25 Dec

Have a blessed Christmas!

Dear Parishioners,

Merry Christmas! Allow me to draw a little diagram to depict, in a much unsophisticated way, salvation history.

History of SalvationThe starting point (the triangle) would be God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). The Holy Trinity always existed. God experiences within himself nothing but love and joy. He decides to share this, so he creates the world. God, creation, and mankind are one (the globe). Unfortunately, Adam and Eve sin, so God departs, leaving he and mankind separate (the apple). But God doesn't remain separated from his beloved creation forever. He comes back down to earth by sending his Son. This moment would be the Incarnation (the Christmas tree). The period of time, by the way, between the globe and the Christmas tree would be the Old Testament. Jesus lives on this earth for 33 years, teaching us about God and about ourselves, and redeems mankind so that we and God can be united as we were originally in the beginning. Christ does not remain physically on this earth permanently, however. He ascends back to his Father in heaven (the cloud). But this is not like the absence from before when Adam and Eve sinned. God comes back down to us in the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (the flame). The period of time between the Christmas tree and flame would be the New Testament. Now we have God permanently on this earth. We experience his presence in the Church and particularly in the sacraments (the church).

18 Dec

Joseph the Provider

Dear Parishioners,

St. Joseph was “a righteous” man, as we hear in our Gospel today, and he played an absolutely crucial part in God's Incarnation and redemption of mankind. Let's reflect a little on this figure.

Joseph, despite depictions in art, was around age 30 when Jesus was born. Many scholars think he was a widower and had children from his previous marriage (the “brothers and sisters” of Jesus we hear about at times in the Gospels). He was a carpenter, as we all know, and a pretty good one at that. He provided well for his family; an assumption we can make since Mary did not need to work or remarry after Joseph's death. But he, Mary, and Jesus were by no means wealthy. Nazareth, their hometown, was a backwater. And in the socio-economic hierarchy, just above the unclean, the lowest tier, were the artisans, which is what Joseph was. Peasant farmers were higher than Joseph of Nazareth. Joseph worked hard, though. He traveled around the countryside for business on foot, lugging his tools and lumber, and then crafting beams, window lattices, and door frames for houses, in addition to furniture and farming equipment. Again, the image of Joseph as a hunched over, old man is not an accurate one. He would have been strong and vibrant, as was his son. Joseph died when Jesus was in his late teens or twenties, an experience that was most likely heartbreaking for the Son of God.

11 Dec

Angry at God? Don't feel bad.

Dear Parishioners,

My first reaction is actually positive when someone tells me he is angry at God. Why? Because to me anger is a sign of a relationship. It presupposes intimacy. We only truly get angry at someone to whom we are close. Sure, we might yell at the TV when we watch a Bears game or cuss at the driver who cuts us off on the Kennedy, but that's not real anger. Anger is a genuine hurt. If we are hurt by someone, and resultantly angry, it means we have allowed ourselves to be vulnerable with this individual. That antecedent vulnerability is very human, and very beautiful. If we can express how we truly feel to that person, then there is a certain level of trust and comfort we have with the individual.

04 Dec

Positively Repentant

Dear Parishioners,

John the Baptist's showdown with the Pharisees and Sadducees in Matthew is pretty entertaining. He calls them a “brood of vipers”, says that stones could be better disciples than they are, and threatens that they will be chopped down like trees and then burned like chaff in a fire. Of course, John starts by exhorting them all to repent. This notion of repentance is what I'd like to briefly focus on.

Repentance isn't just feeling sorry for your sinfulness. That would be contrition, and John doesn't yell at the people to “be contrite!” To repent, in my opinion, is not about feeling, but rather about doing. We are not to feel something negative (regret, sorrow, etc.), but are to do something positive (pray, go to confession, reflect on yourself, do an act of charity, etc.). When we do something good to move us outside of our comfort zone and into a new positive reality of existence, then we are repenting.