Christmas Day (Year B) – Christmas during the day readings…

When my children were small, they would say something at some point on Christmas day that I recall saying each Christmas when I was a little child myself; I wish it was Christmas every day…of course, at the time, my motivation was a little different, thinking of presents and lights and Christmas dinner….and I remember my parents telling me that if it was Christmas every day, then Christmas wouldn’t be special…that if it was an every day thing, it would become boring and routine….

In the mid 1990’s I served a peacekeeping mission in Bosnia, in the former Yugoslavia, and was away from my family for six months. My wife Kathi shared with me, how for several weeks after my departure, whenever she would ask one of our children to help set the table for a meal, they always set one place too many…a place for me, as if I was still there. They got used to this difference over time though, and when I returned, for several weeks after, whenever one of them was asked to set the table, they set one place too few. The routine had become ordinary for them; unless we reminded them of my absence or return in an extraordinary way by telling them directly how many places to set, they continued with the new routine. I think we have all had experiences where we are so used to having things done a certain way, a routine, or having certain people around us, that we don’t quite appreciate them as much as we should perhaps, until they are no longer present to us. Having family return for visits, particularly at this time of year, reminds us of how much we enjoy their company and miss that company when they return to their own homes or schools or jobs.

Sometimes we need the extraordinary event to remind us of the wonderful things we have in our ordinary lives. So it is too during the time of Advent leading up to Christmas. Over the last four weeks we have heard passages of sacred scripture talking about the ‘old routine’ of humanity, of the chosen people, of Israel waiting for the Messiah – with terms like ‘stay awake’ or ‘living in darkness’ as if the ‘old routine’ was one of disconnect or ignorance of God…

Today we hear from the Gospel of St. John, the words of the gospel’s prologue; In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God All things came into being through Him, and without Him not one thing came into being’

Here we have God with us through all of our short history, and despite speaking directly through His prophets and His inspired Word, His chosen people – all of humanity really, got so used to Him being in the background, that they completely forgot about Him….that He was always present to them…….and so in the fullness of time, God directly intervenes again in human history, and is born among us, in the person of Jesus, as a baby in a manger at Bethlehem over 2000 years ago, or as this Gospel says,

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen His glory”

An extraordinary event to be sure…..but then aside from the shepherds that the angels announced the birth to in St. Luke’s Gospel, or the wise men who followed the star in St. Matthew’s Gospel, the birth of this child seems to have been largely ignored by everyone else…in their midst, a very ordinary event, and everyone in Palestine went about their day-to-day business.

The fact that the gospels tell us nothing of Jesus childhood and young adulthood, points to the ordinary-ness of His early life on earth – He lived in a home, with his family, learned his step-father’s trade, was obedient to his parents, made a living…His presence in the ordinary that would not be noticed unless people looked more closely at this child from Nazareth. In much the same way, we too, can go about our lives, our ordinary day-to-day existence without seeing Christ’s presence among us, unless we take the time to look more closely for Him in the events and people that surround us.

Why should we want to? Well, it speaks again to our understanding that from the very moment of our existence, our souls instinctively know that we are drawn to God, to the good, and that we can never be completely or truly happy until we are reunited with Him; and that was the whole reason for Christ being born among us as one of us; that in the person of Jesus, the Son, God was not content to sit in the background and wait for us to accomplish something we could never accomplish on our own; to return to union with Him; the Word who waited from the beginning, would no longer wait, but was born as one of us; into our ordinary existence in an extraordinary way.

We have spent weeks preparing for this day in a number of ways, as various and unique as people gathered here. For some it has been hectic, stressful – for others, a chance to consider faith and family – for still others a time to reflect over past joys or sorrows; yet in all these, the idea of preparing for the coming of the Lord, for Christmas, has been a part of our ‘routine’ now both in the sacred and secular worlds.

It is important for us, though, to remember that the acceptance of Christ coming among us as one of us, is not the end of a journey, or the culmination of all this preparation; really, it is a new beginning – a chance to renew our acquaintance with God in our midst in the person of Jesus Christ; a chance for a daily fresh start in the company and presence of this child of Bethlehem; today could be a start for some, a renewal for others; of considering our prayer lives, of receiving Christ in the Sacraments; of participating in the life of the Church. In January we will begin a program called Catholics Returning Home, and there will be further details of that in the bulletin.

We can either let Christ fade again into the background, as humans have done for centuries, or we can all use today as another start to bring Christ back into the foreground in our lives; to not let the fact that ‘the Word became flesh and lived among us and we have seen His glory,” become something we take for granted to the point of ignoring it, but something we celebrate and rejoice in and look to as a tremendous gift and source of joy that is given to each of us from God. It was St. Iranaeus who said; “The Word of God, Jesus Christ, because of His great love for us, became what we are, so that we may become what He is.” And just what is that? That is becoming a child of God, completely united with Him in all things, entering into His glory.

And as children, when we say I wish it was Christmas every day; when we seek and find Christ our Lord each day in our own homes, or relationships, or workplaces or schools, then we really have kept Christmas alive every day throughout the year. It is on this wonderful feast that we recall that extraordinary entry of God into our humanity – that we look to this extraordinary event to remind us that He is ever present with us, in our ordinary lives; that this extraordinary event becomes our ‘new’ ‘routine’. And it is in this new routine, that we will not forget to include Him, that we will remember to set a place for Him at the table of our hearts.

icon-christmas-religious

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

Christmas Day 2013

When my children were small, they would say something at some point on Christmas day that I recall saying each Christmas when I was a little child myself; I wish it was Christmas every day…of course, at the time, my motivation was a little different, thinking of presents and lights and Christmas dinner….and I remember my parents telling me that if it was Christmas every day, then Christmas wouldn’t be special…that if it was an every day thing, it would become boring and routine….

In the mid 1990’s I served a peacekeeping mission in Bosnia, in the former Yugoslavia, and was away from my family for six months.  My wife Kathi shared with me, how for several weeks after my departure, whenever she would ask one of our children to help set the table for a meal, they always set one place too many…a place for me, as if I was still there.  They got used to this difference over time though, and when I returned, for several weeks after, whenever one of them was asked to set the table, they set one place too few.  The routine had become ordinary for them; unless we reminded them of my absence or return in an extraordinary way by telling them directly how many places to set, they continued with the new routine.  I think we have all had experiences where we are so used to having things done a certain way, a routine, or having certain people around us, that we don’t quite appreciate them as much as we should perhaps, until they are no longer present to us.  Having family return for visits, particularly at this time of year, reminds us of how much we enjoy their company and miss that company when they return to their own homes or schools or jobs.

 

Sometimes we need the extraordinary event to remind us of the wonderful things we have in our ordinary lives.  So it is too during the time of Advent leading up to Christmas.  Over the last four weeks we have heard passages of sacred scripture talking about the ‘old routine’ of humanity, of the chosen people, of Israel waiting for the Messiah – with terms like ‘stay awake’ or ‘living in darkness’ as if the ‘old routine’ was one of disconnect or ignorance of God…

 

Today we hear from the Gospel of St. John, the words of the gospel’s prologue;  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God  All things came into being through Him, and without Him not one thing came into being’

Here we have God with us through all of our short history, and despite speaking directly through His prophets and His inspired Word, His chosen people – all of humanity really, got so used to Him being in the background, that they completely forgot about Him….that He was always present to them…….and so in the fullness of time, God directly intervenes again in human history, and is born among us, in the person of Jesus, as a baby in a manger at Bethlehem over 2000 years ago, or as this Gospel says,

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen His glory”

 

An extraordinary event to be sure…..but then aside from the shepherds that the angels announced the birth to in St. Luke’s Gospel, or the wise men who followed the star in St. Matthew’s Gospel, the birth of this child seems to have been largely ignored by everyone in Israel…in their midst, a very ordinary event, and everyone in Palestine went about their day-to-day business.

The fact that the gospels tell us nothing of Jesus childhood and young adulthood, points to the ordinary-ness of His early life on earth – He lived in a home, with his family, learned his step-father’s trade, was obedient to his parents, made a living…His presence in the ordinary that would not be noticed unless people looked more closely at this child from Nazareth. In much the same way, we too, can go about our lives, our ordinary day-to-day existence without seeing Christ’s presence among us, unless we take the time to look more closely for Him in the events and people that surround us. 

Why should we want to? Well, it speaks again to our understanding that from the very moment of our existence, our souls instinctively know that we are drawn to God, to the good, and that we can never be completely or truly happy until we are reunited with Him; and that was the whole reason for Christ being born among us as one of us; that in the person of Jesus, the Son, God was not content to sit in the background and wait for us to accomplish something we could never accomplish on our own; to return to union with Him;  the Word who waited from the beginning, would no longer wait, but was born as one of us; into our ordinary existence in an extraordinary way.

 

We have spent weeks preparing for this day in a number of ways, as various and unique as people gathered here.  For some it has been hectic, stressful – for others, a chance to consider faith and family – for still others a time to reflect over past joys or sorrows; yet in all these, the idea of preparing for the coming of the Lord, for Christmas, has been a part of our ‘routine’ now both in the sacred and secular worlds. 

It is important for us, though, to remember that the acceptance of Christ coming among us as one of us, is not the end of a journey, or the culmination of all this preparation;  really, it is a new beginning – a chance to renew our acquaintance with God in our midst in the person of Jesus Christ; a chance for a daily fresh start in the company and presence of this child of Bethlehem;  today could be a start for some, a renewal for others; of considering our prayer lives, of receiving Christ in the Sacraments; of participating in the life of the Church.  In January we will begin a program called Catholics Returning Home, and there will be further details of that in the bulletin.

We can either let Christ fade again into the background, as humans have done for centuries, or we can all use today as another start to bring Christ back into the foreground in our lives; to not let the fact that ‘the Word became flesh and lived among us and we have seen His glory,” become something we take for granted to the point of ignoring it, but something we celebrate and rejoice in and look to as a tremendous gift and source of joy that is given to each of us from God. It was St. Iranaeus who said; “The Word of God, Jesus Christ, because of His great love for us, became what we are, so that we may become what He is.”  And just what is that? That is becoming a child of God, completely united with Him in all things, entering into His glory.

 

And as children, when we say I wish it was Christmas every day; when we seek and find Christ our Lord each day in our own homes, or relationships, or workplaces or schools, then we really have kept Christmas alive every day throughout the year. It is on this wonderful feast that we recall that extraordinary entry of God into our humanity – that we look to this extraordinary event to remind us that He is ever present with us, in our ordinary lives;  that this extraordinary event becomes our ‘new’ ‘routine’.    And it is in this new routine, that we will not forget to include Him, that we will remember to set a place for Him at the table of our hearts.

Image

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

Mary Mother of God

Even though we are still in the season of Christmas within the Church, our secular society has already moved on – to New Year’s, marking an end of the ‘holiday season’.  And one of the longstanding secular traditions in our culture and many others, is to make ‘resolutions’ as we enter into a new year.

We might resolve to lose weight, eat healthier, to take up a new hobby.  Maybe to start or complete a project – to eliminate a bad habit or to adopt a good habit; but as Christians we need to seek and identify the motives for these resolutions.  If a resolution is solely for our own satisfaction or our own possessiveness, then held up in the light of the Gospels, it means nothing.

Whatever we resolve to do – no matter how well-intentioned we may think it is – if it is not somehow for the glory of God, for the love of God, if it is not a reflection of God – then it is value-less – meaningless.  To be closer in union with God; this is what each of us was ultimately born for; to seek out ways to respond to that call to ‘holiness’ – to wholeness in the One who loved us into existence that’s the reason each of us is alive.

We are called to be people who are deeply in love with God – perhaps even using the expression, ‘head over heels’ in love with and for God; if our resolution is to do something with our lives or our hearts that will bring us closer to, or help us become more open to the working and presence of God in our lives, then that is the standard as Christians, that we would judge whether our resolution has true value or whether it should even be pursued.

When we read today’s Gospel passage from St. Luke, which begins with the shepherds reporting what they have seen, and then departing the manger in Bethlehem after seeing Christ, they don’t proclaim anything wonderful about themselves having a privileged position in receiving angelic messages – it says they set off glorifying and praising God; they weren’t promoting themselves; they were proclaiming the great and wondrous thing that God had invited themto witness – the entrance of God into our humanity as one of us, in the person of Jesus.

And perhaps the best example of proclaiming the great and wondrous working of God in a human’s life is the Blessed Virgin Mary.  In fact, in this passage, the prayer posture of Mary is in the very centre, literally and figuratively.  When she hears what the shepherds tell everyone at the stable, unlike the others (whoever they may have been) she isn’t ‘amazed’.  It says, “Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.”

To ponder doesn’t mean to give a fleeting thought to something and then continue on to the next order of business.  To ponder is to go over and over the details of that which is revealed – to think about it yes, but to go even further; to move the details and the events from a mental ‘remembering’, to consideration and meditation in the heart; to seek the deeper meanings and to glory and revel in that which is revealed.

When we are deeply in love, we don’t simply give a fleeting thought to the one who is the object of our devotion; we ponder everything about them; we not only think of each detail of their physical appearance, but we consider and reflect and even meditate on everything about them, their likes and dislikes, their personality, sometimes even becoming overwhelmed and lost in that depth of emotion and affection that we have for the other.

Mary’s life, what little is recorded for us directly in the Gospels, is nothing less than a picture of that absolute devotion; that ‘head over heels’ love for God – completely surrendering her own life, will and desire to what God invited her into;  from the moment of her ‘fiat’  before the angel; ‘behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to your word,’ to this deep reflection on the witness of the shepherds , to her eventual surrender of her Son to fulfill God’s plan of salvation by his passion, death and resurrection; Mary becomes the model for each of us in a lived ‘love affair’ with God, holding nothing back from Him, always putting the Other ahead of her self.

The Church’s honouring her on this feast day, ‘Mary, Mother of God’, in truth says more about Jesus than it even says about Mary – and again, here we see the one in love putting her Beloved ahead of herself; if we repeat, as some would hold, that we should simply call her Mary, the mother of Jesus, then that presumes that Jesus was simply another created human being. (this was the essence of a heresy which was condemned by the early Church)

In calling Mary, “Mother of God” we emphasize the true nature of Jesus, that He is God – fully human and fully divine.  The fact that the Church Council promoted this title for Mary as doctrine in the 4th century at Ephesus, only speaks to the fact that this belief was held from the very earliest times of the Church.

This is not about worshipping Mary.

No, this feast is about paying Mary the respect and honour due to one who lived such a magnificent example for the rest of us to follow, in her complete and total surrender to God.

If this feast day is about worshipping anybody, it is about worshipping God who does such wondrous things in all of our lives, if only we take the time, like Mary to treasure and ponder these wondrous things in our own hearts.

Mary does not request that we pray to her to have her provide for us, for our intentions and petitions and needs; she requests that we invoke her aid as her children, and that like any loving mother she takes our needs and presents them to God who provides for us, on our behalf.  She takes our prayers to the God with whom she is so much in love, always praying that we too will be as open to being just as in love with God as she is.

Perhaps then, as we enter into a new year, we can begin with this simple resolution; that we can take time to ask Mary to pray for us, that like her we can open our hearts to the stirrings of love for our God, so that whatever we do, and wherever we do it – in word or action in the coming year – that we will do everything for the praise and glory of God.

stjoesolmoct16 013

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

Feast of the Holy Family

This Sunday we mark the feast of the Holy Family, in the midst of our Christmas celebrations; a time traditionally set aside in our culture for gathering of family – whether it be children away at college or universities returning home for the break, or grown children and grandchildren returning home for visits and meals and celebrations with parents and grandparents. And it is so important to celebrate these gatherings of family; to cherish these moments and raise them up as something very important in the lives of our families – particularly as the institutions of family and marriage have seen such an unprecedented attack over the past decade in our society. It is almost surreal to see how the commercial media celebrate the gathering of ‘family’ over the ‘holidays’, and at the same time downplays the traditional institutions of family as ‘outdated’ or ‘out of touch’ or unimportant.

But as Christians it is so important for us to celebrate the institution of the family. The Church refers to the family as ‘ecclesia in ecclesia’ or the ‘church within the Church’. This statement is not just a nice catch-phrase; it reflects a much deeper truth- that the very foundation of the corporate Body of Christ; the primary unit within the entire body of worship of all believers, is not the individual – but the family; that parents are indeed the first teachers of their children – not just in matters of social behaviour or motor skills – but in matters of faith; in the life of the Church. For parents, it is knowing that their example is the means by which their own children will measure their decisions in life –good or bad – as they continue to grow and develop.

It is important for us to know and celebrate this particular feast, because it reminds us that God chose the family unit as the means by which He would introduce Himself into human society and culture. God has a purpose in all things; had God wanted to, He could have picked any means by which He could have come into the world, and any way He could have participated in human life:
He chose the family.

This Gospel passage from St. Luke recounts one of the few insights we have into the life of Jesus as a child, and one of the few episodes recorded in the life of the Holy Family, the feast we celebrate this weekend.
But even for a brief incident, there is a lot of information that we can take from this; we know that Jesus, Mary and Joseph went each year to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover; they were devout Jews and actively practiced their faith. This tells us that as parents, Joseph and Mary transmitted the practice of their faith to Jesus; that as a family they participated regularly in the customs of their religion.

This passage also tells us that Jesus, Mary and Joseph were part of a larger family group, and that with family and friends they would travel to Jerusalem for these religious pilgrimages or observances; they traveled in a caravan….a single small family doesn’t travel by caravan – they would travel alone; a caravan was a much larger group; and because the Gospel tells us that when they left Jerusalem to travel back to Nazareth, Mary and Joseph thought Jesus was somewhere else in the caravan: maybe Mary thought Jesus was traveling with the men and Joseph in one group (which would have been traditional in a caravan – after all Jesus was 12 – the time when according to tradition, a boy became a man in the eyes of the Law ) perhaps Joseph thought Jesus was traveling with other children and the women with his mother Mary – perhaps both Mary and Joseph thought Jesus was traveling with another group of young people within the caravan:

Whatever the case, Jesus was not there: He had remained behind at the Temple, praying and speaking with the teachers and elders.

We read how it was one full day’s travel from Jerusalem that Jesus’ parents discover He is not in the caravan. They return to Jerusalem to look for Him. That’s two days.
They spend a day looking for Him and find Him in the Temple, discussing and questioning the elders, “and all that heard him were amazed.”
That’s the third day.
Any parent who has experienced a child missing, even for a few minutes, knows that absolute panic, that terrible icy feeling that goes straight to the heart! And the finding of that same child usually results in a whole rush of assorted emotions and feelings – joy, anger, relief – sometimes tears, laughter, stern words…
It’s easy to imagine what the feelings and response of Mary and Joseph would have been at the finding of the child Jesus in the Temple; the first words recorded in their greeting are, “Child, why have you treated us like this?”

But we don’t have to be parents to understand or appreciate the feeling of Jesus being lost to us. In our own faith lives, we sometimes can experience that loss…we look at the empty pews in our churches at other times of the year and wonder where some of the members of our own parish family are. Statistics state that there are 1.2 billion Catholics in the world, and most often we have to ask, in the public forum and in the decreased participation in public worship; ‘where are they?’ We have a culture that wants to deny the involvement of God in every aspect of our public life, and yet when we experience natural disasters or terrorist attacks or see widespread poverty or disease, the first question that this same culture asks is ‘where is God?’ “why didn’t God prevent this?” “why doesn’t God fix that?”

But like the Holy Family traveling from Jerusalem, it wasn’t that Jesus ‘left’ them – the caravan left Jesus behind.

God has always been and is always present: it is not God who leaves us or our culture behind: we are the ones who sometimes leave Him behind; in our lifestyles, our interactions with others, in the way we treat our own family members; even in our own prayer lives; and when we wish to find Him, to return to Him, to re-connect with that sense of His presence, where do we go?

For three days the parents of Jesus searched, and the last place they looked was the Temple. (no doubt if we were missing a teenager today, the last place we might look is in a church). The Temple – the heart of their traditional worship of God; the last place they look is the place where He is; all of their efforts in searching have been in vain; He’s been at the Temple – the heart of their faith – the whole time. Mary and Joseph, after three days, found Him in the Temple – in the house of His Father – in the house of God.

In those times when we have grown cold or confused or lost in our journey with Christ, where do we look for Him? Is the Church the first or last place we go? Do we return to the Temple of our faith, the Temple of our hearts? Do we have some idea where we might encounter Him or do we want Him to be where we want/expect/demand He meet us?

It is helpful for us in our own faith lives to realize that as a family unit, Jesus, Mary and Joseph experienced that whole range of emotions and challenges within their own culture and society that we experience in ours. They lived the ‘family experience’.

That’s why we can gather in confidence and ask for the intercession of the Holy Family for our own families; that through their prayers, God will watch over our own families, and grant them the graces necessary to draw them closer to Himself, and keep them in His love.
We pray too,that the members of our ‘extended’ family of faith, all the baptized, who have lost their sense of contact with Christ, will look for Him where He has been all along – in His Father’s house.

holy_family

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

Christmas

One of the things that is very common for many of us at this time of year is to recall past Christmas memories – gatherings, celebrations, maybe even specific gifts or a specific encounter with someone in particular. Sometimes these are funny, happy memories – sometimes serious – sometimes even a little sad. But it is in these memories that we can see how we have developed in our outlook, our attitude; maybe even in our understanding of Christmas or human behaviour.

At this time of year I often have a memory – a mental picture – of a Christmas from my early childhood; while we weren’t particularly well off; we certainly never thought of ourselves as ‘poor’; but there wasn’t a lot for extravagant gifts. But I clearly recall, as a little boy of four years old, seeing a package underneath a Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, wrapped in bright red foil with ribbons and reflecting the lights on the tree.

And the package had my name on it.

I had no idea what was inside that package, but I knew (as you can imagine a four year old would) that it was something wonderful.

We gather to celebrate in Word and Sacrament, especially tonight, the Incarnation- of God coming among us as one of us – of the Almighty entering into our frail existence – of Jesus being born into our humanity as one of us.
We celebrate the unfolding of salvation history in a most wonderful way; of the birth of our Saviour in Bethlehem some 2000 years ago, fulfilling a promise made from the beginning of human history by God; that even then, as humans separated themselves from God through our own actions, God had put into motion a divine plan to bring us back into relationship with Himself for eternity.

The problem with the unfolding of the plan, though, was not a flaw in the plan itself or its author; the problem was in human understanding and seeing the plan as it unfolded.

Throughout the history of the children of Israel, from the first covenant with Abraham, God used His prophets and His people to bring an understanding of Him to others.
Yet even His own chosen people often failed to grasp what it was God was saying to them, even as we do today.
The prophet Isaiah, some 500 years before the birth of Jesus, wrote of the coming Messiah, God’s anointed one; one who would lead not only Israel, but all people, for all time, and bring them back to friendship, to relationship with God; as we heard in our first reading ‘a people that walked in darkness have seen a great light’. That great light, the light of wisdom and understanding that what God wanted was not empires and tribute and sacrifices – he wanted freely returned love from His children; a relationship with His children; a return to what was intended from the beginning when He created us.

And yet, over human history, as God spoke through His prophets, somehow people came to believe that this chosen one, this Messiah was somehow supposed to be a great political ruler, or a military leader – one who would bring Israel from being a nation invaded by foreign powers to a free country, supreme over others. They put their own expectation on what God had promised. In a sense, they took the ultimate gift from God and not only put it in a ‘box’ of their own design; in so doing, they really put God in the ‘box’, and determined how God should behave and react and provide for them…and isn’t this something that we all occasionally do? Do we not all sometimes expect God to respond to our prayers in a certain way, or provide for us according to our own designs?
But as we learn over time, if we try to confine God, if we try to limit God or define how God should respond or provide for us, we are always presented with something unexpected.

And it was no different 2000 years ago. In fact, the birth of a child in Bethlehem in poverty was most certainly not the picture that the people had painted for themselves of the coming of the Messiah. They had already put God in a box; and truly what a surprise they received.

St. Luke’s Gospel tells us how the first to receive the wondrous news of this arrival of the Christ, of the Messiah, of the Son of God were shepherds. In Palestine, shepherds were not powerful people – in fact they were outcasts even among outcasts. They lived outside the cities and towns with their flocks, which meant they hardly had time to fulfill their obligations in the synagogues and temples; they were often ritually impure, and would have tended flocks alongside their pagan neighbours – and would have been looked down on by ‘righteous’ religious people as being no better than the pagans themselves. If one were expecting an event of great significance to be announced to the nation, shepherds would certainly have been the last ones that this news would have been given to first.

And yet, these are the ones that God sends His angels to announce the birth of Jesus; and the Gospel says they went ‘with haste’ to Bethlehem to see this wondrous thing that God had made known to them.

The truth is that God makes Himself known to us all the time. He is always near and is always sending His love and His messages and His care to us; the difficulty for us, as it was for the children of Israel; is that often we are not open to seeing Him where He truly is; in the difficult co-worker; in the demanding child; in the grieving and the lonely; the impoverished or the imprisoned; in the broken and the lost.

He is there – He is always there.

We need only to be open to Him – to receiving Him and to accepting Him in whatever ‘packaging’ He has presented Himself to us.

And whenever we are open to receiving Him as He is, and where He is, He will make Himself known to us;

And just like that little boy looking at that shiny present under the tree so many Christmases ago, there is a package with each of our names on it: we may not know exactly what is in that package before it is opened.
But we do know that when it is opened, it will be something wonderful.

Pantokrator_of_Sinai

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

…although he believes he can’t quite understand…

A few years ago I made the foray into actually recording and performing my own music; there was a flurry of activity, mostly taken up in the very early hours with tune after tune, and theme after theme pouring out: that this occurred immediately after a very powerful retreat was certainly not coincidental.
Among the songs, though, and one of my favourites (which I tend not to have concerning my own music) is a song about the birth of Jesus from the perspective of St. Joseph. There are loads of songs about the infant Jesus (which is of course proper, because it is, after all His birth we celebrate), and lots of songs about the Blessed Virgin Mary (which is also proper – and reflective of the natural desire to want to visit with a newborn babe and their mom; dads sometimes get lost in the shuffle), but not so many about St. Joseph.

I was present at the births of all of my children, and I have to say, I have never felt so useless in all my life; it’s the guy thing to want to fix and heal, to repair and guide and ‘make everything all right’; but during those moments, all I could do was hold hands, speak words of encouragement, and watch and wait. It was at the same time the most wondrous and the most humbling experience of my life.
I cannot completely imagine how those two spiritual gifts – wonder and humility – would have combined for St. Joseph so long ago…but this song gives my limited thoughts on that. (the images are a combination of classical and more modern art)

Praised be Jesus Christ now and forever!