The Sunday after Christmas ~ The Joys of Family Life ~ Where do you find joy?

The sixth day of Christmas December 29th 

The Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus and Mary and Joseph

(The eighth day of Hanukkah and the sixth day of Kwanzaa

Let’s start with some notes on today’s gospel which is from Matthew once again. Herod was searching for the child and wanted to kill him. And an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and directed him to take the child and his mother and flee in Egypt.

That flight was entirely natural for many a Jew as soon as some persecution would arise many would seek refuge in Egypt. The result was that every city in Egypt had a colony of Jews and Alexandria had over a million of them, so when the holy family arrived there, they would not have been altogether among strangers.

When Herod died, the angel again appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and directed him to return to Israel and they went and settled in the town of Nazareth.

What do you know about Nazareth? Most of us think of it as a sleepy little berg. Not so. It sat at the crossroads of the Eastern world and afford the young Jesus a metropolitan education. It lay in the hollow of the hill in southern Galilee, but a lad had only to climb the hills for half the world to be at his door. He could look west and see the blue waters of Mediterranean. Looking down around the foot of the very hill on which he stood, the road from Damascus to Egypt, the land bridge to Africa. It was one of the greatest caravan routes in the world. On it, Jesus would see all kinds of travelers from all kinds of nations on all kinds of errands.

But there was another road that left the sea coast and went out to the East. Once again the cavalcade of caravans with their spices would be on it as well the Roman legions out the frontier. This would become the Silk Road. (Barclay Gospel of Matthew, Volume I pp. 33-34;39-40.)

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.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

 

 

The Sunday after Christmas ~ The Joys of Family Life ~ Where do you find joy?

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 inspirescns-pope-apostolic-exhortation 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.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

 

 

The Fourth Day of Christmas ~ The Feast of the Holy Innocents ~ Rachel mourns for her children ~ still (and Day 3 of Kwanzaa)

The Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs ~ Friday, December 28, 2018

( 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 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 so tragically gunned down Parkland, Florida.

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.

images-3And 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;

spotless, they follow the Lamb and sing for ever: Glory to you, O Lord.  

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.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

 

The Third Day of Christmas ~The Feast of St. John the Apostle and evangelist ~ the luminous lover (and day 2 of Kwanzaa)

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.

With love, 

Bob Traupman 

contemplative writer

 

 

The Joys of Family Life

The seventh day of Christmas December 31st — 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 our families.   I pray for them and all young families ~ indeed all families on this traditional day in the Christmas season when we reflect on the hidden, ordinary life of Joseph, and Mary and Jesus in Nazareth.  They are a model of simplicity for us.

But for many of us, our family life can be very 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, had little normalcy, 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.  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.

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 or quips 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 the 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 inspirescns-pope-apostolic-exhortation 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 may we as I honor you, Jesus and Mary and Joseph. I honor that young couple 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, here’s a hymn to Mary that tells us about Nazareth. Click here.

And here are the Mass readings for this feast. Click here.

(Below, I’ve included some information from America magazine that describes some of the important points of this document if you’re interested that goes beyond the spiritual interests of this blog. I do suggest you look it over.)

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

From America magazine on Amoris Laetitia

1. The church needs to understand families and individuals in all their complexity. The church needs to meet people where they are. So pastors are to “avoid judgments which do not take into account the complexity of various situations.”  People should not be “pigeonholed or fit into overly rigid classifications leaving no room for personal and pastoral discernment” . In other words, one size does not fit all. People are encouraged to live by the Gospel, but should also be welcomed into a church that appreciates their particular struggles and treats them with mercy

2. The role of conscience is paramount in moral decision-making.  “Individual conscience needs to be better incorporated into the church’s practice in certain situations which do not objectively embody our understanding of marriage” The church has been “called to form consciences, not to replace them” (37). Yes, it is true, the Pope says, that a conscience needs to be formed by church teaching. But conscience does more than to judge what does or does not agree with church teaching. Conscience can also recognize with “a certain moral security” what God is asking. Pastors, therefore, need to help people not simply follow rules, but to practice “discernment,” a word that implies prayerful decision-making.

3. Divorced and remarried Catholics need to be more fully integrated into the church. How? By looking at the specifics of their situation, by remembering “mitigating factors,” by counseling them in the “internal forum,” (that is, in private conversations between the priest and person or couple), and by respecting that the final decision about the degree of participation in the church is left to a person’s conscience.  (The reception of Communion is not spelled out here, but that is a traditional aspect of “participation” in church life.) Divorced and remarried couples should be made to feel part of the church. “They are not excommunicated and should not be treated as such, since they remain part” of the church.

 4. We should no longer talk about people “living in sin.” In a sentence that reflects a new approach, the pope says clearly, “It can no longer simply be said that all those living in any ‘irregular situation’ are living in a state of mortal sin.” Other people in “irregular situations,” or non-traditional families, like single mothers, need to be offered “understanding, comfort and acceptance.” When it comes to these people, indeed everyone, the church need to stop applying moral laws, as if they were, in the pope’s vivid phrase, “stones to throw at a person’s life”

~ excerpted and simplified from America magazine “Top Ten Takeaways from Amoris Laetitia by James Martin, S.J. April 5. 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We remember the Holy Innocents ~ Rachel mourns for her children ~ still

The memorial of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs ~ Thursday, December 28, 2017

( 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 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 so tragically gunned down two years ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut.  

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 as in Aleppo as the rescue of the five-year-old child searchOmran Dagneesh went viral last year, while thousands ~ millions of others remain nameless.  

images-3And what of the child immigrants in our own country who are held in overcrowded, unhealthy detention camp for years without legal representation. 

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;

spotless, they follow the Lamb and sing for ever: Glory to you, O Lord.  

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.

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.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

 

The Feast of St. John the Apostle and evangelist ~ the luminous lover

The Feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist ~

Wednesday, December 27, 2017 ( 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.

 

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. He is known for his preaching and public speaking and his denunciation of abuses both ecclesiastical and political leaders, and the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.

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, 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 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. 

With love, 

Bob Traupman 

contemplative writer

 

 

What will 2017 bring?

St. Augustine, Florida at Christmastime © bob traupman 2007. all rights reserved.
St. Augustine, Florida at Christmastime

New Year’s Day 2017  ~ The World Day of Peace

(the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God,

the last day of Hanukkah and the last day of Kwanzaa.)

Where are we, this New Year’s Day 2017, my friends?

Are we better off than we were a year ago?

What will 2017 bring for us?

Are we prepared for whatever the year will bring?  

Will the economy get better or worse?

Will I keep my job? Get a raise? Get sick? Be able to pay my mortgage and bills?  

Will some crisis happen that will affect our country, our state?  Or some blessing?

Do we realize that “We never know” . . . what the next moment will bring?  

We will elect a new President in our country in 20 days. What will he bring upon us?  

We await his inauguration ~ some with welcome ~ others with fear and anxiety.  

But Pope Francis takes us to a loftier plane this New Year’s Day than champagne bubbles, fireworks and football.   For it’s also the World Day of Peace as the Vatican has proclaimed and invited world leaders to join the Pope for the last fifty years since Blessed Paul the VI began the practice. I invite you now to read excerpts from Francis’ proclamation for New Year’s Day 2017. His chosen subject is a difficult one, that of Nonviolence. It’s a familiar one to me as I invited my parishioners to take a Pledge of Nonviolence in 1992.

Here is Pope Francis’ message . . . .

 At the beginning of this New Year, I offer heartfelt wishes of peace to the world’s peoples and nations, to heads of state and government, and to religious, civic and community leaders. I wish peace to every man, woman and child, and I pray that the image and likeness of God in each person will enable us to acknowledge one another as sacred gifts endowed with immense dignity. Especially in situations of conflict, let us respect this, our “deepest dignity”, and make active nonviolence our way of life.

This is the fiftieth Message for the World Day of Peace. In the first, Blessed Pope Paul VI addressed all peoples, not simply Catholics, with utter clarity. “Peace is the only true direction of human progress – and not the tensions caused by ambitious nationalisms, nor conquests by violence, nor repressions which serve as mainstay for a false civil order”. 

On this occasion, I would like to reflect on nonviolence as a style of politics for peace. I ask God to help all of us to cultivate nonviolence in our most personal thoughts and values. May charity and nonviolence govern how we treat each other as individuals, within society and in international life. When victims of violence are able to resist the temptation to retaliate, they become the most credible promotors of nonviolent peacemaking. 

While the last century knew the devastation of two deadly World Wars, the threat of nuclear war and a great number of other conflicts, today, sadly, we find ourselves engaged in a horrifying world war fought piecemeal.

Violence is not the cure for our broken world. Countering violence with violence leads at best to forced migrations and enormous suffering, because vast amounts of resources are diverted to military ends and away from the everyday needs of young people, families experiencing hardship, the elderly, the infirm and the great majority of people in our world. At worst, it can lead to the death, physical and spiritual, of many people, if not of all.

The Good News

 Jesus himself lived in violent times. Yet he taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart: for “it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come” (Mk 7:21). But Christ’s message in this regard offers a radically positive approach. He unfailingly preached God’s unconditional love, which welcomes and forgives. He taught his disciples to love their enemies (cf. Mt 5:44) and to turn the other cheek (cf. Mt 5:39). When he stopped her accusers from stoning the woman caught in adultery (cf. Jn 8:1-11), and when, on the night before he died, he told Peter to put away his sword (cf. Mt 26:52), Jesus marked out the path of nonviolence. He walked that path to the very end, to the cross, whereby he became our peace and put an end to hostility (cf. Eph 2:14-16). Whoever accepts the Good News of Jesus is able to acknowledge the violence within and be healed by God’s mercy, becoming in turn an instrument of reconciliation. In the words of Saint Francis of Assisi: “As you announce peace with your mouth, make sure that you have greater peace in your hearts”.

To be true followers of Jesus today also includes embracing his teaching about nonviolence.    . . . . Love of one’s enemy constitutes the nucleus of the ‘Christian revolution’”.   The Gospel command to love your enemies (cf. Lk 6:27) “is rightly considered the magna carta of Christian nonviolence. It does not consist in succumbing to evil…, but in responding to evil with good (cf. Rom 12:17-21), and thereby breaking the chain of injustice”.

Nonviolence is sometimes taken to mean surrender, lack of involvement and passivity, but this is not the case. When Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, she clearly stated her own message of active nonviolence: “We in our family don’t need bombs and guns, to destroy to bring peace – just get together, love one another… And we will be able to overcome all the evil that is in the world”. For the force of arms is deceptive. “While weapons traffickers do their work, there are poor peacemakers who give their lives to help one person, then another and another and another”; for such peacemakers, Mother Teresa is “a symbol, an icon of our times”.

The decisive and consistent practice of nonviolence has produced impressive results. The achievements of Mahatma Gandhi and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in the liberation of India, and of Dr Martin Luther King Jr in combating racial discrimination will never be forgotten. Women in particular are often leaders of nonviolence, as for example, was Leymah Gbowee and the thousands of Liberian women, who organized pray-ins and nonviolent protest that resulted in high-level peace talks to end the second civil war in Liberia.

Nor can we forget the eventful decade that ended with the fall of Communist regimes in Europe. The Christian communities made their own contribution by their insistent prayer and courageous action. Particularly influential were the ministry and teaching of Saint John Paul II. Reflecting on the events of 1989 in his 1991 Encyclical Centesimus Annus, my predecessor highlighted the fact that momentous change in the lives of people, nations and states had come about “by means of peaceful protest, using only the weapons of truth and justice”.

If violence has its source in the human heart, then it is fundamental that nonviolence be practised before all else within families. This is part of that joy of love which I described last March in my Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, in the wake of two years of reflection by the Church on marriage and the family. The family is the indispensable crucible in which spouses, parents and children, brothers and sisters, learn to communicate and to show generous concern for one another, and in which frictions and even conflicts have to be resolved not by force but by dialogue, respect, concern for the good of the other, mercy and forgiveness. From within families, the joy of love spills out into the world and radiates to the whole of society.

All of us want peace. Many people build it day by day through small gestures and acts; many of them are suffering, yet patiently persevere in their efforts to be peacemakers. In 2017, may we dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively to banishing violence from our hearts, words and deeds, and to becoming nonviolent people and to building nonviolent communities that care for our common home. Nothing is impossible if we turn to God in prayer. Everyone can be an artisan of peace.

From the Vatican, December 8, 2016

Franciscus

This pope doesn’t hesitate to step onto the political arena of the world stage to give voice to the voiceless. I hope you’ve read his message with an open mind and open heart.  But I’d wager that maybe you didn’t.  So, why not pray about it?  Nonviolence, even forgiving folks, is hard stuff. It requires humility.  Taking the ol’ ego down a peg or two.  And I’m not sure too many of our world leader have what that takes. And maybe you don’t have what it takes to make your marriage work or to forgive that friend you have a grudge against.

Well, anyway, here’s my New Year’s prayer, followed by the Prayer of St. Francis and the same in song.

Give us hope, Lord, this New Year’s Day.

A realistic hope that we might be a little kinder,

a little less self-centered,

a little more willing to go the extra mile for someone, even for a stranger.

Give us the strength to be ready for whatever may come.

May we have enough good health, enough for our needs.

and a little happiness with our sorrows.

Help us to bring together members of our family

and resolve difficulties when they arise with respect and love.  

And, Lord, we hope our President-elect would  heed the words of Pope Francis.

And please watch over the pope on his eightieth birthday.

And finally, give us the grace to be truly thankful, truly humble this New Year’s morning.

This is my prayer, Lord, for me,  for our country, for our world.

And now, may we pray as St. Francis taught us . . .

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen!

May it be so! may it be so!

And now here’s this prayer sung by Angelina at Assisi. CLICK HERE. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.

 

A Happy and Blessed New Year overflowing with good health

                                ~ and many good things for you and your family!

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Joys of Family Life

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The sixth day of Christmas December 30th — the Feast of the Holy Family

(and the sixth day of Hanukkah and the  fifth day of Kwanzaa.)

I met  this 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 their be a touch of holiness ~ of wholeness ~ in their lives and in our families.   I pray for them and all young families ~ indeed all families on this traditional day in the Christmas season when we reflect on the hidden, ordinary life of Joseph, and Mary and Jesus in Nazareth.  They are a model of simplicity for us.

But for many of us, our family life can be very 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, had little normalcy, 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.  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.

Earlier this 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 or quips 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 the 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 inspirescns-pope-apostolic-exhortation 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 may 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 God  in their simple, ordinary love.   Lord, keep us all in your loving care.

And now before you go, here’s a hymn to Mary that tells us about Nazareth. Click here.  And here are the Mass readings for this feast. Click here.

(Below, I’ve included some information from America magazine that describes some of the important points of this document if you’re interested that goes beyond the spiritual interests of this blog. I do suggest you look it over.)

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

From America magazine on Amoris Laetitia

1. The church needs to understand families and individuals in all their complexity. The church needs to meet people where they are. So pastors are to “avoid judgments which do not take into account the complexity of various situations.”  People should not be “pigeonholed or fit into overly rigid classifications leaving no room for personal and pastoral discernment” . In other words, one size does not fit all. People are encouraged to live by the Gospel, but should also be welcomed into a church that appreciates their particular struggles and treats them with mercy

2. The role of conscience is paramount in moral decision making.  “Individual conscience needs to be better incorporated into the church’s practice in certain situations which do not objectively embody our understanding of marriage” The church has been “called to form consciences, not to replace them” (37). Yes, it is true, the Pope says, that a conscience needs to be formed by church teaching. But conscience does more than to judge what does or does not agree with church teaching. Conscience can also recognize with “a certain moral security” what God is asking. Pastors, therefore, need to help people not simply follow rules, but to practice “discernment,” a word that implies prayerful decision making.

3. Divorced and remarried Catholics need to be more fully integrated into the church. How? By looking at the specifics of their situation, by remembering “mitigating factors,” by counseling them in the “internal forum,” (that is, in private conversations between the priest and person or couple), and by respecting that the final decision about the degree of participation in the church is left to a person’s conscience.  (The reception of Communion is not spelled out here, but that is a traditional aspect of “participation” in church life.) Divorced and remarried couples should be made to feel part of the church. “They are not excommunicated and should not be treated as such, since they remain part” of the church.

 4. We should no longer talk about people “living in sin.” In a sentence that reflects a new approach, the pope says clearly, “It can no longer simply be said that all those living in any ‘irregular situation’ are living in a state of mortal sin.” Other people in “irregular situations,” or non-traditional families, like single mothers, need to be offered “understanding, comfort and acceptance.” When it comes to these people, indeed everyone, the church need to stop applying moral laws, as if they were, in the pope’s vivid phrase, “stones to throw at a person’s life”

~ excerpted and simplified from America magazine “Top Ten Takeaways from Amoris Laetitia by James Martin, S.J. April 5. 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Feast of the Holy Innocents ~ Rachel mourns for her children ~ still

images-5The Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs ~ Wednesday, December 28, 2016

(and Day 4 of Hanukkah 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 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 so tragically gunned down two years ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut.  

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 as in Aleppo as the rescue of the five-year-old child searchOmran Dagneesh went viral, while thousands ~ millions of others remain nameless.  

images-3And what of the child immigrants in our own country who are held in overcrowded, unhealthy detention camp for years without legal representation.

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;

spotless, they follow the Lamb and sing for ever: Glory to you, O Lord.  

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 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.

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

as your Mom and  Dad were to return to their home in Nazareth. 

Now before you go, here’s a liturgical hymn that is often meant to console. Click here.

And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them.  Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer