Sunday, December 25, 2011


Sorry it's been a little quiet around here lately...


Can you believe it? Some protesters showed up at Christmas Mass this year...

   The Nativity of the Lord - Christmas   

You’d practically have to have been living under a rock
to miss the near constant news during the last three months or so
of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Inspired by popular uprisings in the Middle East,
what began in lower Manhattan with a young people’s protest
of social and economic inequality,
of high unemployment rates and corporate greed,
has spread to major cities and small towns alike
across the U.S. and around the globe.

Tonight / Today, I’d like to take the movement
to one more location: to the city of David.
That’s right—we’re going to Occupy Bethlehem.

I’ve asked a few young people to help me out…

Have you ever been part of a protest before?
There’s a first time for everything…

From what I can tell,
there are two essential elements to any good Occupy demonstration:
signs and tents.

So we have signs…

Stop Fleecing
Our Shepherds

Who You Calling
Your Beast of Burden?

This Will Be No
“Silent Night”
No Child Should Have To
Sleep In A Manger!

And we have a tent…

Let’s make this a sit in…and you have a seat.

The signs seen on Wall Street have one basic theme:
things aren’t right; the world isn’t as it should be.
The precise problem can be a little tricky to put your finger on.
We’ve been told that God set this up as a paradise for us…
…but how come it doesn’t quite seem that way?

If we can recognize the need for some changes around here,
then just imagine the view from heaven!

On the outskirts of Bethlehem,
the angel announces to the shepherds:
And this will be a sign for you:
you will find an infant…lying in a manger.
In response to this world’s many troubles,
a savior is born for us who is Christ and Lord.
Yes, he will ask us to take responsibility
for the part we ourselves have played in making a mess of things.
But he has come not just to file a complaint
about all that’s gone wrong;
no, he’s come to help us see what’s right—
what’s true and what’s good and what’s beautiful.
He has come not just to raise difficult questions or take us to task,
but to teach a new and different way of living.
He has come not just to bring
people of good will together for a common cause,
but to unite earth to heaven—
and by a new bond of love so tight
that it can never be broken.
(Talk about possibilities for upward mobility!)
And that’s because his ultimate purpose
is not economic reform or political transformation,
but to liberate us—once and for all—
from the death-dealing power of sin.

As our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI,
said so well a few Christmases ago:
God’s sign is simplicity. 
God’s sign is the baby. 
God’s sign is that he makes himself small for us. 
This is how he reigns. 
He does not come with power and outward splendor.  
He comes as a baby—defenseless and in need of our help. 
He does not want to overwhelm us with his strength.
He takes away our fear of his greatness.
He asks for our love: so he makes himself a child. 
…God made himself small
so that we could understand him, welcome him,
and love him.  (Homily at Midnight Mass, 2006)

So God’s sign in occupying Bethlehem is a little baby.
What about God’s tent?

In sending us his Only Begotten Son—
who is “God from God and Light from Light,”
“born of the Father before all ages”—
God gives us his Word.
Now, to say that God “gives his Word,”
is not to say that he seals a spoken deal with a handshake
or signs on the dotted line—
as we might expect in business or politics…
…arrangements all-too-easily broken,
as the Occupiers are quick to point out.
Rather, God’s Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us
or, as the original Greek text literally says,
the Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us.
In the mystery of the Incarnation,
God comes to us in person—in human flesh and blood—
to establish a new and eternal covenant,
fulfilling his promise to renew this weary world,
to deliver a people who have walked too long in the darkness.
And God continues to give us his Word
in the words of the Scriptures, in the life of the Church,
above all in the mystery of the Eucharist.
Christmas, my friends, is not just a look back,
as if God paid us a brief, passing visit long, long ago.
No—the heart of Christmas is something that remains present.
You see, the Lord is the most resolute Occupier of all;
our God has come to stay.
And if God has “pitched his tent” right here among us,
then shouldn’t we make every effort to stay right here with him?
After all, what God most desires to occupy is not a manger,
but our deepest thoughts, our daily words and deeds—
to dwell always in our hearts.

So…Occupy Bethlehem?
In that tiny child born to Mary and guarded by Joseph,
the baby boy announced by angels and adored by shepherds,
the God who made heaven and earth,
who will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
came not to occupy only one tiny village in Judea,
nor to save a single nation.
His appearing is meant not for a few, but for many—
for 100%.
That, my friends, is good news of great joy…for all the people.

Like the shepherds,
let us praise and glorify God by our lives
that we might be signs for others
that the King of Heaven has come to occupy the earth,
that the true Light has shone in the land of gloom,
that God has pitched his tent among us—and dwells with us still.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

I Confess

Hail, full of grace!

Our deacon is preaching this Sunday, giving me a little late-Advent break...

   Fourth Sunday of Advent   

"Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus."  Luke 1:31

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Cookies...Revised (3rd Edition)

Fr. Stitt just forwarded this sweet little gem to me.  You can find the original here and some great commentary here.  He, he, he...
Christmas Cookie Recipe
(New, Corrected Translation) 
Serves: you and many.
Cream these ingredients, that by their comingling you may begin to make the dough:
1 chalice butter, 2/3 chalice sugar 
In a similar way, when the butter is consubstantial with the sugar, beat in:
1 egg 
Gather these dry ingredients to yourself and combine them, so that you may add them to the dough which you have already begun to make:
2 1/2 chalices sifted all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon vanilla 
Mix the precious dough with your venerable hands. 
Into the refrigerator graciously place the dough so that it may be chilled, for the duration of 3 or 4 hours, before the rolling and cutting of the cookies. 
When, in the fullness of time, you are ready to bake these spotless cookies, these delicious cookies, these Christmas cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
Roll out the dough and, taking up a cookie cutter or stencil of your choosing, fashion the cookies into pleasing forms. 
Sprinkle colorful adornments over cookies like the dewfall. 
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the cookies have just begun to manifest the brownness that is vouchsafed to them by the oven’s heat. 
May these cookies be found acceptable in your sight, and be borne to a place of refreshment at your table, there to be served with milk or hot chocolate, or with your spirits. 
Merry Christmas!

Let there be light

Last night saw the high solemn lighting of the lamps here in the rectory: 60 battery-operated, self-timed, flickering candles for the windows (replacing an equal number of antique electric ones with equally aged timers that had me living in fear of house fire last Christmas).  Before and after:

I'm not sure which to sing: Twinkle, Twinkle or This Little Light of Mine...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


My front porch right now.  No...not gifts for the clergy, but just one of several HUGE piles of presents for needy neighbors brought in by parishioners.  Human kindness is overflowing...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

txt 4 xmas

Funny as a joke...sad because it's just a little too true.  (And, no, I don't know these people!)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Change for a Dollar

Well worth 10 minutes.  If only we all made such good use of whatever we've been given...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Nation Rejoices

...the Colbert Nation, that is.  An extra note of joy for your Gaudete Sunday.

Folks: please don't try this at home church.

Joy? Make mine a double.

Last evening, Brianna (one of our altar servers) said, "True men wear pink." 

I've never felt so manly.

   Third Sunday of Advent   B 

I’ve had a hard time getting in “the mood” for Christmas this year.
Now, I’m not exactly ready to declare, “Bah, humbug!”
but when I look at the next two weeks
and think about signing cards, decking the halls,
and shopping for—leave alone wrapping—presents…
…well, I tend to feel not so much merry as stressed.

I suspect I’m not alone.

This Third Sunday of Advent comes right on time.

That’s the clear message today—
from the Scripture readings we hear
to this rose-colored vestment I’m wearing
(which—I could see—instantly brought smiles to most of your faces).

There’s a smile-inducing movie in theatres right now
that I very much look forward to seeing: The Muppets.
(I grew up on their show,
and it’ll be a nice trip down memory lane.)
From a review I just read, it seems that the film
finds none other than Kermit the Frog also in a funk.
Attempting to pull him out of it, Walter, a longtime fan,
tells him, “You give people the greatest gift of all.”
“Children?” Kermit replies.
“Ice cream?”
“No.  Laughter,” Walter reveals.
“Laughter is the third greatest gift of all.”

While he might quibble with that ranking just a bit,
there’s another world-famous figure
who made a similar point a few years back: Pope Benedict XVI.
In the course of a rare 2006 TV interview,
the seemingly serious and scholarly Pontiff said:
I’m not a man who constantly thinks up jokes.
But I think it’s very important
to be able to see the funny side of life and its joyful dimension
and not to take everything too tragically.
I’d also say it’s necessary for my ministry.
A writer once said that angels can fly
because they don't take themselves too seriously.*
Maybe we could also fly a bit
if we didn’t think we were so important.  (August 5, 2006)

There are plenty of misconceptions about joy.
One of the most common among us Christians
is that our faith shouldn’t leave much room for it.
The work of paving a straight way for the Lord
that he might save our souls from hell
is, in fact, about as serious as it gets.
But spend too much time choosing to be miserable here on earth
and…well…I think you’ll find yourself a bit uncomfortable
adjusting to heavenly bliss.
As the great Saint Teresa of Avila once prayed,
“From sour-faced saints, O Lord, deliver us!”

Another mistaken notion about joy
is that it can’t coexist with struggle.
“Only after I work through all my problems,
only after I’m free from all trials and tribulations,
can I expect to find any gladness in life.”
So the thinking goes…
But notice how Saint Paul writes to the Thessalonians:
Rejoice always.
Pray without ceasing.
In all circumstances give thanks.
Some of the most joyful and prayerful and thankful folks I’ve ever met
were living in deep poverty or confined to their sickbeds.

As the Pope reminds us,
living with joy comes from keeping things in perspective.
I know that my not yet being “in the spirit”
isn’t because I’m lacking for cookies or carols,
and can’t be fixed by a favorite TV special
or an extra cup of eggnog.
What I need is not to revive a holiday tradition,
but to refocus my attention
on why I’m doing any of this in the first place.
At this halfway point of Advent,
the Church encourages her children to rejoice,
not because Christmas is getting close,
but because Christ has come close:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.
Indeed, the Lord is near.  (Entrance Antiphon/Phil 4:4-5)
Christ is close—not above or beyond the fray,
but right here in the middle of all our turmoil,
that his joy might be in us
and our joy might be complete.  (cf. Jn 15:11)

Experience has taught me that my doldrums will pass.
They’re a sign that I’m taking myself—
and my Christmas preparations—too seriously
and that—like those who questioned John the Baptist—
there is One among us whom I do not always recognize.
The trick, of course, is to let go of passing things
so that I might then cling more closely to Jesus.
In God—and God alone—is the true joy of my soul.

That’s a happy lesson,
not just for this special season,
but for every circumstance of life.

* "The reason angels can fly is because they take themselves lightly."
G. K. Chesterton

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Last evening, another priest and I headed up to Montréal to enjoy a performance by the Montréal Symphony Orchestra.  A last minute, generous offer of two tickets from a parishioner had us enjoying a performance of Gustav Holst's, The Planets.  (I'm a rather big fan of both Mars and Jupiter.  But do note that these YouTube recordings are nowhere near as good as what we got to hear yesterday.)

We both knew that if we had tried to plan this ahead, it probably would never have worked out...but on 24-hours notice, everything just seemed to fall into place.  The orchestra recently completed construction on a new hall, which is both visually and acoustically stunning.  A perfectly delightful evening...except for a slight unplanned detour on our way out of the city.  (We always seem to get just a little lost on our way home!)  Now, it's back to earth...

Monday, December 5, 2011


Buried somewhere in the small print of my assignment as pastor here in Malone is that it included becoming a Boy Scout.  I never was involved with scouting while growing up (farm chores didn't leave much time for that sort of thing), but I now find myself as the Executive Officer of Boy Scout Troop 61, sponsored by the Malone Catholic Parishes.  Last Monday I went to the Cub Scouts Pack meeting, and last night it was a Court of Honor for the Boy Scouts.  To help this officer look more official, a while back they gave me my own shirt.  The trick was, I had to sew my own patches.  I didn't get them all on before yesterday's ceremonies (it took more than a few tries to get some of those patches on straight), but I wore the shirt anyway...and then stayed up late to finally the finish the job.  Trouble is, when some of the other adults who work with the troop saw me in my new scout duds, the said they'd be getting me some more patches to fill in the blanks...

Sunday, December 4, 2011


I'm just a sucker for "Happiness is..."


I don't care who says they taste like chicken...

   Second Sunday of Advent   

It seems that every so often a new fad diet goes around.
In recent years, lots of folks have been trying
the Atkins Diet and the South Beach Diet—
everybody going low-carb or even no-carb.
Stretch back a bit and some might remember the Grapefruit Diet.
One that never caught on too widely
was the Cabbage Soup Diet.
You can surely understand why…

Here’s another diet that’s a hard sell:
He fed on locusts and wild honey.
That’s the John the Baptist Diet, of course.
But he wasn’t marketing a weight loss plan,
so why the odd menu?

Let’s start with those locusts.
Where else do these insects—
and their other grass-hopping cousins—
show up in the Bible?
Well, we find them in the Book of Leviticus
on a list of kosher foods. (11:21-22)
Yup—seems that John the Baptist
wasn’t the only one eating bugs!

But we most famously find locusts in Exodus:
the eighth of the ten plagues God’s visited
upon Pharaoh and the land of Egypt.  (10:1ff)
The locusts descended so thick that they covered the ground,
eating up whatever crops were left
after the seventh plague of hail.  (cf. Psalm 105:34-35)
In the Scriptures,
locusts are an instrument of the Lord’s judgment;
they’re a not-so-subtle reminder of the need to change your ways.

How about honey?
It seems that every time
God speaks to his people about the Promised Land,
he describes it as “flowing with milk and honey.” (cf. Ex 3:8, Deut 6:3)
Honey is gathered when a people
are settled, secure, and prosperous.
Thus honey is a symbol of peace and plenty:
the comfort and consolation which God promises
to those who walk in his ways.  (cf. Magnificat, 12/2011)

John’s unusual diet plan, then,
is one meant more for our souls then for our stomachs.

We have a hankering for spiritual honey.
When things turn sour,
we turn to God asking for something sweet.
Lord, let us see you kindness,
pretty well sums up the majority of our prayers.
Comfort, the Lord says to Isaiah,
give comfort to my people;
speak to them tenderly.
Doesn’t that sound good?
We’re rather taken with this idea
that God is there to reassure and soothe us—and he is.
But left on its own, this can lead to the lopsided notion
of spirituality as a sort of relaxing spa treatment
or a comforting diet which lets us continue
to eat anything and everything we want—
no calories, no consequences.

Yet notice how Isaiah lays out the path
which leads to this land of milk and honey:
Make straight a highway in the desert;
fill in all the valleys;
level the mountains and bring low hills.
This is not a gentle, soothing pastime;
it’s a job, rather, 
which calls for a bulldozer. (cf. A. Giambrone)
Instead of comfort food and a massage,
this is a spirituality 
of heavy-duty construction.

Thus the Messiah’s final messenger arrives on the scene
wearing camel’s hair and dining on grasshoppers to teach us:
if we want to taste the honey’s sweetness,
then we must first face the locusts;
if we want to truly enjoy the good things God promises,
then we must first submit ourselves—
submit our way of thinking and our way of life—
to God’s judgment.
We can’t reasonably expect the Lord and his glory to get though
if we’ve put up roadblocks and left obstacles in his way.

Not a fad in the least,
Christ has given us a tried and true menu on which to feed our souls:
the menu of the Mass, of his Body and Blood.
John the Baptist’s unusual diet of locusts and honey is an apt reminder
that we need to be properly prepared
to even approach the Lord’s table,
leave alone profit to the full from the nourishment it provides.
Once upon a time—not really all that long ago—
every single Catholic who intended to go to Holy Communion
would first go to confession.
That—admittedly—may have been a bit excessive.
But nowadays, the vast majority of Catholics
come to Communion Sunday after Sunday,
but never, ever confess their sins.
Now, I’d like to think that’s because
people just sin a lot less in the twenty-first century.
Yet what we’ve lost is not our sinfulness,
but our willingness to face and acknowledge it.
And if we’ve lost our sense of sin,
then the coming of One to save us from our sins
becomes really rather meaningless.  (cf. M. Casey)

Unrepented, serious sin is a road-blocking obstacle
to the spiritual nutrition God has prepared for us in the Eucharist.
When was last time I openly, honestly examined my conscience?
How long has it been since I received the Sacrament of Penance?
And just what am I waiting for?

John’s urgent message of repentance
is echoed by Saint Peter.
God is immensely patient with us, he writes.
And God has promised a new heavens and a new earth.
But since this world will pass away with a mighty roar
and be dissolved in flames,
what sort of persons ought we to be while we’re waiting?
We are to be holy people, devout people—Peter tells us—
people eager to be found without spot or blemish,
people at peace.
We are to be a people who find the courage
to straighten out what is crooked,
to level our excuses and flatten our pride,
to fill in our valleys of idleness and unbelief.  (cf. A. Löhr)
We are to be a people who prepare
an unobstructed way for the Lord into our hearts.

Locusts and wild honey.
Judgment that opens us to joy.
Conversion that paves the way for comfort.
That’s a well-balanced diet for Advent, and always.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Marching In

Given my early life experience on the farm, I know just what they're thinking: Will there be refreshments after this?  (Expect, maybe, the bull...who's hoping none of his ladies decide to run off with the band.)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Blessed Charles de Foucauld

"As soon as I believed there was a God, I understood that I could not do anything other than live for him."  So wrote Charles de Foucauld.  Born a French aristocrat, he passed early adulthood as a fun-loving playboy and military officer.  But by way of a brief stint as a Trappist monk and then as a carpenter in Nazareth, he ended up a priest leading a solitary life among the Tuareg people in the Sahara desert of Algeria.  It was there that he was shot by Bedouin marauders on this date in 1916.  Despite his "hidden" life (not unlike the early years of another carpenter from Nazareth), his profound writings and humble example have had a wide influence.  His "prayer of abandonment" (composed in Nazareth in 1897) captures well the heart of his spirituality:

I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only you will be done in me,
and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you
with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Shaken & Stirred

Well, today we "launched the Missal"*--the full implementation of the long-anticipated 3rd edition of the Roman Missal, that is.  It wasn't too explosive, only a few misfires, and very few casualties.  It did shake things up a bit...which is only appropriate.
*True confession: I borrowed this clever turn of phrase from a deacon in the neighborhood.

   First Sunday of Advent   B 

The Nazis were already on their steady rise to power
when Fr. Alfred Delp entered a Jesuit seminary in 1926.
He could see where the Third Reich was heading—
and he was troubled that many of his fellow Germans did not.
Because he dared to speak out, Fr. Delp was arrested
and eventually hanged on February 2, 1945.

On scraps of paper smuggled out from a Nazi prison,
he wrote this reflection on his final Advent:
There is perhaps nothing we modern people need more
than to be genuinely shaken up.…
Many of the things that are happening today
would never have happened
if we had been living in that movement and disquiet of heart
which results when we are faced with God, the Lord,
and when we look clearly at things as they really are.…
Here is the message of Advent:
faced with him who is the Last, the world will begin to shake.…
It is time to awaken from sleep. 
It is time for a waking up to begin somewhere.…
[T]he great question to us
is whether we are still capable of being truly shocked
or whether it is to remain so that we see thousands of things
and know that they should not be and must not be,
and that we get hardened to them. 
How many things have we become used to
in the course of the years, of the weeks and months,
so that we stand unshocked, unstirred, inwardly unmoved.
Advent is a time of being deeply shaken,
so that man will wake up to himself.

Are you a deep sleeper?  Or maybe you live with one?
I certainly was Thursday night with a tummy full of turkey!
When it’s time to wake up,
the gentle approach just won’t do;
more drastic measures are called for.
And so it is with the slumber that overcomes the human soul.
When our hearts sleep, they tend to sleep deeply.
Blanketed by false securities,
they settle in for the spiritual equivalent of a long winter’s nap.

Advent comes along each year sounding like an alarm.
Or—at least—it should.
We’ve rather tamed Advent over the years.
A mere shadow of its former self,
Advent is now more like a clock radio set to easy listening,
playing ever so quietly to gently rouse us
for a sentimental celebration of Christmas four weeks hence.
But the Advent we really need
is more like a trumpet blaring in your ear,
or a firm hand gripping and rattling your shoulder,
or a big splash of cold water in your face—
a wake up call which simply cannot be ignored.
Not only is the feast of Christmas coming,
but we profess to believe that the Lord Jesus Christ
will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.
Faced with Christ’s return,
and with a world that’s clearly not as it should be,
we do well to pray with Isaiah,
not for comfort and joy, but for a cosmic disturbance:
Oh, that you would tear open the heavens, Lord,
and come down with the mountains quaking before you!

But, why all the quaking and shaking?
To what do we so urgently need to wake up?

First, we must wake up to the darkness—
the darkness that so often surrounds us,
the darkness that’s so often found within us.
Am I really satisfied with the state of this world
and the state of my own soul?
Advent’s promise of a Savior doesn’t mean much at all
if I don’t recognize that I’m powerless
and need saving in the first place:
helpless before my own sinfulness,
helpless before my own death,
helpless to give my life ultimate meaning and purpose.
Advent is wrapped not in shiny paper and bows,
but in the somber purple shades of penance and conversion.
What’s at stake in Advent is not being prepared for a beloved holiday;
what’s at stake is being prepared for eternity,
being receptive to salvation and its demands—
like clay in the hands of the potter.

But we don’t wake up to then just sit around in the dark.
Despite the need to face the darkness—
actually, because of it—Advent is joyful for,
as we’ll see in the increasing glow of this wreath of candles,
its promise is the coming of the Light.
We are weak, we are limited…
…but the Most High God
has assumed the lowliness of our human flesh.
In Jesus Christ, the Lord has come,
the Lord has overcome, and the Lord is coming again.
It is for this return, for this bright new dawn,
that we are to remain ever awake, watchful, and alert.
Would that you might find us doing right, Isaiah continues,
that we were mindful of you in our ways.

Am I well prepared to meet God face-to-face?
And not in some distant future—
after all, we know not the time—but even now?
That, of course, is the truth before which we ought to tremble.

Suspecting his death to be imminent, Fr. Delp wrote:
I see Advent this year
with greater intensity and anticipation than ever before. 
Walking up and down in my cell,
three paces this way and three paces that way,
with my hands in irons and ahead of me an uncertain fate,
I have a new and different understanding
of God’s promise of redemption and release.

May we allow the Lord to do likewise
and truly shake us up this Advent.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Nuts & Berries

Just a couple of scenes from the recent Thanksgiving festivities at my sister Jen's new home.

We begin with a bit of the Thanksgiving spread...

That's cranberries, four ways: (clockwise, from the right) homemade whole cranberry sauce, cranberry-maple chutney, cranberry tapenade, and--well--you know...  Yes, I'm responsible for three of these.  Can't a guy like cranberries?

And then my other sister, Cori, snapped this classic shot of her crazy brothers...

Good times, good times...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


I heard this song tonight on NPR's World Cafe.  It's not exactly new...but it's new to me, and I rather like it.  Hope you do, too!

Gooble, Gooble

Whether you're eating some turkey or just happen to be acting like one, I pray that you and yours have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

That's me and the First Grade down at Holy Family School the other day.  Near Thanksgiving last year, I was invited to read the Kindergarden a book about the first Thanksgiving.  Needless to say, I arrived with the appropriate headgear.  Which meant that for the rest of the year, those kids called me "Fr. Turkey Head."  When they did so at their Kindergarden graduation last June, some of their parents and grandparents nearly popped a gasket at their apparent disrespect for the clergy...until they saw the slideshow of the year and discovered what all the fuss was really about.

Somehow, the name still seems to stick...

Sunday, November 20, 2011


At least, that's what it felt like this afternoon to take the rack off the top of the car, the gear out of the trunk, and to get everything stowed away in the garage for a long winter's nap.

But with a low of 18º F forecast for here seemed like it was about time.  Sigh.

A Few Words

Our Lord Jesus Christ the King [A]

On the radio this past week,
I heard a touching interview with retired astronaut Mark Kelly
and his wife, Representative Gabrielle Giffords.
As you no doubt recall,
Gabby Giffords was shot in the head last January 8
while meeting with constituents in Tucson, Arizona.
The story of her continuing recovery is truly inspiring.

Learning to speak again
has been a particular challenge for the Congresswoman.
Six months after the shooting,
she still couldn’t formulate a question.
So Mark was taken aback when he came home one evening
and Gabby asked, “How was your day?”
“It was a big event,” Mark says. “It was so big to me…
I could not remember one thing I did all day.…
[Gabby] had this momentous event
where she finally asked a question
and I had no answer because I was so happy about it.”

“How was your day?”
Such a simple phrase--just four words,
so common that most of us wouldn’t give it much thought--
but for this couple, in this moment,
it was absolutely jam-packed with meaning.

We have some very similar moments in the course of the Mass.

I think of one near the very beginning:
The Lord be with you.
> And with your spirit.
This is more than an ordinary, “Good morning!”
These words go back to the earliest days of Christianity:
drawn from the pages of the New Testament,
they unite us across countless generations of believers.
The Lord be with you.
I greet you not as Joe Giroux,
the sociable host of a community gathering;
no, this is a greeting that comes to us from the apostles.
I recognize you not as the citizenry of Malone,
a group of friendly neighbors and acquaintances;
instead, I see before me a family called together by God the Father,
the assembled Body of Christ,
the living temple of the Holy Spirit.

My father was an altar boy years ago.
There’s one part of the Latin Mass he still remembers quite well;
let’s see if there are any old altar boys here this morning…
Dominus vobiscum.
> Et cum spiritu tuo.
The new English translation of the Roman Missal
changes your response to better reflect this ancient Latin text.
And with your spirit.
This unusual formula clearly means something other than,
“The same to you, Father.”
You speak to me in this moment,
not as an individual man, but to my priestly spirit--
to that deepest part of me which was transformed
on the day of my ordination
that I might stand here before you in the place of Christ.
It’s not because I am somehow better than you
that you are to speak this way;
it’s precisely because I am just as human as you are
that the gifts of the Spirit need to be stirred up again in my heart.

The Lord be with you.
> And with your sprit.
In effect, I’m saying, “Remember who you are! 
I recognize that the Lord is in your midst. 
Be the people God calls you to be!”
And, in effect, you’re responding, “Remember who you are!
We recognize that Christ acts through you. 
Be the priest for us now!”  (cf. J. Driscoll)

Another brief exchange so rich with meaning
comes at the very end of Mass.
Go forth, the Mass is ended.
> Thanks be to God.
While most of the new Roman Missal
is just a new English translation of the same original Latin text,
it’s here that we encounter something entirely new.
At the request of the Synod of Bishops a few years back,
Pope Benedict XVI personally selected
a couple of new dismissals with which to conclude the Mass:
Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord, and,
Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.
These new dismissals are meant to remind us
that when we leave from Mass
we are sent--and sent with a mission from God.
(That’s one good reason why we should never leave early!)
It’s not enough for us to recognize Christ’s presence
for the hour or so we come together at the altar;
we go out to meet and serve Christ in his least ones,
whenever and wherever we find them.
We are to take what happens in church out into the streets:
bread and wine are transformed that you might be transformed;
and you are transformed that the world might be transformed.
In a certain sense, the Mass is never ended;
the work of God in us, with us, and through us goes on
until we return here again.
Go and announce the Gospel.
Go and glorify the Lord by your life.
Go, and keep on going, sent with God’s blessing,
until Christ should come in glory.

It is particularly appropriate
that we should reflect on these words of the Mass
as the Church celebrates the Solemnity
of our Lord Jesus Christ the King.

Christ is a King unlike any other.

First, Christ is a King who is also our Priest.
A king can claim to speak to his people
on behalf of God.
A priest can claim to speak to God
on behalf of the people.
True God and true man, Jesus Christ fulfills both roles.
And through the many priests he has chosen
to share in his one priesthood,
Christ continues to exercise his unique authority
and to offer his perfect sacrifice in and for his Church.

And Christ is a King who is also a Shepherd.
Not aloof and removed
from the troubles of those subject to him,
Christ tends to the sick and the injured of his flock,
seeking the stray
and rescuing those who have been scattered.
He sends us forth to do likewise:
providing for the hungry, the thirsty, the naked;
caring for the sick and imprisoned;
welcoming the stranger.
When our Shepherd takes up his glorious throne,
it will be based on this measure
that he separates the sheep from the goats.

Gabby Giffords now regularly asks her husband,
“How was your day?”
And, Mark admits, it’s already become
just another ordinary question again.

May the words of the new Roman Missal, however,
remain ever fresh and meaningful for us.
Indeed, they are part of no ordinary exchange;
they give shape to the ongoing conversation we have
with our Priest, our Shepherd, our King.
And for that: Thanks be to God!