Suggestions for a CHRIST-CENTERED CHRISTMAS (Updated)

 I BEFORE THE DAY BEGINS:  

  1. Invite dinner guests with musical ability to bring their musical instruments
  2. Have family members set DVR to pre-record Football Games; pre-record or purchase/rent CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS, or other cartoons, or CHRISTMAS MOVIES.  These will be handy for intervals such as between main meal and desert or as alternate After Meal Activities.
  3. Community Games to Have on Hand:  Charades, Pictionary, Balderdash
  4. Music via CD, Spotify, Pandora, YouTube (See item VIII below)
  5. POST-ITS with #s on them, coordinated to # of guests.  Separate #s for Adults and # for Children.  Have each guest take a #. (Children’s # on one color post-it; adults, another)
  6. Display and have available a Bible & Children’s Bible opened to Luke, Chapter 2.
  7. A Book(s) or Copy of Clement C. Moore’s THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS and the poem/song THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS.  Have these available for After Dinner Activity. https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/visit-st-nicholas
  8. http://www.wikiwand.com/en/The_Twelve_Days_of_Christmas_(song)
  9. Christmas Carol Music Books or Song Sheet or PowerPoint copies displayable on TV (If your TV & computer are integrated, have the “tech” in the family work on this in the weeks prior to Christmas.  Otherwise, make copies of Song Sheets or just the lyrics.)

I             CHRISTMAS EVE (or Morning) – Replace the colored Advent Candles from your Advent       Wreathe with White Candles, and add a fifth White Candle at the center of the Wreathe.  

              Prayers for the Occasion available in Catholic Book of Blessings and online at

http://www.ewtn.com/library/LITURGY/adbless.htm

II CHRISTMAS MORNING: A Short Prayer before Opening Gifts: “Thank you God for the Gift of Christ in our lives. May the beauty of his birth bring new life to our faith and help us to appreciate all life, all children throughout the world. Thank you for the gifts before us.  Fill us with Gratitude for you and for one another. Keep us young at heart.  Amen.” 

  1. If young children are patient, read Luke 2: 1- 21 and Matthew 2: 1-13, Sing “Silent Night” or “We, Three Kings,” otherwise read and sing AFTER Presents are opened.
  2. Sing “God Bless Ye, Merry Gentleman” if all are receptive for another carol.

III      CHRISTMAS DINNER PRAYER: “Dear God, Here We Are–Our family and friends–and these are the feelings we bring to this Christmas Day.  Helps us understand the beautiful way You accept each us as we are. Make us confident in your love so that we may be at peace and feel your presence among us.  Help us to make the most of this meal, this day, and our time together.”  Then invite everyone to join in the Traditional Grace before Meals, OR if your company is of mixed religions, substitute the Christian Grace with this: “Blessed are YOU, Source of Life, God known by so many names, help us to experience Joy this Christmas Day and lead all peoples on to the pathway of peace.   Bless all our family and guests.  Bless our Meal and our Conversation. Amen.” 

IV    FIRST COURSE ACTIVITY (soup/salad), and /or Hors D’oeuvres:

  1. Ask: What do you remember about the First Christmas Story?  Include both the Biblical, Legend and Folk tales if you wish.   Begin with the children by number, then adults by number. Everyone gets “help” sharing the Christmas Story as needed.
  2. Conclude First Course by having someone Read Luke 2: 1- 21 and Matthew 2: 1-13

V MAIN COURSE:

  1. ASK: What event or circumstance are most significant for me about Jesus’ story today?
  2. Invite each Guest to share his or her memories of the best Christmas that they have ever experienced and why it is an important memory for him or her. TRY TO KEEP THE MEAL AS LEASURELY AND UN-RUSHED AS POSSILBE.
  3. Any Similarities between Jesus’ story and the Christmas memories shared?

VI   AFTER MEAL BREAK ACTIVITY:  Share Birth Stories during walks & pre-dessert clean ups:

  1. During the break, have all guests recall the story of the day each of them was born.  Allow time for the elders to inform youngsters if they haven’t already. Everyone will be invited to share his or her birth story during desert.

 VII DURING AND AFTER DESERT: Share Birth Stories

  • After each person shares say “As the Angels Sang for Jesus, the Angels Sang for you, too!  Everyone’s part of the story!  Everyone’s part of God’s plan!”
  • Invite Spontaneous Prayer: “For Whom and for What Shall We Pray for this Christmas Day?”
  • Sing “Angels We Have Heard on High –Gloria in Excelsis Deo!”

VIIIAFTER DINNER ACTIVITY: Have everyone participate in Clean-Up:

  • Two Teams:  The Kitchen Team verses those who go for walks and/or play in the living room memorizing THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS OR THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS OR LUKE’S GOSPEL CHAPTER 2: 1-20.

IX AFTER DINNER & CLEAN-UP:

  • Together recall all 12 Days of Christmas or ALL the Verses of The Night Before Christmas OR Luke 2: 1-20; Share the story or song together. Which Team Wins?
  • Read one of the many stories and legends about Saint Nicholas

X MORE AFTER DINNER ACTIVITIVITES

  • Gather ‘round a piano and Sing Carols Together
    • Guess each person’s favorite Christmas Album / Cd and Favorite version and vocalist of any Christmas song
    • Have Christmas CDs (Vocalists/ Choirs) and have people sing-a-long.
    • Conclude with Christmas Caroling in the Neighborhood

XI          CHRISTMAS FAREWELL BLESSINGS

Before Farewells or before the first person must leave:

BLESS EACH GUEST individually or collectively: “May the Spirit of Christmas remain in your heart—the joy of life, the gift of family, and angels singing your song as you continue to compose it all the days of your life. May your song(s) give God glory!”

INVITE ALL TO SING “WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS”

PLEASE & THANK YOU GAME with OPTIONAL CHARITABLE COMPONENT TO CHRISTMAS: INVTIE GUESTS TO BRING A SINGLE $ 1. BILL for each member of his or her family or party to participated in a PLEASE & THANK YOU GAME. Designate a charity and let them know what the dollars are for in advance OR have everyone vote on one of two or three choices before Grace (E.G, Catholic Charities for Puerto Rico Relief or Catholic Relief Services or Unicef.) Have some extra $1. bills around for those who forget.). The FIRST TIME anyone forgets to say Please” or “Thank You,” from the beginning of the Meal (after Grace) to end of dinner (i.e. “please pass the potatoes; thank you), he or she gets a WARNING.  The SECOND TIME he or she must surrender their dollar into a basket. Proceeds go to the previously announced charity. At the end of the day, people may contribute the Remaining Dollars or additional $ if they wish to the cause.

BOOKS

Catholic Book of Household Blessings

To Dance with God by Gertrude Mueller Nelson features Great Ideas for Family Rituals & Prayers for Feast Days and Holidays throughout the Year

THE BAKER’S DOZEN story of Saint Nicholas by Aaron Shepherd

Other Resources:

Blessing of Advent Wreathe and Christmas Manger

http://www.ewtn.com/library/LITURGY/adbless.htm

Advent Prayers and Rituals:

http://www.celebratingholidays.com/?page_id=1423

Here’s a fascinating article on THE CHERRY TREE CAROL:

Suggestions prepared by Fr. James DiLuzio CSP     Updated                     December  2021

First Sunday of Advent 28 Nov. 2021

By Fr. James DiLuzio C.S.P.

People of the Covenants – Jews and Christians thought the end of the world was upon them when Rome decimated the Great Temple of Jerusalem. Yet, disappointed that Messiah did not arrive, Judaism and Christianity persevered by the grace of God. Jews were saved because of their confidence in God’s faithfulness; Christians, because they believed that through all the turmoil, their Redemption was at hand.

In every age there are signs for us to interpret that engage our faith. In the Great Religious Revivals of the 19th century, many Americans thought an eclipse of the sun would inaugurate a Messianic Age.  By the “Third Great Awakening” from 1850 onward new forms of Christianity emerged: Christian Science, the Mormon Church, Pentecostal Christianity. Within the main line churches, Methodism flourished, and, within Catholicism, the Paulist Fathers were formed.  All were trying their best to address the turmoil of their times:  industrial revolutions, workers’ rights, and a host of other things.  Through it all, the people were determined to stand tall because of their faith in Jesus.  The legacies of their contributions are still with us, especially in a widely held Christian principle: that Christ will return once humanity has reformed the earth, when our surrender to God is complete and the biblical design of peace and harmony are accomplished.  Indeed, Jesus made it very clear that our heavenly goals will not be reached unless we cooperate with Grace to experience a little bit of heaven on earth.  The KINGDOM must be inaugurated before Messiah returns.  Why else would Jesus say “build my kingdom!”

That vision is for every time and place, but it must be rooted. We must always acknowledge the reality of sin—the human proclivity to cause harm. There is an inherent selfishness in humanity.  Jesus always acknowledged that. One of my favorite biblical phrases comes from the Gospel of John, chapter 2, vs 25: “Jesus did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.”  Knowing this, He came to SAVE.  Amazing how his grace is offered to all who choose to hold steadfast to Him.

ADVENT begins a new year, and the signs of our times are offering new opportunities for renewal, for re-commitment to Christ. Humility is key. We must humbly acknowledge we need a Savior! Keeping our sights on Jesus, let us examine some of our most recent trials and see how we can witness to others that this new Church year is a year of grace. 

In September we commemorated the 20th anniversary of the tragedy of 9/11. Back then, most of us thought that, after the shock, and hurt, and cries for vengeance, and, after the wars (has any war ever settled all the issues for which it was declared?), we would have settled down, and taken up the cross of peace-making. Instead, in this 21st century, our nation and much of the globe remains infected with hate mongering, scapegoating, and intolerance. Did you know that sociologists have recorded that although wars unite people against a common enemy, when wars are over, domestic violence, gangs, and scapegoating minorities and others increase at alarming rates in peace time economies? Obviously, the revenge against Al-Qaeda and Osama Ben Laden did not satisfy.  That is a sign for our times worthy of our consideration.

 And now, we have lived with almost two years of the Covid epidemic. People of good will prayed and hoped that international cooperation would have been exemplary; that remedies and established protocols would have assured all humanity access to vaccines — a gift of inspiration from our God to the medical community and the world. But that is not the totality of our experience. Although great progress is being made, sin still erupts; controversy ensues. Except for those who because of health issues could not and should not be vaccinated (a small percentage of the population), there were and are people in every nation boycotting wearing masks and refusing vaccines as an expression of their individuality. A very self-serving defiance rooted in a hostile ideology that cares not for neighbors, or elderly, or apparently the young and future generations. Worse, today’s news highlights new covid mutations and pockets of pandemic spread.  Add denial of the human imprint on climate change, and it is clear the mess we are in.

Indeed, one of the worst sins of our age is denial of the sins of the past, which, in a sense, is like saying “We don’t need a Savior. We’re doing perfectly fine for ourselves.” HA! 

To those who say “Stop telling us about the sins of our past. We’re tired of hearing of the rape of the land, violence against the natives, the terrors of slavery, the abuse of children in church and homes, and poverty and all the rest.”  To those people, we must ask, “Do you or do you not value the Bible as Divine Revelation?  If you do, take note: the Bible offers more examples of sin than of glory.  Most of the Bible’s inspiration comes from naming and learning from sin and selfishness, from very human mistakes to outright denial of God and Covenant.

 Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel—shall we expurgate their stories from the text? The Golden Calf and the rebellion of the Israelites –forget it?  Jesus reprimanding James and John for wanting to get special favors; arguments among the Apostles as to which among them shall be treated the greatest – immediately following the Last Supper and the First Eucharist? Yes, better to delete all of that.  Is there nothing to learn from Jesus calling Peter “Satan,” or from Peter’s threefold denial, or the lukewarm, nausea-inducing mediocre seven churches of Revelation?  

         WISDOM comes from Truth –not half-truths.  Conversion comes from humility. Yet, for all this, the Bible’s most foundational message is how much we are loved.  It takes humility to accept that God’s Covenant comes from care; God’s forgiveness reveals loving patience. Jesus’ humanity reveals we are not only fully known, but we are never alone. Jesus understands that most of our sins are rooted in desperation, fears, and ignorance. With love, patience, and understanding –the gifts of faith—Jesus says, follow me, sin no more, and assist others in accepting love.

Advent prepares us to take stock again as to where we have been and where we are going.  Don’t we want to gaze upon the Infant Jesus in the manger and say, “Dear Jesus, I’m learning, I’m growing. Your love is reaching me, teaching me, transforming me.”

Today, all our readings insist that, no matter the era we live in, no matter the strife in our lives, that love is hope for sinful people.  Yes, our Christian faith offers tremendous redress to all that ails us. This Eucharist, this very day, is yet another opportunity for us to surrender to LOVE.  That is God’s will. To accept it, is to accept Jesus, to follow Jesus, who, as Scripture says, “shall do what is right and just in the land” and take us in that same pursuit.  

Advent.  Don’t wait!  Surrender! Our world is waiting to be loved.

Homily for the Twenty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time — In POINTS!

Fr. James DiLuzio CSP

In Frances Hodgson Burnett’s THE LITTLE PRINCESS

  • Miss Minchin is a hard taskmaster – bullies and demeans young Sarah Crew, assigns her most difficult household duties with no help from other girls in the boarding house
  • Worse: in rare moments of free time with her friends, Sarah emits such joy and wonder of the world around her. Whenever Miss Minchin comes upon her, she stifles all the fun. 
  • Finally, one day, breaking her demure, respectful, demeanor, Sarah Crew cries out, “Why are you so mean? Didn’t anyone ever love you? Had you no parent, no one to treat you with kindness?” 

GOD

  • Too often people think of God as a demanding task master
  • We hear of the Commandments, and we think of all that we must do to live up to them
  • When we are in that mindset, Faith can feel like a chore, a barrier to JOY. No wonder so many young people do not take the time to explore it 
  • They do not understand that the biblical passages of an angry God were just a metaphor for the seriousness of the situations people get themselves in, and the terrible consequences of sin.
  • People do not understand as Saint Irenaeus (a French Bishop of the early 2nd Century) wrote “The Glory of God is every human person fully alive!” 
  • They do not recall what the disciple of the Apostle John wrote in his New Testament Letter to the Church: “God is love, and whoever remains in love, remains in God, and God in him.”
  • This is an extraordinary proclamation. It goes further than the biblical statements that affirm “God is ‘loving. “GOD IS LOVE.”  (1 JOHN 4) represents a tremendous spiritual development. It cries out to us today as the true underpinnings of the Ten Commandments. 
  •  The more we allow “GOD IS LOVE” –and God CERTAINLY IS as manifested and revealed by Jesus –TO PERMEATE OUR CONSCIENCES, OUR INTELLECT, OUR HEARTS, THE MORE WE BEGIN TO LIVE, because this love is more than a feeling, far greater than any human emotion or sentiment. It is a deep reality- high as the heavens and deep as the sea. 
  • When we are steadfast, secure, and cemented in a foundation of GODLOVE, the Commandments and the Sacraments make more sense. They are not tasks to perform, they are not “holy obligations:” but expressions of GRATITIUDE to God, to Jesus—for the Holy Spirit within and around us. We have come today for gratitude. YES, we may feel distracted, chagrined, impartial to our choice of being here today. Nevertheless, we made the choice for LOVE. Dwell in that love NOW. Allow gratitude to take root. 
  • This week I invite you to take out a photo of yourself from your infancy or childhood – a photo in which JOY is evident in you. Ponder how that JOY is part of GOD, and how God expresses LOVE for you –past, present, and future (whether you are conscious of it or not.)
  • Place the photo on your night table, or in your office, or in your prayer nook, or fix it in your mind throughout your day, and pray with it, give thanks to God for it, for YOU. Let NO ONE TAKE THAT FROM YOU. No matter another person’s state of mind, no matter his or her inappropriate, disrespectful, hurtful behavior. No matter the imperfection of their love. Concretized in GOD LOVE, miracles happen – it becomes fascinatingly easier to see GODLOVE in and for another. Allow that photo of you to imagine a comparable photo of them. See if that reforms the situation, see if your feelings change. 
  • As Saint Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans (8:39): Nothing separates us “from the love of God that comes to us in Jesus Christ.”  We must not let others separate us from GODLOVE reality. Indeed, NO! We may, however, bring GODLOVE to them. 
  • “Thank you GODLOVE! Make us trust in You always for YOU LOVED US FIRST! In Love, You created us. In Love we are sustained. In love, we hope. In love, we forgive because we forever are forgiven. In Love, we truly LIVE! I believe that warrants a life of thanksgiving. Do you? 

FYI: Four Kinds of Love in Greek

Erōs
(GREEK: ἔρως) Romantic love; erotic desire; intimacy; infatuation with another’s beauty.
Philia
(GREEK: φɩλία) Brotherly love; friendship; affectionate regard for and loyalty to friends, family, and community, requiring virtue, equality, and familiarity.
Storgē
(GREEK: στοργή) Familial love; affection; natural empathy for one’s family, country, or team.
Agapē
(GREEK: ἀγάπη) Unconditional, self-sacrificial love; charity; God’s unconditional, self-sacrificial love for humankind and humankind’s love for a good God and for others. 

Homily for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time by Fr. James DiLuzio CSP

Readings: Wisdom 2:12, 17-20, Ps 54:3-4, 5, 6 and 8, James 3:16—4:3 and The Gospel of Mark 9:30-37

Everyone wants to be the best he or she can be. Everyone likes to come out on top, beat the competition, wind the medal. It’s so human! Yet Jesus chastises his disciples who want to be “the greatest.” He does so because so often “Be our best” degenerates into “Be THE best,” and with that comes a loss of our common humanity.  Jesus offers a solution to such bravado asking us to return to our childhood innocence.  

We may think only contemporary culture is excessively competitive, filled with rancor. Not so!  Were not Jesus’ disciples arguing for First Place–discontent to be one among many, to share and share alike? In every generation, people desire to be the best they can be, the greatest among top competitors. We want respect. We fantasize fame.  Christians are no exception. 

Admirable as these goals may be, Jesus knew that within those perfectly human goals of popularity and renown, there lurks in the shadows of our psyches, a penchant to take offense at another’s accomplishments, to allow our insecurities to feed resentment. We may even desire another’s downfall or find our imagination wickedly planning their demise.

The words from the Book of Wisdom must give us pause:  12Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us. 13He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the Lord. 14 To us he is the censure of our thoughts;
merely to see him is a hardship for us,”

 “Child of the Lord,” is the biblical phrase of one who accepts God’s sovereignty, confident in who he or she is, one so rooted in God’s love, grateful for what she has. A child of the Lord does not brood over what he is not.  People long for that kind of peace and often resent those who have it. No surprise that resentment is often the source of conflict within and among families, colleagues, neighbors, parishioners – everyone.

From Cain’s murder of his brother Abel to the Crucifixion of Jesus, the sin of envy, resentment in another’s accomplishment and wellbeing is in rampant evidence in human history, literature and even in our everyday experiences.

Jesus says, “STOP!” Be as you were an innocent child!  Recapture the times in your youth when you were eager for everyone to succeed, everyone to get a prize, a gift, a hug, approval!  (Everyone must have felt that at some point, even if all we remember are our sibling rivalries. Who, after all, wasn’t in some way or other in competition for our parent’s admiration?) We all need acceptance. Acceptance. We may not feel we achieved that, but faith assures us GOD ACCEPTS US even with ours sins and failings.  Unconditional surrender to God brings experiences of God’s unconditional love. It is that simple!  Want to be seeped in serenity, more confident, with a stronger ability forbear life’s difficulties? Surrender to God. That’s the foundation of the kingdom.

Look to Jesus.  Jesus experienced that kind of heaven on earth. He was rooted in an unbreakable, fully sustainable, intimacy with God the Father. It gave him astounding inner peace.  We must remind ourselves the earthly Jesus had qualities every Christian strives for: fortitude, skill in debate, honesty in every endeavor, compassion, strength to challenge the commonplace, a healthy abhorrence of passivity in the face of injustice in Church and State.  We should all know by now that what often sounds like judgment and condemnation from Jesus, was, in fact, an open invitation to move beyond human shadow and come into the Kingdom’s light. This is who Jesus was and is, and his invitation still stands.

Today, and every day, Jesus invites us to ask, “Who is the true source of my confidence, my strengths, my ability to love and be loved? Will I allow the Christ to keep me in a child-like eagerness to be good, to share, to compete with my gifts in ways that do not devalue others or crush their spirits?  How may my honesty allow me to be vulnerable and sensitive to another’s frailties because of my faith in Jesus–the source of all that is good in me and everyone else?” Remember, all good things are contagious.  As we allow ourselves to be more honest, vulnerable, and sensitive with others, they are more likely to open up to us in the same way.   That is living in the Kingdom, where everyone has something to gain, and nothing to lose.  Gracious winners and Gracious losers – it doesn’t matter which, for it’s the loving of the life, celebrating God’s love.

We might enjoy lots of drama in our books and entertainment, in sports and in the news. Indeed, there is a little bit of Cain in everyone; a bit of the crowd yelling, “Crucify him,” in every faithful Catholic. Yet, deep within, is a more authentic desire for peace; hope that resentments will fade away, and we find ourselves laughing at our own frailties, inviting others to do the same. May our communion with Jesus be enough for us today and every day to be Christ to one another. 

Consider Faith in God

This article by Ross Douthat MUST BE READ by anyone who engages in questions about God — no matter your religion or struggle with faith in a God who willed Creation into being. So engaging! So beautifully, logically and amazingly articulated! WOW. I welcome all Comments and subsequent Conversation on this piece! God bless!

HOMILY on the ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY 2021

By Father James DiLuzio C.S.P.

I enjoin you today to contemplate with me the beauty of this weekend’s commemoration of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Assumption beginning with this recent quote from Bishop Robert Barron’s writings.  Bishop Baron is an Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles and Director of WORD ON FIRE ministries.

“When we speak of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother’s body, we are not envisioning a journey through space, as though Mary moved up into the sky. The “heavens” are a rich and consistent biblical symbol for the transcendent, for a manner of existence that lies beyond our familiar dimensions of space and time.

He goes on to say: “The Assumption of Mary means that the Blessed Mother was “translated,” in the totality of her being –

This means she achieved the fullness to which God intends for all humanity –imaged in the Resurrected Body of Jesus Christ –a complete unity of body, soul, and spirit free from all the limitations of biology and physics as we know it. 

Bishop Baron goes on to write that this fulfillment is what we mean when we use the term “heaven.”

He explains further: “Mary, who exists now in this other world, is not so much somewhere else as somehow else, and this helps to explain why we can speak of her, especially in her heavenly state, interceding, helping us, and praying for us and with us.”

Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language.  This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist.  In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what Saint Thomas Aquinas said long before him. Not surprisingly, Pope Emeritus Benedict and our current Pope Francis affirm the same.

In this way, the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is inviting us to expand our minds and imaginations and our prayer life with more mystical dimensions, allowing us to become more comfortable with MYSTERY – a primary component of what it means to have a MATURE faith.  

Such Mystical Mystery concepts confirm our communion with all the Saints and all people of faith and goodwill who have gone before us.  The Feast of the Assumption of Mary, All Saints, All Souls, and all the Saints Days give us the assurance that we can, in fact, pray with them and ask for their intercession with God because we are united with them in Christ Jesus, all part of His One, Mystical Body.

We who are Jesus’ disciples have the significant privilege to know and embrace a foundational Christian truth – that through the Holy Spirit CHRIST is extensive, expanding His Essence from Age to Age in people of faith that whether we may deem people as “living “or “deceased,” all are and always shall remain alive. 

Therefore, although we use the language of metaphor to engage our imaginations to try and capture a bit of the profound mystery Jesus’ Resurrection and Mary’s Assumption and the promise of Eternal Life, our faith and our ongoing reception of the Sacraments confirm this reality.  Furthermore, today’s Feast reminds us that Mary is the first great and magnificent disciple leading the way promised to all who live by the Ten Commandments and Jesus’ Beatitudes.

Thus, to pray to Blessed Mary is to pray to CHRIST in her –who not only held the Christ in her womb and in her arms but who lived the WORD OF GOD as Scripture says, as Jesus said, and thus epitomizes Christ LIFE in all of us, just as the Eucharist instills in us not only a consciousness, an image but a deep reality that we are continually being transformed into a CHRIST extension, if you will, in our place and our time.

It’s time we confirmed once again the essential connection between the Eucharist, JESUS and Mary and the Saints because they manifest for us what we are — a priesthood of all believers destined for a new reality which Scripture calls “A New Heaven and a New Earth.”   Through the Holy Spirit, Christ is within us, Christ is among us, Christ inspires us to full cooperation with Him.  Applying His Will, God’s Will, to our hopes, dreams, and goals, just as Mary did, we will join Mary in the pattern of Resurrection Transformation that Jesus set for all.  Thus, Mary’s Feasts are our celebrations of Christ in Us, too. Mary lived the reality of heaven in her life and remains in that heavenly peace now and forever.  So, too, may we!

Homily for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time — As delivered on Sunday 4 July 2021.

Jesus is in trouble.  Why?  He is asking the faithful to “go the distance,” to push beyond the boundaries of the ordinary, to experience spiritual depth.  But they are not ready. Granted, sometimes, going the extra distance feels like “too much!” Yet for those who persevere, eventually, the fruits of their labor are realized. This is the goal for all who desire SPIRITUAL GROWTH. Yet we’re practically WIRED TO RESIST IT – call it our survival mechanism, comfort control, original sin, or simply our flawed humanity.  We pause, we hesitate, we retreat to the old, the comfortable, before we are shaken into advancing the Kingdom.  

The Bible, for example, in its honesty, evidences our continual approach / avoidance relationship with God.  The responsibilities of the Covenant with God started out small because God knew we can only take a little spiritual development at a time.  Yet even as we were spoon fed through the centuries, all too often we resisted spiritual growth.  Thankfully, God was and continues to be persistent. So, first there was God’s promise to Noah:  know that the true God will never harm you!  Then, with Abraham, comes a circumcision here, a loyalty oath there. That was enough for several generations to get the idea that God is for us and not against us.  Centuries later, Moses calls the people to advance: First come the 10 Commandments, and then, eventually, he gives them 613 Laws to expand their constant devotion to God.  Next comes the ongoing interpretation and applications of those laws culminating in Psalms and centuries of Prophets “pushing the envelope,” if you will. “An eye for an eye” evolves to justice with mercy; the old tribal mentalities move from “God is for US, but not for others” expand to, “May Israel be a light to the nations!” an insistence that the faithful welcome foreigners, attend to widows and orphans beyond literal family ties and local neighbors. Yet, even with some ready for more mature growth in living their faith, God sent Ezekiel to “a hard-hearted people.”  For not everyone was ready then, nor are they ready now for change, for awakening to deeper truths to advance on the spiritual path.  You may recall the hostility of civic leaders who threw the prophet Jeremiah into a cistern, saying, “do not impose spiritual values on the interests of the State!”  No?  Well, the Kingdom of Judah collapsed shortly afterwards because the people did not listen.

Today, we find Jesus, building on the Prophetic Tradition, taking a RISK, that the people are ready for more.  As it was then, so it is now:  As Jesus invites his fellow believers to stretch into new Spiritual territory, they, and even we, at times, may find His teaching appealing and appalling at the same time. True faith requires conflict to grow, and yet, so often we will not engage in the hard work of deepening our faith.  The response in the synagogue that day was, “WHO DOES JESUS THINK HE IS?  –a ‘son of a carpenter” could not be a prophet!” They forgot, of course, that the prophet Amos was a herdsman and dresser of sycamores; King David had been a lowly shepherd. 

Today, no Christian would say to Jesus, “Who do you think you are?”  We have learned to pray “My Lord and My God.”  Yet, fifty years ago, when a prophet like Saint Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador called the American President pleading for our government to stop the sale of US weapons to his and other violence-ridden countries, our nation ignored him. The people would not insist our government leaders apply Jesus’ Gospel to the politics of the day.  When Dorothy Day’s urged eccentric ministries to the poor from the times of the Great Depression up until her death in 1980, we patted her on her head and sent her on her way. Too often we value progress over compassion. Today, Pope Francis’ urges a more inclusive, welcoming CHURCH.  Many choose to ignore him and retreat into an older sensibility, insisting that faith means retreating from the world.

Added to this mindset is a rigidity in biblical interpretation that does not engage in contemporary knowledge. Some refuse to dialogue Scripture with the wisdom that comes forth in every decade, every century, every age.  Others insist that Jesus and Saint Paul teachings do not apply to today’s situations. We respond by saying: “Jesus and Paul’s teachings were never meant to be static, rigid, or become archaic. They have the movement of the Holy Spirit within them.  We must be ready to build upon what our ancestors gradually accepted knowing that NOW the signs of our times require an ever-readiness to accept new Spirit, new Divine Guidance for the challenges of our age.”

Limiting Jesus, or anyone, by their family tree, occupation, ethnicity, or culture, or limiting them to a particular time and context, is a ubiquitous sin found in every generation. Spiritual stretching is uncomfortable, we often avoid it through distractions, detours, and, at times, prefer dead ends.  Yet, struggle we must if we are to be a vibrant, relatable, and accessible Church for so many people at wit’s end with the signs of the times.

Today, the Church wrestles, once again, with our understanding of the Eucharist.  Is reception of Jesus’ body and blood to become a litmus test for the integrity of an individual’s faith?  In all honesty, are not most of us continually caught in an approach / avoidance with Christ, the Center of the TRINITY, the ever-living God?   Everyone agrees the Body and Blood of Christ is a gift of grace, that is, God’s benevolence, God’s love. The Vatican Office of Divine Worship, Pope Francis, and many bishops worldwide (except a few) have confirmed Communion as food for a journey, to fortify, assure and bless all the weak, the fallible, and yes, we, the imperfect, and sinful people that we are.  Remember this: Jesus offered His Body and Blood to all the Apostles, including Judas – perhaps a last opportunity for Judas not to be involved in Jesus’ arrest and execution.  That did not work out well, but Jesus offered him the experience of unity with him anyway. For our Faith to continue to grow, we must come to accept that Communion cannot be a reward for good behavior as some insist today, but Jesus’ gracious invitation to reconsider and deepen our relationship with Him on an ongoing basis, not a public statement of judgment as to who is worthy and who is not.  The Eucharist is God’s gift to us to be fortified in Christ, to share in Jesus’ Divine Spirit, to grow deeper into HIS Way of life.  Communion empowers all who receive it to engage the world in reconciliation and forgiveness with everyone, not just a privileged, “Church going few.” True religion is about ongoing growth in faith, hope and love.  Are we ready for it?  

Reading I

Ez 2:2-5

As the LORD spoke to me, the spirit entered into me
    and set me on my feet,
    and I heard the one who was speaking say to me:
    Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites,
    rebels who have rebelled against me;
    they and their ancestors have revolted against me to this very day.
Hard of face and obstinate of heart
    are they to whom I am sending you. 
But you shall say to them: Thus says the LORD GOD! 
And whether they heed or resist—for they are a rebellious house—
    they shall know that a prophet has been among them.

Responsorial Psalm

Ps 123:1-2, 2, 3-4

R. (2cd) Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy.
To you I lift up my eyes
    who are enthroned in heaven —
As the eyes of servants
    are on the hands of their masters.
R. Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy.
As the eyes of a maid
    are on the hands of her mistress,
So are our eyes on the LORD, our God,
    till he have pity on us.
R. Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy.
Have pity on us, O LORD, have pity on us,
    for we are more than sated with contempt;
our souls are more than sated
    with the mockery of the arrogant,
    with the contempt of the proud.
R. Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy.

Reading II

2 Cor 12:7-10

Brothers and sisters:
That I, Paul, might not become too elated,
because of the abundance of the revelations,
a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan,
to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. 
Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me,
but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness.” 
I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,
in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. 
Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Alleluia

Cf. Lk 4:18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel

Mk 6:1-6

Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples. 
When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue,
and many who heard him were astonished. 
They said, “Where did this man get all this? 
What kind of wisdom has been given him? 
What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! 
Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary,
and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? 
And are not his sisters here with us?” 
And they took offense at him. 
Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and among his own kin and in his own house.” 
So, he was not able to perform any mighty deed there,
apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.
He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Our Cosmic Christ

HOMILY by Fr. James Diluzio C.S.P.

Readings: ACTS 9: 26-31; PSALM 22; 1 LETTER OF JOHN 3: 18-24 AND The Gospel of John 15: 1-8 The metaphor of Jesus as the Vine with We as the Branches

I have been meditating on the image of the VINE and the BRANCHEs and how extensive they are through time and space and beyond.  Extensive because of Christ and God’s plan for all creation. 

In focusing on the COSMIC CHRIST, I invite us to journey with some facts of science filtered through the eyes of FAITH.  We do not talk enough about the convergence of their respective truths. May our reflection open our eyes to the deep reality that all is COMMUNION, a celebration of relationship that is God’s plan for us all.  

The Bible says God created Adams (Hebrew for HUMANS) after a long process of essential elements coming together and becoming the material world. Science says In the Beginning, there were ATOMS, and, after a long process of essential elements coming together, this COMMUNION contributed to LIFE and humanity’s existence. Science starts and ends with humanity.  FAITH begins and ends with CHRIST. 

Science says all this started with a BIG BANG! Scripture says, all began with God’s word: LIGHT! But God did not create light for its own sake, but to anticipate and to bring forth Jesus in materials’ time and space; LIGHT to propel humanity into deeper communion with God, with others and with the elements from which we came.  

Science tells us the FIRST ELEMENTS from the Big Bang were hydrogen and helium .  As the cloud of cosmic dust and gases from the Big Bang cooled, stars formed, and these then grouped together to form galaxies.   AND RIGHT THEN AND THERE, creation was formed in the Christological Pattern of Dying and RYSING.  It is in everything because all is all in Christ. Stars explode. Stars die. DYING STARS contributed to life. When a star’s core runs out of hydrogen, the star begins to die out, but the dying star expands into a red giant, manufacturing carbon atoms by fusing helium atoms. 

  • Carbon – A component of ALL CREATION the carbon of dying stars is still in us because they were made for CHRIST and through CHRIST remain in us. 

Next, came OXYGEN as more massive stars began a further series of nuclear burning or reaction stages. Oxygen — necessary for LIFE be it in water or on land. Oxygen came to exist for Jesus to come into existence and, through human evolution, to bring us closer to GOD. 

And, as oxygen communed with hydrogen, water emerged colliding with the cold of space, becoming ice to melt on forming planets– particularly our own. NOTHING ON EARTH CAN SURVIVE WITHOUT WATER.  NOTHING!  Why did this water come to be? 

As it was CREATED FOR LIFE, it was CREATED FOR CHRIST, to bring about new forms of creatures first in water, and ultimately on dry land that prepared for humans to evolve so that humans would evolve to bring forth THE CHRIST who baptizes us with water and the essence of the FIRE of the HOLY SPIRIT. FIRE was also an essential element in Creation.  We need to remember that.   

I could offer more details, but I think you get the picture now. CHRIST IS COSMIC and the COSMOS is part of us because we are One in CHRIST. 

Rooted in our Relationship with Christ, we are compelled to extend that relationship with Christ by reverencing Christ in all our fellow human beings, all wildlife, and the earth itself, participating fully in GOD’S GRAND COMMUNION DESIGN. In this design, NOTHING IS WASTED.  NO ONE IS WASTED, EVERYONE BELONGS.  Remember that when we are tempted to become defensive in hearing the suffering of people of color, people of different cultures, countries, and orientations. Remember: the old is contained in the NEW in everyone, and what is NEW will become old only to be part of an ongoing transformation THAT GOD destined US to participate in –the FULFILLMENT of Christ as HIS BODY in history transforming the world in HIS IMAGE.  AGAIN: NOTHING IS WASTED.  NO ONE IS WASTED, EVERYONE BELONGS.  

Science tells us our UNIVERSE is expanding. WE MUST NOT FALL BEHIND!  Allow Christ today to expand our minds, evolve us, transform us, to the NEW HEAVEN and a NEW EARTH that is our destiny but that is accomplished in fostering COMMUNION with ALL –EVERY PERSON, EVERY CREATURE until all are one in Christ.  THIS COSMIC VISION MUST put our LIVES in perspective:  Always a MOVEMENT FORWARD, never a “dead end,” no matter how much like a “dead end” we may feel.  Our challenges, our difficulties, our conflicts, even the sickness and the death of our loved ones–or in our own sickness and anticipation of our own deaths—must be confirmed in SEEING THE WORLD AS GOD SAW IT FROM THE BEGINNING AND AS GOD INTENDS IT TO BE: an ongoing consecration into Christ Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. 

No matter how we may be participating in COMMUNION today, physically, virtually, we pray our sensibilities of “TAKE AND EAT will erupt a new consciousness in each of us, offering us COURAGE to advance the KINGDOM Jesus inaugurated.  Yes, one day we shall day, but with Christ’s blessed assurance, future generations will see us in themselves, and we will remain part of what is to come because we have communed with the COSMIC CHRIST leading us on to COMMUNION with God and all the saints not for just a moment, not just for today, but tomorrow, and tomorrow, and the next day.  In fact, forever and ever and ever. A World without End.  

EASTER 2021

A Homily by Father James DiLuzio C.S.P.

Easter Sunday 2021

For the first generations of Christians, the heart of the faith, the central purpose for their Conversion: Jesus’ Resurrection from the Dead.  The teachings, the miracles, the Passion Narratives were told and repeated because Jesus’s Resurrection confirmed the Primordial Longing of humanity at the very time we came into existence: the desire for Eternal Life.  The need to know that death’s finality was but an illusion came early in human history because people experienced a divine spark in the human condition that made us part of something greater.

Indeed, before any religions were formalized, before any rituals was ritualized, our Humanoid prototypes left evidence of memorials commending the dead to another world. Indeed, something erupted in the human condition that allowed our ancestors’ brains to expand, to seek a power, a spirit beyond ourselves, to ponder the stars and heaven as an essential goal.

Once Homo sapiens came on the scene, but long before the experiences that brought the Bible into a literary reality, Sumerians and Babylonians, Far Eastern cults of Zoroastrians and others attended to beliefs in the afterlife. Once Judaism became a tribal cult, the Hebrews eventually distinguished themselves and the true God by emphasizing this life and progeny as the central focus of life with God. They began with only vague ideas about life’s end–a kind of shade and shadowy existence in a place or state they called Shoal. “The living, only the living give you thanks, O Lord,” the psalmist cries. And that was and is an essential truth.  How we live from day to day is of great importance!

Yet through the experience of exile and the prophets, particular Ezekiel who insisted on a return to the land of Israel and Judah in images such as dry bones returning to life, Judaism evolved to reclaim a belief in resurrection of the dead. From the time of the Maccabees and the Writing of the Wisdom Literature, some two hundred years or more before Jesus’ birth, belief in the resurrection became a standard of the Pharisaic movement in which Jesus Himself was a part.

Ultimately, as hostility built toward Jesus, and premonitions of death consumed him, Jesus came to see that God would confirm Resurrection of the Dead and the Promise of Eternal Life through Him. But first, he would expose the sins of the World through the Wood of the Cross, compelling compassion and humility as the foundation for life in His Image as the antidote to death and dying, to sin, and violence, and hatred. Only such a dying would lead to a rising to New Life – to a kingdom of faith, hope, and love.  In His Image, as extensions of His Body in time and space, Jesus’ disciples would carry on His commission to transform the earth and everyone and everything in it.  HOW?  By trusting in the ETERNAL PATTERN, JESUS’ design of living, dying, and rising that all life entails.  The world may rage against such a paradigm, yet, ironically, it continually proports it as the circle of life:  Life, Death and Renewal.  But Judaism and Christianity, while acknowledging the Circle, also maintain a forward thrust moving Creation toward a New Heaven and a New Earth. A circular dance moving toward a HORIZON, beckoning renewal in faith, hope, and love, and trust in God.

Why even modern Science echoes this same truth. From the Big Bang, bursts of energy, combustion, then dying flames and embers contribute to something new, but not yet entirely new, for essential elements remain; some modified, others not, but keeping everything, and ultimately everyone, in relationship.  Past is present, and present becomes future all through Living and Dying and Rising. Consider the Dinosaurs—extinct, dead, YET a remnant remains in the composition of the birds of today – seemingly different, and totally new, yet not unconnected with their predecessors from the past.   We humans today are still composed of carbon and waters that formed life at the very beginning.  That is how we can say we are made from the very make-up of stars.  This scientific recognition brings a deeper understanding to our faith as we perpetuate the words of our everyday Trinitarian prayer:  “As It was in the Beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen!” 

This day, this HOLY DAY confirms for us again: Life, Death and Rebirth is God’s design. All in the Pattern of JESUS. Just as Jesus’ Resurrected Body was the same as his historic body–still in relationship with his ancestors, his mother, his disciples yet something new, beyond the confines of biology and physics.  An expanded reality akin to the expanding of the universe in circles and in straight, forward, and, at times, crooked lines. Old and New converging, becoming, dying, and rising.

 As Christians we are invited to trust in God’s Eternal Design. Sure, there are time we wish to rage against the night, yet, when we are disappointed or we fail, or become sick and feel worthless, Jesus gives us one another to support and sustain us the ought the dying times. His is a Living Body, active from age to age through every generation of believers. Together in Faith, we remind ourselves we are part of a greater story that includes suffering for a greater gain.  Trusting in God, our ongoing little deaths offer conversion to compassion for ourselves and others that will transform all suffering to redemptive suffering. Yes, there is a time to stay still, and a time to keep healthy, to stay alive, and there is a time to let go, to surrender to what we cannot control or fully understand.  This, too, is part of the Easter Story.  We are not afraid to die to resentments and hurts, to die to egos that must be continually affirmed. We may joyfully die to living for anyone’s approval but God’s, surrendering to the Gospel in which we do not need to see ourselves as better than anyone else (although we may be better at certain things) because we accept that all are equal to all, related to all; admitting our sins and failings as joyfully as we celebrate our accomplishments due to God’s generosity to us, the talents and interests God has endowed us individually, culturally, and religiously. Rising with Christ, forgiveness comes easy, the Spirit endows us with courage to change, to learn, to grow in wisdom.

What wisdom have we gained from this year of pandemic? How have we grown in compassion through Covid? Five-hundred Americans died this year, and yet millions rose to the occasion to offer care and social responsibility.  We are growing, too, in care for our environment, respect for our fellow creatures with whom we share this sacred earth.  Best of all, our solidarity with people of all ethnicities, languages, religions, and cultures is on the RISE, even as some slip back into an old world of prejudice and violence.

The TRUTH of Faith is this: Easter invites us to die and Rise with Jesus.  Through Him and with Him, our Communion becomes COSMIC, moving us on toward a future with God, brighter than any past.  Alleluia!

Homily: Jesus cleanses the temple area circa 27AD.

Anger. S0 many things make us angry. Anger is a very natural human emotion.  Anger is not a sin.  What we do with our anger–how we express it– brings us into the realm of morality and sin. Still, far too often people justify temper tantrums and inappropriate expressions of anger citing Jesus’ banishing merchants and moneylenders from the temple.

But what Jesus exemplifies here is different from what happens when we get angry.  We must distinguish Jesus’ righteous anger from what we demonstrate due to wounded pride, selfishness, jealousies, or when we desire to intimidate, manipulate, or seek revenge. A careful study of the Scripture shows what appears as anger on Jesus’ part, is His ZEAL FOR GOD. That is why the disciples recall the passage of Psalm 69 and that is the difference.  This Gospel shows Jesus acting as God’s abiding Spirit insisting people internalize the outward sign of the temple to make their very lives temples of continual worship to God.    By the way, the reference here to “the JEWS” here, is not about an entire ethnic group. The ONLY way to interpret the phrase today is to apply it to anyone and everyone not concerned with deepening their relationship with God and others. It is a scandal that the Church did not emphasize this formally until Vatican Council of 1965.  But thankfully, we know this now, and we are obligated to assure that others know this, too. Now: back to Jesus’ Zeal for God and a properly God-oriented humanity.

Zeal for God is intimately aligned with the TEN COMMANDMENTS – the heart of restoring humanity to right relationship with God and others.  That is why we included a Reading of the Ten Commandments today. To become superficial with prayer, rites and rituals deprives us of the foundation of our true dignity –that everyone, all Creation belong to God.  Thus, business of temple sacrifices in 27 AD mirrors the business and activity in our 2021 lives, highlighting the sad truth that we often ignore our relationship with God.  The result:  superficial, hypocritical religion. Today’s Gospel insists we take note of “ROTE” and make a change!   

It is not that the money changers and animal merchants were so awful. Money exchange from Greek and Roman coins to Temple coins devoid of objectionable images was reasonable.  In fact, Jesus would have approved of not having coins with images that tempted people to make gods and goddesses of emperors, public officials, and civic leaders. We remain tempted to make gods and goddesses of many public figures today in all realms of government, sports, and the arts. We, too, must be on our guard!

And, as for the animal sacrifices, everything has its proper time. It was clear to Jesus that the time for animal sacrifices had come to an end.  The people had stayed too long in an early stage of their faith—substituting animal sacrifices in place of cultivating contrite hearts, repentant, humble ways of living. How often did the prophets of old proclaim that!  Jesus declared time to advance to a deeper, more intimate relationship with God and others had arrived because, the Christ was in their midst. 

When God is not the foundation of life, when we do not daily cultivate humility, thanksgiving, spiritual growth, repentance, and reconciliation, we must pray for ZEAL: the righteous anger of Jesus to be incarnated in ourselves.  Jesus’ ZEAL reflects an anger without judgement, an anger without hate, anger without condemnation—all the inappropriate ways to which we are so prone.  Although our angers often do not, Jesus’ Zeal always invites transformation, and spiritual renewal for everyone.  The ZEAL of Jesus is anger built on compassion—to orient people back to God and our genuine human dignity.

Today, therefore, this Gospel invites us to participate in the very justified movements such as Black Lives Matter; the LGBQT movement, ME TOO, Equal Rights, Equal Pay for Equal Work, and other important, transformative endeavors.  Not to have zeal for other’s rights is to devalue our won rights and dignity. Not to want to perpetuate the Kingdom of God for all, to cultivate Right Religion (freeing our faith from hypocrisy, superstition—and modeling ways for others to do the same), Right Government (freed from lies, illusions, arrogance, partisanship, and greed) makes prayer and religious observances superficial.  Rote religion deprives us of receptivity to the Grace Jesus offers freely, for GRACE and gratitude for grace are the true source of our human dignity.  

In these times of turmoil, as we strive to return to our true dignity, we must remember, too, that transformation may evoke violence in others because society is so threatened by transformative change. As it was in Jesus’ time, so it continues until now. In joining any just cause, we must first evaluate our personal angers in relation to Jesus’ ZEAL and, ultimately, patiently invite others to evaluate their angers and frustrations so that together we may explore healthy ways of converting our anger to cooperation for positive change. Still, confronting wrongdoing may require cracking a whip across a pillar –never upon human flesh and bone—because people must be called to attend to righteousness.  Otherwise, we all just go about our busy lives.  

What we know about Jesus throughout the Gospels and in centuries of faith development is that he while He used the whip to sound an alarm, he did not, could not inflict on others what was-and would-be inflicted upon him.  Note, John’s Gospel places Jesus’ Zeal at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  Once he exposed hypocrisy of superficial religion, he left the temple to heal, perform miracles, to preach with the blessed assurance, that everyone can belong, everyone can be mutually cared for. Indeed, spiritual ZEAL comprises patient endurance and compassion, saying to the corrupt, the defensive, the selfish, those who live in fear: “We know you were brought up this way!  We know fear and anger is evidenced on all sides.  Still, we know what is right, and what our God-given rights are. In our hearts, we think you know that, too.  Take responsibility for your past, join in a coalition for lives of faith, hope and love.” Things do not have to stay the way they are. Our past does not have to dictate our present or our future.  Today’s Eucharist offers Grace to you and me to restore us to the ZEAL that is Jesus’ mission.  Take and Eat. Go and do likewise.