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Posts Tagged ‘Deacon Greg Kandra’

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From Deacon Greg Kandra’s blog: The Deacon’s Bench another of his masterful homilies. If you don’t know of his blog, bookmark it now. It’s superb. Now, Deacon Kandra:

Honestly, I thought it must have been a joke.

When I saw the story online last Sunday, I didn’t quite believe it. Many of you probably saw it, too: it’s Amazon.com’s proposed new delivery system. The idea is to use small, unmanned airplanes—drones!—to pick up packages at a warehouse and deliver them to your door, in 30 minutes or less.

When it was unveiled on “60 Minutes” last weekend, I think Charlie Rose summed it up eloquently in one word:

“Wow.”

No one has explained yet exactly how this project would work—how thousands of these would be able to hover over cities without crashing in to one another, defying wind and rain and skyscrapers. And I imagine, if they can get it to work, this kind of convenience will not come cheap. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, conceded that it will take a few years to realize his vision. They have to work out the details and get federal approval. But he seemed serious about it. I have to think, if he doesn’t pull it off, someone else probably will.

Aside from the audacity and daring of the idea, I think the Amazon proposal says much about who we are and what we have become.

We are people in a hurry. We are people who are saying, insistently: Give it to me. Now.

Once, overnight delivery was more than enough. Then we wanted same day delivery. Now, we want everything in 30 minutes—whether it’s a pizza or a paperback. We want our food fast, our dinner microwaved. We can’t wait to get to a phone or a computer—and we don’t, because the phone and the computer are with us, every second, of every day, in our hand or in our pocket. Remember when we used telephones in phone booths? Remember when computers were confined to big boxes on desks in our offices?

What did we do before we had tiny smartphone screens to check every 10 minutes?

In 2013, we just don’t want to wait. For anything. Ever.

But in the middle of this, for four short weeks, we do.

The Church presses the “pause” button.

In the middle of all the hurrying and impatience and insistence comes…Advent.

We find ourselves suddenly in a state of suspended animation. It’s the season of expectation. Of longing.

Of waiting.

A child is coming, a hope is dawning. In our liturgies and in our lives, we yearn for something we cannot quite name. We pray for deliverance. We cry out to God, “O come, Emmanuel! Ransom us! When will we be freed?”

Like prisoners in a cell, we mark the days.

We light candles, one at a time, week by week, to slowly bring forth light.

We fold open the cardboard windows of the Advent calendar, day by day, one day at a time, for 25 days.

This is Advent. It is the season when we wait—but also when we have work to do.

“Stay awake,” Jesus told us in the gospel last week.

“Repent,” John the Baptist says today. “Prepare the way of the Lord.” Make the crooked path straight.

If you ask a child what we are waiting for, they’ll tell you in one word: “Christmas.” It’s that simple.

For a child, of course, it can’t come fast enough. For the rest of us, we’d probably like more time—a few more weeks to plan, shop, wrap and ship. But the reality of Advent—the astonishing truth at its center—plunges us into something deeper. The question demands an answer.

What, exactly, are we waiting for? What are we preparing for?

Spoiler alert: It isn’t really Christmas. It isn’t the presents and the tree, the cards and the tinsel.

No.

It is Christ. We are waiting for Christ.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote beautifully about the three comings of Jesus: in Bethlehem, at the incarnation; at the end of time, for the final judgment; and here and now, through the sacrament of the Eucharist, and the grace of God, and the prayerful awakening of our hearts.

I would suggest to you that it is this last one that we need to pay closest attention to. That is what Advent is really about: Christ, the savior, dwelling within each of us. Gracing us with mercy, with humility, with patience, with love. If we make that a priority, we will make of our lives an ongoing Advent. We will live waiting and watching in joyful hope for Christ to enter our lives and to be with us, always.

That is the very essence of his name: “Emmanuel.” God with us.

Only by making ourselves ready to encounter Christ today, can we make ourselves ready to encounter him at the end of history.
So prepare. Repent. Make the crooked paths straight.

Heal a wound. Mend a quarrel. Comfort the lonely. Console the grieving. Pray for the poor, the outcast, the forgotten. Look beyond. And look within.

And do it all deliriously, wondrously, tenderly, with love.

Remember this: Advent is the time when we wait not for Christmas, but for Christ. We wait for him to step into the doorway of the heart. We put out the welcome mat. We light a candle. We make the walkway to the front door of our lives straight. We stand at the door and invite him in.

It’s worth asking ourselves: What will he find when he arrives?

In a few weeks, wise men will be scanning the skies. They won’t be looking for a drone from Amazon.com. They will be looking for the sign that the waiting is over, that hope is on the horizon.

A star will appear. Light will break through.

Christmas is coming, yes. But more importantly, Christ is coming.

That is what all the waiting and wondering and worrying is all about. We can’t lose sight of that.

In an age when nobody wants to wait for anything, Advent reminds us: some things are worth the wait.

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The following is from Deacon Greg Kandra’s stellar blog, The Deacon’s Bench. All of Deacon Greg’s homilies are great food for thought, and he posts them weekly. I’d love to repost them all, but would rather people visit The Deacon’s Bench themselves, as Deacon Greg offers up so much more throughout the week. However, I repost some of his more exceptional homilies from time to time. This week’s is one of them, and a great message for all pro-lifers in the thick of the fight. Here is Deacon Kandra:

If you leave St. Patrick’s Cathedral by the front door, on Fifth Avenue, you can’t help but be jolted by the figure greeting you as you leave.

It’s Atlas: a mammoth, four story high statue of the Greek titan, cast in bronze, his arms spread wide has he carries the universe on his back. He was created by artist Lew Lawrie in 1937. It’s the largest sculpture in Rockefeller Center – bigger, even, than Prometheus, down by the skating rink. The Atlas statue aroused controversy when it was unveiled, with some people complaining that the face of on the statue looked too much like Mussolini. But someone noted, to the contrary: “It looks the way Mussolini thinks he looks.”

Whoever he resembles, the Atlas we meet as we leave the cathedral makes a powerful statement. As we pass through those massive doors, we leave the house of God…and return to the world of gods. The gods of deadlines and headaches in midtown Manhattan. And Atlas welcomes us back.

Welcome back, he says, to everything you’ve been praying about.

Welcome back to the invoices that are overdue and the line to get on the elevator. Welcome back to the boiler that doesn’t work and that unemployment that’s running out and the accident causing problems on the subway that is going to delay getting home.

Deacon Kandra

Welcome back to things you want but can’t afford. Welcome back to Tiffany’s and Saks and Harry Winston and Cartier.

Welcome back to the world – and all the burdens, the weight of the world, that every one carries on their back.

But in today’s gospel, Jesus offers us help.

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,” he says. “For I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

What a relief!

Jesus wasn’t talking, of course, about the misery of midtown Manhattan, or the headaches of modern life. He was talking, specifically, about all the regulations that the Pharisees had laid out for the Jewish people – more than 600 in all — rules that, to a lot of the Jews of the time, must have felt like the weight of the world. But Jesus offered another way. Later in Matthew’s gospel, he would make it clear that you don’t need hundreds of regulations, but only two commandments – love God, love your neighbor.

That sounds so simple, and that does lighten the load. But it doesn’t completely remove the “yoke”. For when you think about what it means to love God and love your neighbor – especially to love your neighbor! – well, you can feel your shoulders start to sag.

Yet, what Jesus offers is not meant as an imposition. Love is never an imposition. It is a choice, and a gift. There, from the depths of our hearts, is where we find the strength to carry that yoke – trusting that the God who makes all things possible will also make it possible to bear any burden, to carry any load. And if we do, Jesus – “meek and humble of heart” Jesus – assures us that he will give us that most blessed of gifts, rest.

As St. Augustine put it so beautifully in his famous prayer: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” In Jesus, our restless hearts find comfort. Reassurance. Peace.

Rest.

Today’s scripture reminds us that it’s not found by attaching ourselves to this world, with all the things that weigh us down.

As we heard from St. Paul, writing to the people of Rome:

“If you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

In other words: don’t fall prey to all the problems that plagued ancient Rome – or modern New York. The kinds of things that the great statue of Atlas sees happening around his feet every day – and that people file in and out of St. Pat’s to pray about, or seek forgiveness for. These are heavy “yokes” of the world that can weigh us down. Instead, take on the yoke of Christ – the bearable burden of love.

He is our rest. And he is our strength. He’s the one who helps us when we feel like we are carrying the weight of the world.

If you look closely at that great statue of Atlas, you’ll see that he has one sphere on his shoulders that represents the north-south axis of the universe. It is marked to point us toward the North Star. For centuries, that is the star that sailors have used to navigate, to determine where they are, and to find their way home. It is the determining point on every compass.

As Catholic Christians, our North Star is Jesus Christ. He gives us direction, guidance, surety. He leads us home.

Remember that, the next time the worries and weight of the world seem to be too much.

He is ready, meek and humble of heart, to lead us where we belong.

And it won’t be as hard as we may fear.

For his yoke is easy. And his burden is light.

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It is a pleasure to share with you this homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, by Deacon Greg Kandra of the Brooklyn Diocese. Deacon Kandra has a superb blog, The Deacon’s Bench, over at Patheos. Do visit him there often, and thank you Deacon Kandra for this penetrating homily.

The Anxiety of Joseph
by Deacon Greg Kandra

In the late 19th century, one of the most sought-after realist portrait painters was a Frenchman by the name of James Tissot. He made his reputation painting society women and the wealthy in and around Paris. But at one point in his life, while doing research for a painting, he stepped into a church. While there, he had a profound religious experience. He left a changed man, and devoted the rest of his life to spiritual and religious themes – including hundreds of paintings depicting scenes from the bible, most famously, the life of Christ. The Brooklyn Museum has many of these sketches and watercolors, and they had an exhibit last year. They are beautiful, and moving.

They are also deeply human — none more so than a work that has direct bearing on this Sundays gospel. It is a surprising portrait of St. Joseph.

Joseph is shown at his carpenter’s table, with tools scattered around him. His shop is small, cramped, planks and pieces of wood everywhere, shavings piled up on the floor. The windows look out onto the bustling streets of Nazareth, where townspeople are going about their business. But in the middle of all that stands Joseph, bent over his table, his bearded chin in his hand, deep in thought.

The painting’s title says it all: “The Anxiety of Joseph.”

We rarely think of him that way. But Tissot, as he often does, penetrated to the heart of his subject.

Maybe Tissot was showing Joseph the morning before he has the dream we just heard in Matthew’s gospel. Or maybe it is the morning after – and he is coming to terms with what the angel has said, and what he must do. Maybe it was even later, and this new father is concerned with the worries that every father has.

But what we see in Tissot’s picture – and what is hinted at in this gospel today – is a man more like us than we realize.

We tend to think of Joseph the way we see him in the manger scene outside our church, or on the cards we send, or the pageants that are staged. He is strong, stoic, patient – “righteous,” as Matthew describes him.

But Tissot understood that the man betrothed to Mary was a man of worries, and apprehension, and even fear. This morning, I’d like to suggest that Joseph is also a man who speaks to our own time.

He is a man for our age – an Age of Anxiety.

He must have known economic uncertainty – wondering how he would support and sustain his family, running his own small business. He had to pay taxes – to “render unto Caeser.” Like many people today, shortly after his son was born, Joseph and his family became refugees, immigrants in a foreign land – the land that had held his people as slaves. Joseph also lived with the threat of terror – a ruthless king bent on murdering children.

On a more personal level, Joseph knew the anxiety of any man about to become a father. He must have asked himself: am I ready for this? Am I good enough, strong enough, wise enough? And then, confronting the very real possibility of scandal, Joseph must have had more than a few sleepless nights. How, he must have wondered, could he protect and spare the woman he loved?

And — like Mary, the woman he loved — he also must have thought at some point: this is not what I had planned. Everything is suddenly different.

How many of us have said that about our own lives? How many of us have had to face, like Joseph, a confusing world with uncertainty, and doubt, and anxiety and fear?

How many of us have felt like the man in that Tissot drawing, frozen in place, while the world moves on around us, and we stand there and worry and wonder: what do I do? How will I get through this?

But into all that, in Joseph’s complicated life, comes a voice in a dream.

“Do not be afraid. God is with us.”

And his world – and ours – is changed.

In the middle of “the anxiety of Joseph” comes blessed reassurance – and a reminder that God’s will sees beyond our fears, beyond our limitations.

When our lives can seem a nightmare, we cannot forget to dream.

When every demon seems to be making our lives hell, we cannot forget to listen for angels.

When our world has been turned upside down, we cannot forget to trust that God will make it right.

Again and again, the words come to us from the gospels, in times of confusion and doubt and anxiety.

“Do not be afraid.”

That is the message to Joseph, to Mary, to the shepherds, to the apostles – and to us.

And in these last days of Advent, that is the great message the gospels leave us with as we light the last candle and sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” The light is brighter. God’s presence is closer.

If you have any doubts about that, just think of Joseph, the great silent partner of the Holy Family, the man who doesn’t utter a word in the gospels – but whose ability to trust, and to dream, and to listen speaks volumes.

In the end, the words of the angel echo down to us as the great defining message of Advent hope — banishing all fear, easing all anxiety.

“Do not be afraid. God is with us.”

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Deacon Greg Kandra is ordained and ministers in the Diocese of Brooklyn. He writes a fantastic blog, The Deacon’s Bench, at Beliefnet. His Homily for today, the First Sunday of Advent, is a stunner. It is reprinted here with Deacon Kandra’s permission.
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Homily for November 28, 2010: 1st Sunday of Advent

Anyone looking for interesting holiday recipes may have stumbled on a new word that has entered the American lexicon: “Cherpumple.” It’s a desert, created last year by Los Angeles writer Charles Phoenix – a diet-destroying, gut-busting feat of cooking that seems guaranteed to induce sugar shock.

It’s three different pies, stacked one on top of the other, and baked into one gargantuan “monster pie” with three layers – cherry, pumpkin, and apple, hence the name “cherpumple.” The recipe has swept the internet and has become a sensation on YouTube.

I showed a picture of a “cherpumple” to my wife and she agreed with me: it’s absolutely disgusting.

Some things just aren’t meant to be mashed together like that.

Deacon Greg Kandra

But I have to wonder if we haven’t done something similar with Advent and Christmas. For all intents and purposes, we have managed to create one massive season – “Chradvent” – that conflates two distinct seasons into one. And it’s starting earlier and earlier.

Hundreds of radio stations started playing Christmas music the day after Halloween – many of them all Christmas, all the time, 24/7. The week before Thanksgiving, I was amazed to walk by an apartment on 108th Street and see the lobby fully decorated, complete with a fully lit Christmas tree and wrapped gifts. Last Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, I went down to Sergei’s Barber Shop on Ascan Street for a haircut and saw workers unloading Christmas trees to sell. How anyone could expect a Christmas tree to live a month or more is a mystery to me. But people do it. I saw cars going down Queens Boulevard with trees strapped to the roof. Even before Thanksgiving, it seems, we’ve started to celebrate “Chradvent.”

Before everyone hops on that “Chradvent” bandwagon, I’d just like to take a moment to celebrate this season that so many have forgotten about – the season of Advent. We need to remember the reason for this season, and to hold on to Advent just a little while before surrendering to the craziness of “Chradvent.”

The readings today alert us to something great about to begin. The language is emphatic. Night is ending. Dawn is at hand. “Stay awake.” Put on “the armor of light.” And “let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.” There is a sense of anticipation – the kind we celebrate at every Eucharist, when we pray that we “wait in joyful hope for the coming of our savior, Jesus Christ.” Advent is that waiting, that moment of joyful hope, lived out across four weeks.

Cherpumple

We symbolize that, and ritualize it, with the Advent wreath. But we don’t light all four candles at once. We go one at a time, so the light gathers and grows. If you have an Advent calendar, you don’t fold open every window at once, but you go one small window at a time. Later in the season, we will sing the haunting refrain, “O come, O come, Emanuel, and ransom captive Israel…” We are captives awaiting freedom, prisoners held in dungeons of despair. But light is coming. Freedom is coming.

Jesus is coming.

But until he comes, we wait, and watch, and wonder, and pray.

We shouldn’t rush it. Advent is the time for taking stock, and making plans – a season of great expectations. Dorothy Day, in fact, compared it to a woman expecting a child. “She lives in such a garment of silence,” Day wrote, “as though she were listening to hear the stir of life within her.”

That brings me to question all of us should ask during these coming weeks:

Are we listening?

Are we paying attention?

Are we looking to what will be – or are we already there?

If we jump right into the holiday season, we forget to wait, and watch, and wonder, and pray. We neglect the “joyful hope” that is so much a part of this beautiful season. When Christmas arrives, it will seem almost anti-climactic: one more day in a long litany of jingling bells and canned carols.

This year resist the urge. Wait a while to get the tree and hang the wreath. Turn down the Christmas music. It’s okay: it will be there in the middle of December, just as it was in the middle of November.

Instead, use these weeks to pull back, to retreat from the ho-ho-ho and fa-la-la-la-la. Find time to look within — to pray more deeply, and converse more intimately with the One who is coming. Ask Him: How can I prepare for you? What can I do to welcome you into my life?

If all of us do that, we may be surprised at the answer.

And we’ll actually be able to HEAR the answer if we give ourselves over to the “garment of silence” that Dorothy Day wrote about.

“Cherpumple” is over the top, and unhealthy. And so, I think, is “Chradvent.” So pull the two seasons apart, and live each of them as fully as possible.

Let’s look forward to a merry Christmas.

But let’s also use this opportunity, as well, to enjoy a blessed and holy Advent.

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