

Two of today’s readings are of God calling us out of the darkness and into the Light of His Being.   Their conclusion?   It is that we indeed need to be saved out of the darkness.   The Jewish idea of darkness is of either being in the dark by ignorance or by willful stubbornness and self-resistance to God.

Three stubborn people were all flying at night as three passengers in a small private helicopter.  They were flying over the English channel.  Each denied the existence of darkness or evil or any such thing as sin in their life, or that they had been living in darkness.   Suddenly Death appeared in the cabin with them.   He says “Before I take you fools all with me, I’ll give you a chance to survive.  Each one of you will throw something into the ocean and if I find it, then simply you will die.” The first one throws a needle.  Death goes down to the ocean searching for it. After a couple of minutes he comes back with the needle. The second one plucks out a single hair and tosses it overboard into the night sea.  Death goes down and after two minutes he comes back with the hair.  The third one, meanwhile, is praying for enlightenment to be saved from their past wrongful ways, and she quickly throws something out into the dark sea, and Death goes down again.  About ten minutes later he comes back and says to the woman: “Ok you win, I’ll let you live, so to not perish in your darkness.  But do tell me, what did you throw?” The woman says “An Alka Seltzer tablet.”

This reading by Isaiah and the other one in the gospel today invites us to come live in the Light. We can turn and repent from our ignorance or rebellious selfishness, and get our answers and enlightenment on how to be saved in the Light of Jesus.   A people once in darkness can see a great light.   God comes to deliver us from sin and death, and He provides the answers for us.

A man who received many answers from God on how to be delivered into the Light was St. Francis.   He commented that his early life, while of a semi-religious family, was still pretty lost, when God in His kindness came to him.  He said that the Light of God that shone of him in Assisi was of a strong light of caring.   He said that God’s light impelled him to do much more caring for people, and, to care more about the whole sacredness of life all around him, even in the world of nature God had made.

Thus, two things that the great St. Francis of Assisi was known for was his regard for    A/ people (souls) and B/ his regard for creation (living things on earth and sky).

From Francis’ encounter of Christ Jesus, some eight centuries ago, He said that he discovered more deeply his need for the Savior, in much more enlightenment needed about his Italian Catholic faith, and he also learned how God was do a lot of caring for him and all people of the planet, which he saw was being taken for granted.

St. Francis heard Jesus’ call to “rebuild His Church” and he noted how God was enveloping him in so many experiences, such as that through the natural world under ‘brother sun and sister moon” on planet earth.   Simply put, Francis became acutely aware of the Presence of God.

In our four-night parish mission under a priest of the Passionist religious order, we will turn our focus to Jesus’ Love and Passion, as displayed on His Blessed Cross for our hearts to turn to Home.   That will be a special time on March 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th  (a Sunday night through Wednesday night).  This Mission-leader Fr. Blaise will come to seek to enlighten us some more of how we can passionately care from our souls.  It’s what Passionist preachers share about.

Our own pope of these recent years is Pope Francis, who is following the course of his namesake Saint Francis, to guide his pontificate.   Our pontiff has written and preached and acted in this two-fold caring I am preaching about today.   First, Pope Francis wrote of regard for people (in 2013′s Evangelii Gaudium–The Joy of the Gospel) and also for creation (in 2015′s Laudato Si–On Care for our Common Home).   So, with Pope Francis, he does asks us to bask in God’s light, so to be  (#1) caring for people and (#2) caring for the planet.

The pope wants us to reach people with the gospel, for they are our highest care and concern.  As a matter of fact, some people, even ones we know, do get claimed by death to be in darkness.  It’s really no joke.   But we hope people to be saved into God’s Light.  Pope Francis encourages to take joy in our salvation, so that the brightness of our being will reflect our Savior and His Holy Light.  People who need to find God’s Light in Jesus will hopefully see it alive in us– or hear it from us– and reach out for help when the darkness becomes evident to them as a hurt and a danger to them.

Today’s Gospel reminds us how Jesus, and only Him, can truly lead people out of darkness (sin/death) and into the marvelous Light of God (into Him, the Light of the World).   The way out-of-the-dark is spelled out clearly and briefly by Jesus, as told by the evangelist Matthew: that each person on earth needs to come to “repent and believe in the Good News” which Jesus brings.

In my last parish, I remember one Saturday afternoon when a former parishioner of mine at St. Aloysius brought a criminal person to my door at Holy Angels, saying:  Father, here is a person ready to repent of the crimes, such as with dealing drugs and other bad things.   I have convinced them to come to Jesus and get back to their baptized Catholic faith and become saved.   I was greatly surprised, but it was true, and the woman did come to be received back into the Faith, receiving Confession, Eucharist, and getting Confirmed—after a few months of meeting and her turning to God.   She was delivered from her sin, and she left behind a world of darkness, and entered into the light of Christ.   It was something to experience.  That deep care by the St. Al’s man, who had trials of his own, pretty much punched his ticket to heaven by being such a deep caretaker for a soul like this woman, and accompanying her into the Light.

I have another story of God’s light.  Recently, some Catholic people in Bowie were showing concern for a person’s pleas for intercessory prayer.  This hurting person was all worried for an ill family member, one who seemed to have no medical hope to live much longer.  In that pain, the person, who was somewhat inactive in faith and church matters, looked for Church believers who seemed bright in their faith.   Turning to them, they asked for lots of prayer.  These Catholic believers encouraged the hurting person to also get into prayer, and to get fellow family members to be active in prayer.   That led to prayer being exercised coast-to-coast.  On the west coast, and acting upon encouragement coming here from Bowie, a family member there, who was also grieving the dying family member, reached out to a local monastery of religious women, in a surprising display of faith and outreach.   That set off a chain of events that got the prayer and news to an elderly doctor and specialist at Stanford.  He joined in the prayer and said:  “Maybe God’s answer can come through my help.”  He reached doctors here in Maryland, and together they offered the family some hope in an experimental research procedure–which ended up sending the sick, dying person to the treatment out west.   The end of the story is that the treatment worked and a cure for now was found for the patient.    All of that occurred in the spread of prayer upon the bright and believing faces and hearts of people for one sick child who got well.   A people in darkness, expecting death for a child, then saw a great light.

Not every prayer story ends so brilliantly and obviously, but I share it because the power of The Lord once again shone strong in His people, and a wondrous response just happened to happen!   We need to know the Light of Christ is saving people.

What about when people don’t want any soul assistance at all?  How can we connect with them, in any way?   Pope Francis says perhaps we can connect by our common concern for the planet and her ills.   We all share this earth as our common home.  It is a connecting point to other people.  In the past year, his holiness wrote Laudato Si as a document that says that Church people are concerned for the earth, as we have been asked to be stewards of it, and in petitions like the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus’ heart asks us to pray for God’s kingdom and will be done on earth, too.  We pray to God that we could receive the daily bread we need to live in a caring heart for people and for a planet that is hurting.  You know, sometimes people can’t see their own woeful condition, but they can see it in the planet and its brokenness.  Some truth can shine through in that way to them.

I put in a bulletin supplement of some person’s review of a part of the Laudato Si document, where Francis puts attention on agricultural and mining concerns of today.  The pope is seeking to find common ground there, even with people that did not have much contact with The Catholic Church before.  As we show them our hearts of compassion, it may build a bridge to human-to-human concerns and communication, too.

Caring for people and the salvation of souls is job number one of the Church and each Catholic.   We need to encourage people to get out of their selfish world of sin and self-centeredness and their temporal-only concerns (for a short life on earth) and head into the Light of God and relationship with Him.

Caring for the world is our witness is social concerns, and it concerns even for how the earth has been ravaged, abused, misused, and does suffer effects from humankind.   We can own up to it.    It’s a sin that we all have some part in, and some people have greater guilt for what they have done.    We can meet there in our fellow brokenness on a broken planet.

Here’s where the Light comes in brightly:  We know Who can mend it all:  It is Jesus the Lord, and the power of His Spirit.  This is our Good News to share out or shine out.  Amen.

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I have written two blogs in January (on our parish web site) about my hurting heart for people who don’t know the Lord and of who really didn’t have a Christmas– not in Jesus’ celebration, anyway– which means no real Christmas and no Holy Light.   Electric and battery powered bulbs just won’t provide it, in all those artificial lights of this past holiday season.   Inside, people settle for artificial light, too.  Read my blog articiles on those who identify as “nones” today– in response to the questions:  Of which Religious Affiliation do you identify, and of what house of worship do you attend regularly?  A large population percentage now say “none.”  So–these people are the “Nones.”  They are people in need of a lot of Light and enlightenment, only the kind that shines from Above and of the soul of God.   Yet we have the answer:  John 8:12 quotes Jesus saying: “I am the Light of the world; he/she who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

Living with future bishops

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IMAG0729_1IMAG0728_1The pics depict the county signs and plaques in Upper Marlboro remembering their native son and America’s first Catholic Bishop, John Carroll.  In 1789, the first Bishop of Maryland, and indeed, the whole United States, John Carroll was ordained as bishop of all North America’s colony territories, with its see being Baltimore.

It was the start of a new period in Catholic history in the U.S.

Each time when I visit our neighboring town, where Bishop John Carroll was born and raised, I am reminded of it.   He also happened to be chosen as Bishop while living right here in Bowie in the Whitemarsh Jesuit Mission 200 years ago (now Sacred Heart parish).

Since 1789, a number of bishops have been ordained to serve in this primatial see of Baltimore.  On this day, Thursday, one of my friends and fellow priests ws ordained as the next one.  A bishop is made of Fr. Mark Brennan.  I am there at Mary Our Queen Basilica. Hooray for Baltimore. Auxiliary Bishop Brennan, who will work under Archbishop Lori.  They both were DC priests before their episcopacy.  I first knew Lori in  chancery service of Washington ( as a seminarian)..  They will make a nice tandem.

Fr. Brennan once was a priest of my home parish.  I also lived with him in my diaconate year.  So I know him.

Fr. Brennan becomes the third priest I have lived with who has become a bishop.   I must be a stepping-stone blessing!  (Bishop Mario lived with me as Fr. Mario in Bethesda and Bishop John Bosco was Fr. John Bosco in Laurel.)

Here is a long shot at Mary our Queen Basilica of the Mass today in B’more, proving once again: “You can be more in B’ more.” Yes, you can!IMAG0938

 

Nones at Christmas and Non-divine Christmases for Christ.

There are those who dare say that they are “Nones” today.  In that, their faith or church affiliation officially is “none.”   We speak of moral people who may believe in God but they have no ties to an official faith or church.

In the blog the other day I talked on this.  But I had more to say.  Here we go. 

When I visited a Christmas holiday decoration this past season, I realized that some church people that claim an affiliation to Jesus actually are no better than a “none” at Christmas.     They actually are much worse off.   

How are some other Christian churches doing at Christmas, in comparison to “nones?”

Well, the one’s who are a cult or who are a church believing Jesus-isn’t-divine are in a mess.

  imag0868imag0866_1   I went along with someone who wanted to see Christmas lights. In December we visited a place with the most LED lights on a church property on USA’s East Coast. It was the Mormon church right off the DC Beltway. I include some photos here. It was all very pretty there. Yet as I was leaving, I told my friend: ‘Sadly, these people don’t even believe that Christmas is about God coming to the earth in the Blessed Eternal Son, Jesus Christ. They deny Jesus’ divinity. They re-interpret His claim as “I AM the Light of the World” as not a divine claim (as being the I AM person Who spoke to Moses, which He claimed so to be, even so being the same God, now appearing as the God/man), but they see Him in a reduced role– as a blessed person to which we can all be, as equal sons of god with Jesus (provided one becomes a Mormon)…. Even in the Name of Religion, they have no surrender to a Divine Savior to their hearts,  but much less!  In sum, they have all these lights, but won’t accept Jesus as Lord God to save them, as Light of the World. Their faith is still all about them, and what they get.

Perhaps the emergence of the Mormon Church explains how a people could still form in a congregation and still not believe in Jesus as Savior/God.   It ‘s about as bad as a “None.”  No, wait a second, I think it’s worse. 

The “None” has no connection, but the Mormons (or other so-called churches that do not accept the divinity of Jesus) want to have their Christmas but keep Jesus the Lord out of it.  That’s blasphemy.   The old Christmas song exults: “O Come Let Us Adore HIM, CHRIST THE LORD.”  Christ the Babe is Christ the Lord come.   No less!  

“O Come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant!”  goes the song.  But where is the triumph if Jesus of Christmas is not Savior God, but something different.  Than what are all these Christmas lights for at the Mormon Temple?    

Maybe Mormons (and Christian Scientists and Jehovah Witnesses and some Unitarians) are really religious versions of the Nones.   All don’t really welcome Jesus for Who He is at Christmas, now do they?   It is not a thing for them that God was born a child among us.  Christmas has not its core meaning for them.  No true celebration.

I really am sad for people who miss the Savior at Christmas, and choose some other style of celebration or non- celebration of it.

Consider how, with all the hoopla going on for the Christmas holidays, Jesus doesn’t have all the attention on Christmas, or the kind of attention He is due and looking for.

Thus– He really must value the people (of whom I hope are in our Catholic Faith) who do follow Him because of Who He Is, and who truly live Christmas.

It may be waning in popularity to celebrate a Holy Christmas in Christ’ Mass, but I pause to consider the great love God would have for us in remaining with Him in His co-eternal Son Whom He sent as Savior and Redeemer to humankind.  We want to make a big deal of Jesus’ coming.   His Birth to the world is our hope.  The calendar changed to “A.D.” because something/Someone spectacular happened to our world and its people in His Coming.

Yet numbers say that a Holy Christmas (and with Jesus as Savior God in His Birth) is falling in popularity.   Could we ever walk away from Christmas and our Catholic faith and its holy expressions, due to waning popularity for it in the culture? Would we get weary of the challenges Catholic Faith and Jesus as Lord Faith poses upon its followers, to imitate Jesus in a way matching His revelation and calling upon us?

Some Catholics have the right answer for that, in using Peter’s words from the Gospel: ‘No, we are not leaving Thee! You, Lord, are Savior and Everlasting Life! Why would we part from You and of all You have shared to us? We need to eat the Bread of Mercy and Life! We need to become one in You! We need You in our souls to transform us every day.’ That text is from John chapter 6, the chapter describing the large departure from Jesus at that stage of His ministry on earth.

The popularity/ non-popularity of Christmas matters to us.  How do priests and laity handle the loss of numbers and the waning popularity in our society/culture for the Church? I have some comment.

Firstly, Faith is not about what public opinion decides, as if in a majority poll. The Church remains who she is— no matter if crowded or not.  At Christmas or any time. And Faith says that it is not about how we happen to be feeling about ourselves or what our “likes” are—which determines things. We are led by the Holy Spirit, and Christ has established Himself as Head of the Body, the Church. So we are being brought on a journey, and that is what Faith is. Faith, then, is the response people make to what presents itself as a reality – a reality which makes claims on your person.

Here is something so extraordinary that it interrupts our world; here is something that (like Moses in the story of the Burning Bush) which makes you ‘turn aside to see’, that stops you short.’ ‘Faith begins in that moment of stopping, you could say: the moment when you can’t just walk on as you did before. Jesus and His Life, ever present, just gets to you.’ That’s what it’s about.

Secondly, (on doubts and questions raised in today’s culture for Christ or the Christmas story) we are to ask simply:  Am I changed in a Faith experience of Jesus? Hopefully, you have affirmative answers.

Are there still questions or things to wonder about? Sure. Take, for example, something from literature. In “The Journey of the Magi,” a T. S. Eliot Christmas poem, he imagined the wise men back at home after their journey to Bethlehem, ‘no longer at ease here in the old dispensation’, but wondering whether what they had witnessed was birth or death. ” …I had seen birth and death, but had thought they were different; this Birth was Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.”

Eliot says:  The wise men have witnessed the Rebirth of humankind, and they can’t deny that they’ve seen what they’ve seen.  They really made the journey and they really saw something that persuaded them it had been worthwhile. It was an experience of faith: a claim, a shock, a death*, a life.   (I take those words from his poem.  For Eliot, faith as death means, I think, death to falsehoods, and death to their former way of life.)

Eliot has the Magi sum up their trip.  (Of the Journey) ‘It was, you may say, satisfactory’, Eliot’s wise man sums up things in a masterpiece understatement.   It’s Eliot’s way of saying:  It was great!  xbeforecommunion-jpg-pagespeed-ic-mx_zzldrsp

The wise men found what they were looking for – and it was not at all what they thought they had been looking for.   And what of us?  What are we Jesus-is-Divine believers saying?  Is Jesus Great?   Or just a man that stirred things up– as Mormons, JW’s, and others would say of Jesus and Christmas?!   Hmm, JW’s don’t even acknowledge Jesus’ birthday, because they teach that keeping birthdays is a form of idolatry.  So, they say, we Catholics are in idolatry at Christmas Mass!   Isn’t that interesting?!

We as Catholics not only acknowledge Jesus as God and Who had a birthday, but we also confirm that Jesus gave Himself to us at the Last Supper as Eucharist to encounter.  The Mass at Christmas or on any day of the year gives us an encounter with Jesus as profound as that of the Magi in the original meeting with Jesus to the world.   The little sign of a baby is now also the little sign of Holy Communion to us.

As a take-away thought from here, I give you two more things to ponder.

The Christian gospel firmly declares two equally necessary truths. One: Jesus is the hope of the nations, and Two: Jesus is an utter surprise.

Jesus is the Hope of Nations, so we Catholics believe.  Jesus is what the entire human race really longs for (or Who they truly long for).  In the last post-blog, I was considering the numbers at Christmas Mass, and how some figures today show for a drop in attendance, in general, to Catholic and other Christian churches on the Birthday of Our Lord.

One reason for it is the growth of NONE’s in society, those people who do not identify into a practice of religion in their lives.  Thus, the check “none” in the box for religion.

Now I think another reason is because of these replacement Christmas celebrations. The Mormons have the big choir and the bright lights, but they replace Jesus as Savior and make Him more of an angel come to earth to show us how all of us can be god-like or angels.  That’s wrong.  That’s not Christmas faith.

Also, they have all these bright lights at Christmas but do not see Jesus as Divine as being “the Light of the World” as He claimed.  We have a whole lot of people who have been duped to some downsizing of Jesus as not who He was.  Thus, Christmas is not really Christmas.

And some of these missing people at Christmas Masses and services last Dec. 25th might have been them.

Now, in the second Gospel truth, Jesus is an utter surprise in the way He came to us as the Lord of Heaven.  People still totally miss it about Him.  God came to earth!  But they don’t get it!  Jesus is so foreign or perhaps unconventional that He is unrecognizable to those who might have been expected to welcome Him. “He made the world,” says St John’s Gospel opening, “but the world had no room for him and the experts in revelation and religious purity turned from him in disgust (John 1.10—11).”

We Catholics are meant to be the changed response.  We now know Who Jesus is and we look to make a whole lot of room for Him.   We live and we die in the Revelation of Jesus.  We know we are meant to be stopped in our tracks by all of what Christ’ Birth means.   We know Christmas is true and real, and that it happened in history and that it impacts us today immensely.   Jesus is true, and He brings the truth.

This truth of God is the most comforting and joyful presence we could ever imagine; and also the most disorienting and demanding. That is just how it is. What a paradox.

God is revealing Himself to us, in the special manner of Jesus, and wouldn’t that be both filled with simplicities and complexities? If Jesus poses some difficulty to us, then we need to realize that He is looking to help us by faith recognize His obvious Person that has been so missed by people only looking on limited eye sight and senses. He will be seen by the soul. Charles Causley started a poem with the line: ‘I am the great sun, but you do not see me.’

Jesus is so obvious and not, that we see Him and we don’t see Him.

How would we best see Him? The Psalmist provides the answer: let us “be still and know that He is God.”

We may not ever figure Him out.   We don’t have to.   We just need to accept Him into our hearts and to have His place as Head of the body, the Church.

Happy Year of Grace to you.IMAG0557_2

More thoughts on Sunday’s Bible Study…

Second Sunday of Christmas– More Thoughts.

So, Christmas is so much about a Merciful God coming to us, or as John the Baptist names Jesus as “Lamb of God,” it celebrates THE atoning sacrifice of God for humankind in the Savior come, Who by Glory now brings us the Spirit.

That sacrifice of His was meant to get us started in a new life–that rebirth He gave was to lead us on to a renewal by the Holy Spirit.  How much of a renewal was needed for our human journey?  It was a very rich amount.  We needed the Baptism of the Holy Spirit to get it.  Let’s find our riches in The Spirit this year.

So, we were started in new life, but next we are then asked to continue more deeply into it.   In the homily on Sunday I mentioned how Titus 3 has much to add on to what 1 Corinthians 1 was starting on.   We need grace and peace from God in Christ, so says the second reading today to the Corinthian church.  For what?  Titus 3 teaches that we need a rebirth and a renewal of life, so to help us forward (as a Church On The Move) to be justified in God’s grace so as to become heirs onto the kingdom of God.  That’s why!  It’s a huge thing!

The planned turnaround of our lives by God’s work is so extensive; it is to do away with all our sins of selfishness and replace it with godliness.  The Lamb of God takes away all our sin, so says Sunday’s Gospel proclamation.   As it is, God can restore us to a state of grace, just as if one never sinned, or ever fallen from grace.   That’s a quick and easy explanation of what the Bible means by our being baptized and our then being justified.  God plans on fixing us up totally, so as to be ready for perfection in Heaven, and to get back into the original design for humanity.  Wow.  In our Year of Grace, that’s an impressive Word from God on the importance of understanding what Grace is and what Grace does.

This is the start of the Christmas Mystery.  Rebirth and Renewal is our call.  God gets things started for us, and asks us to delve deeply into relationship with Him.   It will involve living into a new humanity, or new way of being human.  It will involve letting grace in our souls and over our bodies to restore us and build us up.

So many people think that humanity is fine as it is– ignoring just how broken we all are.  God’s gift of Himself at Christmas, in the Christ, and of His Spirit, at Pentecost, is a Gift for a full renewal of the human person and of the human family.    We have a lot of work in the Spirit to be re-newed (or made into a new humanity).

I now want to take you to three more verses from Titus to reveal what God wants to do and to where He hopes to take us.

Titus 2, verses 11 to 13, will tell us how the Christmas Mystery is to lead to a full embrace of God now into our living.  Why so? To lead us to Heaven.  As Paul and Sosthenes stated in Titus 3, so they say also in chapter 2 that Christmas can be described as the Grace of God appearing, so to prepare us for more of His Coming (that being His Glorious appearance to us).  Hear/read the text: “…For the grace of God has appeared… training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the Glory of Christ.”

That right there is our Christmas Mystery with its living and lasting hope in new life, which is a blessed and eternal hope.  Grace has come in Jesus– this incredible undeserved favor from God to love us, even while we have been sinners– and God will come inside us in mystery (by that bath of rebirth and renewal in the Spirit).

 

 

NFL games

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It is the road to the Super Bowl in football mania in America.   A familiar team and player marches on here in Tom Brady and the Patriots.  Ugghh!  I am tired of this perennial winner! This past weekend, the Patriots handily beat the Texans.

The Steelers won in a cold night game versus the home field Kansas City Chiefs.  The game went very late on Sunday night, so not so many tuned in.   But it was the Cold Steel team prevailing.

The Atlanta footballers won over their Seattle opponent. Atlanta is a team not often in the AFC Finals..  Can the Falcons of Atlanta fly higher?  There’s a little kid who thinks so.   (See the photo way below.)

I watch the NFL playoff games , as I can, and with more interest this year, as my own favorite team is in the mix.  They are “The Pack.” “The Pack is Back.” The Green Bay Packers have won a few Super Bowls– can 2017 be the next one for them?!  We shall see. They won versus Dallas in a thriller this weekend.  They now will play Atlanta next Sunday.  The key catch by Woods from QB Rodgers is depicted below, getting the ball in field goal range for the winner.  IMAG0922_1

The league sometimes is a blast to watch, but the NFL and all pro sports on TV is also so out of hand and so money driven.  Plus, these football games are nearing the fever pitch of Gladiator games of Roman days, as some athletes are nearly dragged off the field, it is all that brutal.

I wonder, too, if the whole pro sports thing might be nearing idol worship, the way sports fans take it and pay for it.  The woman fan in the photo (down below) might have forked out $1000 to get tickets, pay for transpo and hotel, and fund other expenditures just to see her beloved Texans lose the games to the Pats.  It’s not worth it!

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Photo: Little Falcons fan will root for Daddy’s team, in the red and black.   Here in the stadium, as opposed to home and school, screaming is encouraged!   Above: Sometimes some neat patriotism is shown in the NFL shows, like the above shot depicts, leading off before kickoff.

Then again, sometimes it’s just Patriot Fever. Patriotism for just the Patriots team.

On the other hand, it is all just a game, and just entertainment, and an escape from work or problems for people.    And when your city team wins, like the Denver Broncos did a year ago— well. the city goes joyfully nuts for a bit.

Maybe that’s all we have here: Some way to pass the time and watch super athletes in a bowl pass the football as we pass the bowl of potato chips around.

Well, anyway–Go Packers!  Make my Feb 5th a day of great happiness.   I will have a St. Blaire blessing on my throat (Feb. 3) so to cheer Green Bay to a Super Bowl victory.  :) That is, if they get there to the Big One in beating  Atlanta next weekend.   When I saw (in person) the Packers lose to the Washington Redskins here in DC of a lopsided 42 to 24 score ( and in freezing night weather several weeks ago), I thought they were done, yet the team has rebounded to win all their rest of their games since then.   Maybe they saw me up in the stands suffering for them (it was COLD and late), and became inspired to play worthy of their loyal fan base.  Yeah, right!!

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The “Nones” at Christmas/ Making a holiday of a holy day.

I want to swing over to a consideration that is on the other end of the pendulum.  I was preaching on grace and renewal and living by faith.

But so many are not there in that realm at all.

Do you ever shed a tear for those many persons who do not celebrate a faith-in-Jesus Christmas? That’s my preaching angle right here, in this final day of the Christmas season (Jan. 9).   For those who don’t get it or want to get it about “the Grace of God appearing” as to what Christmas means, there is a whole strata of a majority of people now who aren’t looking for the religious Christmas.

A large number of adult people and young adults identify themselves as a “None” as to being asked, “What is your religion or religious faith or practice or church affiliation?”  They answer “none.”   So they now make up a large category of people going through Christmas time seeking none of what its religious founding was about.   They more are just into it as party time.   This was my conclusion, as I collected a Christmas time experience down to a nearby resort, (actually to do a couple of Masses in a ballroom for just a select number of people, last month).

With all the ‘holiday decorations’ up at the resort and local area, there really was no reference to Jesus’ Coming anywhere to be found, except, as I was told, at the end of an walk-through ice sculpture exhibition.  It was there where a Nativity scene was carved and chiseled out of ice.  To see that religious depiction would have cost me $36 to walk through the ice house exhibition, so I passed on it.  But I did the Masses for the convention people there in the ballroom, for the organization had requested it (which was MLB baseball working with Catholics Athletes for Christ).   We really were the only non-icy witnesses to the Religion around Christmas.   Mostly everybody and everything else was seemingly using Christmas or the holiday season for pleasures and partying, as they could afford.  Lots of money was being spent into those pleasures for the party spirit.   I thought:  this is what a NONE Christmas is– for the fairly well off and well off.    The songs playing for the season rang out:  All I want for Christmas is… pleasure.  good times.  Me being pleased.   Or if it doesn’t happen:  I’ll have a Blue Christmas!

After our feast of the Magi last Sunday, remembering the arduous journey of faith by the Magi— so to see The Christ– compare that to those who are not interested today, who are not moved to seek out after God.  This Christmas and Epiphany, we could say that THE manifestation of God was not yet sought soulfully after, nor noticed by a huge portion of people, even many who live just 15 miles or less from this church– in our parish territory.  It is getting to become a post-religious Christmas and post-Christian era, unless for a huge outreach and successful winning of souls for Christ Jesus ahead.

Doesn’t that make you want to cry?  Doesn’t that make you want to pray?  doesn’t that make you want to be someone to bring a soul to Christ, as to help a person who is missing what Christmas and Epiphany is all about.

Tinsels and colored laser lights and pretty green and red and bright gold attire and chocolates and candies and liquors and presents in pretty-wrapped paper will all fade away, but Jesus in one’s heart as Savior will last forever.   He is the present of Christmas.  He is the Presence of Christmas.  To be joined into Christ’ Body in faith community will lead on for an eternal celebration one day, too.

At this resort, where I began writing this homily, surrounded by an overwhelming secular holiday display, amid so much buying of things going on, and many treats and drinks being consumed.  In a phrase:  I was in a party atmosphere.   But for what? Not for  Jesus.   For themselves maybe.  Christmas was not about Christ here.   I thought how fitting that the only Nativity reference was a frozen one, and I wondered if any of these NONE’s would let the real Christmas and Christ thaw out?!  Then, the Lord seemed to comment:  If enough of my children of light are near them, and warm-hearted in My Sacred Heart, then maybe the thaw could happen.  Yet will my people shine and warm up to the treasures of loving Me and being loved by Me and one another?  That is the question.  

I was grateful to be a witness in that Gaylord hotel last month, along with Catholic Major League Baseball people who wanted a daily convention Mass and a ballroom to pray together in.   It was an evangelism opportunity— and we showed a living witness to Jesus.  Even to conventioneers that knew not of the Catholic events, I think the Lord’s presence extended out in the spiritual and mystical realm of witness.  (I want to add that I am actually glad the Gaylord people let us do the Masses.)  Yet all around us was a secular party holiday fare. 

Is Jesus the Reason for Christmas anymore?  As I walked in my collar past the resort visitors, I felt like the odd man out.  Up the hill from there, one could go gamble in a new mega-casino.  And I wondered if many Nones were to be going up there , being summoned by the razzle dazzle to quell the inner need for something exciting, and who knows, maybe hitting the jackpot for an upgrade of life.  Was this the None’s Christmas– in finding some thrill to settle down the souls call for God’s indwelling?  To be filled up by pleasures and distractions, bypassing Jesus’ Birth Day?  Were there to be a lucky winner that night?

The Bible verses of Titus 3 say that luck need not be played for.   Not for the bigger stakes of the soul.   It proclaims “When the Grace of God appeared, He came to save all (into His favor, to those who would accept Him)… that we be delivered.”

Delivered and saved from what?  Titus 2 and 3 lay it out:

Chapter 2: verse 12 “from godless and ways and inordinate worldly desires:

Chapter 2: verse 14 “from the filth of lawlessness–so to be cleansed by God”

Chapter 2: verse 3 “from slandering… from addictions (such as drink)”

Chapter 2: verse 8 “from shame”

Chapter 3: verse 3 “from foolishness… gross disobedience… being deluded…being slaves to various impure desires and pleasures… for being in malice and envy… from the act of hating one’s self or hating others.”

Chapter 3: verse 9 “from foolish argumentation, rivalry, and perversion”

This is what the teaching of St. Paul to Titus was talking about long ago as to how people are saved and delivered out of worldly sins of the worst kind, in the Fallen state of man, and into the Christian life.  We need the Lord, and to try to be without Him, as to choose none of the ABOVE (GOD) for help– is to have a really blue Christmas without Him.

I thought while driving by the Casino and heading home how the real gamble for  the NONE (No Religion Person), was to try to live life outside of the Revelation and salvation brought  by Jesus, and play to win or be happy on their own .   It’s a flesh alone life with some spiritualism or philosophy of life (and often for goodness sake not evil or bad) but in the soul possession it is not Jesus but it is more likely a place of idols or self- idolatry. Or just an empty place.

Is that the Nones lot?  Is that their end?  Maybe the Nones are not atheists– but people who have lost hope.   Where will they find it?   We believe Hope is Christ.  Let’s all live on the threshold of hope eternal and offer people a better Christmas–a celebration of the Savior– who puts us into “a bath of rebirth” and of “renewal in God’s Spirit.” 

To be a None is a choice.  But do they understand their choice?  To be apart from God? Can we show by our own satisfaction and trust and dependence in God that this is living in a true humanity, in this Catholic faith?  Can we offer the hope that there is a freedom from peril which is to come for all the separated from God?   Maybe they believe in hell or nothingness, but we could help them to believe in a Heaven, a much finer destination.

As I conclude, just wonder along with me:  Do the rising numbers of seculars and None’s ever give it a thought, of the whole faith question? Of Jesus Christ? Of a 2000 year old Church He started that’s still around, even while mighty empires have fallen? Can our witness break down that purposed aloofness or that disappointed idealness or that dry emptiness or that idol busyness which they have settled in?

Do you think that our RCIA can help them?  Do you think our liturgy can give them a sense and participation in the sacred?  Do you think that our friendship with them can help them to take away their false crutches and idols  that are holding them up, and see that they can healthily walk in the Truth, Who is Christ among us? 

How do you feel about the Christian faith in our present practice? Do you think we are in recline? Emptier churches suggest so.  The long list of businesses that forbade even Merry Christmas or Jesus references in this holiday is quite a very long one, too.   What’s going on?  Does it bother you at all?  Do you think our children and grandchildren will not choose Christ and His Reason for the season as the meaning and center of their lives ahead? Is Christmas dying?  Is even God dead, as some like to declare?  Or is God-reliance really necessary anymore?  Is the Catholic Church irrelevant or too archaic or too fixed in its traditions—that new invented lifestyles, ever so independent of one another, can’t co exist into an utopia?  Or not?