The Nativity of the Lord (day) 2022: The Visita

Sorry only now posting! Today’s homily is for The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas) Mass During the Day, December 25, 2022, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video of the homily is here.

There are four Gospels that each, in their own particular way, teach us about Jesus Christ. Each Gospel is unique in many ways, but yet similar in many ways too. One of the ways in which they are unique is quite fascinating to me–namely, how the Gospel writer answers the question  “Where did he come from?” 

Mark’s Gospel has no answer at all. It simply begins with Jesus’ baptism by John in the Jordan river. Luke’s Gospel teaches us the poverty of God, the humility of God, taken on human flesh, and born in a manger. This God has come for everyone–especially the poor. Matthew’s Gospel has Magi appearing from the East in search of a King! In the line of King David, God’s promise of a Messiah has come to fulfillment. This time of the year we don’t hear from Mark’s Gospel because he doesn’t talk about the baby Jesus, and we always see Luke and Matthew’s Gospel because we enjoy our Nativity Scenes so much! 

Today is John’s Gospel…no shepherds, no magi, no kings, no baby Jesus. John teaches if you want to know where Jesus came from, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things came to be through him…The true light that enlightens everyone was coming into the world.” In Jesus, the fullness of God, the eternal and invisible Word has visited his people. It’s the greatest visita of all time. The visita of vistas!

Visitas are an important part of the Portuguese community and way of life. Sadly, in our busy life, visitas are few and far between. A visita is just a visit. That’s all. It seems quite simple on the surface of it, but there’s something much deeper and more important going on–something that I think we’re missing in our communities today. A visita is about hospitality, about catching up, about surprises, about sharing food and stories, but mostly it’s just about being present to those you love. It’s about dropping by, knocking on the door, and entering into each other’s lives–because we care. That’s what love does–it gets all up in the business. It looks into the eyes of the ones we love and asks, how are you doing? I’m here to support you, to love you, to be with you through your joys and sorrows.

I mentioned our good friend’s, the Seeleys, last Sunday. Every we drive through Salinas we just pop in to say hello. That’s what Christmas is all about. It’s God popping into our world to say hello. It’s God’s visita. That’s what love does. Love doesn’t stay far away, far off unaware and unconcerned about our concerns. Out of love for us, God got out of his comfort zone, was inconvenienced, and was born in a manger, the king not just of Israel, but of everyone and everything. 

We live in a world that has become too busy and too independent for visitas. We mind our own business, we don’t want to inconvenience, we don’t make the time, and we don’t want to be bothered to host at the last minute or at an unexpected hour…and it’s killing us. If this pandemic  taught us only one thing, it’s that we need each other. We need relationships. We need to see each other, visit each other, spend time with each other…and already we’ve forgotten, haven’t we? 

Today we are reminded. Christmas is about intruding. It’s about knocking on the door, singing Christmas carols, or saying, “I’ll be over…I’m on my way.” But it’s also about receiving. It’s about opening our heart and mind, and home to another. We welcome imperfect family without judgment, and we become a gift to one another. Christmas is about God entering our world. Entering our heart. Entering our imperfect lives. But we have to allow it. We have to open the door. Enjoy your visitas with Jesus, family, and friends. God wants to enter our heart and home. Merry Christmas. 

12.18.22 S. Homily: Emmanuel

Today’s homily is for 4th Sunday of Advent, December 18, 2022, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video of the homily is here.

As we arrive at this final Sunday of Advent, my prayer is that those who await the prince of peace might have it already, in abundance in their life. That’s what this is all about, after all, you know. In Jesus, through the incarnation, God brings peace to the human heart. Not anxiety, not fear, not guilt or shame, but peace and comfort, and calm. That’s how you know Emmanuel–God is with us. 

When we lived in Salinas I taught a couple of students, Spencer and Trevor Seeley, and then lo and behold, their family ended up moving in just a house over from us, and we became very good friends–and we are still friends. They came to visit with us yesterday. They drove two hours through some incredibly thick fog and arrived at around ten o’clock in the morning. I wasn’t sure what we were going to do all day, but time flew by and before we knew it it was time to leave and time for bed. What a wonderful visit with friends–no drama, no gossip, no arguing, just laughing and visiting and loving…Emmanuel–God is with us. 

You must have those people in your life don’t you? Those people who bring life and love and joy to your heart? We need to cultivate these kinds of friendships; would that all our friendships be so life giving. It requires a commitment, however, a choice to remove from our life negative, unhealthy relationships that bring guilt and shame and sorrow. We need to clear out the unhealthy in order to make room for the life-giving relationships that nourish our soul. 

And so it is with God. If we want God to fill our life. If we want a meaningful and life-changing relationship with God, we need to clear out of our lives what St. Paul calls “the works of the flesh.” They are, “immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.” He warns them, “Those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (GAL 5:20) These are those earthly vices that prevent us from reaching our destiny, eternal glory with God. 

Therefore we must strive eagerly to put off the works of the flesh, be reconciled to God, unite ourselves to Him, and be saved–time and time again. This is what it means to be saved. Often non catholic missionaries will knock on the door and ask if we are saved, and often times we’re not quite sure what to say; here it is, “I’ve been saved, I’m being saved, and I will be saved.” We’ve been saved by the death and resurrection of Jesus on the cross. We’re being saved at this very moment and at every moment when we say yes to God and no to the things of this world. And we will be saved so long as we persevere in making God first place in our life and so long as we cling to him to our very last breath. In other words, we have work to do…we have a part to play. We must strive. 

It was through the Holy Spirit “that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins,” that’s what the angel told Joseph. Jesus will save us from our sins…if we let him. Salvation means giving our yes to the Lord daily–if not every minute of every day. It means removing obstacles from our life all that are unGodly. It means attending reconciliation monthly–and at the very least during Lent and Advent. 

It means we must stay alert and be prepared. Next week we celebrate Christmas–Emmanuel–God with us, but we must prepare. No anxiety, no fear, no guilt or shame, just peace, and comfort and calm. No drama, no gossip, no arguing, just laughing and visiting and loving…Emmanuel –God is with us. What a beautiful gift, but we must prepare. Remove the sin, attend Reconciliation, and embrace a life of holiness. God is with us.

12.11.22 S. Homily: Joy and Patience

Today’s homily is for 3rd Sunday of Advent, December 11, 2022, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video of the homily is here.

St. Sean-Theophane Venard, was a French missionary to Vietnam who was martyred for the faith in 1861. He was famous for having inspired St. Therese of Lisieux. He said, “We are all flowers planted on this earth, which God plucks in His own good time: some a little sooner, some a little later . . .” In reading these letters, St. Therese the Little Flower came to understand and use the image of being a little flower, whom God nevertheless cared for and cultivated, despite her small size. St. Vénard said, “Be merry, really merry. The life of a true Christian should be a perpetual jubilee, a prelude to the festivals of eternity.” 

On this Gaudette Sunday we celebrate joy. The joy of life, the joy of love, and the joy of knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I told you recently that the key to everlasting joy is to live a life of Thanksgiving–a life lived in gratitude for all that we have. I hope your thanksgiving has lasted longer than just one day! I find that I am most thankful, most joyful, and most loving when I am not in a hurry. Is it that way with you too? It seems the busier I get the more I am robbed of my joy. A coworker recently told me just that very thing. On Friday she said, “Mr. Valgos, you used to be so happy and upbeat–now you always seem so busy and less happy.” 

I told her it’s the difference between being an assistant principal and the principal. I never have enough time in my day. It seems I’m always behind and I need to move faster, and others need to hurry up! Why don’t other people get out of my way! Why don’t they understand that I’ve got things to do, people to meet, tasks to complete?! My rush robs me of joy. Our whole world is going at a Principal’s pace, I’m afraid. And we’re all yelling at others to get out of our way. Faster and faster we go. Sadder and sadder we become. Today’s letter from St. James, our second reading, is quite clear, SLOW DOWN, be patient and stop complaining. 

James says, “Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord.” He uses the image of the farmer. Do you ever see the image of the old southern farmer–with a piece of straw hanging out of his mouth? He says, “Well, sir (long pause) the way I see it (long pause) a man has a few options, you see, (long pause)…” I mean, good Lord! Who has time for all that?! But farmers get it, and they have peace, and Californians don’t get it, and we’re all going crazy! It’s no wonder everyone is moving to Texas! We need some straw in our mouth!

The farmer is accustomed to waiting–he has to be patient. He plants a seed and no matter what kind of hurry he’s in–that seed will come up in its own time. You can get mad, kick rocks, complain, wave your fist all you want– the farmer knows that everything happens in its own time. What an important lesson for all of us. We need to stop trying to control every single thing. Impatience is about control isn’t it? We want everything and everyone to be on our time, doing things our way, the right way, the only way. But that doesn’t work does it? And then we’re upset and we lose our joy, and we complain against others “because if they would just…,” you know, do things our way, see things our way, do what I tell them.

St. James says, “The farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it. You too must be patient…Do not complain about one another, that you may not be judged.” Today’s message is quite clear, “If you want joy, stop trying to control the world.” Let God be God, everything in its proper time–God’s time, not ours. When we finally stop trying to control others, we begin to see them for their own sake. When we stop trying to control everything, we enjoy it for its own sake, and we’re willing to recognize that the world does not revolve around us and our wants. We complain less, we love more, we discover joy in this life unto eternity–and that’s all that Jesus ever wanted for us in the first place. We are but flowers in the Father’s garden. Be patient. Don’t complain. Enjoy the sun. Love one another. And joy will find you.