March 30, 2021

IS IT ALL ABOUT BUNNY AND EGGS?

By the time you read this, Easter is right on top of us. Yet, what do we see but all kinds of decorations, blow up figures, and candy. How many even realize what this weekend is about. It wasn't too many years ago many businesses would close at noon on this Friday to reflect on the reality that the Son of God, the one through whom all things were created, including the millions of galaxies, the millions of stars in each of them, the millions of different life forms on this earth, and YOU. This God who loved you so much that He chose to actually become one of us. He chose to humble himself and become totally dependent for His DNA, his nourishment, from Mary, for 9 months before being born as a weak, dependent baby. Scripture says, 'how blessed the breasts that nursed you.' He did not choose to be united with the angels but humans. 'To what angel did God ever say 'This is my beloved son.' I still can't wrap my mind around that mystery, much less, comprehend how He could choose to die in about the most torturous way the Romans had devised. He wasn't just tied to the cross but nailed, severely flogged with a whip having three straps with metal balls with barbs, crowned with thorns. Any one of those would have killed me. If there were ever a battle to be taken on; He took on the worst in order that through His death He could overcome death itself by rising on EASTER. 'Death where is your victory, death where is your sting?' That's what Easter is! You and I by our faith in Jesus also overcome the power of death in our lives. But, lest we think it's all 'easy street' from there, we have to remember the words of St. Paul, 'we bear within ourselves the completion of the sufferings of Christ.' What did he mean by that? I thought Jesus did it all. We can hardly ignore the words of St. Peter 5:8 'Be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, establish, and strengthen you.' So, yes! Let us celebrate Easter as we proclaim Jesus the first to break the bonds of death. May we do whatever is necessary to follow Him to our eternal glory. HAPPY EASTER !!!


March 23, 2021
Hey, do you know what nine months from this Thursday is? That's right! It's Christmas. I'm not bringing that us just to let you know you have nine months of shopping yet to get my present but what is the awesome reality of the nine months before? The day of conception. Isn't it amazing how new technology has not only filmed the development of a child in the womb but even show that at the moment of sperm and egg uniting there is a spark, the spark of love. How much more amazing to realize that Jesus is the 'light' come into the world, that Jesus is Love itself becoming a human being. A few days later in the scriptures we would hear just how real that is when John the Baptist, in his mother's womb jumps for joy and Elizabeth proclaims 'who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me.' this is, after all, no blob of tissue in Mary's womb, but rather the Son of God Himself. The awesome reality is that it proclaims to us that we too are fully present in our mother's wombs from the moment of fertilization. The scriptures remind us that God knew us in the womb. While God has a purpose for us all some are given a mission while in the womb. Isn't it amazing. When I ask mothers at what point they loved their child they will say as soon as they knew the child was there. When I ask how old they think the child was before the child loved them they may pick some point of post-birth like when that child looks you in the eye and smiles. But, when they think about it they begin to realize that love was there from the earliest moments. Spirit speaks to spirit. Love is not limited to the ability of the mind to conceptualize and think 'I love you.” no, where God is there is love. The most basic cry of the human person is to love and be loved. That child cannot help but love the mother. The child is a witness of love as its love is not based on looks or color of skin. Somewhere experiences will begin teaching it to not like some others. I guess that is one of the beauties of a Down Syndrome child. They never seem to loose that sense of love for all. But, I get a little adrift. What I want us to think on is the awesomeness of this moment in human history when He who is Love became one of us. To the extent we remain in that love we then remain in Him.

March 16, 2021

Can God's Patience Be Tried?

Remember when the Jews came out of Egypt and had already experienced a number of great miracles, not the least of which was splitting the Red Sea. Moses disappeared for a few days to converse with God and they were immediately into idol worship. They worshiped a golden man made object. God told Moses he wanted to wipe them all out and start over with just Moses' family. They had to eat the golden powder of this statue and then had to begin also offering cattle in sacrifice. How many times we, and I say we, human beings keep wanting to push the envelope. Last week we read the story in the Gospel where Jesus made a whip of cord and drove out the money changers. Is that the gentle Jesus you think of? God is kind, gentle, merciful, surely? That is an example of God's righteous justice. When is too far, too far? How did this happen? Jews were required to offer different kinds of sacrifice involving lambs, sheep, cattle, doves. But you've heard the saying 'if a camel gets his nose under the tent soon he is totally in.” As Jews may have come from great distances to offer sacrifice it was a nice service to have such things available near the temple. After a while though with competition and all they were pushing for being closer and closer until one day someone either made the bold move to start offering these goods inside the area reserved for women and pagans or they somehow got the priests to look the other way until the habit was well established in Jesus' time. There was no room for Jesus to show a halfway action. The temple had to be cleared. But, Jesus establishes that the real temple is His body. We are his body. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit in which the Father and Son both dwell. So, how much more does He want us to cleanse our temples? We all know the ten commandments. They were not suggestions. They were not just intended for a particular time. God knew we would always want to realitivize them; tell ourselves that God could not mean for them to apply in our time. In what way have we made excuses to not fully keep them? Which one, ones do you find yourself wanting to liberalize? The sabbath, God's name, adultery, covet? To the extent we have not fully embraced them we have placed our full trust in God for our happiness. And, when you think about it, the commandments are kind of the outside parameter for belonging to God's people. When one goes outside of the boundaries in any game, the game stops. How can we excuse ourselves to break any of these commandments when Jesus expects more: anyone who has lust in the heart has already committed adultery; anyone who calls his brother a fool has already committed murder. Are we really trying to go beyond the commandments as Jesus calls us to? Now is the time to cleanse the temple by our own choice and not wait for God's righteousness to judge. We should be careful in making small excuses or we may soon be outside of the bounds and not even know it. We have the same weakness as the Jews in the desert, as the Jews in Jesus' time. Let's live up to who we are called to be.  


March 9, 2021
Is it possible to prove love without going beyond what is required?  Can you imagine a marriage based solely on division of labor where spouses say: 'okay, you take care of everything outside and I'll take care of everything inside.' ?  And then comes the day when the one inside is overwhelmed and asks for a little help. If the other says 'no, that's your department' are they showing love?  I almost wonder if that isn't what is going on with the story of the Transfiguration.  Jesus and the apostles came to the base of Mt. Tabor after a long day and Jesus says 'I'm going up the mountain to pray, anyone want to come with me?' one after another says 'no thanks, it's been a long day, I'm tired, I'll stay here and get supper ready' but there are three ready to go, Peter, James, and John.  For their extra effort and love for him Jesus gives them a tremendous privilege in witnessing his glory as well as the reality that Moses and Elijah are still living, waiting for the gates of heaven to open. Can you imagine what a boost that will be for the rest of their lives. They are told not to tell the others lest they get jealous. How is Jesus inviting us to do more as a way of proving our own love?  Last week we saw the importance of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving for making a good Lent.  How is Jesus asking us to go beyond the minimum in those areas.  We tell ourselves that sure, and as Catholics we tell ourselves that we have to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and do without meat on Fridays of Lent and that is enough. Many Christians probably think that if they spend 15 minutes with the scriptures each day that is enough. In reality, anyone who doesn't have enough time to spend 30 minutes a day to be with the one they love most is simply too busy. We need to ask ourselves how can we make time to pray more? Imagine the transfiguration you might experience if you took time for a retreat. I mean time like at least 3 days away from the world.  We think we are doing well when we tithe. Moses says God expects that much and Elijah would have us to do more. Jesus comes along and says that yes we should tithe without neglecting the weightier matter. 'I was hungry and you gave me to eat, thirsty and you gave me to drink, naked and you clothed me.  In these three areas, prayer, fasting and almsgiving we prove our love for God only when we go beyond what is required.  What are you willing to step out in faith and do? Is God the most important being in your life?

February 16, 2021
Sunday was Valentine Day and very appropriately the end of World Marriage Week. We should always treat the one to whom we surrendered our heart in marriage as our valentine. This past Sunday as we looked at Mark 1:29ff we learned a powerful lesson about marriage. When one marries, one marries a family. In this gospel we hear of how Jesus entered Peter's house and raised up Peter's mother-in-law. Just think about it. It doesn't mention Peter's wife. Had he taken his mother-in-law in while his wife was alive and she's now deceased? In any case it's the mother-in-law who gets up and waits on all of them. There's actually a couple of lessons I would like to take from this passage. The word for raising her up is the same word used in raising the young girl from death and for Jesus' rising from the dead. It reminds us that in Baptism we as Christians are raised from the dead and the first response is to serve others. Faith and actions always go together. You also notice Jesus is just coming from the Synagogue where we heard him drive a demon out of a man. That word is mentioned a couple more times both in reference to the locals and then when he goes into the whole territory. Demons do find their way into God's house, and always have. We should not be surprised to see, if you will, hypocrites, pedophiles, communists in church. St. Paul mentioned how Judaisers had wormed their way into the church. Jesus later mentions that the wheat and the tare will grow together until harvest time and God will do the judging. Some people have the spirit of the demon while others have demons they are trying to overcome. You and I can't judge the difference and so, need to pray for them. After all, the church is a hospital for the sick. Then we are shocked to realize Jesus really is a human being like us all. He does get tired, overwhelmed. He is bombarded by all those who couldn't wait until the Sabbath was over to bring him all their sick, suffering. Let me throw in a side point here. How often do you go to some sort of gathering and there will be a doctor or lawyer there and you'll notice people just slyly inserting themselves into a conversation to ask some sort of professional question concerning a need they have. These professionals have office hours and need a break from their profession. Just like Jesus, they need to get away. Jesus tries to get away to a quiet place to just be with the Father and refocus on what His primary call is. We all need that kind of getting away. We all need retreat time. Just as Jesus was healing all those people he finally says 'let's move on, this is not why I'm here.' Last week we heard Paul talk of how married couples naturally have a primary call to be there for one another and are not able to be totally focused on the kingdom. But, just as Jesus was doing some terribly good things for others he realized that was not his primary purpose. Sometimes married couples do fill up their time and resources seeing how they can make the other and their children happy, and these might all be good things. In the process they forget that their primary call is to be a helpmate, to help their spouse and their children get to heaven. If we forget that,, in the midst of doing all kinds of good things we miss who we are called to be and fail to help those we love in the way most needed. Providing things the other might like might be good but it should never replace building the relationship with our human family and God's family. How many fathers have lamented: 'my kids think I'm a money tree.' and then they try to live up to that. Never lose the focus of: “is what I am doing helping towards my loved one's salvation?” if it is not, it is not a real good.

February 9, 2021
A scripture which has been on my heart a lot lately is from Mt. 15:11 'it is not what goes into the mouth defiles a man but what comes out of the mouth, that defiles a man.' Although Lent is coming soon and we might want to control ourselves concerning what goes in the mouth it is what goes in the ears which is more important. In thinking of it I can't help  thinking of other scriptures similarly connected. For example Jesus says that what the apostles hear in darkness they should proclaim from the rooftops. And others refer to what goes in the ear comes out of the mouth. In other words we do have a responsibility to not only be concerned with what we eat but more so with what we hear. If we don't pay attention to that our health might be greatly impacted. Similarly, if we don't pay attention to what we are filling our ears with our spiritual health will be greatly impacted. For example, how many times I've heard people say that music doesn't affect them, they don't pay attention to the words anyway. That is not true when you later hear them singing that song. It reminds me of when I was a youth in Virginia Beach, Va. People would say: 'that kid cusses like a sailor.' well, where did he hear it from? Our environment does affect us. And, just as surely, it is not only the music but also what we read and watch. Whether it's a movie, a TV show or even the news, it all has an effect. Jesus says to 'open your ears.' we do have a serious obligation of opening our ears and paying attention to what we are allowing to influence us. Remember, the first temptation was simply “did God really say that?” and Eve fell for it. Again, as a youth, and dad was in the TV business in the early 50s I can recall even at that time getting exposed to 'As the World Turns' with its innuendos and implications that everyone is unfaithful and wonder how that could not but help affect those who were watching it. And it hasn't changed in these last 60 years. Every program is crafted to influence those who watch it, to good or bad. There was a time when pretty well every western got out the message 'the good always wins, it doesn't pay to do bad things.' A number of youth programs were genuinely designed to help, i.e. Mr. Rogers, Capt. Kangaroo. Then, with the sexual revolution of the late sixties there seems to have been a more concerted effort to change the mores of our culture. We had movies like “Dr. Zhivago” which helped viewers approve of an adulterous relationship. In the children's world we witnessed Disney come out with a series of movies intending to change young people. Movies like “Little Mermaid” and “Hiawatha” teaching children that they know better than their parents and it's okay to disobey. Then you had “All Dogs Go to Heaven” teaching that it is alright to steal proclaiming 'get the rhythm of the city; don't worry, you will go to heaven anyway.” You get the point. And, I don't want to be morose but parents do have a tremendous responsibility today to evaluate and control what they and their children watch. In most households we don't even ask. It's always on. Yet if it were a real person coming into our homes and proclaiming these values we would show them the door. If school can be taught virtually, then we need to recognize that we have already been allowing ourselves to be educated virtually with all we allow to enter our ears or eyes. Just as food has consequences, so do these influencers affect what comes out of our mouths and lives.     

February 2, 2021

GOD WILL PROVIDE

“behold the Lamb of God” and two of John the Baptist's disciples left him to follow Jesus. What's up with that? John could have introduced Jesus simply as his cousin. He could have said “hey, guess what. I jumped for joy in the womb when this guy came near and we were both still in the womb and my mother declared his mother as the mother of the Lord.” What's with “lamb of God”? A Jew would be well aware of their faith history. John's disciples would immediately think of Abraham 4000 years ago being asked by God to sacrifice his only son whom God had promised. They would think of how Isaac would carry the wood for sacrifice up the hill to the altar of sacrifice. They would be thinking of how Isaac would have asked “where is the sacrifice' not realizing it was to be him but how Abraham responded “God will provide.” and just before Abraham was ready to sacrifice Isaac God stopped him and there was a ram which he went on and sacrificed. John's disciples would have been thinking of the Passover where every year they were called to sacrifice a spotless, unblemished lamb while they lived the memorial of the original Passover. They were called to sacrifice a lamb the night before they left Egypt and put its blood on their door posts and those who didn't would have their oldest son killed by the angel of death. They were also to eat the lamb as a covenant meal making them one family with God. If Jesus was 'the Lamb of God' they knew it was something powerful. They knew it meant he was spotless, unblemished, and, as a human being, without sin and therefore be the lamb capable of removing all sin. They did not know yet how in a couple years when they would share their third Passover with Jesus that he would actually start it the day before the Passover. They didn't know that they would be asking 'where is the lamb?' since the lambs would not be sacrificed till the next day. It's like Jesus was saying 'God will provide.', and he has them eating bread and calling it His body. They didn't know that, like Isaac, Jesus would be carrying the wood to the top of a hill for the altar of sacrifice upon which He himself would offer Himself for the sins of the world. They didn't know that Jesus himself would be the 'lamb of God' which God provided for the redemption of the world. So, John the Baptist has them follow the Lamb which would eventually cost them their lives for the sake of the kingdom. John had offered them a baptism of repentance but they were to be baptized, washed in the blood of the Lamb for the forgiveness of sin. When you look upon this Lamb are you really washed in His blood and willing to follow Him to the cross?


Lighthouse January 19, 2021
 This past Sunday we celebrated the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. What we need to notice is that this is pointed out in Acts as the real beginning point for the formation of the church. Peter said they were to replace Judas with someone who had been at the baptism. Jesus was baptized at the Jordan as a way to recall for the Jews their entry into the promised land through that same river. Early church fathers said that Jesus now sanctified the Jordan and through it all baptismal waters through the ages. So, all are led through the waters to the promised land. The Jews to Israel and Christians to eternal life. Notice that some of the promised land would be east of the Jordan yet all were told that they must cross over and participate in the eradication of all the enemies in the land before they could have their inheritance on the east side of the Jordan. When the arch of the covenant was brought to the edge of the Jordan the river split allowing the people to cross just as their ancestors had crossed the Red Sea when Moses reached out his staff to it. Now Jesus, the new arch, enters into the same Jordan to open the way to the new promised land. And don't you know 'if everyone was being baptized' the apostles were not far behind Jesus. On entering the promised land the Jews first encountered Jericho and we all know about the battle of Jericho. From a human perspective it looked to them an impossible task. God had them walk around the fortress each day for 6 days and on the 7th they would walk around 7 times. The multiplicity of 7 would indicate clearly that it was God's work in destroying Jericho. In reality don't you know the people were praying the whole time trusting that they were listening to the word of God. In following Jesus to the new promised land we too will encounter many enemies as well but we too are called to first of all be a people of prayer knowing that God will conquer. What are these new enemies? Isaiah today says that the Lord seeks justice. God is a God of truth and justice and so each of us are called to observe the areas of injustice around us. There are many different kinds of injustices yet each of us are called, in prayer, to ask the Lord which He wants us to confront with our gifts and talents, our weapons; and, in prayer trust Him to show us how to use them. As we begin this ordinary time, remembering our own baptism in the Jordan we hear  God calling each of us to confront injustice until the end of time. I almost wonder, if like the Jews who were told that no one would receive their inheritance until all enemies were overcome, will we not receive the resurrection of the body until all injustice on earth is overcome? Our condemnation would be in not recognizing the injustice and trying to overcome it. Let us remember that we have also received the Holy Spirit and so have been given power in Jesus' name to address all injustices. Even as you read us the new president is being sworn in. I pray you do not think for a moment that all injustices will be magically handled by the government.  fr.dan   

Lighthouse January 12, 2021

Did you celebrate the Epiphany? We think of Epiphany as being the three kings, or astrologers, or wise-men. And actually it is the last of the epiphanies in the childhood stories of Christ. First was the epiphany to Mary, and boy was she surprised: 'how can this be since I have no relations with a man?' Then we have the epiphany to Joseph who questioned what to do about it. Next we had the epiphany to John the Baptist 'he jumped, or danced, in his mother's womb at the presence of the unborn Jesus. And then Elizabeth who says: 'who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me.” and then, the shepherds. Why shepherds? Notice that the scribes, priests, pharisees, the ones who had the knowledge, who were with Herod did not see the star or have contact with the Christ child. The shepherds are at Bethlehem reminding us that David was the least of his brothers, the least likely to be chosen as leader, yet God anointed him to be king. Jesus comes as the shepherd. Then we hear of the three wise-men we celebrate today. We don't know how many but there were three gifts; gold for a king, incense for a god, and myrrh, myrrh for death. Actually this first chapter of the gospel gives us insight of the rest of the gospel to come. Did you notice the other epiphany the three wise-men got. It's kind of like the star led them close to Bethlehem and, seeing Jerusalem, they thought they knew where they were going so the obvious conclusion to their quest would be that , if there is a king, then his son would be the new born king. And, so they ask: 'where is the new born king?” kind of expecting that he would be right there near Herod. What a surprise when they are directed to Bethlehem and again pay attention to the star but discover their quest ends in a stable, a stable. It never seems to be what we expect. And, finally we discover the natural result from these encounters. Like the three kings, like Joseph, we are called to go a different direction. We are called to make changes in our lives. Like the shepherds we are called to let others know what we have seen and heard. Christmas is not just about finding Jesus, it is about allowing Jesus, the Father, the Holy Spirit bring about changes in our lives. Only then is Christmas fulfilled. May each day bring about an on-going change in your life as you continue to open up to Jesus.


Lighthouse January 5, 2021

2020 is over; 2021 is yet to come; today is God's gift to you. Yes, 2020 may have seemed really bad in so many ways. Yes, 2021 with new threats may or may not be worse. What you and I know is St. Paul calls us to be thankful for all things. God is in charge. If we are truly thankful and believe God is in charge then we might look at the gift today is and embrace it, doing the best we can with it and know it will make a difference tomorrow. This week we also think of the Three Kings, astrologers who brought the Christ child gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

On one hand that really sounds so good. Gold is for a king. Frankincense is for God, but myrrh. That is for burial. Even in their coming, even in the meeting with the prophet in the temple telling Mary that a sword shall pierce her heart, we are reminded that Jesus came to die. We are all going to die. This life is only a blip of our entire existence. So, yes, today is a gift to us. It is a gift to be unwrapped slowly, consciously, and fully. We don't know what all of its consequences will be, but we do know that if it is a gift then what we make of it will be our gift back to God. Several times Jesus used parables of servants receiving with the expectations that they would increase their value. God gives us this day with the expectation that in some way we will add to it. Just think, if we look at the whole year like that we have 365 days to make better and be able to present a truly precious treasure to our Lord at the end of the year. The three astrologers gave up family, positions, everything, to bring their gifts to a Lord they did not yet know. They followed a light for two years not knowing if it would really pan out. They were ready to offer gifts they neither knew would be appreciated nor used in a way they might want. Still they were ready to offer what they had. Each of them did not offer the same thing, but it was what they had. God does not expect us to be somebody else, offering what somebody else is able to offer. He just asks us to be in a relationship with Him and doing the best we can to increase what He has given us so that with great joy we can give that to Him. I pray that this year, with its ups and downs; with its sicknesses, accidents, troubles, increase in family and well-being will all be something you can give thanks to God for, for He has your back and only wants the best for you as we approach eternity.   


Lighthouse December 29, 2020
Happy New Year! Feliz Nuevo Anno! 2021 has got to be better. However you look at January 1 it is important in many ways. We think of new beginnings, new year's resolutions. We are called to have greater hope. However you look at it I pray it is full of many blessings for you. For us as Christians we mark it Anno Domini, a year of the Lord. And so we are reminded that we are to make every day a pleasing gift to Him. For some mainstream churches it has another celebration. It is called the Feast of the Mother of God. At one time we celebrated the Circumcision showing how Mary carried out the Jewish laws. Then there was the realization that there was something else very important we don't want to ever forget. In the first couple centuries of Christianity everyone professed Jesus was the Son of God. But as some began to think of what that meant they began to come up with what we call heretical ideas. One would say He was the Son of God beginning the day of His baptism when the Father said: “this is my beloved son, this day I have begot you.” In other words God was kind of a body snatcher. He was an adopted Son of God. For a while Arianism, because of the political powers, dominated the population. Some would say Jesus was God, but not really man. Something had to be clarified and so the church had a council, called the council of Nicea, in which it declared Jesus is fully God, one with the Father and the Holy Spirit; and, he is fully man, like us in all things but sin. There is no division. In order to make that clear the church looked at the role of Mary whom scripture says 'all ages shall call me blessed.' realizing that when you and I refer to our own mothers we do not say: “this is the woman who gave birth to my body.” Knowing that God created our soul at the moment of fertilization. No, we say: “this is my mother.” We are body, soul, and spirit, and always will be. Still, this woman,  is my mother. In the same way the church realized that it was necessary to call Mary, “theotokos', Mother of God. She is the mother of Jesus who is fully God and Man even though she could not give Him his divinity, just as our mothers do not give us our soul. Jesus, the Son of God, who has existed throughout eternity with the Father, took on our flesh. He rose as a glorified body after His death, just as we will. He did not rise as a ghost as He sought to convince his apostles when, though risen, He was able to eat fish. He said 'ghosts do not have flesh as you see I have.” So, this God Man, will always be body, soul, spirit. And, isn't it interesting that God, throughout the ages continues to unravel the mysteries of faith in accord with what different ages are able to comprehend. For example, when blood samples from the Shroud of Turin, which is believed to be the burial cloth of Christ, and the blood which has appeared in consecrated hosts in different places and ages has been examined by forensic experts, in blind tests, they have been amazed that each of these have DNA but none of them have male tracers. The only conclusion they can draw is Jesus had no earthly father. That is what the scriptures try to make abundantly clear by Joseph never speaking, not even when it would have been his role to go in the temple and get the lost child.   

Lighthouse December 22, 2020
  The great Christmas Star appears this week. Did you see it? They say it is the first time in 800years it has been so visible as two planets come together and look like a star. Is it really the Christmas star which guided the three wise men? For how many centuries have people been trying to figure out how a star would have guided them. This one would seem highly unlikely then knowing it is only visible as a star, this conjunction of two planets, for a matter of minutes. This was to lead them on a two year journey and then seemingly still be visible and change directions once they got to Jerusalem. Today I’d like to share my own conjecture that makes sense of the entire timeline of Jesus’ birth given in the scriptures. Okay, why did Herod seek to kill all boys two years old and under? The wise men said they had followed the star for two years. Is it not possible that such a star was simply an angel just as God used them to guide the shepherds. Could the angel then, God knowing they were astrologers, appear as a star, a bright light, for two years before Jesus’ birth leading them to him in the manger just shortly after the shepherds were there? So, Joseph and Mary appear in Bethlehem, give birth that first night in a stable; the shepherds are called and come running to see the child. The next day or even the same day, the wise men arrive with their gifts and then are told to return home by another direction and not back through Jerusalem. Joseph is also told to get out of Dodge so he registers the next day, allows Mary to rest till the third day and leaves toward Egypt and not to Nazareth. Its about 70 miles from Bethlehem to Egypt, a 4 day walk, and on the seventh day have Jesus circumcised at a southern synagogue. They arrive in Egypt, and contrary to the idea that they lived there for years they get word Herod died and were able to get back to Jerusalem for the Presentation on the 40th day. Most chronologists would argue that Herod died approximately on March 13, 4 BC. How soon they arrived in Jerusalem for that 40th day cannot be known, but, add another 4 day walk back to Nazareth and they would have been gone about 50 days. All for a registration. To think people complain about registering for the census today. Even though this timeline makes everything the scriptures say fit. It does create a problem for many in terms of when we celebrate Jesus’ birthday. Luke also says though it was the time of year when shepherds were back out in pasture which would also indicate spring. So, was Jesus born Dec. 25 or more likely, late March? It really doesn’t matter, does it? We know He died around March 25 and even though it was thought in those days that great people died on the same date they were born we really didn’t want to celebrate His birth and death together. So, how good it is to say His conception was the same date as His death and then celebrate His birth nine months later. Whatever the time frame, it was possible. The important reality is that Jesus was born like us in all things but sin; he died on a cross for our sins; and He rose again from the dead overcoming death for us all. Death, where is your sting. Let us truly try to focus on our Lord’s birth this week and praise God for the salvation He attained for us.  

Lighthouse November 17, 2020

What do I do with the gifts others have given me? With the ones God has given me?

Mt. 25:24

“He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” How easily we forget, or ignore that basic knowledge we all have within us: No Pain, No Gain. We all know that if we get laid up for a few days our muscles begin to atrophy. If we allow ourselves to become couch potatoes we become unable to productively do much of anything. Whether we are looking at our ability to walk, play music—I mean personally like on a real instrument, do gardening, speak a second language. If one does not use it, one loses it. In the above scripture the one given the least just didn't seem to think it was worth trying. Really! God knows what gifts he is giving. For example: if you had a child who was born without arms, a thalidomide baby, how much encouragement would you give him to do anything? Would his mother be too demanding if she began expecting him to dress himself? If that child wanted to play guitar would you encourage it? If he wanted to have his own show in Branson and go on the road giving witness performances would he have a chance? Such is Tony Melendez who had a show in Branson for years and has now traveled all 50 states and many foreign countries performing and giving witness. He even drives a car. How many testimonies of disabled Vets have you heard doing things many would say: “no way” to? We are all called to work with what we have to be as fully a functioning human being as possible. How much more so when it comes to relationships, and especially our relationship with God. If we ignore it, it cannot grow. So, when Jesus says that what little bit one has will be taken away He is speaking of the automatic consequences for the decisions we make in life. Now, we all know, as I have said many times before: each one of us is a unique, one of a kind, unrepeatable, manifestation of God's love. Each one of us have been created with a gift, an ability, which no one else can specifically fill. God knew what He was doing when He gave you the gifts you have. Let us not be afraid to take inventory of the gifts we have and be willing to stretch in developing them. Again, let this apply all the more to our relationships; with family, friends, and especially with God.


Lighthouse November 3, 2020

Sex trafficking

In fiscal year 2019, ICE initiated 1,024 human trafficking and forced labor related cases which led to 2,197 criminal arrests. These effective actions resulted in nearly 700 convictions and the rescue of more than 400 victims. And now, even as I write this there is news of another rescue of many young people. During this time of Covid reports of online child exploitation are up 75%, according to the Asbury Park Press daily newspaper. “(This) can lead to human trafficking and other abuses,” Rep. Chris Smith said. Rep. Smith got passed a number of anti-trafficking laws 20 years ago that led to conviction of guys like Jeff Epstein and Keith Raniere. But that was before we had the high internet social use we have now. Sometimes the numbers seem so high that we just turn it off as if it were simply another non-event, something we don't seriously want to believe. This past week I was listening to the scripture of how we are not to oppress the orphan and the widow. It's nothing new, and those are the most vulnerable. Are the numbers growing or are we just being made more and more aware of it? I think it is both. Why are they growing? I would have to conjecture that the primary reason is that we as a society have gotten further and further from God. We don't believe there is really a right and wrong. We don't believe there is an eternal accountability as we have been fed a steady diet of: “if there is a God, He couldn't send anyone to hell, if there is such a thing.” do we really have to have the threat of hell to do the right thing? To truly love our neighbor and want what is best for them? The second thing I think that is driving this sex-trafficking epidemic is our wallowing in pornography. Hugh Hefner opened up the world to over-the-counter soft-porn some fifty years ago. He was onto something, knowing that sex is good, beauty is good, but it became extremely marketable, no longer just sleazy tabloids under the counter. As a culture we have bought more and more into thinking this was alright. I remember a number of men justifying the magazine because it seemed to have some socially relevant articles in it. As we became accustomed to that our society was fed a diet of porn which was more and more revealing; more and more provocative; more and more, if you will, violent. One of the things we know today is that scientifically porn addiction is just like drug addiction. It makes greater and greater demands for serotonin and in the process does destroy the brain. While its users are looking for more and more violent, more and more kinky, more and more forbidden sex, sex with youth and we know that it only gets worse. In this whole process one has long forgotten that this other person, this woman, this child, is someone else's loved one. This is a person and not a thing. By the time this other person is seen as a thing  there is no regard for the fact that they are being used, coerced, trafficked. How often people my age sit around reflecting on how we were totally free as children to roam the streets. Women could easily walk through downtown to shop or get to work. Now, parents feel they must have their eyes on their children 24/7. In that sense, we have all become prisoners. We have all lost a tremendous freedom and sense of innocence. As Christians we must be willing to do everything we can to eradicate pornography. It is not a victimless crime. We must be willing to help get those so involved off the streets and into treatment. It is not an easy journey to get free of pornography any more than it is to get off any other drugs. As a society I believe, I pray, we can do it. Monitor your children's internet. Get Bark.us it will monitor all your child's activities on the phone and give you warning messages so you can talk about it.


Lighthouse October 13, 2020

Fratelli tutti Recently Pope Francis came out with this new encyclical addressing a number of social problems and needs and how we as Christians are called to expand our notion of who we are to help. At first, because I know it reaffirms his requirement to put in our catechism the reality that capitol punishment can never be justified, I kind of retreated. Not because I'm for Capitol Punishment, as I mentioned some time ago about the sermon I gave at my niece's and family's funeral. I had called on the Prosecuting Attorney not to seek the death penalty. I had difficulty with that teaching because it has always been part of our teaching that the state has a right to take a life when the person has done something very egregious. We said that that person was actually forfeiting their life by choosing certain actions. But, then I had to stop and think. Are there some moral laws which are developing to demand more of us? The Pope couched everything in his encyclical in terms of love of neighbor. Everyone is aware of the story Jesus told of the GOOD SAMARITAN, a Samaritan who went out of his way to help a half dead Jew who had been robbed. ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’”(Lk 10:25-37). until then the Jew might have thought of his neighbor as only those who lived closest. While there are a number of Old Testament sayings which called for the care of the foreigner that was not necessarily the practice. Jesus constantly called for his followers to go beyond.

“In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets” (Mt 7:12). This command is universal in scope, embracing everyone on the basis of our shared humanity, since the heavenly Father “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good” (Mt 5:45). Hence the summons to “be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36). Does the same thing apply to how we think of the taking of other's lives? Think of the Hatfields and the McCoys. Early civilizations beginning with Cain would take you out just because I want what you have. Then, if you hurt me I will hurt you worse. If you hurt my family I will kill you or maybe your whole family. Finally Jewish law would call for equality in retribution. You cost me an eye, you loose an eye and so on. You could exact nothing more that what it cost you. With Jesus we discover a new level of development. Now we are called to love as the Father has loved us. Jesus reminds us that it rains on the just and unjust alike. Finally, we are told to love our enemies. In looking at and trying to understand the death penalty we have to ask ourselves if it is love that would end their life? Are we the ones who should determine when they should be ready to meet their maker? In the past we justified the death penalty as a deterrent, as the only way to keep society safe. Do either of those rationales even begin to apply today? There might be some primitive societies which don't see any option. Then, on the other hand we do have to ask ourselves if it is always applied equally to everyone no matter their social status. Are there ever any who are unjustly condemned. Certainly, as the pope points out every society we are aware of is able to confine someone who forfeits their ability to live in society in peace. What feelings come up in you when you think of abolishing the death penalty? Why?


Lighthouse October 6, 2020
  How do you make decisions? Do you turn to the Word of God? Today, Sept. 30 happens to be the feast day of St. Jerome who translated the Greek scriptures, the original language, into Latin, the vernacular of the time. I still can't help seeing the little stone niche next to where Jesus was born in Bethlehem. The austerity certainly didn’t leave much room for distractions. I took my confirmation name after St. Jerome who said: ‘he who is ignorant of scripture is ignorant of Christ. Paul’s letter to Timothy says: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” So, scripture is useful and Christians should constantly turn to them. But even there we have to be careful as we can easily find different meanings to support what we already want. For example: St. Jerome translated the Greek, epiousious in two different ways. One way was ‘transubstantialis’ and the other, ‘cotidianum’ he had to make up words for a Greek word which didn’t exist. But, yes, we turn to scripture while examining ourselves for what bias we might have. Years ago a gentleman in the area was upset that Paul Harvey was down on trappers. I told him I could write a letter for him showing that the Bible thoroughly supports trapping. When he asked how I said: ‘do you know what the first recorded killing of an animal in scripture was about?” At least one would hope God killed it first. When he said no I quoted him Genesis where God was not happy with Adam and Eve and clothed them with an animal skin so they would always recognize that something died for them. Now, I don’t think the scripture was particularly about approving trapping but it shows how you can find what you want. So, how do you use scripture. You can certainly turn to a lexicon and that might help. But, the best way, if knowing scripture is knowing Jesus is to read the scripture in prayer regularly and then when a situation arises you might automatically know the mind of Christ. But again, we can fool ourselves, so I encourage you to never be afraid of checking it out with a trusted pastor or friend who also knows Jesus. This is one reason why the ‘pursuit of happiness’ , the freedom to live one’s conscience is so important to protect. One does not need a dictator telling them what they have to believe as we see happening in China right now with the destruction of Christian places of worship and the changing of the Bible to reflect the Communist philosophy. So, how do I make decisions? Pray on God’s word and truly seek the guidance of others for interpretation. May God guide you to a rational, just judgment in all that you do.  


Lighthouse September 29, 2020

How do you make decisions? Unfortunately the means I want to share today is too often the default many use, from the time we are children. “I want to wear my red dress to school.” “no, that is for special occasions.” “everyone else is wearing red, wah!” and so it goes. “so and so's mother lets them do it.” When we get a little older we might think we are a little more sophisticated. There is a famous question: “What would you do if you knew there would be no ramifications?” That is what will tell what kind of person you are. Look at the riots. How many are committing what they know to be an evil but if you can sack and loot under the guise of a peaceful protest, why not? Others look to how they can use the law. If it's legal, it must be okay. When Roe vs. Wade was passed it supposedly allowed abortion under rape, incest, or, or, the life of the mother was threatened. How many doctors told me first hand how that worked out. Once someone discovered that all they had to do was say they were considering suicide if they had to carry the child to term that was grounds enough for killing the child. So much for those limited and rare occasions. Then, there is the reversion to the child's argument “so and so's mother lets them do it.” So, if I can find a minister, or confessor who will tell me what I want to hear that will make it okay. Today, there are so called ministers of almost every persuasion who will help you justify almost anything you want. Even Catholics might say “well, such and such bishop says one can vote for that person in good conscience.” But, if they take time to examine exactly what is said they might discover that it is often nuanced in such a way to sound like it is agreeing with them.” for example: knowing that the killing of the unborn is the pre-eminent issue, equal to none, they are told that if, if the candidate who claims to be pro-life in regards to the unborn is a scoundrel who is not able or will not make good on his word to protect the unborn and the other candidate considers himself pro-life because he would like to see more money going to help immigrants then one in conscience might support that other candidate. In such a case, one must examine the records. Is it just a lot of hot air or, is the candidate who claims to help the unborn really doing anything about it? Just before the Civil War there were certain bishops in the South who supported the existence of slavery. The official church teaching had been consistent in condemning modern day slavery as opposed to the slavery which existed in the days of Christ which was more of an indentured servant of any race. Modern slavery targeted blacks, as being somehow, less than human. So, bishops caught in the culture of the south might rationalize that they were better off with good masters than being freed where they would be subject to the abuse of anyone. In such a way they were able to misuse scripture's support of a different understanding of slavery. And so it goes, we can justify anything we want.


Lighthouse September 22, 2020

How do you make decisions? We have been looking at a couple different mental filters one might operate out of in making decisions: majority opinion, polls, lesser of two evils, natural law (how was something created to function). Today I would like to get down to making a decision, well thought out on one's own. This can work for any decision making although I always suggest one begins with prayer that one is not fooling oneself. A common way is to just list the pros and cons in different columns. The problem there is one might think the greater number wins. Not only are we capable of stacking the deck, we also know that every reason does not have equal value, just as every issue does not. So, what I like to suggest, if one were looking at political parties for example, is, take the known issues. What does the candidate, or party say it stands for and what does the record show. So, list the issues. Immigration, environment, gun control, medical reform, infra-structure, economy, abortion, religious rights and education, family life and equal rights and so on. Now, looking at the Constitution how does the issue affirm: life, liberty, pursuit of happiness (religious freedom). Is there any issue that must pre-exist all the others? Is there any issue without which none of the others would matter? If so, you might say that is a non-negotiable value. Look at the other issues and ask yourself if there is room for debate, room for give and take. Then, use the Olympic model: on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the highest, how earth-shattering is this particular issue right now for the country? For example you might say the economy is reasonably well so you give it a 5. You might see immigration is in serious need of reform to bring greater justice and give it a 7. Then as you look down your list and you see several issues are a 7 or 8 you might ask if one party addresses all those in the way you want. If one party is really strong on one of them and the other party strong on your other issue, you again ask if they are of equal value. You might recognize your heart pulling for one or the other and acknowledge that. Then finally one has to ask, are any of these issues non-negotiable values without which your other strong inclination could not exist. In staying focused on the more important there will always be another day to address the other concerns. Are you on your knees yet? It sometimes takes a lot of that.