Month: December 2013
The Holiness / the wholeness of Family Life
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.
St. Stephen’s Day – Heroic Love
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.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
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.
The Fourth Sunday of Advent ~ Mary’s Dilemma
Fourth Sunday of Advent
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.
Advent Day 20 – What wondrous love is this?
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!
Emmanuel, they tell us you are “God-with-us.”
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!
Advent Day 19 — Our vulnerable God
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.
Advent Day 18: Depressed or lonely at Christmas?
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.
Advent Day 16 – The Burning Bush of the World
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!
What are the “O Antiphons?” One of the most cherished collections of our ancient liturgical chants are the seven “O Antiphons” which are sung each of the seven nights before Christmas at Vespers. They have beautiful chant melodies. I am using some of them interspersed in the next 9 days before Christmas. Here is a web site that has information and recordings of all seven. Click here. (Scroll down to the bottom of the page; when you see the little speaker symbol with a music note next to it, click on it and it will give you the recording for each O Antiphon you want.
Here is an audio slide show of O come,O Come. O Come Emmanuel for your reflection. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
* Adonai — one of the names the Jewish people use for God.
Advent Day 15 ~ Rejoice! The Lord is near!
Third Sunday of Advent
In our Catholic liturgical calendar this is “Gaudete Sunday — the Sunday of Joy. We’re half way through Advent and the vestment color is Rose, rather than purple, the color of penitence. So, we see the celebrant in rose vestments.
This is supposed to be a joyful time of year but . . . some us don’t see things clearly, or can’t speak up for ourselves or are disabled. some of us are afraid / disillusioned / confused / depressed / lonely / weak-kneed and in need of a good old-fashioned infusion of hope and joy, so . . .
Today’s first reading from Isaiah 35:1-6,10 sums up the joyful, hopeful mood of this third Advent Sunday:
The desert and the parched land will exult;
the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
They will bloom with abundant flowers,
and rejoice with joyful song.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to them,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the LORD,
the splendor of our God.
Strengthen the hands that are feeble,
make firm the knees that are weak,
say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
with divine recompense
he comes to save you.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.
Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return
and enter Zion singing,
crowned with everlasting joy;
they will meet with joy and gladness,
sorrow and mourning will flee.
In the Gospel today, while he was in prison, John’s disciples go to Jesus to ask him,
Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?
Jesus said to them in reply,
Go and tell John what you see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear [ . . .] and the poor have the good news preached to them.
John’s joy is to witness the unfolding of God’s plan of salvation and to play his assigned role within it. . . The way of fidelity to God and cooperation with God’s gift of himself to world leads through dungeons of human injustice and cruelty . . . . John is always acting as one whose every fiber is oriented to serving a greater good than himself. John’s humility takes the form of an ability to wait without end for God to act.
My spiritual director some time ago suggested I pray to John the Baptist, and so I do so now . . .
O John, how lovingly you served your Lord.
I am dumbfounded at my own lack of humility,
my refusal to serve, my paltriness when I do serve.
You inspire me, even in my later years to wait upon my God to act in my life,
to wait for him to do new things.
Thank you, John, for your service-unto-death;
I ask for me the grace, the strength and the courage to also serve my Lord unto the end of my days.
To get you in a joyful mood I have a surprise for you ~ the hallelujah Chorus sung in a shopping mall during lunch by opera singers mingled with the munchers. This is truly amazing and lots of fun. Click here. Turn up your speakers and enter full screen. Turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
(With our joyful gratitude to Alphabet photography.)