Sunday, December 25, 2011

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, December 25

Today we celebrate the wonder of the Incarnation, the Mystery of God become flesh, of God loving us so much God even became one of us. On the level of faith this is a wonderful reason to rejoice and celebrate. And it is because of FAITH, not because of any feeling or emotion, that we celebrate.

Many people do not feel merry. Many have lost loved ones around the holidays, and so the celebration is always mixed for them with a certain measure of sadness. My Mother died on Dec. 21 four years ago, and so the holiday is always touched with a certain sense of loss and sadness. Others have problems with living family members or friends – over inheritances or marriage or any variety of issues – that lead to painful separations:  separations that are made all the more sharp and cutting by the holiday season when there is so much emphasis on family and togetherness which they are so pointedly missing. Still others are separated from loved ones by war or work or illness or physical distance, and feel sharply the longing for those not present.

But for Christians, Christmas is not primarily about feeling, but about FAITH. Unlike office or most other Christmas parties, where it largely depends on your feelings and mood, for Christians we are not focused on “feeling Christmassy,” but rather on believing in God’s love for us made flesh; namely Jesus.
One of the great things about liturgy is that its success or failure does not depend on our feelings. We don’t have to feel a certain way for the liturgy to work. It is certainly nice to feel joyful and happy at the Christmas celebration, but it is much more important to believe in what is being celebrated. And when we do summon up our faith in the preposterous belief that God became a helpless baby, and go through the motions of praying and praising and singing and worshipping, the feelings tend to follow along behind naturally.

So if you are not feeling particularly happy or joyful or merry this Christmas, if you are worried to distraction about your job or the economy, or you are disappointed because your children behave selfishly and badly, if you are estranged from your siblings, or your life seems stuck and going nowhere, or if you are missing a loved one like I am missing my Mom, or you are just overwhelmed by the fluster of activity and commercial craziness of the season, that really is all right. There is nothing wrong with those feelings. You do not need to apologize for or be embarrassed by those feelings. And more importantly, they will not stop Christmas from happening.

I dare say that on the first Christmas, more than 2,000 years ago, the great majority of people were hungry, frightened, cold, sick, worried, oppressed, hurting in some way. It did not matter. Christmas happened nonetheless. In fact, that is the whole point of Christmas. It is God’s work, not ours. That is our faith. 

Merry Christmas! 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, December 18

Christmas is getting very close. Some of you, I presume, have compiled a Christmas Wish List. Perhaps your wish list is very short or it may be very long. Perhaps your wish for Christmas is all electronics and clothing and merchandise, or it may all be less tangible items like good health for family, meaningful work for the unemployed, world peace and such. Perhaps your list is composed entirely toys (both children’s and adults’!)
Well, as Pastor I have a Wish List too. Of course we depend on your generosity for the support of our ministry here at St. Austin, and for the where-with-all to conduct our charitable efforts. But in addition to these most necessary and fundamental needs, beyond the staff salaries, the plumbing repairs, the insurance, the phone and internet bill, the office supplies and all the other expenses of operating this parish, I have a list of other things that I would like particular help with.

The first is the New Roman Missals. We have purchased two of them. The larger one that we use for weekend Masses cost $175, and the smaller one that we use for weekday Masses and for study and preparation in the office cost $129.

Then we have six new pewter chalices. Called the Woodbury Jefferson style, I find these chalices very elegant. We believe these will be much easier to maintain than the chalices we had been using, and with the simultaneous Masses on Christmas Eve we will need two full sets of Communion ware anyway.  These pewter chalices cost $100 each.

And finally I would like for us to purchase a new green vestment. The set we have from prior to my arrival is very nice, but VERY heavy. It is great in the Winter, but it is awful in the Summer. Of course, most of the time in the year we wear green is the Summer! We have purchased a very serviceable set that is light-weight for weekday use, and I have been using it for the weekends in the Summer as well. But I would really like to have a nice green vestment for Summer Sundays. Unfortunately, vestments are outrageously expensive. The green vestment I would like to get is $1,200. The fortunate thing is that we wear green more than all the other colors combined, so we would get good use of it!

Any of these items could be memorialized. If you would like to discuss this with me, please give me a call, or better, an email. Meanwhile, thank you all for your great generosity to the parish. We appreciate very much your financial and spiritual support.   

God bless! 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fourth Sunday of Advent Cycle B December 18, 2011

Fourth Sunday of Advent    Cycle B                                                         December 18, 2011

We are getting very close to the celebration of Christmas!   Where did Advent go????
Such a beautiful season, over all too quickly.  
            Our Gospel, in preparation for the celebration of the birth of the Christ child on Christmas, is about conception.  “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.” 
            This is a miracle.  But the conception of every human life is a miracle.  It was a miracle for the Virgin Mary to conceive; it was a miracle for the aged and barren Elizabeth, Mary’s relative, to conceive; and to my way of thinking it is a miracle - less dramatic but none-the-less real, in every human conception. 
            Luke’s portrait of the annunciation depicts it as a beautiful event.  There is great decorum, but also tenderness expressed in these words.  There is love there.  It is the teaching of our church that every child should be conceived in an act of self-gift and of love, that every conception is called by God to be a beautiful event. 
            Fortunately, that is how I was conceived.   I hope that is how you were conceived, and how your children were conceived.  
            There are other “concepts” besides the conception of human beings.  I have been to Gettysburg, and visited the spot where Abraham Lincoln delivered the famous Gettysburg Address.   He spoke those stirring lines: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation conceived in liberty.” 
            There are other conceptions besides the physical.  We conceive ideas, we conceive desires, we conceive plans and courses of action. 
            The English word “conceive” comes from the Latin:  concipere, meaning: “to take fully, to take in.”  Mary “takes in” the message of the angel.  She “takes fully” God’s wonderful invitation to her to be the Mother of the Christ.  She conceives in her heart and in her soul a full and wondrous Faith that indeed, “nothing will be impossible for God.”  She conceives first faith in her heart before she conceives the inconceivable God in her womb.
            And it is in this sense that Mary is a model for us.  This Gospel is placed here today, I believe, not only to be a historical preparation for the birth that we celebrate in just a week.  It is really much too late for that.  It needs to be nearly nine months earlier. 
That is why we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation on the 25th of March, nine months before Christmas. 
            Rather this Gospel is placed here on the Fourth Sunday of Advent as a spiritual preparation for celebrating Christmas.  It is to remind and inspire us that we too are called to conceive Faith in Christ in our hearts and minds and souls. 
Christmas is not just an excuse for parties and decorations, not only about gift-giving, not even concern for the less fortunate, and family togetherness: Christmas is first and foremost about Faith in a God who loves us so passionately and totally and indeed crazily, that God let go all His power and might in order to become one of us, to truly be God-with-us, Emmanuel.
            This Gospel is an invitation to us to conceive the Christ-child in our hearts by Faith, and to live out His life in ours. 
            The Angel Gabriel speaks to each of us in today’s Gospel: “Do not be afraid,” There is so much to fear: the economy, terrorism, old age and illness, the weather.  But the Gospel tells us, “Do not be afraid,”   Why?  “For you have found favor with God.”   Not by any of our own merits, not by virtue of any of our own worthiness, but rather by the redemptive life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Like Mary, we too are now “highly-favored”.  We are joined to Christ by baptism, made new people, given a new relationship with God and God’s people, and indeed we “have found favor with God.” 
            The Holy Spirit has come upon us at our Baptism and Confirmation, and at every Eucharist.  We receive Christ’s life in Holy Communion so that His life may grow in us, transforming us more and more into His image and likeness. 
            This is the true meaning of Christmas.  This Gospel reminds us to conceive in Faith, to take in fully the real meaning of Christmas, and so to grow in Christ. 
Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Who are you?  What do you have to say for yourself?  [pause]  Who are you?  What do you have to say for yourself?   What are you then?  [pause]
These are fundamental questions, which is to say this are existential questions, which is to say these are threatening questions.  They question our identity.  They challenge us to justify our existence.  They are threatening when we ask them of ourselves ("who am I?").  They are threatening when put to us by others.  Today, in the Gospel, John the Baptizer gets questioned on this basic level.  Some priests and Levites first interrogate him, and then some Pharisees question him. 
First of all, John knows who he is not.  They ask him, "Are you Elijah?"  "I am not".  "Are you the prophet?"  "NO!"   John also admits, "I am NOT the Christ."   John has no messiah complex.  He suffers from no overblown opinion of himself.  No delusions of grandeur in this one.  He is down to earth.  He is very real. 
When they question him further, John goes deeper.  He quotes the prophet Isaiah:  I am "the voice of one crying out in the desert, Make straight the way of the Lord!"  In quoting the prophet Isaiah, John situates himself in a tradition; in a living community.  John has roots, in other words.  His identity comes from his connection with God's people.  John is not some free-floating, independent agent that does not connect to other people.  John knows where he belongs - he is part of God's people.
The Pharisees continue to interrogate John.  They press for the core of his identity.  "Why then do you baptize?" they ask with growing frustration.  John goes to the core of his identity:  "I baptize with water, but there is one among you whom you do not recognize - the one who is coming after me - whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie."
Now this is a strange answer.  But notice what John does.  When it comes to the question of the core of John's identity, the rock upon which his sense of self is based, John stops talking about himself, and starts talking about Jesus.  John finds his identity in relationship to Jesus Christ.  And based on this firm rock, John knows firmly who he is.  He has no doubts about himself.  Thus, he is empowered for his mission as witness to the light.  John testifies to the light.  That is who John is.   //PAUSE//
This Gospel puts to us the same questions that were put to John: "Who are you?  What do you have to say for yourself?"  "Why do you work and breathe and love and bother to get up in the morning?"  "Who are you  Hmmmm.
There are many ways we could answer:  man or woman, gay or straight, adult or child, rich or poor, Republican or Democrat, Longhorn or Aggie fan, chocolate or vanilla, and on and on.  But our most profound identity here, what draws us together for this celebration, is our identity as Christians, as Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. That identity runs deeper than any of the others.  We identify ourselves in relation to Jesus Christ.
Like John we do not find our identity in a totally self-sufficient way in ourselves, so that we do not need anyone else.  Because if we define ourselves totally in terms of our own self, then there is, frankly, not a great deal there.  If we are the measure of everything, then the measurement – compared to the universe – is mighty picayune.  If our purpose is no bigger than the little thing of our particular, individual self, then our being is pathetically  modest indeed. 
But if , like John the Baptist, we find our identity in relationship to Jesus Christ; if we discover our identity in our need for a Savior, then our identity, our purpose, our meaning, is much, much greater. 
The operative question then is not, “Who am I?” but rather “Whose am I?”
To Whom do I belong, to whom do I give my life, for whom do I live, for whom do I bother to get up each morning and keep going and slug it out another day?  
¿ Who am I?  Many things: priest, Paulist, pastor, American, chocolate lover, and so on, but at the core I am called to be a Disciple of Christ.  That is my identity.  That is your identity.
And what a wonderful identity it is!   St. Peter, speaking to the Baptized, tells us who we are:  You are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God’s own, so that you may announce the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” [1 Pet 2:9]   That is who we are!
It matters little if we are famous or unknown, if we are applauded or ignored.  What matters is Whose we are, that we are disciples of the Lord Jesus.
Like with John the Baptizer, this relationship with Jesus gives us our identity.  It must be expressed in mission, must be lived out in service to others.  That is the only way it becomes real.  By our Baptism we have been joined to Christ.  We are members of His Body.  We are His way of continuing to act and speak and be present in this world.  By continuing to do His mission, to live His faithfulness and love, we come to discover who we most truly are.  [pause]
Who are you?  What do you have to say for yourself?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, December 11

First of all, I want to THANK all those who planned, participated in, and patronized the Holiday Fair here last weekend. There were many attractive items for sale, great food and treats, entertainment and a very good spirit. With the rain and drizzle we had, being inside at the Holiday Fair was the perfect option. A special St. Austin Thank You goes to the Knights of Columbus who again did such a great job of providing culinary delights and lots of help. Thanks to you all!

Now looking forward, it is not too early to start planning your Mass attendance for Christmas. It will be a little different this year because Christmas Eve falls on a Saturday and Christmas Day on a Sunday, so you need to pay attention to the schedule. It is DIFFERENT THAN LAST YEAR.

On Sat., Dec. 24, there will be TWO MASSES SIMULTANEOUSLY at 5 p.m. One of these Masses will be in the church, as usual. The other Mass will be in the GYM. That’s right, TWO Masses at the same time in different locations.

The Dec. 24, 5 p.m. Mass in the gym will be directed especially to small children. It will be more in the round, less structured by pews, and with music, preaching, etc. suitable for children. Once either of these 5 p.m. Masses is full, we will   direct people to the other 5 p.m. Mass. In the unlikely event that BOTH fill up we will begin directing people to the 6 p.m. Mass at the University Catholic Center a block and a half away.
If you are wondering why we have such a strange schedule, then you were not here at the 5 p.m. Mass last Christmas Eve. It was not just full, it was not just crowded, it was downright DANGEROUS. We will not have that again this year.

So we are trying to accommodate the large number of people who want to go to Mass on Christmas Eve at 5 p.m. by offering two simultaneous Masses. We can hold a lot of people in the gym. It will be a little different, and it will be fun! What a great problem to have, that so many people want to go to church. So many churches are mostly empty. Would that we had this problem every week!

PLEASE NOTE there will be NO 7:30 p.m. Mass on Christmas Eve this year. There will be the 10 p.m. Christmas Mass on Christmas Eve in the church as usual.

On Christmas Day (Sunday) the ONLY Masses will be at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. There will NOT be the usual Sunday 7:30 a.m. Mass NOR the Sunday 5:30 p.m. Mass.

So you see this will require some planning on the part of your family, as the schedule is different than last year and different from a normal Sunday. 

Merry Christmas!   

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Second Sunday of Advent Cycle B December 4, 2011

HOMILY     Second Sunday of Advent   Cycle B         December 4, 2011

Today in the Gospel we meet the strange and wild character of John the Baptizer.  He is dressed funny: wearing a camel’s hair suit and a leather belt.  Some of you may have a camel hair jacket.  I have a leather belt.  John’s culinary tastes are even stranger: he dines on locusts and wild honey”.    What is that all about?  An early version of Andrew Zimmern and the “Bizzare Foods” program on the Travel Channel?   I don’t know.
            What intrigues me is his location, where John is at.  Where does he show up?  Anyone remember?  Mark tells us John the Baptist appeared in the desert.”     The desert?  What desert?   The Negev?  The Sahara?  The Mohave or Sonoran desert?    Mark just tells us “the desert”. 
            John appears proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 
That is the clue to the desert where John appears. 
            It is not a physical desert, where life struggles because of a lack of water, like we have seen in the drought in Texas this year.  That is bad enough.  But the desert where John appears is far, far worse, and much, much closer to us: in our own hearts.  Because, this is a spiritual desert: a dry, barren waste, where life struggles because of a lack of spirit, of justice, of forgiveness, of love. 
            Wherever there are dry, barren, hard places in our heart, places that are empty of life and love, that is the desert where John the Baptist appears.
It is a desert of hard, barren earth made sterile by bitterness, by envy, by prejudice and pride.  It is a land filled with the scorpions of lust, the prickly cacti of revenge and hate, and snakes full of the venom of greed and hard-heartedness.  It is a barren waste lacking in honesty and integrity, chastity, and honor; where virtue is all dried up and listless, like dead, dried-up bones on the sand. 
            It is that desert where torture is acceptable as a means of national policy;  where services for the poor, the sick and the elderly are cut while the expenditures on armaments grow and fester;  where cheating is considered normal;  where teen-age girls feel that they have to dress like tramps to get attention and where young men are told that being cold and uncaring means strength. 
          It is the wasteland where gossip is sought and prized; where greed and consumerism are extolled; where indifference and self-centeredness are the order of the day.    Indeed it is a barren, lifeless, onerous place.
            It is into this desert, the desert in our hearts, that John the Baptist appears, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 
            In this Advent, right here and now, John the Baptist appears in your heart.  LISTEN!  Do you hear it?    A voice of one crying out in the desert:  "Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths." !!!     John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.   
            Repentance is like a life-giving spring in the middle of the desert, refreshing, soothing, healing, bringing life and joy.  Repentance cracks the hard soil of indifference and fear, and allows life to grow again in integrity, compassion, generosity, service and love.
            That is what we look for, what our deepest, truest selves yearn for.   St. Peter in our 2nd reading today instructs us:  “But according to his promise we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”    
                No longer a desert, no longer a barren wasteland, our hearts will be “ a new heavens and a new earth,”  blooming and fruitful with righteousness.   St Peter urges us:  
“Therefore, beloved, since you await these things,
be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.”
            Repentance and conversion are how we prepare for the coming of the Lord.   Not at some time in distant ages or in some exotic land far away, but here, now, right inside us.  
His coming will be glorious, for the dry, barren places in our hearts will then blossom with righteousness and joy!  
Come, Lord Jesus! 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, December 4

“The Lord be with you. And with your spirit.”  We are now fully immersed (or nearly drowned?) in the New Roman Missal. In addition to the changes in the words, you as a perceptive observer have no doubt noticed that we are also singing more of the Mass than before. This is partly because of the belief that some of the prayers, such as the Collect or Opening Prayer, sound better sung than read. More fundamentally, we are singing more as another step in a decades-long attempt to “sing the liturgy.”

The first of several National Pastoral Musicians Conventions that I attended was held at San Francisco around 1980. Even back then the emphasis was on singing the liturgy. This concern arose even earlier, out of Vatican Council II, with the reform of the liturgy. The problem at that time, however, was that Catholics did not sing. The people in the pew were not accustomed to it and were uncomfortable with singing. Some observers thought Catholics would never sing. It took a long time, and many battles, to get to where we are today.

First we had the Four Hymn Syndrome: an opening hymn, an offertory hymn, a communion hymn and a closing hymn. This was the first baby step taken towards the eventual goal of singing the liturgy. The next was to get the people to sing the acclamations: the Kyrie (Lord have mercy), the Alleluia, the Sanctus (Holy, Holy), the Memorial Acclamation, the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God), and eventually the Gloria, and in more liturgically involved places (like St Austin), even the Our Father. Over the years we have gotten very good at this. At this parish people sing well!

But we are still just singing at the liturgy, rather than singing the liturgy, which is the ultimate goal of the reform of Vatican Council II. Back in 1967 the Bishop’s Committee on the Liturgy published “The Place of Music in Eucharistic Celebrations.”  In it they stated: “Among the many signs and symbols used by the Church to celebrate its faith, music is of preeminent importance. As sacred song united to the words it forms an integral part of solemn liturgy” (para 23).

As we now implement the new translation of the Roman Missal (3rd ed.), here at St. Austin we are also using this as an opportunity to take another step towards the long awaited goal of singing the liturgy. You will notice that more often the opening Sign of the Cross, the penitential rite, even the declaration “the Word of the Lord” at the end of Scripture readings, and so on, will now be sung. Not only the choir, but even lectors and the celebrant are singing!

At first this may be a bit slipshod and clunky. Well, we have been there before, with each addition of more singing to the liturgy. We will live through it. Eventually we will become accustomed and even enjoy it. St. Augustine (of Hippo) apparently also struggled with his congregation to get them to sing more. He told them, “Do not allow yourselves to be offended by the imperfect while you strive for the perfect.” So hang in there, and you will get the hang of it.

Now I confess that I like to sing. I don’t sing well, but I do sing loud. As a priest friend of mine in Alaska used to tell his parish, “If God gave you a bad voice, plague Him with it!” I encourage you to join in the singing of the sacred liturgy with all the talent and enthusiasm you can muster. You ought to get used to it, because after all, singing the praises of God is what we hope to do for all eternity!

God Bless!

Monday, November 28, 2011

HOMILY First Sunday of Advent “B” November 27, 2011

What are you waiting for??  Christmas?    For the Dow to go back over 12,000?   For the next national election?   For Retirement? 
            All of life is waiting.  We are born, and then we basically wait till we die.  And we fill up the time in between with all sorts of activity and stuff.  And the question of today’s readings is, ‘what do we wait for?’   What do we expect? 
            St Paul in the second reading today tells us in his typically round about and convoluted way: “I give thanks to my God ... for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus ... so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for (and here it comes!)  - the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  
“The revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
            Is that what you are waiting for?   What does this revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ mean, and more importantly, what’s in it for me?   Well our belief is that Jesus, in his own body and soul conquered sin, and with it death, on the cross.  Jesus, by His radical obedience, by His perfect harmony with the Will of the Father even unto death, healed the wound of disobedience that plagued all people.  And in doing this Jesus healed humanity, and made it possible for us to live in accord and harmony with God’s Will for us, and so fulfill the purpose and meaning of our creation.  No longer essentially frustrated from being who we most desperately and fundamentally yearn to be - that is, true children of God - we now have the opportunity to live in harmony with God. 
            The Lord Jesus Christ will be revealed at the end of time.  We don’t know when this is, or very much what it will look like.  However, we do know that when Jesus comes in Glory our true identity as children of God is going to be made real and manifest and triumphant.  Then God’s Will will be done, and all people will live in harmony and peace with God, with each other, with their own inner selves, and with all creation.  And that will be wonderful, fantastic, spectacular!  It is something definitely to look forward to.  So we “wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” as St. Paul today tells us.
            But, ¿Do we wait for that?  Do we long and yearn for that?  Do we want the world to be the place that God wants it to be, a place of justice, of compassion, of care for the environment, of truth and beauty and love?  That is what the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ will bring, and we are supposed to long for it.
            There is a wonderful example of this longing in our first reading today.  The Prophet Isaiah is discouraged and disgusted and fed up.  All the news is bad, nothing is the way it is supposed to be.  The government is corrupt, the bishops are out of touch and stuck in the past, the politicians can’t agree on the budget, the Euro is going down the toilet, there are riots and revolutions everywhere, the company you work for is going broke because of dumb mis-management, the family is all at odds with each other, the NBA season is on hold, Mopac and I-35 are parking lots, and it is just one miserable thing after another.  And the Prophet Isaiah sees everything so badly screwed up and so out of whack that the only hope – the ONLY HOPE - he can see is God’s direct intervention.  He cries: “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you, while you wrought awesome deeds we could not hope for, such as they had not heard of from of old.” 
            Have you ever felt like that?  That everything is so bad off and so messed up that only God’s direct intervention can save this mess?    I have.  The Prophet Isaiah states, “No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for him.”  That is what we wait for; God’s direct intervention: or as St. Paul says, “the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
            It is important not only what we wait for, but how we do our waiting.  That is the point of today’s Gospel.  “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be watchful!  Be alert!”   The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translates that as “Beware!”   The Jerusalem Bible renders this warning as “Be on your guard!  In any case this is not a passive waiting, like in a doctor’s waiting room, a waiting of just killing time.  Rather it is an active waiting that demands preparation and vigilance, like soldiers expecting an attack.  We have to be actively involved in this waiting. 
            Jesus warns us: “You do not know when the time will come. ... Watch therefore;”  The NRSV states, “Keep awake!”  It is too easy for us to become complacent, and then NOT watchful.  We are then unaware, we are asleep spiritually. 
             We either become cynical: nothing will ever change, it is all hopeless.  Or we become complacent: everything is what it is and that is fine, because I am basically OK. 
Advent, and the whole Christian life, requires a sort of holy discontent.  We can never become satisfied with the way things are, because they are not the way God intends for them to be.  Genocide, human trafficking, drug abuse, starvation, abortion, racism, poverty, ignorance, war, raping of the environment, and a whole list of many other evils, are NOT what God wills.  We can never become complacent with this.                    
            We have to stay alert and vigilant and hopeful, yearning and longing for “the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  We have to be open and willing to welcome God’s Kingdom wherever and whenever we find it, especially in our own hearts.
            God can come to us demanding a response from us in unexpected and startling ways: in forgiveness of those who hurt us, in compassion for those who are hurting, in appreciation of beauty, in generosity to those in need, in sorrow and repentance for the wrong we have done and the good we have failed to do.  God can call us at any time and anywhere.  The writer, Ann Lammot, in one of her books has an insightful passage about finding God in the Ladies Room.  God can find us anywhere ... even in church!
            And so Jesus warns us: “Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning.  May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.  What I say to you, I say to all: “Watch!”   “Stay awake!”