Monday Morning Offering: 12/10

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...
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 walk the Advent path to Christmas,
make ready the route that leads to your peace
and make us strong for the journey...

Along the way,
make us gentle companions and generous guides
for one another.
May no one stumble on our account
and may those who have fallen find in us
a friend and companion...
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 9

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


If St. Luke were writing today instead of  some 2,000 year ago,
he might have begun this way:
In the second year of the presidency of Donald Trump;
when John Roberts was chief justice of the Supreme Court;
when Charlie Baker was the governor of Massachusetts;
during the pontificate of Pope Francis;
when Sean O’Malley was Archbishop of Boston;
and Austin Fleming was still the Catholic pastor in Concord:          
the Word of God came to some guy named John,
an unemployed televangelist,
who was often found preaching
on Boston Common, near Park Street Station.

• And if indeed that were the case,
I suspect that most of us, myself included,
would have dismissed John
as a homeless man in need of social services,
someone whose message was far too simplistic and extremist
to be deserving of any thinking person’s attention.

• It’s often a revealing and instructive effort
to try to see ourselves in the scriptures
and wonder how we might have reacted and responded
had we been there.

• Of course, 2000 years ago, John the Baptist did have some followers:
people who believed in his message;
who acknowledged their sins and asked to be forgiven;
who were truly looking for and waiting for Jesus to come.

• But they would have been a minority and my educated guess is
that most of us would have been in the majority
who paid John’s message little attention,
going about our daily lives, business as usual.

•John was a prophet and prophets are often treated and dismissed
in just this fashion.
Why is that so?  Why don’t we pay attention to prophets?
What about their message fails to engage us
- or even turns us away?
Well, let’s look at John’s message.

• He came preaching “a baptism of repentance
for the forgiveness of sins.”
So, at the heart of John’s message is a call for us who hear him
to take some serious personal inventory and ‘fess up:
that our lives aren’t perfect, that we fail - even often;
that we often lack the integrity we’d like to think we have:
that our success rate in choosing and doing
what’s right, just, fair, wise, generous and loving
is in reality, sadly, often much lower
than what we imagine or hope it to be.

• Who wants to listen to this? 
Who wants to hear what the prophet has to say?
Who wants to do what the prophet summons us do to?
Who wants to follow where the prophet is clearly leading us?

• It’s no wonder, then,
that the prophet often sounds like someone
 “crying out in the desert” or preaching on Boston Common,
where the throngs rush by,
hurrying on to more important business.

• The rest of John’s prophetic message is equally discomforting.
“Prepare the way of the Lord!”
In other words:
Make more room for God in our lives!
Do some interior house cleaning,
get rid of the junk cluttering your mind and heart
and make more room for God.
Take a long, hard look and see
all the things in your lives that lead you closer to God
and all the things in your lives
that distance you from God, that keep you away from God,
that come between you and God,
the things that don’t at all enhance but instead,
definitely inhibit your relationship with God.

• To whatever extent the prophet calls us out
and catches us up short;
- if the prophet’s word shines a light
on our crooked, short cut ways
that need to be straightened and strengthened;
- in whatever ways the prophet’s message exposes the gaps,
the potholes, the veritable valleys of infidelity
that need to be filled in and leveled;
- in whatever ways the prophet calls us to make smooth,
to buff away the rough edges on our lives:
- to these extents might we find ourselves resisting,
even rejecting the prophet’s message.

• Well!  This isn’t a very Christmassy message at all, is it!
That’s because before Christmas, there comes Advent,
before the feast, come the preparations,
before Jesus comes John, before mercy comes repentance.

• And it would serve us all well to heed the prophet’s words
especially because we so easily run the risk of being duped.
We run the risk of being duped into believing:
that Advent is about decorating our houses;
that Christmas is about buying and giving,
]receiving and returning gifts we don’t really need;
and that once this harried, hurried season is over,
we can return to business as usual,
as if a prophet never spoke to us,
as if God’s word never became flesh,
as if the nativity of Jesus was just one more birthday
to cross off on the calendar of our lives.

• Still not very Chrismassy is it?
Well, when you strip away all the tinsel and glitter,
all the wrapping paper, ribbons and bows,
all the decorations and the boughs of holly fa-la-la-la-la,
when you look underneath and behind all of that
you find that Christmas is mostly about us being redeemed,
it’s about our being saved
from precisely those very things about us
we wouldn’t want others to find under the tree
on Christmas morning.

• I know - it’s still doesn’t sound like a Christmas message!
Let’s try this, then.
Advent prepares us for Christmas,
for the coming of the who will judge us,
but he comes as a newborn infant,
inviting us to cradle his merciful love in our arms;
he comes as the Prince of Peace,
inviting us to be reconciled with God and with one another;
he comes as One like us
so that we might recognize in him divine love
seeking to find a home in our hearts;
he comes with tidings of great joy
because his only desire is for us all to be one
in a peace that has no end.
• In this crazy world of ours,
Advent and Christmas and the Jesus they promise and bring
are our only hope.
In the midst of terrorism, war, mistrust and enmity,
Advent and Christmas and the Jesus they promise and bring
stand as our only answer to humanity’s fallen nature.
In the nooks and crannies of our own hearts,
amidst the broken pieces of relationships we’ve shattered,
Advent and Christmas and the Jesus they promise and bring
are the only path to our healing,
our wholeness and our integrity.

In the aching of our deepest disappointments,
longings and losses,
the Jesus of Advent and Christmas
are the only path to our consolation, our serenity,
our fulfillment and our peace.

The Lord who comes to judge us, comes as an infant,
inviting us to hold him close.
The Lord who brings us mercy through the sacrifice of the Cross,
invites us to his table where he shares himself again and again
in the Bread and Cup of the Eucharist.

May the season of Advent and the feast of Christmas
and the Jesus they promise and bring us
open our hearts to prepare the way for him to come
and to welcome him with open arms when he arrives.


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Pause for Prayer: SUNDAY 12/9

In today's scriptures for the Second Sunday of Advent,  Isaiah writes of a voice crying out in the wilderness and Mark's gospel quotes Isaiah in reference to John the Baptist.  This video takes up the same theme in a song composed by Rachel Burckardt.  I sang the lead vocal on this when we recorded it  - 28 years ago! Today's Pause for Prayer is based on and follows the video.

Let's pause and pray...
Your one voice calls me, Lord:
you speak to my soul
in the dry and barren places
of the wilderness in my heart...

You call me by name
to prepare a way for you
who come to make of my desert
a lush and blooming garden...

You call me to change,
to change my desires, my habits, my ways:
to clear a smooth path
that you might come and dwell within me...

You call me to make peace
where I am, where I live,
where I work and where I rest,
from day to day, a day at a time...

Of all the voices 'round me, Lord,
help me hear your one voice calling me
to clear the way and make a place for you to dwell
deep within my soul this Christmas...


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Lighting the Second Candle on the Advent Wreath

This weekend we enter the second week of Advent, a season of joyful expectation of Christmas, a season for renewing our hearts as a dwelling place for Christ who was born among us...

If you have an Advent Wreath at home,
   pray for faith this week as you light the first candle each day.

 If you don't have an Advent Wreath
   - light any candle and pray for faith.

 If you have no candle,
   simply stay right here with candle above and pray for faith...

You may offer this prayer
   each time you light the candles on the wreath this week...

As we light the second candle on the Advent wreath, 
we 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 faith to help us endure
   the most difficult days and nights...
for stronger faith
   that leads us to act...
for the wisdom of faith
   to help us choose and decide...
for the willingness and courage
   to share our faith with others...
for unity and harmony
   among people of all 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 12/8

The image above does not depict Mary and Jesus.
The subjects here are Mary and St. Anne, her mother.
Today the Church celebrates Mary, immaculately conceived
in the womb of her mother, Anne.

Today's Pause for Prayer includes this incredibly beautiful piece,
perfectly performed by Chanticleer.

Chanticleer sings Biebl's Ave Maria.

This version of Ave Maria come from a modern German composer,
Franz Biebl (1906-2001).
Written in 1964, this is Beibl's most well known composition.

Biebl intersperses some chant verses with the familiar text of the Ave.
The piece is introduced with:
Angelus Domini, nuntiavit Mariae,
concepit de Spiritu Sancto.

The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary
and she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum;
benedicta tu in mulieribus
et benedictus fructus ventris tui Jesus. 
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you;
blessed are you among women
and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
The second interpolation is:
Maria dixit, ecce ancilla Domini,
fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.

Mary said: behold the servant of the Lord,
let it be done to me according to your word.
Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum;
benedicta tu in mulieribus
et benedictus fructus ventris tui Jesu.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you;
blessed are you among women
and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
The third gloss on the Ave text is:
verbum caro factum est,
et habitavit in nobis.

And the word became flesh
and dwelled among us.
Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum;
benedicta tu in mulieribus
et benedictus fructus ventris tui Jesu.
Sancta Maria, mater Dei,
ora pro nobis peccatoribus
nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. 
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you;
blessed are you among women
and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, mother of God,
pray for us, sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.



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Pause for Prayer: FRIDAY 12/7

Image source

(Reflective music for today's Pause for Prayer...)

I wait for you, Lord,
   I've waited for so long
      I've waited in so many ways…

I wait to find you, to know you,
   to believe in you...

I wait for you to show yourself,
   to show your face and let its light
      shine bright upon my own…

I wait for you to speak to me,
   to speak a word I understand:
      a word my heart can grasp,
      a word my heart can hold,
      a word my heart can keep,
      a word that brings me peace...

I wait to find the truth that sets me free, Lord:
   free from all that holds me fast
      in my confusion, fear and doubt…
I wait for you to hear my prayer 
   and answer me,
I wait for you to hear my prayer
   - and answer me...

I wait for your Spirit to move in me,
   to nudge me, to shake me 'til I wake:
I wait for your Spirit to stir within
   and let me know that you're with me
      and I'm with you...

I wait to hear a word from you
   of where to turn, what path to take,
      which choices I should make... 

I wait for you to calm my fears, 
   my anxious, lonely heart,
      my worried, troubled soul…

I wait for you to help me find 
   even just a little peace of mind, Lord,
      even just a little...
I wait to find your presence in my daily rounds:
   in the ordinary people, times and places
      where I least expect but really need to see you...

I wait to know your mercy:
   the forgiveness of my sins, 
   the cleansing of my soul,
   refreshment for my spirit...

I wait because I trust you'll never fail 
   to help me to begin again, anew:
my slate wiped clean, 
   my sins absolved,
   my broken  heart mended, healed and pardoned...

I wait for you
   though I'm not sure why I still wait -
      but then I wait some more
for in the waiting I begin, at last,
   to see you in the dark 
      and hear you in the silence...

In the waiting I begin to know 
   your presence and your face
and to feel your gentle touch
    in the care of those around me,
those whose hearts and hands are yours, Lord,
   whose voice and word are yours...
In the quiet of my Advent prayer
   I wait for you, Lord, 
      and I trust, I know
         you wait for me…


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