Monday, December 31, 2007

Who Are You?

January 2, 2008

Memorial of Saint Basil the Great and Saint Gregory Nazianzen, bishops and doctors of the Church

By Melanie Rigney

"Who is the liar? Whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Whoever denies the Father and the Son, this is the antichrist. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father, but whoever confesses the Son has the Father as well." (1 John 2:22-23)

The priests and Levites asked John the Baptist, "'Who are you, so that we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?' He said: 'I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, "Make straight the way of the Lord."" (John 2:22-23)


Lord, you know me better than anyone; you know me better than I know myself. Give me the courage to speak up for you and my faith when I am asked, "Who are you?"


Today's Readings

About Saint Basil the Great and Saint Gregory Nazianzen

Who are you? Is your identity tied up in being a mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, son, or friend? Or is it about what you present at work: a successful attorney, competent teacher, top car salesman of the month? Or is it about who you are at church: a Parish Council member, liturgist, or doughnut lady?

We hope to proclaim the Word in everything we do, in every sharing of time, talent, and treasure. For some of us, this seems to come as naturally as breathing. "They'll know we are Christians by our love," Peter Scholte wrote in his 1966 song, We Are One in the Spirit. But being one in the Spirit also is about being forthright when we are asked "Who are you?" It's about communicating who Jesus is to us in a way that believers and unbelievers alike will understand. It's about standing for Christ publicly—about being an object of ridicule or even a martyr if necessary—and about standing up for Christ privately when it would be so much easier to give into temptation for momentary pleasure. This is what John the Baptist did in telling the priests and Levites, "I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, 'Make straight the way of the Lord.'"

The two Cappaddocian fathers whose feast days we celebrate today, Saint Basil the Great and Saint Gregory Nazianzen, were gifted orators in the fourth century. Both men are known for their skillful arguments against Arianism—that is, that Jesus was a second, inferior God because unlike God, he had not always existed. In addition to his verbal and written eloquence, Basil was known for his quickness to sell his family's land to feed the hungry during a Cappadocian famine, working in a shop kitchen himself.

Surely, it would have been easier for both men to spend their lives in quiet monastic contemplation or in their family's luxurious trappings. But they stood up eloquently for Christ as they knew him. They didn't go along to get along or take the easy way out. May we do the same when we are asked, "Who are you?"


Who are you, really? What would you tell Jesus if he asked you that question this morning? In your prayers tonight, share what you did during the day to make straight the way of the Lord.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

In Her Heart

January 1, 2008

The Octave Day of Christmas

Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God

As proof that you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!" So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then also an heir, through God. Galatians 4:7

And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Luke 2:


HAIL HOLY QUEEN, mother of mercy; our life, our sweetness, and our hope. To you do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To you do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn, then, most gracious advocate, your eyes of mercy toward us. And after this, our exile, grant unto us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.


Who would not be overwhelmed with the events of the past few Biblical months?

While awaiting her marriage with Joseph the carpenter, young Mary finds herself face-to-face with an angel who announces that she is pregnant. She accepts the news. Then, instead of being shaken by the events of her life, she reaches out and spends some months with her older cousin Elizabeth helping her in childbirth before returning home for her own delivery.

Then word comes from the government that she must drag her nine-month-pregnant body along with her new husband to Bethlehem for the Roman census. Ever the obedient couple, they follow both the laws of God and the laws of man. So they pack up and journey over the desert road to Bethlehem, some ninety miles away. There was no way to call ahead for reservations, no toll-free numbers, no Travelocity, no Expedia. As bad luck would have it, there were no hotel rooms left, no family to visit, no shelters for the homeless and not even a hospital where an expectant mother and her newborn babe could go. An innkeeper let them sleep in the barn.

Finally, she thinks she can relax once her healthy baby boy is born. But then there comes a knock on the barn door. Shepherds come down from the hills to pay a visit and share the message they heard. Three Magi come in from the East with more news and gifts. We hear no complaints from the exhausted young Jewish bride-mother. She listens to the visitors and keeps her own feelings and emotions in her heart.


Our world puts a primary emphasis on self. Our accomplishments. Our resume. Our goals. Our needs. Yet how different a model we have encountered in the past week of scripture readings. Nothing can be further from the modern characteristics than the examples we have seen in the Holy Family.

Our media is preoccupied with non-heroes like Paris and Brittany, O.J. and Michael Vick, The Sopranos and Desperate Housewives, Clooney and Denzel and Crowe and Pitt, the Rosie and the Donald.

Imagine a mini-series on HBO called "The Nazoreans." What would those rating be? What if our society could become pre-occupied with the actions of this real-life story, rather than what purports for reality TV?

Behold your Mother. Let us start the New Year beholding the self-less values exemplified by Mary during her life. Exemplify you Mother.

The True Light Enlightens

December 31

The Seventh Day in the Octave of Christmas

By Beth DeCristofaro

I write to you not because you do not know the truth but because you do, and because every lie is alien to the truth. (1 John 2:21)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world (John 1:1, 9)


Lord, You created me to live in freedom
May Your Holy Spirit guide me to follow You freely.
Instill in my heart a desire
To know and love you more each day.
( )


Just a week ago, a baby was born and God entered the world. Angels sang and we joined them in Masses of exultation. Since then we observed the memorials of a martyr and of innocents murdered. We read the words of John warning about antichrists and heard the voice of Christ reminding his disciples that those who follow him will find strife and division. Hardly seems like a way to celebrate the new life He offers! However there is hope and light: "[T]o those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God. (John:12)

Just as the disciples struggled to understand who Jesus was as they walked with him, we struggle with following Jesus who is the Word. Do our ideals really move us?

Do we hold ideal the fidelity and humility which Mary showed? "Be it done to me according to your Will."

Are Jesus' mercy and forgiveness ideals in our life? "Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing."

Does Stephen's trust in the face of his own murder strengthen our hope: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."

Do the ideals that these great ancestors of our faith exhibited enlighten our everyday choices and actions? Is there Light in the darkness for us?

In his Christmas sermon Pope Benedict said: "May the Child Jesus bring relief to those who are suffering and may he bestow upon political leaders the wisdom and courage to seek and find humane, just and lasting solutions. To the thirst for meaning and value so characteristic of today's world, to the search for prosperity and peace that marks the lives of all mankind, to the hopes of the poor: Christ - true God and true Man - responds with his Nativity. Neither individuals nor nations should be afraid to recognize and welcome him: with Him "a shining light" brightens the horizon of humanity; in him "a holy day" dawns that knows no sunset. May this Christmas truly be for all people a day of joy, hope and peace!" (From


In the New Year, it is time to revisit our actions which extend from our ideals. Are they the actions of a child of God? Or do we act based on "truths" that our culture, country or even our own ego tells us to follow? Use one of the readings from this octave of Christmas to reflect upon the words and actions of Stephen, Mary Magdalene, Simeon, Joseph, Mary, or the magi.

Put On Love, The Bond of Perfection

December 30, 2007

Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. Colossians 3:12-14

And because he had been warned in a dream, he departed for the region of Galilee. He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, "He shall be called a Nazorean." Matthew 2:22-23


God, show us the way to put on love so that we can live out our lives in total obedience to your Word.


God could not be here on earth to raise his son so he needed someone to stand in for him. God chose a family to do that important work. He chose Mary and Joseph to start this family.

Today, our reading focuses on Joseph. Joseph is a man marked in our Gospel readings by many positive traits but chief among them is obedience. Total obedience. Joseph's actions show us totally obedience to the word of God. Not once. Not twice. But every time he has to make a decision, God guides his actions. And every time he follows the instructions.

Don't divorce your fiancé.

Move to Egypt.

Go home.

Settle in Nazareth.

Never does he ponder whether to follow these instructions. Never does he go into a period of discernment. Never does he make a list of the "pluses" and "minuses" of each move. He Just packs up his family and obeys the Word of God. No bargaining. No denying. Only obedience. Just obedience. Joseph is for us the candidate with the "family values" exemplifying compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. But over all, he had put on love and that has cemented the Holy Family with the bond of perfection.

His obedience is the glue that holds him together with Mary and Jesus, cementing the bond of perfection that will form the human basis for the public ministry that Jesus will undertake as an adult.


Are you ready like Joseph to stand in for God if he asks that of you? If God turns to you like he turned to Joseph to do His work on earth?

What decisions do you face? Are you prepared to turn to God and ask Him for help and answers?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Keep His Commandments

December 29, 2007

The Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas

Whoever loves his brother remains in the light, and there is nothing in him to cause a fall. 1 John 2:10

The child's father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." Luke 2:33-35


Lord, help us to love those who are far away, those who are difficult to love and those who no one else loves. Amen.


On this fifth day of Christmas, our little catechism continues with lessons about how not to fall or fail. Love. Plain and simple.

Love those who are easy to love.

Love those who are difficult to love.

Love those close to you.

Love those far away.

Love those that no one else loves.

Simeon's message of contradiction foresees the Nazareth manifesto that Jesus will soon introduce, a program which elevates the lowly and reduces the powerful. His prediction that Jesus "will be the cause for the rise and fall of many" is a theme that will be born out throughout the Gospels. No one will be spared, not even Mary whose heart will be broken by the attitude expressed by Jesus in public as well as by her experience at the foot of the cross witnessing the execution of her son.

If we loves our sisters and brothers, then we will be spared the fall and will be among those whom Jesus will raise up. Like Mary, we should open our hearts to God. Like Mary, when our hearts are open, we also should be prepared to have our hearts broken, too.

Later in his letter, John goes on to write: The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth. (John 3:16-18)

After a holiday season where many gifts (some which are hardly necessary) were planted under our tree, John calls us to action "in deed and truth."


Please join me in a letter, e-mail or telephone campaign to National Public Radio. Let me admit first I am a fan of many if its programs and even a sometimes contributor. However, one story last weekend went a little over the line. You can hear the story at this link. The website bills the story as:

Removing Religion from Holidays a Tall Order

by Tovia Smith

Weekend Edition Sunday, December 23, 2007 · A growing number of young people now identify themselves as non-believers, and some colleges have responded by adding so-called "atheist chaplains" to their staff. Harvard now has an atheist chaplain, who helps students celebrate the holidays without violating their core (non)-beliefs.

In the story, one student remarks that they want to "take back Christmas from the Christians." Yes. Listen to it. There would be no Christmas without Christ. There is nothing to take back.

NPR could have aired this program at any time…but to air this slur on the day before Christmas Eve when Christians around the world celebrate the birth of the Son of God is truly an insult. If this had been a story about another faith, there would be an outcry. What if they said, "Let's take back Ramadan from the people who practice the Muslim faith?" Imagine the outcry if they said "Let's take back Passover from the Jewish people." So let's start the outcry.

The radio network makes it very easy to file a comment on its web site ( like the one I sent below.

I strongly but lovingly object to the person interviewed by Tovia Smith who said that atheists wanted to "take back Christmas from the Christians." Pardon me but my ears are still ringing. The continuing assault on Christianity must stop. Christ's birth is the very reason for this holy day. Christ's message is a message of love for all people, including atheists. It's not about Christmas trees or gift giving. It is about God becoming Man and living and loving among us. Trees and presents flow from the unfortunate commercialism of the holy day. While this student is entitled to such an opinion, in the interest of fairness, why did you not interview a Christian to challenge this misguided opinion? In the future, please tell BOTH side of a story, not one anti-Christian attack without providing an appropriate opportunity for fairness and balance.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Out of Egypt I Called My Son

December 28, 2007
Feast of the Holy Innocents, martyrs
But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7

"A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more." Matthew 2:18


Lord, we join Rachel in her weeping for children who are victimized by violence, natural disasters, and the betrayal of those who should be caring for them, not harming them. Help us to confront the powers which harm children so that we can advocate and take actions to spread your message of love and peace. Amen.


This third day of Christmas brings out another aspect of life after we encounter Jesus and join in fellowship with Him and the disciples: the collision course that we will have with what Walter Wink calls "the powers that be." From the very outset of his life, the leaders in Palestine (religious, political and military) made Jesus a marked baby…then they would continue that persecution into his adult life. Today, on the Feast of the Holy Innocents, we remember in sadness the children (non-combatants) who lost their lives at the hands of the Roman soldiers in this pre-emptive strike by King Herod.

This collision with power mirrors the experience of the people of Israel who faced trials and exile throughout history. Jesus relives their Exodus journey into and return from Egypt as he escaped the massacre with his parents.

To cope with such cultural collisions, Jesus often relied upon the kindness of others throughout his life on earth. In this case, his parents helped him to escape the massacre. This is just the first example of how Jesus has a loving relationship with those around him, a relationship in which he helps those around him and also count upon others for help. As a child, Jesus relied upon his parents, teachers and the leaders of the church. As he grew into his adult ministry, women and men supported his ministry. Students learned from him and passed along his lessons.

The story also has many parallels with modern history of forced migration. As detailed by Pax Christi:

  • Indigenous peoples of this land were forcibly banished in the trail of tears.
  • 4.2 million Iraqis have been forced to flee home and/or country
  • Millions are forced to flee environmental crises and resource wars due to resource depletion and climate change. We only have to look at examples like New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina for such examples.


As we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace and the massacre of the Holy Innocents, let us renew the call of Pope Paul VI at the United Nations, "Never Again War!" Since the Iraq War began, estimates show there have been between 79,000 to 86,000 documented civilian deaths from violence. Although the average deaths per day from gunfire has dropped from55/day in 2006 to 36/day in 2007, the number killed by vehicle bombs has jumped from 8.5/day in 2006 to 14/day in 2007 according to the Iraq Body Count website. This includes civilian deaths by US gunfire which numbered 96 in the month of October.

What actions will you offer to Jesus to help him continue to fulfill his ministry today by reaching out to help stop the killing and displacement of people affected by disasters both natural and man-made? How can you help and save children who are among those confronted by violence and power in places like Iraq, Sudan, Palestine, Afghanistan, Haiti and elsewhere in the world? Visit the website for Save the Children ( for some ideas.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

He Saw and Believed

December 27, 2007

Feast of Saint John, Apostle and evangelist

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life – for the life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was made visible to us – what we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; for our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:1-3

Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. John 20:8


Lord, what did your beloved disciple see in those dawn hours that caused him to believe? Was it the pile of cloth you discarded? Was it the emptiness of the tomb? Was it the time remembering what you said about “three days to rebuild the temple?” How did John put all of that together with what he witnessed and instantly believe? After all, he had witnessed so many other signs yet did not believe. Lord, help us in our unbelief to follow in the footsteps of you and John. Invite us into the places where we may not want to go to get the experiences to which you lead us Amen.

Experience. We get more of it everyday. What do we do with it? St. John the Evangelist gives us a living example.

This week, we began the celebration of Christmas – the birth of Jesus. One the second day of Christmas, we celebrated the Feast of St. Stephen, which revealed to us the cost of discipleship, the price we must pay in order to follow Jesus. Today, on the third day, we celebrate the Feast of John the Baptist. Scripture reveals the tripod of discipleship: witness, faith and testimony. “We have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was made visible to us.”(1 John 1:2)

It is not enough for St. John to just study the life of Christ as if it was some historical lesson or as if Jesus was just another friend, teacher or itinerant preacher. John saw the signs, shared the Last Supper, got his feet washed, witnessed the Passion and then stood at the foot of the cross with Mary.

It is not enough for St. John to go away from the crucifixion dazed and confused. It is not enough that he ran to the tomb and entered it. It is not enough even that he saw a pile of burial clothes on the empty tomb floor and instantly believed.

John still has to act upon his beliefs. One way he acted was to proclaim it by writing the Gospel and his letters. He had to share the experience. It was only in his proclamations and writings about his faith and study that he could complete his discipleship by drawing others into fellowship with Jesus: “We are writing this so that our joy may be complete.” (1 John 1:4)

Not just his own joy. Not just the joy of the Lord. But your joy as well. And mine.


Cloth…it is one of the many little details connecting the stories of the Incarnation and the Resurrection. When Jesus was born, Mary wrapped in him in cloth and laid him in an empty manger. After he had died, Joseph of Aramithea and Nicodemus brought the body to the tomb where women from the village prepared it for burial. It was once again wrapped in cloth. Jesus relied upon the actions of others who were engaged in both corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

Maybe it is from these experiences that Jesus urges us to clothe the naked and bury the dead.

Go through your closets for clothes that you are no longer using and donate them to a local shelter, clothing or coat drive at your parish, or to a non-profit agency like Salvation Army or Goodwill.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Whoever Endures to the End Will Be Saved

December 26, 2007

Feast of Saint Stephen, first martyr

By Melanie Rigney

“As they were stoning Stephen, he called out ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’” (Acts 7:59)

Jesus said to the disciples: “You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22)


Jesus, let me sing your song of resurrection and redemption until the time comes for you to receive my spirit.


Today's Readings
The feast of the first martyr. A stoning. Jesus telling his disciples that children will have their parents put to death and fathers will hand over children.

Not exactly cheery material in the readings for the day after Christmas, is it?

And yet, there is hope. Stephen cries out to Jesus, strong to the end. And Christ promises us that if we endure all of this hatred and physical suffering, we will be saved. But ah, the getting there, that can be the difficult part.

You probably get a lot of those often cute and sometimes thoughtful e-mails you’re supposed to forward to ten of your friends. Heck, I’ve received some from Cursillistas who subscribe to the Tripod, and sent them on to some of you too. But the e-mail I received on Christmas Eve that spoke to this concept came from Shirley Stevens, a friend and well-known Pittsburgh poet.

Shirley sent on a meditation from Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church: Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus, a book by Sydney, Australia, retired Catholic Bishop Geoffrey Robinson. The book, published earlier this year, is a critical response to the Church’s handling of clerical sexual abuse.

This particular meditation speaks of the “song” of Jesus:

For in everything he did and in everything he said, Jesus Christ sang a song. Sometimes, when he cured a sick person, he sang softly and gently, a song full of love. Sometimes, when he told one of his beautiful stories, he sang a haunting melody, the kind of melody that, once heard, is never forgotten, the sort of melody you hum throughout the day without even knowing that you are doing it. Sometimes, when he defended the rights of the poor, his voice grew strong and powerful, until finally, from the cross, he sang so powerfully that his voice filled the universe.

Bishop Robinson goes on to describe how the song has been passed on through the ages and is now with us:

We must always remember that this song has two special characteristics. The first is that we…sing it badly, but if we sing it to the best of our ability, people do not hear only our voices. Behind us and through us they hear a stronger and surer voice of Jesus. The second is that we always sing it better when we learn to sing it together…all singing the one song in harmony, for it is still the most beautiful song the world has ever known. Compared to this song, there is little else that is of great importance.

Saint Stephen was singing the song as he was stoned. We sing the song every time we help someone in need, make a sacrifice, or attend an Ultreya. It is this song, this belief that will help us endure to the end.


How will you sing the song in the coming year? As a diva? In harmony? Resolve to remember that when you follow Christ, you are always in tune.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Feet of Him

December 25, 2007

The Nativity of the Lord
Christmas Mass during the DayMerry Christmas!

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, Announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation, and saying to Zion, “Your God is King!”

Isaiah 52:1

In these last days, he spoke to us through a son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe, who is the refulgence of his glory, the very imprint of his being, and who sustains all things by his mighty word. When he had accomplished purification from sins, he took his seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high, as far superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. Hebrews 1:2-4

But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man's decision but of God. 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. John 1:12-14


Rejoice. The waiting is over. God is among us. Amen.


There was no midwife hovering around the manger in Bethlehem today. Cousin Elizabeth was tending to young John back in Galilee. No nurse pulled the baby from Mary’s arms to get an APGAR score. (How would the Son of God score on such a modern evaluation anyway?) No one pushed a bulb into his mouth to expel fluids. Everything happened naturally as God wanted.

God just came into the world. God just came into the world the same way that Regina came into the world on August 16, 1985. God just came into the world the same way that Sarah came into the world on June 7, 1987. God just came into the world the same way that you and I did although with quite a bit less medical help than mothers are getting today at Fairfax Hospital.

To prophesy this fact-to-be, Isaiah does not proclaim the beauty of the natural earth or relate it in spiritual terms. Isaiah does not proclaim the beauty of the message, the Word of God like John the Evangelist. Instead, Isaiah proclaims the beauty of the feet that walk on the mountain in very fleshy, biological terms. The feet of him. His holy arm. God standing right before our eyes. God who hears us cry out with joy and sing songs of praise.

Today, the Word became flesh. God started to speak to us through His Son. Isaiah’s ancestors could not even speak God’s name let alone imagine that God would ever “Get Physical.” They relied upon angels, shrubbery in flames, never-ending floods, and more to “grok” what message God was sending. Today, everything changes just as Isaiah predicted. With that change, Isaiah praises the beauty of the two baby feet of God that will soon learn to walk the earth among us. But for now, those feet are wrapped in cloth and laying in a manger because there is no room for them in the inn.

Isaiah does not concentrate on some imaginary halo we see depicted above the head of Christ in Renaissance artwork. Isaiah focuses on the holy arm that extends to hands which will touch the eyes of the blind beggar and raise bread and wine in consecration. Isaiah praises the natural beauty of God’s two feet which will walk the earth among us wandering, encountering, blessing and working wonders.

These two feet will kick in joy as the magi present their gifts.

These two feet will feel the chill of the night air fleeing to Egypt with Mary and Joseph.

These two feet will be blessed by Simeon and Anna when presented to the temple.

These two feet that will wander away from mother and father, only to be found in the temple teaching.

We rely upon the feet of Him to walk beneath the beauty of the stars lighting up the night sky while spending 40 days in the desert.

We rely upon the feet of Him to climb the majestic mountains rising up from the land and deliver the Sermon on the Mount.

We rely upon the feet of Him to stand above the fertile soil from which springs forth our food and stand in the center of the synagogue challenging the Pharisees.

In the midst of this natural God-made beauty, came two feet that would walk the Earth just like you and I. Two feet that would walk the land proclaiming peace despite the Roman legions marching along the country roads. Two feet that will bring glad tidings to the poor despite the wealth of kings. Two feet that will proclaim liberty to captives yet could not save his own cousin from the executioner’s blade. Two feet that will recover sight to the blind only to be destined to look down upon us from the cross.

Two feet that will let the oppressed go free and bring the “good thief” with him into paradise. Two feet that will proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord and lift two loaves and five fishes up to feed thousands. Two feet that will walk over and claim the throne next to God when he has completed the purification of sin.

Two feet full of grace just like His mother was full of grace.


Where will your feet take you today? What will your arms hold today in giving and receiving?

How will you encounter the manger babe who will grow into a man yet still have no place to rest his head?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sing the Goodness Of The Lord

December 24, 2007

Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent
Mass in the Morning

By Beth De Cristofaro

The Lord said…I will give you rest from all your enemies and when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you …I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. Your house and your Kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever. (2 Samuel 7:11-13)

The favors of the LORD I will sing forever; through all generations my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness. For you have said, “My kindness is established forever”; in heaven you have confirmed your faithfulness. (Psalm 89:2-3)

In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79)


I rejoice in your goodness, O Lord. I thank you for your Word which gives Life to my Life. Be my Word in darkness and shadow of Death, O God. Be my Word in life’s joy and beauty, O God. Be my Word that guides my feet to peace, O God. May I praise you and bless you all the day long.


It seems to be a good idea: build a house for the Lord. But God tells David that there are other plans. There is a bigger picture, one that supersedes David.. The bigger picture is more stupendous than anything which David can imagine. It is bigger than we can picture. God’s loving presence endures forever. God’s mercy and promises to those who way “yes” endures forever. God frees from the hand of our enemies, free to worship him without fear (Luke 1:21). What more can I want?

If this is Advent, if Life feels complicated, painful, arid, God is there with us.


The eve of God’s birth on earth! Stop, close your eyes, listen closely to a favorite carol. Let its words remind you of why you “wait” in advent. Let the melody resonate in your heart so that you may experience joy in the waiting and the blessed arrival. Give thanks for your life and for the life of the infant God who springs into human existence. Give thanks for faith which keeps you “waiting” in spite of dwelling in darkness. Give thanks for the hope which keeps you strong as you face the shadow of death in your life. Give thanks for a human God who walks with you in joyful times and tragedies.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Name Him Emmanuel

December 23, 2007

Fourth Sunday of Advent

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.

Then he said: Listen, O house of David! Is it not enough for you to weary men, must you also weary my God? Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:13-14

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.” Matthew 1:22-23


Oh, Emmanuel,
You have touched me;
you are God-with-Me.

Thank you for these weeks of prayer.
In the spirit of the season
my waiting, my patience,
feels sacred.

Refine and purify my heart
with the hottest flame of your love.
Give me the courage of your prophets
and let me do what is right
even when others don't understand.

Bless my heart with generosity
and make me ready to receive you.

Come, Lord Jesus! Come!

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

(Prayer from


Mary is asked to do more than she ever dreamt it was possible for her to do. She is asked to open her life to the dream of her people. The Messianic expectations of Mary did not include herself. To be told she is the one makes her uneasy. She becomes the patron of all the impossible dreams of the human race. How easy it is to look at the peace the world needs so desperately and to wait for someone else to bring the peace we dream of. Our hearts remind us of what we need to do that our world be a better place for all. Mary accepts the destiny that belongs to all of us. We bring Jesus into our life even as we bring Mary into our prayer. Nativity is almost upon us and all the last moment preparation expresses the joy we hope for in the coming of the Prince of Peace.

Joseph is spoken to by an angel in a dream. He is told to take Mary as his spouse. How many times has an angel spoken to us in the example of a parent, sibling, friend or a stranger? The goodness of any one of us can make us an angel for others. How quickly do I respond to the inner calls of my heart to meet the need of someone who has come my way? How often have I gone out of my way for the sake of someone. Dreams are made of our worries and of our good experiences of life. They open our hearts to reach beyond what we would otherwise not do because of timidity or fear.

Dreams are the gentle voice of the call of the Lord to reach for the heavens. It is in our dreams that we learn to fly.


It is the impossible that draws us closer to God. The advantage of the impossible is that it gives us something to work at for a while. How many impossible things have we prayed for? The wonder of making a list of what seems crazy to hope for is that when we come back to our list we will discover that prayers we made with half our heart have been answered. God is always loving us and always responding with what we ask or what is better. Sometimes it is so much better that we do not recognize it as an answer to what we were asking for. God has many surprises for us and all in the proper time. God’s schedule is not ours. Yet we can learn to recognize that God’s love is waiting for us in all we would dare to do in his name.

My Spirit Rejoices

“I prayed for this child, and the LORD granted my request. Now I, in turn, give him to the LORD; as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the LORD.” She left him there. 1 Samuel 1:27-28

He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. Luke 1: 52-53


Mary, ever Virgin, Mother of God our Savior, I entrust myself entirely to your loving intercession and care because you are my Mother and I am your child, full of trouble, conflict, error, confusion and prone to sin. My whole life must change, but because I can do nothing to change it by my own powers, I entrust it with all my needs and care to you. Present me with pure hands to your Divine Son. Pray that I may gladly accept all that is needed to strip me of myself and become his true disciple, forgetting myself and loving his reign, his truth, and all whom he came to save by his holy cross. Amen.

(By Thomas Merton and quoted by John Dear in Mary of Nazareth, Prophet of Peace)


Earlier in the Advent season, we reflected on Jesus’ Nazareth Manifesto…his proclamation to serve:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord." Luke 4:18-19

This passage directly connects to Isaiah 61. In addition, the baby in Mary’s womb also first heard these messages in his mother’s prophetic proclamation to Elizabeth. The Magnificat as proclaimed in Luke 1 introduces themes found throughout the Gospel and alludes to the themes of the Nazareth Manifesto.

Joy and exultation in the Lord: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.

The lowly being singled out for God's favor: The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.

The reversal of human fortunes; He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.

The fulfillment of Old Testament promises.” He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever."

Just as Hannah presented her son to serve the Church, Mary likewise will bring into this world a son and then offers him to fulfill the Old Testament prophecies.


How does this call us to action today?

The Lord truly has blessed us with the accident of place. We were born in a free nation in a society that provides security, comfort and basic needs far beyond what our ancestors even 200 years ago, let alone two thousand years ago, could even dream of experiencing. The Mighty Lord has done great things for me. We were not born in modern Palestine where walls and religion and politics divide people from their neighbors. We were not born in a village in the mountains of Afghanistan. We were not born under a dictatorship. We also were not dropped off by our mothers in some convent or monastery to live a life dedicated to the Lord as soon as we were weaned.

So what do we do about it?

It is now our job to continue this prophetic work of lifting up the lowly and filling the hungry with good things while going about our daily lives. Not just in random acts of charity but in an overall thrust in everything we do. We must remember God’s mercy and offer that to others near us, in our community, across the nation and around the globe that have not been blessed with such favors. It is our job to take Mary’s messages about love and peacemaking and helping others and use them to set our Fourth Day on fire.

From the moment Jesus is conceived in Mary’s womb, everything from this point onward is different. Everything is called into question. Everything changes. What Mary describes is nothing less than a revolution of love and mercy by God. “He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.” Such a revolution would not have been received too kindly by the Roman legions who occupied Palestine.

Mary says that our Cursillo call to action must work for conversion of every level of society. Her prayer calls on us to make God’s preferential option for the poor opposition to injustice a reality. Not just for these lowly handmaids Mary and Hannah. Not just for the helpless baby in Bethlehem. But for all the poor!

Brace yourself for what it means to be dedicated to the Lord.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Time of Pruning the Vines Has Come

December 21, 2007

Friday of the Third Week of Advent

For see, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of pruning the vines has come, and the song of the dove is heard in our land.
Songs 2:11-12

“Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Luke 1:42-45


God, help us in this busy season to move in haste to serve the needs of those around us. Prune us from concentrating on ourselves to that we can focus on you and the work you seek us to accomplish. Amen.


For three days in the week before Christmas, the Church has us contemplate the role of Mary. Yesterday, we reflected on the Annunciation. Today, we turn to the Visitation of Mary with her cousin Elizabeth. Tomorrow, we encounter the Magnificat.

As the Christmas season rushes toward us, we too contemplate spending time with our family. However, can we ever even remotely considering offering the beauty and power of the triple blessing and greeting that Elizabeth offers to Mary?

Elizabeth knows that she is in the company of a holy woman. Blessed are you among women.

Elizabeth is the first person beyond Mary herself and Joseph who has the faith to understand that Mary’s child is from God and is God. Blessed is the fruit of your womb.

Elizabeth knows that Mary has taken a leap of faith to live out what God has commanded her. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.

However, before and beyond the greeting, note Mary’s action. No sooner has she learned her news and the news of Elizabeth than Mary set out to see her cousin. After her encounter with God, Mary responded with the action expected of an ordinary woman -- action on behalf of those in need. She brought good news to Elizabeth and helped her cousin with the delivery of her child.

In his book Mary of Nazareth, Prophet of Peace, John Dear points out that Mary quickly moved from fear and confusion in the presence of the angel to joy in the presence of Elizabeth. She does not wait. She sets out in haste.

He reminds us that like Mary we don’t have to go out to save the world. We can start with the needs of the people around us. People in our home. People in our neighborhood. People in our extended family. God not only put them in our lives but God also placed them in close proximity to us for a reason.

Finally, Dear explains how these actions build community. We can not stay by ourselves once we encounter God. “By reaching out to serve someone in need, she deepens the bonds of community. When we reach out in active love to our neighbors in need, we can build community with them, and in the process, create a new pocket of love, care, hospitality, and peace for one another.”

If this were a Cursillo, Mary would start with the confusion of Thursday night. Why am I here? She wrestles with questions about herself. Then she works on her relationship with God. Then she moves out into the community.


Have you seen the movie Hotel Rwanda? Think of the example of Paul Rusesabagina, the hotel manager who acted swiftly to save the lives of 1,268 people who came to his hotel for refuge. They were his neighbors. In his book, An Ordinary Man, Paul explains:

I am not a politician or a poet. I built my career on words that are plan and ordinary and concerned with everyday details. I am nothing more or less than a hotel manager, trained to negotiate contracts and charged to give shelter to those who need it. My job did not change the genocide, even though I was thrust into a sea of fire. I only spoke the words that seemed normal and sane to me. I did what I believed to be the ordinary tings that an ordinary man would do. I said no to outrageous actions the way I thought that anybody would, and it still mystifies me that so many others could say yes.

What actions can you move to do in haste today to help your neighbor in need? What vines in your garden of life need to be pruned in order to yield fruit and flowers?

How about sharing something with the homeless person who stands on the sidewalk near your office or on the side of the street where you pass everyday heading to work. Or the security guard you pass going to work or the person on the building or maintenance crew who keeps your office running. Each day, these people are in close proximity to us for a reason. What are we doing about them.

(Today's icon of Mary, Our Lady of the New Advent, the Gate of Heaven, is by Fr. William Hart McNichols, S.J. and the website His icons illustrate Fr. John Dear's book.)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Overshadow You

December 20, 2007

Thursday of the Third Week of Advent

Then he said: Listen, O house of David! Is it not enough for you to weary men, must you also weary my God? Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:13-14

Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her. Luke 1:38


Here I am Lord. I come to do your will. Amen.


Think of your last big decision. What was it?

Picking a college?

Refinancing your mortgage?

Buying a new/used car?

Taking a vacation?

Getting married?


How did you come about making your final choice?

Reading articles in the newspaper or Consumer Reports?

Making a decision based upon your gut reaction?

Figure out the costs and benefits?

Scouring the internet for advice and ideas?

Evaluating the alternatives by drafting up a list of “plusses” and “minuses?”

Phoning a friend?

Polling the audience?

Having Regis eliminate two of the choices for you?

Magic 8-ball?

Rolling the dice?

A rational model would have us process four steps:

  1. Identifying the problem
  2. Generating alternative solutions
  3. Selecting a solution
  4. Implementing and evaluating the solution

Mary is the case study in discernment and decision-making. Mary chose none of the above.

She doesn’t totally reject a rational model outright. She starts to use one with Gabriel. “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” That dialogue doesn’t last long as she quickly comes to realize that discerning with an angel is like arguing with a major league umpire.

There are many ways to arrive at a decision. One way to look at this process would be to use our way or God’s way. Today, we see Mary get herself out of the picture. She doesn’t get weary worrying about what will happen? What will the neighbors think? What will my family think? She doesn’t even think about Joseph directly or by name.

She is very comfortable using God’s way and taking herself and her ego out of the picture. Mary allows God to overshadow her own wishes and desires. Giving herself up makes the final decision fast and easy for her.

God would never ask her to do something bad. So, it barely takes her a nanosecond in Luke’s account of her meeting with Gabriel to come to her ultimate decision.

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.


How can we use Mary’s example to guide us with the big and the little decisions that we make everyday?

What decisions will you make today? Let the Lord overshadow you.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Your Prayer Has Been Heard

December 19, 2007

Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent

By Melanie Rigney

“You are my hope, O Lord; my trust, O God, from my youth.” (Psalms 71:5)

“But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John.’” (Luke 1:13)


Lord, I know you hear my prayers. Please give me the patience to wait for your answers...and the wisdom to accept them.


Today's Readings

Virelle Kidder

If you’re not familiar with the work of my dear friend and writing group

buddy Virelle Kidder, you should be. In fact, she has a terrific new book coming out in January: Meet Me at the Well: Take a Month and Water Your Soul (Moody).

I thought of Virelle when I read Luke’s story of Zechariah, Elizabeth’s husband. He ended up, “by lot” we are told, burning incense in the

sanctuary during a time when it was his turn to serve as priest. But as we know, things involving God seldom happen “by lot.” The angel Gabriel foretold Zechariah of Elizabeth’s pregnancy and John the Baptist’s birth. How many times Zechariah and Elizabeth must have hoped and prayed for a child over the years! But instead of accepting the news with joy, Zechariah questioned God’s messenger, citing the couple’s ages. In response, Gabriel struck him speechless until the angel’s words were fulfilled.

Virelle tells a story of a time that out of some frustration, she wrote a list of “Ten Impossible Prayers.” A year later, the list fell out of her Bible...appropriately, while she was on her knees. Seven of the prayers had been answered in that time, in just one year.

I have personal evidence that the Lord answers Virelle’s prayers. Back on June 21, 2005, she prayed that I find my way back to Christ. Six months later, I received the Eucharist for the first time in thirty-five years. He’s answered more of my prayers than I can count, before and since that time, prayers I sometimes didn’t even know I was sending up. My acceptance within the Cursillo community is one of those answered prayers. A continuing relationship with Virelle, my friend and sister in Christ, is another.

We can become so impatient with the Lord. We have a problem, and in this world of instant gratification, we want the solution NOW. It is only when we gain perspective—and faith—that we can look back and say, “Yes! He DID answer my prayer! He DID hear me!” Let us be mindful of his might, and turn our worries over to him in prayer, confident he will answer in the fullness and richness of time.


Write down your single greatest problem today, and put it in your Bible... and stop worrying and fretting about it. Let God do the rest on his timetable.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Again Live

December 18, 2007

Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent

They shall again live on their own land. Jeremiah 23:8

When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. Matthew 1:24


Let us pray: God, please awaken us to your message during this Advent season. Use whatever means possible to reveal that message to us. Holy Spirit, give us the strength of will to do as God commands. Amen.


Today, if someone came to us and said he heard voices telling him to do something, we might have him committed to the Cuckoo’s Nest with Randle Patrick McMurphy. Fortunately, Joseph of Nazareth did not face that prospect.

The prophets had been prophesizing for generations. Yet it took one young bride and her groom to listen to the word of God which came to them in a message from an angel. It took one young bride and her groom to obey what God was calling out for them to do. It took one young bride and her groom to act and thereby set in motion the events that will fulfill the prophecies.

However, Joseph thought he would face the gossip of his community and planned to quietly break off his engagement to Mary. Joseph was going to do what he thought was right according to the cultural norms of society for we are told he is a “righteous man.” Instead, he turned away from what everyone else would have done and did it God’s way.

The simple “Yes” was lived out by Mary and Joseph. They listened. They obeyed. They acted. They paved the way for everyone to live again.


You do not have to be Henry David Thoreau and move out to a cabin on Walden Pond.

Think of an example of what society would want you to do but the law of God would ask you to have a different standard.

Every night we can hear television commentators like Lou Dobbs and others speak out against the issue of undocumented women, men and children who are here in the United States. During this holiday season, let us remember that the Holy Family were indeed undocumented refugees in Egypt, hiding to escape Herod’s wrath. Let us pray that our nation will find a way to provide justice for immigrants.

Why not get ready for National Migration Week (January 6-12, 2008) by signing up for the Immigrant Justice Action Network where you can get resources for yourself or your parish? Visit The theme for the week is “From Many, One Family of God.” According to the USCCB statement:

Recalling the migration of the Chosen People from Egypt, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph themselves were refugees in Egypt: "Out of Egypt I called my son" (Mt 2:15). From this account the Holy Family has become a figure with whom Christian migrants and refugees throughout the ages can identify, giving them hope and courage in hard times. (No. 26)

In the Church no one is a stranger, and the Church is not foreign to anyone, anywhere. As a sacrament of unity and thus a sign and a binding force for the whole human race, the Church is the place where illegal immigrants are also recognized and accepted as brothers and sisters. (No. 103)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

May His Name Be Blessed Forever

December 17, 2007

Monday of the Third Week of Advent

By Beth DeCristofaro

Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ. Thus the total number of generations from Abraham to David is fourteen generations (Mt 1: 16-17)

May his name be blessed forever; as long as the sun his name shall remain. In him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed; all the nations shall proclaim his happiness. (Ps 72: 17)


Blessed be your name, Lord Jesus, who slept and cried in a manger. Who walked and died on the dusty earth. Blessed be your name, Lord Jesus, who Was before birth. Who loved me before I was born. Blessed be your name, Lord Jesus, who Is after death. Who sustains me beyond my death. Blessed be your name, Lord Jesus.


Jesus is rooted in time and space – measured in generations and physical parents. The fourteen generations recited by Matthew is both a literary device and an attempt to explain the eternal. “Fourteen,” a sacred number, is thought to refer to David, the great king of the line of Judah to whom God had given priority through Israel. Israel’s pronouncement to his sons singles out Judah as unique – “the passage foretells the supremacy of the tribe of Judah, which found its fulfillment in the Davidic dynasty and ultimately in the Messianic Son of David, Jesus Christ.” (USCCB footnote: )

Jesus is also, of course, rooted outside time and space. Isaiah’s words are historic, traceable in historic events. Yet the prophecy, sprung from God is beyond those historic years and manifested in the person of Jesus. The psalmist recognizes that the power of Israel’s kings is bestowed by God. Jesus is both human king and God, bringing these two realities together.

In the Advent season we are invited to ponder the mystery, but more importantly, to prepare our hearts to glorify and revel in the mystery. Always beyond us, the mystery of God nevertheless permeates and gives great meaning to our reality rooted in time and space. In spite of our limitations God is within and moves us. We can refuse God’s movement within. Can we allow ourselves to be animated and propelled by what we do not understand? Do our actions reflect that we are heirs to the promise given by God to the Chosen People and recipient of Jesus’ call “come, follow me”?


Spend some quiet, peaceful time considering the mystery of God becoming human, anchored in space and time, giving eternal meaning and glory to space, time and self. Consider the poetry of St. John of the Cross whose beautiful words attempted to describe this mystery.

In the beginning the Word

Was; he lived in God

And possessed in him

His infinite happiness.

That same Word was God, who is the Beginning;

He was in the beginning

And had no beginning.

He was himself the Beginning

And therefore had no beginning.

The Word is called Son;

He was born of the Beginning

Who had always conceived him,

And was always conceiving him,

Giving of his substance always,

Yet always possessing it…

As the lover in the beloved

Each lived in the other,

And the Love that unites them

Is one with them,

their equal…

One love in them all

Makes of them one Lover,

And the Lover is the Beloved

In whom each one lives. …[1]

…When the time had come

For him to be born,

He went forth like the bridegroom

From his bridal chamber,

Embracing his bride

Holding her in his arms,

Whom the gracious Mother

Laid in a manger

Among some animals

That were there at that time.

Men sang songs

And angels melodies

Celebrating the marriage

Of Two such as these

Bu God there in the manger

Cried and moaned;

And these tears were jewels

The bride brought to the wedding.

The Mother gazed in sheer wonder

On such an exchange:

In God, man’s weeping,

And in man, gladness,

To the one and the other

Things usually so strange.[2]

[1] Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, translated by Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez, #1 Romances, p. 60-61.

[2] Op Cit, #9 The Birth, 67-68.