Homilies for December 2021

For December 5, December 8 (Immaculate Conception), December 12, December 19, December 24 (Vigil of the Nativity), December 25 (Christmas Day), and December 26 (The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph)

Second Sunday of Advent – December 5, 2021

Readings: Bar 5:19 Ps 126: 1–2, 2–3, 4–5, 6 • Phil 1:46, 8-11 • Lk 3:16 bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/120521.cfm

Have you ever noticed how some of the best Christmas movies involve absolute meltdowns? The great police gathering, squirrel-filled mayhem at the crescendo of Christmas Vacation; the nearly eye-destroying, Bumpus Hound craziness at the conclusion of A Christmas Story; or, one of my personal favorites, the near destruction of Nakatomi Towers at the end of an eventful Christmas party in Die Hard. Regardless of the best laid plans of all involved, things come crashing down. And yet . . . we go back to the movies every season. Why? The context all around us is rarely calm, and yet the best of endings can still arise. This isn’t just in the movies, of course.

Look at each of the readings this Sunday; all take place within a less than perfect context — Baruch from the time of the exile, St. Paul writing to the Philippians from prison, and the list of the characters who ruled both civilly and religiously at the time when the voice of St. John the Baptist cried out were no group of Saints. In fact, John’s eventual murderer is numbered among the list. Why mention the imperfect circumstances of readings and movies? Because the pressure all around us this time of year for the perfect Christmas, or the perpetual news around us that is basically always bad, can take our attention away from what really matters as we get into the heart of the Season of Advent — repentance.

“Christ could be born a thousand times in Bethlehem — but all in vain until He is born in me,” said the seventeenth-century German mystic Angelus Silesius. We are still 20 days out from Christmas, and now is as good a time as any to make sure that this is not an upcoming celebration in vain. The opening prayer of Mass today pleaded with our “Almighty and Merciful God” that “no earthly undertaking hinder those who set out in haste to meet your Son . . .” Let’s be honest, this time of year is chock-full of “earthly undertakings.” Although we will soon be singing Silent Night, all will not be calm and bright in our hearts if we do not make way for the King of Kings “to be born in me.”

The first foundational way to do this is to stop being preoccupied with everything outside of your control. The list of rulers, secular and religious, from 2,000 years ago at the top of today’s Gospel just goes to show that there has not been a Golden Age of leadership. Our Lord was not born into such an age, that age is certainly not present now, and until our Lord and King of the Universe fulfills our waiting in joyful hope and comes again, such an age of virtuous leadership just isn’t going to exist. So turn off your 24-hour news network this Season, stop checking headlines every ten minutes, and put the earthly undertakings that are perpetually humming around us on mute for the next three weeks and allow our Lord to speak to you.

Where do you need to repent? Where are there hindrances to your encountering the only begotten Son of God? Don’t say I don’t have time to come to Confession. Also, don’t say I don’t have time to prepare for Confession. As the voice cried out in the wilderness, go for a walk in the quite winter air and ask our Lord to speak to your heart about the past few months since your last Confession. What have you done or failed to do that has separated you from Him? Where has your love for our Lord grown cold? How have you shown self-sacrificing love for the people He has put in your life? Ask Him for the grace to know your sins, as well as the grace to trust in His mercy.

After that walk in the wilderness in which you let the voice of the one calling out speak to your heart, take advantage of one of the greatest gifts He has ever bestowed upon the Church — Sacramental Confession. After hearing those words of absolution for the forgiveness of sin, that is when the real garment of sorrow and affliction is taken off and the garment of beauty of the glory from God is put on. You may host or go to a thousand Christmas parties of Martha Stewart caliber, but if you are still stuck in the mire of what separates you from the peace of Christ, what does it matter what your surroundings are. Unless He is born in your heart, your celebration is in vain.

The opening prayer concluded with the request “may our learning of heavenly wisdom gain us admittance to His company.” The fact of the matter is God has done the work on His end to make crooked ways straight and everything else that goes along with it to come to us. Even in the worst of surroundings, still, the Son of God comes to us. The question for you as Advent really gets under way is will you let the hindrances of earthly undertakings, whether close to home or further away, keep you from the heavenly wisdom of entering into the company of the One Who has come to you. My friend, make time for Him, repent, receive His forgiveness and don’t let a never-ending stream of imperfect circumstances keep you from His company.

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary – December 8, 2021

Readings: Gn 3:915,20 • Ps 98:1, 2–3ab, 3cd–4 • Eph 1:36, 1112 • Lk 1:2638    bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/120821.cfm

This time of year often brings with it an event that features both pure and exuberant joy coupled with awkward, self-conscious torture. What event is that? The annual grade school Christmas Program.

I remember when I was growing up that my mother would lament that parents were strongly encouraged not to leave after their child’s grade had performed their set of two to three Christmas classics. The younger grades, usually pre-school up to fourth or fifth grade, tend to put their whole hearts into it. There you find the pure, exuberant joy of children who are living through the most wonderful time of the year, who know it, and who are not afraid to show it by singing at the top of their tiny lungs about the Blessed Child in the manger or Santa Claus’s impending trip to their respective chimneys.

Something happens in middle school, though. I would propose that there are few things in this world harder to sit through than listening to a pack of eighth graders (especially boys) who would rather die than sing Frosty the Snowman, and yet, there they are, in front of their grandparents and peers all at the same time, feeling ridiculous, standing in front of a crowd, and barely letting out a bit of sound from their mouths as they pray that the whole thing will end as soon as absolutely possible. All in one event: awkward, self-consciousness and pure, self-forgetful joy. This is a combination sort of like our first reading and Gospel on this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

With the fall of our first parents, the immediate results of original sin are on full display in the first reading today from Genesis. Adam and Eve, who once were free to move about and enjoy the glories of a trusting relationship with the Lord God and the majesty of creation around them, are now reduced to fear, hiding and blaming. One of the most devastating lines in all of Sacred Scripture is the one we hear spoken by the Lord God in this first reading today: “Where are you?”

Of course He’s omniscient. It’s not as though Adam and Eve were capable of actually hiding from God Himself. However, something has clearly changed. They who once were free to move about and enjoy the company of one another and Our Heavenly Father, in an innocent and open freedom, are now doomed into a state of fear and self-consciousness. Sin immediately creates this division, this isolation, this self-protective concern that brings about fear and separation. They had broken trust with God. There were immediate consequences.

As we all know though, the story does not end there. While we still feel the effects of the sin of our first parents, we were not abandoned by God. From this episode in Genesis, taken early from the book in its third chapter, already God is explaining about how things will be set right again. And we see those plans coming to fruition in the Gospel today.

Whereas our first parents doubted God’s goodness, acted against His will, and found themselves in self-conscious hiding, that pattern is clearly reversed in the Immaculate Virgin Mary, as we see in the Gospel of the Annunciation. The division that began with the original sin of our first parents is not allowed to touch Our Blessed Mother from the moment of her conception. And we can see the results when she is visited by the Angel Gabriel who is sent from God. No more awkward, self-conscious hiding, but rather, with pure, exuberant joy, we hear the words of total gift of self from Mary as she declares in response to God’s gracious designs for her: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” There is now an end to the question on the lips of the Lord God: “Where are you?” Now she is here, she is open, she is trusting.

The gifts that God pours out upon us are not for us alone. Always remember the principle that the ultimate goal in life is to become a Saint, and best case scenario, we all become Saints. God’s grace is not a zero-sum venture; the more His love is given, the more it grows. Therefore, today is a day of deep rejoicing because it marks the “prevenient grace to be untouched by any stain of sin,” a grace given to our Blessed Mother, who in turn intercedes for us “that we too may be cleansed and admitted” into the presence of our Heavenly Father. And admitted into His presence like trusting children, cleansed from the awkward self-consciousness that so robs us of our peace and makes us feel like embarrassed eighth graders standing in front of a critical world. Our Lord wants us to have the joy and freedom of a child who sings with reckless abandon. Today marks the breaking of the dawn of His loving and intimate plan to make that happen.

Third Sunday of Advent – December 12, 2021

Readings: Zep 3:1418a • Is 12:2–3, 4, 5–6 • Phil 4:47 • Lk 3:1018    bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/121221.cfm

If you’re unfamiliar with the full story of the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I highly recommend reading up on the treasure of our faith that those nearly 500 year old events are to us. By way of a very brief summary, after a period of unsuccessful missionary efforts to spread the faith in the Central part of the Americas, Our Blessed Mother appeared to one humble, un-expecting convert, Juan Diego. He was told by Our Blessed Mother to go to the bishop to request a church be built on Tepeyac Hill, just outside of present day Mexico City. Understandably, the bishop did not at first believe the humble laborer and he asked him for a sign. And Mary delivered.

Skipping over many details regarding the sign, there are two I want to focus on this Gaudete Sunday, which also happens to be the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. First, Our Blessed Mother told Juan Diego to go to the top of Tepeyac Hill; there he found roses that Mary told him to take to the bishop. This may not sound like much, but this was December, the ground was covered with frost, and these roses were not indigenous to this region of Mexico, but rather to the place the bishop had come from in Spain. Secondly, Mary arranged the roses on Juan Diego’s tilma to take to the bishop. A tilma is sort of like a mix between a tool belt and an apron. It was the working apparel of a humble laborer like Juan Diego. And it was upon this working cloth for daily use that the miraculous roses were carried and that the heavenly image of Our Lady of Guadalupe still rests, 500 years later, in the Basilica that bears her name in Mexico city.

I tell you this story at length today not only because of the providential timing of this Feast and the Third Sunday of Advent, but because the way in which this influential miracle took place is right in line with St. John the Baptist’s response to the questions in the Gospel of “What should we do?” Of the countless ways Our Blessed Mother could have proven herself to the bishop, she chose a humble, working man and his humble, working attire, to impress not only the bishop, but the whole world.

St. John the Baptist does not tell those who question him today to do anything extraordinary. He does not demand that they leave the world, move to the wilderness, and live off of locusts and honey. Rather, he tells them to be virtuous, right where they are. Tax collectors — don’t take more than you should. Soldiers — don’t be bullies, be honest, and thankful. The rest of us — don’t be greedy, and share what you have. None of this is rocket science, but it doesn’t mean that it’s easy.

St. John the Baptist called us to repentance last week; now that we have repented, and hopefully gone to Confession and been forgiven of the sins that separate us from God and one another, the question now is that of the crowds: “What should we do?” Understanding that Our Blessed Mother used St. Juan Diego’s tilma, an apron/tool belt, as a sign, so let her use your day to day work to act as a sign as well. Remember those roses that weren’t supposed to grow through the frost? Well, we’re not supposed to be pious and loving any more in this post-Christian age of the “Nones.” However, miraculously, we continue to break through the frost. Don’t just hold onto those roses at home or within the walls of the church; rather, take that infectious joy into your work place. I’m not suggesting that you act like Pollyanna. We’re not called to be optimists; we’re called to be hope-filled disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ. I would say right now the world needs more than our second cloak and extra food (though they need those too); the world needs the joy that St. Paul is commanding the Philippians to engage in as he writes to them from prison.

The opening prayer today requested of God, “enable us we pray, to attain the joys of so great a salvation and to celebrate them always with solemn worship and glad rejoicing.” That word always makes this request a big one. We all know that we live in challenging times, for a litany of reasons I won’t go into here. But as Fr. Paul Mankowski stated at the conclusion of an excellent summary on the state of the Church: “I find absolutely no grounds for optimism, and I have every reason for hope.” My friend, at the command of our good and gracious Lord, roses continue to burst through the frost, the tilmas of our vocations continue to be carried, and the Holy One of Israel remains among us.

What should we do? Beg God to enable us to carry the joys of our salvation into a world that is desperate for them, even if it doesn’t know it yet. This takes courage which comes from an unfailing joy that is rooted not in the mere passing jolly of this holiday season, but in the unfailing love of the Son of God for each one of us that has overcome sin and death. Ask the Son of God, through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. John the Baptist and St. Juan Diego to burn away the chaff in you that keeps you from sharing the undying fire of our faith and to melt the frost that grips our current age.

Fourth Sunday of Advent – December 19, 2021

Readings: Mi 5:14a • Ps 80:2–3, 15–16, 18–19 • Heb 10:510 • Lk 1:3945    bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/121921.cfm

For the third Sunday in a row, we find St. John the Baptist in the Gospel. The last two Sundays he was in the wilderness, calling people to repentance and instructing them on how to prepare the way of the Lord. This Sunday, we have a sort of “prequel” to John in the wilderness; in this blessed visitation, John is an infant, leaping for joy in his mother’s womb. Less than a week out from the great celebration of Christmas, I think John’s innocent, nascent, whole-hearted reaction to the presence of Our Lord and His Queen Mother is just what we need.

Over the last several months, I have heard grumblings about supply chains, shipping issues, and the haunting threat that this year there may not be a celebration of Christmas. While I, like many others, have noticed the difficulties that grocery stores are having keeping their shelves stocked, or the longer waits for items that used to rapidly ship, I have to say that the comments about Christmas “not coming” this year are as pathetic as the Grinch’s plans to rob the Whos down in “Who-ville” of their Christmas joy with simple petty larceny. The joy that we celebrate isn’t taken away quite so easily.

There are elements to the prayers and readings of this Fourth Sunday of Advent that remind us that we constantly live in a cloud of joy-inducing goodness of the living and Incarnate God. Start, for example, with the opening prayer for this Mass. For those of you who pray it often, like we do in the middle of every school day here at Sacred Heart, the Angelus concludes with the Collect of this Mass. Notice that opening verb: “Pour forth.” We know that our Heavenly Father is no miserly giver. He doesn’t ration His Grace like Ebenezer Scrooge parting with lumps of coal for his freezing employee. Grace is everywhere!

We are invited by the Church to stop in the morning, at noon and in the evening to pray the Angelus. This beautiful three-trope prayer reminds us that the Son of God has come to us, born of the Virgin who believed, born in Bethlehem (literally the “House of Bread”), He came to do the will of His Heavenly Father and offer Himself once and for all, a living and effective sacrifice to whom we have access every single day in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Our Lord does not just give a Christmas present once a year; He is perpetually pouring forth His grace into our hearts, and all we have to do is pay attention. It is so simple, a baby could leap for joy at the reminder.

Now obviously, we do forget this reality, and quite often at that. Hence the need for a four-week period of preparation to celebrate with wholehearted joy the Nativity of our Beloved Lord. Hopefully, by this point of Advent, you have listened to John the Baptist, repented, gone to Confession, and tried to live out the daily tasks of your vocation with great love. Now, as Christmas rapidly approaches, the Church in her wisdom has gone from giving us bold, voice-in-the-wilderness John the Baptist to leaping baby in the womb John the Baptist. Let that reality sink in as you prepare to come together with family and as you prepare to come back to a likely packed church later this week. In the midst of our frantic world, be a bearer of the certain joy of one who knows that the Lord is in his midst. So many people do not see the overwhelming pouring forth of the goodness of our God.

“The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us,” as we say in the last verse of the Angelus. This is not a reality for a brief moment of the year, but every beat of the heart, every breath that we take is happening in the midst of that truth. We need these seasons and these times of year to remind us of this. Ask our Blessed Mother who believed “what was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled,” ask St. Elizabeth who humbly cried out with exultation at the approach of her cousin and the Mother of her Lord, ask St. John the Baptist, who leaps with such pure joy in the presence of the Incarnate Son of God, to help you to be a conduit of this unending joy to those you encounter this next week.

The Vigil of the Nativity of the Lord – December 24, 2021

Readings: Is 62:15 • Ps 89:4–5, 16–17, 27, 29 • Acts 13:1617, 2225 • Mt 1:125  bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/122521-vigil.cfm

Have you ever been to an amusement park like Disney World and seen a kid having a meltdown? It may be an incredible place with countless things for all to do, but if the boy or girl is immersed in their own tantrum, no matter how great the surroundings, they will remain unhappy. The same is true for any of us. Have you ever been to a wonderful party, but because you had recently had a huge fight with your spouse or you were feeling guilty because of something wrong you had done, even if the party was great, you simply couldn’t enjoy yourself because you were stuck in the prison of your own downcast spirit?

Well, my friends, this is why we rejoice so fully on this glorious occasion of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As we just heard the angel of the Lord tell Joseph, he was to name the child Jesus because He would save His people from their sins. Our Lord and Savior did not come like any other king or ruler from across the centuries, or like anyone else even from His own genealogy, but as the King of our Hearts, the Savior of our souls, the one who would save us from the personal prison of our own sins.

He is not here merely to build a nice world around us that we can potentially fail to enjoy, like a screaming child at the park. Rather, He came to free us from our fallenness, that even in the midst of difficult surroundings, like a time of war, pandemic, or social strife, we can still rejoice and know peace because He is Emmanuel, God with us, and we are able to approach Him who is the source of our peace. He has come to remove what divided us from God and one another, and if we welcome Him into our hearts, Who has come to us in such an incredibly humble way, we will know true and lasting joy.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, I know we have been living through interesting times. I know there are temptations to despair. But my friends, I say as your pastor and your fellow Christian, Oh Come Let us Adore Him! The Lord Jesus Christ is in our midst! He is meek and humble of heart, coming to us as a child, giving us His very self in the Eucharist, never abandoning us, but remaining with us in the ups and downs of this life. Come to Him and be saved from sin. Come to Him and know peace. Remain with Him Who is God with us on this glorious night and every day of your lives, even into eternity with Him who has come to us.

I wish all of you a very blessed and merry Christmas! And on this Holy Day I say with renewed energy and joy — Praised be Jesus Christ!

The Nativity of the Lord, Mass During the Day – December 25, 2021

Readings: Is 52:710 • Ps 98:1, 2–3, 3–4, 5–6 • Heb 1:16 • Jn 1:18    bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/122521-day.cfm

After all of the excitement that went on last night, from the reflection on the Genealogy of our Lord, to the announcement of His conception to Joseph, to the proclamation of His birth to shepherds on the plain by a mighty host of angels, His being wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger (both in the Gospel of Luke and right here in our own nativity scene), to the candle light glow of Midnight Mass, and one of my favorite moments of the liturgical year — sitting down after receiving our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and singing Silent Night — now, everything slows back down, and we take a moment to reflect.

I have found over the years that the Vigil Mass and Mass through the night at Christmas are the Masses that are typically crowded with all of the excitement just mentioned. Christmas Mass during the day, however, typically takes on a much different atmosphere. The fireworks have exploded, the gifts have been opened, and now the world is quiet. Too often, there is a temptation to run right past this stillness, take down the tree, and move on to the next thing (I believe December 26 is now the traditional day that Valentine’s Day Candy is placed on the shelves). But the Church invites us with these readings of incredible depth on this day to sit and rest in the Gift we have been given, the Gift at the center of human history, the Gift of the Incarnation of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The reading from the beginning of the Letter to the Hebrews explains, “In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he has spoken to us through the Son.” I have learned over the years that when I want to make sure I am clearly understood, and that there is no miscommunication between myself and the one to whom I want to extend a message (especially one of caring or concern), a text, an email, or even a phone call are all no substitute for an in-person interaction. Those “partial and various ways” that God has spoken in times past are certainly not as casual as a text message — the prophets are no shabby way of communicating. However, this is an entirely new era. It is the time marked by the presence of the Son. The ultimate Christmas present is His very presence, which continues to dwell among us. As the dust settles after the excitement of last night (and after I wake up after my nap of exhaustion from the Christmas Eve Masses), to simply be in His presence and realize that He is here, Emmanuel, God with us, is the gift that truly keeps giving from now and into eternity.

And that gift can have a profound effect. Listen to the words of the Solemn Blessing for the Christmas Masses:

May the God of infinite goodness, who by the Incarnation of his Son has driven darkness from the world and by that glorious Birth has illumined this most holy day, drive far from you the darkness of vice and illumine your hearts with the light of virtue. R. Amen. May God, who willed that the great joy of his Son’s saving Birth be announced to shepherds by the Angel, fill your minds with the gladness he gives and make you heralds of his Gospel. R. Amen. And may God, who by the Incarnation brought together the earthly and heavenly realm, fill you with the gift of his peace and favor and make you sharers with the Church in heaven. R. Amen.

As we heard in the Prologue of John’s Gospel just now: “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” My friends, rest in that light. Do not be afraid of the darkness! Let the light “drive far from you the darkness of vice and illumine your hearts with the light of virtue.” Let that light “fill your minds with the gladness he gives.” As you sit on this Christmas day in the earthly realm, realize that the Incarnation has brought together with it the heavenly realm, and made it possible to become a “sharer with the Church in heaven.” And that is in the here and now!

My friend, to be in this light, to rest in the stillness of the Incarnate Word of God resting in His Blessed Mother’s arms, is a privilege of the utmost peace and favor. Of course it is on offer to all, but one of the sad mysteries of life is that not all open up to receive it. And that is why I will conclude by quoting the first words we heard read today from Isaiah: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation, and saying to Zion, ‘Your God is King!’”

So much of the world is about to go into a post-Christmas hangover, when in all reality, the Octave has only just begun. Do not get cynical. Do not fall right back into the rat race of acquiring more stuff. Rather, let the light shine in your world, bear that light well, and realize that even in a world so enthralled by darkness, the darkness will not overcome the light. The Word of God is here; today and every day, come let us adore Him . . . and invite others to do the same!

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph – December 26, 2021

Readings: 1 Sam 1:2022, 2428 • Ps 84:2–3, 5–6, 9–10 • 1 Jn 3:12, 2124 • Lk 2:4152  bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/122621.cfm

My parishioners all know that I am a very proud uncle. I now have two nieces and seven nephews, all of whom I love dearly. I have learned that it is a blessing that my siblings and their families live about 13 hours from me by car, because I would have a hard time breaking away from the kiddos and getting to parish work.

I remember when my first niece was born just over a year into my priesthood. Those early days when I first became an uncle, my sister would come down for a visit with my niece, and those times together would be some of the happiest of the year; but regrettably, this also meant that their departure to go back home would be excruciating! I didn’t want my niece to grow up . . . she was already practically perfect in every way.

It took a while for me to be able to get beyond my mourning the passage of time and her quick growth and embrace the joy of each new stage. It was a joy to hold her in my arms when she was a baby, to watch her take her first steps, to enjoy seeing her do her little toddler dance to Muppet Youtube videos, to going for walks outside, to reading her books that I love, to going swimming in the ocean with her, to riding my favorite roller coasters with her, to (probably my favorite) praying the rosary with her now every time we are together. I love each of these stages, but I have learned that the new one around the corner is often amazing as well.

I mention all this on this Holy Family Sunday because I am perpetually in awe that the greatest gifts are typically right in front of us. And one of the signs that points to how family life and its ever progressing development is so good is that it is in this context that Our Lord chose to become one of us. Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, and lived with her and St. Joseph in Nazareth. I know that is a basic statement of our faith, but it is such an incredible reminder of the gift we have in our own families.

Now I know what you might be thinking: “Well that’s all well and good, Father, but you get to be a fun uncle who leaves the kids behind, and the Holy Family, well, how can we relate to them since everyone was perfect? It’s not like they had any stress.”

As to the first point, it is true, we priest uncles do go home to rectories; but at the same time, I think it is too often that people so fixate on the challenges of children that they miss the simple, everyday joys of watching them grow. I like to point out to frustrated parents in the Confessional that their kids will not be their current age forever. Look for the things that are wonderful at the current stage, be patient with the things that aren’t (doing your best to help them become the kind of adults you will want to spend time with some day), and realize that the home time is a gift. Don’t fall into the trap of getting cynical about family life and complaining it away. I know priests that complain about their parishes all the time and really seem to miss out on the joys present. Are there crosses? Of course! But remember, it is in the day-to-day context that our Lord shows His goodness; so strive to love those He has placed in your midst.

Now as for the Holy Family being un-relatable, I have to disagree. Were two of them completely free from sin, and one about as close to perfect as can be? Yes. However, the Gospel today points to the fact that this does not mean that there was no anxiety. They went through struggles (birth away from home or the comforts thereof, predictions of suffering, a maniacal king trying to kill their son, a flight to Egypt, at some point the death of St. Joseph, etc.). And yet, Mary kept all of these things in her heart. I wonder if she had a hard time seeing Jesus grow to each new stage, wanting to hold on to what she loved right in front of her at the moment. Regardless, she was and is the handmaid of the Lord, totally trusting of His will, which is what we are all called to be as well, and this includes trusting His will for those we love too.

Just like I had to learn to trust that each next stage of my niece’s growth would bring new and exciting gifts, we all have to recognize that those entrusted to our care are ultimately God’s, that He loves them more than we, and that we have to do our best to entrust them to Him. Even so, do not miss the gift in front of you right now. Your children (or nieces and nephews, grandkids, students, or other children in your life) are only their current ages for so long. Thank God for the gift of family life, a gift so great Jesus Christ took part in it Himself. And when the crosses are heavy, the way ahead looks uncertain, or the joys seem to be buried under a pile of difficulties, ask Our Blessed Mother to intercede for you, to take you by the hand, and lead you confidently to the next step.

Fr. John Eckert About Fr. John Eckert

Fr. John Eckert is Pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Salisbury, NC. He graduated from Saint Louis University in 2004 and the Pontifical College Josephinum in 2010, and was ordained for the Diocese of Charlotte in 2010.


  1. Avatar FR.Joseph Nahak says:

    Nice reflections, Thanks

  2. Avatar James Martello Jr says:

    Homiletic & Pastoral Review is a true blessing. Thank you to all who provide this resource and may God bless you abundantly.

  3. Avatar Maria Perkins says:

    Thank you, Fr. John, I have enjoyed reading and meditating on your homilies! Maria