Sunday, December 30, 2012

Alibi / Motive (2012-12-30, Holy Family Sunday)

This is my homily for 30  December  2012 (Holy Family Sunday). I am a Catholic chaplain in Teaneck at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association and at New Jersey City University (NJCU) in Jersey City. We celebrate Catholic Mass - during Fall and Spring semester - every Sunday Evening (5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.) at the FDU University Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

Holy Family Sunday December 30, 2012

[__01]   This Sunday is the feast of the Holy Family, the Sunday celebrated in the octave or 8 days after Christmas.

In the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, we see the model of sacrifice for our own homes and families.

And, even, in a model in their search, their search for the 12-year old Jesus who has gone missing.  

[__02]         First, he is discovered missing in the caravan on the journey home from Jerusalem to Nazareth.   Secondly, Jesus remains separated from his parents. In total, they search for 3 days.

Where would a 12-year-old boy most likely have gone on his own? Possibly, not to the Temple, but that is where they find him.

Mary and Joseph find him there. And, Jesus himself wonders why have been checking in so many other locations first.

Jesus himself asks, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49)

[__03]      We might also note that the search and rescue effort, in  a sense, does not succeed 100%.

Jesus’ answer about where he has been and why he as gone there is not satisfactory.

Joseph and Mary don’t completely understand what Jesus is telling them when, Jesus states his motive.

The motive – or motivation is stated this way:

Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49)

The motive is also stated in other biblical reflections similarly:

How is it that you sought me? did you not know, that I must be about my father's business?”  (Luke 2:49 – Douay-Rheims)

[__04]       We see that the unity of this ideal, holy family is temporarily disrupted because Jesus has gone out on his own.

This disappearance – and discovery -- at the Temple is a prophecy of the future life of our Lord and Savior.  About twenty years or so after this incident, Jesus is again questioned at the Temple.

As an adult, Jesus is the model student being questioned. And, he has answers for the Temple scholars.

And at the end of the day – Good Friday – Jesus is going home. But, he is not going home with Mary and Joseph.

As we read in the Gospel of John, reading about Jesus’ description of his Passion and Death and Resurrection:

In my Father’s house, there are many dwelling places, otherwise, how could I have told you that I was going to prepare a place for you? I am indeed going to prepare a place for you, and then I shall come back to take you with me, that where I am you also may be.” (John 14:2-3)

[__05]   Jesus goes into the Temple so that he might bring us into the Father’s house also.

This is Jesus’ motivation which is better understood later. This is the motive for his disappearance from the caravan.

It would have been easier, perhaps, if Jesus had not confessed a motive – right up front.

The motive is hard to understand.

[__06]         Perhaps, he should have just given an alibi, such as any of us would give:

  • I became lost, separated from the group
  • I was led astray by the juniors and seniors – the older youths.
  • I lost track of time – what’s 3 days for a 12 year old?

Mary and Joseph would take him, probably forget the whole thing.

The alibi enables us to forget, ignore, deny.

The alibi – in a legal case – enables the police [or parents] to rule out suspects or possibilities.

But, a motive [motivation] is different.

A motive is more challenging.

A motive is different for the child who says what he or she wants to do, one day – “when I grow up.”

It is the calling of mothers and fathers to help children discover their dreams and hope for the future.

[__07]       Now, currently, at the Temple – 12 years old – Jesus is the model young honor-student.

He is saying “please” and “thank you” with the Temple scholars. He is raising his hand. He has the correct answers. He is listening to what others say. He waits for others to finish their sentences.

And, they are astonished at his answers.

What we read in today’s Gospel, Luke chapter 2:

“All who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers.” (Luke 2:__)

Jesus would be willing to help others students, falling behind in class.

[__08]       But, now, with the reunion of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, it is time to go home.

It is not for him to remain in the Temple.

And, we read that Jesus goes home and is obedient to his mother and father, to Mary and Joseph.

Doing so, Mary and Joseph are neither controlling him nor acquitting him of responsibility.

They are simply saying that the gifts you have now are meant to be shared and used in the home, in our home, our family.

  • Saying please and thank you
  • Loving each other
  • Sacrificing for each other.

We don’t simply show/use our intelligence outside the home – in school.  Rather, we are called to love with all of our heart, mind and strength –for good -  at home as well.

[__09]       And, this the sacrifice and love is manifest in the gift of Jesus’ life to his disciples, to you and me.

Jesus also loves them – and us -- with all of his mind and heart and strength, teaching them as well.

At the Temple – in the father’s business – Jesus becomes the new Passover lamb, the Holy Eucharist.  In the crucifixion, in his death and resurrection.

This is motive; this is his body; this is his blood.

And, in this, the search is complete.  [__fin___]       

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Fragile. Handle With Care (2012-12-25, Christmas)

This is my homily for 25 December  2012 (Christmas Day). I am a Catholic chaplain in Teaneck at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association and at New Jersey City University (NJCU) in Jersey City. We celebrate Catholic Mass - during Fall and Spring semester - every Sunday Evening (5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.) at the FDU University Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

[__01]      Fragile. Handle With Care. This is a Christmas message for you and for me – as the delivery personnel of December 25 – as bringers and carriers of presents/gifts.

Sensitivity is important as transport ourselves – and our presents – to the table or the tree.

Today we are striving for balance.

[__02]         Yet, this balance is not simply to avoid broken glass.  We would strive  for balance so as to protect the gift of life,  gift of the life of Christ born within each of us.

This gift is, in fact, under the tree – and being unwrapped– every day.  Some of these gifts are easier to unwrap – or to rejoice over than others.  

Will we, for example, see relatives, friends today who make us uncomfortable, who are difficult in their words or their actions?

We respect the image of Christ in the other person by handling with care, handling with love.

[__03]           The first Nativity occurs, with….

  • shepherds who handle their sheep with care,
  • the 3 Kings who handle their precious gifts for long-distance ground delivery
  • Mary and Joseph who protect the live of our Savior with care.

This is the ultimate test of fragility and poise and balance – to guard the life of a child or another person who depends on us for attention, for nourishment, for some vital sign.

Fragile. Handle With Care.

[__04]          I’d like to reflect on a recent book, a best-selling biography written about a World War II veteran by Laura Hillenbrand.

In her career, Laura Hillenbrand has been inclined to write about the redemption of a predicted loser, i.e., the redemption of an underdog. Hillenbrand became famous writing about the thoroughbred horse, Seabiscuit, a horse who surprised many observers.

Published in 2010, this World War II biography is about a real human subject, Louis (Louie) Zamperini  from California.

Louie is a young man who serves in World War II as an American soldier, titled “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.”

[__05]        The title -- “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption” refers to many in the war, but also to Louie himself  - the one who struggles to survive … who tries to remain resilient…and who is redeemed.

Louie has talents which even make him the “favorite” in at least one area of life, the predicted winner due to his physical/running talent. Yet, Louie encounters many hurdles/obstacles in World War II serving our country in Hawaii and the Pacific.

David Margolick summarizes the arc, the trajectory of young Louie’s life  this way, in a New York Times review:

Zamperini grew up in Torrance, Calif., and thanks partly to a bout of juvenile delinquency — he became adept at breaking into homes, then fleeing the police — he developed into a world-class runner. He ran the 5,000 meters at the 1936 Berlin Olympics (even Hitler – [in Germany] -- commented on him) and later, [on the track] [at USC] at the University of Southern California, flirted with a four-minute mile. His coach said the only runner who could beat him was — you guessed it — [the thoroughbred] Seabiscuit.”[1]

[__06]      Louie is called to guard and develop the gift of his physical endurance – through running on and off the track -- early. This is a material gift – a physical gift that will pay off in wartime service.

Margolick writes – “[Zamperini’s life] is one of the most spectacular odysseys of [World War II] or any other war, and “odyssey” is the right word, for with its tempests and furies and monsters, many of them human, Zamperini’s saga is something out of Greek mythology.[2]

But, this is not mythology or even staged-reality TV. It is the reality of war  in  the region of Hawaii and the Pacific where difficult conditions stretch them to guard their resources, the little food they have, and to guard the lives of the injured and sick.

In late May 1943, the B-24 aircraft [the B-24 bomber and plane]  carrying the 26-year-old Zamperini went down over the Pacific. For nearly seven weeks — longer, Hillenbrand believes, than any other such instance in recorded history — Zamperini and his pilot [Phil and their tailgunner – MacNamara began a journey to survive] on a fragile raft.[3]

Unfortunately, shortly after their crash – on their first night floating in the Pacific with only a few bars of chocolate and a few pints of water to survive …. MacNamara – panicked over the crisis – eats and drinks everything.   No food or water remain.

This is a spiritual as well as a physical crisis.  Yes, there is resentment over the action. Louie even once says, “I’m disappointed”.

But, in the end these are the only words spoken about the incident.   Their seven weeks on the raft, drinking rainwater and eating a few fish, continue.

 [__07]        Fragile. Handle Life with care. This is a message that MacNamara, a trained soldier, did not actually follow.

Yet, the incident on the raft is not only about surviving the sharks but also the bitterness of resentment.  On the raft, forgiveness equals survival.  Forgiveness equals teamwork.

Forgiveness equals life. 

Louie, Phil – and MacNamara too – survive through mercy. This is their vital sign, one as important as any signal flare or radio communication.

[__08]      We also live and exist because God sustains us, handles us with care and communicates his love to us.

He brings life to us through the birth of the Messiah, through the Holy Communion we receive at Sunday Mass, at Christmas Mass.

We welcome him we adore him, with love and care.  His life within is fragile, yet capable of growing stronger.   [__fin__]       

[1] Margolick, David “Zamperini’s War”, The New  York Times Sunday Book Review, November 19, 2010.
[2] Margolick, “Zamperini’s War”.
[3] Margolick, “Zamperini’s War”.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Law of Attraction (2012-12-23, Advent)

This is my homily for 23 December  2012 (Advent, 2nd Sunday). I am a Catholic chaplain in Teaneck at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association and at New Jersey City University (NJCU) in Jersey City. We celebrate Catholic Mass - during Fall and Spring semester - every Sunday Evening (5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.) at the FDU University Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

Sunday Mass will resume at FDU on Sunday January 27 at 5:00 p.m. and at 7:00 p.m.
[ Micah 5:1-4 a | Psalm 80 | Hebrews 10:5-10  | + Luke 1:39-45

[__01]      The relationship of the Mary to her relative Elizabeth is highlighted, spotlighted in this Advent Gospel.

This is the relationship of 2 mothers, 2 expectant mothers. 

Mary is mother of our savior,Jesus.   Elizabeth is the mother of his herald, of the prophet, John the Baptist.

Both Mary and Elizabeth have been called by God in unusual circumstances, both are asked to make sacrifices.

In Mary’s case, the sacrifice includes – in the short term – her own well-being, given that she and Joseph are not yet married.

Mary does not have legal protection for herself and her child.

And, while Mary helps Elizabeth, to visit Elizabeth, Mary herself is helped – affirmed – by this visit, by the words of Elizabeth.

“Blessed are thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of the thy womb, Jesus.”

[__02]        In his book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis asks about the discernment/decision process when we have competing – even contradictory -- desires within ourselves.

For example, our Blessed Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary is faced with a decision a question when she is asked to be the mother of our Savior.

It is the same question any of us would face in a significant decision or commitment –

  1. Do I keep what I have?
  2. Do I give away what I have?

Often, these choices are polar opposites, in one case, my bank account or assets go NORTH. I receive or gain something.

In other case, my bank account or assets go SOUTH. I give away or lose something of value.

[__03]          In the parable of the Good Samaritan, perhaps, the Good Samaritan paused to wonder  -

Should I help? Or, should I keep walking past the man who is beaten and lying by the side of the road,in the shoulder of the Palisades Parkway or Garden State Parkway? Or, someone pushed to the margin in our own school, or home?

The point of C.S. Lewis is that we are always taking multiple choice exams, always making choices.

And, sometimes, we are not simply choosing between what is purely good and what is purely evil.  Sometimes, we are choosing between 2 good things.

C.S. Lewis makes the point that – in all of these things -  we are choosing to follow what is good and what is naturally good for us.

Lewis makes the point that you and I do not decide what is good. We are simply using our free will to follow the good.

[__04]         Lewis uses the example, a scientific example. A rock will fall through space to the earth at a specific velocity. 

This is viewed as a “law”, the law of gravity, the law of constant acceleration, the law of physics.

The rock cannot choose to break the law. Falling through space at a constant acceleration, the rock is simply doing what all rocks do, in free fall.

The rock follows the good, follows the way to the earth.

[__05]        And, when we choose, when we make a decision to love we are also not deciding what is good.  We are not making a decision that, say, an education at this college is better than an education at that college.   We are not judging the college.

We are, rather, simply listening to God’s call about what is good for us.

Or, we might also say that we choose a school, job, career based on what we give away. By this, I don’t mean that we automatically choose the one with the highest tuition.

But, rather, we might choose the one that would present the greatest challenge, the one that will make us who we really are.

The choice comes from within us, but the good we choose is something toward which we are always moving closer.

Parents – mothers and fathers – and teachers – do this each day for their children. They choose to direct their children – even lay down their lives for their children – to protect them from harm, to choose the good at all times.

And, as we saw recently, there are teachers who do this quite naturally, choosing the good – even it means giving away absolutely everything that they have.

[__06]      The result of our decision or the effect of our decision connects to what is good and to who is good, God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Choosing the good connects us to God’s natural law, as natural as gravity leading toward earth.  Or, in the case of Mary and Elizabeth – and in many of those in our lives --  
as natural as the gravity of one person laying down her life for another.      


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Ties that Bind (2012-12-16, Advent)

This is my homily for 16 December  2012 (Advent, 2nd Sunday). I am a Catholic chaplain in Teaneck at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association and at New Jersey City University (NJCU) in Jersey City. We celebrate Catholic Mass - during Fall and Spring semester - every Sunday Evening (5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.) at the FDU University Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

Sunday Mass will resume at FDU on Sunday January 27.

[ Zephaniah 3:14-18a | Psalm / Isaiah 12 | Philippians 4:4-7 | + Luke 3:10-18

[__01]      John the Baptist says, “one mightier than I is coming after me … and I am not worthy  … to untie his sandals [his shoes].” 

The tragic deaths – the tragic violence - of this past Friday in Newton, Connecticut remind us that we also need “one mightier than we are.” We need God’s peace which is mightier than war; love mightier than hate.

For at this moment, many families and parents have been made weaker, debilitated by grief and sadness.

All of us are called to pray for them. That in their weakness they may also discover God’s strength.  

For as St. Paul, the example of Jesus on the Cross is that the Son of Man/Son God – willing to die– is stronger than human strength. The Son of God/Son of Man – rendered foolish – is wiser than human wisdom.

[__02]      John the Baptist says, “one mightier than I is coming after me … and I am not worthy  … to untie his sandals [his shoes].” 

John the Baptist is referring to Jesus who is coming after him. John the Baptist is the prophet and herald of our Savior.

John is, at this moment, does not feel comfortable touching even the shoes of Jesus our Savior.

[__03]      What John the Baptist will benefit from – and what we all benefit from is that Jesus ultimately unties his own sandals, his own shoes.

[__04]       What is the condition for entering a home in Israel, in the time of Jesus, or today, or a home in many Middle Eastern and Asian cultures?

The condition is the removal of one’s shoes.

In order to enter someone’s home, the guest must remove his or her shoes. Or, perhaps, a servant would appear and remove one’s shoes.

But, Jesus says later in the Gospel that he is the Son of Man who came not to be served but to serve.  Jesus will remove his own shoes.

 [__05]  This means that Jesus is the Messiah who will be

è Born the Son of God .. but also human, - he empties himself and takes the form of a slave (Philippians 2:__-)
è A child who impresses Temple scholars with his intelligence and tells his mother and father  “did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” Yet,  Jesus is both the prodigy and outsider with little prestige in official religious circles.
è A teacher who gathers students/disciples, a teacher who is willing to die for them, but his students leave town before the final exam. He is misunderstood.

In Newtown, Connecticut – December 14, 2012 – many four teachers, 1 school psychologist, and 1 principal were also willing to die for their students, to protect them. This is what teachers do for their students.

This is Christ’s mission to serve.

And, being born human and divine, being the outsider, being rejected, Jesus is our Lord and Savior, untied, unplugged.

[__06]     Jesus, each day, is showing up out our houses, our dorm rooms, our lives, removing his shoes.

Will we welcome him?

John the Baptist says we express this welcome by our generosity.

One example would be the message to the tax collectors. “Take what is prescribed; take nothing extra.”

So, it  is Good News – even in taxation – to take what is prescribed.

[__07]      John is speaking about what we collect and expect from each other.

Should we expect anything?

We might remember that it’s OK to collect what is prescribed.

Take the prescribed amount.  The prescribed amount is Good News, not bad news.

And, we are called to take the prescribed amount in what we collect and expect from each other.

For example, if you or I – as a young person – or a grown up person – turns to our mom/dad or grandparent for advice, then we would be taking what is prescribed, what is expected.

We are called to listen, to seek counsel, to review our options.  And, especially when we are growing as teenagers, as college students, it is very reasonable to continue to ask our parents for their counsel.

Consider their wisdom. They stood – not long ago – where you are now.   You are not bothering them when you ask for their counsel.

The same would be true when we seek extra help from a teacher or professor.  If we did not learn it in class, we can seek out the information, ask after class.

Does the teacher look busy? Just ask politely. You are only taking what is prescribed. Ask anyway.

[__08]       If as a mother or father, you are trying to instill some discipline in your children or as a teacher in your students, follow your calling.  By correcting, by guiding, even by guiding the person who rejects the advice, you are simply giving what is prescribed.

And, if you were to come to me as a priest or any Catholic priest, even though it is busy and it’s Christmas, you would be taking what is prescribed. You would simply be reminding us of our calling, of our responsibility to serve and not to be served.  You do this when you ask for counsel, advice, confession. Take what is prescribed.

Doing so, we also open the door to our Savior. We let him into our lives, let him touch our lives in the way we speak and act.

He is untying his shoes, his shoes right now, entering our world, our home.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

La Ruta Directa (2012-12-09, Adviento)

Domingo, diciembre 09, 2012 Segundo Domingo de Adviento

En Santissimo Nombre, Garfield.

[ Baruc 5:1-9 | Salmo 126 | Filipenses 1:4-6, 8-11 | + Lucas 3:1-6 ]

Título:  La Ruta Directa

[__01]    Juan el Bautista, en este evangelio de Adviento, se refiere al camino directo hacia salvación.

Es la ruta de nuestra salvación. La longitud total se ha reducido porque ¨lo tortuoso se hará recto y las asperezas serán caminos llanos¨ (Lucas 3:5)

Son la geometría y el evangelio. Lo sabemos. Una recta es la distancia más corta entre dos puntos. Hay una nueva carretera en construcción, hacia a Dios

[__02]     El método de la construcción puede sorprendernos. Es el método de Juan el Bautista. ¿Cómo encontramos el camino directo?

¿EN REALIDAD … Es necesario – es requisito que todo barranco sea rellenado, todo monte y (toda) colina sean rebajados?

¿Juan el Bautista parece sugerir una medida extrema para el medio ambiente?

Pero, Juan el Bautista no está hablando (predicando) del Monte Everest, del monte K2, el valle de Napa en California (Napa Valley) y ningún lugar del África, Asia, los Americas tampoco.

Después de todo, Jesús y sus discípulos esclaron (escalaban?)  muchas montañas. Subían a rezar en el monte de Tabor. Allí, Jesús se transfiguró.

El monte es un lugar que nos ayuda a sentir la presencia del Espiritu Santo.

[__03]     Por otro lado, frecuentemente, es difícil de subir un monte alto. A veces, el orgullo, mi orgullo es una montaña o una gran colina que me impide ver a Dios, sentir su presencia.

Mi tesatarudez (ceguera)[1] y mi arrogancia (orgullo) pueden ser las montañas, los obstáculos en mi vida.

Por ejemplo, el éxito es bueno. El éxito en mi profesión, el éxito por obtener buenas notas académicas.

Además, podríamos haber recibido una gran montaña de tareas.  El profesor o la profesora; el jefe o la jefa   …  nos pide que hagamos mucho trabajo, mucha tarea.   Entonces, que nos ayuda a superarnos..

Sin embargo, el deseo de nosotros por obtener éxito puede ser un obstáculo en nuestra vida espiritual.

Pasamos a perdernos o separados de Dios, debido a este deseo.  A pesar de la crítica útil, a la crítica ofrecido por la caridad, resistamos, rechacemos. 

O, también, pongo primero mis trabajos, mis tareas, mis proyectos.

Entonces, la tarea pasa a ser una montaña que me aleja de Dios, de Cristo.

A veces, el orgullo pasa a ser una montaña.

[__04]     no traduje  [__04]    del inglés

[__05]     Haremos un camino directo, cuando pedimos perdón de nuestros pecados.

¿ Pudieramos elegir intencionamente el camino tortuoso ?---  o a la senda dura ?  --- o la senda de la aspereza?

[__06]       De vez en cuando, elegimos la aspereza en lugar de lo llano.

Por ejemplo, cuando prestemos atención a los pecados de otros, tomamos el camino tortuoso. Entonces, critico mi hermano (o mi hermana) e identifico la culpa en mi hermano (o mi hermana).

Si prestamos atención a los pecados de otros, pasamos a ser como un problema de tránsito.

Tal vez, apago mi vehículo para ver con mis ojos propios el errores, o el accidentes de otro.

[__07]         En esta manera, también paso a ver a los pecados de nuestra familia, compañero, amigo, esposo.

El Adviento es el tiempo de centrarnos conscientemente de lo que tenemos en este momento delante de nosotros, para ver con más claridad la realidad que vivimos.

El arrepentimiento es un camino directo --- para descubrir a Dios.


[1] tozudez is not a good word for stubbornness.

Direct Route (2012-12-09, Advent)

This is my homily for 9 December  2012 (Advent, 2nd Sunday). I am a Catholic chaplain in Teaneck at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association and at New Jersey City University (NJCU) in Jersey City. We celebrate Catholic Mass - during Fall and Spring semester - every Sunday Evening (5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.) at the FDU University Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

[ Baruch 5:1-9 | Psalm 126 | Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11 |+ Luke 3:1-6 ]

 [__01]    John the Baptist, in this Advent Gospel, is speaking about a shorter, more direct route. This is the route which is now reduced in length because the “winding way has been made straight”.

It’s geometry and the Good News of the Gospel. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. A road is being built – for our salvation.

[__02]    John the Baptist’s particular construction method may be surprising. How do we find this direct route?

Is it really necessary to make a mountain low? Is it required that we would fill in a valley?

John the Baptist seems to suggest some extreme environmental and geological solutions.

But, John the Baptist is not speaking about Mount Everest, K2, Napa Valley or any place in Asia, Africa, or the Americas.

After all, Jesus himself climbs many mountains with his disciples. He goes up the mountain to pray. On Mount Tabor, he is transfigured.

The mountain could be, then, could be a place which helps us to encounter and to know God’s Holy Spirit. We speak, for example, of the “mountaintop” spiritual experience. “Go Tell it on the Mountain.”It’s Good News.

[__03]    On the other hand, mountains are also difficult to cross, difficult to climb up and climb down.

And, at times, my personal pride or stubbornness or sinfulness could be a mountain, an obstacle.

For example, success is a good thing. Success in the final grade point average, dean’s list, success at work.  All are good.

And, you may – we may have – a mountain of work to complete in order to attain success, to finish a paper or project.

But, my desire for success could be a mountain and obstacle. I may be self absorbed. I may resist constructive criticism. I may resist help from others offered in love, given in charity … again given for my salvation.

I may put work put all else. Then, the mountain of work also becomes a mountain which is leading me away from God.

Pride could be a mountain.

[___04]     On the other hand, envy and jealousy could be a dark valley in which I walk.

Do I have a desire to take revenge on someone? Is there someone to whom I refuse to communicate or speak?

Am I in a relationship not built on trust, honesty, true respect[1].

[__05]      When we repent of our sins, we are seeking this new environment and road through the wilderness. Confession of our sins is the opportunity to make the winding way straight, with the help of God’s grace.

Repenting of our sins, we are making a straight, direct path. Would we really, intentionally choose the winding and crooked path?

[__06]      At times, we might …    For example, when I pay attention only to the sins, the faults of others, I am then – paying less attention to my own need for conversion, for holiness, for repentance and redirection.

This is similar to what we say in American-English slang “rubbernecking”is overly inquisitive about every accident in the road shoulder of I-95 or Route 46 or Route 4.

I may even – in my car – slow down to see the broken glass or debris or driver error.

Am I doing the same, examining the driver error in my own family members, friends, suite mates, classmates.

[__07] On the road, on the winding way, I may focus on the debris and errors – and sins – of others – rather than my own.

Advent is a time to stay focused on what is ahead, on who is coming into our lives.

Repentance of our sins is a straight line. God´s forgiveness puts us back in the center lane.


[1] See JH Newman sermon - John Henry Newman – in a sermon about reverence and respect – even writes that fear and awe and necessary elements of respect.  This does not mean that we become slaves who fear the task master’s wrath or punishment. Volume 1, Sermon 23, Christian Reverence --- search  “In heaven, love will absorb fear; but in this world, fear and love must go together.”