Paul was an amazing man. He was small of stature; he refused to depend on charity–thus, he worked as a tentmaker wherever he went. After he was severely beaten, he was in constant pain, but went on and on and on, because, as I tried–and would still like to learn– from him . . . .
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
~ Philippians 4:13
Paul before his conversion was known as Saul of Tarsus, and as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles he says, “I persecuted this Way to death (i.e. Christians), binding both men and women and delivering them to prison.” And then he tells the story of his conversion on the way to Damascus, that a great light blinded him and he heard a voice asking, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (You can read the rest of the story in Acts 22: 1:16.) Or the alternative version given in the Mass readings below (Acts 9:1-22).
I enjoyed what St. John Chrysostom, a Bishop and Doctor of the Church in the early church, says about Paul in the divine office for today . . . .
Paul, more than anyone else, has shown us what man really is, and in what our nobility consists and in what virtue this particular animal is capable. Each day he aimed even higher; each day he rose up with even greater ardor and faced with new eagerness the dangers that threatened him. He summed up his attitude in his words: “I forget what lies behind me and I push on to what lies ahead.” (There’s a lesson for us here, isn’t there?)
I never paid much attention to Paul until my later years. And suddenly, I fell in love with him; thus, I’m writing this blog in his honor, despite the passages that show his Hebraic attitudes toward women and the misuse of his words about gay people. Here’s the reason . . . .
Chrysostom goes on to say that the most important point of all is . . . .
St. Paul knew himself to be loved by Christ. Enjoying this love, he considers himself happier than anyone else . . . . He preferred to be thus loved and yet the least of all, or even among the damned, than to be without that love than be among the great and honored. So too, in being loved by Christ he thought himself as possessing life, the world, the angels, the present and the future, the kingdom, the promise and countless blessings. Apart from that love nothing saddened or delighted him; for nothing earthly did he regard as bitter or sweet. (Another lesson for us, isn’t there, especially during this pandemic when we’re worried about the economy.)
A few years ago, a priest-friend sent me a Christmas card with a favorite quote from St. Paul on the cover that I framed and remained on my dining room table for years that I often glanced at. As I have had my own cup of suffering from long years of manic-depressive disorder it meant a great deal to me . . . .
“My grace is sufficient for you,
for in weakness power reaches perfection.”
And so I willingly boast of my weaknesses instead,
that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
For when I am powerless, it is then I am strong.
(2 Cor. 12:9-10)
You see, Paul has helped me love my Lord–or rather to realize in tears of joy that Jesus loves me deeply and richly–as I am–weak and sinful. He has raised me up and heals me, granting me the wonderful grace to share his love as best I can at the tip of my cursor–if in no other way.
And so, dear friends, know that you, too, are loved, whether you have realized it or not. Our God is love! Know that–despite whatever else you’ve been taught, despite how guilty you may feel or how unworthy you think you are. YOU ARE LOVED! THIS IS A MEANINGFUL UNIVERSE!
We’ll let St. Catherine of Siena have the last word that really grabbed me, Paul “became a vessel of love filled with fire to carry and preach God’s Word. Amen. Amen!
And now, before you go, here are the St. Louis Jesuits singing the Prayer of their Founder, “Take, Lord, and Receive.” It’s a beautiful prayer and a beautiful song. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen for the slide show that accompanies it.
And here are all of today’s mass readings for today’s Feast, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.
On this coming Monday, January, 16, 2023, we will honor a great American ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was 39 when he was martyred on April 4, 1968.
On that fateful day, Dr. King took an assassin’s bullet that he knew was waiting for him at any time. It came while he was leading a strike for sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. He inspired and led the Civil Rights movement that acquired great change in our land. This man is one of my mentors. I was in his presence only once in 1963 when I was in the seminary in Baltimore. Our Rector arranged for some of us to hear him speak when he came to Baltimore.
He was a man who committed himself to nonviolence like Mohandas Gandhi, and also Jesus my Lord who died on the Cross for us. Dr. King and I believe that nonviolent action is the only way that justice and peace can be achieved. Dr. King inspired ordinary folks, black and white, to stand up for their rights and to sit down and accept the vicious blows of police and others in their racial hatred. His organizers trained them to have the courage to go to jail for what they believed.
On, the day after his assassination on April 4, 1968, I formally entered the service of the Roman Catholic Church as an ordained deacon. I was a seminary student at the Theological College of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
The shrill sound of sirens all over the city mingled with the ancient chant melody of the Litany of the Saints as I lay prostrate on the floor of our chapel with my brothers to be ordained. As I looked up to this man and his ideals of justice and peace and freedom, I also wanted to absorb them into my body and soul, I took in a deep breath and pledged my life to Christ.
Today, in this land of America, the freedoms and ideals that Thomas Jefferson told us all men are created equal and have the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness are seriously in danger of slipping away from us. We witnessed the desecration of our Capitol.
Racism that was covert for centuries before it reared its ugly head and been condoned when it should have been severely condemned in Charlottesville, Virginia, the very home of Jefferson’s great University of Virginia, in the bombings of Jewish Synagogues, in Muslim Mosques and violence in El Paso deliberately against brown people, and the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing, in Uvalde, Texas and so many other school shootings across our country.
The number of race-based killings and other incidents in our country in the last two years has been astounding — some by officers of the law. It has taken our young people to lead the way to and advocate for real change against gun violence led by the courageous leaders from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
O God of Justice,
raise up men and women in our day who will inspire us and restore us to the original ideals of our nation.
Enable us to wake up from our slumber and see what we have lost, and safeguard our freedoms.
Give us the strength and courage to pledge our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor to win this spiritual revolution of justice, peace and love that now lies before us in 2023.
We also ask you bless President Joe Biden and all our elected officials, and our whole country that we may heal, come together and start anew in this new year of 2023.
We pray to you, God, for You are the God who cries for justice for your children and who still hears the cries of those who know and realize they are poor without You.
We pray–for only You can can restore us to the ideal of freedom and justice FOR ALL.
To You Glory and Honor and Power, now and forever. Amen!
May we call each other more than a generation later to the principles of Nonviolence Dr. King instilled in his followers.
They were trained to sit down on the ground and take blows of the police because they knew that Nonviolence was a more powerful weapon than guns and bombs.
Dr. King held no public office. He persuaded us by the power of his words and the depth of his conviction.
And his willingness to give his life for what he believed in ~ no matter what.
What are you are willing to give your life for?
I continually ask myself the same question and pray the answer is Yes! (Or at least I hope so.)
It has been a generation since Dr. King delivered his most powerful and eloquent speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963 that led subsequently to President Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act into law on June 2, 1964, I offer this video reflection from the History Channel on Dr. King’s “I have a Dream speech at the Lincoln Memorial, followed by some powerful excerpts from that speech. Click here.
Then follow with this excerpt from his speech. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
The Feast of the Epiphany ~
Sunday, January 8th, 2023
Today’s feast day has two meanings. In the Roman Church –or the Christian churches in the West–we celebrate the story of the Magi visiting Jesus and offering him gifts. In the Eastern churches, they focus on the story of the Baptism of the Lord. Both celebrate the manifestation, that is, the revelation of Jesus to the whole world.
St. Paul in today’s letter to the Ephesians proclaims that . . . .
“The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (Ephesians 3:6)
We focus on the story of the Magi in our celebration today. In the Gospel of Christmas, the angels proclaim the Good News of Christ’s birth to the shepherds, who were uneducated, poor folk. The story from Luke indicates that the gospel is to be preached to the poor.
Today’s story is from Matthew. The Magi are scholars and learned men. They discern from their study of the heavens that the Messiah was to be born in their time and they would risk searching for him and then offering their treasures. The Magi represent all the peoples of the earth outside and beyond the Jewish experience.
Jesus is the Christ for everyone!
This Gospel story is about darkness and light. Brilliant light and terrible, fearful darkness.
The Magi were comfortable with the dark. They knew how to find their way in the dark, because they could interpret the lights of the sky. They were adventurers–seekers–explorers.
They represent all people who are at home in the world of the intellect. All people who are willing to journey far to seek and find the truth. (Unfortunately, we live in a world where some of our leaders don’t bother with seeking truth and are afraid of science.)
The Magi went out into the night following the light, the great star which marked a singular event in human history.
They stopped to see Herod, expecting that he would welcome the light. He couldn’t; he was filled with diabolical darkness; he could not abide the light of truth. He tried to snuff out the life of the God-Man: Jesus the Light of the world.
Herod, the guy in charge, a king, was worried about the birth of a baby. Herod was powerful, and yet, as Matthew says, “ . . . he was greatly troubled.
What was Herod afraid of? He knew that Jesus was going to make a difference in his world and was afraid that a change would mean losing the power he had. He wanted Jesus gone before any of that could happen. He liked things just the way they were, the proverbial “status quo.”
So Herod decreed, that all firstborn males under two, were to be killed. Mary and Joseph would have to flee into the night with their little son to find a safe place in a foreign land, the land of Egypt. And so a shroud of violence would invade the innocence of the Christmas story. Jesus and his family became political refugees. (Remember that fact if you are inclined to quickly condemn other political refugees.)
I’d like to try to penetrate the meaning of this sacred event by sharing excerpts of two articles that really impacted my faith and understanding of this great feast.
The great 19th Century Danish philosopher-poet and theologian Søren Kierkegaard, in an article entitled, Only a Rumor, states,
Although the scribes could explain where the Messiah should be born, they remained quite unperturbed in Jerusalem. They did not accompany the Wise Men to seek him. Similarly we may know the whole of Christianity, yet make no movement. The power that moved Heaven and Earth leaves us completely unmoved.
What a difference! The three kings had ONLY A RUMOR to go by. But it moved them to make that long journey. The scribes were much better informed, much better versed. They sat and studied the Scriptures like so many dons, but it did not make them move. Who had more of the truth? The three kings who followed a rumor, or the scribes who remained sitting with all their knowledge?
What a vexation it must have been for the visiting kings, that the scribes who gave them the news they wanted remained mute and dumb in Jerusalem. We are being mocked, the kings might have thought. For indeed what an atrocious self-contradiction that the scribes should have the knowledge and yet remain unmoved and unmoving. This is as bad as if a person knows all about Christ and his teachings, and his own life expresses the opposite.
Father Alfred Delp, the Jesuit priest imprisoned and executed by Hitler in 1945, whom we recently quoted in a powerful Advent article before Christmas, The Shaking Reality of Advent concurs . . . .
The wise men. Whether they were really kings or just local eastern chieftains or learned astronomers is not important. The secret of these people is as plain as the shepherds. They are the men with clear eyes that probe things to the very depths. They have a real hunger and thirst for knowledge. They subordinated their lives to the end in view and they willingly journey to the ends of the earth, following a star, a sign, obeying an inner voice . . . . The compelling earnestness of their quest, the unshakable persistence of their search, the royal grandeur of their dedication–these are their secrets.
And it is their message for us and their judgment of us. WHY DO SO FEW OF US SEE THE STAR? Only because so few are looking for it!
What are we looking for anyway? And will we have a genuine yearning so strong that neither fatigue, nor distance, nor fear of the unknown, nor loneliness, nor ridicule will deter us?
Where is our desire?
Where is our risk to set out to find the meaning of our life?
To find Jesus at our center?
Where is our yearning? Hunger? Thirst?
What star do we follow?
And so, listen to these powerful words from Isaiah in the first reading:
RISE UP IN SPLENDOR, DEAR PEOPLE OF GOD, YOUR LIGHT HAS COME.
THE GLORY OF THE LORD SHINES UPON YOU.
This feast is about a light that penetrates the most stubborn darkness of our lives.
This feast brings a Light to us all, if only we, like the Magi, would seek.
SEE DARKNESS COVERS THE EARTH
AND THICK CLOUDS COVER THE PEOPLES.
Violence seems to shroud our whole planet at times.
Some of us too are swallowed up by darkness, enshrouded by night, as happened to all of us these past three yeas because of the pandemic.
Some of us live in dysfunctional families. That too can be terrible darkness, though we may not recognize it. We may think that yelling and screaming are quite normal.
Some of us get up and work hard, day in and day out. Perhaps it is work that we do not enjoy, perhaps even hate. Perhaps our spirits are far away from our jobs. We go to work trying to eke out a living, hoping to not be enshrouded by darkness. And because of the pandemic, so many lost their jobs or where in unemployment lines trying to apply for assistance!
And we know that there is darkness in the world. Israelis refuse to seek peace with the Palestinians. And we all have been struck quick to the heart by this terrible, vicious war in Ukraine, perpetrated by a despot–for what?
And there’s troubles in hotspots all over the world and in our own country. People have been displaced by the wildfires in the Amazon and in California and never seems to stop in our schools. Hate seethes deep in the souls of neighbors a few blocks away from each other.
BUT UPON YOU THE LORD SHINES
AND OVER YOU APPEARS HIS GLORY.
Don’t despair of the darkness, dear friends. Know that there is a Light that penetrates it.
There was sadness and a thick veil of darkness over my own life for many years. I had the good sense to move to the little bit of light that I could find.
A candle flame can be as bright as a great Nova when one is looking for light.
WE need the light of God’s truth in the world today.
NATIONS SHALL WALK BY YOUR LIGHT,
AND RULERS BY YOUR SHINING RADIANCE.
And finally, dear friends, out of the darkness came the Magi bringing gifts for the Light of the World. Gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for the Holy Child who was the Light.
But before we can give a gift, we must–often in the midst of the darkness–open our hands and our hearts to receive the gift God would give to us. We must first RECEIVE before we can give.
Out of the darkness of your lives, you also can find gifts to give to the Lord and your family and friends.
What gifts do we bring?
Do we bring Jesus the gift of our adoration as the Magi did? The gift of our hearts?
These learned and influential people got down on their knees before this little child.
What or who receives the gift of OUR adoration and allegiance?
The world does not know how to adore God. We adore so many other things. Maybe we adore a favorite movie star or our favorite sports team when they’re winning at least, or a new sports car, a new home, a gifted child of our own.
Maybe we adore our career path, willing to do whatever it takes, even as we embrace the darkness along with it.
And so, this Epiphany Sunday, I pray . . . .
When I get down on my knees on Sunday morning,
I’ll be humbled by this story of the Wise Men who traveled from afar and fell to their knees with their gifts for you.
Please allow me–allow us–to be renewed in your love this day.
May we live in your Light and share your Light with our families, friends and neighbors, and, indeed, all the world!
And please, as I’ve pleaded for years and years for our country, dear Lord,
help us to remember that it is in You we trust.
and are the source of our justice,
and the reason for us to live in civility and good will.
Renew us in your justice, love and peace.
To You be glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
now and forever. Amen.
And before you go–I have three special ways for you to enjoy this Feast Day, including ” the Little Drummer Boy”. First off is a beautiful rendition of ‘ O Holy Night’. Click Here. (Remember to click on the < back arrow on the top left corner of your browser for the remaining items I have for you below! enjoy!
Further, if you’re interested in the star of Bethlehem, you might read this article “Synchronicity and the Star of Bethlehem” Click here.
And if you’d like an extra treat, do you remember the little drummer boy? Here he is! Click here.
You can find today’s Mass readings at this link. Click here.
( and Day 3 of Kwanzaa)
Herod the Great had been elected “King of the Jews” by the Roman Senate in 40 B.C. When the Magi told him of the new King of the Jews, Herod could think of nothing but wiping out the threat to his throne. The Holy Innocents are those children who were brutally murdered by Herod as he sought the Christ Child. At his hand, the Church receives their first martyrs, thereby this feast three days after the celebration of Jesus’ birth.
And because of Herod’s act of terrorism among his own people, Joseph had to flee by night to Egypt with Mary and the young child Jesus. Thus, Jesus himself became a political refugee.
Today we think of other innocent children ~ some killed as the unborn are or have been. We also think of those innocent ones gunned down Parkland, Florida and David Hogg, a survivor, and 2018 graduate, who has gone on to advocate for the end of gun violence. These are the statistics for this past year according to Gun Violence Archive . . .
After years of congressional inaction, a growing number of children are paying with their lives. In 2019, 3,371 American children and teens were killed with guns—enough to fill more than 168 classrooms of 20 (see Table 35). And we remember Newtown and Uvalde.
Guns killed more children and teens than cancer, pneumonia, influenza, asthma, HIV/AIDs, and opioids combined.
While mass shootings grabbed fleeting public and policymaker attention, routine gunfire took the lives of more children.
(Source: The State of America’s Children.)
Then there are children who are trafficked as boy soldiers or as prostitutes or as child laborers.
And what of the horror of children caught in war or in Syria or the Tsunami in Indonesia or the wildfires in California.
And what of the child immigrants in our own country who are held in overcrowded, unhealthy detention camp for years without legal representation that caused two tragic deaths of 7-year-old Guatemalan boy followed by the death of an 8-year-old Guatemalan girl in the custody of Homeland Security.
And what of the DACA children? What will their fate be? They have known no other country but ours.
In Ramah is heard the sound of moaning,
of bitter weeping!
Rachel mourns her children
she refuses to be consoled
because her children are no more
~ (Jer 31:15).
You know, the infant Jesus was threatened by violence himself. So, the Christmas story is not all sweetness and light. The Wise Men inquired of Herod where the newborn King of the Jews was born. Seething with diabolical fury because of his jealousy, Herod orders the massacre of all who resemble Jesus in gender and age.
The Mass texts proclaim . . .
The Innocents were slaughtered as infants for Christ;
I would think the same is true for our own dear innocent children ~ not that all of them are Christian, but that will in their own way sing for ever.
Psalm 124, also from today’s Mass, states,
“Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare.”
So, for many, an eternal life of happiness and a reunion with loved ones is indeed a consolation.
And I conclude today with prayers from our dear Pope Francis . . .
Child of Bethlehem, touch the hearts of all those engaged in human trafficking, that they may realize the gravity of this crime against humanity. Look upon the many children who are kidnapped, wounded and killed in armed conflicts, and all those who are robbed of their childhood and forced to become child soldiers.
As we fix our gaze on the Holy Family of Nazareth as they were forced to become refugees, let us think of the tragedy of those migrants and refugees who are victims of rejection and exploitation of human trafficking and slave labor.
Lord Jesus, as a little child you were a refugee yourself,
and a political one at that.
Thousands of innocent children were murdered.
Millions of children die in our world because of other despots.
Because of cruelty and brutality and bullying goes on and on.
Lord, I have no idea what the future holds for children in our own country.
Please watch over them all and keep them safe.
We mourn for the children who have been gunned down,
or sick and died unattended while under the protection of Homeland Security.
And please watch over all children who are refugees,
or in war-torn countries or who are migrants on the road searching for a better home.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Now before you go, here’s a Christmas carol for you that reflects on the strife of the world. Click here.
And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.
The Feast of St. John,
Apostle and Evangelist
Wednesday, December 27, 2022 ( 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 he 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.
Perhaps we know John, the Evangelist’s, writings best for one verse: John 3:16 . . . .
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.
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.
“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.
“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, and spreads on every side, 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 Jesus,
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 for your beloved Lord’s holy Mother
to love my Jesus 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.
The Feast of St. Stephen ~ First Martyr ~ December 26, 2022
On December 26, — the second day of Christmas –we celebrate St. Stephan’s Feast. Monday is also 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 the Incarnation (God-becoming-human in the person of Jesus Christ) needs more than one day to celebrate. 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 would be 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 (by me), 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, myself, I?
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 Ukrainian people who are suffering untold violence this winter from the cold, and immigrants and refugees the world over?
Allow me the grace to witness to your love, Lord, so that I may 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. (And Steven or Steve has been my “nom de plume” when I didn’t want to use my name.)
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 ~ no matter what.
Now, before you go, here is Mariah Carey singing “Hero.” Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
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 ~ 2022
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
Our waiting is over.
Christmas is here!
My dearest Brothers and Sisters, I pause to think about you intimately at this moment. As my cursor crosses the page I’m thinking and praying for each of you wherever you are and yes, I do have a few readers on other continents.
So on this Christmas Eve, let’s collectively think about where we’ve been this past year. It’s been a helluva ride for those of us trying to cope with this pandemic in the past couple of years, hasn’t it?
So how do we celebrate Christmas against that background? How is all this affecting your own celebration of Christmas?
I want to share with you an excerpt from one of my favorite Advent authors —Brennan Manning entitled Shipwrecked at the Stable. Think about the image of being shipwrecked for a moment . . . .
You’ve been to sea, and are now washed up on some beach somewhere—groggy, famished, thirsty, in rags, wondering where the h – – are you, probably struggling along with other grumbling, annoying former shipmates; in other words: Lost!
Our author begins . . . .
“God entered into our world not with the crushing impact of unbearable glory, but in the way of weakness, vulnerability and need. On a wintry night in an obscure cave, the infant Jesus was a humble, naked, helpless God who allowed us to get close to him.
“God comes as a newborn baby, giving us a chance to love him, making us feel that we have something to give him.
“The world does not understand vulnerability. Neediness is rejected as incompetence and compassion is dismissed as unprofitable.
“The Spanish author José Ortega puts it this way, says Manning:
The man with the clear head is the man who frees himself from fantasy and looks life in the face, realizes that everything in it is problematic, and feels himself lost. (Like so many who had misfortune during this pandemic!) And this is the simple truth—that to live is to feel oneself lost. The shipwrecked have stood at the still-point of a turning world and discovered that the human heart is made for Jesus Christ and cannot really be content with less.
“We are made for Christ and nothing less will ever satisfy us. As Paul writes in Colossians 1:16, “All things were created by him and for him.” And further on, “There is only Christ: he is everything” (3:11). It is only in Christ that the heart finds true joy in created things.
“Do you hear what the shipwrecked are saying? Let go of your paltry desires and expand your expectations. Christmas means that God has given us nothing less than himself and his name is Jesus Christ. Be unwilling next Christmas to settle for anything else. Don’t order “just a piece of toast” when eggs Benedict are on the menu. Don’t come with a thimble when God has nothing less to give you than the ocean of himself. Don’t be contented with a ‘nice’ Christmas when Jesus says, “It has pleased my Father to give you the Kingdom.”
You know, dear Readers, this is what I’ve been sharing with all my heart with you for years. To know Jesus and his heavenly Father is the sole reason for the existence for this Blog!
“The shipwrecked have little in common with the landlocked. The landlocked have their own security system, a home base, credentials and credit cards, storehouses and barns, their self interest and investments intact. They never find themselves because they never really feel themselves lost. (Like so many we know in politics these days.) “At Christmas, one despairs of finding a suitable gift for the landlocked. “They’re so hard to shop for; they have everything they need.”
“The shipwrecked, on the contrary, reach out for that passing plank with the desperation of the drowning. Adrift on an angry sea, in a state of utter helplessness and vulnerability, the shipwrecked never asked what they could do to merit the plank, and inherit the kingdom of dry land. They knew that there was absolutely nothing any of them could do. Like little children, they simply received the plank as a gift. And little children are precisely those who haven’t done anything. “Unless you… become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
“The shipwrecked at the stable are captivated by joy and wonder. They have found the treasure in the field of Bethlehem. The pearl of great price is wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.
So here we are at Christmas once again.
Dear Sisters and Brothers it’s time.
Open your heart.
Prepare yourself to be ready to receive your Lord into your heart as if for the first time—in humility and joy and wonder. As you see from Brennan Manning’s wonderful story, Christmas is really not about giving gifts, but about receiving the one that Jesus wants to give you.
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. Keep your Christmas very simple this year.
And, 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. There are many more to come.
May you have a good Christmas with those you love—even you’re not able to be with them physically present to them this year.
I will remember each of you, your intentions and needs in my two Christmas Masses.
Dearest Lord Jesus,
O how wonderful you are to me—to us.
May we be like children again for you said
that we must be childlike before the Father
and you called him Abba—Daddy.
Thank you, Jesus,
for my priesthood, for my home
for the food on my table,
for my two furry friends Shivvy and Shoney for the time you gave them to me,
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 and those caring for them.
We ask you this, Jesus, as 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.You’ll find a list of the Vigil, Mass at Night, at Dawn, etc.; click on the one(s) you want. Click here.
P. S. We’ll be back again on December 26th ~ The Feast of St. Stephen and the Twelve Days of Christmas and the celebration of Kwanzaa!