Journal Archive 2018 CYCLE B

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First Sunday of Advent
MK 13:33-37
December 3, 2017

The past two years, I’ve been driving a vehicle that has a special safety feature. The car came with sensors on the front and sides. Not that I ever did, but if I just happened to “tailgate” the car in front of me, a flashing red “collision alert” would appear on the dashboard, warning me to back off. And if I ventured out of my lane, which, of course, even the most conscientious drivers occasionally do, a cautionary signal appears on the side-view mirror, together with rather loud chimes. If one method of warning doesn’t reset wandering attention, the other certainly will.

When I first started driving the vehicle, I actually found these devices as annoying as my Dad…who was a world class backseat driver. But with time, I came to appreciate these watchful helpers. Obviously, no one can rely totally on this technology to get safely to their destination. Drivers still have the primary responsibility for getting home safely. But these warning signals certainly help. They are especially helpful at night. I recently changed to a vehicle without these bells and whistles, and I missed them. Once again, I was totally dependent on myself.

We begin Advent 2017 with a passage from Isaiah, who acknowledges the human inclination to wander from the path of righteousness. The First Reading brings to mind how easily we are distracted from what is good and holy.

It doesn’t take that much to distract even the best driver. Our minds wander, especially if we are worried about something. Our vision tends to stray from the road to a sign or a building. Don’t even get me started on the cell phone.

It’s the same sort of thing with our spiritual journey. There are countless distractions that draw our attention away from God. We travel through time in the darkness of sin and death. The neon lights of worldly things are constantly trying to draw our attention away from The Light of Christ. They don’t offer true light, only dangerous distractions. And once worldly…material things…grab our attention, they hold on with a death grip.

Which brings us to this first season of the liturgical year. Although technically, Advent is not a time for repentance, still, it is a four-week long opportunity to refocus on our journey. The key words in our First Reading are like the safety features in my old vehicle…they get our attention. And if we happen to ignore one of the warnings, another follows quickly behind.

WANDER…RETURN…HEAR…SEE…WAIT…ROUSE!

Today we are reminded of the need to redirect our attention and make any course corrections that are necessary to ensure safe traveling. Just like the signals on the side mirrors of newer vehicles, our Gospel flashes words at us that are impossible to ignore…even with the multiple distractions of shopping, parties, decorating, assembling, wrapping, and baking. The Lord Himself cautions us to BE WATCHFUL! BE ALERT!

Thankfully, we are not totally dependent upon ourselves. We are equipped with all of the safety features a traveler needs to arrive home in the Kingdom of God. We are given the Gospel to guide us. We have the Holy Spirit to “backseat drive.” And of course, we have the Sacraments to help us get back on the right path when we wander. So, then, together, let’s travel around the Advent wreath, making four stops to light candles as we make our way around this symbol of eternal life. Our first stop is the candle that reminds us to BE WATCHFUL! BE ALERT! Because the Day of the Lord is at hand!

Second Sunday of Advent
MK 1:1-8
December 10, 2017

One tradition has it that the Advent wreath has four candles to symbolize the 4,000 years separating Adam and Eve from the Birth of Christ. Symbols are essential to our Christian faith. We use symbols to help us wrap our minds around things we cannot see. So, it’s important that the message they offer is true and accurate.

To protect the symbol value of the four candles, take special note of the opening line of our Second Reading (Peter 3:8). Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord, one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like one day. Rather than counting days, or years, or centuries, or millennia, it might be more helpful to focus on the gradually increasing light the Advent wreath gives with the passage of each week of the season.

God works very slowly so as not to overwhelm us. We see “Godspeed” throughout nature. Even a new day, with all of its promise and potential, begins with a mere suggestion. Slowly, gradually, gently…almost without notice, the light pushes back the darkness. Nothing we do can hurry “daylight.” We can fight darkness with artificial light, but to enjoy true “daylight,” we simply have to wait patiently. The waiting, however, is made easier by the certainty that eventually the sun will rise.

That seems to be the message that Isaiah brings in the passage from the Old Testament proclaimed on this Second Sunday of Advent. God works very slowly, and there is a lot of work to be done. A straight path needs to be carved out through the wasteland. That means valleys need to be filled in and mountains and hills need to be leveled. The process of clearing the way for The Incarnation, the Birth of Jesus Christ, took many generations. So, too, with respect to the Lord’s return in Glory, when, as our First Reading concludes: the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people shall see it together.

John the Baptist is a major character in the Advent Season. His mission and ministry focused on the work of carving a straight path for Jesus to walk into human history. His call to baptism and the repentance of sin was a challenge to the people to remove all obstacles that prevented them from recognizing Jesus as the Messiah. Unlike the Almighty, John did not move slowly. He went about his work with a sense of urgency.

And so, too, with Jesus Himself. His earthly mission as God’s Word Incarnate was measured in time…slightly over 30 years. He could not go about His work of building the Kingdom slowly. There has never been, nor will there ever be, a greater urgency to any task than the urgency of the work which The Father sent The Son into the world to accomplish.

And the same holds true for each of us. Through our own baptisms, Jesus shares both His power and His mission and ministry. But our earthly lives are measured and limited. We have to be aggressive in carrying out our duties as Christian disciples. We cannot go about nourishing the hungry or thirsty at a leisurely pace. We have only a minuscule amount of time to reach out with a healing touch to the sick, shut-in, and dying. We are required as followers of Christ to extend an immediate welcome to the stranger. We might not be able to level mountains or fill in valleys, but we should be quick to knock down the walls that divide us.

Advent is the perfect season to evaluate the pace at which we work on discipleship, aware of the fact that every time we do what we are called to do, the Light of Christ burns just a little brighter in this dark, dark world.

In the coming week, let’s resolve to be a true and accurate symbol of Christ, so that those who do not know the Lord can wrap their minds around Him, Whom they cannot see.

Third Sunday of Advent
JN 1:6-8, 19-28
December 17, 2017

In his little reflection for this Gaudete Sunday, Bishop Robert F. Morneau of Green Bay, Wisconsin writes: Joy has fallen on hard times in this turbulent world. He goes on to ask: Is joy possible in such a broken world?

It’s certainly true that network news these days brings shame and fear to mind a lot faster than JOY! But the fact is that the world was “broken” when the first parents made the first shameful choice. Fear entered the human conscience when, as a consequence of the Original sin, they were turned out of the Garden. The “news” we deal with in 2017 is not new. But, because of God’s infinite mercy and love, it has been overpowered by The Good News of Jesus Christ.

Bishop Morneau is able to go on to answer his own question. Turning to the Second Reading, (Thessalonians 5:16-24), he reminds us: Paul’s faith in God’s presence enabled him to have joy and peace far beyond our limited understanding. The Holy Spirit empowered Paul to be prayerful, grateful, and yes, joyful.

The same Holy Spirit comes to each of us in Baptism, empowering us to shrug off shame and face down our fears. The same Holy Spirit Who enabled Paul to find joy and peace in the midst of ridicule, persecution, imprisonment, and finally a martyr’s death enables us to find joy even in a broken world. The same Holy Spirit that energized St. Paul motivates us to be prayerful, grateful, and yes, even joyful.

We have lit the third candle and are entering the midpoint of this season of prayer, gratitude, and joy. And so it might be a good thing to join The Holy Father in praying to God with grateful hearts for this special season of joy.

A Prayer for Advent

Let us open our hearts to receive
the grace of this Advent season,
which is Christ himself,
whom God our Father has revealed
to the entire world.
Where God is born, hope is born.
Where God is born, peace is born.
And where peace is born,
there is no longer room for hatred and for war.
God alone can save us and can free us
from the many forms of evil
and the selfishness in our midst.
Let us welcome into our lives God’s mercy,
which Jesus Christ has bestowed on us,
so that we in turn can show mercy
to our brothers and sisters.
In this way we will make peace grow!
Pope Francis

Fourth Sunday of Advent
LK 1:26-38
December 24, 2017

From the time that God directed Abram (later to be known as Abraham) to leave the comfort of his hometown and go out into a strange land, abandoning the familiar and venturing into the unknown, the Jewish people have taken pride in being “chosen.” God chose Abraham and later his descendants for a special role in salvation history. That’s why you often hear them referred to as “the Chosen People.”

We typically take pride in being “chosen” for this or that. Granted, there are times when we are “passed over” that we actually feel relieved. But even then, the sense of relief is usually tinted with feelings of being overlooked or unappreciated, even unworthy…deemed unfit or not up to the task.

And then there are times, when chosen, that we decline. Sometimes, even though we accept, we give only a half-hearted effort to the task. Either way, this can leave us wondering: What would have happened had I accepted? What would things be like if I had made a true effort?

Being chosen by God is clearly a great privilege. However, as we see in today’s Gospel, an invitation from God also requires that we leave our comfort zone and venture into strange and uncharted territory. Being chosen by God involves risk-taking and requires strong faith and trust in God, together with courage and self-sacrifice. Being chosen by God involves commitment even to the point of suffering. Mary was chosen. She accepted God’s invitation and embraced the task with her entire being.

Christians are likewise chosen to bring Christ into the world, although not in the same dramatic and unrepeatable way as the Blessed Mother. Still, at our Baptism, God whispers the Eternal Word into our very being and then invites us to do just what was asked of Mary…permit the Word to take on our flesh…so that Christ might come to dwell in this world.

We are called not simply to celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ…The Incarnation…God’s Eternal Word taken Flesh to dwell in this world. God has chosen us to participate in the great mystery of our faith. This might require us to step out of our comfort zone and venture into unknown or unexplored territory. But if we accept the invitation and commit ourselves wholeheartedly to the work of discipleship, we will find that we have ventured into the Promised Land…where The Spirit of Christmas never ends!

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
Luke 2:22-40
December 31, 2017

What is there to say about 2017?

LOTS!

In fact…there is way too much to say about this year of change, confusion, violence, terror, natural disasters, escalating international tensions, and shame. At the end of every news day, we were left wondering: “What’s next?” Nothing can surprise us anymore.

The Church ends this calendar year with The Feast of the Holy Family. Our Liturgy offers us three Readings, each seemingly perfect to the occasion because of specific references to family life. That is certainly a good thing since we live in times when there is a lot of change and a good deal of confusion about just exactly what “family” means. Our Readings invite us to look deeper into the interactions within families, but, at the same time, expands the meaning of the word “family.” Let’s start small.

When we “look deeper into the interactions within biological families,” very often we see violence. No police officer is a stranger to domestic dispute calls. Our Readings propose a different way of living together…in mutual respect which brings about peace. Now, let’s expand our understanding of the word “family.”

Terror and the escalating international tensions are the products of a very limited view of “family.” Sadly, we often use our religious beliefs to divide us rather than bring us together. If people of faith would truly recognize God as Heavenly Parent to all humankind, then the harmony we hope for within our biological family could begin to define global relationships.

While we are heartened by the stories of families and neighbors working together to survive hurricanes, floods, tornados, and forest fires…the majority of our sisters and brothers in Puerto Rico, for example, can’t enjoy these reports. They are still without electricity, three months after a devastating hurricane. Moreover, there is unimaginable human suffering from natural disasters. Those of us who have not experienced protracted utility failures are completely unaware of this because their stories go unreported. It seems that unless we feel related, then the suffering of others is of little or no interest to us. That’s exactly why we need to “stretch” our understanding of the word “family.” Think of it this way: If we want to call Christ our brother, then we must do the same for every other man, woman, and child.

Which brings us to shame! 2017 was a year when so many prominent men fell from grace…publicly shamed. One can only wonder how different 2017 might have been had these men set themselves apart, not by thoughtless acts of disrespect, but rather by treating others with heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. (Would you want your mother, your wife, your sister, your daughter treated like that?)

We begin a new year tomorrow. One can only wonder how different 2018 could be if we do our best to live what we proclaimed today on this Feast of the Holy Family.
Let’s work to distinguish this year as a year of mutual respect. Start small. Be especially conscious of making your family holy by respecting one another. And once you get that down pat, stretch the word “family” to include your neighbors, coworkers, and classmates. From there…recognize the guy who cuts you off in traffic as a much loved “brother.” Look at the lady in the grocery store who pushes ahead of you in line as your favorite “sister.” Greet people who look or act differently as “cousins.” Watch the news with the same concern that you bring to the Facebook posting from a family member in distress.

Just keep stretching.

And one year from now, if you’re asked: What is there to say about 2018?

No matter what else might be happening in the world, you will be able to say: LOTS!

It was a year of PEACE!

Happy New Year…Christ’s Peace reign within your heart and within your family!

The Epiphany of the Lord
MT 2:1-12
January 7, 2018

People put different boundaries around Christmas. Some decorate the day after Thanksgiving and have everything taken down and packed away by noon on Dec. 26. Others wait until Christmas Eve to put up the tree and it is well into the New Year before they let go of the season. In almost every neighborhood, there is a house that still has the outdoor lights brightening up the dark winter night…until it’s not winter anymore. With the exception of the retail industry, in the secular world, there is no official starting point or closing date for the “season to be jolly.” And that might be a good thing. The early starters and the last to finish help to stretch out the “tidings of comfort and joy.”

From a spiritual standpoint, our Church places NO BOUNDARIES on our celebration of The Incarnation…God’s Eternal Word made flesh. Throughout the year, we continue to hear and rejoice in what God reveals to us by the Eternal Word that was spoken into the body of Mary and born into time in Bethlehem. The Good News continues to gladden our hearts every day of the year, filling those wise enough to listen with “comfort and joy.” That being said, we do follow a liturgical calendar, and, in that sense, there is a beginning and an end to The Christmas Season.

Which brings us to the celebration of the Epiphany. From a chronological standpoint, the events described in Matthew’s Gospel must have occurred after the arrival of the shepherds but before the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt to avoid the tragic slaughter of the Holy Innocents. And so we hear this event proclaimed towards the conclusion of the Christmas Season. This, by no means, indicates that the exotic visitors from the East played a minor role in the Birth of Jesus Christ. There is much more to this Feast than merely bringing the final three figures from the closet to our crèche.

Woven into this story are the same themes that run throughout the Infancy Narratives. The three are aware of God’s promise to send a Savior and are vigilant for signs that the ancient prophecies are fulfilled. Like Mary and Joseph, they respond in a courageous manner when, at last, the star signals that something extraordinary has happened. They are accepting of the risks that faith often demands and they undertake an arduous and dangerous journey to parts unknown. The gifts they bring indicate their awareness of what they are searching for: King…Sacrificial Lamb…Divinity. And, in spite of the unlikely circumstances in which they find The Christ Child, they recognize Him immediately for who He is and they respond by humbling themselves.

While the Gospel offers little detail of these three mysterious witnesses, it is clear that they represent faith-seeking understanding, and for their efforts, they are richly rewarded.

Theirs is a story that we cannot simply wrap in tissue paper and pack away with the little plaster camels. The Feast of the Epiphany is a reminder that God’s promise to send a Messiah was for all people of all ages. However, to appreciate that the Promised One has arrived, a person must be vigilant for the signs signaling His arrival into our lives. Like the Magi, when we sense that God is inviting us to take part in something extraordinary, we should respond in a courageous manner, accepting risks and traveling into foreign places, carrying us far from our comfort zone. We bring the gifts which God has given to us and place them at the feet of the Newborn King…the unblemished Lamb Who will become the perfect sacrifice to atone for sin.

Possibly the most important lesson we learn from these three paragons of wisdom is humility. If we humble ourselves before the Christ child, we will be richly rewarded, and, like the three visitors from the East, we will return to our lives “another way,” that is to say…sanctified.

THE STAR is not a seasonal event. It is there in the night sky every single night. Are you wise enough to look up? Are you courageous enough to follow it?


Here is a star that will lead you to a child who did not suffer the wrath of Herod, but nevertheless found very little comfort and joy during the Christmas Season. Saginaw County currently has within its custody and care far more children than can be placed in safe and loving foster homes. These kids obviously did not spend Christmas in a stable, but they did not have the support and protection of a Holy Family. If you are willing to take a risk…leave your comfort zone…and accept an invitation to do something extraordinary…please consider becoming foster parents. And if possible, please share this urgent message by means of your social media outlet. PEACE!

For information as to how you can serve….please call

Amanda Moran, LLMSW
Children’s Services
Foster Care Worker
Foster Home Licensing
Saginaw County
Michigan Department of Health & Human Services
411 E. Genesee
PO Box 5070
Saginaw, MI 48605

989-293-6561
989-758-2708 Fax

Second Sunday of Ordinary Time
JN 1:35-42
January 14, 2018

Connecting the dots…

The Christmas Season is over. We are now in a brief period of “Ordinary Time.” (Ash Wednesday is early this year…actually Valentine’s Day… make plans to take your sweetheart to dinner…BEFORE 2/14). So when I sat down to give some serious reflection time to this Sunday’s Readings, I expected to make a jarring leap from Bethlehem to Galilee, a span of about 30 years. The jump was softened for me when I shifted my attention from Jesus and His mission to the other characters in the story.

Fresh from the Feast of the Epiphany, I was still pondering the quest of the three exotic visitors from “the east.” The story of these seekers lacks detail, but we do know that they were willing to make an extreme, personal investment in order to be among the first witnesses to something extraordinary.

The Magi are called “Wise Men” in that they were aware of a promise from God to bring about a radical change in the world. They were vigilant for signs that this change was about to begin and confident that, through a spectacular star, God had provided a reliable guide for what they understood would be a most treacherous journey into the unknown. The three encountered the embodiment of sheer evil in the person of Herod. But the light from the heavens broke through that darkness and they continued their search.

Convincing evidence that they deserve to be remembered as wise is their understanding that they had found what they were looking for in the most unusual place…a stable. Perhaps the most convincing evidence of their wisdom, however, is their reaction: they prostrated themselves, offering gifts that proved that they fully comprehended they were privileged witnesses to the beginning of the Reign of God. For their efforts, they were changed.

On this Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, we hear, through John’s Gospel, the story of another “epiphany.” Also involving three seekers, these individuals probably were not considered to be especially wise, nor is it likely that they could afford costly gifts. Still, they were aware of God’s promise to send The Messiah, Who would usher in radical change in our world. Their faith in God’s promise motivated them to seek a deeper understanding of how and when this promise would be kept. And, even as God sent the Magi a star, these three very ordinary people enjoyed the spiritual guidance of John the Baptist. With a few powerful words whispered rather than shouted, John redirected their attention from himself, and it came to rest on the Person of Jesus.

They didn’t have to travel a great distance to find Him. Actually, it seems that He found them. Notice the similarity between the reaction of the Magi and the three we meet in today’s Gospel. Recognition!

At first, they called Him “Rabbi,” a sign of respect and an indication of their willingness to sit humbly at His feet and learn from Him. As the day wore on, there was a declaration of the fullness of their understanding. They recognized Jesus as The Messiah…the fullness of God’s promise.

With this initial encounter, they began a journey with The Lord that carried them into the unknown…with many dangerous encounters and experiences of evil and treachery.

They traveled across deserts, up to the summit of mountains, and crossed angry waters in the middle of raging storms. However, repeatedly along the way, they were amazed by the power, the compassion, and the love of the man who inspired them to put their very lives in His hands. At first, they thought their journey had ended at Calvary. But then, they were guided to an empty tomb…and ultimately to another hilltop, where, like the Magi, they gazed into the heavens until their attention was once again redirected…this time into the world where they were sent to continue the work that Jesus had begun.

And then, last Sunday evening, at 11:45 p.m., as the celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany was coming to an end, The Star reappeared in the night sky over Saginaw, Michigan, and the century-long, wonder-filled journey of Sr. Bernardone came to an end. She was guided out of time and into eternity, where she encountered The Christ and paid Him homage. She had no exotic gifts to offer. Rather, she laid before the Lord the same gift that Andrew and Peter brought to Jesus that day described in John’s Gospel…her very life. And the Lord was well pleased.

Even as a young woman, she showed enormous wisdom, trusting that God’s promise to make a radical change in the world had indeed been fulfilled through Jesus Christ. Like the Magi and the Apostles and disciples, Sr. Bernardone made the ultimate personal investment, committing herself to a life of contemplation, prayer, and service. She spent a century giving convincing witness to all whom she met on her journey that something extraordinary and unrepeatable had happened in Bethlehem. Moreover, through her vocation as a Poor Clare, she taught us how what was begun back then continues today through those who humble themselves before The Lamb of God. She deserves to be remembered for her wisdom…but it was her humility that shines through the darkness.

The words of St. Clare were always on her mind and in her heart. We become what we love and Who we love shapes what we become. Sr. Bernardone loved God with all her heart, with all her soul, and with all her mind.

And so we pray as St. Clare prayed: Go forth in peace, for you have followed the good road. Go forth without fear, for He Who created you has made you holy, has always protected you, and loves you as a mother. Blessed be You, our God, for having created this wise woman…who lived among us and taught us and inspired us to be holy.

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