On Sunday, December 1st we begin the Advent season for the liturgical Christian churches. Interestingly enough, we begin at the end — thinking about THE END – the end of the world. The early Christians believed Jesus was coming “soon and very soon.” The early generation of Christians thought the end would come soon. Jerusalem fell in 70 CE but Jesus didn’t come.
Paul admonishes us in Romans today:
“Now is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed;the night is advanced, the day is at hand.Let us then throw off the works of darknessand put on the armor of light.”
And Jesus also admonishes us in today’s gospel (Mt. 24:37-44).
” Stay awake !
For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. . . . .
You must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
Our Scripture scholar-friend William Barclay lays it out for us: No one knows the timing of the Second Coming, not the angels or even Jesus himself, but only God; it will come upon humankind with the suddenness of a rainstorm out of a blue sky. Thus, speculation regarding the time of the Second Coming, Barclay suggests, “is nothing short of blasphemy, for the man who so speculates is seeking to wrest from God that which belong to God alone.
He tells us these verses are a warning that we must never become so immersed in time that we forget about eternity or worldly affairs, however necessary, as to completely distract us from God. If our life is in his hands, whenever his call comes, at morning, noon or night, it will find us ready.
And these verses tell us that the coming of Christ will be a time of judgment, when he will gather to himself those who are his own. ~ Barclay: The Gospel of Matthew ~ Volume 2, pp. 315-6.
Now here’s my reflection:
Jesus wants us to be prepared ~ to be watchful ~ alert ~ aware ~ awake
He wants us to know what’s happening
. . . but so many of us are asleep, Lord
We tend to not recognize the signs of the times.
We often dull our senses ~ stay in our own little worlds,
choosing not to care. We become complacent.
Many of us don’t want to be bothered thinking about or praying about the real issues swirling around us.
And thus, we go like lemmings over a cliff.
So tribulations loom: Fear.
Threats . . . of losing our job ~ having a lump in our breast
losing health insurance because we lost our job
corruption on Wall Street and government
Fears about the upcoming election or the possible impeachment ot the president
uncertainties of all kinds.
Stand erect! Face your fears with courage.
Do not fear the terror of the night (Psalm 91.)
This is what Advent faith is all about . . .
Being vigilant. Being prepared for anything life throws at us.
Standing proudly humble or humbly proud no matter what.
That’s the kind of faith in life — in You, my God that I seek.
Thanksgiving Day. What’s it for? For some it’s a time get away for a few days—maybe to visit family in a different part of the country, or just chill out. For others it’s a family dinner followed by football watching and beer drinking. For still others it’s the dread of the first or the many holidays after the loss of a their Beloved in tears and in just plain shattered, empty loneliness.
For some children it’s like having to please of both divorced parents by being “shared” by both families on holidays. For still others—they’re always alone; some enjoying their solitude—others though perhaps sharing it with a bottle or pills.
How ‘bout you? Do you take the time on this holiday to Offer Thanks? Do we even think about the things in our life for which we are grateful? Or do we not care what this day means or should mean any more?
Here’s the Thanksgiving Proclamation of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1942—a year after Pearl Harbor and entering World War II.
“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord.” Across the uncertain ways of space and time our hearts echo those words, for the days are with us again when, at the gathering of the harvest, we solemnly express our dependence upon Almighty God.
The final months of this year, now almost spent, find our Republic and the Nations joined with it waging a battle on many fronts for the preservation of liberty.
In giving thanks for the greatest harvest in the history of our Nation, we who plant and reap can well resolve that in the year to come we will do all in our power to pass that milestone; for by our labors in the fields we can share some part of the sacrifice with our brothers and sons who wear the uniform of the United States.
It is fitting that we recall now the reverent words of George Washington, “Almighty God, we make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy Protection,” and that every American in his own way lift his voice to heaven.”
Note that he, as many other presidents before have, had no qualms about addressing the Almighty in his decree for the holiday, though we may also note he had no qualms about dropping a mighty bomb on Hiroshima three years later.
When I was in AA many a year ago, we were taught a very simple way to pray ~ to say “please” in the morning and “thank you” at night. What could be simpler and more heartfelt? Thanks is on my lips and in my heart whenever I can accomplish something that I need to do ~ usually after I’ve said “Please help me do this, Lord.” And that little conversation will take place quite often. So, for me, every day is a thanksgiving day! I get down on my knees every morning and thank God for another day and for other specific things.
I’m now in the fiftieth year of my priesthood, by God’s holy grace. As many of you, my readers know, mine has been an unconventional priestly journey as I have dealt with manic-depressive disorder along the way and later Parkinson’s that somehow disappeared after three years—again by the grace of God. I’ve also struggled from time to time with severe financial issues too. So, indeed, this has been an unconventional priestly journey, but one I’ve accepted as a grace, and for which I give thanks every morning and at every Eucharist.
Jesus has been so faithful to me and has lifted me up when I have fallen so, so many times.
I cannot tell you how much joy, how much love, how much gratitude I have for Jesus and my Diocese of Orlando for ordaining me a priest of Jesus Christ.
I have often referred in this blog to a short quote from St. Paul who seemed to struggle a lot too in his life too:
“ My grace is enough for you, for in weakness power reaches perfection,”and so I willingly boast of my weakness instead, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For when I am powerless I am strong. (2 Cor. 2:9-10)
I’ve lived a life of solitude for the past thirteen years—just me and Jesus and my two furry companions—first Shivvy, who passed away in November 2013 and now my little Shoney, whose already ten years old who still looks like and acts like a puppy.
I’m grateful for the solitude, too. It’s nice. People ask me what I watch on TV, and I tell them, I don’t have a TV and they’re astonished. I get my news online; that’s enough.
The silence can be penetrating. It connects you to the universe, you know. I love it. But I do hope to return to active priestly ministry for a few years. I am a good preacher and teacher and I still have many gifts to offer.
I am also very grateful for my dogs. A dog is a wonderful companion and my dogs have been designated as service animals, so they can go anywhere with me.
And Shoney gives thanks too, ya know. I often put my plate on the floor for him to lick the scraps. Well, the other night, he went to get one of his kiddies and bring it over to “share” in the goodies! He often he puts one of his kiddies in his food dish, but the other night he went across the room and brought one around to my plate just for a special treat. Wadaya think o’ dat?
I’m also very thankful for my condo-home. It feels just right for me. I’ve been here eleven years now. Like my mom before me, the walls of my house are painted my favorite colors; my living room and my bedroom are tiele; my master bedroom, which is my office is burgundy and my kitchen and bathrooms are goldenrod. I also have about ten of my own photographs professional framed throughout the house.
Oh, and I have a different car now. It’s a 2011 Ford Mustang and they tell me its Candy Apple Red. It’s a coupe, not a convertible, like the Mitsubishi was, but unfortunately, it’s been –um—through two accidents since I’ve had it.
So, I am very thankful for my home, for an enjoyable ride, for good companionship in my dog and, right now good healthful food on the table.
But most of all, for Jesus gift of love as a baptized Christian and then later, that he called me to his sacred priesthood—happy of trying to be his obedient priest-son for fifty years and beyond.
Last night, laying in bed waiting for sleep, I was reminded of a couple of important things for which I have been very grateful again and again—my ongoing education and the four freedoms we enjoy in our country and which I’m afraid we could very easily lose.
First of all, here’s a bit about my Catholic education. I went to St. John’s Parish grade School a few blocks from my home on St. Pete Beach and remember my excellent teachers fondly. Then I went to Bishop Barry High School in St. Petersburg and graduated as Salutatorian with a life-long tête-à-tête by email with the Valedictorian, (now Dr.) John O’Brien.
I entered the seminary directly after high school and was first assigned to St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield, Connecticut for my first two years where I met my first best-friend (now Dr.) George Ducharme. From there for six years I was under the influence of the Sulpicians, whose only task is the formation of seminarians. First, at St. Mary’s Seminary in downtown Baltimore, I had a great teacher there in Father Bill Lee who really taught me how to write.
For my final four years, Archbishop Hurley assigned me to Theological College of the Catholic University. During those years, my formation for the priesthood was broadened in many ways, particularly in regard to liturgy. The staff of the University asked me to initiate a Sunday Mass for the students in the crypt church of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. I came away from T.C. with several life-long friendships—my closest one—Father Phil Stegeman who was ordained with me for my Diocese of Orlando died suddenly of a heart attack at age 47, a friendship that I’ve never been able to replace.
I did go away in my fifties in 1992 to get a second Masters degree in Professional Writing from Towson University (a suburb of Baltimore.) That was fun. I brought my father up there with me and made lots of friends up there too. I also helped out in a local parish and two convents. And that’s where I met my first doggie Shivvy.
Now let’s turn to our appreciation, our gratitude, for what we have in our country. Our president keeps telling us to make America great again. But ought we not give thanks for the greatness that we have been for over two hundred years and the freedoms we’ve been given by the Constitution and that I fear we could so easily lose?
Riffing on President Roosevelt’s famous speech about four freedoms for the entire world in 1941, we have the same here:
Freedom of speech
Freedom of worship
Freedom from want
Freedom from fear
Now ask yourself how many of these are secure in the year of our Lord 2019?
I suggest this Thanksgiving Day we ought to be especially thankful and maybe get down on our knees and ask God as we understand God to secure these freedoms for our children and grandchildren.
So, Thanksgiving Day is not just about passing the turkey around the dinner table with the cranberry sauce and the gravy while the football games are on the TV in the background.
If you don’t start with GIVING THANKS, with the TV off and cell phones silent and everybody focused on what’s this day really is about, we just might not have too many more of these; we could very easily lose what we have.
Past civilizations who took for granted what they had lost what they had. Jesus warned Israel “ As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.” (Mark 13: 1-2.) And indeed the Romans did destroy the temple in 70 A.D. and brutally massacred 600,000 Jews.
I’ve been pleading with my readers since I inaugurated this blog in 2007 to enter into personal transformation for the sake of the spiritual transformation of our country.
And so let me conclude as I often do, with my own prayer . . .
We are living in difficult times.
We do not know what lies ahead of us.
Some of us look forward with confidence;
others are fraught with fear.
But let us remember that if we look to you, Lord,
You will be our Strength and even our Joy.
Please be with us in our land today
and bless us.
Bless our President and elected officials
that they would serve all of the people of this land.
And so, we give you thanks this day for all of the blessings
You have showered upon our country and each of us.
Please bless us most of all with peace among nations
and peace here at home.
To You be all Glory and Honor and Thanksgiving. Amen!
So, I hope you’ll make your own gratitude list. And when you sit down for dinner on Thursday, why not take a moment to ask folks to first have a moment of silence to think of something that they’re especially thankful for this year. And then ask each of them if they’d like to share it. (The moment to think is important! Don’t skip it or else everybody will repeat what the last one said.)
And, if your family isn’t up to going around the table and saying what they’re grateful for, here’s an article that might help by a guy who wrote a book on gratitude: “How to be Grateful without rolling your eyes.” click here
” Rejoice always,
Pray without ceasing.
In all circumstances give thanks,
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
I Thessalonians 5: 16-18
Now, before you go, here’s a slideshow on giving thanks. Click here.
I will publish the blog for the First Sunday of Advent on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Be sure to look for it!