Friday, December 18, 2020

HOMILY – 4th Sunday of Advent – Saying Yes to God


          How many of us are prepared give up our hopes and dreams to follow God’s plan? How many of us are prepared to walk away from the path we are currently on to walk instead on the path the Lord calls us to? This path may include struggle, suffering, perhaps even disgrace. Are we prepared to walk this path? 

          Mary was a no-body living in a no-place part of the world.

She was a 14-year-old girl faced with a choice. I’m sure she had her own hopes and dreams for life. But all of that changed when she met the angel Gabriel and heard God’s plan for her future.

This young woman was told by an angel that she will play a unique role in salvation history for her people and for the whole world. She will bear a child (out of wedlock) and he will be the Son of God. Heady stuff for a teenager.

But Mary has a choice in the matter. She has free will. This is not forced on her by God.

How many women in Mary’s time had the freedom to make their own choices? How many women were given that level of respect by their families or their communities? Mary had just been betrothed to Joseph, a decision not her own.

But God gave her a choice. And Mary said, “yes.”

Mary is the perfect model for how we should live our lives as disciples of Christ.

Seattle Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg said this about today’s Gospel passage:

“What made Mary great and what makes us great is not the world in which we live or our own call to fame (or fortune or power), but rather God’s invitation and action in our lives.

The Gospel is about God and not about us. It’s about what God can do and not what we can do.”

God’s path for our lives is not forced on any of us. God’ has given each of us a choice to follow God’s plan. We each experience our own annunciations in this life. Our faith encourages us to develop ears to hear while keeping our hearts attuned to Christ. And we must have the courage to act on God’s call in our lives.

“That is the dilemma of discipleship. God graces us with talents, possibilities, opportunities, skills, and other blessings for a reason – namely to accomplish a divinely intended mission in the world. Our of respect for our free will, God first asks our permission to use our lives.” 

What lessons can we learn from Mary on following the voice of God?

I found this humble offering and would like to share it with you. A shout out to author Marci Ferrell. It is entitled –

Ten Lessons God's Word teaches us through the life of Mary:

1.  Mary knew God's Word. In the time Mary lived she was probably illiterate, but she had heard the Word of God and kept it hidden in her heart.  How well do we know God's Word?  Are we able to speak the Words of His truth to others?  Is our time in the Word an important part of our day?

2.  Mary was filled with the Spirit.  As believers, we have the Holy Spirit working in us, and there is nothing we can accomplish for God outside the power of the Holy Spirit.  Do we tap into the power of the Spirit, or do we rely on our strength to get through difficult situations and trials?

3. Mary said “yes” to God's plan for her life.  She had an obedient, submissive, and a humble heart.  Are we willing to say, “yes Lord,” to whatever task Jesus calls us?

4.  Mary was quiet before the Lord and meditated on all He had done in her life.  How often are we truly quiet before the Lord, just pondering on what God has done and is doing in our lives? Do we take the time to meditate on God’s Word?

5.  Mary turned to Jesus for help when she had a problem to be solved.  When a problem arises where do we turn to first for guidance?  Do we seek Christ or turn to others?  Do we spend time worrying? Do we point others toward Christ?

6.  Mary was a woman of worship.  She gave praise to her Lord knowing that the road before her was going to be a difficult one.  Do we praise God in and through all circumstances in our lives?

7.  Mary trusted in the Lord and waited on God’s timing.  A virgin betrothed to be married, and she just had a visitation from an angel of the Lord telling her she is to give birth to the Son of God.  How do you explain this one to Joseph?  Mary didn't take matters into her own hands, but let the Lord change Joseph's heart.

8.  Mary was a chosen vessel of the Lord.  If you are a child of God, you have been chosen to be an instrument that God is using to fulfill God’s purposes.  Mary was chosen to give spiritual life to the Son of God, and we are chosen to give spiritual life and encouragement to others.  Are we living an eternally focused life?  Do we take the time to share the truth of the life-giving Gospel of Jesus Christ with others?

9.  Mary was a faithful servant.  When it seemed like everyone had deserted Jesus, his mother Mary was there, and she followed him all the way to the cross.  Today there are not many professing believers who are ready to follow Jesus to the cross.  Are we true followers of Christ?  Are we faithful to Jesus no matter the circumstances or the difficulty of what we may be called to endure?

10. Mary knew Jesus was dying on the cross for her sins.  Jesus was her son, but he was also her Savior.  The child she loved, she also watched die on a cross for the sins of the world.  Do we believe Christ died for our sins?  Have we repented our sins and put our faith and trust in Christ and Christ alone for your salvation? 

As we approach the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, may we have hearts that are submissive and obedient to God's will for our lives. May we have the courage to say “yes” to God’s plan, no matter where it leads us. May we each become instruments of God’s peace in the world.


Friday, December 4, 2020

HOMILY – 2nd Sunday of Advent – Waiting, Expectantly


Are you prepared for Christmas?  I know that’s a loaded question this time of year.

The word “prepare” is the one word that pops to mind when reflecting on this weekend’s readings. Our Church calls us to spiritually prepare for the birth of the Christ child -- as we wait expectant yet hopeful.

Our spiritual preparation requires a healthy dose of humility if it is to be successful this Advent season.

This passage Morning Prayer caught my eye:

“Prepare a path in our hearts for the coming of (Christ)… 

Bring low the mountains of our pride, and fill up the valleys of our weakness.”

In other words, we all probably have some work to do to prepare for Christmas. And this preparation has nothing to do with the Christmas shopping, or other Holiday to-do list.  

Perhaps the best way to understand how God wants us to prepare for what’s to come is to be like first-time parents awaiting the birth of their own firstborn child.

No doubt Mary and Joseph, and John the Baptist’s parents Elizabeth and Zechariah all experienced this preparation and waiting, expectant yet hopeful.

I’m reminded of the Christmas 1990.  My wife Mary and I were expecting our first child, with a due date one week before Christmas.

We’d moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, earlier in the year for a job managing a radio station. Mary was less than enthusiastic about our time spent living in the South. She was a real trooper for leaving family and friends behind to go to a place unknown to have our first child.

In the months leading up to December, we did all the things first time parents do to prepare for the blessed event.

We prepared a bedroom for the baby. We prepared the car to be able to transport the baby. We prepared for childbirth with Lamaze classes. We prepared to be Christian parents by taking baptism classes at our local parish. We prepared to have family come to visit once the baby was born.

We were all consumed with preparation as we waited expectant yet hopeful of the big change coming to our lives.

And shouldn’t we all be spiritually preparing for the big change coming to our lives this Christmas?

If we listen to the cry of John the Baptist, we’re all called to “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his path.”   

We’re about to celebrate the greatest event of all human history, the birth of Jesus. Our hearts need to ready to meet the Christ child.

            On our due date, my wife thought she was going into labor and called me home from work. She was so happy and had big smile on her face as we drove to see her doctor. She was convinced the time was now!

            Dr. Eddie walked into the exam room, took one look at my wife’s beaming smile, and said, “Mary, you’re smiling. You’re not in labor yet. If you were, you wouldn’t be smiling.”

            So, we returned home to wait expectant yet hopeful, and we prepared some more.

            I had to work on Christmas morning.

            As the shift was coming to an end, the phone rang.

            It was Mary calling (with distress in her voice) to say “I’ve been in pain all morning. Please come home quickly.”

            So, I jumped in the car and headed home.

            When I got there, the smile was gone.

            Yep, we were now officially in labor.  But contractions were still 10-to-12-minutes apart and we were told to wait until contractions were five-minutes apart before going to the hospital.  

            So, we spent Christmas Day 1990, all by ourselves, far away from family and friends, experiencing childbirth for the very first time. We were waiting expectant yet hopeful, albeit a little stressed that Christmas day.

            The truth is nothing can truly prepare us for such a blessed event. We did all we could to prepare. But the rest was left to the grace of God. 

Mary gave birth to our first born son Sean Michael Kelly 30 hours after going into labor. The bouncing baby boy arrived one day after Christmas 1990, on the Feast of St. Stephen, first Christian martyr and a deacon.

            For a 29-year-old struggling with his faith, the experience helped seal the deal between God and me. After witnessing a miracle, faith was real in ways it had never been before. I had never felt love like that before.

We’d experienced a true God moment together. Our lives would be forever changed.

            And this is what God is calling us to do as we prepare the way of the Lord this Christmas. Make paths straight, fill in every valley and make low every mountain and hill.

            Everything in our world had changed with one miracle: the birth of a child.  

And so, our story is God’s story for us all.

We are called by John the Baptist to prepare a way for the Lord in our hearts and change everything as we orient our lives to Christ.

As we baptized our son one week later, with family finally in town, our pastor Monsignor Gaston Herbert reminded me of something stupid he heard me say on the radio shortly after the baby was born.

            When asked by a fellow radio host on the air, “What was the experience like, DK?”  Yours truly said the following fateful words, (and I quote) “It was fun and easy.”

Monsignor Herbert howled as he repeated my careless words, and then baptized our first child.

The people living in the time of Mark’s Gospel were awaiting the second coming of our savior Jesus Christ. They were waiting expectant yet hopeful. Today we’re reading the very beginning of Mark’s Gospel.

            Bible scholars agree. Mark’s was the first written Gospel, probably between 65-70 AD. This was nearly a generation after the death of Christ. It’s believed Mark’s community lived in Rome.

This early Christian community faced persecutions, betrayals, denials and many conflicts. Mark’s Gospel helped keep this community focused on the expected and hopeful Second Coming of Jesus. Many at this time believed the generation that witnessed Jesus in the flesh would not completely pass away without Jesus coming again.

The action in Mark’s Gospel is fast-paced and designed to get all its readers caught up in the drama, and begin to see ourselves as a continuation of the story of Jesus Christ.

The belief was Jesus is returning soon.  So, prepare.  And so, we, too, are called to prepare while we wait expectant yet hopeful. 

         My sisters and brothers, the Lord is coming soon! 

Let us prepare our hearts to welcome a child who changed our world forever.