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Monthly Archives: December 2021

Christmas Midnight Mass and Christmas Day 2021

CHRISTMAS Midnight Mass and Christmas Day HOMILY 2021
Isaiah 9: 1-6, 14 + Luke 2: 1-14
Holy Spirit Catholic Church: December 25, 2021

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
upon those who dwelt in a land of gloom, a light has shone. (Isaiah 9:1)

These words of the prophet Isaiah describe not only Israel’s suffering under oppression from the Babylonians and the Assyrians in the 6th century B.C., and God’s response,
but also the time of Jesus as well.
The long awaited promised One, the child of Hope, is born into a world
where his people suffer from Roman oppression.
The faithful remnant of Israel in Jesus’ day long for the light of a new day,
for the promised Messiah to set them free.

But because the word of God is ever alive and always active,
Isaiah’s words speak to us today as well.
Because we have been living for almost two years in what seems like one long night, stumbling around in deep darkness, nothing seeming to be like it was before COVID-19.
We have been dwelling in a land of gloom.
It is into this darkness that the light who is Christ shines.
It is into this gloom that the piercing light who is Christ penetrates.

The Savior is born anew into our world where we need Him now
to be our light and our salvation.
In the midst of so much bad news, so much death, so much division and conflict,
comes good news of great joy—A savior is born for us!

Do not let your hearts be troubled nor your minds muddled—
know that the child born of Mary is the Way to life, the Way who gives us Breath—
breathe deeply of the Life he brings.
That child born in Bethlehem in the dark of night is the Truth of the Father’s love for us, the Truth shining through the darkest times when we feel absolutely, utterly lost.
He is the Way through the greatest darkness of all–He is the Life that conquers death.

Bedazzled by this blazing mystery, we ponder the titles used by the prophet of old
for the Savior of the World:
He is Wonder-Counselor, God-hero, Father-forever, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:5)

He is “Wonder-Counselor,” for He is anointed by the Spirit and relies on Spirit’s gifts,
on a wisdom and a knowledge and an understanding flowing from the heart of God.
So, he can counsel us on the way to life, especially when we seem to have lost our way.

When life is at its darkest point, when we stumble around lost in confusion
or hurt or sadness, Jesus advises us that it is then that life is also at its brightest,
for at that low point we realize we cannot save ourselves and need a Savior.

He saves by surrendering his life to the Father out of love, so we can learn the wisdom of surrendering our lives with him to the Father.
The way to life is to lose our life in sacrificial love of others, not by holding onto it.

He is Wonder-Counselor!

He is also “God-hero.”
Jesus as Savior of the World is born and lives not as a superhero, but as God-hero.
The child born of Mary is the hero we need,
not the Marvel characters so many with whom so many are fascinated.
For in God’s wisdom, Jesus does not have any superpowers to protect him
from suffering and sadness, from hatred and persecution.

He empties himself of all divine privilege to become weak and fragile like us,
subject to hunger and heartache, to thirst and heartbreak.
This hero shows us that God stands on the side of the underdog, the forgotten ones—
the sick, the poor, the stranger, the sinner.

Even the way he dies is heroic in a godly way.
He does not do the superhero thing to break free from the cross and to kill the Roman soldiers and religious leaders who nailed him to that tree.
Rather, he suffers to transform all our suffering into glory,
and he dies to transform all our dying into life with Him.
He is GOD-HERO!
He is “Father-forever.”
As Jesus repeats over and over again in John’s Gospel—if you have seen me,
you have seen the Father. The Father and I are one.
I can only do what I see my Father doing.

The Son of God shows us the Father’s face and that face is MERCY.
Jesus reveals a God constantly searching for His lost children.
A God who never gives up looking for us when we are lost,
and always ready to run out and welcome us home,
to throw a party when we turn back to Him.

By his parables and by the parable of his life, Jesus reveals a God
who will always be “Our Father.”

He is also “Prince of Peace.”
Into a world filled with fury he comes, a world ripped apart by violence.
Where soulless drones shoot deadly missiles at innocent civilians,
where children kill other children with guns built to kill many quickly,
where mothers consent to the killing of their children in their womb,
and where States state that killing is wrong by killing the killer.

As Prince of Peace, he comes not only into the violent world out there,
but to the violence in here, the violence which flares up in every human heart.
Hearts that harbor resentment and thirst for revenge,
hearts that condemn others without even getting to know the one begin condemned, hearts which are full of self-hatred, punishing their owners mercilessly.
As Prince of Peace he comes to these hearts, to our hearts, to reign, to rule, to save.

Toward the end of the recently released movie, “West Side Story,”
the character played by Rita Moreno, Valentina, sings the haunting song, “Somewhere.”
Valentina sings this song after the rumble between the Jets and the Sharks,
a violent encounter which leads to the death of their leaders, Riff and Bernardo,
whose violent deaths give birth to more violence by their followers.
As violence begets more violence, Valentina sings:

Somewhere. We’ll find a new way of living.
We’ll find a way of forgiving
Somewhere…
There’s a place for us.
A time and place for us.
Hold my hand and we’re halfway there.
Hold my hand and I’ll take you there.

As Savior of the World and Prince of Peace, Jesus is hand of God stretched out
to grasp our hand to lead us into a new way of living,
a way of forgiving, a way of living in peace with each other.

He is born to save us.
He does so by becoming one of us and one with us.

Love becomes us, so we can become Love.

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi

2nd Sunday of Advent

2ND SUNDAY OF ADVENT, CYCLE C
Baruch 5: 1-9 + Psalm 126: 1-6 + Philippians 1: 4-6, 8-11 + Luke 3: 1-6
Holy Spirit Catholic Church: Sunday, December 5, 2021

There sure is a lot of waiting in our lives.
Even though with a click of a mouse, we can buy just about anything at all
and have it delivered lickety-split, this year’s supply bottlenecks
have caused us to wait a bit longer for what we might want for another for Christmas.

For young children, the waiting for Christmas Day can seem like
a year’s worth of days packed into a month.
For expectant parents, nine months for a child to be born can feel like an eternity.
For spouses who are physically separated by distance because of military service or work that takes them far away,
the days or weeks or months apart can seem like forever.

John the Baptist knows a little bit about waiting.
He lives in the desert, where one day can look the same as the next, and the diet
can be pretty bland—after all, there is not much one can do with wild locusts and honey.
But John waits in hope for the call of the Lord.

John’s parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah, also know something about waiting on the Lord.
Childless, they had prayed to the Lord for years on end, asking for a child,
never giving up hope even as the years slide away, one by one.

Zechariah and Elizabeth, who wait on the Lord, are a symbol of faithful Israel
who wait for the Lord to bring them home from exile in Babylon.
Their waiting in hope is tested as the days become years and the years turn into decades.
They keep hoping that one day the Lord God will make a way for them to return home.

How do John the Baptist and Elizabeth and Zechariah wait in hope?
How do God’s people, far from home, wait in hope?
How do they do it and not fall into a pit of despair, but keep on keeping on
in their trust in the Lord?
The cry of the psalmist today reveals the secret sauce that sustains them:
“The Lord has done great things for us, we are filled with joy!”

By remembering what God has done, John and Zechariah and Elizabeth and the exiles
in Babylon all can wait in hope, knowing that God will act again, that God will come.

Those faith-filled Israelites, pining away in a foreign land far from home, look back
in their history to their ancestors enslaved in Egypt for the source of their hope.
God came to their rescue, God heard their cries, God set them free from slavery in Egypt.
So the Israelites in exile in Babylon trust God will do the same for them,
that God will come and set them free.

Elizabeth, barren and childless, remembers how God acted in the life of Sarah,
who became the mother of the child of promise, Isaac.
Elizabeth knows Sarah’s story, because it is ingrained in the history of her people.
God brought new life to the dead womb of Sarah,
even though she was far past the time of bearing a child at the age of ninety.
Remembering what God did for Sarah, Elizabeth lives in the hope
that God will do the same for her.

John the Baptist, waiting day after day for the call of the Lord in the desert,
is sustained by remembering the call of other prophets before him, remembering
how the Lord God called them at a specific time and in a specific place
with a specific message to bring the people of Israel back to God.

John and Elizabeth and Zechariah and the faith-filled people of Israel persevere in faith even though their circumstances seem to be no different day after passing day.
They persevere, they keep on keeping on, because their hope is not a passing fancy,
but rooted and grounded in God’s goodness, in the God who has acted before
and will act again, in the God who has come before and who will come again.

The prayer they repeat day after day to God is:
“Lord, I have seen your goodness. I will wait on you in confidence.”
They can be filled with joy, because the Lord has done good things for them!

That God will act there is no doubt, that God will come and set his people free
and fill them with new life is certain.
But how and when God acts are on God’s terms, for God’s ways are not our ways
nor is God’s timing our timing.

It takes a little over 200 years before the Hebrew slaves are set free by God
from their bondage in Egypt.
And how God delivers them is not exactly the way human beings would have done it.
God uses a murderer, who has been exiled from Egypt because of his dastardly deed,
to lead them out of slavery.
Moses, who fled Egypt for fear of his life because he killed an Egyptian,
returns to Egypt because God sends him back to set his people free,
even though there is a price on Moses’ head.
Moses, who most likely struggled with a speech impediment is sent by God
to persuade Pharaoh to let the people go.
When God calls him to this mission, Moses tells God that surely God
has got the wrong person for the job, and we would think so, too.
But God’s ways are not our ways….

How God frees the exiles in Babylon from captivity is even more mysterious.
When the Persian Empire conquers Babylon,
the Israelites have already spent over five decades in exile.
Then the Persian king, Cyrus, issues a decree freeing the people of Israel to return home, after sixty years in captivity.
God uses a pagan, a powerful pagan king, to set his people free. Unbelievable!

Then there was the timing with Elizabeth.
Since God chooses her to be the mother of the greatest prophet of all time,
chooses Elizabeth to give birth to a son chosen to prepare the way
for God’s only begotten Son, we would think God would have John born
at a more normal time in his mother’s life.

But Elizabeth is old and way beyond child-bearing age when John is conceived,
and there are many things working against a healthy child and a healthy childbirth.
If Elizabeth would have had her say concerning the timing of her pregnancy with John,
she would have told God to make this happen when she is younger & fitter and stronger.
But God’s timing is not our timing, nor are God’s way our ways.

God remains faithful in always doing something new, beyond our expectations,
but always for our growth into an ever more mature and responsible faith, so we may:
Believe the unbelievable! Hope in the impossible!

Much of God’s work does not happen overnight,
much of what God is about does not come about with the snap of one’s fingers.
Plus, the work of God may not be easy to spot right away either.

Most of the time we have to wait, because nothing is clear at all, but we wait with hop because “Advent Attitude” we are developing fuels our expectation
that the Lord Jesus in his goodness is breaking into our lives.
Strengthened by this hope, we stand erect and lift our heads to see the Lord Jesus coming, instead of being bowed down by the anxieties of life.

Because there is no mountain too high nor valley to low for the Lord Jesus.
He who has come and who will come again is coming right now,
leveling the obstacles in our lives to his coming,
filling in the low parts of our life with his saving love.

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi