Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Gift for You


Skip Walmart and the malls and spend your day at one or more of these 7 spiritual alternatives:
1. A forest.
If you have access to wilderness, let yourself unplug for a hike or a meditation surrounded by the natural world. If you're in an urban setting, get yourself to a park and watch the squirrels and birds going about their merry business, completely indifferent to Christmas sales.
2. A museum.
Museums contain worlds of creativity and beauty to explore, and many stay open the day after Thanksgiving. Why look at toasters and electric razors when you could peer into the magical kingdoms of Picasso, DalĂ­ or whatever artist you feel moved by?
3. A place to pray.
Your local church, mosque, temple or synagogue can offer infinitely more nourishment than Walmart or Target can. Light a candle for someone you love. Soak up the calm and stillness. Meditate on the things you're grateful for that can't be bought with money.
4. A friend's house.
Community is at the heart of so many spiritual traditions, and there is no better way to tap into that than by visiting a friend, family member or significant other. Spend time with the ones you love instead of worrying about what to buy them for the holidays.
5. A music performance.
Stevie Wonder once sang: "Music is a world within itself/With a language we all understand." Immerse yourself in the captivating world of music -- let it bring you closer to those around you and closer to the core of your being that doesn't really care about half-off sales. On Sunday, I will take my friend Penny to listen to her favorite Christmas music, “The Nutcracker.”
6. Your imagination.
How often do you exercise the power of your imagination? When is the last time you picked up a paintbrush, performed a skit or wrote a short story? There are infinite corners of your own imagination to explore and not a minute to lose.
7. An Advent Penance Service with Absolution
You read this correctly, what a grand opportunity to sit in silence with the Lord and a community of humble people and be invited down the aisle to receive a wonderful gift, God's mercy and peace. You can go on feeling guilty that you have not received this sacrament in decades, so why not skip the excuses and come to Holy Family this Sunday at the 10am Mass and receive an early Advent gift. God’s love for you will be wrapped with hands around your cheeks and and a tender voice that will say: "I miss you and love you very much." Please join us this Sunday.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who have suffered many pains and sorrows during the past year. They might have lost their health, a job, a relationship, respect, but let them know that they can never lose Your LOVE for them. Come and celebrate God’s love for you in this memorable celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It will be the best gift you have ever received during the Advent Season.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Biblical Snowstorm


On Friday morning, it took another three hours to plow another foot of snow from the second wave of the storm. Our total was over 60 inches. Sue and I took our neighbor’s and her cat, Scribbles, to the vet for some chronic eye problems. Our senior neighbor was embarrassed when the vet told her that Scribbles had herpes, not the sexual kind that caused the cat’s blindness. After the office visit, we took the neighbor to Wal-Mart for her medications and some groceries. On the news, the thruway was still closed, the National Guard had been called in to help and people were now worried about their roofs collapsing from the heavy snow. Now the fear is that the warm weather will bring flooding to homes.

I have been humbled by phone calls and emails from friends in New Hampshire, New Jersey, Brockport and Rochester curious about our situation. The best news is that I have a neighbor who plowed the first wave of snow, repaired the tractor tire and helped find a part for the snowplower.

In the storms of life, it might be a neighbor, family member or stranger who comes to our rescue to plow a driveway, provide the milk and bread, feed us in the convenience store and bring blankets for us to sleep in their home overnight. People who go beyond the call of duty deserve our gratitude and mirror the Christ’ of compassion and love.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends and those who survived this epic event. Exhausted, aching and weary, kindly pray for those courageous people who plowed the roads, the emergency responders and neighbors who helped one another during this biblical snowstorm of the century. On Thanksgiving Day, pause to remember the kind people who went beyond the call of duty to make safe those in distress and pray for the safety of our homes at risk for flooding.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Upgrade Your Image

There are many stories in Scripture that might need an upgrade to understand why Jesus told the story. This past Sunday, we learn about a rich man who goes on a journey and who entrusted his possessions to his servants. Take note this master is not a God figure. After the master praises
the financial effort of two servants who double his money, his words to the third servant who buried his money and earned no interest was the remark: "Throw this useless servant into the darkness outside...." The master’s actions hardly fit the image of the merciful God Jesus has been proclaiming.

Jesus’ world wasn’t like our capitalistic system that increases wealth by investment. Jesus’ contemporaries had a different perspective. For them, the world had only limited goods and wealth. If someone increased their wealth they were, in effect, “stealing from another.” A peasant strived to have enough to care for his family and that was enough. So, the people we often admire for their success and wealth would have been considered wicked thieves among Jesus’ hearers, taking from the limited supply of the world’s resources.

In the light of this new upgrade in our understanding, who then might be the admirable figure in the parable? Not the master, nor the two servants, but the third who did not cooperate with his master’s greedy ventures, His actions were punished as are those people who oppose the unjust and powerful who make profits at the expense of the poor.

When the Lord comes with judgment do we fear that we will be thrown out into the darkness? Are we playing it cautious in our service to the Lord? Do we fear failure and do not take the chances our discipleship requires? It seems the parable encourages bold, even risky action.

I shared with my photography mentor that for every 1,000 shots, I edit down to the best 10 images. I discovered that with the proper tools and upgraded software I can take these ten images and make them stunning!

So how do we make our spiritual life more stunning? I suggest that we upgrade and take a lesson to become bolder and take the risks.

The Lords prays for us as we reflect: “Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that serve in their faith communities. Give them the courage to speak out against injustice and boldly proclaim the message of acceptance and understanding.

Monday, November 10, 2014

You Are Invited

Recently, the stories in church have been about invitations to attend a wedding and the invited guests chose not to attend with lots of excuses.  Did you ever wonder why people don't come to church?

Some useful facts:
82% of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if invited.
Only 2% of church members invite an unchurched person to church.
A study of Americans revealed that 63% are willing to receive information about a local church from a family ember and 56% are willing to receive it from a friend.

How to invite a person to church:
Most people come to church because of a personal invitation and 70% say email would be useless in getting them to visit.
7 out of 10 unchurch people have never been invited to church in their whole lives. 

What to say:
It can be hard talking with family and friends about coming back to the faith, especially when they have not been part of the church for a long time. Often the more time goes by, the easier it is to "let it slide."
Don't give up. Perisistence is really important so just keep trying. For example, Holy family has a new 2015 Church Calendar that shows pictures at an ice creme social, babies being baptized and people voluntering at the North java Yard sale and Spaghetti Dinner. This shows people that you really enjoy coming to church.
You want share why you come to your church. To pray and lean about the ways of jesus, to keep in touch with neighbors and bring comfort and warm coats to people in need.
Simply say, "Would you like to join me fopr Mass this weekend? We could have a cup of coffee after Mass. Mass is under an hour and Fr. Matt always starts with a joke and keeps its interesting. We just keep it simple. But this experience recharges me like nothing else.

The number one reason people decide to attend church is that they believe that the people of their church really make a difference in the community.

Let me add after I wrote this reflection in the parish bulletin last Sunday, there is no doubt in my mind, that the people of Holy Family make a difference in bringing Christ into the homes of their families and friends.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that they discover a faith community that will warm their hearts and bring them peace of mind and soul. You are always welcomed to come and pray and worship with us at Holy Family in North Java. see you soon! Fr. Matt