My Name Is Not Winnie.

Dec. 18 Sunday Readings.

How did you get your name? Do you know the story of how you were named? How did 1892382-winnie_the_pooh_christopher_robin_walt_disney_characters_20639734_1240_768you decide on names for your kids?

A couple years ago my mom admitted that I am named after Christopher Robin from the popular children’s books, television, and movies. She often adds, “Aren’t you glad I didn’t name you Winnie the Pooh?” Yes, mom.

Maybe you were named after a family member or after someone your parents respected. Maybe  your parents tried to match you with the meaning of your name. Maybe your parents just liked the way your name sounded.

Whatever the case, your name is yours. Your name has powerful over you. Nothing stirs me to attention like someone shouting out my full name as if I am suddenly and certainly in trouble for something I undoubtably did.

In the gospel this week we hear how Joseph and Mary decided to name Jesus. God told them their son would be named Jesus. Think about it, they didn’t get to choose. One of the great joys of parenthood is that you get to name your children. You get to pick what people will call them (until middle school).

Mary and Joseph in, yet another, moment of profound obedience to God listen closely and do what that angel tells them, “you are to name Him Jesus.” Why? Jesus means “God saves.” Jesus’ very name tell us His mission. In the name of Jesus, we are reminded that God has come to save us. Jesus’ mission is to save us from slavery to sin and death and through him can live forever with the God who loves us without limit.

This Christmas, as you celebrate the coming of Jesus, remember that you are the object of Jesus’ mission. You are loved and you are His.

Live It:
Pray the name of Jesus. Try tomorrow to say, prayerful, the name of Jesus 12 times. How? Say Hail Marys (name of Jesus right in the middle). Invite Jesus in with the simple prayer, “Come Lord Jesus, Come!” Simply say the name of Jesus over and over as prayerful as you can, after all His name is a prayer!

More than a Prophet

Dec. 11th Sunday Readings.

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I already had my St. John’s University sweatshirt, hat, and red socks on when my wife Liz said to me, “You know…I think I might be pregnant. I’m going to take a test.” Sure enough the test said Yes! and we had to keep our mouths shut at the Johnny-Tommy football game we were attending with many of our friends from college. We were so excited, nervous, in shock, and overjoyed with the news.

As good as that moment was, it was nothing compared to the next year when we held our little Ella in our arms for the first time. As good as the news of a coming child was to us; actually holding that child was so much better.

Whether you have kids or not you know the feeling of finding out something is going to happen vs the thing actually happening. You know what it like to anticipate a gift and then to actually receive it.

For the second week in a row the gospel is about John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. While last week John talked about “one mightier than I” who is coming, this week Jesus asks the crowds, “What did you go out to the desert to see?” He gives a number of ridiculous answers and then says, “Then why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.”

Jesus suggests that as amazing a prophet as John the Baptist is, John is just that – a prophet. John’s job is tell people the good news that the savior of the world is coming. John’s job is to prepare the way for the Chosen One. John’s job is to point to the Messiah.

Jesus is that Savior, Chosen One, and Messiah.

Jesus is more than a prophet.

Jesus isn’t the promise of a better life; he is new life. Jesus doesn’t just tell us the good news; he is the good news. Jesus isn’t an idea or symbol or policy; Jesus is a person whom we can know intimately.

John tells the world that a Savior is coming, and, at Christmas, Mary holds that Savior nativityin her arms. In our preparation for Christmas, let’s not settle for just the idea that we can draw close to the God who loves us unconditionally. No, let’s actually do it. Come near to Christ. Let go of whatever keeps us away and know that God is with us.

Live It:
Make a firm commitment to give God time to meet you where you are in these last two weeks of Advent. Go sit in the Adoration Chapel or the empty main church at HNOJ for 1 hour. Go to a weekday Mass wherever you can. Set up a Confession by calling the main office or asking our priests. Whatever the case, give God a chance to be more than idea for you this Advent.

Bears and Cows

Dec. 4th Sunday Readings.

The cow and the bear shall be neighbors…

Isaiah 11:7

When I heard this line from the first reading for this Sunday, I thought two things:

  1. Nobody ever paints that scripture on a piece of barn word and then hangs it in their kitchen.
  2. Maybe I watch too much kids television, but a bear and a cow could totally be neighbors as long as one of them was dressed in overalls.

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Isaiah is trying to explain how radically different the kingdom of the Messiah is from the way things are. Isaiah is seeking to break through the “this is the way things have always been” attitude of the people. He uses these irrational, fantastical pairs of animals who are mortal enemies in order to explain that when the chosen one comes, everything is going to be different.

If Isaiah was going to write one of these irrational pairings about you, who would he pair with you? Who is the lamb to your wolf (or vice versa)? What if God asked you to love that other person well (pssst, he did. Matthew 5:44)

Now that we are fully into Advent and the wreaths are out, gifts are being purchased, and Christmas songs blare ceaselessly on the radio, are you preparing for a different kind of life at Christmas time? Or are you preparing in almost the exact same way as last year?

If you are expecting the same experience of Jesus that you had last year, then maybe you are preparing in the same way. Isaiah and John the Baptist both are suggesting the that the God you are expecting is nothing compared to Jesus, the God who is to come.

Let’s make 2016 a year we prepare for Christmas differently because we are expecting a different experience of Jesus Christ at Christmas.

Live It:
If last year you listened to a lot of Christmas music this time of year, then make just one of your drives in silence this year. On your way to work or to pick up the kids, or on the way to whatever it is you do, try going in silence and invite God into that moment of silence.