The Feast of the Holy Family – Father Peter Patrick’s Homily for December 27

FrPeterPatrickLike the Holy Family of Nazareth, we are called to be devout; and like Simeon and Anna should have an intense desire to meet the Lord and experience his salvation.

Some years ago, Reader’s Digest carried a family quiz. It contained 12 questions addressed to parents. One of the questions read: “With guests at your Christmas dinner table, would you feel comfortable asking any of your children to say grace?” That question calls attention to one of the key concerns of every family: its prayer life.

One of the most precious gifts a parent can give to a child is an appreciation of personal prayer, group or family prayer. And there is no better way to do this than by example.

Sundays are communal prayer days, when we meet as the big family of God. Of course it is not always possible for families to celebrate the Lord’s Supper together, as a complete family. But there should be times when the family makes an effort to do this. Jesus prayed often in this setting as we hear from the gospel of Luke: “Jesus went to Nazareth, where he has been brought up, and on the Sabbath he went as usual to the synagogue” (Lk 4:16).

Today’s Feast of the Holy Family invites us to ask ourselves about the quality of our family prayer life. In particular, it invites us to ask ourselves how well we – fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters – are contributing to the prayer life of our family.

Like the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, our family is the natural garden where human and spiritual values are sown and nurtured in children’s hearts. A question which Christian parents have to ask on this feast day is whether they are busy only in working hard to feed and educate their children, or equally concerned about inculcating values, wisdom and character into them; whether their families are modeled on the Holy Family of Nazareth where Jesus grew in strength, wisdom and God’s favor. If we consider this model as our family’s mission then we can depart in peace from this world when our time comes to hand over our spirit to the Lord.

Like Mary and Joseph, Simeon and Anna, our Christian family is called to be righteous and devout. Like Simeon, in our family we too should have an intense desire to meet the Lord and experience his salvation. This will happen when the words of St. Paul to the Colossians comes alive in our lives: “Brothers and sisters put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection” (Col. 3:12-14).

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Merry Christmas – Father Peter Patrick’s Homily for Christmas Day

FrPeterPatrickToday we are celebrating our cause for being Christian. If it were not for the birth of Christ, we would not be here today. Jesus gave to the world the news that God is our Father and we are brothers and sisters.

Jesus came into the world as the son of a poor carpenter, in a dirty stable. He came into the world as you and I did: naked, helpless, fragile and vulnerable. Like each of us, he had to wait for other human beings to take care of him. He knew hunger, he knew thirst, and he knew pain. He experienced ridicule and rejection, and he experienced the worst death anyone could experience – crucifixion.

When Jesus came into the world, he identified himself with the poor, the suffering, the powerless, even the sinful. He brought Good News that the great God of heaven and earth loves us – each one of us without exception and without reservation. You are not here today by chance, but because of that love of God.

The same way God loves us, we need to extend that love to others. The good news of Christmas will not be fully realized until the dignity of every human being is respected and made secure in terms of the right to live, religious and political freedom, social and economic justice. Mary, in the loving care of her child, becomes the icon of the care that God wants us to extend to every human being, even the most vulnerable. In truth, it is care extended to Christ himself.

The power contained in the Christmas scene is the power of the twofold message Jesus brought into the world: It is the message that the great God of heaven and earth is our loving Father, and that we are to be loving brothers and sisters. This incredible message is God’s Christmas gift to each one of us. What we do with it is our gift to God.

And this brings us to the challenge of Christmas. It is summarized beautifully in this poem by an unknown poet: “When the song of the angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone, when the kings and princes are home, when the shepherds are back with the flocks, the work of Christmas begins: to find the lost, to heal the broken, to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner, to build the nations, to bring peace among brothers and sisters, to make music with the heart.” Let us make someone outside our circle (family and friends) smile by extending our generosity. Make the difference! Merry Christmas!

What Makes Christmas Real? – Father Peter Patrick’s Homily for Christmas Eve

FrPeterPatrickWhat makes Christmas “real” for us?

If I would ask the question “What is your best Christmas experience ever?” everyone here of course would narrate a childhood experience. As a child, apart from attending Mass, food and presents – which were so attached to Christmas – made it real. For me, I was also looking forward meeting my cousins who were living very far from us. Christmas was the only time of the year we saw each other, and it made our Christmas real as children. Today it has a different meaning.

As I was reflecting on the real meaning of Christmas as a Christian, I came across the rich tradition of the first Irish immigrants here in the United States, of placing lighted candles in the windows. The Irish brought the custom of placing lighted candles in the windows at Christmas to America. When religion was suppressed throughout Ireland during the English persecution, the people had no churches. Priests hid in the forests and caves and secretly visited the farms and homes to say Mass there during the night. It was the dearest wish of every Irish family that at least once in their lifetimes a priest would arrive at Christmas to celebrate Mass on this holiest of nights. For this grace, they hoped and prayed all through the year.

When Christmas came, they left their doors unlocked and placed burning candles in the windows so that any priest who happened to be in the vicinity could be welcomed and guided to their home through the dark night. Silently the priest would enter through the unlatched door and be received by the devout inhabitants with fervent prayers of gratitude and tears of happiness that their home was to become a church for Christmas.

This made Christmas real for them.

To justify this practice in the eyes of the English soldiers, the Irish people explained that they burned the candles and kept the doors unlocked so that Mary and Joseph, looking for a place to stay, would find their way to their homes and be welcomed with open hearts. The English authorities, finding this “superstition” harmless, did not bother to suppress it. With the Irish, the candles in the window have always remained cherished practice, although many of them have long since forgotten the earlier meaning.

For the last four weeks of Advent, we have been preparing for this holy night, but again I ask the question, “How are we going to make this Christmas real for us, and be different from others that we have celebrated?” Jesus is telling us not to be afraid, as the angel told the shepherds, no matter how our lives have been. Today is a moment to renew our commitment to follow Jesus, and in doing that, for sure we will make this Christmas real to ourselves. Let’s leave our hearts always open for Jesus to come in, just the way the Irish left their doors open for priests to come and celebrate Mass, and for Mary and Joseph to have a place to stay. Christmas is time to party and be merry with family and friends, but if we go beyond that and remember the hungry, naked, those in prison and homeless, then we will make this Christmas real for others and for us. Merry Christmas!

Prepare the Way of the Lord! – Father Peter Patrick’s Homily for December 7

SR Letterhead LogoPrepare the way of the Lord! How then do we prepare? This is a question we all need to ask
ourselves.

As we enter the second week of Advent, which is not only preparing for Christmas, but
also for the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in glory, I would like to give the theme of
each week.  First week readings talks about hope; second week about love; third week about joy,
and fourth week peace. I do say that our lives should always be advent, meaning we should
always be prepared and ready to welcome Christ.

In today’s Gospel, we hear of John the Baptist pointing people to Christ. A theologian had a
painting of a crucifixion in his study room. It showed John the Baptist with a long bony finger
pointing to Jesus. One day a visitor asked, “What is your job?” The theologian walked over to
the painting and said, “I am the finger.” Do our lives point people to Christ? Or do they turn
them away from Him? Do you remember or have you ever heard what Gandhi said, “I would have become
a Christian, if ever I had met one.”

The question arises; “How then do I become a better Christian?” Today’s readings give us
a hint on how to become a better Christian. They talk about the need to prepare the way for the Lord.
All three readings tell us that if our lives are not what they should be, then we should do
something about it.

Which areas in our lives would we like Christ to visit as we prepare for the forthcoming
Christmas and his second coming? It is through repentance and making our ways straight as we
hear in the first reading from prophet Isaiah: “Prepare the way,” “make straight a highway,”
“every valley filled in,” “every mountain made low,” “rugged land made a plain,” “rough
country a broad valley”

In the second read from the second letter of St. Peter; “beloved, since you await these
things, be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace. The Lord does
not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing
that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

In other words, if we have strayed from the basics, then today’s readings invite us
to return to them. If we have placed our work ahead of our families, then today’s
readings invite us to correct this situation. If we have placed success ahead of our
personal relationship with God, then today readings invite us to change this. We should
do exactly what John the Baptist advised the people of his time to do. We should repent.
We should seek God’s forgiveness for our sins. We should turn over a new page and
begin a new life.

How Prepared Are We? – Father Peter Patrick’s Homily for November 30

SR Letterhead LogoHow prepared are we? Advent is a time to prepare, not only for Christmas, but also for the second coming of Jesus. It’s a personal thing, not just a collective thing. Then, the question arises, how prepared am I?

In a certain village there was an elderly lady who was well known for her devotion to God. Everybody in the village considered her to be a saint, even though she did not have much interaction with other people. She was always the first one to arrive at Church and last to leave. One day while she was praying, Jesus appeared to her and she requested him to visit her at home. Jesus agreed and she was expecting him on Wednesday of that week.

Prior to his arrival, she did a lot of preparation for her guest of honor. You could smell the delicious food cooking and anyone who passed by could tell that there was something special happening in her home. Noon was the expected arrival time for the guest, and at noon she heard a knock at the gate and rushed to welcome her guest. To her surprise, it was an old man wearing tattered clothes who asked for only a glass of water. The lady told him to wait outside while she brought the water. She said that she did not want anyone to come inside, because she was waiting for an important guest. After the old man drank the water he thanked her and left.

The lady went back into the house and waited and waited. By mid-afternoon she had become quite restless because her guest had not shown up. At three o’clock she heard another knock and rushed to usher in her much-anticipated guest. When she opened the door she got another surprise: it was a street boy who was looking for something to eat. The lady went and brought a little food for the boy and then told him to leave because she was expecting an important guest.

The lady waited and waited until it was late at night. Her guest of honor had not shown up and she was so frustrated and disappointed. The following day as usual she went to church and in her prayers she asked Jesus why he didn’t show up as he had promised. Jesus replied and said, “I came first as an old man, but you did not let me in. The second time, I came as a street boy, and still you did not let me in.”

Today’s gospel is asking us how well are we prepared for the second coming of Jesus. Today’s focus is on the coming of Christ at the end of time. The gospel tells of an unknown future date when Christ will return in glory. To be prepared, we need to take off all negativity that makes us see ourselves and others through dark glasses, judging ourselves and others critically. Take off whatever destroys our relationships with others, not focusing so much on our sins rather than God’s unlimited desire to forgive, taking off past regrets and future worries that keep us from living in the present. The list is endless of the things that keep us from focusing on the coming of Christ.

When we are done taking off, we then need to focus on what to put on, and that is Jesus Christ. We first put on Christ at our baptism when we were clothed with Christ and all that separated us from God was removed. We received a white garment to symbolize our new life and a paschal light to symbolize that we are no longer children of darkness. We were instructed to keep the white garment clean and the light burning until the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. This Advent season is a reminder to keep our hearts ready to receive Christ. How prepared are we? We are called to be immersed in the present, which is really the only time we have. Today is indeed a “present,” the precious gift, the present that will never come again.

Let this Advent be a special one to each and every one of us gathered here by putting on Christ, his virtues, his grace, and his strength. At Mass, we are not only clothed with Christ, we receive Christ into our body and spirit so that he can transform us to become more like him. Be watchful! Be prepared!

 

Behold He Comes Again: Be Watchful – Father Dennis’ Homily for November 30

SR Letterhead LogoToday we begin the season of Advent—a time of waiting not just for Christmas, but also we are reminded in this season we are a people who are waiting for the return of Jesus Christ. Waiting is difficult for most Americans because we live in a culture that wants what it wants now. I realized what little patience I had when I served in our sister parish in the Dominican Republic. A trip to the local bank in Azua could take at least an hour and a half and most of this time was spent waiting in line for the next available teller. I could not understand why Dominicans tolerated such a wait until I noticed that they were using this time to visit with the person in front of them or behind them in line. Waiting in line was a time to visit with others and to reconnect with others one has not seen for a while. Pope Francis on World Environment Day, June 5, 2013 said, “We are losing the attitude of wonder, contemplation, listening to creation. The implications of living in a horizontal manner is that we have moved away from God, we no longer read His signs.” If we do not take time to attend to the things of this world, including ourselves, we lose sight of God. This involves a good measure of waiting.

Advent is a time for us to refocus on what really counts in life. It is a time to be attentive to God coming into our lives. We have a God who loves the human race and who always walks with us on the journey of life. Our Gospel calls us to be watchful, to be alert. These are the virtues needed in order to become attentive to God breaking into our lives. Sometimes we get so busy that His coming to us in our daily life is lost in the busyness of life. If we are to be attentive to the potter shaping us, it is in those silent moments we will feel His hand shaping us, because as the Prophet proclaimed, “We are all the work of God’s hands.”

With the Prophet Isaiah we petition for the Lord to reveal his presence, but this implies waiting. The Prophet tells us, “No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for Him.”

How do we wait and what does it look like? Permit me to give you ten ways of turning those precious moments into waiting for the Lord.

  1. Those of you who drive to work in the morning or on the way home, instead of calling the boss who you are going to see shortly, or your wife, pray part of the rosary.
  2. Parents, while waiting to pick up the children from school, use the time to begin reading Mark’s Gospel instead of calling your friend or family member whom you will see in an hour. Mark’s gospel is the one the Church uses during cycle B.
  3. High school students, when walking home from high school use the time to talk with your friend about what a blessing he or she has been to you. We don’t do this enough.
  4. If you have a half hour for adoration on a Friday, spend this time before the Blessed Sacrament getting to know the hands of the potter who is shaping you.
  5. Children, instead of getting on the computer to play a game, take the time to write in your journal about how God blessed you today.
  6. Fathers, when you get home spend a half hour with your children. Talk about your hopes and dreams for them.
  7. While waiting in line at your favorite fast food restaurant, pray the Our Father, and if you still are waiting pray a Hail Mary.
  8. Saturday afternoon make your way to the confessional at 3:30 p.m. to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation.
  9. Husbands and wives, spend some time sharing your day with the other. Don’t forget to tell the other how much you love him or her.
  10. Make a commitment to attend Mass next Sunday as a family, and on the way home talk about what God said to you during Mass.

The busyness of life will be interrupted by prayerful, intentional moments of waiting for God who has given you every spiritual gift.