( and Day 4 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 fly 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).
Child and teen gun deaths hit a 19-year high in 2017 and have remained elevated since.
In 2019, nine children and teens were killed with guns each day in America—one every 2 hours and 36 minutes.
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.
On December 26, — the second day of Christmas –we usually celebrate St. Stephan’s Feast, but he got bumped by the Feast of the Holy Family. Nevertheless, I think the lessons he teaches us are too important to be passed by; so I am publishing it for you a couple of days late. Monday is the third day of Kwanzaa (African-American). May we earn 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 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 – 2021
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!
This Christmas–as i often do–I want to share with you an excerpt from one of my favorite Advent authors ~ Brennan Manning entitled Shipwrecked at the Stable.
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:
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. And this is the simple truth—that to life 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.”
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. 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,.
And so, dear friend, it’s time.
Open your heart.
Take some quiet time over the weekend to prepare yourself and be ready to receive the Lord into your heart as if for the first time—in humility and the joy and wonder. As you see from Brennan Manning’s wonderful story, Christmas is really not about giving gifts, but about receiving the one gift that Jesus wants 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 bishop
for good food to nourish our bodies
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.
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