2nd Sunday of Advent B

Offensive linemen are the unsung heroes of football.  Mischaracterized because of their large size, they are statistically the most intelligent people on the field.  And their movements, so easily perceived as simply brutish, are deceptively agile and athletic.  [Don’t worry.  I think there will be a homily in here eventually.]

For example, there is the guard who is occasionally asked to “pull.”  This means that instead of blocking the man right in front of them, they actually move laterally around the end and block for the much faster running back following him.  And whether they know it or not, they are on a mission from the Prophet Isaiah to make mountains low, the rough ways smooth and “the rough country, a broad valley.”

The second thing I know about a pulling guard is that they are not famous or bask in glory.  I cannot tell you the best pulling guard in the NFL although it is clear he does not play for the Jets or the Giants.  But I can name the best running backs who are only successful because of the guard.  What they do is necessarily for the team, the other.  They do not want the spotlight pointed at them.  So you see, John the Baptist was a pulling guard preparing the way for Jesus, removing the obstacle from his path and widening the hearts of his listeners who would follow the one mightier than he.  To be a disciple, we must do the same.

Our parish makes a straight path to Jesus in a hundred different ways.  I hope you were among the hundreds of people who came to our fair trade sale on Saturday, buying beautiful goods from around the world and changing the communities that produced those goods.  We fill in valleys with our service to the poor, our compassion and our education.  We make a highway for our God when we celebrate the word and receive the sacraments.  But today I would like to challenge you to prepare a way that is not as familiar to all of us.  I would like us to tell our story of faith.

This is something we do not embrace or think of often as Catholics.  (However our Evangelical brothers and sisters do this quite well.)  But how will people know the way to Jesus unless we show it to them?  We each have a story to tell that is rich in blessing and grace and whenever we have the courage to tell it, we may unlock the spiritual hunger of others.  We are not imposing when we tell our stories for it is never wrong to tell a story of love, of peace, of joy.  And it might be just what they want to hear.

John the Baptist did not impose.  Indeed he left civilization to tell his story and people were so compelled they came to him.  Indeed, John the Baptist is a great model of faith sharing.  We do not need to dress in camel hair and eat grasshoppers, but we can follow in his way.  First, he certainly told his story in his own style.  No one could doubt the authenticity or realness of what Joh had to say for it came from the heart and with conviction.   Secondly, he stubbornly held onto the truth; even telling truth to power.  There is something about the truth that cannot be unheard.  It rings too clearly in our soul.  And finally, the story was not about him.  It was as far from an ego trip as possible.   It spoke of hope in what was to come and when he saw it in John’s Gospel, he literally pointed at Jesus and said, “Behold the Lamb of God.”

We can do at least that.  We can tell our truth our way from our heart.  And we can hope and pray that it does not lead to a revelation about us, but about the one we follow.  We can and have counted endlessly the reasons for the decline of faith:  secularism, science that leaves no room for the divine, consumerism and a grasp of only the now.  But this rough country may still be made a broad valley once we show others the way we got to Jesus and how they may still arrive there.  God has given each of us a way to deliver the good news of our life.  Funny people have funny stories, sweet people have sweet stories and DRAMATIC people have DRAMATIC stories.  But they will all serve the purpose. Be a pulling guard for the Lord and make straight the paths to Jesus.

 

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Christ the King A

I went to a conference last week for Vicars from across the Northeast.  It was a surprisingly fun crowd.  And I learned a great deal from the wonderful people at the St. John Vianney Institute.  Among the most valuable is this little gem. Psychologists conducted studies after the devastation after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans to determine what makes someone more resilient.  What makes one person rebuild their life and another not be able to move on? What they found are two factors that are at the heart of what we hold dear as people of faith.

The first is a sense of thanksgiving, appropriately enough for this weekend.  Those who count their blessings and who do not dwell on what is lost have more perseverance. That make sense to me.  The second one surprised me.  It is a sense of awe.  They took city dwellers out in the country and they noticed that as they took in more beauty, their heart rates settled and blood pressure decreased.  What is it about a sense of awe that could make us more resilient?

Well, a sense of awe always takes you out of yourself.  It is a reminder that there is indeed a bigger picture; for in crisis our world tends to shrink just to our greatest challenge.  Awe minimizes your problem in light of all the things, especially the beauty in the world that is simply given.  It allows us to surrender to something else, a higher power, recognizing it is not ours to hold up the entire world.

For us that higher power is ultimately God.  A sense of awe is a necessary component of worship and belief.  When we surrender our greatest obstacle to God we trust we are handing it over to someone with more sure hands, with a more gentle touch and loving wisdom.  Believing reminds us of three things that are critical:  we are not God, we don’t need to be God and someone more qualified already has the job.

Awe and God go together seamlessly.  At the scene described in the Gospel at the end of the world, it would be pretty difficult not to have a sense of awe.  “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him.” If you aren’t awed then, you are never going to be awed.  I also think that each mass provides a sense of awe as well. No matter you were thinking of when you walked into church or what you will be thinking when you leave, at least for this hour, you know it is not about you.  It is about the words on fire in the readings; it is about the perfect sacrifice of Christ given to us as his body and blood.  We know we are not alone in the world.

How can we break this sense of awe out of our church and into our daily lives so that we might calm the frenzied pace and anxiety of our days.  The Gospel provides an answer for that as well.

It is hard to blame either the sheep or the goats for not recognizing Jesus in the poorest of the poor and the most alone of the alone.  After all, they are in the midst of being awed by God and angels and judgment.  What Jesus lets them know that he is present as the mightiest and the weakest.  He is not be ignored in all the places he can be found.

Let us develop a sense of awe in the small as well as the large, especially in the least of our brothers and sisters.  We can be witness to the beauty of the mother struggling to feed her family. We can celebrate those who struggle with mental illness. We can stand in awe of the gift of the stranger and the courage of the ill.  Perhaps then we can even find the awesome beauty in when we are at our least:  when the darkness descends upon us; when our fear eclipses our love; when we feel alone – God is still there, Christ is present in our leastness and we are still beautiful for the divine abounds within us.

And perhaps this is the plan.  That everything brings us a sense of awe.  That we are engulfed in beauty.  That we, nor anyone else, can never escape the glory of God’s love for us.  That when we talk about the dignity of each person, we are really saying that we can testify about the utter, remarkable and unique beauty each one of us holds.  And it is a marvel.  We reserve awe for our God.  And God is everywhere and in everything.

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time A

Every year I teach each grade in the school a bible story.  I choose the Parable of the Talents for the fifth grade so we can talk about leadership.  We always give the servants names and it makes it more fun.  So this year it was Harold who had five talents and made another five.  Jeffe (I don’t know why but they spelled it for me) had two talents and made another two.  And then there was poor Mario, who buried his talent.

And for as long as I have been doing this, they always complain that Mario did nothing wrong.  And I would argue with them but I finally realized that this many years of fifth graders cannot be wrong.  I bet many of you feel the same way.  I conceded.  Mario did nothing wrong.  And that brought me back to trying out for the Junior High basketball team in Locust Valley.

It was the day before cuts and I was asking my friend Tom DellaVechia how he thought it went.  He said well and he asked me what I thought.  I told him I felt good because I had not made any mistakes.  He said to me, “But what you have done well.”  The next day I got cut.

Now our coach had told us that if we were cut and wanted another chance, we could ask for one.  With all the moxie I could muster, I asked if I could continue my try out. Months later he told me that no player had ever taken him up on his offer.  Now my jump shot was not going to improve in those couple of days and I was not going to jump higher.  All I could do was give my best. If the ball was rolling on the ground, I would be on the ground. If there were sprints after practice, I would win them regardless of not being the fastest.  And sure enough, when the final roster was posted, there were sixteen names in roster and Bob Longobucco written in pencil beneath them all.

It is funny how something like that can have an impact on you the rest of your life.  Since that time, I have tried to dive for every loose ball in my life.  I have vowed to try harder and give my best to what I do.   I want to do the very best with what God has given me.

Mario did nothing wrong. But ours is not a religion of not doing anything wrong.  It is about doing our best.  It is about knowing how blessed we are and sharing those blessings is our mission.  A talent is a huge amount of money, perhaps as much as 15 years’ worth of wages.  Yet, aren’t you not far more blessed?  Think of how many people and reasons of giving thanks you have in your life.  You will likely find that you have thousands of talents.  We are loved so that we might be lovers.  We are blessed so as to bless.

You have not had a good Fr. Pat like challenge in a long time; well since Fr. Pat left.  I will give you one.  Next weekend, look back on the week and think of the time you did something with your talents; some way you were different because you are blessed by God.  Will you spend an hour you could not afford with someone who sought your help or needed your ear?  Will you stand up for someone put down?  Will you go where you are needed even if you do not have to be there?  Then you will multiply your blessings.  You will be Harold and Jeffe.  Then you will share your master’s joy!

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time A

My job would be a lot easier if every rotten, lying, mean and angry person did not believe in God or did not profess a particular religion and if every good, kind, compassionate and happy person did belong to God and followed a religion.  Then all I would have to do is just say, “Look around!”

But we know that is not true.  We all know so many people who do not profess a common belief that are kind, caring and loving, especially to their neighbor and to the poor.  And to be honest, we all know that there are a couple of bad apples in our bushel basket.  I bring this up because in the Gospel Jesus says that the first and greatest commandment is that we, “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”  The second commandment is connected, and indeed like it:  “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  But it seems to me that many people are skipping step one and going to right to step two and quite successfully.

What we are talking about is the fastest growing religious group in America.  (Spoiler alert:  it is not the Catholic Church.)  They are the “nones” – those who claim no religious affiliation at all.  They usually describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious.”  They have built their world on a spirituality that they have named and owned for themselves.  And I get what is attractive about.  No one passes a collection basket around to support your own beliefs!  More importantly, they have an integral sense, a feeling that it all hangs together, that must be gratifying for their spirituality can match their values, ideology and politics.  Everything fits for everything is theirs.  And in this anti-institutional age, there is not bigger institution that the Church.  To be free of institution feels like freedom. And one is not bound to the pain and the stain when the institution fails as we endured when our Church failed to protect our young people as they should have.

But I believe there are five important advantages to being both spiritual and religious.  Six if you count my wanting to remain employed. The first is evident before us – community.  It is not possible to form community around beliefs that are simply your own thing.  When we form community, we know what we are about and why we are formed.  There is a spirit that brings us together.  And while there are certainly other ways to form community, there is nothing like the one that is formed around something ultimate; something from the heart of our lives where our souls are revealed and we promise to be there for both the good and the bad, the rejoicing and the tragic.  I met my best friends over thirty years ago at Chapel House at the University at Albany, now called the Interfaith Center, which is bizarrely threatened by the University.  We don’t talk about it much because it would be weird, but we know there is a reason we have stayed so close and mean so much to each other.  It is because God brought us together.

Second – there is what we are doing right now:  worship which is again precluded by not belonging.  We all have incredibly busy lives.  The beauty of worship is that for an hour our lives are not about our calendars and our agendas.  They are about something bigger. Worship enlarges our world which so increasingly becoming cramped and claustrophobic.  It is good that we can look up to something bigger than ourselves and be able to do it together; to spend some time on something not just important, but of ultimate value; something that is meant for the heart.  And that happens in any worship in any faith.  When we worship however, we celebrate that the God who became incarnate to live among us is still coming to us in this gathered community, in his word and in most intimately in the Eucharist.  In our world that values individuality, I believe we are craving the experience of knowing we are not alone.  Worship reminds us that we never are.

The third reason might seem contradictory for it is the opposite of one of the advantages of being a “none.”  I think it is good to have tension and conflict among your beliefs.   Do any of you have a problem with any position of the Catholic Church?  Don’t raise your hand.  And I won’t raise mine.  Yet, that tension has caused me to grow as I seek the wisdom of another way of looking at the Gospel, trying to see how others have come to a different conclusion based on the same material.  After all, how can we grow without stretching?  Like-minded people tend to be similar in background and concerns and can form a self-selecting group.  The very word catholic means universal; it means here comes everyone.  Diversity in people and thought is at the heart of true community.  Look at the different people Jesus gathered around him.  Besides,For the danger of only believing what you believe is that it limits God or any mystery.  We cannot know it all for the universe is unfathomable.  We must leave some space in our lives for the likelihood we are wrong.

Reason number four is the question of why.  When “religious and not spiritual” people express what they value, they usually say things like compassion, justice, forgiveness and love of neighbor.  I think to myself that sounds pretty familiar.  We are a society rooted in a Judeo-Christian tradition and our common values are at the very least related.  But my worry for my family and others is what happens after generations when we have become unmoored from the founder of those beliefs?  When someone says. “I don’t want to forgive; why should I?  Why should I care about the poor if I am not poor?  Why involve myself in someone else’s fight for justice?”  Without a foundation in Christ, these values all come down to a choice.  For us, there is no choice.  We must follow the Master.

And that brings me to number five.  We are not here because we share the same values or moral code.  .  We are here because we have had an experience, an encounter with Jesus Christ.  Ascribing to a certain doctrine does not make one a Christian.  We are formed by having a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Our God came to dwell among us in friendship, to show us a way and to save us here and then forever.  He intimately and completely loves us and I can’t imagine my life without him.  It has formed into the person I am and I find my greatest joy by growing closer to him.

I cannot emphasize enough that I am not casting aspersions on anyone.  I admire and love so many of these people.  Many of them are far better “Christians” than I am.  Nor do I blame them.  Jesus drew a line between love of God and love of neighbor.  We hardly ever do.  How often do you say I love God therefore I am serving at the Welcome table.  Or I love God therefore I am helping my neighbor.  Or I love God therefore I am speaking for the voiceless.  I ask you, if we do not draw the line, how do we expect anyone to see it?

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time A – Mental Health Awareness Week

Let me begin with a piece of advice.  If someone wants to ask you a question and they begin with something like, “We know you are wise and you never tell a lie and you don’t care how popular you are or whom you offend,” run the other way.  It is clearly a set-up.

That is what the Pharisees and Herodians do to Jesus.  He obviously knows it is a set-up and a pretty good one at that.  They ask, “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” If he says no, he will be in trouble with the Roman authorities, if yes he will be encouraging cooperation with the hated Romans.  Yet, Jesus disarms them immediately with his own question.  He has them produce the coin that pays the tax and asks, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?”  Of course it is Caesar.  But by this stage of history, Caesar is not just a political leader; he is worshipped as a god.   These pious Jews just admitted they were carrying an image of a false God.  How is that for dirty money? He then, famously, goes on to say, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”  Some have seen this an endorsement of a solely secular realm and a religious one.  Some see in this a Separation of Church and State but those ideas would not occur for centuries late.  Instead, I ask myself the question, “What did you think Jesus thought really belonged to Caesar?  And more importantly, what do you thing Jesus thought belonged to God?  Everyone and everything!

I am so proud that we are celebrating our first Mental Health Awareness week in our diocese.  It is of course, part of respect life month, in which we announce our belief that as God loves all, every person is bestowed with a dignity of life always and everywhere.  Those who struggle with mental illness belong to God.  From that we know three things.  If they belong to God, then they belong here.  And as members of the Body of Christ, we have a responsibility to identify and meet their needs.  And then one more thing I will talk about later.

As a people of God, we need all the faces of God represented to be truly whole.  That means that each person with a mental illness in any way should be accepted and welcomed in our parish.  Long ago you passed the baby test.  You know what the baby test is?  When a baby cries either everybody turns and scowls at the baby or everyone smiles.  I am proud to say that this a smiling, baby loving parish.  I am prouder to say in my ten years here, no one who struggles with mental issues of their family have once said that they were made to feel unwelcomed or unwanted.  Indeed, many times they have told me how warmly they have been made to feel and how blessed they feel to be here.  It is only as it should be, but sadly not always as it is.

And if you struggle with mental challenges and you feel uncomfortable or that you don’t belong, please tell me and we will fix it.  For you and for all if us, we want this place not to be just a church for all, but a home.

Secondly, we must meet the needs of the mental health community.  Jesus accomplished all that he did through relationships.  He did not just zap the nearest leper and healed them. He talked to them.  It might sound odd that when the blind man approached him, Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”  We all assume that it would be that his blindness be cured, but what if they needed forgiveness even more?  In the same ways, we must have ears to hear. We must not presume we are doing well, we must proactively ask if we are meeting the needs of the mentally ill.

And if we are not, please tell us.  Let us know what brings you life?  How can we better serve you?  What is missing in our parish?  What insights do you have of which can better frame our mission? Your voice is both needed and valued.

But we know that there is something else true of those who belong to God that goes beyond merely welcoming and ensuring that they are at home and heard.  As God’s creature, those with mental illness challenges are the desired of God.  They are beautiful and important.  And they have something to teach us.  Jesus knew that. It seems to me he planted the seeds of the Gospel among the outsiders, especially the mentally ill.  “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.”  Biblical scholars believe that many of those from whom Jesus expelled demons suffered from mental illness; a feeling that many who struggle with mental illness can relate to.  He was always with those who had been dislocated from their communities, living in lonely anguish. Why did Jesus choose to bathe them into the light of the kingdom?  Because he sensed their nearness to God.  Because he could expose the divine light that shows so brightly among the poor, however their poverty is defined.  God has a marvelous way of giving each of us perfections and of perfecting our imperfections.

That describes my encounters with those who have mental illness.  They have made me a better priest, a better Christian and a better man.  We all know someone with depression.  They often have a world-soul.  They feel the pain of everyone with an empathy I cannot begin to approach.  For four years I worked with those with mental disabilities in Washington during seminary.  Their gift was to teach me that we do not say “I love you” too often and to too many, but not often and enough and to too few.  I have worked with those who suffer from compulsive disorders who struggle every day to be their best before God with a zeal I cannot imagine. Those with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder fight it with a strength I can only marvel at.

This weekend, coincidentally, there is a conference for people with disabilities at the Vatican.  I think they heard about our Mental Health Awareness Week and decided to jump on our bandwagon.  On Saturday, a woman named Bridget Brown handed the Pope a letter saying she is likely among the last generation of people living with Down’s syndrome, a chromosomal abnormality that causes intellectual disabilities among other things.  In Europe due to pre-natal screening, countries have upward of 90% abortion rates among those who have Down’s and Iceland is said to have “eradicated” it. I think of what my mentor at the group home Dee lamented as this trend began in the nineties, “Our friends are the prophets among us.”  What happens to a people when they no longer have their prophets? To whom do they listen?

So if you struggle with the darkness of depression and still seek the light of Christ; if you fight to make it here despite anxiety; if you know the burden of any mental illness and still turn to Christ lift it, I have but two words for you:  thank you.

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time A

My week certainly had a theme.  It started at a Girls’ soccer game on Monday.  Someone I knew but who does not belong to our parish, was staring out at the field after the game.  I caught her attention and she said she had been in deep thought in light of the tragedy in Las Vegas the night before.  Shen then asked me what I was going to do to get my flock stirred up to respond.  To which I said, “Back off.  It’s my flock.”  Not really.  Then, as never happens, there was an item on the School Board agenda that said “Open Forum.”  We got into a long and passionate discussion about violence, race and divisiveness in our country.  Finally, while eating dinner at a friend’s house, the same thing happened.  The Lord only needs to knock on my door three times to get my attention.

And it occurred to me that whether the people who perpetrate these horrible acts are politically motivated or not, they were all taking aim at one thing:  hope.  They were trying to tell us not to invest in one another, to see as enemy the ones who are different, to believe that reconciliation is impossible and that life is not precious.  They we making their statement loudly in racist chants and silently at the business end of a rifle.

Then came this week’s Gospel that seems to confirm the darkness we all share.  It represents the breakdown of cooperation, polarization and the reliance on violence we are all too familiar with from headlines and cable news.  We have seen this before and Jesus I believe is challenging to draw a new conclusion that is built on his values – peace, hope, blessedness and love.

Thank God for St. Paul’s beautiful word to the Philippians in the second reading.  “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”  Our destiny is in “these things,” and not the horror of another.  We do not surrender hope because it has been planted deeply within us.  We do give up on reconciliation because we have already been reconciled by the cross.  We champion peace because our eternity is based upon it.

For this I believe is a Christian moment.  There are answers we possess in our heritage that are uniquely suited to this time and place.  Our hope is literally unassailable for it is not in a politics or a philosophy or even a point of view.  It is in a person, Jesus Christ, and the utter conviction that what he has promised cannot be taken away –that he has already triumphed over evil.

This I believe is a Christian moment.  For we have something to say about violence and inclusion and peacemaking because Jesus Christ had something to say about it.  This is not a Democratic moment or a Republican moment.  It is not a liberal moment or a conservative moment.  It is not a moment for a philosophy or a trend.  It is time for a people encased in the values of Christ.  It is time for the Body of Christ to express itself and shine light in the darkness and tell truth to power.  It is what we were made for and why we were called.

To be a Christian in these times, we must act like our Savior who listened patiently to the other and cared about their story.  Who took people where they were and did not wait for their perfection.  Who included sinners who then became saints.  Who asked questions and did not castigate his opponents.

But to simply say this is a Christian moment does not mean it will happen.  We are fully capable of letting the moment skip through our hands.  If we do not have the courage of our convictions, the faith to express ourselves and an understanding of discipleship, our truth, no matter how true, will not affect the world.  We must have the strength to invite people here so that the Body of Christ is built up.  Lacking that, we must have speak of the hope and the beauty we have discovered in the Gospel.  And if that too is impossible, at the very least we must act like Jesus Christ who never judged character, but built it.

It seems the very earth is crying out for the Prince of Peace.  But is he is to remain in our pocket, our own personal possession for holiness and then heaven, then his light is not allowed to shine on others.  If his voice is not heard, how will it soothe?  Jesus has already told us who we are. We are light of the world.  Darkness is growing and only light can expel it.  Will we dare to be Christ’s beacon for all the world?

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time A 2017

I have always loved the ancient hymn of Jesus we heard in the second reading from the Philippians.  Every Saturday night we read it in the Liturgy of the Hours and I am moved by the heroic nature of Jesus’ life, “Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.  Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  I find his humility astounding, his self-giving complete and I am in stunned admiration for the life he chose.  Then this week I asked myself a question I had never asked before about this humble, self-sacrificing man.  “Was Jesus happy?”

Now I don’t think that happiness was a very important value to Jesus.  Not as important as loving, caring and giving for sure.  But in a way that does not matter, for in our advertising culture, happiness is a priority.  If we are to take up St. Paul’s challenge to be of one mind and one heart; to have the same attitude of Christ, we will want to know if we would be happy.

Now there are some measures of happiness that we know Jesus would fail.  Some say that those who die with the most toys are happiest.  He ain’t going to win that contest.  Others suggest that those who managed to live like water, seeking the least resistance, are happiest.  Again, not his style.  And maybe more would insist that only a life without suffering and hurt would be happy. So how could it be that Jesus was happy?

I turn to the Beatitudes.  We know them for calling people “Blessed”.  But some translators believe the far less poetic “Happy” should be preferred.  It certainly leads to a jolt to say, “Happy are the poor in the spirit,” “Happy are they who mourn… or are persecuted.”   These seem to be the very opposite of happy.  Yet, for Jesus, those who are happiest know God is with them and that they are never abandoned.  They have no fear of ever being alone for God abides and God has promised.  This is the source of their happiness.

If he were happy then, what made him so?  Well they called him Rabbi which means teacher.  I know teachers and I taught.  It does not happen every moment or maybe not each day, but there is an indescribable feeling when someone gets it, when the light bulb goes on.  And he was teaching masterfully the most valuable lessons about the most valuable thing possible.  That must have made him happy.

And he was a forgiver.  If you have lived in a state of unforgiveness, you know the dark cloud that surrounds you, the burden you feel.  Jesus had the authority to lift that cloud and lighten that load.  He let the captive go free.  Imagine the liberation and relief that he provided, one sinner at a time.  If you have ever brought someone from to freedom, you know the rush of joy that comes upon you.

Finally, he was sharing what he himself called the good news.  His words were of liberty and joy and light.  He was able to tell the forgotten that God cherished them; to tell the despairing of a hope that cannot be defeated.  He made the lowly aware of how much they were loved by the God of all creation and he promised to the moribund a life that would not end.  He transferred our plane of understanding to a new horizon where there only exists in each of us beauty, holiness and blessing.

Trust me, if these were your tasks and these alone, you would be ecstatic.  To teach successfully the good things of God; to lift the burden of sin from others; to tell a story of good news where all discovered they were precious and unrepeatable in the eyes of God, you would be happy too.

I believe that even from the cross, when Jesus had seen the worst of it, he still knew he was happy.  He had knowledge enough to know that if he could forgive them for they did not know what they were doing or to whom they were doing it.  He could say in John’s Gospel where the cross is really a throne of glory, “It is done,” with a deep breath of completion and satisfaction.

For true happiness, we can still follow in his way.  For what can make us happier than sharing the light given us by our God.  Come and follow Jesus on the way to happiness.