Today, December 26, is the second day of Christmas, the fifth day of Hanukkah and the first day of Kwanzaa (African-American). May we learn about our own and each other’s celebrations. It’s easy, just Google the word Kwanzaa.
For us Christians the mystery of Incarnation (God-becoming-human in the person of Jesus Christ) needs more than one day to celebrate. Here is the second day of Christmas: The Catholic liturgy centuries ago placed the feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr, the day after Jesus’ glorious feast to show that our faith is not sentimental but requires of us heroic, sacrificial love. Stephen fearlessly witnessed in court (the word martyr means witness) his conviction that Jesus is the Messiah, knowing that his testimony was his death sentence.
Stephen, filled with grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people. Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen, Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and people from Cilicia and Asia, came forward and debated with Stephen, but they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.
When they heard this, they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together. They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they were stoning Stephen, he called out “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. (Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59)
How heroic is our love, Lord?
Do we abandon people — our friends, our lovers, our spouses, our children when the going gets rough?
And I ask you please to be with those who’ve been abandoned by loved ones, Lord ~ children of alcoholic parents or kids who have gone through the foster care system and may never feel Your Love or those who have to prostitute themselves in order to survive.
Are we only concerned about our own survival? What’s best for Number One — Me?
Are we willing to sacrifice for the sake of a friend in need — for You, Lord?
Are you, elected officials willing to show any kind of heroic love for the sake of our American people ~ black or white, rich or poor, Muslim, Christian or Jew, North, South, East or West, Wall Street or no street?
And what about the DACA children or the immigrant children lost in the system? What about the Rohingya people who are stateless and suffering untold violence and immigrants and refugees the world over?
Allow me the grace to witness to your love for me, Lord, to share it when I can.
Allow me the grace to do that this day, St. Stephen’s Day and every day. Stephen, a young man, has always been one of my heroes, Lord.
We need such heroic love in our time, Lord, heroic young people all over the world.
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’ s “Hero” Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. Click here.
And here are all of today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.
The 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.