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A sermon on Mark 1:1-8

The Highland County Press - Staff Photo - Create Article

By Fr. Mike Paraniuk
St. Mary Catholic Church
St. Benignus Catholic Church 
St. Mary Queen of Heaven
and Holy Trinity Catholic Church

My friend Sally gave me this wonderful gift that is so unique it is truly an "OOAK" (one of a kind). There is none other like it. I'll describe it for those listening on the radio (106.9 FM) or reading this sermon in The Highland County Press

My words alone cannot do justice to its beauty. The gift is a bowling ball. But this is no ordinary bowling ball. Sally adorned this bowling ball with dozens of bright colored stones, gems, cut glass and colorful swirls in the shape of flowers. 

She said this was her first bowling ball given to her when she was 16 years old. That bowling ball is 69 years old. 

When I saw it, I immediately thought of the Glen Campbell song "Rhinestone Cowboy." I changed the refrain to say, "Like a Rhinestone bowler, riding on a horse with my star-spangled bowling ball." 

Sally told me how much work went into preparing the bowling ball by covering it with epoxy glue so the many bright decorations could stick to it. 

Advent is a season of preparation. It is a time to adorn our souls for Jesus with decorations of prayer, almsgiving, kind deeds and repentance from sins. God talks about this in 1 Peter 3:3-4, "Do not let your adorning be external – the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear – but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious." 

Preparing for Jesus is interior, working on the soul from the inside. In Advent, we put Christ's light into our hearts. When you light up your house with Christmas lights, ask yourself, "What am I doing to light up my soul?"

I offer to you four ways to let His light inside you.

God tells us how to prepare for His coming in James 4:8-10.

1) "Cleanse your hands," which is God's way to say "stop sinning." Search your soul with honesty. "Name and claim" the biggest sin you must work on.

2) "Purify your heart." This is where after you name and claim that sin, you dump it out of your life. Impatience, anger, selfishness, meanness, lust, lying, stealing, cheating, jealousy, envy and pride contaminate the soul blocking God's light. 

God says in 1 John 1:7, "But if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light... the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin."

3) "Mourn and Weep." Turning away from my sins and toward God is serious business. My sins hurt me and everyone around me. When I sin, I hurt God. God has feelings, too. I never cease to be amazed how I, a little speck of dust, has the power to make God unhappy. I guess that can happen when someone loves you that much. Love is just a word until one special person comes into your life to give it meaning. God chose you to be the special person whose love gives Him joy.

4) "Be Humble." God says in Psalm 149:4, "For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation." To adorn means to take something plain and make it very beautiful. Jesus preached a message to those who felt ugly, unwanted and rejected that God thinks they are beautiful. A humble person knows everything is a gift from God.

There was one Christmas when I felt exceptionally loved. I came home from the seminary on Christmas break. I was only 15 years old. 

I longed to see our Christmas tree decorated with ornaments, silver tinsel and lights. The tree took away the pain of homesickness I felt for months. When I went into the house, my heart sank. No tree. No lights. No nothing. 

I tried to hide my disappointment. But my mom saw it in my face. 

She asked, "Michael, what's wrong?" 

I said, "It's Dec. 16 and we always had the tree up by now." 

Hearing that, my dad quickly jumped into his car. He came back with a live tree tied on the roof. Mom brought down all the Christmas decorations from the attic. We spent the next several hours decorating. I carefully laid tinsel on each limb, in front of the light bulbs to make it sparkle. After that, mom baked her famous Christmas cookies and my favorite one, French cream horn. 

White flour sprinkled all over the table as she rolled the dough. We sat down together just looking at the lighted tree. I devoured those cookies that I waited for all year. The aroma of freshly baked pies filled the air. I felt so loved. Christmas had begun.

Happy Advent. May you be the gift of love to someone who needs it.  

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