The Good Word for December 21 The fourth Sunday of Advent

For the complete Sunday readings click here. hello_my_name_is_jesus

God loves to name people. Have you ever noticed that? All throughout the Old Testament he is changing people’s names. The new names God gives always mean something. So it should be no surprise that when the angel Gabriel came to Mary to explain God’s plan, Gabriel tells Mary the name of God’s Son – Jesus.

Jesus means “God Saves.” By naming his Son Jesus, God is telling his people that it is through this baby boy that he intends to save the world once and for all. From our perspective, this makes sense and we’ve heard that truth a thousand times. However, for Mary and any first century Jew this would have been a radical claim. Somehow Mary accepts this truth, but asks the very practical question, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” Gabriel explains that the Holy Spirit will come and overshadow her and that all things are possible with God. How does Mary respond? By saying yes. She agrees to the plan and tells Gabriel that she is God’s servant and whatever God wants, she will do.

I think a lot of us believe that Jesus is the savior of the world. I think a lot of us believe that Jesus is God. And I think a lot of us have a similar practical question, “How can I know this Jesus, if I can’t see him or hear him? How do I have a relationship with God when I don’t know if I’ve ever met God?”

The key here is to pay close attention to Gabriel’s response to Mary. Gabriel says, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you…” It is through the Holy Spirit that God makes himself manifest in the world.

Then Mary says her beautiful “Yes!” When we say yes, then Jesus is someone who we begin to recognize. It is our “yes” that allows us to see all the ways that the person of Jesus is present to us.

How do we say “yes?” Honestly, with words and with actions. We pray saying, “Yes God I want to know you and be close to you. I want to see you and experience you. Help me to know you.” And then we act by attending Mass, praying daily, receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, caring for the poor and vulnerable, loving the unlovable, feeding the hungry, sharing our lives with the estranged and more.

If you want to know Jesus Christ, seek him out and I guarantee you will find him. It all starts with God’s reaching out to us and our “yes” to his plan.

Live It:
Go to Mass this weekend and during Communion, tell God you want to have a close relationship with him.

The Good Word for December 14th The 3rd Sunday of Advent

For the complete Sunday readings click here.

What is the happiest moment of your life? Most people answer one of a couple answers. Some people say it was the first moment they met the love of their life. Others say it was their wedding day. And a lot of people say it was the birth of their children. Of course there are other answers, but many, if not most people, name one of these moments.

What do these moments have in common? They are all the start of a life long relationship. Whether it was a marriage relationship or meeting one’s child face to face, something about the beginning of our families that brings use immense and beautiful joy. When we look back, those moments are joyful in and of themselves and represent so man moments we have with those people afterward. Even when those relationships end, the great sorrow of their ending says something about happy they made us to begin with.

The readings this weekend point to that first moment of the beginning of a really joyful and important relationship. The reading from Isaiah and the words of John the Baptist hold up the coming of Jesus Christ, the savior of the world, as the epitome of the joyful introduction. Isaiah describes Jesus coming as being like a wedding day, like being released from prison, or like the first day of spring. Isaiah couldn’t say it more plainly than this, “I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul.”

In the ten or so days of advent, these readings remind us to look forward to Christmas 2014, like we would look forward to the happiest moments of our lives. More importantly, we are being invited to recognize that our relationship with Jesus, whether we’ve been at it 90 years or we’re just beginning, is the source of joy and happiness. Jesus being born in a manger and Jesus coming deeply into our hearts in 2014 are worth of overwhelming joy and happiness. Rejoice!

Live it:
Smile! Take a couple minutes to think about Jesus, your faith, or the coming of Christmas and smile wide.

The Good Word for Dec 7th – The Second week of Advent

For the complete Sunday readings click here.

Pretty River Pic This past summer my family went camping in southern Minnesota at beautiful Frontenac State Park. The park is situated on bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River where the river widens into Lake Pepin. Saturday morning we decided to go on a hike down to the river. The trail was one of those switchback trails that ultimately went down the side of a very steep bluff. After some time playing by the river, we started back up the trail to the top of the bluff. After about the second switch back my five year-old daughter suddenly blurted out, “Wait! We have to walk all the way back up?!”

Up and down into a deep river valley is tough hiking and our kids were troopers, but tired troopers. They probably would have voted for an easier path if they had the chance. Both our first reading and our gospel talk about making the trail easier to travel. The reading from Isaiah talks about filling in valleys and making mountains and hills low. In the gospel from Mark, John the Baptist is identified as the messenger preparing a way and making straight the paths for the Lord.

John doesn’t regrade roads or level hilly interstate for Jesus’ physical travel, but instead straightens and prepares the pathways into people’s heart. That way when Jesus arrives, his way into people’s hearts and lives is straight and easy.

If you’ve had an encounter with Jesus Christ, I bet there is someone who straightened the path to your heart. Who helped to prepare you to know Jesus Christ? Who has helped you to meet and fall in love with God? Who has removed the obstacles to a deep faith that were in your life?

This year it would be easy celebrate a beautiful but private Advent and Christmas. But Continue reading