Christmas comes too slowly and goes too quickly. The time for preparation never quite seems to be enough, last minute to do things pile up, some never to be done. The day comes. Gifts are exchanged. Meals are eaten. The things of Christmas are accomplished. At night we, hopefully, look back over a happy day but are aware that for most tomorrow will mean going back to the ordinary things of life. Christmas becomes a happy memory to be clouded as the days of the new year pass by. The" twelve days of Christmas", from Dec. 25 to Jan. 7 is the liturgical way of deepening Christmas so that it does not recede into some not often used part of our memory banks. Please dc not take exception to the use of the singular "is". This was dont quite deliberately because the "twelve days" should be looked at a; a unit. Because of the transfer of the Feast of Epiphany to thi nearest Sunday "the twelve days" is often made shorter. In the yea 2000 we only have eight days. The readings from the feast of th Epiphany, Jan 2, to the feast of the Baptism of the Lord take on little different focus. As we go through the days we will find many teaching: The one which surprises us is the almost daily appearance of the Cross in one form or another. It appears either explicitly or ; times hidden , but it is always present, a paradox, certainly. The joy of Christmas seems to be mixed with the sadness of Good Friday. Are we being told not to celebrate too much because the story is not over? Should our celebration of Dec. 25 be tempered I what the future holds? There certainly may be that reaction. However, the liturgy is telling us something different. Instead of toning down the cel bration it is asking us to celebrate more jubilantly. By entering into the mystery we find that the peace, joy all the promises of Christmas are brought about by the mystery of the Cross. Perhaps I could state it this way: Christmas is the day of promise, both promised fulfilled and promise made, and the Paschal Mystery, His death and resurrection are the fulfillment of this promise. Therefore, as in so many other aspects of our faith, we must always look for the absolutely amazing reversals that take place.
Dec. 26...the second day of Christmas...the joy of Christmas is over, in sharp contrast to the time after Easter during which the liturgy rings out with the joy of the day...the time after Christmas is pervaded with the Cross. The joyful prophecies of the Old Testament are done... they give way to fulfillment but fulfillment in a most surprising way. Christmas is fulfilled in Easter as a matter of fact they may even be looked at as one feast. We are reminded that the wood of the manger points to the wood of the Cross.
Dec. 27, THE FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY OF JESUS, MARY AND JOSEPH.
Dec. 28, The Feast of the Holy Innocents...there is something within us that cries out when we see a child subjected to suffering...innocence is defiled, the trust which children have towards those who are older is betrayed, the defenseless are attacked. The world is filled with the holy innocents...they can be found in the train stations of Calcutta, the barrios of South America, the streets of New York and in the wombs of mothers contemplating abortion. The holy innocents are found in the sweatshops of Mexico, China, and Thailand....the gift of youth is stolen in many ways...
Dec. 29...the fifth day of Christmas...light and darkness are so much a part of our lives. There is a flow that is unavoidable...it goes from the joy which Simeon sung out at first to the darknes "your heart a sword shall pierce"...the mixture of joy and sadr of moments of great light and times of darkness...are we put in position of being afraid to be happy because we are afraid of sadness to come, are we fearful of those moments of great light cause the noon day sun will give way to the twilight of half 1 and half night. This flow of light and dark is not just a series of event our lives, disconnected from one another but really find their fying force in the one true light who covers all the moments of lives. It is the light of Christ which permits us to see in those ti of joy His joy and in the times of darkness His cross.
Dec. 30....thanks giving, praise permeate the Gospel., fulfillment of the promise... she can not contain herse fulfillments are so evasive...we set conditions and miss the • God answers because His conditions are not ours...she could se the unexpected the promise fulfilled, she could put aside her c ditions and be surprised by the workings of God...perhaps the c was not what she expected but the child was the way God had c sen to answer...surprise brings forth thanks and joy...surprise plodes into a spontaneous reaction to the wonders of God...wit? surprise the tenure of life looses so much excitement....
Dec. 31....the absolutely amazing fact that God bee; flesh is once again brought to our attention...this time with a 1 different emphasis...it is not simply the proclamation of the b but it is also the reminder that He is with us...has been with us will be with us...it is an invitation to accept that other coming Jesus the one of faith...it lies as a bridge between the having cc and the will come...it is an announcement that we are to live having come looking forward to the will come...it is the announcement that the light of Christmas never goes out...
Jan. 1 Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God...she was chosen from all eternity to be Mother and in time, on a certain day, in given place she said yes...she had been prepared for this great moment; the "highly favored daughter" placed herself in eternity, forgetting her own plans, desires and for a brief time saw who she was at the deepest recesses of her heart...her dignity and the dignity of all is found in that part of who we are that says we are all part of God's plan for the salvation of the world. Mary said yes and became mother before she became the physical mother...she brought the Lord into the world through her saying " yes" more than the physical birth...she brought the Lord into the world by saying yes to the will of God...we do not celebrate physical motherhood as much as we do that spiritual motherhood...we celebrate also the amazing fact that we through our living the will of God bring Jesus into the world and in that sense we share in the motherhood of Mary.
Jan.3 The Feast of Epiphany
The Weekdays Between Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord...
Jan..4 (Mt.4:12-17,23,25)...The kingdom is one of compassion. It acknowledges the most basic of human needs, hunger. So often Gospel has been disassociated from daily life. It's preaching so important that people have been lost sight of. Today's Gospel teaches us a very important lesson: it is often times in paying attention to the ordinary things of life that the Gospel is really preached.
Jan.5 (Mt 6:34-44) ... The ordinary things have within them mysteries which we should be sensitive to. The multiplication the loaves looked beyond that time and place. It looked to death and resurrection. It looked to the time when His body would be transformed and no longer limited by physical laws. In taking:care of the ordinary things He was pointing to the extra-ordinary; things . In the extra ordinary physical he was announcing the ex ordinary supernatural. They were surprised because they did not understand what He was trying to teach them. They were surprised; because they were still so materialistic that they could not see i symbols, which He worked.
Jan.6 (Mrk.6:45-52)…. this scene seems so friendly. It will soon turn to rejection. Why is it that good things are so hard to accept. We can build up conditions on how God is to act. This was a m who grew up in their midst, He was the boy who would come the same synagogue to take his lessons. They knew His mot! and father. Perhaps some of them even had business dealings w him. It could not be him. The anointed one had to come from a place they did not know, had to be someone exceptional. They forgot that the way God works is not the way we work. The people we meet sometimes are the messengers of God for us Just because we know them does not mean that they do not have a place in God's plan for us. Sensitivity is such an important virtue It is so easy to become jaded. We must always keep people fresh so that we can hear the messages of God, which they may have for us.
Adventis not only a time it is also a way of life. Advent is looking forward to the coming of the Lord, a time, hopefully, that many use in spiritual preparation. Extra time in prayer, reading the scripture meditations, doing some act of service in other words living our Christian lives in a more intense manner. It becomes a way of life when we preparefor the Second Coming of the Lord. We try in our own small ways to make the world ready for His coming.
HEALTH REFORM.....click on: www.usccb.org/news/ gives a very comprehensive view of the Bishops position. The abortion component is very important at the same time the Bishops are concerned over other areas e.g. immigrants, working poor. Good way to be informed on this very important legislation.
MONDAY OF THE THIRD WEEK OF ADVENT (Matt.21-23-27) "the comfort zone" was severely challenged. They wanted it both ways, and were apparently getting it until they were challenged. The Lord asked a question, which forced them to answer. Their silence indicted them. Living contradictions is such an easy mode in which to enter. It is often not done deliberately, nor with malice. Most of the time it becomes a way of acting that we have adopted. We say one thing, do another. We take a set of values but make decisions according to a contradictory set. The Lord is- asking us to decide. The split, which seems to exist within us, is something He wants to heal. He wants the contradictions to be healed, so that we may truly become one person.
TUESDAY OF THE THIRD WEEK OF ADVENT (Matt.21: 28-32) The call to conversion comes again. How often we have been invited to change, and just as often have not seen or responded to the invitation. People who should be attentive to the call seem to miss it while those whom one would not expect hear it. There seems to be a complacency, which sets into the lives of "good people." Things are alright, why change. The others feel the pangs of incompleteness. Their hunger pushes them on. This could be the message: are we so afraid to be hungry that we fill ourselves up with other things without searching for the one thing, God.
WEDNESDAY OF THE THIRD WEEK OF ADVENT (Luke 7:18-23) The answer is the same today as it was two thousand years ago. Works of justice proclaim that the Lord has come. Announcing the Gospel makes Him present to the age. It will always be the Church's mission to stand against the world and answer: Look what we do; this is the proof that the Lord has come. This is a big responsibility, one under which we sometimes fall. They were looking for the Messiah, so is the world. Unfortunately, they answer the question with money, power, and prestige. We are constantly being asked to hear the correct voice; to break through the static of the other voices, and to follow the Lord.
THURSDAY OF THE THIRD WEEK OF ADVENT(Luke 7:24-30) God has a dream for us. We are reminded negatively of this in the last words of today's Gospel: they defeated God's plan in their regard. The dream, which God has, is really quite simple: that we live in His love and that we follow the Lord. To live this dream means that we have to let go of things and to grab onto new things. This takes courage. A false sense of security can stop us. This was probably the fault of the Pharisees and lawyers, they did not want to, or, perhaps, they could not see, the need for letting go. There was nothing beyond what they already had. They were simply afraid to dream with God.
FRIDAY OF THE THIRD WEEK OF ADVENT (Jn.5:33-36) Advent is a time for us to check our spiritual eyeglasses. The words of the Lord in the Gospel: these very works, which I perform, testify on my behalf... .remind us of how important it i see. St. Paul reminds us that faith and sight are synonymous, cause we believe we can see the things of God, we are given eyeglasses. Sometimes they get cloudy. The dust of everyday prevents us from seeing the way we should. As scripture says: see but really do not see. Advent is such a great time to clean glasses off so that we come into contact with the wonderful we of the Lord.
WEEKDAYS OF ADVENT DECEMBER 17 TO DECEMBER 24 Advent is coming to a close. The readings from December 17 to December 24 will focus on the Birth of Jesus. The readings asking us to reflect deeply on who Jesus is.
DECEMBER 17 (Matt. 1:1-17) The genealogy of Jesus as gi> by Matthew may be boring to listen. There is a beauty hidden 1 neath the long list of names. Its beauty lies in placing Jesus firn inside the human race. He has a human history. Like all of us I history is filled with people. Some of these people were not e actly models of virtue. It is encouraging to realize that Jesus h skeletons in his closet.
There is a reminder, very subtle, that indeed God did become o like us. He did not simply "drop out of the sky" but can be p pointed in our history. His history is also a fulfillment history. T genealogy reminds us also that in Jesus all the promises of the 0 Testament have been fulfilled.
DECEMBER 18 (Matt.l: 18-24) The place of humans in the pi; of God can never be forgotten. Joseph gives us an example < color="#660000">
DECEMBER 19 (Luke 1:5-25) The circle has to be closed. The new and the old have to meet, and in meeting the new begins. John the Baptizer is the last of the old and the first of the new. He is the bridge. He will announce the Lord, he will prepare the way in the desert, he will call people to look to God.
John is also a symbol, a reminder. He reminds us that we all come into contact with people who will announce, prepare and call us to the Lord. All those people whom we have met along the path of life who have brought us a deeper awareness of God, teachers, parents, people who we have just casually met, make John present to us. The voice of the one crying in the desert still resounds in the desert of our hearts. As we approach the celebration of the Nativity it would be good for us to remember in a special way all those who were instruments in bringing the Lord alive in us.
DECEMBER 20 (Luke 1:26-38) Mary makes her appearance in the drama. She will take a prominent role and through her we will be able to come to a deeper understanding of who her Son is. In the Annunciation that she will be the Mother of the Messiah, and in her " Behold the handmaid of the Lord" Mary accepts her place in the divine plan of our salvation.
She knew it was the decisive moment. She knew that everyone in some way had a place in the salvation of the world. She grasped the fact that our lives are not just a certain number of years, but have place in the plan of God. Perhaps this is the real dignity of being human. Perhaps inside the Christmas message this is the truth that Mary's "yes" wants to say to us. Life is important. Its importance lies in its intimate connection with the salvation of people.
DECEMBER 21(Luke 1:39-45) The beginning and the end had to meet. The announcer and the announced had to come together. It was the time of fulfillment. These two women, blessed by God and trusting in His promises to them, are brought together to praise the wonders of God in their lives. The entire scene resounds with joy. Elizabeth overcome with the fact that the Mother of the Lord should come to her, John leaping in the womb, an Old Testament symbol. Mary joyful in bringing her Baby to her cousin. The basis for the joy is recognition. Elizabeth recognizes Mary as the Mother, John recognizes Jesus has his Lord, Mary recognizes the importance of her role. We can recognize things on various levels. To recognize events on the level of faith brings us the meeting with the Lord.
DECEMBER 22(Luke 1:46-56) Mary as the pray-er of the Church. Her beautiful prayer rings throughout the centuries. It is the model of prayer. We see in it hope, thanksgiving, praise. The Magnificat is that glorious hymn to God, which will never stop. Mary prays it not only as herself, but as the entire people of God. All the verses of the Old Testament, which go to make up this beautiful prayer, tell us of the people who trusted in God, who had nothing else but God. She incorporates all of these so that she becomes the virgin made Church. She is the poor people of God constantly standing before the throne of her Son praising, thanking and being ever hopeful.
DECEMBER 23 (Luke 1:57-66) Joy continues in the readings. It is the Gospel bursting forth in joy. The merciful acts of God in the lives of people in the face of human impossibility demands a response of joy. This could perhaps be the fundamental reason for Christmas joy, in human terms it should never have happened. God should not have become man, a virgin should not have conceived, an old woman should not have conceived a child in her old age. We are confronted with the overpowering marvelous, surprising mercy of God. We are stripped of all the things the world says should make us happy and are left with this. The loving mercy of God not because of anything we did to deserve it but simply because He loved us.
DECEMBER 24 (morning Mass; Luke 1:67-79) The themes of Christmas ring throughout this prayer of Zechariah. Perhaps there is one motif of Christmas, which escapes us. Amazement. This could possibly be one of the great virtues and at the same time one of which we are afraid. Amazement means that something happens beyond the ordinary limits of experience. But it also means that we have to have the courage to be amazed. To be amazed at the wonderful things God does means that all the safe, predictable categories are done away with. To be amazed means that we stand in the presence of God speechless, with our mouths agape. To be amazed means that we are not in control and have placed ourselves in the realm of God. Perhaps we become jaded overpowered with material things to such an extent that we can no longer feel the joy of being amazed.
Our Advent journey continues. Hopefully you are making a little time to reflect on the coming of the Lord. So many distractions, conflict of priorities, so many things to get done. It seems that we should stop every now and then and ask ourselves the very simple question: why? A good way of stopping is to read the little meditations at the end. It only takes a minute, even less. We have been showing some of the ministries of Holy Name Province. this week we feature St. Francis Urban Outreach Center. To get to the Urban Center click here: http://stfrancisinn.org then go to ministries. Below are the two links I gave you last week. well worth reviewing. lClick here: http://www.franciscanvolunteerministry.org/ and: http://www.vocation.org/
Who do you same I am? A very important question posed by Christ to His disciples. The same question comes down through the centuries addressed to all people. It is a question which everyone, in one way or another, has answered. The gospels for the second week speek very powerfully to me as to an answer to this question. There is no particular order in which these images come. Nor are they a complete portrait of the Lord. They are ways in which He relates to His Father and to us.
Mon.2nd Week of Advent (Luke 5:17-26)....Why did Jesus come? To confront and overcome the power of evil in the world. He usually demonstrates this mission by the working of miracles. Today’s Gospel bring us to a vivid picture of this mission. He tells us that the physical miracles are only signs of the greater miracle which He performs, the forgiveness of our sins. Christ is the one who stands before all the power of sin, and says:you have been defeated. He stands before sin itself and says to the sinner: you are forgive, He stands before the effects of sin, sickness,death and says: you are healed. He brings together in Himself the two meanings of the “Son of Man”...the meaning of one who is the sufferer under the weight of human nature(Ezech.2) the other the one who comes in glory(Dan.7) We have in this name which only Jesus applies to Himself and summation of the mission of the Lord. He is the suffering servant, the one who will take our sins upon Himself, but at the same time He is the glorious one. As Jesus walked the earth they both were part of His being...the death-life cycle. Our identification with the Lord also brings us into contact with this term “Son of Man”. We all feel the sinfulness of our human nature..the weakness of who we are. At the same, though, we have to remember that other person within us..the one who is to be born from this suffering, the Son of Man of Daniel. The image of Christ as the suffering one and at the same time the glorious one reminds us who we are...in suffering we come to life..in dying we find that new person within us.
Tues,2nd Week of Advent (Matt.18:12-14)....What is the love of Christ for us? If we say that love is seeing the other, than perfect love is perfectly seeing the other. In today’s Gospel, we see an example of Jesus seeing the lost sheep. The question which arises for me is what is the relationship between the one and the ninety-nine? It is easy to focus so much on the lost sheep that we forget about the others. I would offer as a possibility in thinking of the love of Christ, that the one which he goes after is a symbol of the other ninety-nine . How much he cares, how much he “sees”. The lost sheep is a parable in a sense not of the one but of the many. Christ is telling us that he never sees the forest (the ninety-nine) but only the individual trees (the one). This is love. In one sense, then, the center of this story is the relationship which Jesus has to all of us . However, we must also remember that it is a call to conversion. The ninety-nine in looking at the one are reminded of all the times they have strayed away. They see Jesus carrying the lamb back to the fold and recall all the times they have been carried. They see the warm tender concern of Jesus and remember the times the same tenderness was felt in their lives. They see the lamb coming back and feel within themselves the invitation to a deeper “coming back”, conversion within themselves. We see the heart of Christ full of love, He sees us perfectly, and calls us always back to Himself.
(Feast of the Immaculate Conception..Gospel:Luke 1:29-38) Wed.2nd Week Advent (Matt.11:28-30)… the Sermon on the Mount, especially the first few beatitudes ring out in today’s Gospel. “I am gentle and humble of heart” are the same words we find in the first and third Beatitudes. Jesus is identifying Himself with the poor, with the people of the Beatitudes. Perhaps it is not too much of a leap to say that in the Beatitudes Jesus is not giving commands but rather telling us how He relates to the Father and in this passage He invites us “come to me” to relate in the same way. Our points of identification with Jesus are increased. Increased to such an extent that He asks us to share that same love relationship with the Father which He has. “Come to me” for me implies this life sharing. In sharing this life we are lifted to a new level of being, a new definition of who we are comes into play. I do not think, quite obviously, that “coming to the lord” is in some way going to take the cares and burdens of life off our shoulders...sometimes the very opposite is the case. The closer we get to the Lord the more, it seems, we are asked to share in the totality of who He is, both the Son of Man of Ezechiel and of Daniel. But what this refreshment does mean is that we see in living life a living of the beatitudes and that the things of life instead of drying up the zest to live are looked at as the very way we do live . Once again we are faced with the great paradox of Christianity..life-death, sadness-joy, burdens-freedom,dryness-refreshment.....this Gospel has always reminded me of the Jesus who has the greatest knack in the world for turning things upside down and inside out .
Thurs.2nd Week Advent (Matt.11:11-15)....The finger which points to a beautiful flower is important. Without it ,possibly, we would never have noticed the flower. But once we see the flower while being thankful for it having been pointed out to us the finger is soon forgotten...we are caught up in the beauty of flower. John the Baptist is the finger , the Lord is the flower. We are born into the Lord who is the kingdom incarnated. Once we are in Christ, just like when we see the flower, we get caught up in that to which the finger pointed us. Christ is telling us that He and the message which is an explanation of who He is is the central thing. Violence makes an appearance. How strange to run into “violence” at such a point in the gospel story. Yet so important. We live in a very violent world. The newspapers are filled with stories of violence. What does Jesus mean, The Prince of Peace talking about violence. There seem to be two meanings in the Gospel. the first has to do with those who would destroy the kingdom..”the kingdom has suffered violence” persecution. But this violence is met with another type...the violence of patient endurance. It is not the violence of arms, quite the contrary. It is the violence of looking within ourselves and seeing the enemy within who would take the Kingdom from us...our own weakness. To attack this weakness with force and not to just sit back. To take the kingdom by force means the ongoing process of conversion...this patient endurance of growing in the Lord. It is not the violence of hurting people but it is the violence we have to do to ourselves. It consists in the dying to self . It also means the active searching for the Kingdom no matter where it leads us. sometimes this road is not easy, sometimes it is violent.
Fri.2nd Week of Advent (Matt.11:16-19)… Christ the obedient servant of His Father.....How could I extract this image of Jesus from today’s Gospel? The example which Jesus gives us is the clue. The children playing were not listening to their leaders....When I read this Gospel I am reminded of is a child ng in the middle of the room just saying “no” to anything and everything which his parents say. Every request made implied some sort of a change: eat this!No(change from not wanting) do this!No(something else I want to do).....today’s Gospel is about a willingness to change and this willingness is the center of obedience. The ordinary way we speak about people:not obedient. We usually use that term in reference to children but when we analyze it the same syndrome is operative in adults. Because we do not want to change we do not listen....and listening, in the responsive way, is what obedience is all about. I compared those children to Jesus. He listened to his father, He was willing to change. Just think of the change He made, from the one sitting on the throne as the Alpha and Omega, and He changed into the servant. How many of us would be willing to change to that degree. I often wondered whether Jesus was thinking of His own relationship to the Father when He used this example. In pointing out their unbelief was he comparing it to His obedience, in showing their lack of commitment and willingness to change to something higher was He reminding us of how much He changed because He loves us ?
Sat.2ndWeek (Matt.17:10-13)….”Son of Man” anchors the week. Jesus compares the death of John to His own death. He will be treated in the same way as His precursor was. If they could not accept John,the Elijah, they will not be able to accept him. If John was looked upon as a “bother” to the conscience of people so to would He be a “bother” and undergo the same treatment. He draws such a vivid connection between Himself and John that their fates become the same. Who are the Baptists that I have killed in my own life and as a result have is a spiritual sense killed the Christ who wanted to be born within me. Bothersome little things which I cast aside as unimportant or just too busy to do....ideas which flit across the periphery of my mind which are not captured or pondered upon. Many years ago a priest I know was taking an after lunch walk when he met a couple of parishioner . They chatted for a while. As they were about to say their good byes one of the parishioners said that she had seen some homeless people in a neighborhood park and wondered if the Church could do anything about helping them. My friend, as he related to me later, answered “yes” without thinking.Once committed he went about getting things organized.....within a short period of time from that chance(?) encounter the Church was feeding over 300 people a day. He told me later that if had to think about it he never would have done it...just to much bother. I learned from that the bothersome things are not really that bad at all and the birth of Jesus which they bring about is certainly worth it. The Son of Man still sends His Elijahs into our lives and asks us to listen .
It really is about time I got to do this profile. Because of the nature of the animal there are going to be a lot of "I" please excuse. I was born in NYC many years ago. I entered the Franciscan Order, Holy Name Province, in July 1960.ordained a Franciscan Priest in 1966. Shortly after Ordination I was sent to Japan where I spent the next glorious 28 years working as missionary.
In 1994 I went to India to work with lepers, Unfortunately, I got sick and had to cut my stay short.The next stop was the Holy Land. Two more very happy years. Finally, after 30 years out of the country I returned to the States. My first posting was to a Chapel in a shopping mall outside of Albany NY. In my spare time I worked with the fillipino Community in Albany and also with the collegiates at Siena College. In 2002 I was transferred to St.Francis Inn, a soup kitchen run by the Franciscans of the NY Province.