The Sunday after Christmas
The 5th day of Christmas, December 29th — the Feast of the Holy Family (the 4th day of Kwanzaa.)
I met this young couple at a welcome station in the mountains of Virginia in October 2007. As I ponder this image I see Joseph and Mary and Jesus in them. May there be a touch of holiness — of wholeness — in their lives and in our families. I pray for them and all young families — indeed all families on this traditional day in the Christmas season when we reflect on the hidden, ordinary life of Joseph, and Mary and Jesus in Nazareth. They are a model of simplicity for us.
But for many of us, our family lives were (are) very dysfunctional.
I think of those families today, Lord. Children (many are friends of mine) who grew up with alcoholic parents and were in favor one moment and cast aside the next, who had little normalcy, little stability.
I remember the night, Lord, you allowed me the grace to strengthen a young mother who needed the courage to at least temporarily separate herself and the children from fearful dysfunction. She and her children are now in safety. Be with her, Lord.
Be with all families who struggle, Lord. Be with us because we’re imperfect and weak and selfish and perhaps capable of little love because we may not have received much love ourselves as a children.
We’re trying, Lord. Strengthen our capacity to love ~ to be present to our children and our spouse. Help us realize, Lord, that it is not as important to have a successful career as to love our children and our spouse. To be a community of love in which to call forth the gifts, the love. the moral courage and strength of our children for the next generation.
And so, on this Feast of the Holy Family, we honor you, Jesus and Mary and Joseph. as I honor this young couple whose name I do not even know because I saw in them an image of you in their simple, ordinary love.
Lord, keep us all in your loving care.
Now, before you go, here’s a song a with a slide show with lots of family pictures. Click here.
And today’s Mass readings can be found at the following link. Click here.
Today, December 26, is the second day of Christmas, the first day of Kwanzaa (African American). May we learn about our own and each others’ celebrations. It’s easy, just Google the word Kwanzaa.
For us Christians the mystery of Incarnation (God-becoming-human in the person of Jesus Christ) needs more than one day to celebrate. Here is Day Two: The Catholic liturgy centuries ago placed the feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr, the day after Jesus’ glorious feast to show that our faith is not sentimental but requires of us heroic, sacrificial love. Stephen fearlessly witnessed in court (the word martyr means witness) his conviction that Jesus is the Messiah, knowing that his testimony was his death sentence.
Stephen, filled with grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people. Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen, Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and people from Cilicia and Asia, came forward and debated with Stephen, but they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.
When they heard this, they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together. They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they were stoning Stephen, he called out “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59
How heroic is our love, Lord?
Do we abandon people — our friends, our lovers, our spouses, our children when the going gets rough?
And I ask you please to be with those who have been abandoned by loved ones, Lord, such as children of alcoholic parents or kids who have gone through the foster care system and may never feel Your Love, as a result or those who have to prostitute themselves in order to survive.
Are we only concerned about our own survival? What’s best for Number One — Me?
Are we willing to sacrifice for the sake of a friend in need — for You, Lord?
Allow me the grace to witness to your love for me, Lord, to share it when I can.
My life has meaning only when I share the love and kindness you have shown to me. Allow me the grace to do that this day, St. Stephen’s Day and every day.
Stephen, a young man, has always been one of my heroes, Lord.
We need such heroic love in our time, Lord, such heroic young people.
Inspire young women and men to break through the wall of their isolation and be there for their friends in the hard times ahead.
Teach us to never abandon a friend, Lord.
And let my readers know that you love them, Lord, and will never abandon them either ~ no matter what.
Now, before you go, here is Joan Baez’ Forever Young that I referred to a young man that I wished to aspire to heroic love. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen for a beautiful slide show accompanying the song. Click here.
The Birthday of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
Check out this video first! Click here. (Then click on the << arrow on the top left corner of your computer to return to this page.)
While all things were
in quiet silence,
And that night was
in the midst of
her swift course,
Thine Almighty Word,
Leaped down out
of thy royal throne,
~ And the Word became flesh and lived among us. John 1:14
WE Christians tend to sentimentalize the Christmas story.
And yet the whole message is there beneath the charming Christmas pageants with the cute little girls holding baby dolls and boys dressed up in bathrobes as St. Joseph. Yes, it’s all there. Now let’s think about what it means.
John sums the whole story in one sentence! “The Word became flesh and lived (dwelt) among us.” The Greek word actually translates as “pitched his tent among us.” Thus, he intended to move in with us and stay with us a while!
He is Emmanuel ~ God with us!
Now there are two words here that Christians generally don’t like. One is “flesh” as in “the world, the flesh and the devil.” And the other is in the middle of the Christmas part of our faith story in theology. That theological word is “Incarnation”. The “carn” part is carnal. We don’t like that word, do we? We think it~um~refers to sin!
But there you are, folks “flesh” and “carnal” referring to what our God has taken upon himself.
Let’s look at what the Christmas story means ~ what its implications might mean for your life today:
If God accepted our “fleshiness” (by becoming flesh, by taking on a human body) – then so should (must) we accept our own bodies and, yes, our sexuality, our “fleshiness.”
This was the reason he became Man: to throw in his lot with the human race and show us how to become fully human, fully alive!
Our waiting is over.
Christmas is here.
I have the peace and satisfaction that I have poured my love into my writings
I hope to receive the special gift Jesus wants to give me this Christmas.
And I pray so very earnestly that you receive the special gift God wishes to give you.
Cleanse your heart of resentments / of preoccupations with unnecessary things.
Ask yourself what really is the meaning of life ~ your life.
For me the answer is to love as best I can.
I have a lot of love in my heart to share with whomever would like to receive.
I also have some wisdom to share that arises out of my own crosses I’ver carried over the years.
But it’s all gift!
So, I hope you have received something nourishing and sweet in the 21 posts I have been able to create this Advent.
They are my gift to you.
Have a wonderful Christmas with your family.
And if your Christmas is lonely with no one really special to share it with,
know that you have someone here who understands and who reaches out to you from my heart to yours.
And be sure to open yourself to the holiness / the wholeness / the peace of Christmas.
It is there beneath all the craziness and hype. It is yours if you seek it and ask for it.
MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!
Glory to God in the highest and peace to people of good will!
Here is a thrilling version of “O Holy Night” sung by the men and boys choir at Kings College, Cambridge. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
If you would like the Scripture readings for the Scripture readings for any of the several Masses for Christmas Click here.
Well, in Luke’s Annunciation story, the angel Gabriel tells Mary that she will conceive a child who will be the Son of God. She questions the angel, he reassures her and then she goes off to visit her cousin Elizabeth who’s with child in her old age whom the same angel had appeared to her husband Zack (for short). Now Zack was struck dumb (couldn’t speak) till the baby was born because he, unlike Mary, did not believe.
Sounds like a soap opera, eh?
Well, there’s more. The angel left Mary and Joseph with quite a dilemma. you see. She lived in a small village (Nazareth) and her belly was growing and a small scandal was growing even bigger!
Now Joseph her husband, according to the Gospel of Matthew (1:18-24) was greatly troubled. And “since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.”
But voila! . . . enter an angel who appears to Joseph one night in a dream and tells Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary his wife into his home.
And as we know the angel, (probably ol’ Gabe again) said his piece and off he went and didn’t help with the dilemmas and hardships for this couple. ( Some good he was, eh?)
+ They had to travel to Bethlehem while Mary was pregnant, apparently on a donkey ~ not exactly in comfort on rough Palestinian roads.
+ And when they got there, as you remember, there was no room for them in the inn and so we have the Christmas story that children have re-enacted year-after-year ever since.
+ And according to Matthew, they had to flee for their lives into exile into Egypt to escape the violent designs of Herod.
O Joseph, gentle, silent Joseph,
what was it like in your home at Nazareth”
We know you taught Jesus your trade as a carpenter.
Was he a good one? Where you proud of his work?
Were you able to put good food on the table?
Have a nice party with friends and family once in a while?
Were you and Mary very affectionate?
Was Jesus at all mischievous?
Did you live long enough to see Jesus go out into his ministry?
We honor you, dear Joseph, as our Protector and friend!
Pray for us!
And now, before you go, here’s the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra with a glorious rendition of Handel’s “And the Glory of the Lord. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
And here are the readings for today’s Mass. Click here.
Friday of the third week of Advent
O Come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear,
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!
Where are you, Emmanuel?
Are you here?
Are you here in the messiness of our lives?
Can you really ransom us from our captivities,
our slaveries to addictions, our hatreds and grudges and jealousies
that eat us up and spit us out?
Our guilts, our “coulda, shoulda, wouldas — our druthers and regrets?
Our lethargy, our hopelessness, our slumber, our rage?
O Israel! O America!
Do you want Emmanuel to come?
Do We want you to? (Do I?)
Many languish in mourning, Emmanuel
in exiles made by Wall Street and homelessness and sickness
and loneliness and selfishness.
Many a young heart yearns / aches for direction and meaning and love.
Prisoners waste away. Such a waste of young lives!
Will you ransom their hearts, and souls, Emmanuel?
~ our hearts and souls?
Will you change our justice system to be truly just?
Will you truly rain down justice as the psalmist says?
Yes, O come, Emmanuel!
Even though we can sometimes hardly be with ourselves.
Captivate us, inhale us with Your love.
Dazzle us with hope and new life and possibility.
Yes, Emmanuel! We believe you will come.
Maybe not today or tomorrow.
You will transform the secret yearnings of our souls.
We will dance and sing and embrace You and each other
because you came among us, Emmanuel.
You ARE with us, Emmanuel.
You are LOVE ITSELF!
If only we could ~ would ~ see You, right in front of us ~ with us.
Then, would we ~ could we ~ embrace You ~ open our hearts to you!
Because of You our being becomes “being-in-love!”
We rejoice! We give thanks! We believe!
Come, Lord Jesus! Yes, Lord Jesus, come.
Brothers and sisters, this Christmas let each one of us give thanks
— and receive again in a new way
such a precious, wondrous love,
such a wonderful gift.
Here is a YouTube presentation of the powerful hymn sung by Steve Green “What wondrous love is this? Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen,
Enjoy and have a wonderful day!
Thursday of the third week of Advent
Luke tells us the charming story that God became incarnate ~ enfleshed ~ as a little vulnerable baby boy.
It truly is amazing to really think about that.
Even if you’re not ready to accept the story as true, the meaning of that story can really grab you if you let it.
But, sadly, so many of us celebrate Christmas all our lives without really reflecting on the implications of the story for our lives.
Jesus was not only vulnerable in his birth, but also in his death.
He chose to stand before Pilate, bound, scourged and silent.
He chose to say nothing or do anything in his defense.
What’s the message here?
St. Paul gives us a clue:
“When I am powerless then I am strong” ~ 2 Cor. 12:9-10.
How can that be?
I think about that a lot because I was powerless a lot dealing with depression.
Some days I wasn’t able to get out of my chair.
Jesus is showing that in our vulnerability,
in our weaknesses,
in our poverty of spirit,
in the brokenness of our lives
we will find God.
You came into this world as a little child
as needy as any other baby.
You sucked at Mary’s breast
and received your nourishment as God from a human mother.
You became one of us and with us.
You accepted our fleshiness, our misery, our joys and sorrows.
You came down to our level to raise us up to the dignity of God.
Thank you, Jesus!
Come into our world this day.
Teach us to accept our own vulnernabiity as something positive.
Teach us to recognize Your face in the most vulnerable among us
for they can be our most radical spiritual teachers.
Help us understand, Lord. Help us truly understand.
Now to get us in the mood here is a charming YouTube rendition of The Little Drummer Boy. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
O come, thou dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
— O Antiphons
Wednesday of the third week of Advent
There sometimes can be a lot of depression swirling around at Christmas.
People can feel lonelier because we’re expected to be cheerier and we just don’t feel it.
This blog is meant for us to pray for, notice and reach out to these folks.
Let’s be with those who have lost a loved one and still miss them.
With kids who are shuffled back from one parent to another to “celebrate” the holidays.
With soldiers far away from home or their families at home without them.
And so, may we pray:
There are sometimes dark clouds in our lives, Lord.
Pierce the gloominess of our lives with Your very own Light.
May we allow You to dawn in us this day.
May we be ready for Your dawning in a new way in our lives this Christmas.
May this celebration of Jesus’ birth bring meaning and joy in the midst of our worries and concerns.
And may we BE the dawning of your light and love and justice
in our homes, our neighborhoods, our jobs, our world.
And there are dark and ominous clouds over our world too, Lord.
Pierce our greed and hate, fear and complacency and violence with hope, Lord.
May we pray earnestly for a new dawn for our beloved country and our world.
May we BE the dawning of your light, your love and your justice in our land.
Lord Jesus, come!
We need Your Light and Your Love more than ever.
And now, before you go, enjoy this little holiday concert by the Air Force ensemble. Click here. (You have to scroll down a little bit until you see the video.)Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
I’ve decided to take a deeper turn in this Advent blog.
As I get closer to Christmas, my prayer is opening up to two things in the last few days.
(1) a deeper realization of my sinfulness and frail human nature.
and (2) an ongoing surrender to the process of transformation that is occurring in me as I turn my life and my will over to God.
That, ongoing dual process ~ “a kind of coincidence of opposites,” dear friends, is what gives meaning and joy to my life.
The Church invites us to enter into that process of ongoing repentance and conversion each year during Advent.
To step out of the rat race. To take a look at our maneuvering / scheming / elbowing for status or power or success or prestige. Or any of the things American society tells us we’re supposed to have to make us happy.
The wise person realizes they won’t!
Let’s reflect a little more on what we can learn from John the Baptist what it’s all about . . .
He was a pretty successful preacher. People were streaming out into the desert to listen to him; he was persuasive. People were willing to change their lives after listening to him.
But he didn’t let it go to his head. He realized what his role was. He was just the “advance man.” And was content with that.
He knew who he was. He didn’t let success go to his head. He didn’t want to be the star. Even though many thought he was “The Man.”
The saying of John that I love and pray often myself is:“He must increase; I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
My spiritual director remind me to stay focused on Jesus. To make all my plans provisional.
“To seek through prayer and meditation knowledge of God’s will and the power to carry it out,” as the Eleventh Step of Alcoholics Anonymous puts it.
I was a young, cool, creative priest. I was a rising star. I thought I was pretty hot stuff.
A bishop once told my father, “He’ll be a bishop someday.”
But God had other plans.
I ended up strapped to a gurney with a massive shot of Thorazine in the lower regions of my posterior and have had several bouts of the crazies in 32 years.
Today, I’m just a little guy, content with a tiny flock to care for and writing a little blog few know about.
Arrogance was my greatest character defect and it has taken till recently to whittle that away.
And so today I pray inspired by the one who was content to live in the wilderness . . .
Jesus, You are the light of my life.
Without You I would be nowhere. Nada. Nothing.
And that’s fine with me.
(And to tell ya the truth, I’m amazed at that! That’s quite a transformation for me!)
I want You to be in all my relationships,
in all of my writing,
You help me to be humble, Lord. You cast me down and raised me up again.
You chastise me; You heal me.
With St. Paul, You have helped me realize that in the midst of my brokenness,
it was ~ and is ~ You who make me strong.
Not in the ways of this world, with ambition or striving for power or success or influence,
but in knowing You are right here: You are enough for me, Lord.
Whatever flows from my relationship with You will be good
as I allow You more and more to increase
and allow my false self, my little (Big) ego to fall away.
To be humble is to be close to the “humus” — “muck”.
So, I’m content with the muckiness of my life.
And yet, You have surprised me / delighted me / ravished me with Your love
And you know what?
There, I found You!
You raised me up! You drew me to Yourself!
You bound up my wounds! You clothed me with LOVE!
What a joy!
And now I’m eager to share Your Love.
To help others realize that You love each and everyone ~ no matter what.
But You want us to love You in return.
Yes, Lord Jesus, You must increase; I must decrease.
Let me never ever forget that. No matter what.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
In the coming days I will try to have you take a deeper look at the mystery of the Incarnation — God’s love affair with our messy /mucky / crazy human race as it is appears in Luke’s story that God came into our world as a vulnerable, homeless baby who cooed and pooped in his pants like the rest of us. That story ~even if you just accept as a story ~ has much to teach us. Let’s take a fresh look at it and go down to a deeper level. We’ll do that in the next week.
Here is an inspiring YouTube orchestral and voice arrangement of J. S. Bach’s lovely Advent piece sung by Josh Groban. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
Monday of the third week of Advent
Advent themes are all about waiting for light to shine in our darkness.
For we who are Christians we await, Jesus, Yeshua, who is for us the Light of the World.
We prepare a place for him to shine in our own hearts this day.
We invite you to search out your own inner meaning whatever that might be.
In the Catholic liturgy just before Christmas, one of the magnificent O Antiphons appears:
O Adonai and Ruler of the House of Israel,
you appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush
and on Mount Sinai gave him your law.
Come, and with outstretched arm redeem us.
And my prayer . . .
O Adonai*, we need you in our world more than ever!
You appeared in the burning bush long ago.
I remember this awesome sunrise several years ago over the ocean at St. Augustine Beach.
I’m reminded of the old sailor’s maxim: “Red at night, a sailor’s delight; red in the morning, sailor’s take warning.”
Come with your refiner’s fire and burn your way into our hearts.
so that we can prepare the way for the Messiah to come into our lives,
into our homes,
our workplace and marketplace,
our beloved country,
our waiting world!
Come Lord Jesus!