Thursday, December 23, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From Christmas Bulletin 2010)

The Good News
Glory to God in the highest and on earth to those on whom his favor rests.

I’d like to wish each and every one who comes through our doors this Christmas Season a very Merry Christmas and a New Year that is filled with the Presence of Christ. We have cause for rejoicing here! God, who sent His only Son, intends for us to have a great year, no matter what circumstances are occurring in our lives, even the things that we may not be able to control. We do, however, have control over how we respond to situations in our lives, and can do so with love in the name of Christ. He who is called ‘Emmanuel’, God-with-us, does not just come at Christmas, but desires to ‘remain with us’. As Jesus says in the Gospel of John, “Remain in me, as I remain in you.”

Have you been able to ‘remain in’ Christ this Christmas Season? It is easy to make resolutions about Advent and see them broken one-by-one. Our desire for prayer, silence, and quality time with loved ones, can all be lost in the hustle and bustle of the ‘season’. But who is in charge of the ‘season’? Is it Hallmark? Or Wal-Mart? Or Wall Street? We Catholics are called to a different kind of season. We celebrate a liturgical season that extends beyond the gift exchange and the parties. For us, Christmas Day is just the beginning of a Christmas Season that lasts until the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord on January 9th.

One of my favorite Christmas stories is Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I have especially enjoyed the more recent movie with Jim Carrey as the Grinch. His humorous portrayal brings the character into real time and lends insight into the things that can steal Christmas for us today. As the innocence of little Cindy Lou Who conquers his heart, which is ‘two sizes too small’, the Grinch begins to realize that Christmas is not really about material gifts.

We can learn from this in the face of the deluge of consumerism that hits us at Christmas time. Sales surround the Feast Day as if it was the only reason it exists. Time is marked by pre-Christmas and post-Christmas sales. They orient us in an almost ‘liturgical’ way attempting to get us into a procession to their outlets for the ritual of shopping. But, as Catholics, our liturgical rituals restore a right order in the soul. The Three Wise Men of Epiphany give us a procession of adoration and thanks to the newborn King. The Flight into Egypt of the Holy Family gives us a model for protecting human life. The procession of sinners to John the Baptist gives us a vision for repentance and renewal. All these processions can lead us into a new direction in our lives.

When the presents have been unwrapped, the eggnog is consumed, and the family is dispersed, what remains in our hearts? Have they grown three times larger like the Grinch’s? Have we discovered the fullness of joy that lay in a manger two thousand years ago? This present should not be ignored or discarded with the Monday morning recycle. It is worth our every effort to remain in Him, even as He remains in us. May each of you take the time with Jesus that we need this Christmas Season to give new birth to our souls. We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to God. May all of you have a joyous Christmas Season.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From Dec 19th, 2010 Bulletin)

Emmanuel – God is with us

Jesus’ prophetic name, ‘Emmanuel’, is our testimony as Catholic Christians. “God is with us” is a statement that we ought to believe, experience, and profess as Catholics. As Christians we believe that Jesus is God. Some have believed that He was a holy man who pointed to God; that He was teaching us by example to call God our Father. Our faith goes far beyond this. We believe that His name, Emmanuel, speaks of the literal Divinity of Christ. Do you believe this?
Pope Leo the Great wrote in a letter to Bishop Flavian in 449 AD:

Without detriment therefore to the properties of either nature and substance which then came together in one person, majesty took on humility, strength weakness, eternity mortality; and for the paying off of the debt belonging to our condition inviolable nature was united with possible nature, so that, as suited the needs of our case, one and the same Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, could both die with the one and not die with the other.

Faith tells us this is both possible and true. Reason alone cannot fathom this. What about the Christmas story do you find incredible? Does it not touch your heart? Pope Leo goes on to say:

The nativity of the flesh was the manifestation of human nature: the childbearing of a virgin is the proof of Divine power. The infancy of a babe is shown in the humbleness of its cradle: the greatness of the Most High is proclaimed by the angels' voices. He whom Herod treacherously endeavours to destroy is like ourselves in our earliest stage: but He whom the Magi delight to worship on their knees is the Lord of all.

Above Image Used with permission of John Brandi Co., Inc.


My apologies to all who have tried to contact me or have left messages and not heard back from me. As much as I continue to reorganize my schedule to accommodate phone calls, mail, emails, drop-in visitors, emergencies and texts, it seems impossible to get back to everyone. Please be patient as well with our administrative staff as they do a great job of managing an enormous quantity of work.

The reality of the priest shortage continues to manifest itself, though I am happy to say a growing number of young people are seeking spiritual direction for vocational discernment, which the Archdiocese has asked me to assist with. This is an investment for the future which cuts into my time available for St. Stephen’s but as a Church I believe we have to make this sacrifice today for a better tomorrow. I do pray for all of you daily and hope you do the same for me during this beautiful Advent Season.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Words from Fr Ed (From Dec 5th, 2010 Bulletin)

Produce good fruit as evidence…
            Our gospel today calls us to “Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance” and not to “…presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’” John the Baptist is speaking to Jews, but the same spiritual principle applies today. People, even ‘good Catholics’, can presume that they are fine the way they are, that as long as they go to Mass regularly they are secure in the Lord. Mass is certainly crucial, but the repentance that John is speaking about goes further. It means taking the gift that we have been given during the Mass, namely, Christ the Lord, and sharing Him with the world.

            As Paul VI wrote in his encyclical, Evangelii Nuntiandi (On Proclaiming the Gospel), “The Church exists in order to evangelize."  “Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity.” (14)  If this is so, then our gift of faith as Catholics needs to be shared in various ways, beginning with the example of our lives.  Paul VI writes,
“Take a Christian or a handful of Christians who, in the midst of their own community, show their capacity for understanding and acceptance, their sharing of life and destiny with other people, their solidarity with the efforts of all for whatever is noble and good. Let us suppose that, in addition, they radiate in an altogether simple and unaffected way their faith in values that go beyond current values, and their hope in something that is not seen and that one would not dare to imagine. Through this wordless witness these Christians stir up irresistible questions in the hearts of those who see how they live: Why are they like this? Why do they live in this way? What or who is it that inspires them? Why are they in our midst? Such a witness is already a silent proclamation of the Good News and a very powerful and effective one."
For this kind of witness, we simply need to be ourselves in the world, caring for those around us in thought, word, and deed.

            I’ve seen this witness lived at St. Stephen's in a variety of ways, through the sharing of food (Food Bank, Terrific Tuesdays, Men’s Shelter Meals, Thanksgiving Dinner, Orion Youth Center, etc.), the sharing of housing (Direct Aid, St. Stephens Housing, and parishioners opening their own homes), and the sharing of goods (Direct Aid, Giving Tree, Knights of Columbus, and Pregnancy Aid). We have loving support offered through Grief Support, MOMS, Prison Ministry, St. Stephens Ministers, Nursing Home Services, Project Rachel, Visitation Guild and Gabriel Project. So many ways are offered here at St. Stephen’s by which one can serve others. I’ve probably missed some who do service without anyone knowing. Thank you for your gift of self. These ministries stand as evidence of our faith, what Christ has done within us.

            These works of mercy are just part of what we can do to share our faith. We have liturgical ministries, faith formation, facilities, parish life, administration, and so much more. How is God calling you to ‘produce good fruit’? Beyond the parish, evangelization begins at home. How is your family preparing for Christmas? Are you praying daily? What a beautiful time to gather for the Rosary, or even a decade to start. It only takes a few minutes. Understanding Mary better will lead us more deeply into the mystery of Christ. Your children will grasp it easily. Mary loves children!

            Beyond the home, there is the workplace and the marketplace, the ‘public square’. Here a great witness is needed to Christian values. Does your work contribute to the well-being of others? Does it help promote order or build it up? Does your business practice ethical guidelines, not simply to avoid litigation, but to promote goodness in creation? There are ways of doing things that reflect trust in God and the possibility of a just society. God desires this and we are His instruments. May this Advent season bring light into our world, beginning with ourselves.