The Sunday after Christmas
The 4th day of Christmas, December 28th — the Feast of the Holy Family (the 3rd 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.
My bishop sent to his priests for Christmas a little book entitled Pope Francis and the Family. Francis has spoken often about the family. Here is one quote I’ll share . . .
What is the power of the family? It is indeed love. And the one who sows love in our hearts os God, God’s love, it is precisely God’s love gives meaning to our small daily tasks and helps us face great trials. This is the true treasure of humankind: going forward in life and love, with love which the Lord has sown in our hearts with love. This is the true treasure. It is a love that gives value and beauty to everything else; a love that gives strength to the family, to work, to study, to friendship, to work, to art, to all human activity. It even gives value to negative experiences, because this love allows us to move beyond them, not to remain prisoners of evil, it moves us beyond, always opening us to hope. (Angelus, St. Peter’s Square, August 11, 2013)
And yet, 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. Click here.
The Birthday of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
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(!) saying “the Word became flesh and lived (dwelt) among us” or as the Greek word actually translates as “pitched his tent among us.” Thus, he intended to move 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 this charming Christmas story means ~ what its implications 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 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 think I’m ready 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 also have some wisdom to share that arises out of my own crosses I’ve carried over the years.
But it’s all gift!
So, I hope you have received something nourishing and sweet in the 23 posts I’ve 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!
If you would like the Scripture readings for the Scripture readings for any of the several Masses for Christmas Click here.
Here is a very special Christmas music video for you. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
And, before you go,here’s another one, if you would like, of Handel’s glorious GLORY TO GOD ~ PEACE ON EARTH ~ GOOD WILL TOWARD MEN!
P. S. We’ll be back again on December 26th ~ The Feast of St. Stephen and the Twelve Days of Christmas!
“O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.”
~ O Antiphons
Yesterday evening at 6:03 pm we observed the Winter Solstice, the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, and celebrated by our pagan brothers and sisters. I do not use the term pejoratively; they are the peoples who are reverently close to the earth.
Actually the date of Christmas was taken from the winter solstice because it marks, in the northern hemisphere, the beginning of the ascendency of the sun. It connotes the phrase from John 3:22-30 in which John the Baptist says the “He must increase; I must decrease.” And the Baptist’s feast, likewise is near the summer solstice on June 24th. Thus, the church did not hesitate to borrow from the existing pagan customs. Christmas trees, for example, came from Germany and the wreathe symbolized eternity. Again, these were pagan customs.
Did you know that in the middle ages they lit real candles on their Christmas trees? How ’bout that?
Some Christians today misunderstand our “cross-enculturation” of things that once had a pagan origin and sometimes berate those of us who celebrate Christmas.
Now before you go, here’s a terrific of Tiny Tim’s “God bless us, everyone” from Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, composed and sung by Andrea Bocelli. Click here. Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers.
Friday 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.
Help 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
Thursday of the third week of Advent (Hanukkah Day 3)
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 and reach out and notice these folks.
Let’s be with folks 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 and 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 right now, Lord.
Pierce our greed and hate, fear and complacence, 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 and love and justice in our land.
Lord Jesus, come! May we be ready for the dawn of your coming in a new way this Christmas,
May the light of that dawning transform our lives and our land.
We need Your Light and Your Love more than ever.
Now, before you go, here’s an enjoyable music video for you. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
Wednesday of the third week o f Advent
O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other,
mightily and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.
~ O Antiphons
One of the major themes of Advent I promised I would talk about is “waiting.”
The Jewish people are waiting for the Messiah. We are waiting for the return of Christ.
Some expect him “soon and very soon.”
(As for me, I don’t worry my lil head about the rapture and stuff or anything apocalyptic ’cause we ain’t gonna know the answer anyway! Jesus doesn’t even know, only the Father.)
Every one of us is longing ~ yearning for something — Someone.
What — or Who — are YOU waiting for?
– for Godot?
– to be accepted into college?
– a new job?
– your son to come home from serving in the military?
– to win the lottery?
– someone to fill your loneliness?
– for news that your biopsy is benign?
– to get home after being stuck in rush hour traffic and bad day at work?
– a letter that never comes?
There are all kinds of things we have to wait for.
Advent is about learning how to use “waiting time” well.
We can wait patiently or impatiently.
Some people want “fast access DSL” to be even faster.
But I have learned that slower is better.
When we’re waiting in line or in the doctor’s office — especially during Advent — we can go inside ourselves. Quiet our mind. Just focus on our breathing for a while or say a decade of the rosary.
REAL LIFE happens when we’re waiting for something else to happen.
Real life happens between here and there.
But we have to be ready. Open. Ready to hear God speak to us in the murmured wisdom of a three-year-old.
Ready to see the evidence of God’s presence when you walk out the door in the morning.
– or even to see God in a baby in a manger.
Ready and waiting for Jesus to come to us in a new way this Christmas.
Yes, life happens WHILE we’re waiting.
When we’re not in any particular hurry.
When we’re ready to respond to whomever wants or needs our attention at the moment
– one of your children or perhaps a stranger at the checkout counter at the corner grocery store.
That’s what a real Christmas is all about!
That’s what a spiritual life is all about whether you are Catholic or Hebrew or Muslim or Buddhist or a non-believer.
But the most important waiting that we try to learn during the Advent season is to wait for the Lord.
Having enough faith to wait for God to act in our life on God’s time — not ours.
So, Advent is about learning patience.
It’s also about longing for something – Someone more.
About realizing as St. Augustine said:
“Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, my God!“
Finally, dear friends, I share with you a song I’ve always loved from West Side Story because it captures so well the excitement / the anticipation/ the hope / the yearning / striving / hungering / the thirsting / the DESIRE of the human race for something MORE! Someone NEW to break into our life and turn us upside down.
Click here > > > “Something’s Coming!” sung by Tony in West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein — a YouTube presentation. Turn up your speakers and enter full screen. Christmas is one week away.
Have a great day!
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.
And Hanukkah, which begins tonight at first starlight is also about light.
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.
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 61:1-2.10 sums up the joyful, hopeful mood of this third Advent Sunday:
The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God.
I rejoice heartily in the LORD,
in my God is the joy of my soul;