As did the Gospel I chose to use for Christmas, our Gospel this weekend presents the shepherds going to Bethlehem to find the child Jesus. But this is the feast of Mary, the Mother of God, so I will focus on two statements made about Mary:
Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Mary didn’t know and understand everything that was going on. She had no idea of where all this was leading. She must have been confused, amazed, maybe a little unsettled? But what did she do? She spent quiet time with the Lord, sharing what was going on, and being quiet to listen to the Lord. This quiet, contemplative side of her enabled her to find her way through Cana, the life of Jesus, Calvary, and the Descent of the Holy Spirit in the upper room.
When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. In addition to being contemplative, Mary also was obedient, both to God (when she said let it be done unto me according to your word) and to the rules and rituals of her faith. She didn’t consider herself special and above the law, despite what was happening: she followed the letter of the law by having Jesus circumcised on the eighth day. We know she followed the laws of purification, forty days after the birth. She was also obedient in naming the child Jesus, as she was told by the angel.
What a wonderful example for us: obedience and contemplation. We have the commandments, the beatitudes, the words and example of Jesus in the Gospels, and the rituals of the Church to guide us as we move forward. We need to be obedient in following these guides that have been given us. They will help us discern God’s will, despite our human impulses and emotions. But just as important is the quiet time with the Lord, sharing with him what is happening and then being quiet to listen. Then, like Mary (and Joseph who found his way through “dreams”), we will find our way as we move through life, bringing the light of Christ to those around us.
As we begin a new year, I invite us to reflect on how obedient we are to following the guidelines we have been given, as well as making sure we are spending quiet time with the Lord each day. If we are doing these two things, we will certainly find our way, as did Mary and Joseph.
I wish each and every one of you, and your families, a blessed 2023. I accompany you in prayer.
Church sign of the week: Prayer is a first resource, not a last resort.
As we celebrate the feast of Christmas, I thank, on behalf of our community, all who did so much to make our remembrance of Christ’s birth meaningful, both in terms of liturgy (music, children’s pageant, environment, ministers, etc.), as well as reaching out to others (card Sunday, gift Sunday, food Sunday). May God bless you for your generosity!
Our second reading from Titus tells us that the “kindness and generous love of God our Savior appeared.” That is what we celebrate at Christmas: Christ is making visible to us the kindness and generous love that God has for us.
Our first reading begins with “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation…” This is reminding us that we can’t simply celebrate the coming of Jesus into the world: our task is to bring the glad tidings to others by what we say and how we live our lives.
Then our Gospel gives us a good example of bringing the Good News to others with the Christmas narrative about the shepherds. The angels came to the shepherds, out of curiosity they went to Bethlehem and found the child Jesus, and then “they made known the message that had been told them about this child.” They were the first evangelizers: “all who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.”
My friends, that is what this feast is all about. It reminds us that God’s love has broken into our crazy world, the Good News has been shared with us, and we have the obligation, as did the shepherds, “to make known the message” that has been told to us. The more we can
mirror Christ’s life to others, the more meaning this feast has. Otherwise, it is simply a “sentimental journey.”
As we remember and celebrate that the Light has broken into the darkness of our world, let us renew our commitment to be that light to all we meet by mirroring Gospel values in all we say and do.
I wish each of you and your family a blessed Christmas.
Church sign of the week: Be the light of Christ to all you meet.
This last Sunday of Advent, the Church gives us the beginning of the Letter of Paul to the Romans as our second reading. Paul is presenting his credentials to the community (remember, he started out as a persecutor of Christians, so had to win credibility). He lists three points, which ideally would apply to us as faithful followers of
First, he calls himself a slave of Christ Jesus. He isn’t using “slave” in the sense of being forced to do something against his will, but rather in the sense of being completely and selflessly committed to Christ. Have we committed ourselves to Christ in that way?
Second, he says he is called to be an apostle. A disciple follows a master to learn; an apostle is sent out to others to bring the Good News to them. We have accepted this responsibility in baptism. Is bringing Christ to others an essential part of everything I do?
Finally, he says he is set apart for the gospel of God. Maybe this is a way of bringing the other two together: Paul is completely dedicated to Christ and to bringing His Good News to others. That means Paul is “set apart” for this task.
We might say to ourselves, “I can’t do that: I have children” or “I have many responsibilities” or “I am old and my mobility is compromised,” etc. But these are simply excuses. Being a slave of Christ and set aside for the Gospel simply means that Christ and His message are always a part of what we do as we go about our responsibilities each day. It is an awareness and attitude that will help us live Gospel values joyfully, thus being attractive to other people. When we can do that, we have done our part: the rest is up to God and His graces.
As we enter the last week of preparation to celebrate the birth of our Savior, let us ask God to help us grow in our ability to be slaves of Christ, apostles set aside for bringing Gospel values and joy to others. God is there with us to help: we just have to do our best and God will do the rest.
Church sign of the week: Live your life in such a way that if anyone would speak badly about you, nobody would
Welcome to “Gaudete” Sunday, the halfway point in Advent. The word “Gaudete” means “rejoice” and comes from the first word of the Introit or opening song of the pre-Vatican II liturgy: Rejoice in the Lord, always, again I say rejoice. Isaiah tells the Jews in exile to rejoice, because the Lord will lead them back to Jerusalem. James tells the early Christians to rejoice, because the trials of persecution will give way to the coming of Christ. The message to us is that we, too, should rejoice, because the Lord has come/is coming now/will come.
HAS COME: Christ has come in many ways. On Christmas we will celebrate His first coming as a child in Bethlehem. This is the rock and foundation of all the other comings. Christ also has come to us in the sacraments, in other people, and in the events of our lives.
WILL COME: our faith tells us that Christ will come to us either at the end of our lives or the end of time, whichever comes first. This final coming of Christ will bring us eternal joy and peace, certainly something to rejoice in.
IS COMING NOW: Christ continues to come to us each day as He accompanies us in life, again through the sacraments, other people, and the events of our lives. Advent is a time of reflection on how we are doing at recognizing Christ’s presence in our lives. Sometimes He is present in us as we bring Him to others, for example, visiting the homebound. Sometimes He is present to others who give us good example or call us to be more Christlike. Maybe He comes to us in a spectacular sunset that cheers us up at the end of a trying day, and so on.
The more we allow Christ into our lives each day and the more we live in such a way that we are bringing Him to others, the more we are cooperating in bringing about the fulness of His Kingdom, His second coming.
As we mark the halfway point of the season of Advent, I invite us to reflect on how we are doing at recognizing Christ coming into our lives each day and how we are doing at living Gospel values, so that we can be Christ’s presence to others. God bless.
Church sign of the week: When life feels like a roller coaster, remember Jesus is the steel bar.
For the Israelites, the expected messiah was to be a king, from the line of David, who would establish “justice in the land.” Over time, this “justice” was interpreted, especially by the elite of society, as the king defeating others and making Israel a great nation. That, of course, would make them more important.
However, our first reading from Isaiah indicates something much different for this “justice in the land.” We hear “he will judge the poor with justice” (no more taking advantage of those who are weaker). He will wipe out the wicked. Finally, there will be peace and harmony in the whole world (the wolf a guest of the lamb, the calf and lion browsing together with a child to guide them). In other words, all creation will live in harmony, as presented in the Garden of Eden.
What can this say to us as we move through Advent? I think it talks about just relationships, not only among people but also with nature and the earth. This is exactly what Pope Francis has been calling us to live.
First, just relationships with other people. It is convenient to interpret this as following the commandments (not killing, not stealing, not coveting). But it is more than that: it is making sure that there is justice in terms of everyone sharing in the resources that God has given us. There is enough for everyone, but it is not justly apportioned. We who possess more have an obligation to those who don’t have enough.
Second, just relationships with nature. Pope Francis, especially through his encyclical Laudato Si, has been reminding us that we have a responsibility to take good care of the earth and the other resources that God has given us. It is a direct challenge to our culture of consumption.
During this second week of Advent, I invite us to reflect on the relationships we have with all of God’s creatures around us, human and otherwise. Am I taking these challenges seriously? How can I do better? God bless.
Church sign of the week: In autumn, the trees show us how lovely it is to let things go.