Saturday, December 26, 2015


Because people try to be helpful and adjust the sound system, usually causing us to have to hire a company to come out and retune to whole system for a LOT of money I put this sign on the front of the cabinet:
It didn't work.

Someone got in and switched RECORD to PLAY BACK and so we didn't get to record our Christmas homilies.  The happy thing about this is that it gives me something to post.  First is roughly my Midnight Mass homily.  (It was updated a bit on the hard copy.)

Merry Christmas to you,
and I know, not only is it the Christmas season,
it is also the season of Star Wars
but I beg your indulgence for a moment
because I was to say something about Star Trek.
In particular, Star Trek V
Considered the worst Star Trek ever made.
The one that almost finished the franchise.

Legend was
that coming up on the 25th anniversary of the inception of Star Trek
that, flying on the success of Star Trek IV
they were discussing a possible plot line for the next movie
But whatever it was, it had to be really, really big!

What hadn’t they seen yet?
What hadn’t they done yet?
What would be so big that 
it would blow everything else out of the water.

And supposedly someone said,
How about the Starship Enterprise travels to the very center of the universe
and Kirk, and Spock, and Bones and the whole crew meet God.

And apparently William Shatner said,
“No, It’s really gotta be big!”
(if that isn't true, it should be.)

So, in a similar way,
 my priest friends and I 
were having a lively discussion this past week
about what we would homilize about for Christmas
and there was the usual bag of tricks:
1. God is born a man
2. Virgin Mary & the fulfilling of ancient prophecies 
3. Angels singing & shepherds 
4. The beginning of our redemption
5. The healing of our nature
And we said, “No, it’s really gotta be something big and more exciting!”

But of course all of that IS big,
It is absolutely beautiful.
The problem is we get used to it.
We are rich with it.
We can spend it freely because we are so immersed in it like the great lakes - 
It’s hard to get excited about water when you are swimming in it.
Though to others in the world - maybe in the desert
there would be nothing greater.

So it might be a beneficial thing to do
to put ourselves in a spiritual desert as it were
in order to remember the awe and beauty of this night.


I want to tell you a story that I heard on the radio the other day:
(On this American Life)
There is a man named Jose Migel Socola (sp?)
and he own an ad agency in Columbia (south America)
And they work on projects for products you would expect:
Dog food
bug repellent

But in his country there is civil unrest.
There has been war between the government and gorilla fighters
for as long as he has been alive.

The gorillas are everything you think of when it comes to an army:
they live in the jungle
they wear fatigues
and they are heavily, heavily armed.

The government of Columbia hired his ad agency
to try to help bring an end to the war
by getting the gorillas to de-mobilize, stop fighting.

They tried a number of things over the years
until one of them noticed that they were always most successful
at Christmas . . . and so they divided a plan for Christmas 2010

They went into the jungle
and found gigantic fir trees - 75’ tall
and the decorated it with thousands of Christmas lights - 
A gigantic Christmas tree in the middle of the jungle.

There was a sign that lit up when the gorillas would walk by
and it said,

There were not presents, no parties, no family, 
just the promise of Christmas.
and about 5% of the fighters demobilized,
and went back to their families.

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light:
upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom
a light has shone.

The next year at Christmas they had “OPERATION RIVER OF LIGHT”
The gorillas the had demobilized the previous year
informed them that,
“You know, we may have lived in the jungle,
but we rarely walked through it.
The real highways of the jungle are the the rivers.”

So they designed the plastic balls,
about the size of softballs
and at night they glowed purple.

They then went to the villages and had people write Christmas notes,
or donate a trinket of some sort,
and the put these inside the glowing balls
which had clear tops so that you could see what was inside,
and then at Christmas
they let 7,000 of these glowing balls loose in the river.

Can you imagine what a beautiful sight that must have been,
In the dark, dark jungle,
thousands of purple glowing balls lazily floating down the river
bringing tidings of great joy.

You have brought them abundant joy
and great rejoicing
as they rejoice before as at the harvest,
as people make merry when
dividing spoils.
For the yoke that burdened them,
the pole on their shoulders
and the rod of their taskmaster
you have smashed as on the day of Midian.”

The next year was OPERATION BETHLEHEM.

The next year there were no lights in the jungle at all.
The jungle remained absolutely dark.
the lights were put in the villages - 
these lights were powerful spot lights that shown straight up into the air.
I giant been
reminiscent of the light that they put in New York City
to pay tribute to where the Word Trade Towers had been
right after 9/11

But there were signs in the jungle again,
and they said this:

For every boot that trampled in battle
every cloak rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for flames.
For a chid is born to us,
a son is given us:
upon his shoulders dominion rests.
They name Him Wonder-Counselor,
Prince of Peace
His dominion is vast
and forever peaceful
from David’s throne
and over His kingdom
which He confirms and sustains
by judgement and justice,
both now and forever.
The zeal of the Lord will do this!”

This is the Christmas message
not just for those lost on the darkness of jungle
and the terrors of war:
but for us
who at times are equally lost
in the darkness of our sin and fear,
in the distraction of work, traffic, obligations, worries, and seemingly endless duties:

If Christmas can come to you in the city
You can come home to Jesus

Follow His light that leads you home

At Christmas, anything is possible.

It has become a standing tradition at St. Sebastian that the homily at the 4:00 Christmas Vigil Mass at which many children come be done in rhyme.  This year's rhyme is based on the story, "The Burglar's Christmas" by Elizabeth L. Seymour.  You can find the original HERE.  (Believe me, I know that rhymes are not great!)

Twas the Christmas Vigil Mass
And I know, very soon!
Everyone here will be asleep

Beneath a freakishly warm, late December moon.

Each and every child
in good ole’ West Akron
will be beneath sheets
of 50% cotton, 50% Dacron.

Sebastian dreams 
of squeaky toys in his teeth
And LeBron James dreams of Christmas free throws 
going through Christmas wreaths

The blimp is all nestled 
in its air dock
And the Swenson runners
are all off the clock.

All was as still
and quite, and sweet
Except for one man
walking down Mull Street.

He grew up  here
and went to our school
Played in Forest Lodge
and swam at the JCC pool.

But many years ago 
he took off in flight
and hadn’t been back
till this very night.

He was hungry!  So hungry
and down on his luck
All the change in his pocket 
didn’t equal a buck.

So on Christmas Eve night
foreswearing peace and goodwill
He crafted of plan
That bode nothing but ill

He’d fallen, he knew
to a particular low
but to become the Christmas thief?
Now that was a blow.

He’d given away 
his self-respect
Devised a plan
about whose Christmas he’d wreck.

He spotted a house
with poor locks and no dog,
broke in with ease
and his eyes went agog.

Here were presents
and wealth beyond all measure
a house unguarded
to rob at his leisure.

He filled his pockets
with all he could find
and with it, tomorrow
he’d have food and good wine.

When all of a sudden
the room went quite white.
Some light sleeper awoke
and turned on the light!

“James!” cried a woman
her hand on the switch
“You’ve come home for Christmas!”
Her joy fever pitch.

Our thief’s stomach clenched,
for while he’d be gone
his parents had moved
and he’d broke into their home!

His Mother embraced him
gave kisses and blessings
His wirey body
to her bosom pressing

“You don’t understand!”
James’ eyes steel blue
“That this house was yours
I hadn’t a clue!”

“I came here to rob you
See in what I’m indulging?
With your jewelry and money
my pockets are bulging!

A thought about you
I couldn’t spare
about what I wanted
was the source of my care

Don’t be silly said she
“This you can’t do
how can you steal 
what already belongs to you?”

“You don’t understand,”
(he had a tear in his eye.)
“Ah but I do,”
was her simple reply.

“Look at this manger
and the baby within
who came to save us
who were lost in sin.

He showed even me 
His mercy when
I was young and
far less virtuous had been.

If this is His gift to me
on His birthday
how much more should I
His generosity repay?

So as He showed us mercy,
And I mercy you,
Now vow to be generous
with mercy too.

To pass on the gift
granted this holy night
that causes sin
to take quick flight.


Here is a lesson
for this Christmas night
that where there is darkness,
you be Christ’s light.

Let those know
who far from him roam
that he waits in a manger
to welcome them home.

For the love that you know
that He brings you this day
You must pass on to those 
who come your way.

For all of your darkness
He can turn into light
and with that I wish you

a Holy Christmas night!

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