Monday Morning Offering 12/5

Image: George Mendoza

Good morning, good God!

Here's what you promised, Lord:
Every mountain will be made low...
age old depths and gorges will be filled to level ground...
every valley shall be filled in...
the winding roads will be made straight
and the rough ways smooth...
that your people might walk in the light of your glory
to the peace that is ours in you, O God...
So this morning I offer you
the mountains of problems and struggles
so many will face this day...

I offer you the peaks of pain
hiding hope of healing from the sick...

I offer you the heights of challenge and conflict
we try so hard to scale
yet find ourselves still climbing...
Make good your promise, Lord,
and in our flesh and bone, in our own day,
make low, make even just a little lower
the mountains that keep us from the peace,
from the healing and comfort you promise,
from the consolation we seek and pray for...
I offer you, Lord, the age-old depths of hurts,
disappointments and memories that haunt our hearts...

I offer you the deep gorges of guilt and shame
that shadow our days and our dreams...
Make good your promise, Lord,
and in our flesh and bone, in our own day,
fill to level ground the ravines, the crevices,
the valleys of darkness through which we walk:
shine your light on our path
and let your mercy be our guide...
I offer you the winding roads where we lose our way
and the crooked paths that lead where we don't want to go...

I offer you the rough patches through which we stumble,
the distressed roads taking their toll on our strength...
Make good your promise, Lord,
and in our flesh and bone, in our own day
straighten the way that leads to your heart:
make of our rough roads a smooth highway,
and make straight all the paths we walk...
As we prepare the Advent path to Christmas,
make ready for us the route that leads to your peace
and make us ready for the journey...

Make us gentle companions and generous guides
for one another along the way:
may no one stumble on our account
and may those who have fallen find in us
a friend for the journey...
Make good your promise, Lord,
and in our flesh and bone, in our own day,
bring us through the valleys, over the heights
and along the road to your glory,
your peace and your joy...
All this I offer you this Monday morning, Lord,
and every day and night this week...


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Homily for December 4

A prop I used today's homily
Homily for the Second Sunday of Advent
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

So, what do you think you’re getting for Christmas this year?
--  not what you’re getting for others --
but on Christmas morning,
what do you think you might find under the tree, tagged for you?
Maybe you won’t have a tree.
Perhaps you no longer exchange gifts with others
or have others with whom to exchange gifts…
Maybe you’re the kind of person who tells others,
 “Don’t get me anything for Christmas - I don’t need a thing!”
Or if you’re a young person, it could be that you have a whole list
of things  you think - or at least you hope
you’re getting for Christmas.

Well, suppose on Christmas morning you wake up
and find this gift under the tree with a tag that reads:
“For you - from Jesus.”
A Christmas gift from Jesus to you?
I know at this time of year I usually caution us to remember that
it’s HIS birthday and he should get the presents - not us.
And while I’m not changing my mind on that, I will add this:
Jesus just might have a gift for you and me, for each of us.

Do you know what was the original Christmas gift?
Don’t be too hasty in your reply:
the first Christmas gifts did NOT come from the magi from the east,
following the star to Bethlehem.

The first Christmas gift came from God and the gift was precious indeed:
God gave us his only begotten Son:
Jesus himself was the first Christmas gift
and Jesus was a great and generous gift giver.
• He gave us the gospel,
the good news of his Father’s love for us.
• And he gave us a new commandment,
that we love one another.
• And he gave us a new teaching on how to live and love,
a teaching filled with truth and wisdom.
• And in the end, Jesus gave us everything he had:
out of love for us, he gave his life for us on the Cross.
• And in his suffering and dying
he gave us hope of eternal life.
• And after he rose from the dead he gave us the gift of his Spirit
to live in our hearts and lead us and guide us in life.
Jesus is the original gift that keeps on giving.

And that’s why I’m sure he has a gift for each of us this Christmas.
Jesus knows exactly what each of us needs this Christmas.
(He also knows exactly what each of us wants for Christmas,
but what we need and what we want are sometimes different
and Jesus knows the difference better than we do.)

• So, do you need the gift of greater harmony in your family?
Jesus has that in stock!
• Do you need the gift of peace of mind?
Jesus has that in every possible model and color.
• Do you need the gift of relief from worries and fears?
He’s got that in Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large and Extra Wide!
• Do you need the gift of forgiveness?
He’s got that in One Size Fits All - and it really does!
• Do you need the gifts of faith, of hope, of love?
No other supplier offers these in the exquisite quality Jesus does.
AND…  on these gifts there’s free delivery
no shipping or handling charges!
AND… all these gifts are insured -- at no extra charge!
AND…  all these gifts are guaranteed by the Creator
the Creator of all things “visible and invisible!”

Does it all sound too good to be true?
Well, I did notice there’s a little “fine print” on the bottom of this gift box.
To begin with, it says here:
- This gift contains no magic!
• Gifts from Jesus don’t instantly, magically, solve all our problems -
nor does Jesus promise that.
• More fine print:
This gift requires some assembly…
Which means once you receive your gift you have to work with Jesus
to put it together in your own life and circumstances.
More fine print:
This gift does not come with batteries.
Gifts from Jesus require  that you supply some energy, 
some personal power, to make them function in your life.
• And more fine print:
This gift is for 2, 3 or more players.
Gifts from Jesus are meant to be shared:
they invite and require the participation of others in our lives.
• Oh - and it says here
You see, Jesus really does know what we need
and that’s exactly what he’ll give each one of us
and we can’t send back what Jesus knows we need
to exchange it for something we want.
He asks us to trust him on this.

• And finally…
well, this is so obvious that I hesitate to mention it,
but it says here:
Gift must be unwrapped before using.
You see, Jesus’ gifts won’t matter, or work, or please or help us
if we don’t unwrap them and start to use them.
Many of us have a number of gifts Jesus gave us over the years -
but we’ve never unwrapped them,
never looked to see what they are, how we might use them
and how they might help us.
There are some gifts that sit for years, unopened,
under a little Christmas tree in our hearts.

Well, that’s the fine print. 
But in very LARGE , bold print,
both the prophet Isaiah and John the Baptist  tell us today
to Prepare the way of the Lord!

That’s sound advice, that’s wise counsel, that’s good news
because Jesus is coming with gifts for every one of us
and we’d be smart to clear the way
for him to get to our hearts.

And if you have a hard time finding the gift with your name on it,
pray… and ask Jesus to help you see not so much what you want,
but more - what you truly need.

You may have noticed I’ve left out one gift of Jesus
that I mention in almost every homily
but, as I usually do, I’ve saved that for the end.

Jesus gave us the gift of his life on the Cross, once, for all,
but every time we gather at this table, his altar,
he offers us the gifts of his life, his healing, his mercy and his peace.

As he does in every gift he offers us,
in the Eucharist Jesus gives us himself, with all his love -
because he truly is the Giver who keeps on giving…


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Pause for Prayer: Lighting another candle...

And so we light the second candle on the Advent Wreath.  If you have a wreath at home, pray for faith as you light the first and second candles each day this week. If you don't have an Advent Wreath - light any candle and pray for faith. If you don't have a candle, simply stay right here with candles above and pray for faith, each night of this second week of Advent...

As we light the second candle on the Advent wreath, 
let's pray for the gift of faith...

For the deepening of faith

   in those who have it...
for the gift of faith
   for those who seek it...
for the strengthening of faith
   in those who doubt...
for any whose faith
   is shaken or broken...
for stronger faith
   that leads us to act...
for the harmony and unity
   of people of different faiths...

God, give us:
the faith we need to help us live,
the faith we need to help us love,
the faith we need to help us believe,
the faith we need to give us hope,
the faith we need to act with justice...
the faith we need to speak your word of truth...

Give us faith that leads us
to share what we have in serving the poor;
to work for a harvest of justice and peace;
to restore the beauty of your creation...

God, give us faith in you
and in our neighbors
and in ourselves...


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Pause for Prayer: SATURDAY 12/3

Image source

I wrote this prayer some 16 years ago while on my annual retreat at Eastern Point in Gloucester. My 2016 retreat in the same place ends today so I'm posting it again It's one of my favorites and it's as true for me today as when I wrote it.  I pray it might also serve you in your relationship with the Lord...

You enfold me, entwine and embrace me.
You handle me, hold me and hide me.
You wrestle me, welcome and want me.

Your chin by my ear,
your hand in my hair,
your arm 'round my back,
my arms rounding you,
my face on your chest:
I'm held in your warmth.

Your eyes keep close watch,
mine close in deep peace.
Your fingers stroke softly
my head's numbered strands.
Your grip is a gift,
your grasp saving grace.

You whisper, "You're mine,
I call you by name:
you're found and forgiven,
brought home and beloved."

I breathe back,"Yes, I am
shaped and healed by your hand.
You call me by name:
I am yours, you are mine."

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Pause for Prayer: FRIDAY 12/2

When I return to my parish on Saturday I know many people will ask me, "How was your retreat?"  Even though it's been a great and grace filled week, that's not an easy question to answer.  So much has happened, so much of it so personal in my relationship with Jesus, and so much of the best of it is not easy to bring to speech.  Today's Pause for Prayer is something of an answer to the question I'll be asked.  I wrote this prayer this week, trying to sum up what's happened since I was on retreat last year and to recognize that every blessing I have is first God's gift to me - and not of my own making. You'll see from this prayer that I've had a blessed year and I've had a great week on retreat.  But this prayer covers more than the last 12 months.  In many ways, this is a story that's been in the making for nearly 7 decades.  It wasn't always like this, and I know there will be hard times ahead, too.   But for this year, for this week, this is my prayer...

All Because of You

Because your patience never fails, Lord,
I've had time to grow…

Because of your great mercy
I’m forgiven and unburdened…

Because you searched me out
I know I'm found and welcomed home…

Because you set me free
my heart now overflows with joy...

Because you lift me up
my spirits rise and I’m consoled…

Because your grace empowers me
I’m strong beyond my strength…

Because you give so lavishly,
I give you thanks and praise…

Because you always have my back
I walk with confidence…

Because you know me as I am
I’m more the man I’m made to be…

Because you look on me with love
I’m blessed and deeply healed…

Because you watch my every step
I face the future free from fear…

Because you hold me in your heart
my soul’s at rest and I’m at peace…

Amen, Lord,
yes,  Amen!


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Pause for Prayer: THURSDAY 12/1

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From the Indigo Girls song Watershed
Starve the emptiness,
feed the hunger...

From St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153 A.D.)
Where is God’s word to be kept?
Obviously, in the heart, as the prophet says,
    “I have hidden your words in my heart,
    so that I may not sin against you.”

Keep God’s word in this way.
Let it enter your very being,
    let it take possession of your desires
    and your whole way of life.

Feed on goodness
    and your soul will delight in richness.
Remember to eat your bread
    or your heart will wither away.
Fill your soul with richness and strength.

If you keep the word of God in this way,
    it will also keep you.

From a Concord Pastor:
Lord Jesus,
take possession of my desires:
    tame them, heal them,
    shape them, mold them,
    use them for your glory.

Take possession of my desires,

   the rest of my day,
   and my whole way of life.


Pause for prayer...

The Lord has a word for you today
   a word to feed the emptiness
      of a starving heart...

Will you make the time and find a quiet place
   to listen for the word he waits to give you?

Will you pray with that word
   and take it with you
      for the rest of the day, or longer?

Will you keep that word?

Will you let that word tame you and heal you?

Will you let that word keep you?

The Lord has a word for you today... 

Having trouble hearing, getting that word from the Lord?
Pick up the scriptures and read until you come to a story
a verse, a phrase, a word that speaks to you - let that be the  
Lord's word for you today.  I'd suggest beginning with the 
book of Psalms or the gospel of Luke


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Pause for Prayer: WEDNESDAY 11/30

Seasons of the Heart by Jennifer Page

Does it seem to you, as it does to me,
that Thanksgiving snuck up on us this year, 
taking us by surprise?
And here we are now
(some of us with turkey and cranberry still on our breath)
- and Advent is underway...

Yes, a new season's begun in the church year
but I’m wondering now about some other seasons,
not marked by dates on calendars:
the seasons of our hearts

My heart has its seasons, many of them,
and I’ll bet yours does, too...
Some of my heart's seasons last but a few days
while others drag on for weeks and months...
The seasons of my heart may or may not coincide 
with nature’s seasons,
or the "holiday" season...

And my heart might enjoy a summery warmth
in the middle of January,
or feel the nip of a cold-shouldered frost 
in early August...
My heart might grieve  
and my tears fall leaves in the spring time,
while peace might bloom like a fragrant rose 
in late November...

The seasons of my heart 
pay little attention to weather reports
and none at all to calendars...

These heartfelt seasons come and go year ‘round,
with their high and low pressure systems
shaping my heart’s climate...

The season now is Advent but I wonder:
what seasons toss and weather our souls,
yours and mine, this time of year?

Is it summer, 
fall  or spring 
- deep in our heart of hearts? 

Is my heart getting ready for Christmas
- or wary of its approach?
Whatever the clime within,
Advent calls our hearts to ready the way
for Jesus to come in...

Like the seasons of our souls,
Jesus pays no attention to the weather or the calendar.
In any and every season 
he's ready to make his home within us:
to warm what’s chilled; 
to put our grief to rest;
to refresh what's wilted; 
and to stir up life new life and spirit...
But the hard truth is 
I may not yet be ready 
to surrender my sadness to joy,
my grief to healing
my worries to confidence,
myself to God...

Still, no matter the season or the mood
- in my heart or in yours - Jesus comes to us  
in season and out of season,
in good times and in bad,   
in sickness and in health,
in hope and hopelessness, 
in sorrow and in joy...

When I need him most and yet might least expect him,
Jesus comes to my heart and to yours:
not just in December,
not just in Advent,
not just at Christmas
not just in December -
but 24/7/365...

Many of us, especially the young,
look forward to Christmas with joyful glee
- some of us, not so much -
still Advent calls us all to open our hearts 
and prepare a way 
for the Lord whose season's come...

Advent's meant to prepare us to weather 
all the seasons of our hearts,
in whatever the season we find ourselves
just now...

What's helpful is to make some quiet Advent time
to spend in prayer, to share the signs, the climate
the highs, the lows, the pressures of the season 
found in our hearts just now...

So, whatever the season in our hearts today,
let's make of Advent a season of hope  
for a change of seasons
to bring us all Christ's peace...

May the gift of the Child born in Bethlehem
change the seasons of our hearts
to help us welcome the One who brings
a season of healing and hope and peace...



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