Monday, December 31, 2018

“Reflecting on Them in Her Heart” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

“Reflecting on Them in Her Heart” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

The LORD said to Moses: "Speak to Aaron and his sons and tell them: This is how you shall bless the Israelites. Say to them: The LORD bless you and keep you! The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace! So shall they invoke my name upon the Israelites, and I will bless them.” (Numbers 6:22-27)

May God bless us in his mercy. (Psalm 67:2a)

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 sons. (Galatians 4:4-5)

The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. (Luke 2:16-19)

Gentle Mother, guide my thoughts, my lips, and my hands. Show me when to speak—and when to ponder.

It had been, ahem, a rather unusual year or so for the young girl.

First, Mary is betrothed to Joseph. (I will not enter the debate about what exactly that meant, whether they were “engaged” or had entered into a marriage not planning to consummate the union.) Then an angel tells her she’s going to conceive in a unique way. Then she goes to visit an older relative, who it turns out is pregnant for the first time as well. Then there’s the trip to Bethlehem, the less than comfortable setting for her baby’s birth, and the visit by the shepherds, who carry an angel’s message.

Even one of those peculiar circumstances, let alone all of them, for most of us, would result in great teeth gnashing, social media what-the-heck postings, processing with friends, and a whole lot of prayer requests.

And yet, we see Mary in today’s Gospel reading as calm, peaceful, serene. She doesn’t ask Joseph or anyone else what all this means. She reflects in her heart because no other human being can understand exactly what’s happened to her. She reflects in her heart because she knows the Lord knows her… and will continue to guide her.

That’s not to say it’s always wrong to vent about our situations, in person or on social media. But sharing can be a crutch. It can put us at the center of the storm, rather than He who is always there and will take us through the choppiest of waters and the highest of gales. May we learn from Mary’s example and discern the times our fears and concerns are best kept in our hearts, awaiting His healing balm.


Check out this video or another based on Numbers 6:22-26. Meditate on the ways in which the Lord’s face is shining upon you.

Credit is: Mattia Preti [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons.

In the Beginning

In the Beginning

But you have the anointing that comes from the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. 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 2:20-21

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. John 1:1-5

Chapter 73
This Rule Only A Beginning of Perfection[i]
The reason we have written this rule is that, by observing it in monasteries, we can show that we have some degree of virtue and the beginnings of monastic life. But for anyone hastening on to the perfection of monastic life, there are the teachings of the early church writers, the observance of which will lead them to the very heights of perfection. What page, what passage of the inspired books of the Old and New Testaments is not the truest of guides for human life? What book of holy writers does not resoundingly summon us along the true way to reach the Creator? Then, besides the Conferences of the early church writers, their Institutes and their Lives, there is also the rule of Basil. For observant and obedient monastics, all these are nothing less than tools for the cultivation of virtues; but as for us, they make us blush for shame at being so slothful, so unobservant, so negligent. Are you hastening toward your heavenly home? Then with Christ's help, keep this little rule that we have written for beginners. After that, you can set out for the loftier summits of the teaching and virtues we mentioned above, and under God's protection, you will reach them. Amen.

According to Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, this last chapter of the rule leaves us with a reading list for future spiritual development.  Benedict, Benedictines, Christians, and Cursillistas do not believe that the simple reading or study of spiritual literature is sufficient. That is why the other two legs of our tripod are piety and action.  It is not what we have read or will read that is important.  “It is what we become that counts.”

She explains that every major religious tradition, in fact, has called for a change of heart, a change of life rather than for simply an analysis of its literature. The Hasidim, for instance, tell the story of the disciple who said to the teacher, “Teacher, I have gone completely through the Torah? What must I do now?”

And the teacher said, “Oh, my friend, the question is not, have you gone through the Torah. The question is, has the Torah gone through you?”

Bottom Line Up Front: Let no one deceive you in any way. “Caveat discipulus.” Let the student beware. Least of all or most of all, beware of yourself!

You only think this is the last day of the year.  John’s letter warns us of “a last hour,” what the NABRE calls the period between the death and resurrection of Christ and his second coming.  While we are in the Second Advent (the waiting for the return) we are warned to be on guard against “the antichrists,” not one but many false teachers and “pseudochrists” (translated “false messiahs”) referred to by Matthew, Mark, and St. Paul. 

If Ordinary Time is intended to be the Second Advent, John 1:1 gives us the words to live by, words that will guide our piety, our study, and our action until we Encounter Christ again.

The “last hour” referenced in the First Letter of John is not written in anticipation of the Tiffany Ball dropping in Times Square. It refers instead to the time when we prepare for the Second Coming of Christ. The Second (longer) season of Advent. We do this even though the much-anticipated commemoration of the First Coming was only seven days ago. We hardly have had a chance to contemplate the miracle of the Nativity with all the feast days of martyred saints following Christ’s Mass. It is almost as if the Magisterium itself is waging war on modern Christmas.  Is the message “Don’t get too happy and merry?”

Maybe, these reading point out the charade we commonly call Christmas.  No, I am not referring to the proverbial secular “war on Christmas.”  I am referring to the Christian ticket punching. The Christians who revel in Christmas one day of the year and go about their busy-ness for the other 363 (they get credit for Easter, too.).

Were you (like me) at a Mass on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day that was standing room only? The 6 pm Christmas Eve Vigil Mass at Nativity Parish in Burke, VA, was SRO 20 minutes before the entrance song. Was turnout for Mass yesterday the same?

In 2015, the Christmas Charade Parade was called out by none other than Jorge Mario Bergoglio: “The world continues to go to war. The world has not chosen a peaceful path. There are wars today everywhere, and hate,” Pope Francis said then and could echo now. “We should ask for the grace to weep for this world, which does not recognize the path to peace. To weep for those who live for war and have the cynicism to deny it. God weeps; Jesus weeps.”

Not only is this the last day of the year, Benedictines everywhere complete the third reading of the Rule of St. Benedict this year.  Sister Joan Chittister, OSB, tells us why reading and reading the rule is so important:

Even at the end of his rule, Benedict does not promise that we will be perfect for having lived it. What Benedict does promise is that we will be disposed to the will of God, attuned to the presence of God, committed to the search for God and just beginning to understand the power of God in our lives. Why? Because Benedictine simplicity gentles us into the arms of God.

After a Liturgical Year of Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter and 34 weeks of Ordinary Time, we still do not “get it.”  We still have to be reminded every single day.

Our Fourth Day also could be called Chapter 74.  Are you ready to write Chapter 74 in the New Advent? Here is a nice way you can start it:

“In the beginning…”

What comes next?

Sunday, December 30, 2018

“Did You Not Know?” by Rev. Paul Berghout (@FatherPB)

“Did You Not Know” by Rev. Paul Berghout (@FatherPB)

God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons. Whoever honors his father atones for sins, and preserves himself from them. When he prays, he is heard; he stores up riches who reveres his mother. Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children, and, when he prays, is heard. Whoever reveres his father will live a long life; he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother. Sirach 3:2-6

When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Luke 2:48-50

Our First Reading says, “a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.”

I read recently a humorous story about a young man who on his graduation from high school was chosen to give the commencement speech. He began by reading from his prepared text. 'I want to talk about my mother and the wonderful influence she has had on my life,' he told the audience. 'She is a shining example of parenthood, and I love her more than words could ever do justice.'

At this point, he seemed to struggle for words. After a pause, he looked up with a sly grin and said, 'Sorry, but it's really hard to read my mother's handwriting.'

I don't know what a perfect first-century family looked like, but I’m certain that Joseph and Mary didn’t fit the ideal. Joseph had no money. He had no safe place for his wife to give birth and no plausible explanation for her pregnancy. Their family was turned upside down before it even began.

It’s no coincidence that Christ was born into a shaky, uncertain family situation. God goes to places where he’s needed. When society is in chaos, as it always is, faithfulness rises above the fragmentation and builds footings on whatever ground it touches.

Today, on the Feast of the Holy Family, we walk on holy ground as we contemplate family life.

1). First, it can seem awkward to find your footing when talking about marriage.

Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, California, preached that "the Church remains a firm advocate of marriage between a man and a woman as the foundation of the family. Mother, father, and children in a loving, respectful family setting are what we promote as the will of God. But the will of God does not rest just in the ideal…. we likewise find the grace of God at work in… the single-parent and the family blended from situations of divorce.’’

Our First Readings also says, “God sets a father in honor over his children.”

The apparition at Fatima on Oct. 13, 1917, is the only approved apparition in two thousand years in which the entire Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph appeared at the same time. The three little shepherd children saw Our Lady with St. Joseph and the Child Jesus, and both Jesus and St. Joseph were blessing the world.

In her last book, Sister Lucia wrote: “In times such as the present, when the family often seems misunderstood in the form in which it was established by God…surely God wished to address to us a reminder of the purpose for which he established the family [through the fatherly blessing of Joseph and in the blessing of Jesus as Savior.”

2). Praying the Rosary together provides solid footing for a family.

The other day I saw a mother going down the street with her little child. For a few steps, the little fellow walked alone, but he soon came to a crosswalk. He then reached up and the mother took his hand and he went forward in safety and without fear.

The rosary said in the family has a way of softening hardships and bringing a good measure of peace in the home through the hearts of all who partake.

3). Showing honor among family members is sure footing for family life.

A mother was helping her young son with a spelling test. Mom asked her son, “Do you know the difference between ‘conscious’ and ‘conscience’?” The boy said, “My teacher says ‘conscious’ is when you’re aware of something. But ‘conscience’ is when you wish you weren’t aware of it!”

In the First Reading from the Book of Sirach, there is special emphasis on the importance of honoring one’s parents, which should extend into adulthood. Kindness to aged parents counterbalances one’s earlier sins, and the rewards of joy (3:5), long-life (3:6), and blessing (3:8-9) are traditional biblical blessings in other books of the bible and is also mentioned in conjunction with keeping the Ten Commandments. A point of emphasis is that one’s treatment of parents is, at a deeper level, also an action toward God.

For example, in our Gospel text today, after three days, during a time of great anxiety, Mary and Joseph find Jesus in the temple. They are relieved to discover that he is fine, but they are distressed at what he has put them through!

Jesus then instructs them on how their parental role must be subordinate to the will of his divine Father. His parents do have an important part to play in his mission, as indicated when Jesus submits himself to their leadership and honors them with the faithful obedience of a son.

Have I ever adjusted my behavior when I released the grief that I was causing others? What changes did I make?

Notice that Mary’s way of appropriating the mysterious communications about the identity and call of her son is deeply contemplative.

No matter what the family situation may be, someone has noted that there are only 940 Saturdays between the day your child is born and the time he or she turns 18. That’s a good reminder to cherish the time that parents and children have with each other and to use it wisely with God’s inspiration and grace. Amen.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

“Your Present is Your Presence” by Sam Miller

“Your Present is Your Presence” by Sam Miller

Beloved: The way we may be sure that we know Jesus is to keep his commandments. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him. 1 John 2:3-5

“Lord, now let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled: my own eyes have seen the salvation which you prepared in the sight of every people, a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel.” Luke 2:29-32

Bring me into the light of Your love, Dear Lord.  Let me be present to Your coming to dwell among us this day.  May I come to the manger with reverence and awe.  Help me to allow You to fill my heart with joy.

The time of preparation has passed.  Jesus’ coming was foretold from of old, from way back!  Those guys had time to prepare but, did they?  Did they receive the message that Jesus was coming and then go back to their normal routines?  How come the innkeeper didn’t know to reserve a room for the Holy Family?  There were multiple Angelic visitations to announce the coming event. Mary didn’t have to tell Elizabeth, baby John already knew!  Joseph heard from Angels that he should take Mary into his home while the law told him not to.  Did he share the messages with anyone?  When the Lord, the Baby Jesus was born His first adorers were the animals in the stable.  An Angel with Heavenly Host alerted the shepherds to come to see the Babe, didn’t anyone else see that?

Me?  From early childhood, I was taught that Christmas was about welcoming the Baby Jesus, not about receiving presents.  Every year, I pray to be properly prepared to receive Him, that my heart may make room to welcome Him.  Do I receive the message to prepare only to get distracted by all of the hustle and bustle, the buying and wrapping of presents, attending all of the festive gatherings and forget that this is Jesus’ birthday party?!

Nothing distracted Simeon from his vigil until he shared in the presence of the Baby Jesus.

Lord, may Your light shine on and through me this day!  Lord, be born in me today!!  May Your presence be my present!!  Amen!

Friday, December 28, 2018

Walk in the Light

Walk in the Light

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 1:5B-7

When the magi had departed, behold, 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.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, Out of Egypt I called my son. Matthew 2:13-15

[As we get ready to enter the year 2019,] We give thanks to God the Father for the many blessings of creation, and to our Lord Jesus Christ for the gift of salvation. We raise our prayer to the Holy Spirit to strengthen and guide us in carrying out all that the Lord has commanded us. In discerning the signs of the times, we note the greatly increased migration among the peoples of the Americas, and we see in this but one manifestation of a worldwide phenomenon–often called globalization–which brings with it great promises along with multiple challenges. (USCCB, Strangers No Longer)

Our first reading pretty much sums up the covenant we have with God and God has with us.  It is the ultimate “quid pro quo.” If we do this, then He will do that. If we walk in His light, then we are redeemed from all our sins.
If we walk in His light, the obedience of Joseph would not be hard to emulate. Imagine having a dream to pick up your family and all you own and move to a foreign country. If you thought this was a risky trek, the next journey was 200 times the distance.

The Roman-commanded journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census was only about 15-20 miles (depending upon which dunes the donkey had to navigate around). However, heading off to Old Cairo was a journey of more than 535 miles.  There would be mountains that would require the young Holy Family to climb more than 3,000 feet in elevation. There were no 7-11 stores with convenient supplies of Aquafina. Daily walking for about eight hours would take at least 21 traveling days to get there (not counting some days stopping to rest and get provisions).

Joseph was not being asked to do easy tasks.  Take on a wife who is shamefully (but at least privately – for now) pregnant. Bring your pregnant spouse to the census. Now, head off to a whole new world and live abroad for several years.
The choice was easy.  If he did not take on these tasks, the alternatives would be worse. Shame. Prison. Death. Not that any of these options were without risk.  But we did not see Joseph sitting down and making a list of the “plusses” and “minuses” of each option before deciding. He did not consult his wife.  He did not consult his rabbi.  He did not consult the rest of his family.  He did not close down his carpentry business.  He just went.  

Eight-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo died on Christmas Eve in a New Mexican hospital. His soul joins that of 7-year-old Jakelin Caal who died in Las Cruces, New Mexico earlier this month.

Such journeys fleeing the perils of your home country are not without risks.  Jesus could have met a similar fate without modern sanitation or healthcare. But people will take some incredible steps when faced with such perils (think fight or flight).

Joseph did not stand a chance staying to fight the marauding troops of Herod.  Felipe and Jekelin did not stand much more of a chance two thousand years later.

Taking action on migration issues is a challenge for American Catholics today.  However, the challenge of church teaching is clear. Grounded by our belief in Jesus Christ and Catholic teaching, Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) fulfills the commitment of the U.S. Catholic bishops to protect the life and dignity of the human person. We serve and advocate for refugees, asylees, migrants, unaccompanied children, and victims of human trafficking.[i] This is not a statement from some secular, liberal website. This is official church statement from the USCCB.

We are one family under God and the Gospel calls us to Joseph-like obedience.  Understanding how the Church’s teaching tradition informs its position on migration will help Catholics and others of good will better understand how these principles can be and should be put into practice. The resources highlighted here will help you learn more about the Church’s social teachings as related to migration and how you can help to make positive change.
In 2003, the bishops of the United States and Mexico issued a joint pastoral letter, Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope, that presented a Catholic framework for responding to the ongoing migration phenomenon in their respective countries. In doing so, the bishops offered pastoral guidance to Catholics who encounter and engage migrants living and working in their communities. The letter also suggested systematic reforms to U.S. immigration policy and presented an alternative to the existing immigration policy paradigm. For a brief overview of the major points presented in the pastoral letter, this summary pamphlet will prove of assistance.

Read up on that position at the Justice for Immigrants web site. Consider the path your family took to get to this country.  There was no wall when my great-grandfather arrived at Ellis Island from Naples, Italy onboard the Trojan Prince in the summer of 1899.
Maybe even consider a gift to Catholic Charities of Southern New Mexico in Las Cruces where they are serving the “anawim” of today – the poor in spirit like Felipe and Jakelin – on the front lines of the immigration issues we face today.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

“From the Beginning, the Light overcomes Darkness” by Beth DeCristofaro

“From the Beginning, the Light overcomes Darkness” by Beth DeCristofaro

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 (1 John 1:1-2)

(…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)

Thank You Gracious and Merciful God, for your light shines in the darkness and darkness will not overcome it.  Lord Jesus grace us that in our faithfulness you may continually be born anew in our world.  Holy Spirit may you be present to our neighbor and our planet through our piety, study, and action.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)  In human terms, Jesus’ birthday was two days ago and today we celebrate his “birthday” into Resurrection.  In God’s terms, there is no difference.  Before time there was God and all the manifestations of God which we have been graced to become aware of in small or great moments of human history.  Contained within “the beginning” and “the Word” and “God” was and is the stilled blade of Abraham’s belief, the burning bush of “I am”, the ferocious witness of John, the quiet “yes” of Mary and Joseph, the birth travail of Jesus, the Samaritan Woman’s leap of exultant hope,  the breathless awe of Martha’s testimony you are the Messiah and so many other moments in which God is revealed more clearly to humanity.

In the Beginning is a kernel of “end” - God shares with us Alpha and Omega. Of course, the Divine Omega is no end as we know it.  In the moments of our own conception and birth is the kernel of what we call death.  In between are many moments of death during which we may choose to throw off false idols and dead-end priorities with which we humans are enticed.  There are also many birth moments disclosing more deeply who we are as brothers and sisters of Christ.  We have the opportunity by fellowship with Christ to face the tomb of our own mortality and toss off the bindings of burial as did Jesus.

What binds me to my own inner darkness?  What causes me to seek darkness in others?  Pray today for the faith to see the light.  Pray for guidance to share Jesus’s light with the world.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

“Christmas: The Season for Self-Giving Love” By Colleen O’Sullivan

“Christmas: The Season for Self-Giving Love” By Colleen O’Sullivan

The stoning of St. Stephen (1863), Gabriel-Jules Thomas,
Church of Saint-Etienne du Mont, Paris, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Stephen, filled with grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people… They threw him out of the city and began to stone him.  The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul.  As they were stoning Stephen, he called out "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."   (Acts 6:8, 7:58-59)

Into your hands I commend my spirit;
you will redeem me, O Lord, O faithful God.
I will rejoice and be glad because of your mercy.  (Psalm 31:6, 8ab)

“Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.  You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved." (Matthew 10:21-22)

I Wonder as I Wander by Audrey Assad

I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus my Saviour did come for to die
For poor on'ry people like you and like I
I wonder as I wander out under the sky

In the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, there is a contemplation on the Nativity, in which you are asked to imagine yourself in the scene with Mary and Joseph along with Jesus, once he is born.  You are there to function as a servant helping them throughout this experience.  Every time I do this contemplation, it is different from the time before.  Once, when all the work was finished, the baby cleaned up and sleeping in a bed of clean straw, Mary washed and wearing a clean robe, resting after her labor, Joseph, tired, but gazing with contentment upon his little family, Mary very quietly asked me if I would like to hold her newborn.  Knowing who Jesus was, I felt unworthy and a little hesitant, but Mary persisted, “He won’t break, you know.”  So, I took the infant in my arms.  After a few moments, he opened his eyes and smiled at me for a second.  I smiled back at him.  The next second, I found myself bearing a very heavy weight.  I looked, and in my arms was Jesus’ bloody, battered body taken down from the Cross.

What a shocking juxtaposition, yet not unlike the one we experience each Christmas season, one day kneeling in adoration of the Infant Jesus in the manger, soft carols sounding in our heads, and the next witnessing the death of the first martyr, St. Stephen.  It doesn’t sound such a jarring note, however, when we move beyond the sweetness of a newborn baby to the full meaning of Jesus’ coming to live among us, as one of us in all ways except sin. 

From the first, there were difficulties and challenges.  Mary and Joseph had to go to Bethlehem to be counted in the census, but when they got there, despite the imminence of Jesus’ birth, they could find nowhere to stay.  Once the angels announced the glad tidings to the shepherds, Jesus’ life was in danger, because Herod wasn’t about to have any rival kings in his territory.  Joseph finally had to take his family and emigrate to Egypt in order to keep them safe.

Jesus came proclaiming the Truth, but sometimes we don’t want to hear the truth about ourselves.  The Pharisees didn’t want to hear about their self-righteousness.  We don’t always want to acknowledge our sinfulness or our need for mercy and forgiveness.  Jesus hung out with the poor, the sick and the outcasts of society, and many didn’t like that.  We like the things of this world and have difficulty giving them up in exchange for what is of God.  When enough people found themselves uneasy, threatened and offended, Jesus lost his life on the Cross.

Jesus never tried to con his disciples.  In today’s Gospel reading, the Lord tells his closest friends that speaking the truth may result in our families, friends and/or acquaintances turning their backs on us.  And that’s exactly what we see in our first reading.  St. Stephen preaches the Word, but it proves to be unpopular.  He was quite the champion of the Christian faith and an ardent debate, but he was stoned to death for his efforts on behalf of the Gospel.

Self-giving love is the hallmark of the Christmas season.  Jesus willingly pitches his tent among us out of love for us.  He tirelessly travels the countryside, preaching, teaching, and forgiving, out of love for us.  He suffers for us and dies for us because he loves us.  St. Stephen gives his life out of love for the Lord and the Gospel.

How does the gratitude in your heart for Jesus’ gift of himself get translated into giving of yourself to others this Christmas season?

Image credit:  By Jebulon - Own work, Public Domain,

Monday, December 24, 2018

“Your God Is King!” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

Circle of Grão Vasco [Public domain].
“Your God Is King!” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

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 52:7)

All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God. (Psalm 98:3c)

For to which of the angels did God ever say: You are my son; this day I have begotten you? Or again: I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me? And again, when he leads the firstborn into the world, he says: Let all the angels of God worship him. (Hebrews 1:5-6)

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 1:14)

Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!

It’s true! Your God is King!

He is King as a helpless newborn, lying in a crude box, dependent on his parents for sustenance and safety.

He is King when he is presented in the temple forty days later.

He is King a few years later when He lingers in the template, worrying his parents for three days.

He is King during the years we don’t know about when He bursts onto the scene in public ministry when He challenges those in authority who don’t know the truth when they see or hear it when they kill Him, and when He returns from the dead.

Your God is King!

Celebrate that today! See Him in everyone you see, whether they believe or not. Find Him in every conversation for He is king! Oh, come let us adore Him!

Reveal in the gift of being part of the King’s family.

“The Lord is With You” by Rev. Paul Berghout (@FatherPB)

“The Lord is With You” by Rev. Paul Berghout (@FatherPB)
Poster Illustration by Bro. Mickey O'Neill McGrath, OSFS

When King David was settled in his palace, and the LORD had given him rest from his enemies on every side, he said to Nathan the prophet, "Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent!" Nathan answered the king, "Go, do whatever you have in mind, for the LORD is with you." 2 Samuel 7:1-3

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

Today, we sit on the threshold of Advent and Christmas.  Tomorrow is what humanity is waiting for, preparing for, hoping for.  Yet, we need one more sunset and sunrise before the fullness of time. Yet, even on Christmas Eve morning, the Lord is with us.

Yesterday, the Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Advent began with: “Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste.”  This reminded me of a sign I saw outside a church: “Hurry in this Sunday to beat the Christmas rush.”

Mary’s visit to Elizabeth recalls the importance of spiritual accompaniment and mentoring. St. John of the Cross said that some people do not advance in spirituality because “sometimes they misunderstand themselves and are without suitable and alert directors.”

Consider that it is Elizabeth’s attentive listening to Mary’s words of greeting that sets off the unborn John the Baptist’s joyful leap.  Elizabeth herself utters a blessing that underlines the close connection between faith and attention to God’s word.

Spiritual direction and mentoring are even more important in these chaotic times e.g. The Archangel Gabriel told Mary to go mentor and spend time helping Elizabeth. And Elizabeth is happy to see her.

Both Mary and Elizbeth were experiencing key life transitions. Their shared experience of pregnancy extends the bonds of kinship between them and provides sustenance, strength, and support to both, breaking the isolation that could bar each of them from entering into the deepest possible understanding of themselves and what God is doing in the course of their lives.

What is God doing in your life? Where is God active in your life?

The desire to share this in spiritual direction or to mentor is the mark of the Good Spirit.

St. Ignatius Loyola tells us that the devil loves secrecy (like a false lover in courtship for those contemplating marriage) since he can easily have his way with one who is not open to a good director.

Mary remained with Elizabeth for three months which indicates the daily give-and-take of what transpired between them and suggests that the relationship between mentor and protégé is one that develops patiently, taking its time as a matter of accompaniment, not as a single simple intervention.

Elizabeth’s words to Mary were, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

This speaks of reciprocal mentoring or being blessed by our sharing with others.
“How can I grow in trusting God? How is God’s word being fulfilled in my life?”
As the sun sets on today, we are ready for God to be with us.

The reality of all those Christmas pageants of the last few weeks will play out in real time.  The third grade was staging their annual Christmas pageant. Finally, it came time for the birth. Mary was hidden from the crowd by bales of hay. A boy appeared on stage, in a bathrobe with sandals, a stethoscope around his neck. He disappeared behind the hay bales and reemerged with a bundle. He handed it to Joseph and said, "Congratulations—it's a God!"

Yes, God is born on Christmas Day!

What a strange thing to say: God is born. How can God be born? God is eternal. Without beginning. Without end. The Alfa and the Omega. How can He be born?
Well, the archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary and says, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God."

There is no snatching of people off the earth up to heaven. It is God who is raptured down to earth. Christmas is a rapture in reverse.

Why was God born?  God was born in Jesus Christ to reconcile us to God. The fruit of which is the peace of God.

Notice our Gospel passage tonight calls the angels that celebrated Jesus’ birth the “heavenly host.” The word “host” is the word for army. But the multitude of angels didn’t sing “God will fight for you against the Romans!” That wasn’t their song at all. Their song was peace. “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."

Ephesians 2:14 says that "He himself is our peace."  There is the peace no human being can take from us, no one save ourselves: Christ is our peace. Peace is not the mere absence of conflict, but a peace rooted in one’s reconciliation with God.

Born in a manger. Shepherds were the first to know: small-time people, and small-town places.  He picked amateurs and nobodies. Jesus was born on the night shift.

Too often people spoil their whole lives in desires to have when our main interests should be devoted to efforts to be:  to be kind, to be humble, to be holy, to be prayerful.

Christmas also teaches us that while creation is not God, it is also not separate from God. The world is the place for encountering God.

The concept of eternity has now also entered into historical time. The universal to the particular—this baby, this manger, is where God is. This tabernacle. This Church; this part of the Church. The union established between man and God in the Incarnation is continued and made closer through Holy Communion. For this reason, we were urged to prepare all through Advent for a worthy Christmas Communion. In being spiritually reborn in our soul by Holy Communion, Christ increases the life of grace in us, making this life develop more freely and expand with more strength, thus preparing us more and more for the eternal life with Him in heaven.

The nativity scene that unfolds tonight and every tomorrow throughout eternity by itself is not the whole story; it's only the first act.

We won't understand the breaking dawn of Christmas without the breaking dawn of Good Friday, Easter, and Pentecost.

We won't find the Son of the true God without finding our neighbor in need. We, like the infant Christ, are deeply formed by the relationships of love that constitute our lives. At Christmas, we are invited to reflect on our vulnerability and embrace our dependence. To give up one's very self — to think of others — how to bring the greatest eternal happiness to others through Jesus Christ — that is the true meaning of Christmas, and why we celebrate God being born tonight.