The sixth day of Christmas December 30th ~ the Feast of the Holy Family
(and the sixth day of Kwanzaa.)
I met a young couple at a welcome station in the mountains of Virginia a few year ago. I saw Joseph and Mary and Jesus in them. May there be a touch of holiness ~ of wholeness ~ in their lives and in your family too. 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 life can be quite dysfunctional. I think of those families today, Lord. Children (some of them friends of mine) who grew up with alcoholic parents and were in favor one moment and cast aside the next, and had little normalcy, and perhaps little stability.
Be with all families that struggle, Lord. Be with us who are imperfect, weak and selfish and perhaps capable of little love because we may not have received it ourselves as children.
We’re trying, Lord. Strengthen our capacity to love, to be present to our own children and our spouse. Help us realize, Lord, that our most important role is not to have a successful career but to love our children and our spouse. Help us to be a community of love so we can call forth the gifts, the love, the moral courage and strength in our children for the next generation.
Last year, Pope Francis wrote an important document that arose from the two Synods of Bishops dedicated to discussing the issue of family life. It was entitled Amoris Laetitia ~ The Joy of Love.
Here are a few quotes of Pope Francis himself from the document. You’ll note his often down home folksy style.
Every family should be an icon of the family of Nazareth.
The Christian ideal, especially in families, is a love that never gives up.
When we have been offended or let down, forgiveness is possible and desirable, but no one can say it is easy.
The Joy of Love experienced by families is also the joy experienced by the Church.
Just as a good wine begins to ‘breathe’ with time, so, too, daily experience of fidelity gives married life richness and ‘body’.
Young love needs to keep dancing towards the future with immense hope.
I thank God that many families, which are far from considering themselves perfect, live in love, fulfill their calling and keep moving forward, even if they fall many times along the way.
We have to realize that all of us are a complex mixture of light and shadows. The other person is much more than the sum of the little things that annoy me.
In family life, we need to cultivate that strength of love, which can help us fight every evil threatening it. Love does not yield to resentment, scorn for others or the desire to hurt or to gain some advantage. The Christian ideal, especially in families, is a love that never gives up.
Marital joy can be experienced even amid sorrow; it involves accepting that marriage is an inevitable mixture of enjoyment and struggles, tensions and repose, pain and relief, satisfactions and longings, annoyances and pleasures, but always on the path of friendship, which inspires married couples to care for one another.
Dialogue is essential for experiencing, expressing and fostering love in marriage and family life.
Take time, quality time. This means being ready to listen patiently and attentively to everything the other person wants to say. It requires the self-discipline of not speaking until the time is right.
And so, on this Feast of the Holy Family I honor you, Jesus and Mary and Joseph and all our families. I also honor that young couple in Virginia whose name I never knew because I saw in them an image of God in their simple, ordinary love. Lord, keep us all in your loving care.
And now before you go, do you remember that poor little family in Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol who had a little son on crutches named Tiny Tim? Well, here he is with the four words he made famous. Click here.
GOD BLESS US EVERYONE!
And here are the Mass readings for this feast. Click here.
The Feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist ~
Thursday, December 27, 2018 ( and Day 2 of Kwanzaa)
The symbol for St. John among the four Evangelists is the eagle because he soared high above the others into the mystical heights of contemplation in his writings, especially his majestic final discourses—meditations on the mysterious communion of the Father and the Son (chapters 13-17). He shares a familiarity with Jesus as a privileged witness to the Lord’s Transfiguration, the agony in Gethsemane and some say he was the one who reclined with his head upon Jesus breast at the Last Supper. And his epistles are simple, luminous lessons on God’s love.
St. John is said to have traveled to Asia Minor, where he died at Ephesus around 100 CE. Jesus commended his Mother into John’s care at the foot of the Cross, and it is said that he brought her to Ephesus with him.
He is the Evangelist of the Incarnation. He proclaims the glory of the Word coming forth from God to take on human flesh and dwell in our midst. Here’s an excerpt from the prologue from his Gospel . . .
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race
the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.
And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only Son,
full of grace and truth.
Now I’d like to share with you a famous Christmas Day homily by St. John Chrysostom (c. 386 – 407). His name means “Golden mouth” because he was known as an eloquent preacher. He was Archbishop of Constantinople and an important early Church Father.
Here’s the excerpt as it’s very much in keeping with today’s feast . . .
Behold a new and wondrous mystery.
My ears resound to the Shepherd’s song, piping no soft melody, but chanting full forth a heavenly hymn. The Angels sing. The Archangels blend their voice in harmony. . . . . He Who is above, now for our redemption dwells here below; and he that was lowly is by divine mercy raised. [We are raised.]
What shall I say! And how shall I describe this Birth to you? For this wonder fills me with astonishment.
The Ancient of days has become an infant. He Who sits upon the sublime and heavenly Throne, now lies in a manger. And He Who cannot be touched, Who is simple, without complexity, and incorporeal, now lies subject to the hands of men. He Who has broken the bonds of sinners, is now bound by an infant’s bands. But He has decreed that ignominy shall become honor, infamy be clothed with glory, and total humiliation the measure of His Goodness.
For this He assumed my body, that I may become capable of His Word; taking my flesh, He gives me His spirit; and so He bestowing and I receiving, He prepares for me the treasure of Life. He takes my flesh, to sanctify me; He gives me His Spirit that He may save me.
Come, then, let us observe the Feast. Truly wondrous is the whole chronicle of the Nativity. For this day the ancient slavery is ended, the devil confounded, the demons take to flight, the power of death is broken, paradise is unlocked, the curse is taken away, sin is removed from us, error driven out, truth has been brought back, the speech of kindliness diffused, a heavenly way of life has been in planted on the earth, angels communicate with men without fear, and men now hold speech with angels.
Why is this? Because God is now on earth, and man in heaven; on every side all things commingle. He became Flesh. He did not become God. He was God. Wherefore He became flesh, so that He Whom heaven did not contain, a manger would this day receive. He was placed in a manger, so that He, by whom all things are nourished, may receive an infant’s food from His Virgin Mother. So, the Father of all ages, as an infant at the breast, nestles in the virginal arms, that the Magi may more easily see Him. Since this day the Magi too have come, and made a beginning of withstanding tyranny; and the heavens give glory, as the Lord is revealed by a star.
To Him, then, Who out of confusion has wrought a clear path, to Christ, to the Father, and to the Holy Spirit, we offer all praise, now and forever. Amen.
With the words of these two great holy men, dear Lord,
I am speechless.
O how they both loved you!
And dear St. John, on your Feast Day,
help me through the words of your holy Gospel,
and your devoted love to your beloved Lord’s holy Mother
to love my Lord a little more really,
a little more dearly each passing day of my life,
and let me share that love through my own writing and speaking
to my readers and those I meet every day.
And please help my readers do the same.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
And since this is only the third day of Christmas for those of us in liturgical churches, here’s the beautiful ancient Christmas hymn, Lo, how a rose e’er blooming. Click here.
And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.
Today, December 26, is the second day of Christmas, and the first day of Kwanzaa (African-American). May we learn about our own and each other’s 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 the second day of Christmas: 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’ve been abandoned by loved ones, Lord ~ children of alcoholic parents or kids who have gone through the foster care system and may never feel Your Love 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?
Are you, elected officials willing to show any kind of heroic love for the sake of our American people ~ black or white, rich or poor, Muslim, Christian or Jew, North, South, East or West, Wall Street or no street?
And what about the DACA children or the immigrant children lost in the system? What about the Rohingya people who are stateless and suffering untold violence and immigrants and refugees the world over?
Allow me the grace to witness to your love for me, Lord, to share it when I can.
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 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 You will never abandon them either ~ no matter what.
Now, before you go, here is Joan Baez singing Bob Dylan’s song Forever Young, that I referred to a young man whom I wished to aspire to heroic love. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. Click here.
And here are all of today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.
The Birthday of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – 2018
in quiet silence,
And when night was
in the midst of
her swift course,
Your Almighty Word,
Leaped down out
of your royal throne,
~ And the Word became flesh
and lived among us. John 1:14
Our waiting is over.
Christmas is here!
I’m a contemplative, pretty much. I stay home. I have no TV. And I seldom even listen to music. I just crave silence. It’s just me and Shoney and Jesus in at home.
This Advent hasn’t been as fruitful as others for me, yet I hope what I’ve shared with you it has touched you in some way. Politics got in the way, I think in the aftermath of the election. I get bombarded with political emails with organizations that I got involved with and now I find disturbing my peace. But my Advent came just two days ago with one of Pope Benedict’s writings (as Cardinal Ratzinger). I’ll quote it here. The gospel that day was the story about the angel Gabriel appearing to Zechariah in the temple, announcing that he was to bear a son in his old age. He was struck dumb because he didn’t readily accept the angel’s message But Benedict has a different take on it, rather than as a reprimand . . . .
What was Zechariah actually praying for? He was old and his wife was barren. When the angel promised him a son, he rejected this as something absurd that he did not expect from God., as something that as it were he did not include among the things it made sense to pray for. From that we can see clearly that for a long time he had no longer prayed for a son but for more than this, for something greater, for what the Bible calls the consolation of Israel, the redemption of the world.
Quite obviously Zechariah belonged to those for whom Luke says when describing the righteous Simeon that they were looking for the consolation of Israel (Lk 2:25). He says the same of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. When Zechariah was young he too would certainly pray for a son. Then the time when he became unimportant and irrelevant to himself and no longer asked for himself; but nor did he lapse into bitterness and fatalism as if the world no longer concerned him and God who had not responded to him, could be indifferent to him. His life had become freer, greater, and richer. He had trusted in God not less but more, and prayed to him for the divine gift of the salvation of the world . . . .
Prayer must become a way for ourselves in which gradually we learn to see more. It must not end in us shutting ourselves off in our egoism. Through prayer we must become freer, take ourselves less and him more seriously, and thus find our way to the real point of prayer: to ask God for the salvation of the world ~ even today. And I might add our country, as I’ve pleaded for years. (Magnificat liturgical magazine ~ December 2018 issue, p. 288.)
I am closing out my seventy-fifth year and in the middle of my fiftieth year of priesthood, so perhaps you can understand how Pope Benedict’s thoughts resonated with me, especially since my priestly life has in recent years been mostly interior and I prefer to live in silence in my home most of the time. I do hope as I grow older that I, too, can be content to have a “freer, greater and richer life” if I can deepen my prayer once again.
And so, dear friend, it’s time.
Open your heart.
Take some quiet time over the weekend to prepare yourself and be ready receive the Lord into your heart as if for the first time—in humility and the joy and wonder. You see, Christmas is really not about giving gifts, but about receiving the one that Jesus want to give you
Try to be receptive to God as Mary was. She just said, a simple Yes! to the angel:
”I am the servant of the Lord; be it done unto me according to your word.”
I pray so very earnestly that you receive the special gift God wants to give you.
Cleanse your heart of resentments—of preoccupations with unnecessary things.
Ask yourself what is the real meaning of life—your life.
For me the answer is to love as best I can, as meager as my life may be in the sunset years of my life. But I suppose I have some wisdom and compassion to share arising from my own crosses over the years. But it’s all gift; it’s all grace!
So, I hope you have received something nourishing and sweet in the posts I’ve been able to create this Advent. They are my gift to you.
May you have a wonderful Christmas with your those you love.
And if your Christmas is lonely with no one really special with whom to share, know that you have someone here who understands and who reaches out to you across these pages. I will remember each of you and your intentions and your needs in my Christmas Masses.
Be sure to open yourself to the holiness—
the wholeness—the peace of this Christmas.
It is there beneath all the craziness and hype.
It is yours if you seek it and ask for it.
Dearest Lord Jesus,
O how wonderful you are to me—to us.
May we feel like children again for you said
that we must be childlike before the Father
and you called him Abba—Daddy.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jesus,
for my priesthood, for my home
for the food on my table,
for my little furry friend Shoney,
for you my readers and so much more!
Please bless my friends and readers,
especially those who are missing a loved one this year,
or who are lonely or sick or in need in any way.
We ask you this, Jesus, always,
in union with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!
Now, before you go, here is a very special Christmas music video for you. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
If you would like the Scripture readings for any of the several Masses for Christmas. Click here. You’ll find a list of the Vigil, Mass at Night, at Dawn, etc.; click on the one(s) you want.
Today’s Gospel story is a beautiful one. When the angel announced to Mary that she would conceive a child, she was given a way to confirm that message: to go visit her “kinswoman who has also conceived in her old age.” (Lk. 1:36) . . . .
Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”
Our Scripture scholar friend William Barclay says, this story of Mary’s visit is “a kind of lyrical song on the blessedness of Mary. Nowhere can we see the paradox of blessedness than in her life. To Mary was granted the blessedness of being the mother of the Son of God. Well might her heart be filled with a wondering, tremulous joy at so great a privilege. Yet that very blessedness was to be a sword to pierce her heart. It meant that some day she would see her son hanging on a cross.
“To be chosen by God so often means at one and the same to me a crown of joy and a crown of sorrow. The truth is that God does not choose a person for ease and comfort and selfish joy but for a task. God chooses us to use us.” (Barclay / Luke p. 17.)
I know. As many of you know, I have struggled with manic-depressive disorder that has affected my priestly ministry at points throughout my life. My priesthood has been a joy and a cross.
And now back to Mary and my prayer to her this Sunday . . . .
what courage you had for a young girl!
You travelled to visit Elizabeth;
they said she was your cousin.
What did you want to know?
But you found a surprise, didn’t you?
The baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaped for joy.
There was your confirmation.
Mary, so often we need, confirmation
for the decision we have to make.
You believed that the word that was spoken
to you would be fulfilled.
Mary, Jesus, help us to have that kind faith,
that kind of trust.
I praise and thank you, dear Lady
for bringing Love into our world.
And now before you go, here’s the ancient Christmas carol “Lo, how a rose e’er blooming” with a slide show. Click here.
And here are all of today’s Mass readings. Click here.
And before we go, I’d like to call your attention that the Winter Solstice will arrive on Friday, December 2ist in the northern hemisphere at 5:23pm. Did you know that the Church chose the date of Christmas to coincide with it? Remember what John the Baptist said? “He must increase; I must decrease.” The Winter Solstice marks the shortest day of the year and the sun begins it’s ascendency again. The Summer Solstice is near the time of the birthday of John the Baptist (June 24th) when the sun begins on it’s waning path again in northern hemisphere. How ’bout ‘dat?
Acknowledgment: William Barclay / The New Daily Study Bible / The Gospel of Luke
Westminster John Knox Press / Louisville KY / 1975, 2001
Thursday of Third Week of Advent
O Key of David,
opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom:
Come and free the prisoners of darkness!
~ The O Antiphon for December 20th
Father Alfred Delp, S.J. aptly wrote two years after I was born about being shaken up, as so many of us feel in our world today, unsettled as we are by political events in our own country at times. He wrote with his hands in shackles in his prison cell in Berlin, just before he was hanged for high treason in 1945, three months before the war ended. His ashes were scattered on the winds; Hitler wanted him forgotten. (His writings were smuggled out of prison.) In a widely published article, The Shaking Reality of Advent, he wrote:
There is nothing we modern people need more than to be genuinely shaken up.
Where life is firm we need to have a sense of its firmness;
and where it is unstable and uncertain and has no basis, no foundation,
we need to know this too and endure it.
We may ask God why he sent us in this time,
why he has sent this whirlwind on the earth,
why he keeps us in this chaos where all appears hopeless
and dark and why there seems to be no end to this in sight.
I found Father Delp’s message considerably consoling in the light of what our country and our world situation is in at the moment. He goes on . . . .
Here is the message of Advent:
faced with him who is the Last,
the world will begin to shake.
The world today needs people who have been shaken by ultimate calamities and emerged from them with the knowledge and awareness that those who look to the Lord will still be preserved by him, even if they are hounded from the earth. [ . . . . ..]
If we are inwardly unshaken, inwardly incapable of being genuinely shaken,
if we become obstinate and hard and superficial and cheap,
then God will himself intervene in world events and teach us what it means to be placed in this agitation and be stirred inwardly.
Remember, that Father Delp was talking about the disastrous times of war-torn Germany in 1945.
God of mercy and compassion,
our times are very much like the days Father Delp was writing about.
We, too, need to be shaken from our complacency.
Even today, hatred and bullying and fear has increased among our people.
We need you, Lord!
Come among us once again and shake us up to the reality of your Justice!
And as the O Antiphon shouts:
Free the prisoners of darkness among us ~
The poor, those imprisoned unjustly, those without healthcare,
and so so many more crying out to us, pleading for mercy and our love.
Come Lord Jesus and do not delay!
And now, before you go, here’s an appropriate selection from Handel’s Messiah, His Yoke is easy and His burden is light. Click here.
And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.
Alfred Delp, S.J. The Shaking Reality of Advent / translated by the Plough Publishing Company
Wednesday 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 “shoulda, wouldas, couldas—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,
loneliness and selfishness.
Many a young heart yearns and 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 we?
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.
Shower 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!
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 may 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.
And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.
Enjoy and have a wonderful day!
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
Tuesday of the third week of Advent
There sometimes can be a lot of depression swirling around at Christmastime.
People can feel lonelier because we’re expected to be cheerful and we may just not feel any Christmas joy, but instead may feel plain down in the dumps or like drowning in a bottle.
This blog is meant for us to notice and reach out to these folks and pray for them.
Let’s be with those who have lost a loved one and still miss them.
Let’s also remember kids who are shuffled back from one parent to another to “celebrate” the holidays; that’s got to be a terrible thing to do to children.
And what about service men and women away from their families and others who have to work long hours and come home to an empty house.
And so, may we pray:
There are sometimes dark clouds in our lives, Jesus.
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 Your 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 now more than ever.
And before you go, here’s ~ “O thou tellest glad tidings to Zion ” from Handel’s Messiah. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.