For the first time in many years, I’m rushing Christmas. I feel like we all need a hit of that sweetness to lift our spirits. Last Friday, our date night consisted of a trip to Michael’s to buy Christmas decorations on sale. Yesterday, I did all of our Christmas shopping. All of it. I’m done. That never happens. We are always running around on Christmas Eve before the midnight Mass. Not this year.
I am working on a new Advent tradition here, too. I’m still going to use my matchbox calendar, but this year I think I’m going to print little messages to put into the boxes. The messages will herald what activity we will do for that day: a special meal, a service project, a handcraft.
If you’re feeling like you need a little Christmas, too, and you plan on heading over to do some shopping for Christmas gifts this weekend, you can click on the link below before going to Amazon and we will earn a commission! It only takes a moment to click through. We are so grateful to all of the people who clicked through the last couple of years.
“Kind words are a creative force, a power that concurs in the building up of all that is good, an energy that showers blessings on the world” – Fr. Lawrence Lovasik, SVD
God sends us the grace that we need in all situations. We have had a tough year here, and it just keeps getting tougher. We had an episode with Olivia during Mass and I was utterly wrung out by it. Wondering if I can ever be the mother she needs, if she will ever stop traumatizing the rest of the family… all while attempting to keep up a happy expression so that we continue to be a blessing rather than a burden to our parish and community.
Our daughter Cat texted on Sunday afternoon to catch up about her weekend. She had a table of guests on Saturday who somehow got around to talking with her about big families. She mentioned that she was the oldest of eleven. To her surprise and delight, they proposed a toast.
“To Cat’s Mom”.
I stood in the kitchen and sobbed for joy and gratitude, reading that perfect strangers had thought of me enough to wish me well. Those kind words changed my entire day. I felt uplifted and was able to cast off the sadness that was preventing me from giving my best to my family. They blessed me, and I was able to bless them. God sent exactly the nourishment I needed to get me – and everyone – through a day that might otherwise have broken me.
Pettiness is a luxury we cannot afford to indulge in. There is too much to do that is of real import. Small, everyday things that are radical and profound despite their smallness. We need to hold a hand, smile at a stranger. Say “Hello” and “How are you today?” and really want to know the answer. We need to teach our children to speak gently to each other, to apologize for wrongs. We need to perform everyday acts of love.
Life is too precious to squander even a passing thought on whether a designer ought to accept or refuse the commission of creating a dress for the new First Lady; or to be offended by what an actor said at the close of a performance. Our world has become so vast that we too often fail to see the one right in our own homes. And it is dying for lack of care. And if the family dies, so goes the world.
When we do pay attention to things outside our own circles, we must listen with our whole hearts and minds, we must look through the eyes of love and mercy. We must try to understand the sentiment and the true meaning of people’s words. We must not instantly react because reacting before consideration leads us nowhere. It doesn’t advance our understanding of each other. It leads to two people (or two groups) reacting to each other – reacting to the other person’s reactions. And that is a waste of time and energy that is much better spent giving hope, making peace, spreading joy, and loving.
Let this be our mantra: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love. Next Sunday is the first in the season of Advent. It is a time of reflection and renewal as we prepare to welcome the Christ Child. May we recognize Him and serve Him in the least of His people. The Poor, The Lonely, The Lost, The Sick.
This is the Homily I gave this past weekend. (Readings)
Today we celebrate the 33rd Sunday in ordinary time. Next weekend will mark the end of the Liturgical year as we again prepare for the coming of the Lord at Advent. So as we end our year – today we focus on the End of Times – death, judgement, heaven, and hell.
Today’s readings are given to us to remind us of a certain reality. The reality is that Jesus will return, there will be a Final Judgement when He will administer true Justice and – that there is a Heaven and a Hell.
And while today’s readings are more to-the-point on the topic, we are reminded of the return of Jesus at every Mass.
In our Creed we say: He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.
In the Mystery of our Faith: When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your Death, O Lord, until you come again.
In the Lord’s Prayer: Thy Kingdom come.
Jesus talks often of the end of time. He cautions us that there will be signs that point to His coming, but no one really can really know exactly when He will come again.
Have any of you had the “opportunity” to watch the show “Doomsday Preppers”? I had the unfortunate privilege to watch one of these episodes while I up late at night caring for a sick child a few years ago as parents do. It came on the channel I was watching and I was too tired to find something else. It was about a family who had taken extreme measures to plan for a forthcoming apocalypse. One they thought was coming at any time. They were storing up huge amounts of food, which seems praiseworthy enough, but they are also purchasing all kinds of deadly weapons to protect their stores.
The problem behind all this, of course, is the modern day belief that the greatest good is life – my life, to be exact – my survival at any cost. Through the periscope of my bunker I will watch you and your children starve and then shoot you if you approach my storehouse of food and drink.
What they don’t seem to realize is that even before there is a catastrophe, they have already retreated into their bunkers, already they are pointing guns at me, already I am a threat to their survival, already I am their enemy and already their survival is more important than mine. They are already at war.
So how does Jesus tell us to prepare? Do not be frightened.
Faced with the reality of wars, revolutions, great earthquakes, plagues, famines, fearful sights and great signs from heaven and even betrayal, persecution and death Jesus tells us: do not prepare your defense. I myself shall give you what you need to survive.
The critical difference, of course, between the preppers and Jesus is that they are wanting to keep their human life safe while Jesus wants us to keep our eternal life safe. This is what he means when he foretells that the Temple (everything) will be destroyed but: not a hair on your head will be destroyed.
Jesus does not advise us to build bunkers or store food or turn our backs on our neighbors. Jesus’ wants us to understand one unchangeable truth which is that: everything will be destroyed; but not those who listen to and keep his words.
For those who believe in the Good News all these terrible things are not the real enemy; in fact, they are a unique opportunity to give witness to faith in Christ.
By living fully with God and for God at every moment of every day – Then, no matter when the end arrives, we will be more than ready. We will meet Jesus not as strangers but as dear and intimate friends who know each other well.
Content from Fr John Speekman, Fr Alex McAllister and Deacon Bill’s Blog
Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. – Thomas Merton
A maple wood bowl filled with sweet fern and acorns.
I used to believe that happiness was a matter of intensity. I craved stimulation of all the senses, all the time. I needed to feel life in order to be sure I was alive.
Over the last year, I’ve had more stimulation of the senses than I could ever have dreamed. We all have. That constant onslaught makes you tender and sore. It makes you crave quietude. And it often makes happiness feel elusive. We forgot how to be happy in the storm that is trauma. Trauma is evil. Trauma steals all good things. It is hell.
And then Brian and I had a talk at a restaurant dinner table recently…
We were working through strategies for bringing back an abundance of peace and joy, hope and love into our home. I think we both started out thinking that we had to plan an elaborate distraction – a weekend away in a totally new environment with new adventures. But in the end, it was the small things that we decided would make the most difference – order and rhythm would restore balance and harmony.
The gentle, orderly rhythm that is provided by our prayer life and homeschool studies, the flow of the liturgical seasons, the joy of marking holidays and holy days with simple, joyful celebrations. That is what heals the soul, what brings happiness back to the hearth, what dispels darkness.