Monday, December 21, 2009
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Today, the Second Sunday in Advent, has been known throughout the ages in the Church as “Gaudete Sunday.” “Gaudete” is the Latin imperative...or command for “Rejoice [Ya’ll]!” The verb is a personal, plural verb. It is a command to all the People of the World...to REJOICE!
Why, you may ask, would the Church “command” you to “Rejoice!” on this day? Even more so, you may ask, is it even possible to be “commanded” to “Rejoice!”....to be Joyful? For us to have a fair shot at answering these questions, we must take a minute and understand what is going on these days...these days of “Advent.”
The “Christmas Season” we are in is officially recognized by the Church as the Season of “Advent.” “Advent” comes from the Latin word “adventus” which means “arrival” or “coming.” During this season, Christians are called to anticipate 3 “Arrivals” or “Comings” into their midst.
The first “Coming” is the Coming of Christ at Christmas. This “Coming,” perhaps we are the most familiar with. Even now, we look forward to Christmas Day. A day when we recall the culmination of all of history---the Day in which GOD HIMSELF was born to Mary in a manger, in Bethlehem. The day when the Hope of all the ages, came in FULLNESS amongst us. When John 1:14 & Hebrews 1:1-2 were ACTUALIZED in time and space!
* “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
* “In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through a son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe,” (Heb 1:1-2)
The second "Coming" is the just that....the “Second Coming” of Christ at the “end of time”--when history itself will come to an end....and Christ will come to judge the nations. This Second Coming reveals to us the Paradox...the Mystery of God...of Existence...of all of Reality---namely, the Tension between the “Already” and “Not Yet.” Already, Christians believe that Jesus Christ, in his life, death, and resurrection, has FULFILLED all of history...all of our humanity. His life was, indeed, the PINNACE of history itself. However, obviously...the world is still spinning, and we are here trying to make sense of it all. There is still something “YET” to come. Still something to be realized in our lives here and now. Still some kind of perfect fulfillment to be accomplished by Christ in the end--when God will be everything to everyone!
* “then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power. [...]When everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will (also) be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all.”
(1 Corinthians 15:24,28)
So we have the “Already” of Christmas that we celebrate. We also have the “Not Yet” of the Second Coming which we anticipate and celebrate in hope. So what is left? THE NOW! The “Third Coming” of Christ that we celebrate during Advent is the Coming of Christ into our Hearts even NOW! For we, indeed, are the Temples of the Holy Spirit....God’s Dwelling Place. Our hearts...our lives....this ABOVE ALL OTHER PLACES....is where Christ desires to Come and Dwell (see 1 Corinthians 3:16). God, in his Mysterious Plan, chooses US to be his LIGHT unto the nations. God chooses US to be the SALT of the EARTH!
And today, in a special way, the Church teaches us what that means---we MUST be PEOPLE of JOY!!! Joy above all things is attractive...is LIFE-GIVING to others. If I as a Christian claim to have faith in the One True God...the Source of Everlasting Life, Happiness, and Fulfillment...and never seem to be able to Smile.....how does that make ANY SENSE???
In an encyclical (i.e. “letter”) to the Universal Church written in 1990 entitled Redemptoris Missio, John Paul II reflected on this dynamic, as he commented about the “Mission of the Church”:
42. People today put more trust in witnesses than in teachers,(69) in experience than in teaching, and in life and action than in theories. The witness of a Christian life is the first and irreplaceable form of mission: Christ, whose mission we continue, is the "witness" par excellence (Rv 1:5; 3:14) and the model of all Christian witness. The Holy Spirit accompanies the Church along her way and associates her with the witness he gives to Christ (cf. Jn 15:26-27).
Earlier in this letter, JPII looked to the early Church to see what this kind of WITNESS looks like:
26. The first communities, made up of "glad and generous hearts" (Acts 2:46), were open and missionary: they enJOYed "favor with all the people" (Acts 2:47). Even before activity, mission means witness and a way of life that shines out to others.(34)
In other words, the earliest Christians gave witness to a world that have never heard the name of “Jesus Christ” first and foremost by being JOYFUL! Because they were so distinctly JOYFUL & GENEROUS...they found “favor with all the people.” That is what won people over for Christ then. And THAT is what will win people over for Christ today! Because JOY is the “proof in the pudding.” JOY makes all the “stuff” Christians talk about REAL. We all want to be fulfilled, peaceful, & joyful in the end. We know people who are truly JOYFUL....and we know people who are just full of BS :) I think that is humanity’s keenest 6th sense---a Sense of Authenticity (or lack thereof). People seem to instinctively know when they are around someone sincere, transparent and genuine. Sure we are capable of being duped. But I think, generally speaking, we are very in tune with this.
One person immediately comes to my mind when I think of AUTHENTICALLY JOYFUL people---Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta. I have met a number of people who had the privilege of meeting Mother Theresa during her life (Round 1 that is..). Each story was connected by a statement like the following: “It was incredible to be in her presence. She was the kindest and most JOYFUL person I have ever met!”
It was her JOY & GENEROSITY, just like that of the early Christians, that continues to captivates hearts and minds all around the world. However, a couple years ago, a seeming “scandal” hit the public when her private journal was published and put on the shelves. It turns out that during the greater part of her adult life, she experiences a very dark, very difficult interior spiritual life. She at times even doubted the existence of God! And at times even GOT ANGRY at God for feeling so far away....for seeming to have “abandoned” her (see Matt 27:36).
“WHOA!” The world seemed to say, “Was her life one big hoax?! Was she just faking all that Joy?!” Some of the media would have us believe just that.
But perhaps, we have yet more to learn in the school of Joy. Perhaps Joy is more than just a feeling. Perhaps Joy is something deeper. Perhaps Joy is something that transcends circumstance....or “luck,” fortune, or even success.
Three quotes of Mother Theresa come to mind.
First: “Joy is not a feeling. It is a choice.”
Second: “Joy is hard work.”
Third: Most of her life Mother Theresa prayed to God for two things (and I am paraphrasing): “Lord I give myself completely unto you. I just ask that you may grant me the grace to Smile & and to say “Yes” to whatever it is that you may ask of me. All the rest, you may do as you please.”
All that to say, on this Gaudete Sunday, I would like to propose something to you--if you would like to give Witness to the World to all that is True, Good, and Beautiful....namely to God and the Goodness of his Creation, then I suggest that there is no better place to start than to be JOYFUL!
Following Mother Theresa and many other great saints, may we courageously CHOOSE to be JOYFUL...every moment of every day. May we CHOOSE to see the glass half full as opposed to half empty.
May we CHOOSE to be people of HOPE, LOVE, FAITH & GENEROSITY.....not just to our friends....but to everyone...espeically the “least among us,” the downtrodden, and our enemies. If we all made this Choice, the world would be a different place. If we all made this Choice, what an incredible ADVENT it would be this year! If we all made this Choice, how SINCERELY may we sing this season “JOY TO THE WORLD!”
Lord God, I pray that you may grant us the GRACE to become a truly JOYFUL people this Advent Season.
I decided to post some pictures that help to “jump-start” my Joy when I feel weary of choosing it. Perhaps they may be a small grace for you as well.
Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Sunday, December 6, 2009
First of all, I just want to say ROOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL TIDE! ROLL! What an incredible game last night! Two great teams....one great game. As an Alabama Fan, it feels good to finally be going to the Big Show again after all of these years! If Greg McElroy (QB of Alabama) happens to read this...I just want to say....I love you. hahahhaa. Heck of game!
In other news, today we had a day of Recollection which means that we kept Silence in the House today so that everyone would have a day to specially pray, reflect, and enter into this Advent Season. A bishop from Fargo, North Dakota came to our College to give a couple of talks for us to meditate on as well. I always enjoy days like this in Seminary. Although it has been one of the hardest lessons to learn in my time in Seminary so far, I believe it has been one of the most valuable--learning how to slow down, be still, quiet my heart, pray....and just set time aside to be alone with myself and God.
The first half of this week’s post is largely the result of that time in the stillness...alone with myself and my God. In the second half I would like to share a couple of pictures from some of the festivities we held at the College last weekend to celebrate Thanksgiving.
This past week was FULL...for a lot of reasons. But it really wasn’t until today...in the silence...that it all sank in. As I sat in my room and prayed. I felt moved to write a letter to two of my very best friends--Walker (aka “The Daddy”) and John (aka “Skeeter”). The three of us were fraternity brothers at Furman University and continue to be very close.
John got married to another good friend of mine Shannon (aka “Shannoon”) just after we graduated, and Walker got engaged to a beauty from Florida just a couple months ago named Katie.
Just after Getting Engaged
At the risk of being a bit personal, I would like to share a letter I wrote them today. John, Shannon, Katie, Walker....sorry to ruin the surprise of real-time mail....and for the publicity :)
To everyone else, I felt like many of you would be able to relate to my thoughts. And any of you who may be married, engaged, considering marriage in any way, or just admiring marriage from the outside-in (like myself)....these words are for you as well.
“It is amazing how time and intention can pass by so quickly.
Now my thoughts go out to ya’ll--John & Shannon, Walker & Katie. My heart beats with love for each of you and for the love that you share. My spirit raises in HOPE as I consider your commitments to each other...Your lives spent together.
I just watched Rain Man starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman--what a great movie. A beautiful story of what happens when Love takes over. When love becomes that of greatest value to Us...everything changes.
Perhaps this is why ya’ll come to my mind now. Because falling in Love with our God and, Walker, you with Katie, and, John, you with Shannon, has changed everything for you. No longer are your lives your own..but you are uniting yourselves to another...the Beautiful Bride you have found...the Pearl of Great Price worth everything you have. You are “selling all you own” just to have this treasure beyond price.
It is a beautiful thing for me to consider--a life given in a real way to another. So much respect, admiration, and love wells up within me right now.
My thoughts seamlessly move towards my sister Courtney and her husband Jeremy and their child in utero Connor Griffin. Two days ago, Courtney (now 33 weeks pregnant) went to the hospital because she woke up bleeding. She has been there since...and so has Jeremy. Everything looks OK now...but it came as quite a shock to us all. I can only imagine what Courtney and Jeremy experienced/are experiencing.
I can only guess at Jeremy’s experience of driving his nearly 8 months-pregnant wife to the hospital, bleeding at 5:00 AM. Sitting with the doctors, waiting and watching as they try to determine if his wife and 1st Son are OK. Standing by as his wife is “thoroughly” examined and then finally, when left alone with his bride, sitting bedside to hold her hand.
I cannot quite understand the depth of this level of love, commitment, and heroism. I can only marvel at it, appreciate it, and pray that I too may be blessed with such a grace.
What incredible depth there is to the vocation to love. How courageous, How sacred, How transcendent is the sacrament of marriage! How complete is this Giving...this Self-Gifting...this adventure upon which ya’ll have (will) embark(ed).
I cry tears of admiration, joy, of being overwhelmed by the mere consideration of such a virtuous life. I pledge to you my love, prayers, and support for my lifelong.
What a beautiful Life we have been given! What dignity we have! What an honor it is to be alive! What a privilege it is to share this life with people like you.
May God Bless You and keep You. May the Glory of His Eternal Light shine upon you. Come Holy Spirit, Renew them, for they are to be Light into the world. AMEN.
I love you.”
Friendship is a powerful thing. One I am blessed to have experienced deeply. And how great is it too, that God calls us to call him "Friend":
I am happy to say that Courtney and Connor are both doing really well. A big Thank You too all of the guys here at the College and people back home who have been praying for Courtney, Jeremy, Connor, and our family.
Also, I would definitely recommend watching Rain Man at some point if you have not already. It is a really moving story which won Best Picture in 1988. It is rated “R” for the following reasons just to give you a heads up:
The condition Courtney is experiencing is called “placenta previa” and is fairly common. You can click here if you want the details. Basically, she is being monitored to see if she stops bleeding. If not, they will have to perform a C-section. If she can stop bleeding, they would ideally like to keep Connor hanging out in utero until he is ready to come out on his own. So...if you have a chance, I ask for some prayers for them and all pregnant mothers...that they may feel God’s Providential Hand.
Even as I just typed out that letter to John and Walker, I was struck by how deep...and penetrating...these moments are in prayer. For me, prayer has been a window...a passageway into a deeper encounter with reality...with life...with others....myself...with God. It is amazing what kind of insights, connections, peace, inspirations can come once you finally make the time to enter into some Silence...and just be still for a minute.
If you can find even just 5 minutes each day to be still, alone, quiet, and prayerful....I recommend it with all of my force. I think there are few things we can do that are more beneficial to our overall health, fulfillment, peace, and wholeness in life...than to have such a time in our lives regularly. I encourage you to consider spending 5 minutes each day this week in silence...in some kind of prayerful meditation or contemplation. It could be an interesting experiment if nothing else. I believe you would be amazed by what might happen....
Thanksgiving at our College is always a fun time. There are many of traditions that take place that week, a few of which are the Thanksgiving Day Mass, Meal, & the “Spaghetti Bowl.” The first two are pretty self-explanatory.
Just after Mass. Travis "T-Bone" Burnett of Mobile is the server closest to us.
The “Spaghetti Bowl” is an American Flag Football game always played two days after Thanksgiving. Everything is pretty much just like normal football except for the tackling--in lieu of this “flags” are pulled. Also, stiff-arms are illegal. This game is always played between the New Man Class and the rest of the guys at the College. Both teams practice diligently throughout the month of November for this once-a-year show down. It is always a blast, surrounded by as much fanfare as possible. Here are a couple shots, of what was a VERY competitive and close game this year. The New Man team has not won in over 10 years...but I am told this was the most highly contested came since. Props to the New Man team!
I did Side-Line commentary throughout the Spaghetti Bowl. At some point I decided to find out how many languages guys spoke in the House. All in all, I think over 20 were showcased throughout the game. Here is Michael of Massachusetts giving a greeting in Polish.
The crowds asked John the Baptist,
“What should we do?”
He said to them in reply,
“Whoever has two cloaks
should share with the person who has none.
And whoever has food should do likewise.”
Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him,
“Teacher, what should we do?”
He answered them,
“Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”
Soldiers also asked him,
“And what is it that we should do?”
He told them,
“Do not practice extortion,
do not falsely accuse anyone,
and be satisfied with your wages.”
Now the people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
“I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor
and to gather the wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Exhorting them in many other ways,
he preached good news to the people.
Ya'll have a good one! Let's pray for one another.
Over and out.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,
when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea,
and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee,
and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region
of Ituraea and Trachonitis,
and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene,
during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,
the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.
John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan,
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,
as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
“What do you have that you have not received?”
-1 Corinthians 4:7
This verse came to mind this past week over and over.
Take some time and think about it....
Is there anything in your life that you have not, in some way....RECEIVED?
Did your parents consult you before conceiving you to make sure you were on board?
Did God consult you before gifting you with an immortal soul... capable of being filled with his Eternal Life and Love?
In light of these questions, we can respond in one of two ways:
1. Resent the fact that we had no say in the decision and lament forever this grave “injustice.” And commit ourselves to seeing each instant of our lives through this lens of being wronged.
2. Spend our lives being Thankful..to God and to others. And commit ourselves to seeing our lives through the lens of “Thanksgiving.”
I opt for number two. Or better yet, I am committed to opting to opt for this...every moment....of every day. It is always a temptation, it seems to me, to cry “Sour Grapes!” and fall back to number 1. However, number 2 is my goal.
In this number 2 spirit, this week I would like to take a moment and enumerate a few of the things for which I am THANKFUL.