Bishop Scharfenberger has lifted the obligation to attend Mass this weekend due to the snowstorm. There will be one Mass at St John/St Joseph at 4 pm Saturday 1/19; ALL SUNDAY MASSES ARE CANCELED AT ST MARY’S AND ST JOHNS/ST JOSEPH
God can transform anything in our lives into grace.
It would have been a great embarrassment to the wedding couple and their families if they had run out of wine. They would have been dishonored. On the surface, it looked like an insurmountable problem. To God, hardly. Through the intersession of the Mother of God, Jesus transformed a problem into a sign of the abundant grace the flows out into the world from His divine heart.
Jesus can do the same thing for each of us. We all have things we deal with on a daily basis that can seem overwhelming and unsolvable. Do we ask God to give us the grace to deal with whatever it is? I am convinced that God doesn’t solve the problem but gives us the knowledge and grace to do it. Everyday we encounter small changes that we think we must solve alone. We don’t. We have the intercession of the saints and God’s grace to depend on. It could be that the Holy Moment we want to work on this week would be to ask God to help us solve on problem that comes up every day. The problem doesn’t need to be as big as a wedding running out of wine, but something we are struggling with.
The wedding feast of Cana is the manifestation of the power of God that is active and alive in the world. Like Jesus was the sign of the Father in his time; we now are the signs of Jesus in our time. Like he changed the water into wine, the grace of God can change the world through His grace that flows within each of us. In each situation that we encounter this week, if we are open to letting God use us, the water of grace will transform it into the wine of His presence. Let us be the instruments of God’s grace this week so he can transform the world.
We are all familiar with the three gifts of the Magi: gold, frankincense and myrrh. Some say that they are symbols of who Jesus is: the gold acknowledges his royal dignity as the King of the Universe, frankincense proclaims his divinity and myrrh is the foretaste of His redeeming death and burial. But, what do the gifts mean for us today?
St Gregory the Great was Pope in the late 500’s and early 600’s and offers us another way to view the gifts. Gregory challenges us to see that these are the gifts expect from us everyday of our life’s
“Jesus wants us to give him “gold” by “shining in his sight with the light of wisdom”. This gift of the Holy Spirit is the gift to understand life and creation as God does. When we strive to see the world as God does, we are able to make decisions based on the values of the Gospel. We offer God the gold of our lives by serving him with every moment of our lives. All our actions, all our decisions, our views, everything is for the honor and glory of God.
Gregory tells us the “frankincense, the incense used at Mass, symbolizes prayer”. The incense we use here at Mass is a sign of our prayer rising before the Lord. We burn it to honor the sacred among us. Notice what is incensed:
the altar: the image of Christ among us
the Gospels: The Word of God among us
you: the living Body of Christ
God asks us to offer the fragrance of our prayer every single day. We are called to offer God the very scent of our lives; we are to offer to God the smoke of our joy and sorrows, our hopes and dashed dreams, all every moment of our lives.
Finally, from Gregory, we learn that the “myrrh is symbolized mortification of the flesh. We offer myrrh when we offer up the desires of our flesh”. So, what does that mean to us? This means we give up the things that get in our way of following Christ even when it causes us discomfort. Fasting from the computer, our phones, etc. are not comfortable for us today, but when all this gets in our way as growing in the spiritual life, then we need to make a choice. We fool ourselves into thinking that the only time we give something up or do without is during Lent. However, it is a necessary part of our spirituality every day. Not because we must, but, because we want God that much in our lives. Abstaining from meat on Friday was a mortification to prepare for Sunday, the one hour fast before Communion is doing with out to receive something greater and more important than food. It is interesting that we all can agree that going on a diet is good for our physical health, Gregory and the gift of myrrh asks us to see that going without is vital for our spiritual health, too.
The mystery of the gifts is a challenge for us today. As a community of faith, may the wisdom of God direct every moment of our lives as disciples of Jesus. Let us offer the sweet smell of our prayer at home and here at our worship of the altar. Finally, may the sacrifices we make for God be a sweet offering to the One who gives us all.
Over the last few days, most of us have been around our families. There have been laughs, tears, arguments, disagreements, some of the normal drama has arisen to the surface; but, no matter what, whether we like them or not, they are our families.
The Christmas season reminds us that Jesus was born into the messiness of time and life. He was born into a human family of a mother and father, aunts and uncles, grandparents and cousins, and family friends. They had the same laughs we had over the last few weeks and the same arguments; they shed the same tears and laughed as we did. Like them, the holiness of our families is found in the reality that Jesus is in the middle of it all even when he is not acknowledged.
The family of the church is no different than our families and the family of Jesus. What makes the Church a Holy Family is the reality that Jesus is the foundation of the family of the Church.
It is from our families we learn how to pray and know Jesus;
it is here in the family of faith we learn to pray and to know Jesus.
At our dinner tables at home we share a meal;
here we share the banquet of life.
It is in our homes we learn to say: I forgive you, I love you;
here God says that to each of us in the life of the sacraments.
Family life is intrinsically linked to the life of the family of faith: the Church. Each depends on the other; they can never be separated. Remember the saying of Fr Peyton: The family that prays together stays together.
In the new year, we need to beg God to touch the hearts of the families of those who do not come to worship. We need to ask the Mother of God and our Mother to wrap them in her mantle of care, so they know the Love she brought into this world. We need ask St Joseph to lead them like any father into a life that will bear fruit. Without our absent brothers and sisters, we cannot be the whole Body of Christ. The family of the Church misses and cares for them. We need to let them know exactly that.
However, we also need to look at how we live as the family of faith so that when people return, we do not fall into old and unhealthy ways; just like any other family. St John gives us the yardstick to measure who we are as a holy family of faith:
And his commandment is this:
we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ,
and love one another just as he commanded us.
Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them,
and the way we know that he remains in us
is from the Spirit he gave us.
To believe in Jesus and be proud and open about it, to love as He loves, and to keep his commandments are what will make us a Holy Family of faith.
May the Lord grant us the grace to be transformed into the mystery of the Holy Family of Nazareth. May Jesus always be the very rock and center of all we do as a family of faith; here and now.
We all probably think God doesn’t need anything. He probably doesn’t need new socks and underwear; probably God doesn’t want a new 4K flat screen, I would imagine that he doesn’t want a new cell phone. God is probably the hardest person we must buy for, if we even think of Him in our planning.
Do you think anyone ever asks God What He wants for Christmas?
Here is how Darius Rucker — country singer, R and B musician and ex member of Hootie and the Blowfish — answers the question in his song, “What does God want for Christmas”;
“I wonder what God wants for Christmas
Something you can’t find in a store
Maybe peace on earth, no more empty seats in church”
I think is a good start for God’s Christmas list. God, in the reading from Isaiah, promises us a world with no war and violence, but we need to change ourselves and our world, so it can happen. To be peacemakers means we learn to disagree with respects, to not return violence with violence, verbal or physical, to actively commit ourselves to work for harmony and the common good. What a great gift to give to God if we would commit ourselves in the coming year to be people of peace.
The most precious gift we can give God is the gift of ourselves. Darius sings “no more empty seats in Church”. Our worship here is to give God the glory and praise he deserves from all of us. Afterall, look what He did. He took on human flesh and then suffered and died for us. We cannot ever match that gift. To give the God the gift of our worship is an act of love. He created us and gives us everything we need; the least we can do is to say thanks!
Darius ends his song:
I wonder what God wants for Christmas
What kind of gift from you and me
More sister, more brother, more lovin’ one another
Yeah, I wonder, I wonder what God wants
By now we oughta know what God wants for Christmas
In my words, what God wants for Christmas is you. What God wants for Christmas is me. He wants everything: our love, our worship, our service. God wants us to put into use all the talents he has given us so that the Kingdom of heaven born in a stable can be born into our world. God want us to love him everyday of our lives and make Him a priority.
So what does God want for Christmas?
He wants you.
He wants me.
Let’s hope he is not disappointed when He opens his gifts tomorrow morning.