Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Gaining Sight

Cats don’t see very well. They rely upon their sense of smell and hearing, much more than their eye sight, to get along in the world. In fact, they see better in the dark than in the daylight. They are naturally near-sighted, so things in front of them can be missed. At night, their vision sharpens, and with the quieting of the day’s activity, they also hear more acutely. They are night roamers, comfortable with stalking, playing and eating in the dark. They never seem to trip or get lost when other creatures, like we humans, need the light to find our way.

The Feast of the Epiphany reminds us that we need to follow the Light. The magi knew this well, and it led them on an adventure whose destination was unknown. They didn’t know where they would end their sojourn. They only knew for whom they were looking. Their search took them to Herod, the enemy of the saviormessiah, though at first they didn’t recognize him that way.

They were so consumed by their search for the light, that they didn’t notice Herod’s darkness. In fact, it was Herod who helped them find the light despite his sinister motives. The magi were so intent on following the light that they accepted help from whomever they could get it. How are we following the Light of Christ in our life’s journey? Are we even looking for the light, or are we content with accepting the darkness that is sometimes all around us? Do we ask for help in finding the light? Do we use even the agents of darkness to help us by offering an example of what we don’t want to do or be?

We rely upon our sight as a primary sense. We have to look at everything, good and bad, pleasant and unpleasant, virtuous and sinful, to navigate a course through this world that follows the Light. After all, Christ came to redeem it all, not just the worthy, but sinners, prostitutes, the poor and the sick, outcasts and unbelievers. They all came into the Light in various gospel accounts, and showed us how God works in this darkened world.

The Light exposes sin, but then forgives it. It invites people on the outside to come close and find a place where they belong. It embraces the lost and forsaken, and it patiently guides the seekers and doubters. To live in the Light of Christ is to live with arms outstretched to others, encouraging them to join us on the shared journey that leads to the One who saves us.

So don’t be afraid of the Light. Nothing will be seen that cannot be redeemed. If we get lost, the Light will reappear to set us back on course. Just look for it, ask for help to see it, and then follow. Only cats thrive in the dark.

Monsignor Statnick

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


Baxter is a homebody. He likes familiar surroundings where he designates special places that are always available to him for certain activities. When I take him out of his accustomed environment, he gets anxious. He doesn’t feel safe. He has to check out the new place, sniffing his way from object to object, corner to corner. He usually tries to find a dark, secluded hiding place for a while—under a bed, in a closet, behind a couch. When Baxter gets used to a new living space, he comes out of hiding and begins to follow his old routines there. He marks out certain spots for naps, observing the outdoors, and quiet lounging. He gets comfortable again and relaxes. I know that Baxter feels at home at last when he lies on his back, with his belly exposed, sound asleep--a funny picture of pure peace.

The holidays are a time for coming home. We seek the familiar, the tried and true, the safe and secure. We like traditional foods at this time of year, the tastes that remind us of our childhood and the family that nurtured us. We have certain routines we keep from year to year, the people we visit on certain days of the season, the activities we do together, even the movies we watch and the songs we sing. We celebrate the season by repeating certain customs that have come to us from others through the years.

But the holidays also hold changes each year. Loved ones who have died are not at the table or around the tree this year. New marriages and new families within the family may change the routines. Children call for many adjustments in schedule. Distances may prevent some people from sharing the festivities as they once did. The new and unfamiliar invade our holiday celebrations. But that is not always a bad thing. New faces bring new company and ideas to the family. New schedules may prove more convenient and comfortable to keep. Traditions from other heritages enrich our own and broaden our appreciation for the various ways to celebrate Christmas.

When Christ was born, He came from the ancient tradition of the Jewish faith where the promise of salvation was first announced and the figure of the Messiah first introduced and developed. In His birth, Jesus brought to this heritage a new dimension, not one that wiped out the past but fulfilled it. The Messiah would win salvation from sin and death for us by becoming one of us, by accepting the dignity and limitations of our human condition and showing how it can become transparent to the divine mystery Who assumed it. Ultimately, this messiah would die on the cross and rise again to transform our condition into the new creation of the Kingdom of God.

In celebrating Christmas,God continues to work through Christ in the same way. As webuild on the traditions of the past to incorporate the new realities of our world today, God is with us to guide our journey. Cherish the heritage we share in faith and family, but keep it alive by opening our minds, hearts and relationships to new ideas, attitudes and experiences with others. The first Christmas worked that way, and it marked the beginning of God’s ongoing work in the world. When Baxter figures out how to marry his old routines with a new environment, he is at peace. When we do the same to celebrate Christmas and to follow Christ faithfully in our way of life, we too find peace.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Cat Time

While the rest of the world is in a rush to get everything in order for Christmas, Baxter’s pace remains the same. He runs for food, but otherwise, he strolls to what interests him. When I come home, when he seeks a different resting place, when he wants a drink from the spigot or his nightly brushing and treat, Baxter doesn’t rush. His is a regular, slow, measured pace. He knows that what he is looking for will be there when he gets to it, so he goes about his routines slowly and calmly. Nothing pushes Baxter to pick up the pace. He sets the pace and keeps to it.

God works in the same way. He doesn’t get caught up in the world’s frenzy, but He knows what He wants and stays steady in His pursuit of it. God desires one thing only, for us to accept His love into our lives. He offers His love constantly in many different ways through many different circumstances.

When we are hurting or ill, when we are strong and successful, when we celebrate life’s bountiful goodness, and when we suffer loss and disappointment, God is there, not with answers or reasons always, but with a care and presence that bring a deep meaning to both the best and the worst that life has to offer. He doesn’t push His agenda. He offers it simply, quietly, respectfully, but relentlessly. Love never fails.

This is the message of the Christmas story. Come to the manger. Come to the manger when we are tempted to give up. Come to the manger when we are tempted to get our way no matter what it takes. Come when we feel betrayed. Come when we are lost and don’t know where to turn. Come when we doubt others’ trustworthiness or fear their ambitions. Come to the manger with whatever we have to bring from our lives. Put it down. Leave it there, and take with us the love divine that is offered without terms or conditions.

To come to the manger, we must step out of the frenzy of our world, and stop to look and listen to what God is doing for us. No need to run here. A slow, steady pace brings the promise of salvation to us as God brought it to the world in the birth of the Christ.

Baxter got it right this time.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Christmas Disturbances

Baxter has a hard time with Christmas. It is not that he’s a scrooge, but he is a rather rigid personality. You see, Christmas changes Baxter’s normally staid and predictable world. Things are different at this time of the year. We move furniture to make room for strange objects like Christmas trees. We add lights in the windows, decorations on table tops, shelves and counters. We play Christmas music and have more guests drop in. Baxter’s roost is remodeled and invaded, and he is at best confused by it all and at worst annoyed by it. He may hide under the bed to avoid the disruption until it’s gone, or he may attack the Christmas tree trying to drive the intruder away. In the end, Baxter goes into his Christmas funk until it all returns to normal after the New Year.

The first Christmas was quite a disruptive event if you think about it. Elizabeth felt her baby kick when her cousin visited with unexpected good news. Mary and Joseph had the plan for their life together turned around, and they had to travel away from home when the baby was due. The lights in the heavens set the shepherds and the magi wondering and wandering to find the child announced by these strange signs. Herod was disturbed to hear that another ruler was in his territory. No one felt comfortable with Christmas at first. It disturbed their settled lives and released new dynamics between God and humanity.

This is an uncomfortable Christmas for us as well. The world situation is very unsettled. Many people feel a low grade anxiety. What more can happen and where might it occur? Will we ever feel safe with each other again? Why can’t we just go back to the way things used to be?

Jesus’ birth changed the world of His day, and it is meant to continue to change our world today. Not like terrorism which generates fear, suspicion and desires for vengeance, but like a surprise birthday party, which brings people together unexpectedly to celebrate the goodness and blessings a human life can hold. Who would have thought that people cared that much to go to all the bother of setting up the surprise? Who could have imagined that God so loved the world that He gave us His only begotten Son? But He did. This surprise will save us from any threat we face, if we trust enough to live by the message and Spirit it contains.

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom He favors!” This doesn’t mean that God is on our side to kill our enemies, but God is on the side of all who want to work for His goodness and love to become incarnate in our world. This desire drives all of us beyond our comfort zones. While our instinct may tell us to run and hide or to attack the stranger, God’s grace calls us to reach out by working to understand each other more, by caring for the needy who are driven by desperation, and by helping build relationships which turn strangers into friends. Such arrangements may disturb our narrow minds, our stingy hearts or our cliquish circles, but they will bring a promise of a different world where peace is possible.

Baxter waits for Christmas to be over, so that his life can return to normal. Hopefully, we wish for Christmas to never end, so that the new life in Christ will change what we think is normal.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Massage Therapy

Baxter loves to have a massage. His favorite spots are behind the ear, the jowls, under the chin, and the lower back in front of his tail. When he crawls on my lap and I begin this spa treatment, he falls into ecstasy. His eyes roll back and he purrs ceaselessly. He falls into a trance, and he can’t get enough of the feeling of pleasure and contentment he experiences. He eventually falls asleep for a few minutes, then he awakens suddenly, full of energy. Baxter has been recharged by the short interval of relaxation I provided him.

Advent is a time when God massages our spirits. Sometimes they can get beat down by the harshness of our world. We get selfish to protect ourselves from being exploited. We get rude and pushy to fit into the fast pace and competition around us. We harden our hearts to not have them hurt by another’s thoughtlessness. We become like our surroundings to survive in this cat eat cat environment in which we sometimes find ourselves.

Then God announces a time out. Advent speaks to the troubled human spirit. Israel stood wounded, humiliated, overwhelmed and weak under the Roman thumb. God touches these sensitive spots first with words. “Comfort, give comfort to my people,” says the Lord. Then He describes the treatment. “Lift the valleys and lower the mountains; shine light in the darkness; bend the spears into pruning hooks and the swords into plows; give birth to a child who will cause people to wonder again and work for peace.” Advent massages our spirits with a vision that reverses the toll that the negative forces around us exact. It gives us hope and the desire for true happiness again.

But we have to stop and allow God’s Word to touch us. We will never feel the effects of this treatment if we keep too busy or remain too fearful to let our defenses down. God can heal our spirits troubled by an anxious and threatening world, where we have become strangers to each other for fear that an enemy lurks in our midst. Advent is the ticket to the spa we call a creche. There God’s gentle touch opens our hearts to His grace by bringing the poor and the rich, the wise and the simple, all creatures, together to adore the wondrous mystery of divine Love incarnate.

Baxter knows when he needs a gentle rub in the right places to stay calm and peaceful. Advent provides us with gentle touches of God’s healing presence. Don’t miss them.