Tuesday, December 23, 2014

2014 Christmas Letter


Dear Friends,

 

            With this letter comes my most heartfelt greetings for a Season filled with mystery, awe, and wonder. As we are drawn, again, into a newer and deeper understanding of The Mystery of The incarnation may Its reality lead you into a deeper reverence for the mystery of who you are, who you have been called to be, and Who IS doing this calling. This call is announced to us through the sacrament, that is, everyday living. That is why I hope and pray this greeting finds you celebrating life in the place you are at, in what you are doing, and most of all in the mystery of your becoming. In this way of living, The Mystery of The Incarnation is ever new. In the newness of your living, God becomes ever new. So through the words, work, and wonder of your life may the gifts of peace, joy and love come to a world that is aching for those gifts. These gifts can and do become real through the reality of our Incarnational living.


           This is the reason why we are in the midst of a season that is filled with a sense of preparation and expectation. We are making ready of gifts and blessings, which in reality are symbols of The Gift coming to us in each and every sacramental moment we are given to celebrate. Some gifts are recognized right away. For other gifts, time is required for us to come to and understanding and the acceptance of their hidden giftedness. “By reason of creation, and still more by reason of The Incarnation, there is nothing profane for her/him who knows how to see” (Chardin).  So we are given the Season of Advent to awaken anew our sense of the sacredness of all of creation. The Season of Advent is just a stepping stone to the main event. The main event we are being directed toward is The Feast of The Epiphany. Pope Francis is an epiphany man. He is asking us to leave behind our narrow focus so we can embrace and be embraced by that which is so great it is The Infinite. The message of The Epiphany, is God has come for all people, not those whom we think are the favored few. That is why when we stop at Christmas we never get to the essence of the message. We are so much the poorer, and as a consequence all of creation suffers. Sad to say I did not have that understanding leaving the seminary, or in my early years of ministry. Over the years there has been an evolution. This has come from a deepening of faith, which comes to one through the mystery of suffering. I now believe what St. Augustine said so many years ago, “Faith leads to understanding,” not understanding leads to faith. That journey of faith is like driving along that awe-full Oregon coast line. I love to drive from Brookings to Myers Beach. The views are breathtaking, but not always, some days you have coastal fog. Then you will drive from one fog bank to another, and then to another. In between there can be bright sunshine. As you drive in the sunshine you think you are free of the fog, when almost immediately here comes another fog bank. That sums up the faith journey in a nut shell. There is no certainty, only the uncertainty of the dark night which leads to constant change. The older I get the more I fight change. (One never wins that battle. There is however a slow surrender.) Yet change is now the only certainty. It is only through lots, and lots of grace the eyes the heart, and the door of the soul are opened and an ever new reality is revealed. This revelation takes place over time. I am not and never have been too accepting of this slow process. I am Irish, duh!!!. We are not a patient people. I want everything and I want it yesterday. I have what you may call a microwave mentality. Even the microwave is not fast enough. It bugs me that I have to wait 3-4 minutes for my egg beaters to cook in the morning. I am now more accepting of the word of Metz, “We are born human and spend our whole life discovering what human means.”


                             I was forced to journey deeper into what it means to be powerless. This summer I had five visits to the hospital. Two were to the emergency room. What an experience. One visit was on a Friday night. I now have an even deeper appreciation for all those who work in the medical field, and I mean all. No wonder there are the great promises in Matt 25. I almost lost my voice. It was down to a whisper. The blessing that has come from that is no more long sermons. The voice will not hold up. I had a number of health challenges which kept me grounded until the end of July. For this reason my travels were not as long as usual. I spent all my time in the High Rockies. It was there I began to breathe right again, and my voice returned. Not to where it was, but good enough. I am able to hike in South Mountain again, and am building up my endurance. The long hikes are a thing of the past as well.


                As I look back I am so very, very grateful for your presence in my life. Some of the old friends have passed on leaving an emptiness, but feelings of gratitude bubble up. There are so many that have shown love and acceptance which has enabled me to embrace a God of love, mercy, and acceptance. Continue that wonder-full, awe-full ministry. Always remember wherever you are, there is God, and His Church. So many are no longer coming to church. Then you bring the church to them. You do not preach, but let your actions be your gospel for all to see and read. That great saying “Preach the Gospel where ever you go, and when NECESSARY use words.” Our Pope Francis has spoken volumes not by what he has said , but, by his actions. What a great model The Holy Spirit has blessed us with. He sure has rattled a few cages, and has let the captives go free. Let us never try to re-cage those who have been freed to be who they really are in God's love. My parting gift, paraphrasing Robbie Burns: “Would that God the gift to give you, to yourself as God sees you.”


                                   Blessings then for a continuous discovery of the birthing that is ever and always an essential part of an authentic human life. A life has the divine perfectly hidden within, and at the same time perfectly reveals Him whose divinity dwells in the depths of each and every human being. May The Mystery of The Incarnation vivify your life, so you become more and more the living sacrament of Him Who came to dwell in us through us and among us. Reverence the mystery of who you are. In this way you will have life and have it to the fullest.  
                                                                                                                                                

Blessings to and on all,
                                                                                                                                                
Grandpa Joe

 

P.S. 
You will all be remembered at the 9:00am and 11:00am Masses on Christmas Day.  I will have the privilege of celebrating with the community of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Tempe.