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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Holy Family

"Put on, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience." Col 3:12

Family life at the time of Jesus was very different from how we understand family life in 21st century North America. Gender roles were sharply drawn, leaving women especially with few rights, and although women and mothers were honored, they rarely owned property or had any education, making Jesus' relationship with women all the more interesting and challenging.

Women were important disciples in the community that formed around Jesus, and he did not hesitate to test social norms regarding women in order to minister to those most in need, all of which makes it difficult and even dangerous to use a contemporary understanding of family life when constructing a spirituality of family. Nevertheless, there are common threads and sentiments from which we can extract a family spirituality for contemporary Christians.

The letter to the Colossians reminds us that compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience are virtues we need to live if we are going to be in what the scripture's call "right relationship" with one another. Surely, these virtues are also important in and for every family. Unless parents are humble in their guidance of their children, their offspring will inadvertently learn that power is something to be used over others rather than with them, and this creates an unnecessary tension among family members. Only when everyone in a family senses their own dignity, even when receiving correction, can we avoid creating an "us" against "them" mentality which can never be good for family life.

Today, practice humility. Ask for guidance.

What do you think are the most important family values in the bible?


Friday, December 28, 2012

The Presentation

"Simeon took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:"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." Lk 2: 27-32

Waiting for someone you have never met is anxiety producing. Whether we are at a bus station or an airport, we scan the faces of the people who are exiting and wonder if they are the one we are to meet. Simeon, who Luke implies is an old man, waits each day until finally Mary and Joseph arrive to present their first born son for consecration in the temple, and when he sees the Christ, he does not hesitate. Simeon knows this is the One promised of old and sings for joy.

The question presented to us is the gospel is clear. Do we recognize the Christ among us? Do we take time to search the faces of the poor, the forgotten, the ignored and the despised in order to remind them they are the beloved of God, the chosen ones?  Saints of every age have reminded us of this obligation. Mother Teresa said it this way, "Every person you meet is Christ in disguise."

Today, expect to be surprised by Christ.

Has someone from whom you expected little revealed to you the face of Christ in an entirely new way?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Holy Innocents

"When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under." Mt 2:16

Today seems like a perfect day to celebrate all the children who have been lost, stolen or killed for the sake of power, money or unearned prestige, beginning with the children slaughtered earlier this month in Newtown, Ct. While we will never understand the twists a human psyche can take that result in the massacre of children, we know it happens, has happened before, and will happen again.

Perhaps because Newton, Ct., is less than an hour's drive from where I live, the specter of innocent children dying will not leave my spirit, and this is not an altogether bad thing. It is important for us to remember what happened in Connecticut. Too often we act as if life is ours for as long as we like and we can spend in any way that pleases us, but the Christian gospel demands something else.

All life is a gift from God and must be spent as a gift for others. When we fail to remember this most fundamental faith demand, we too often wallow in our own failures and losses. That our well- intentioned deeds do always result in success is not the point. That we freely offer others the gift of ourselves is. That is why Christ came among. He was and is a sign that God cannot and will not abandon us, even when we turn away from God and fail to live the Gospel. We have only to lift our heads to find God waiting to lead us again along a path of other centered love.

Today, remember the innocents: children, the disabled, the mentally ill.

How does faith help you face unspeakable evil?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

St John, Apostle and Evangelist

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St John the Evangelist was one of the inner circle of Christ's disciples and friends. Present at the Transfiguration, in the Garden of Gethsemane, at the Easter tomb, and the one disciple who, with St. Peter, went ahead of Jesus to find a place and prepare it for the Last Supper, John had a unique and important relationship with Jesus and the opportunity to know him "up close and personal." It would be fascinating to speak with John even now about the Christ he came to know in his daily life.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons we celebrate John's feast so soon after Christmas. John helps us understand, approach and draw close to the Lord everyday, not just as a baby in Bethelem. John's gospel is full of details not found in the synoptic gospels. It is John who introduces us both to Jesus at Cana where, out of obedience to Mary, his mother,  he performed his first miracle, and to the angry Jesus who drives the money changers from the temple. 

John's Jesus is the compassionate one who eases the pain of a newly married couple who failed to provide sufficient wine for their guests, and to the poor who are being cheated out of the little money they have by unscrupulous men more interested in how much they can extort from pilgrims than making their visit to the Temple an experience of transformation. 

Today, as we pause to honor John, Apostle and Evangelist, ask for the gift of compassion.

Who has helped you understand and know Jesus best?


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

St Stephen

"They could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which (Stephen) spoke." Acts 6:10

Every year it shocks us to celebrate the feast of Stephen, the first martyr, on the day after Christmas. Can't we have a day or three of softer and kinder celebrations? Why do we have to move so quickly from celebrating birth to exalting death?

The answer is not complex or very difficult. For Christians, a martyr's death is a birth, an exaltation and a confirmation of everything we believe. When someone is able to face and enter death freely for the sake of announcing good news, the entire community is reborn in faith. Everyone is changed by the sacrifice of those who willingly give their lives for the sake of God's reign.

In truth, Christmas is a reminder that Christ did not cling to his Godhead (Phil 2:6) but freely let go in order to be with us. This "dying" reminds us that dying to oneself is the essence of being born in Christ and the clearest sign that faith empowers us to live a counter cultural life. As Christians we live for others, not for ourselves. We are not about self aggrandizement, but love of all creation for the sake of God's reign.

Today, take five minutes of silence to pray about how to help those in desperate need.

Who died for you so that you might live?


Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas

"The shepherds said to one another, 'Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.'" Lk 2:16

How exciting life was becoming for the shepherds! Nobodies to whom no one listened, they were uneducated and probably illiterate, but they listened to the angels, and so should we.

Light has come into the world, the angels announce, a light that will never be extinguished. Life will never be the same. The hovering threat of eternal death has been destroyed, and the promise of life forever exalted. We have been saved, and our only task is to enter into the mystery of God's love, live justly, build peace and proclaim the reign of God. That this challenge has been offered not just to individuals but to the entire community of Israel is both important to remember and critical to live out.

While light is not something to which we often pay attention, without it, everything dies. Jesus will remind us often that we are not to put the light under a bushel basket but on a lamp stand so that all can see. The light of Christ means that we will never again live in darkness, but must we must also let the light that is our gift  enlighten life as it unfolds. This means that we celebrate all that is good, glorious and wonderful, but it also demands we address the injustice we can see because of the Light. Our task is simple, but demanding. Christmas is a day when we rejoice in the gift of Light and ask the grace to share it.

Today, live simply and enjoy the light of friends.

How best can we live the gift of Christmas light?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Praise and Thanksgiving

"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior."  Lk 1:46
The Venerable Bede, an 8th Century monk, in an attempt to help us understand the depth of Mary's gratitude, expands St Luke's language:
The Lord has exalted me by a gift so great, so unheard of, that language is useless to describe it; and the depths of love in my heart can scarcely grasp it. I offer then all the powers of my soul in praise and thanksgiving. (Universalis)
These days as we creep ever closer to Christmas, the church cannot get enough of Mary. Full of anticipation, Mary sings but knows that words and music, no matter how beautiful, cannot express her joy at being the mother of Jesus. She can only offer thanks, and we would do well to follow her example.

Thanksgiving is the ground and base of Christian spirituality. If we do not practice Thanksgiving, we will never understand the Eucharist or fully appreciate God's total and persistent love of us. Only when we live gratefully for each day of life and faith are we able to proclaim the Good News unequivocally and completely.

Today, imagine where you would be without the love of God.

What are you most grateful for?