Sunday, December 28, 2008

Feast of the Holy Family - homily

Today’s second reading is not only beautiful and powerful, it’s also pertinent to families. I highly recommend each family at St Andrew’s to make a copy of this reading – Colossians 3, 12-17 – and post it in your home somewhere…frame it or put it on the refrigerator. It’s not only the guide for how each Christian family is to live, it also offers solutions to problems that arise within each family. I will go through a few of the lines from this passage and offer some practical application for them.

“Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience”. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph didn’t post this passage in their home. It hadn’t been written yet! They lived it. They lived compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. They are the example for Christian families.

“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.” I have been working with a family that has been in a serious crisis. There has been major tension between the father and the oldest son. This goes back years. There has been much anger and many hurts. Each of these realizes now that they need to reconcile with the other. They realized that they should have reconciled long ago. They need to reconcile for each other, but also for the mother and the other kids. They don’t need to be best friends, but they need to make peace. They need peace to dwell in their home – the peace of Christ.

“And over all these put on love”. It’s interesting that when I asked both of these guys if they loved the other and if the other loved them, they immediately said yes. There is love there, but so much stubbornness…so much pride.

“And be thankful”. Every so often I have to remind parents not to miss the forest for the trees when it comes to their kids. Yes, your kids get into trouble sometimes, yes they don’t listen to you or aren’t motivated as you would like – and I’m not excusing them in specific ways – but, parents, your kids are good kids! Kids, you also shouldn’t miss sight of the big picture: without your parents, you wouldn’t have anything. They have given you life, they have given you everything. Everything you have in your home, in your room and in your person – all of your personal gifts – is from your parents. You should give thanks for your parents every day. Parents, you should give thanks for your kids every day, and that God has entrusted their beautiful lives to your care.

“And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”. We come to the Eucharist primarily to give thanks to God the Father through Christ. But, we also come here each week that we may do everything during the week in the name of the Lord Jesus. We come here for the grace to live out the second reading in the home! It is hard to live, especially when conflicts arise in families. But, it is possible with the grace of Christ, especially the grace of the Eucharist and Confession. Reconciliation is possible. Compassion, humility, patience, and love are possible on a regular basis.

May we all be open to the grace of the Eucharist so that we might put on compassion, humility, patience, and forgiveness in our homes. And, above all, may we put on love.


At 2:26 PM, Blogger CynthiaBC said...

The longer version of today’s second reading includes the directive:

Children, obey your parents in everything,
for this is pleasing to the Lord.

Now, there’s a verse I’d like to post in my daughter’s room! That, and the fourth commandment…including “…that it may be well with you, and that you may live long upon the earth.”

At 12:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

FG's suggested reading from Colossians is perfect for the family. I heard several people say "Amen" and some were taking notes on the passage. This can also apply to our parish family with the dealings that we have with one another in committees,social gatherings, the parking lot, etc. Someone told me that there were a lot of clicks especially with our younger group before FG came to us. They commented that he some how managed to break that up. It's easy to see how our Lord works through FG.

At 12:13 PM, Blogger fran said...

Many years ago, a friend of mine shared her favorite place to post prayers and inspirational sayings -the interior of kitchen cabinet doors. I thought this was a great idea, especially when refrigerator space is at a premium!

At 1:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fran- I've long since said that the fridge is the "golden space" for information for the family. If you want your information to be resounding, the fridge is where it needs to go- hadn't thought about the cabinets.

In respone to the anon of 2:26-
There are still active cliques with the younger groups, albeit maybe to a lesser extent than it once was, but we all bear responsibility for that. Retreats, group outings and organizations like Jr. Youth Group can all help, given proper direction from the leaders, but I don’t think most organizations serving our youth go far enough. If we want to raise the next generation to handle the immense problems of the world, we need to do more to teach them about the special value of each person. If we can teach our youth to look at each other (in their immediate groups) with inclusion (all included) and empathy, then we can look to sending them into the world as young adults with the same expectation in dealing in the world. I believe we (all)currently fall short in that task.

Several years ago, my daughter’s teacher told me she the girls in my child’s class were among the meanest that she’d ever taught. I was astounded. I thought about all the things that could have/should have been done- school counselor mtgs, parent conferences, service projects, talks from the pastor, etc. After talking to several people about it, I realized that there are people who are resigned to that brand of bad behavior as a simple fact, even a kind of right of passage. I’m not one of those people. That “clique thing” was not something I experienced in my school years. I didn‘t experience it because there was a nun in my school who had ZERO tolerance for it. She was proactive in her efforts to teach us that all have something unique to offer, and if you sought to ostracize or exclude another, Sister Gilbert confronted you. If you thought you were “all that,” she’d assign you some pretty lowly chores! I grew up clearly understanding that exclusion was ugly and intolerable.

We each have an opportunity to affect the ugliness of exclusion. I hope more take the opportunity in the New Year to do that in their daily walk.

At 3:10 PM, Anonymous Katherine said...

I have felt welcome at this church since the moment I stepped through the doors. I hate to say it, but that is a rarity around here, meeting people so open and welcoming.

I don't know what St. Andrew's was like pre-Father Greg and before I came, but whatever you guys are doing, you're doing right. Thanks for making newcomers who have a lot of mental baggage (like me) feel welcome. I think if more people stepped up and became more open like it is here, the world would be a better place.

At 6:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In response to the Anon of 144
Thanks for sharing your insightful thoughts on cliques. The teachings in Social Justice would be another way for our youth understand the value of each person.

At 6:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, Katherine, it may not be as much of a "rarity" as you might think. People have a tendency to seem amazing when we ourselves do two things- open ourselves and accept kindness. It sounds like you've done that. Don’t mistake the source of it all. The amazing thing that’s really happening inside the doors of SAA is a growing relationship between you and Christ. I’m happy some here have been helpful in pointing you in that direction.

At 6:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our teens today live in a sex-saturated popular culture that celebrates casual sex at an earlier and earlier age, and the media seems to want to find justification for it. Today, the coverage didn’t disappoint in that regard when they highlighted what was a broad study, but they covered only one narrowly selected portion of it, the effectiveness of virginity pledges (a lot was left out). I was irritated that they chose to put up a picture of a group of teen icons who have pledged to remain virgins until marriage and basically made fun of them with the caption.

Maybe all abstinence only policies won’t always achieve the ultimate goals all the time, but the byproducts of them are overwhelmingly positive. When teens are taught that human sexuality is not primarily physical, but moral, emotional and psychological in nature, they learn that being a man or a woman isn’t determined by what they do with their bodies. Because these programs help kids deal better with peer pressure, teens who do engage in sexual activity often begin at an older age than the national norm. There is a benefit to discussing themes like love, intimacy and commitment, as evidenced in those who delay sexual activity, have fewer numbers of sexual partners and eventually more stable marriages. To me, those are big wins too.

At 9:08 PM, Blogger CynthiaBC said...

Out of curiousity, I went to look at what's posted on my fridge, some of which has been there long enough that I've probably stopped seeing it. Not to mention, I generally am more interested in what's IN the fridge than what's ON it.

So, here's what we have:

A small white board we use to list needed groceries. Currently listed: Big choclat mufin for cathy. (hmmm...I don't remember adding anything about muffins. And my husband is a fairly good speller...)

Another white board listing the numbers for our cell phones, the where we went on vacation this past July, and my mom.

A dry-erase calendar, surprisingly on the current month.

A number of magnets, including:
-"Cindy's Kitchen" which is a joke given that my husband does most (ok, practically all) of the cooking.
-A calendar from a local realtor
-A reminder of weekly Adoration
-A souvenier (sp?) from a handbell choir conference
-The number for Poison Help (obtained after my then-preschooler helpfully sprayed our kitten with insect repellant)
-The web address for youth ministry activities at my Lutheran church
-Several with cat themes
-A butterfly
-A flag
-A handful of boring ol' plain magnets

Posted with above-mentioned magnets:
-A card reminding us to Pray for Vocations
-A postcard of President Bush
-A neighbor's phone number
-A lunch menu for MCPS
-A card with the Holy Family
-A class schedule for karate
-A copy of the letter Fr Mike sent to SAA parishioners offering Christmas greetings and noting the holiday Mass schedule

I wonder how much one could tell about a household, given what's on the refrigerator?

At 10:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fr. Greg-
You’ve talked countless times about “staying close to the Eucharist.” I’ve never really asked you about that statement. The Eucharist is Christ, so why not say, “Stay close to Christ?” I’m unclear what you mean- are you saying to go to Mass and Adoration? Maybe I’m being obtuse, but some clarity on what exactly it means to “stay close to the Eucharist” would be helpful.

A while back, the homily was about Christ the King and now we celebrate His coming as a baby, both images that didn’t quite fit with what those anticipating a messiah envisioned. In the Eucharist, He is veiled in the form of bread and wine. It seems that faith always challenges us beyond what we think we know and understand. My youngest daughter thinks God makes the bells ring during the Mass and I haven’t corrected her. I understand her desire to experience a change she understands during transubstantiation. Maybe I’m wrong in doing so, but I kind of encourage her by saying, “The bells are coming!” She gets excited and I think it’s cute.

Often when I am troubled, I come to sit in the church by myself. I find that I fix my gaze to His form on the cross, even though I know He is present in the tabernacle. My experience of Him is related to Him in the flesh as man rather than His risen form in the Eucharist, so when I hear talk of staying close to the Eucharist, I wonder if I do.

I hope Fr. Greg and others continue to share that good news of what is happening in and around our parish. I’m someone who looks for miracles, and some of what I hear satisfies that for me. Okay, so maybe they aren’t miracles in a sense, but they are (to me) obvious examples of God working through others, and that strengthens my faith. Maybe I can stay close to the Eucharist by staying close to those who do “stay close to the Eucharist.”

At 10:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My fridge is my lifeline, but in a clip, it shows who we are too-

1. Party invitations- laser tag, cake decorating party and a princess tea party
2. Master calendar along with several neon post-it’s to actually look at the calendar on key dates
3. A now defunct Redskins game schedule (boo!)
4. A sign begging me to sign my son up for tackle football next year (I take it down but it reappears)
5. A portrait of me as interpreted by my 5 yr old
6. Two soon-to-expire gift certificates soon for mani’s and pedi’s which my daughters plan to use
7. My daily “to do” list
8. Kids’ chore schedules
9. MCPS lunch calendar
10. Grocery list with the perpetual entries for 2 gallons of milk, 2 loaves of bread, cereal, laundry detergent and trash bags
11. A photo that my daughter digitally altered to create a snapshot of her and Nick Jonas.
12. The side of my fridge hold the Christmas card collage from those who sent family photos- all these lovely, smiling faces of people we love, my favorite of which is the one from my sister-in-law to announce the July arrival of their first baby (yeah!!)

All in all- I’d say, yes- it capture who we are at this moment in time. In that, it really is golden space!

At 11:38 PM, Blogger fran said...

While browsing the books at the Potomac Adventist Book and Health Food Store, a couple of years ago, I came across and purchased a book titled, "And the Bride Wore White," by Dannah Gresh. It approaches the topic of sexual purity in a beautiful way and is excellent reading for both mothers and their daughters.

(p.s. to Cynthia BC - I thought your refrigerator post was going to end with "....and a partridge in a pear tree." :) )

At 10:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fran- have you ever seen Dannah Gresh's website for mom's and daughters? It's pretty amazing. There is a lot of good stuff there, but one of my favorites is a video clip for girls showing the progress of a magazine cover photo shoot. You see the girl at the beginning, see a make-up application timeline, see hair dressers and then the stages of computer editing. It clearly demonstrates the "look" is impossible for anyone to achieve. Thre are all sorts of modesty games and tests, and then also fashion tips to be fashionable and modest too. It's a great site, they also sell these kits for mother-daughter events that'd be awesome events for our kids. More wishful thinking- having a group of moms and daughters together celebrating that it's actually cool to be modest and reserved, and that they're more than enough just as God made them.

At 12:13 PM, Blogger fran said...

Thanks Anon 10:46! I had not seen that site. We are fortunate to have this blog forum to share information.

At 6:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the topic of refrigerator magnets, all I can say is, "Oh dear… I'm not sure purgatory is even an option for me anymore."

The only magnet I have on the front of my refrigerator is a picture of a Himalayan cat (they're the big fluffy cats with a smushed in face - they tend to always look angry or disgusted with life.) Above the cat's head it reads: "HUSBAND AND CAT MISSING"; below the cat's feet it reads: "$500 REWARD FOR CAT."

I hope anonymity includes the originating point from which a comment is posted!

At 6:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have mentioned this before, but what the heck. I wish SAA would offer a children's Holy Hour, or at least a family Holy Hour. There aren't very many parishes that do, a given our priests' open and outward dedication to the Eucharist, I know it would be wonderful for the kids. Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Ellicott City does offer Adoration specifically for the young, and I will take my younger children there, but I wish I didn't need to go so far, and I wish they could grow in faith among the familiar faces within their parish community. Recently, I brought my children to Adoration here, but the younger ones needed to be led. They were willing and had questions, but that was all a disturbance to those around me, so we left. To me, Adoration fills in all the gaps of what I never learned or understood about a relationship with Christ, and I want my children to have that. I'd appreciate assistance from the parish in cultivation that for my children.

At 8:56 AM, Blogger CynthiaBC said...

I've brought my second-grader with me to Adoration on Fridays when my husband's quintet was elsewhere for the evening.

After about 10-15 minutes of being [relatively] quiet and still:

Mommy it is TOO DARK in here.

Mommy I don't like that smell [from the incense]

Mommy that music is SPOOKY [the Gregorian chant...which I think is just right for Adoration]

*spends a few minutes reading a book*

Mommy why did Father Greg go into that closet? And he left his robe on that chair.

*SCRIBBLE SCRIBBLE SCRIBBLE* (I don't know how it's possible to color loud, but my daughter manages)

Mommy he STILL is in that closet.

Mommy can I get a drink of water?

*goes out, and returns*

Mommy can I play BINGO?

*Fr G returns*

Mommy where are the notes to [music for] this song?

*at last, Fr G comes by with the monstrance (sp?) and my daughter gazes raptly at it*

Mommy I counted all of the red JEWELS on the cross!

So, I second Anon 6:47's suggestion. I've tried explaining beforehand what Adoration is about but apparently something isn't connecting.

At 11:51 AM, Blogger fran said...

When my oldest daughter was a 2-year old, we belonged to another parish where the pastor preferred that children remain quiet during mass. There was no vestibule in this church, so moving to the back literally meant leaving the church and standing outside of the building! As a result, you missed whatever part of the mass was being said.

Once, while seated in the back, but determined not to go outside, I tried to quiet my daughter who was fidgeting and making a bit of noise with the kneeler. An older parishioner ( whom I was aware was seated behind me ) tapped me on the shoulder. Ready to be told that I should remove my child, I was surprised when she said, "She really is not bothering anyone." And as I thought about it, I decided that I was probably causing the greater commotion, trying to keep her still!

Anyway, my point is that as parents we should not be afraid to bring our children to mass, Adoration or other church functions because of a child's restlessness, questions being asked, etc. I don't think they should be allowed to run amok, and others in attendance should be considered. The sooner we bring our children to church, the sooner they will learn to behave and come to respect, appreciate and thrive on all that the Mass and Eucharist offer.

At 2:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's something to show your kids-

look at the planets and the moon on New Year's Eve just after sunset. Venus, brighter than all other planets and stars, will be just below the crescent moon in the southwestern sky. My daughter thought Venus was the North Star when we saw it Sunday p.m. It'll be visible just as the sun goes down. Soon after, Mercury and Jupiter will be on the southwestern horizon. Jupiter is bright and easy to spot; Mercury is faint and harder to see, but it'll be just to the left of Jupiter.

At 4:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

10:28 pm anon:

I'm not sure I understand your question? Why not use one word instead of the other? How does changing the word "Eucharist" change the meaning of the statement? Christ is Christ. The Eucharist is Christ. The son of God is Christ.

I personally feel the Eucharist presents our Lord in the tangible form. I can actually hold Him, see Him and taste His love. Somehow receiving the Eucharist leaves me no wiggle room for my state of Grace. (Big G or little g, I don't really understand the difference.) He is there, in my hand. "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him (John 6: 56). I find the thoughts of my remaining in His perfection pretty overwhelming. He is real, He is in my hand. He is tangible. Am I worthy?

At 11:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I probably shouldn’t have asked the question- now I feel stupid. I understand that the Eucharist is Christ. Staying close to Christ and staying close to Christ in the Eucharist (if we can look at the distinctively) would like mean different things to a number of people, right or wrong. My question was direct- what does, “Staying close to the Eucharist” mean? I think it’s a reasonable question.

At 2:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

10:28 p.m.anon:

I don't think you should feel stupid for asking a question. My intent was not to belittle your thoughts, but to try and figure out what exactly you're trying to understand or say. Perhaps I should have asked you to rephrase your question, or to provide a parallel example. I simply don't get the gist of your question.

When I read your post, my brain, keeps hearing something like, "Why don't you say you have a half-a-dozen eggs instead of six?" Staying close to the Eucharist means, as I see it, staying close to Christ. It's me that's having the trouble figuring out what exactly it is that you're asking, not you. I'm simply not connecting the dots. Maybe it's a question that should be tackled by an English teacher, a biblical scholar, a linguistics professor, or some other person. I was just trying to offer some thoughts that might help.

In trying to keep things light here; if asking a question makes one prone to feeling stupid, don't worry, there are plenty of stupid people surrounding you at all times! I'm one of them. All I can say is questions are how we learn. Carry on and keep asking questions. Sooner or later somebody will give you the insight you're searching for.

At 7:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was in HS, a priest came to speak with us about chastity. This priest didn’t seem much older than we were, and they way he spoke resonated. He also used similar words to, “Stay close to the Eucharist.” When I hear that phrase repeated (a good number of times now), it reminds me what is kind of fuzzy now- this priest talked about atonement for sin and how the receipt of the Eucharist would help us to make good decisions. He connected the dots between readying oneself to receive Christ in the Eucharist, atoning for sin and promising to stay clear of the occasion to sin. In that way, “staying close to the Eucharist” was a means to staying on the correct path, a kind of tool and a practical reason to live the church’s teachings. So, to me, when I hear that phrase, I think of literally that- staying close to the Body of Christ in the form of bread, because staying close (in the most literal sense) means that I will be living in a state of grace. I think of staying close to Christ in a number of other ways- the other sacraments, prayer, experiences with other people, things I may do whether I am or am not in a state of grace. While staying close to the Eucharist, to me, is something more limited in scope, right or wrong. I was asking, and received, an answer of what that means to another- thank you.

I’m accustomed to feeling stupid on any number of issues and didn’t take offense, truly. When I last wrote, I was tired, cranky and getting irritated that the ball was still a half hour away from dropping. Sorry for being snappy.


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