Monday Morning Offering: 12/18

Coffee in the Morning by George Mendoza

Good morning, good God!

It’s almost that time, Lord,
when we give each other gifts
- on your birthday:
please forgive us
for getting that mixed up every year
- and again this year!

So, there's lots of wrapping going on:
paper and foil, gift bags and boxes,
tags and tape, ribbons and bows…

Seems that everyone’s wrapped up in wrapping
so what I offer you this morning, Lord,
are all the things that wrap me up
and definitely need unwrapping...

• I get wrapped up, Lord, in little things
while the big things go undone…
Unwrap me, Lord, and keep me faithful
to what deserves my first attention...
• I get wrapped up in things that waste my time
and time is one of my most precious possessions…
Unwrap me, Lord, and make me a better steward
of my days and nights, my work, my play and my rest…
• I get wrapped up in fantasies and fears
and leave untended the realities I just don't want to face...
Unwrap me, Lord, and sharpen my vision
of what’s real and what will help me truly grow…
• I get wrapped up in what I want and hope to get,
and in desire for what I can't or shouldn't have…
Unwrap me, Lord, and give me a hunger
for what truly nourishes and satisfies...
• I get wrapped up in having more, in having the most,
in having the biggest, the newest, the best...
Unwrap me, Lord, and help me give and give away,
help me simplify and learn to do with less...
• I get wrapped up in anger and hurt
that sap my energy for reaching out...
Unwrap me, Lord, and free my heart
to be with others and to do for others…
• And I often wrap myself in - my self:
I'm get all wrapped up in me,
in my wants and in my worries,
in my disappointments and self-pity... 
Unwrap me, Lord,
and let me see the blessings that are mine:
the gifts of your love, your word, your presence,
your mercy and your strength...

Unwrap me, Lord,
so that others can know, share and enjoy my gifts...

Unwrap me, Lord,
when I try to hide from you,
from your love
and from the love of those around me...
I have Christmas gifts for others, Lord,
but it’s your birthday that's coming
so I offer you an unwrapped heart,
laid bare for you to touch and heal
and mend and bless and wrap again
- but this time in your word and will,
your gospel and your grace...
Unwrap me, Lord,
I need your help:
   I can't unwrap myself...

Image source


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Homily for Almost Christmas: 12/17

Homily for the Third Sunday of Advent
Scriptures for today's Mass

Audio for homily

Happy holidays! Happy Holidays!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

It’s the hap-happiest time of the year!

Well, that’s what the songs say but for many, the reality may be different.
• If you tear off the bright ribbons and wrappings of Christmas,
you might uncover some sadness underneath...
• If you look closely behind all the quick and easy holiday smiles,
you might find a few tears, tracing a trail down worried faces…
• As you listen to Christmas music,
you might hear hearts echoing the pain of loneliness and loss…

For many, this season is a pretense, a posture: a presumption
that we’re all supposed to feel and act in a particular way,
-- in a particularly joyful way.
For many, that’s very difficult; for some it’s nearly impossible.

So St. Paul’s words today might come, then, at just the right time.
- even if what he wrote might seem more a part of the problem
than the solution.
Remember these words from the second scripture?
Rejoice always! Pray without ceasing! In all circumstance give thanks!
That’s a tall order,
especially if you find the holidays to be a difficult time.

But it’s a tall order that might serve us very well.   Rejoice always!
In the hard times, on the most difficult days, on the loneliest of nights,
rather than sitting with the sadness / and losing ourselves to grief,
we might search our hearts for the memories and stories
of joy that has been ours.
We can savor those memories
and invite them to lighten our heavy hearts,
to shine like a candle against the darkness.
We can always rejoice
if we learn to remember, recall and treasure
the joys that have been ours.

And Paul counsels us to pray without ceasing!
Well, some people might be just plain tired of praying,
tired because they’ve prayed for so long
for someone, or for something or for themselves
and it seems that God’s not answering  - maybe not even listening.
But no prayer ever leaves our hearts and lips without God’s hearing it
even those unspoken prayers,  hiding in our hearts' silence,
when we don’t know how to pray:
God hears every prayer we make.
God might not answer quickly or in the way we want,
but prayer always has the potential to draw us closer to the Lord,
who knew, himself, what it was to cry out
when it seemed that no one answering, that no one was listening.
We may not readily receive what we pray for
but every prayer can draw us closer to God’s love.
In fact, God’s presence and companionship
are actually the first answer to every prayer.

And Paul writes: In all circumstances, give thanks!
No matter what the situation, in good times and in bad,
we need to thank God for what we have, for all that we’ve received,
even and especially,
when we find ourselves needing, wanting, asking for more.
When we’re truly grateful for all that we do have,
the list of things we think we need can often quickly shorten.
As it is with our joys, so it is with our gratitude.
I may not be joyful today and I might be in need today,
but we all have a history of God’s goodness to us
and for which we have reason to give thanks and praise.

Rejoice always!  Pray without ceasing!
In all circumstances, give thanks!

Let’s stop for a moment and close our eyes…
and remember something joyful in our lives,
something we’re grateful for…
And in prayer, let’s thank God for that joy…
And hold that joy in your heart for a moment…

Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice!


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Pause for Prayer: SUNDAY 12/17

This photo takes me to a place deep in my heart where some of my most cherished childhood memories are stored.  This was our family creche (we called it "the manger") which sat atop our television, on my mother's hope chest, in the den.  It was here that my parents first taught me the story of Jesus' birth.

And do you see on the left, in a grove of four pines, a small church?  An interior light gave a warm glow from within and a tiny bell with a clapper hung in the steeple.  On the right are four members of a children's choir, each a candle with a wick on top which we never lit: that little choir sang from year to year. Oh, how incredibly well I remember all these!

This photo holds the key to a store house of memories in my heart. Some Christmas memories bring us joy, others bring us tears; some we want to remember forever, some we might want to forget.  

Let's pray...

All it takes, Lord, is an old photo, 
an ornament on the tree,
or a special song or carol
to open my heart to memories 
of Christmas long ago...

When memories make me sad, Lord, 
with loss, regret and hurt,
let your healing Christmas touch
mend and heal what's broken in my heart...

And when memories bring me joy
let me revel in and cherish 
what my heart has kept for times like these 
when I so long to touch once more
what's passed beyond my reach...

Let my joyful memories give me faith
to find within my heart 
those I wish were in my arms:
the ones I hold in love, in prayer
in memories dear of Christmas past...

And as this season stirs and opens
treasures in my heart,
help me handle each one gently
and with your gentle hand, Lord,
help me treasure all I find... 



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A prayer poem for cold winter nights..

Image by HKD


Charm with your stainlessness these winter nights,
Skies, and be perfect! 

Fly, vivider in the fiery dark, you quiet meteors,
And disappear.
You moon, be slow to go down,
This is your full!

The four white roads make off in silence
Towards the four parts of the starry universe.
Time falls like manna at the corners of the wintry earth.
We have become more humble than the rocks,
More wakeful than the patient hills.

Charm with your stainlessness these nights in Advent, holy spheres,
While minds, as meek as beasts,
Stay close at home in the sweet hay;
And intellects are quieter than the flocks that feed by starlight.

Oh pour your darkness and your brightness over all our solemn valleys,
You skies: and travel like the gentle Virgin,
Toward the planets' stately setting,

Oh white full moon as quiet as Bethlehem!

- Thomas Merton

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Pause for Prayer: SATURDAY 12/15

If you have an Advent Wreath at home, pray for joy in this third week of the season as you light the first and second and third (rose) candles each day.  If you don't have an Advent Wreath - light any candle and pray for joy.  If you have no candle, simply stay right here with these digital candles and pray for joy...  And yes: pray this same litany on each night of the third week of Advent...  Our Advent path has taken us now half-way to the celebration of Christ's birthday. Joyful at this mark on our journey, we take off the purple of repentance and don the lighter color of rose for vestments and the Advent wreath. As we light this third candle, let's pray for JOY.  It may be that our joy may be muted by personal burdens or news of the troubled world in which we live.  Still, it's at just such times that only the healing and peace of Christ can give us a glimpse of the joy he brings, in season and out of season - even and especially to hearts burdened with problems, grief and loss...

Pray for the joy Christ's coming brings us...

Pray for the joy Christ's coming gives us... 

Pray for the joy Christ's coming promises... 

Pray for joy that survives our personal tragedies...

Pray for joy that heals the wounded soul... 
Pray for joy that gives us strength... 

Pray for joy that brings us hope...

Pray for the joy the lonely long for...

Pray for the joy the grieving thirst for...

Pray for joy to mend a broken heart... 
Pray for joy that only peace can bring...

Pray for joy that lifts the heart... 

Pray for joy that laughs in sorrow...
Pray for the joy that's born of faith...

Pray for the joy that others give us...

Pray for joy to offer others...

Pray for the joy that each of us needs...

Pray for joy...



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Pause for Prayer: FRIDAY 12/15

(Advent is a time to wait for the Lord
   but I have to wonder
      is it the Lord who's waiting for me...)

Are you waiting for me, Lord?

Is there something you're waiting for me to do?
   a word you're waiting for me to hear? 

   or a word you're waiting for me to speak?

Is there truth you're waiting for me to discover?
   faith you're waiting for me to grow in?
   hope you're waiting for me to trust? 

Is there someone you're waiting for me to love?
    someone you're waiting for me to forgive?
    someone you're waiting for me to comfort?

Is there a gift you're waiting for me to receive?
    a blessing you're waiting for me to enjoy?
    a talent you're waiting for me to share?

Is there a fault you're waiting for me to acknowledge?
   a sin you're waiting for me to face and confess?
   a merciful pardon you're waiting for me to seek?

Is there someone you're waiting for me to let go?
   a grudge or resentment I need to shake off?
   a habit you're waiting for me to change?
Is there a challenge you're waiting for me to accept?
   a change you're waiting for me to make?
   a path you're waiting for me to walk?

Are you waiting for me to draw closer to you?
   waiting to hear my heart in prayer?
   waiting for me to wait for you?

In so many ways, Lord,

   I wait for you and I wait for your love:
       help me see all the ways you're waiting for me...



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Pause for Prayer: THURSDAY 12/14

My favorite verse in the song, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel:
Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of humankind;
Bid all our sad divisions cease,
And be for us the King of Peace...
Let's pray...

You reign over all the nations, Lord:
lift our eyes from our self-destructive paths
to see as you do that there is one world,
one human family, one life given to each of us,
deserving of reverence and respect,
of care and compassion,
because that life is a gift from your hand...

Come and wrap my life in the reign of your love:
come and rule over my thoughts and desires,
rule over my dreams and schemes;
rule over my envy and jealousy,
my angry grudges and resentments;
come rule my heart
with your word, your truth,
your law and your justice...

Let your rule over me be the measure
of my compassion, my generosity,
my pardoning of others,
my mercy and my gentleness...

With princely power,
mend and make peaceful
all our sad divisions:
in my family,
in my neighborhood,
in my parish, 
at school,
at work
and among nations
around the world... 

And, Lord: mend the sad divisions
I know within myself...

As a newborn brings peace to a family,
bring joy and peace to these Advent days,
as we prepare to celebrate your birth...

Be born anew among us, Lord,
and be for us the King of peace,
the peace that only you can bring
the peace that only you can give...


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Pause for Prayer: WEDNESDAY 12/13


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Happy Chanukah!

While we light our trees and Christmas candles, our Jewish neighbors and friends light the first lamp of Chanukah which begins this year on December 12 and concludes on December 20.

Whether you celebrate Chanukah and light a menorah or not, I'm sure this beautiful reflection from my friend Alden Solovy will hold meaning for you...

Inside the Light

A rainbow shines
Inside the light.
If you could be the dew drop
You would always see it.

Stillness waits
Inside the light.
If you could be the sky
You would always feel it.

The sunrise dawns
Inside the light.
If you could be the horizon
You would always find it.

Freedom flows
Inside the light.
If you could be the wind
You would always ride it.

Beauty rises
Inside the light.
If you could be the sparrow
You would always reach it.

Mystery pulses
Inside the light.
If you could be the wonder
You would always know it.

Majesty reigns
Inside the light.
If you could be the wisdom
You would always hear it.

Faith rests
Inside the light.
If you could be the eagle
You would always hold it.

Your soul glows
Inside the light.
If you could be yourself
You would never leave it.

© 2012 Alden Solovy  

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Pause for Prayer: TUESDAY 12/12

Image Source

December 12 is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe who appeared to Juan Diego, a Mexican peasant, on whose tilma (cloak) there appeared an image on the Blessed Virgin as he had seen her in the vision.  Read more of Juan Diego's story here.

I'm an occasional contributor to Give Us This Day, a daily prayer devotional.  Here's my reflection for today's feast:

Designer Faith?

Remember when a designer’s name and logo were discretely and neatly tucked away inside the shirt or pants we wore?  Then it became fashionable to sport an a little alligator or polo player right on our chest for all to see.

Saint Juan Diego was a man more than 5 centuries ahead of his time!  Or perhaps we should more directly and correctly credit Our Lady of Guadalupe for imprinting her designed image on Juan’s tilma.  Today we can purchase t-shirts bearing just what appeared on Juan’s holy cloak - or even have it tattooed on our back or shoulder.

More telling, of course, is what image we’re willing to have imprinted on my heart, the wellspring of our thoughts and words and deeds.  Faith assures us that we are made in the image and likeness of our Creator.  Our life’s work is to curate the divine image in which we’ve been shaped and molded. 

Others can easily read who crafted what we wear. So should they easily see, in our speech and deeds,  the word and will of the Designer who called us into being, whose grace seeks to clothe our soul and style our life with the Gospel’s truth.

In prayer today, let us look to see how clearly Our Lady of Guadalupe’s beauty, purity and graciousness mark our heart and design our life, letting the world see her Son’s image on our heart and his blessing on our entire being.

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