Sunday, December 31, 2017

“Reflecting on Them in Her Heart” by Wayne Miller

“Reflecting on Them in Her Heart” by Wayne Miller

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption. As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God. Galatians 4:4-7

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he has spoken to us through the Son. Hebrews 1:1-2

 And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart... Luke 2: 19

Abba Father, you have taught me in so many ways to live every day in the spirit of “YES” that moved Mother Mary to accept your gracious offer to bear you into this world. Help me also to live her contemplative life, keeping all things in my heart and reflecting on their connection and consequence to my “YES” to your loving offers.

A recent reflection I heard compared John, the Beloved Disciple, to Simon Peter as they ran to the tomb on Easter morning. The younger Beloved outran the elder Leader. The reflection likened the younger to Love, always spontaneous and ready to rush in; while the Leader carried the weight of his Office, moving with deliberate haste which cares for all of God’s children, carefully considering the impact of each event/action on the whole community, loving every member, even the sluggish of heart.

As a spontaneous “Lover”, I want to say “YES” to every loving opportunity. And I’m mostly impatient with the bearers of Office that do not seem to have nearly the evangelical enthusiasm that I feel. Mother Mary’s “YES” was a Lover’s response, but she spent the next 33+ years holding all the consequences of her “YES” in her heart, loving the utterly helpless infant that God gave her into Emmanuel (God among us!), following Him all the way to his gruesome murder, then celebrating with Him as His Life came to full fruition.

I am so thankful that God speaks to me directly and personally through the life and words of His Son. The Joy and Excitement of each next “YES” opportunity are exquisite! I am also thankful that I have Mother Mary encouraging me to contemplate all the moments of my life and how they connect to my Abba’s will and word.

As I consider this first day of 2018, what “resolution” will I declare to become more like God’s Lover/Bearer to my world? How will I keep my heart and ears and eyes clear and tuned to hear and answer His next call? My Cursillo brothers have been urging trips to Adoration with a listening, quiet head and heart. Silence has not often been fruitful or possible for my busy-buzzy brain. If I say “YES” to this call, is this God’s next opportunity to teach me something I have spent decades failing and avoiding?

Mother Mary, teach me to embrace silence in the Precious Presence of your Son – in all His Amazing Manifestations.

De Colores!

The Favor of God was Upon Him

The Favor of God was Upon Him

By the late Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ
(Originally published on December 27, 2014)

Those who honor their father will have joy in their own children, and when they pray they are heard. Those who respect their father will live a long life; those who obey the Lord honor their mother. Sirach 3:5-6

And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him. Luke 2:39-40

We learn what's beautiful about a relationship from family. The First Family of love is the Holy Family. All family spirituality takes its beginning in the Holy Family. We learn how to love one another by the very love of the parents with whom we grew up. The beauty of love is that wherever there is love, God is there. The way Mary loved Joseph and Joseph loved Mary gives us the love that Christ had as he grew up in the Holy Family. Christ thought he knew his own way and discovered when he stayed behind in the Temple that his parents not only missed him but he learned that that was where he was meant to be. Scripture tells us that he grew in wisdom and knowledge when he was with his parents for the next 18 years. Christ tells us when he's told blessed is the womb that bore you and the breast that fed you. Christ said blessed are those who hear the Word of God and live up to it. The piety of family is spoken to our hearts through the relation of Jesus to his parents and his parents to him.  

Our study is what we learn from our own parents and family about goodness. Jesus and his personality grew out of these interchanges between himself and his mother and his foster father. This made Jesus the way, the truth, and the life. The greatest insights into family spirituality come from our own families but they're modeled by Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The Holy Family gives us the dignity of family life. A world that is growing sour on the family has lost the divine connection to happiness. Happiness flows out of belonging to others and being loved for who you are. Many people are waiting for the genius of some profound insight and they don't appreciate that the ordinary family is divine revelation. When we reflect on the moments we have been loved, out of those instants, divine revelation unfolds in our heart. The beauty of who we are in God's love has its deepest meaning in how we are loved by our families. 

The family is where we put our minds and hearts to work if we want to share the graces of the Holy Family. Love is not what another deserves but what we are free to give. Family justice might well be whatever anyone has suffered for the sake of the ones they love for the family but true love begins where justice leaves off. No one can force one to love but the richness of love is the free gift of our hearts for one another. Christ says, "If you'll be my disciple take up your cross and come follow me." No one lives in a family without problems with one another. Love is the carte-blanche, or blank sheet of paper, where we give others the chance to write the story of their hearts. Love is the reality of our loving a person not just simply for who they are but even with their faults. Love is the truth that we would never love anyone more if they got rid of their faults: we love them with their faults. Love is the realization that we can only change ourselves and we cannot change the members of our family. Once upon a time in my life, I asked my dad to apologize for not spending more time with me. With tears in his eyes, he told me that I was worse than he because I was trying to create a father to the image and likeness of what I thought a father should be. He told me I was playing a God and challenged me to accept the dad I had if I wanted to have a father. Jesus gives us the freedom to love as he loved and he won't love us more if we change. He loves us for who we are. Family love is the fullness of acceptance of who we are, not who we should be. Family love gives us the freedom to be ourselves and is the richness of the spirituality of the Holy Family.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Upon Him

Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world. Yet the world and its enticement are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever. 1 John 2:15-17

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him. Luke 2:39-40

On this Sixth Day of Christmas let us celebrate the Holy Family: Mary, the mother of Jesus; Saint Joseph, His foster father; and Christ. Together, these three form the model for all Christians as they accepted the spirit and the will of the Lord in their lives and passed it on to others in the world through their faith, hope, and charity (piety, study, and action). Let us do the same in the coming New Year.

Our first reading sets up the theme of today: The world represents all that is hostile toward God and alienated from him. Therefore, love of the world and love of God are mutually exclusive. “Do you not know that to be a lover of the world means enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wants to be a lover of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4)

What sets Jesus apart from the world is that the spirit and favor of God rest upon him. Until the scene in today’s Gospel, the spirit of the Lord was upon those who helped create a path into the world for the baby Jesus. His Uncle Zechariah. His Mother Mary. Simeon in the temple. However, once these holy people opened the doors of the world to Jesus, that spirit transferred upon him and stayed with him until his very last breath. This is exactly what was foretold in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.

But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots, a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD. Isaiah 11:1-3A

The “Force” is with Jesus. As a result of the descent of the Spirit upon him at his Baptism (Luke 3:21–22), Jesus is now equipped to overcome the forces of the world which oppose everything God represents. Many times, in his ministry, the crowds (signifying the world) pushed and pressed upon Jesus – trying to wrench away his power for their own ends. Sometimes, when faith prevailed, Jesus granted the wishes of people like the women with the daughter who was hemorrhaging and the men who lowered their paralyzed friend through the roof of the house where Jesus was healing. In doing so, Jesus shared the spirit of the Lord with those filled with faith.

When Jesus commissioned the Apostles, he also gave them power “‘to tread upon serpents’ and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you.” They can only do so because the spirit of the Lord is upon them thanks to Jesus passing it on (or paying it forward).

It was not until Jesus was hanging on the cross about to breathe his last breath that he commanded the same spirit of God to leave his mortal body and return to the hands of the Father. (Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”; and when he had said this he breathed his last. Luke 23:46)

His final gift to the world was to pass along this Spirit of God. Just before the moment of his Ascension, Jesus told his companions of this special gift that we now call the sacrament of Confirmation: “And [behold] I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)

The Spirit of the Lord comes upon us when we receive the sacraments.
However, this is not a one-way street.  Just as we get grace through Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation, we also must give it away. The model Jesus provides is that these are not static gifts. They only work if we put these gifts to use building the Kingdom AND passing the gifts of the Spirit along to others like modern Magi. 

As we wrap up the year this weekend, ponder when the Spirit of the Lord has come upon you and when you passed that along to others. Do you have an opportunity to do so again sometime soon in corporal works of mercy or spiritual works of mercy? Accepting the Spirit and passing it along how we live out the will of God. 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

A New Commandment

A New Commandment

Simeon’s Song of Praise
Beloved, I am writing no new commandment to you but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. And yet I do write a new commandment to you, which holds true in him and among you, for the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light, yet hates his brother, is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother remains in the light, and there is nothing in him to cause a fall. 1 John 3:7-11

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

“…create a new society within the shell of the old
with the philosophy of the new which is not a new philosophy
but a very old philosophy, a philosophy so old that it looks like new.”
(From “C.P. and C.M.” in the Easy Essays by Peter Maurin)[i]

Ritual routines were very different back in ancient Palestine. People traveled for days just to get to Jerusalem for the Passover, hardly a routine desert crossing. They did not have unlimited trunk space in their car, carry-on baggage or checked bags to bring along what they would offer as a sacrifice on the altar. When Joseph and Mary presented their son in the temple, they also brought two turtle doves to sacrifice, too.

But that was not all…the new parents also presented their own lives, their fortitude, and forbearance, as a sign to all of us that self-giving is not something that is done at the spur-of-the-moment without second and third thoughts. It is not a single act, in a flash of mind devoid of echoes throughout life.

We do like to get lulled into our routines. Coffee and breakfast at 6 a.m. Catch the 17G bus to the Pentagon Metro Station at 7:10. Transfer to the 7Y to be on time for the staff meeting at 9:00. Dial-in to the conference call at 10 a.m. Break for lunch at noon. Lester Holt brings us the evening news at 7. Meet up with Leroy Jethro Gibbs and the gang from NCIS at 8.

Sunday Mass is at 9 (or 11 or even 5:30 pm Saturday night for the Vigil.) Yet going to the temple is not about convenience, it is about commitment.
Remember the first time that you left your new baby at daycare? Remember freshman orientation at Villanova or Tulane or whatever college that child grew up to choose? Remember stepping out of work one final time and crossing the threshold into retirement?

When we begin something new – a school year, a diet, an art project, a liturgical season or a new medical regime – we have to see it through. Just because we start the endeavor enthusiastically, does not mean that we will have the energy and perseverance to stay on task until it is completed. We must have the depth of commitment it takes to carry us through to the end…the commitment to show up at Mass every week.

We need to make the kind of commitment Mary, Joseph and Jesus had to see his life through from the beginning to the end. From the manger to the temple to the cross. He wanted nothing to get in the way. He allowed nothing to get in the way although many people tried. From Egypt to Nazareth, from the desert to the Sea of Galilee, from the Passover Seder to the cross, from the Tomb to the Resurrection. Jesus allowed nothing to get in the way. Not six stone water jugs at Cana. Not Satan. Not St. Paul. Not three nails or a sword.

Those who put on Christ also take on the suffering life that will pierce our hearts, too. What we do has consequences. There is no half-way in Christianity. It is “All-in” or nothing. Just because the kneelers have cushions does not mean this is going to be easy.

About the Art: Rembrandt van Rijn (1606 – 1669), Simeon’s Song of Praise, 1669, oil on canvas, 99 × 80 cm, National Museum, Stockholm.

“Walk in the Light, Do Not Lie” by Beth DeCristofaro

Massacre of the Holy Innocents, Leon Cogniet
“Walk in the Light, Do Not Lie” by Beth DeCristofaro

God is light, and in him, there is no darkness at all. If we say, "We have fellowship with him," while we continue to walk in darkness, we lie and do not act in truth. 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 1:5-7)

… the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him." … He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi. Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet: ‘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 2:13, 16-18)

I want to walk as a child of the light I want to follow Jesus…
I want to see the brightness of God
I want to look at Jesus
Clear sun of righteousness, shine on my path
And show me the way to the Father
In Him, there is no darkness at all
The night and the day are both alike
The Lamb is the light of the city of God
Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus
(Lyrics by Kathleen Thomerson)

Rachel weeping for her children: Rohingyas, Yazidis, Children of Sandy Hook, Worshipers of Emanuel AME Church, Bosnians, Cambodians, Jews, Copts, Christians of Iraq, Catholic Martyrs of Acteal, and she would not be consoled since they were no more. Within days of singing the Gloria’s of the Nativity, we are confronted with an ugly, unjustifiable act of violence. Herod’s murder of the Innocents is repeated again and again down the bloody halls of history even as the Christ Child grew in stature and wisdom, preached, loved, died and rose to redeem all of us. The weeping continues.

Herod acted out of a greedy need for control, power or perhaps fear. In the USA today, we experience multitudes of greed, control grabbing, and fear. Jesus taught love not self-preservation. He definitely spoke out against protection of any status-quo. We have become inured to violence, especially gun violence, in the name of self-defense. Jesus invites us to count on him as shield such as the fortification he granted Stephen in a vision of his divine majesty at the moment of earthly death. Jesus offers us eternal, unflinching, unflappable, lavishly excessive love. Why do we choose – if only through complicit agreement – spiritual meanness?  

… while we continue to walk in darkness, we lie and do not act in truth. In this Octave of Christmas, the Church reminds us that we are not yet there. In the building of the Kingdom, we have a long and arduous, sometimes lethal journey ahead. But the babe in the cradle has become our King and his Kingdom has begun. In what ways can I stop violence today – perhaps by not gossiping or refraining from uttering non-helpful criticism to a colleague or child, allowing someone in front of me at the cashier or on the beltway, turning in a gun that is truly not needed, or speaking a word of kindness to someone strange appearing.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

“Truly One of Us” by Colleen O’Sullivan

“Truly One of Us” by Colleen O’Sullivan
Saint John the Evangelist,
Segna di Bonaventura, 1320s,
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Beloved: 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. We are writing this so that our joy may be complete. (1 John 1:1-4))

When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. (John 20:6-8)

Lord, help me to trust that you truly understand whatever I share with you in prayer.
When I was young Saturday afternoons, especially rainy ones, were often spent watching westerns on TV. I also enjoyed “Wagon Train” during the week. As I learned about Jesus’ life, my mental images of him and his disciples were definitely influenced by my taste in television shows. When I heard about Jesus going into the desert, the terrain of the western U.S. came to mind. I pictured huge flat expanses dotted with saguaro cacti. I believed Jesus looked human and acted like a human being, but was, in fact, not really human at all. I imagined the meals he shared with his friends. They ate from metal dishes like the ones on “Wagon Train,” and Jesus always took a bite of whatever they were having, but then he would walk behind a saguaro cactus and spit it out because he didn’t have a stomach.

This all sounds silly to me as an adult, but John wrote his letter precisely because many of his contemporaries believed equally ridiculous things about Jesus. The Gnostics didn’t believe Jesus was human at all. Some of them thought, as I did as a child, that Jesus just seemed to have a human body. Others believed that the Christ came upon Jesus at his baptism, guided him throughout his public ministry, and then left Jesus at the Crucifixion. In their view, the Christ and the human Jesus were two separate beings.

In his Gospel, the evangelist John begins by stating that the Word that was God became flesh. The Son of God came to earth to live among us as one of us in every way except sin. In his first letter, John employs sensory language – heard, seen, touched – to again proclaim the truth about God’s Son. Jesus came to earth in poverty in a nowhere place in the Middle East. He was as helpless and dependent as any infant born in this world. He shivered from the cold and cried when he was hungry. He was as human as you or I. John says some people heard about this, but others actually saw and touched the Lord. The truth about Jesus, that he was both fully human and fully divine, is what John proclaims, both in his Gospel and in his letters.

It might seem strange two days after Christmas to have a Gospel reading about the Resurrection, but without Easter, Christmas would be just another sweet baby story. Without Christmas, there would be no Easter, so it makes sense to pair the two.

Sometimes I wonder how human we really believe Jesus was. I have been caring for my 5-month old great nephew five days a week for a couple of months now. He loves music and I often sing to him. Sometimes he sings along (totally off-key humming, but nonetheless endearing). I have sung many a Christmas carol to him in the past few weeks, so that the songs we seldom hear in public become part of his repertoire. One day as I was singing “Away in a Manger,” I realized that the words aren’t really true to Jesus’ humanity. One of the verses goes: The cattle are lowing, The poor Baby wakes, But little Lord Jesus, No crying He makes. Those lyrics aren’t terribly believable. The slightest noise wakes my nephew. I cringe when that happens, because I know what comes next – wailing and efforts on my part to soothe him back to sleep.

Our lack of faith in Jesus’ humanity shows up in our praying sometimes, too. We leave things out when we’re talking with Jesus, often because we’re ashamed, but other times because we think he wouldn’t understand or our troubles aren’t worth sharing. That’s selling our Lord short. He was truly one of us. He may not have been a sinner, but he definitely understands wrongdoing, remorse, and repentance. He knows what it’s like to be sad or angry or afraid, or to feel like everyone’s out to get us. He knows what it’s like to have a heart full of joy just waiting to be shared. If we believe that Jesus was fully human here on earth, it will show in what we are willing to entrust to him in our prayers.

Spend a few minutes today reflecting on your recent prayers. Have you shared everything in your heart or is there something you’ve left out? Trust in Jesus’ compassion toward you and be sure to include it the next time you pray.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

“Whoever Endures to the End Will Be Saved” by Melanie Rigney

Peter Paul Rubens [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
“Whoever Endures to the End Will Be Saved” by Melanie Rigney

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

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

Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit. (Psalm 31:6)

Why it was just yesterday we were all warm and fuzzy with the birth of the Christ child. And today, wham! Here we are, fast-forwarded thirty-plus years, to the stoning of Stephen. Sometimes, you just wish the minds that select the lectionary readings could give us all a little downtime, don’t you?

Except, of course, there really is no downtime for Christians. Sabbath, yes. Resting in the Lord, yes. We see that today in Stephen’s martyrdom. He is the first of the apostles to be martyred post-resurrection, and he will not be the last. Tradition has it that only John of the original apostles did not die a violent death. And while we may not be stoned or crucified physically, like the apostles, our faith is on trial every day on earth. As Christians, we speak the Lord’s truth with compassion and tenderness in our words and our actions. That’s often not popular or safe. We risk relationships and worldly wealth and position when we do it.

Yes, babies are beautiful and cuddly and non-threatening. But that’s not what the Father desires from us as adults. He desires the same faith and courage that Jesus exhibited throughout his earthly life, especially at the end. He desires that we commend our spirit into His hands, confident that He’ll be there to catch it.

Commend your spirit into His hands over an issue that arose during your Christmas celebration. Apologize where warranted. Reconcile where warranted. Stand steadfast where warranted. Pray and repeat.

Monday, December 25, 2017

This Our Day of Good News, Light and Salvation by Sam Miller

This Our Day of Good News, Light and Salvation by Sam Miller

“Happy the people who know You, Lord, who walk in the radiance of Your face!” (Psalm 89:16)

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone…For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:1, 5)

“Announce his salvation, day after day.” (Psalm 96:2b)

“Beloved: The grace of God has appeared, saving all” (Titus 2:11)

“The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)

“A light will shine on us this day: the Lord is born for us.” (Responsorial Psalm Response)

“Beloved: When the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, He saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvationall the ends of the earth will behold the salvation of our God.” (Isaiah 10:7, 10)

“All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God.” (Psalm 98:3b)

(God) “He has spoken to us through the 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.” (Hebrews 1:2-3a)

“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…The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came to be through himBut to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God (John 1:1-5, 9-10a, 12a)

Maranatha! Lord of Life, Love, Power and Salvation, open the door of my heart to receive You anew. My Lord, “Who all the world cannot contain, come in my heart to dwell.”

So, which Mass do I choose for this one Daily Tripod? Seems like just concentrating on the Mass During the Day might leave out some important information. I obviously checked out all of the readings, from the Vigil Mass through the Mass During Christmas Day and discovered lots of connections! Each Mass speaks of light, Good News, Salvation or saving power and Sonship or power to become heirs, children of God.

Paraphrasing Beth DeCristofaro’s, December 14 citing of Fr Richard Rohr’s teaching, mentions: In preparing for Christmas, we’re not talking about waiting for a little baby to be born, but welcoming the universal, cosmic Christ! We need to prepare as John was preparing the Way. We need to make room!

That really got my attention. Since then, I’ve heard, on different occasions, how worldly distractions crowd into the room we’re preparing, like shopping, baking, decorating, and more. The real grabber was when I heard something called “Mary’s Dream” on the Catholic Channel, Sirius XM. Mary was telling Joseph about a dream she’d had about parties with decorations and gifts. Though the parties were for Jesus, none of the gifts were for Him and He wasn’t even invited to attend! Please, Lord, bring me back to the proper preparation for You always!

“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.”

WOW, Wonder of Wonders!!! ALL that HISTORY, FROM THE BEGINNING, ALL that POWER, ALL that CLOSENESS, CONNECTEDNESS and ONENESS consented, said “YES”, to appearing in human form for my salvation, to overcome my darkness!!! By my accepting Him, through His power to save, I am HIM-powered to become a child of God!!!!
In celebration of the wonder of this day, I’m reminded of a dear Priest who could NOT give an extemporaneous homily, he had to have prepared notes. He explained that shortly after his ordination, the pastor encouraged him to try an impromptu presentation and he just froze. Nothing came out when he opened his mouth! So, at a Saturday Vigil, when our Deacon was supposed to bring the homily and didn’t show up for Mass, Father “L” was at a loss. He read the Gospel and immediately said “Let’s take a few moments to reflect on what we’ve just heard.” and sat down to do some reflecting himself!

Reflect today on the Gift, the Love, the Light, the Saving power, the Present received and SHINING through our Lord, Jesus Christ!!!

A Great Light by Jim and Diane Bayne

A Great Light by Jim and Diane Bayne

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.  You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing. (Is 9:1)

Beloved: The grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age,
(Ti 2:11)

And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son.  She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn.  (Luke 2:4-7)

Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless his name.

Announce his salvation, day after day.
Tell his glory among the nations;
among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.

Looking around our world today, one could easily get the impression that we are still a people who walk in darkness: wars and threats of wars, immense poverty, millions of refugees, polarized peoples everywhere.

Yet in the midst of the darkness there is plenty of light.  As Paul tells us in the second reading, Jesus came to train us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age. Thousands of organizations like SOME, Starfish, and Fish4Hope have learned the ways of Jesus and are feeding and training the poor and needy all around the globe every day of the year. 

Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Cosmic Christ who became man for the purpose of teaching us how to discover and grow in our call to union with the Divine by serving others.  In his letter to the Philippians, Paul tells us how:

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.  (Phil 2:5-8 - The Message)

To follow Jesus‛ example and Paul‛s direction to live temperately, justly, and devoutly, means to live with our focus on serving others.  As the late Fr.  Paul Wynants used to ask during every celebration of the Mass, ‟What have you done for the other this week?” It is in doing for others that we learn to Sing to the Lord.

Over the past couple of months, our mailboxes have been filled with begging letters and we know how important it is to give money to these great charities.  But what have you done to actually be Christ to others this month?  How have you been the hands of Christ in your little piece of the world?  It‛s never too late and New Year‛s resolutions are coming up fast.  Merry Christmas to ALL!!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

“According to Your Word” by Jim Bayne

“According to Your Word” by Jim Bayne

I will assign a place for my people Israel and I will plant them in it to dwell there; they will never again be disturbed, nor shall the wicked ever again oppress them, as they did at the beginning, and from the day when I appointed judges over my people Israel. I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD also declares to you that the LORD will make a house for you. (2 SAM 7:10-11)

Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom, there will be no end.” (Luke 1:31-33)

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

I will sing of your mercy forever, LORD, proclaim your faithfulness through all ages.
(Ps 89:2)

Prayer of Gratitude to God

Father, dear Father,

I am so grateful for everything that you have given me.
Thank you so much for the loved ones in my life,
For the many ways in which I am cared for and supported.
Thank you for the many ways I can serve and give to others.
Thank you for the rich tapestry of colors in creation,
For the beauty which is all around me,
For the skies and the ever-changing cloud formations,
For the breathtaking sunsets and early morning mists.
My heart is so grateful and brimming with thanks.
I could write a thousand books about your great goodness,
And still, have many stories to tell.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I thank you with everything I am.
All my being cries thank you Lord! Amen.

(A short prayer of gratitude to God from

Here we are at the end of Advent, ready to celebrate the arrival of the Christ child into our lives this very evening.  Are we prepared?

Since the Friday after Thanksgiving and perhaps even before, many of us have been frantically preparing for this day; our days and nights spent looking for just the right gift, gathering decorations for our homes, filling out Christmas cards, baking all kinds of Christmas goodies, and on and on it goes.  By now we’re exhausted.

All during this time, the Church has been calling on us to stop, wait, and watch.  Have we done that?  Anecdotal stories say probably not. Instead, our frantic activity has increased our stress level in an already stressful world.

Here are a few of the reasons for Christmas stress and depression:
  1. Absence of a beloved person
  2. Family misunderstandings
  3. Economic difficulties            
  4. Physical tiredness
  5. Loneliness                         
  6. Seasonal Emotional Disturbance

In the first reading today from Samuel, we see David stressed out because he hasn’t built a house of cedar for God who is still living in a tent.  Have you been stressed out this Advent because you haven’t been able to find just the right gift for your mother-in-law?  Are you anxious because you’re not sure what to get her and are even less certain that she’ll like what you get, and what will be her reaction if she doesn’t like it?  Oh dear, so many things to worry about!!

God immediately responds to David’s anxiety by reminding him “I have been with you wherever you went, and I have destroyed all your enemies before you.”  He goes on from there to tell him all the other things he’s going to do for him.

In the Gospel, God sends an angel to continue his message of love and caring. He tells Mary – and us – that he is sending his Son to “rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom, there will be no end.” 

Taking time to reflect on how much God loves each one of us and how he is – and always has been – right here with us should help to put things in perspective and take the edge off our Christmas anxieties; help us see the big picture.

When Jesus ascended into heaven, he promised to be with us until the end of time.  He is present and alive in our world today in the Body of Christ.  We are the Body of Christ! As we celebrate his birth, let us also celebrate his ongoing life in each one of us. 

We are the ones who have the power to make Christ present by healing the Christmas stress in ourselves and in those around us.  We have the power to bring Joy to the World!!!  May it be done to me according to your word.

Our salvation is not determined by how we hold our hands when we receive Christ in the Eucharist. Our salvation is determined by how we use our hands to be Christ in our world. See Matthew 25:34-36 for details.  Christ has no hands but ours.  Use them.