God’s grace is all we need!

Wednesday of the Second Week

Of Advent

Isaiah 40: 25-31

Matthew 11: 28- 30

 

Our readings are perfect if we need a little reassurance because we are feeling a little down or a bit defeated. If we feel like John the Baptist, who will say this weekend, “I just need some assurance that all that I did for you was worth it?” Our readings are intent on calling us to a radical relationship with a God who knows us and loves us so well.

 

The prophet Isaiah tells the people to lift their eyes high because the Lord God is going to help them when they feel weary or faint. They will soar like eagles they will run and never grow weak if they place their complete trust and hope in the Lord. 

 

In our Gospel, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”  The image of a yoke is three-fold, there is the image of a yoke used on farm animals, there is the yoke that Jesus was nailed to on the cross, and there is the yoke of people dancing arm in arm, locked together as one. I like this image the best.

 

As we gather, let us keep in mind that to do the will of God, which means to do the good that God wants of us will entail some hardship and pain. We pray that in doing the Lord’s work our hardship, our pain will become fruitful. In the end, it is always a decision on our part to believe in God’s providence. God is always doing his part.

 

The Eucharist we celebrate is a celebration of God’s care for us!

Do we know peace and comfort?

Tuesday of the Second Week

Of Advent

Isaiah 40:1-11

Matthew 18:12-14

 

I traded in my old car with almost 300,000 miles on it for a newer used car. My new car brings me great comfort and joy! I now have heated seats, which I have never had before. When I put the car in reverse, a screen shows me what is behind me. The car sits up a bit taller, and I like the feel of being up a little higher. The car is bringing me great joy; the only thing now is I am driving like I just passed my driver’s education course. I guess that is not a bad thing.  

 

Advent is time to be filled with comfort and joy. It may be hard amongst the business of the season, but we are being challenged to experience joy and happiness during Advent.

 

Side note: Anytime we read from the prophet Isaiah the words should be read slowly and with meaning so that the listeners can reflect on the reading.

 

The prophet Isaiah proclaims, “Comfort, comfort to my people. God will be like a shepherd who feeds his flock and gathers the lambs in his arms.” The words of the prophet are to a people who are tired and worn out from the Babylonian exile.

 

In our Gospel, Jesus does bring comfort to his people as he tells of a story of a shepherd who goes in search of one lost sheep, and the shepherd rejoices when he finds the one last sheep, over the ninety-nine that did not stray.

 

Eventually, the excitement of my new car will fade but in this season of Advent, we are challenged to know the joy of the Lord every day. What is holding us back from that joy? May we experience comfort and joy in the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in this Eucharist

 

“Where are you?” What have you done with my creation?”

Immaculate Conception

Of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Genesis 3:9-15, 20

Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12

Luke 1:26-38

 

 

“Where are you?” What have you done with my creation?”

 

In our first reading from the book of Genesis, after Adam and Eve have eaten of the tree of life God asks them, “Where are you?” Adam answers, “We realized we were naked, and we were afraid, so we ran from you.” God asks Adam, “What have you done with the creation that I have given you?” Because Adam and Eve disobeyed God, division and heartache enters the world.

 

In our Gospel, the angel Gabriel is sent to Mary and tells her God’s plan for all of salvation, “That she will conceive and bear a son.” The angel is asking her, “Where are you in God’s plan? What will you do with God’s creation?” Mary does not fully understand the plan of God but because she was conceived without sin, she is willing to participate in God’s plan.   

 

St. Paul, in our second reading, is asking us “Where are you in God’s plan and what will you do with God’s creation?” St. Paul is telling us, “We have been chosen by God for a special purpose to give praise and honor to God and to go and do great things.”

 

At our baptism, we were invited like Mary to be a servant of the Lord. We may not have been able to fully understand what was going on, but God asks us now, “Where are you? What have you done with my creation?” May we like Mary and be able to say, “Yes,” to all of God’s creation being fulfilled in us.

 

From a dead stump, a new shoot will grow!

Second Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 11:1-10

Romans 15:4-9

Matthew 3:1-12

 

Are you ready, if you said yes, I hope you meant it because there is a big change that is coming? If you did not answer, because you needed to think about it, that is ok. If you responded with a no, I will still be praying for you. Advent is time for new growth!

 

In our first reading, we are given a very strange image for us today. “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” (Show picture) How does new growth come from what seems to be dead? The shoot is so fragile, so tiny, and yet is springs forth from what seems impossible. Advent is all about believing that new growth will come from what seems to be dead!

 

I spent a year studying forestry after high school, and this is a couple things I learned about trees. When a tree is cut down, there will be growth rings which tell the age of the tree. A tree grows not from the middle of the trunk but its edges. All the new cells are produced at the edges of the tree. What are the edges of our lives that need attention so new growth may spring forth?

 

The other thing noteworthy about a tree is for it to grow strong; it needs wind. Scientists have shown that when the wind blows, it causes tiny micro-cracks in the trunk and branches of the tree. As the tree repairs itself, the trunk and the branches heal stronger. Have we ever considered that maybe we need a storm to help grow new growth?

 

It seems to be strange to be talking about new growth on a tree branch when we are in the beginning of winter. But Advent is about believing that new growth will come from places that are not obvious to us at this time.

 

In our Gospel, when John the Baptist comes on scene, he is condemning, judgmental, all the time shouting at the people to new growth in their lives. He is in the desert, and people stream to him. He calls people, “A brood of vipers,” and then he says, “Even now the ax lies at the foot of the tree that it has just cut down.” Bam! Do you see how this connects? John is talking about cutting down, or cutting out the evil in our lives and Isaiah is talking about then new growth is able to come by being on fire with the Holy Spirit.

 

Here is another fun fact that fits nicely into our readings. John was out in the desert, baptizing those who came to him. We know any living thing needs water to survive. When John says, “He has come to baptize with Holy Spirit and fire,” he is letting us know new growth happens when we allow the Holy Spirit to set us on fire.  

 

My friends in Christ, in this Advent, what parts of our are most vulnerable, and in need of new growth?  What needs to be cut off and what needs to be watered to bring about new growth. Our Eucharist is given to us to know the new growth of Christ.  

 

Are we spiritual blind?

Friday of the First week

Of Advent

Isaiah 29:17-24

Matthew 9:27-31

 

As I look around the church today, I notice that some of us need help to see. Some of us have glasses or contacts to help us see. I wonder, are we able to see everything in front of us?

 

To test this, I have a sentence that will appear on the screens, I will read the sentence to you, as I read the sentence I want you to count the letter “F”s in the sentence?

 

The answer is six.

 

So, do we always see everything that is in front of us? Sometimes we do not see everything in front of us.

 

In our Gospel, we hear of two blind men calling out to Jesus to heal them as they say, “Son of David have pity on us.”  Jesus responds with, “Do you believe that I can do this?” The men respond, “Yes,” and Jesus healed them.

 

It is important to note that Jesus heals these two men out of pure love to heal these men not only of their physical blindness but also from their spiritual blindness.

 

We gather, and we may not be physically blind, but we may be spiritual blind to what is in front of us? We are spiritual blind when we miss someone who is hurting, or if someone needs our forgiveness, or if someone needs a friend.

 

We come to the Eucharist in this Season of Advent to be able to see better what is in front of us. May we see and know the presence of Christ as simple bread and wine is turned into the body and blood of Christ.

 

 

The strong foundation of Christ.

Thursday of the First week

Of Advent

Isaiah 26:1-6

Matthew 7:21, 24-27

 

If you were at the Grand Haven beach this summer and you made a sandcastle. Is it still there today? Can you say with some certainty that if you walked the Grand Haven Pier this summer, is it still there? Our readings speak to us about having a firm foundation.

 

What we heard as our first reading from the prophet Isaiah is a song of Thanksgiving that is describing what will happen when the people build a strong foundation on God by putting their trust and hope in God. Isaiah is telling the people, “When they do this, you will be building a strong foundation for the city of God.”

 

In our Gospel, the first thing to notice is Jesus is only speaking to his chosen disciples, and he tells them, “Not everyone who says, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of God.” Those who may feel they are in the inner circle are the ones who are warned more severely to build a strong foundation on him.

 

Jesus goes on to encourage the disciples to build a firm foundation on him, not of sand that will be washed away at any time, but a foundation of solid rock that will withstand any storm.

 

My friends in Christ, Advent is the time to reflect on how strong our foundation is on Christ. May we grow ever stronger in Christ this day!

 

 

 

Do we know the abundance of God?

Wednesday of the First week

Of Advent

Isaiah 25:6-10

Matthew 15:29-37

 

Did you have a nice Thanksgiving last Thursday? Hopefully, we gathered with family and friends and enjoyed delicious food that had been prepared by us and others.  Our Thanksgiving meal was just a foretaste of the abundance that awaits us when Jesus comes again and ushers us into the heavenly banquet hall where we will feast with all of God’s loved ones.  Our readings speak of the abundance of God in our lives.

 

The prophet Isaiah assures the people that God has not forgotten them as he will lead them up the divine mountain where he will take care of all their needs.  God will provide the bare necessities, and the rich food and drink. 

 

In our Gospel, Jesus is on a mountain, and he heals the blind, lame, and the sick, and he feeds the people with a few loaves of bread and a few fish. All the people eat in abundance, and there is food leftover.  

 

The Season of Advent is our time to reflect on the three-fold abundance of Christ. The first, the abundance of God is in the Incarnation of the Son of God becoming human flesh in our lives in history. The second is the abundance of God when he comes again at the end of the world. The final abundance is to know of the presence of God in our lives right now.

 

My friends in Christ, the simple bread and wine we have, will be transformed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ so that we will know of this abundance of God in our lives. May we live this joy in our lives today!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction of Mass: Have you ever been overwhelmed by the abundance of God in our lives? I am not talking about our possessions; I am talking about knowing and believing of the providence of God in our lives. Our Eucharist is about this abundance.

 

Communion meditation: In our moments of silence, let us give thanks to God for all the moments of His abundance in our lives and the people He has worked through to show us this abundance.