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twinkle starOne of the amazing things about vacationing on an island is that your view of the stars at night is pretty incredible. I would end each day, on the little porch at the top of the beach, ocean in front of me and stars above, just being amazed by the night sky. And, as sometimes happens, I got a snippet of a lullaby stuck in my head. Join me if you would like:
Twinkle, twinkle, little star, How I wonder what you are!
Up above the world so high, Like a diamond in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star, How I wonder what you are!

If you are a mom or dad, a grandparent, an aunt or uncle or anyone who loves a child, odds were good that you sang those words to someone. “How I wonder what you are”. You looked at them, tucked in bed, so trusting and loveable and wondered who they would be, what their life would be like, how that little light would shine.

Whether you named it as such or not, the light that you saw twinkling in the eyes of that child, was the most amazing light of all. Today’s 1st reading and Gospel both proclaim these words:
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.
That is the light you saw twinkle in the eyes of your child. The light you sensed in them was no less than THAT light; no less than the light of God who made a home in that child for this world.

Someone saw that light in your eyes as well. Maybe when you were an infant, someone sang “Twinkle, Twinkle” to you. But whether or not they sang the song, I am sure someone saw that twinkle in your eyes and wondered who you would be, what your life would be like, how your light would shine. For that very light burns in you and in me for this world as well.

We celebrate the light that was given us at Baptism. A candle is lit << light candle >> from the Easter candle and given to Mom or Dad, or if we are old enough, the words come directly to us: “You have been enlightened by Christ. You are to walk always as a child of the light. May you keep the flame of faith burning brightly in your hearts forever.” We each are to be light-bearers for this world. We each carry some of the light that this world so desperately needs.

And yet, it sometimes does not feel like much, this candle, this twinkle, this little light that has been placed so deep within us. It is those times, when the truth spoken in lullabies can help us. You might not know this, but there are more verses to “Twinkle, Twinkle.” Those mostly unknown verses speak about the purpose of that twinkling light: (I’ll spare you the singing)

When the blazing sun is gone, When he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light, Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.

Then the trav’ler in the dark, Thanks you for your tiny spark;
How could he see where to go, If you did not twinkle so?

As your bright and tiny spark, Lights the trav’ler in the dark,
Though I know not what you are, Twinkle on, please, little star.

Twinkle on, please, little star! What matters is that you shine on for others. What matters is not the brightness of the star, but that it is constant. When I have seen the light of God, it has never been for me the sun changing colors in the sky or the dramatic light that flashed around a St. Paul on the road to Damascus. Rather, it has always been experienced in the quiet flame of love. It’s forgiving; it’s caring for others; feeding the hungry; being faithful. It is all those things you were committed to at Baptism, (and for our confirmandi, that you are journeying to deepen in confirmation) all those things we try to encourage in all we do here.

And it is our call: that people can see in our eyes … that people can see in our lives … the very light that our scriptures proclaim today: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.
Maybe someday you will sing “Twinkle, twinkle little star” again – or for the first time – to a little one. If you do, I hope you remember that there are other verses. And though you may not remember the words – hopefully, you’ll remember their invitation to be that light for all the travelers in the dark.

As your bright and tiny spark, Lights the trav’ler in the dark,
Though I know not what you are, Twinkle on, please, little star.

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January 26, 2014

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New Year’s resolutions: The Pope Francis list finished…

8. Make commitments, such as marriage.
Don’t be afraid to say “forever.” Francis advises the youth, for instance, not to fear marriage. The Pope says: “Today, there are those who say that marriage is out of fashion; in a culture of relativism and the ephemeral, many preach the importance of ‘enjoying’ the moment. They say that it is not worth making a life-long commitment, making a definitive decision, ‘forever,’ because we do not know what tomorrow will bring.” “I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries, to swim against the tide; yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes that you are incapable of responsibility, that you are incapable of true love. I have confidence in you and I pray for you. Have the courage ‘to swim against the tide.’ Have the courage to be happy,” he says.

9. Make it a habit to ‘ask the Lord.’
Bothered about the future? Pray, the Pope urges us especially the youth. “Dear young people,” he says, “some of you may not yet know what you will do with your lives. Ask the Lord, and he will show you the way. The young Samuel kept hearing the voice of the Lord who was calling him, but he did not understand or know what to say, yet with the help of the priest Eli, in the end he answered: ‘Speak, Lord, for I am listening’ (cf. 1 Sam 3:1-10). You too can ask the Lord: What do you want me to do? What path am I to follow?”

10. Be happy.
The true Christian, says the Pope, exudes great joy. He says keeping this joy to ourselves “will make us sick in the end.” So important is joy to him that his first apostolic exhortation, the first major document he wrote on his own, is titled “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel). “Sometimes these melancholy Christians’ faces have more in common with pickled peppers than the joy of having a beautiful life,” Francis says in a homily. “Joy cannot be held at heel: it must be let go. Joy is a pilgrim virtue. It is a gift that walks, walks on the path of life that walks with Jesus: preaching, proclaiming Jesus, proclaiming joy, lengthens and widens that path.” Francis says, “The Christian sings with joy, and walks, and carries this joy.” This joy, he reminds us, should translate to love of neighbor.

A joyful New Year to all! – Rappler.com

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New Year’s resolutions: The Pope Francis list, continued…

5. Meet the poor ‘in the flesh.’
Sure, we donate to charity. But this is not enough for Francis. Commitment to the poor, he says, must be “person to person, in the flesh.” Known as pro-poor even when he was archbishop, he explains more in the book On Heaven and Earth, which was published 3 years before he became pontiff. “It is not enough to mediate this commitment through institutions, which obviously help because they have a multiplying effect, but that is not enough. They do not excuse us from our establishing personal contact with the needy. The sick must be cared for, even when we find them repulsive and repugnant. Those in prison must be visited.” He calls for long-term commitment. “Hospitality in itself isn’t enough. It’s not enough to give a sandwich if it isn’t accompanied by the possibility of learning to stand on one’s own feet. Charity that does not change the situation of the poor isn’t enough.”

6. Stop judging others.
In the same way he denounces gossip, Francis condemns prejudice. He reminds “intolerant” Catholics, for one, to respect atheists. “If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good.” He also says of gays: “If
someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?” Francis urges us “to keep watch over ourselves.” “Let us not forget that hatred, envy, and pride defile our lives!”

7. Befriend those who disagree.
What can we do to our worst critics? We can take our cue from Francis. In November, Francis surprises Mario Palmaro, a traditionalist who wrote the article, ‘The Reason Why We Don’t Like This Pope.’” “He just wanted to tell me that he is praying for me,” says HYPERLINK “http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/pope-francis-calls-a-traditionalist-writer-who-criticized-him/” Palmaro,who is gravely ill, in an article by the Catholic News Agency. Francis does this in line with what he calls a “culture of encounter.”

He says in July: “When leaders in various fields ask me for advice, my response is always the same: dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. It is the only way for individuals, families, and societies to grow, the only way for the life of peoples to progress, along with the culture of encounter, a culture in which all have something good to give and all can receive something good in return. Others always have something to give me, if we know how to approach them in a spirit of openness and without prejudice.”

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January 19, 2014

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January 12, 2014

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New Year’s resolutions: The Pope Francis list …

By using direct quotes from Pope Francis, Paterno Esmaquel II came up with a list of 10 resolutions for every Catholic to choose in this new year. I share them here for the next few weeks for your edification. For the full article, including pictures go to: http://www.rappler.com/move-ph/46933-new-year-resolutions-pope-francis-quotes

1. Don’t gossip.
It’s one of our hobbies. For Francis, it’s also one of the most evil activities. The Catholic leader denounces gossip as “murder.” He feels so strongly about it that in less than a year as pontiff, Francis has preached against gossip in at least 6 different instances. He says when we gossip, we “are doing what Judas did,” and “begin to tear the other person to pieces.” “Every time we judge our brother in our hearts or worse when we speak badly of them with others, we are murdering Christians,” Francis says. “There is no such thing as innocent slander.”

2. Finish your meals.
No leftovers, please. Named after a 12th-century saint who lived in poverty, Francis slams a “culture of waste” that neglects the plight of the hungry. Nearly 870 million people suffer from chronic malnutrition, says the Food and Agriculture Organization. The Pope says: “We should all remember… that throwing food away is like stealing from the tables of the poor, the hungry! I encourage everyone to reflect on the problem of thrown away and wasted food to identify ways and means that, by seriously addressing this issue, are a vehicle of solidarity and sharing with the needy.”

3. Make time for others.
Tending to 1.2 billion members, Francis seems too busy for anything else. That is, until he calls up strangers. Or entertains a random biker. Or sends a handwritten letter to a Jesuit he has never met.

4. Choose the ‘more humble’ purchase.
Take it from the head of state who rides a 29-year-old Renault. In July, he warns against luxurious lives that seek “the joy of the world in the latest smartphone, the fastest car.” “Cars are necessary,” he says, “but take a more humble one. Think of how many children die of hunger and dedicate the savings to them.” The Pope preaches against materialism. “Certainly, possessions, money, and power can give a momentary thrill, the illusion of being happy, but they end up possessing us and making us always want to have more, never satisfied. ‘Put on Christ’ in your life, place your trust in him, and you will never be disappointed!” He calls for a “sober and essential lifestyle.”

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Little Christmas…

The feast of Epiphany is often called the feast of Little Christmas. The Incarnation marks the great feast of Christmas where God took flesh and was born in time. Epiphany marks the movement of that revelation to the world at large. It would not serve God, nor humanity, for the birth and life of Jesus to remain unknown, just one more family with a new baby, living in a small, and backwater town.

There is a little poem that caught my attention years ago, that has always been a summary of this feast day and what it invites us to.

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the Kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with the flocks;
Then the work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,
To heal the broken
To feed the hungry
To release prisoners
To rebuild the nations
To bring peace among brothers and sisters
To make music in the heart.

The feast of Epiphany is all about the work of Christmas beginning. In many homes, the decorations are down, the trees are recycled or stored away, the ornaments and lights are packed for another season; Christmas music is no longer played, and there is very little left to remind us of Christmas. But before we completely forget this season, and what it means for us, we are invited to celebrate this feast of Christmas beginning – the feast of the Epiphany.

And lest we be seduced, as Herod was, into something less than the proper response to the good news, we’re told in the Scriptures that the heart of the feast is Jesus. It is not the camels, not the long pilgrim’s journey, and not even the gifts that the Magi brought to the child, but Jesus. You see, Jesus did not come to re-main in anonymity. He did not come so that he could retire some day as a carpenter, no matter how good he might have been at that trade. He came that we might know the heart of God. He came to be the revelation of the heart of God. And until everyone on this planet has come to hear of His message, the work of Christmas is not done.

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How do you listen to music?

Published on 05. Jan, 2014 by in Sunday Homilies

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record playerOur young folks probably notice that us old people like to talk about how things were when we were young. Certainly, how we listen to music is different than it used to be. << music starts >> Before MP3 players; before CDs, and even before cassette tapes (which you probably read about in your ancient history books) there were things called records, which are staging a bit of a comeback, evidently << hold record up >>. Records were a great thing, except that sometimes – << music skipping by now >> they would skip.

I think some people go through their days thinking that that is just how life is. << music starts again >> Nothing really changes. On December 31st we count down to a New Year … we act like we are excited … but deep down, we know better. Things don’t really change. People don’t really grow. And you might as well not expect differently, because you will only be disappointed. << music skipping again >> Nothing really changes.

Enter the Magi and the wonderful story in today’s Gospel: these seekers, really, who set out on a journey and follow a star… the star that would lead them to the Christ child. We know parts of the beautiful story … and there are parts we have to use our imaginations for. But we know how it ends. The story ends with the Magi changed: The scriptures say went back by a different way … they were changed.

The truth is that things CAN change. It is the promise of Christmas that – not only was Jesus born into human time and condition some 2,000 years ago – but that EVERY moment holds him… and EACH moment holds all the grace needed for a new beginning!

HOW? We have a lot to learn from these seekers. What changed them? Though their experience would be unique, the three things that changed them are essential on some level for change in anyone …

ONE: They had to be opened to change. Herod got the same news about this baby, but he retrenched. The magi were willing to think differently. So us: We have to realize that there are some things that need changing. There are some things that are worth working on.
TWO: They took the outer journey – They did something different… They got up off the couch and took a risk. It has to be that way for us as well. For things to change in our lives, we have to take some risk… make some effort… do something different.

• I want a better relationship with my spouse, parents, my brother or my child… but we keep communicating the same way we always did
• I need to get better grades … but I keep the same study habits …
• We want peace in the Mideast so we’ll just keep blowing each other up hoping somebody else changes
• I’ve got to quit this problem with drug use or drinking… but I still hang out with the same guys after work or on weekends…
• I want a deeper Faith… and I keep waiting for it to happen…

And so it goes. My brothers and sisters, change is soooo hard. But if we want a different result… there has to be some change. The magi made the journey… did the outer work. And so must we.

THIRDLY: The Magi did the INNER journey. I think what allowed the Magi to be changed was their humility. They prostrated themselves before the Christ child as something bigger than themselves … someone from whom they were willing to learn…

It has to be that way for us. Unless we make room inside ourselves for another for “THE OTHER” we won’t be changed. Unless we let ourselves meet and see each other and THE other, we won’t be able to say “I’m sorry” we won’t be able to see or hear differently, we won’t be able to be holy…

The word “Epiphany” = manifestation of God… when we meet God, we are different. The MAGI would never have seen this manifestation of God except that they made the journey … and they were humble enough to have space in their hearts to meet the other. They were the “Wise men” precisely because they knew they weren’t wise enough.

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<<silent night without skip plays>>

Some people sit here near the dawn of a New Year and are convinced that nothing can really change. That the world is a mess and our families are a mess, and our spiritual lives are a mess, and you might as well not expect differently, because you will only be disappointed.

But there are others who are willing to risk what the magi risked … to try something new… to make both the outer journey… and the inner journey. God’s promise is that – if we do – we, too, will go home by another way.

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January 5, 2014

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