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Saturday, January 2, 2021

The Epiphany of the Lord

 "Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you." Is 60:1

Searching for the living God is a life long adventure, and the feast of the Kings reminds us of this. Don't be afraid the astrologers from the East remind us. As long as you are looking for God, God will find you. Sometimes it will be a star in the sky. At other times, it will be a sunset in summer or a flower in winter that captures us with its beauty and reminds us to keep going, to keep searching. Though God is very near, we do not always sense God's presence, but as long as our spirits remain open, our journey will not be in vain.

The church may be very weak in the United States, and our parish churches almost empty in places during these days of Covid 19, but as long as we accept the call to discipleship, we cannot go wrong. Assuredly, the message about the Messiah came to God's people from beyond their shores, but for those who kept listening to the signs of the times there was no surprise. God will come to us as God wants. We have only to be ready.

Today, expect a surprise.

How has God entered your life in ways you did not expect?

Friday, January 1, 2021

Sts Basil the Great and Gregory Naziansen

"When, in the course of time, we acknowledged our friendship and recognized that our ambition was a life of true wisdom, we became everything to each other: we shared the same lodging, the same table, the same desires, the same goal. Our love for each other grew daily warmer and deeper....our great pursuit, the great name we wanted, was to be Christians, to be called Christians." (1) St. Gregory of Nazienzen

The saints whose lives we honor today were, in contemporary language, "soul friends."  Basil, who is recognized as the father of monasticism in the East, could be fierce and unbending. Much like Mother Teresa of Calcutta in our day, he was a reformer and  made decisions quickly, often without much conversation with others. Gregory, on the other hand, was shy and retiring.  When appointed Archbishop of Constantinople, he lived with friends rather than take up residence at the city's center. Both men were accused of heresy and were slandered by those who resented their power and fortitude. Despite their differences, they remained friends.

All of us need people with whom we walk closely in faith, especially when life is difficult and confusing. Having one other person to accompany us through the dark and light times is a gift beyond words. Gregory and Basil had this in one another, and although their relationship was often under great stress, Gregory reminds us that their "great pursuit...to be called Christians" kept them together in love and hope.

Today, treasure the gift of a  soul friend.

How important have your friends been to your faith life?

Thursday, December 31, 2020

New Year's Day -- Solemnity of Mary

 "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." Lk 2:16-17

Every year the church begins the New Year by holding up Mary, the Mother of God, as a model for believers everywhere. Mary, as mother, is first of all present to Jesus, something that is more difficult than it seems. Being present to another does not mean we try to fix or help them, but serve them. Like a good waitperson in a restaurant who does not hover or keep asking how your food is, our mothers only want us to be comfortable in our own skin. Mary is like this for Jesus and us.

Christians do well to remember Mary's lessons. When we realize that our primary task is to witness to the truth and transforming power of the Christ, we never have to be the center of attention. Rather, we listen more than we speak, and we live faith as a verb: an action, and a lifestyle, that invites others to live for others. We do this more naturally and simply when we are grateful for the great gift our our faith and our salvation.

Today, serve someone with joy.

Do you have a special devotion to Mary? Why?

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

New Year's Eve

 "And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." Jn 1:14

Those of us who have lived in the New York area most of our lives are very familiar with the New Year's Eve celebration that goes on each year in Times Square.  More than a million people begin gathering early in the afternoon and then wait for hours so they can watch the lighted ball drop exactly at midnight to celebrate a New Year.  Like any ritual, it is designed to help people begin again, to put aside the past and focus on the New Year just begun.  Many people use the occasion to seek reconciliation with family or friends. Even more make resolutions to change their lives so that 2017 will be better than 2016.

While we understand and appreciate the fun and hope of the night, the incredible statement we read in the first chapter of St. John's gospel can lift our spirits even more.  John writes,  "And the word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." These words remind us of something that is almost too powerful for us to fully appreciate. Despite the failure of the human community to honor God and neighbor consistently, despite our wandering from the path of justice and life, God loves us so much that God speaks the word that becomes flesh as the ultimate sign of God's undying love. God wants to be with us, to walk with us, to weep with us, and live with us forever.

Today, let go of fear and open your heart to the indwelling of God in your lives and communities.

Are New Year resolutions important to you?

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

The Virtue of Amazement

 "The child's father and mother were amazed at what was said about him." Lk 2:33



Thinking about bringing their newborn son to the temple must have been a delight for Mary and Joseph. We might imagine them being stopped by friends and strangers alike wanting to congratulate them and offer them a blessing and a prayer.  Surely, their hearts must have overflowed with joy when Simeon, full of the Holy Spirit, (Lk 2:27) took the infant Jesus into his arms and declared that he was gazing upon the "light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” (Lk 2:32)

Though Mary and Joseph could not have understood completely what was happening to them or what their own role would be in God's plan to save the world, they knew that Simeon and Anna were filled with delight, and so were they. Glory for Israel and a light to the nations had been born to them.  And to us!

Today, be a light to those around you.

What about our faith brings you joy?

Monday, December 28, 2020

Recognizing Christ

 "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?

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Holy Innocents

 "Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another." Col 3:12

The Holy Family is sometimes held up as a model for all but for the wrong reasons. If we allow ourselves to idealize their life together as one of blissful peace and happiness, we cheat them and ourselves of finding in them a compass for our everyday lives. In fact, the scriptures offer evidence that Jesus regularly confused his parents. He stayed behind in Jerusalem without telling his parents, and initially refused to help the young couple at Cana, who because of poor planning, were running out of wine for their wedding. Mark's gospel goes further and suggests Jesus' family thought he was out of his mind. (3:21). Everything was not sweetness and light!

The Holy Family is important for contemporary Christians when we allow their experience as family to shape our attitudes towards one another and the world. When, as Paul reminds us, we put on compassion, kindness, humility and gentleness, especially towards people in our own families, we witness to the saving work of Christ in and for us and remind all that we are the Body of Christ.

Today, listen in your family twice as much as you speak.

What are the greatest challenges contemporary families face in living the Gospel?