This last week (day!) of Advent, we focus on love. Love. The one
thing that as Christians, is our true focus and main purpose. Love
made manifest for all, living and breathing in the person of
the Child Jesus.
A Merry and Blessed Christmas to you!
"The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and
the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”
Overshadow. The Greek word “episkiazó”
means just that: to cast a shadow over something. When we think of
shadows, we tend to think of darkness or something ominous,
something hidden that might jump out and scare us or worse! But in
Scripture, it is the overshadowing cloud that leads the Israelites
from Egypt to the Promised Land, that encircles the tent of the Ark
of the Covenant,
that envelopes Jesus and the disciples at the Transfiguration. It
signifies God’s presence, power, and protection. It represents the
mystery that, like Mary, we are called to accept in faith. “Never
fear shadows. They simply mean there's a light shining
somewhere nearby.” (Ruth Renkel)
Today’s Provision—Be Fearless in Faith:
Fearless, as I am using it here, represents our
modern interpretation of the word. In the biblical definition,
perhaps we would have to say “Be Fearful in Faith!” Be overshadowed
by the awesomeness of God! Allow your “fear” of the Lord to make you
fearless! That is exactly what Mary does. She is bold and
unafraid to declare, “Yes, I am the handmaid of the Lord” and to
accept all that statement entails. Meek and mild Mary, the first
disciple, is our awe-filled, fearless model of faith.
December 25, Christmas Day:
The angel of the Lord appeared in a dream and said,
"Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into
your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit this child has been
conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins."
When my daughter was young, she had a special
fondness for St. Joseph. She always thought he didn’t get enough
credit, with all the focus being on Mary and Jesus instead. I guess,
as the younger sibling, she was particularly aware of second
billing! Indeed, after the story of Jesus being lost in the Temple,
we hear nothing of Joseph again, other than an occasional reference
to Jesus as his son. But Joseph’s unspoken declaration of faith
shown by his actions: “I am the servant of the Lord. I will do what
is asked of me,” are, like Mary’s, seminal statements of faith
despite doubt and confusion. Let us celebrate Joseph in a special
way this Christmas by praying for all those that have supported our
faith journey by their quiet, humble presence in our lives.
Provision—“Joseph’s Canticle: ‘To Be God’s Father Here’”
words by Roy Tolentino, music and arrangement by
(performed by Bukas Palad, a Catholic Filipino music ministry.
(REF) Glory to the Lord! God's name be praised,
for You chose to save Your servant's heart from fear. Dream in me, O
Lord, grant me the grace to be God's father here. (I) Open
my heart, which by Your Spirit stirred receives the Holy Word: the
promise my bride has heard. We hope and trust, surrender to Your
plan: You've sent the Son of Man. Salvation is at hand! (II)
Lend me Your love, to raise Him as my own,
provide Him with a home, where justice and peace are known. God from
above becomes Emmanuel: Our restlessness dispel! In God, teach us to
dwell. Hallelujah! Praise the Son! Hallelujah! Holy One! Hallelujah!
Child most dear, I'll be Your father here.
“I will rejoice and be glad because of your
mercy.” (Ps 31)
Today is St. Stephen’s Day in several Christian
traditions. I sometimes wonder why the Church chose to put the story
of the first martyr for Christ on the day after Christmas. Couldn’t
we have something a bit more cheery? The angels and shepherds have
hardly exited the stage before we hear the story of a young man
being stoned to death. The readings today have to do with the more
difficult ramifications of choosing to embrace the Christ Child, but
they also point to the real reason God came to dwell among us in the
first place: Mercy.
in God’s Mercy:
easy to rejoice in God’s mercy when we imagine the little baby
Jesus, newly born, innocent, and gentle. But it’s very difficult to
even see God’s presence, much less mercy, when we visualize someone
being stoned to death. And, how about when we realize the Jewish
leader sanctioning the murder—Saul-will
soon also be a recipient of not only God’s mercy, but his mission as
well. We rejoice because God’s mercy is for all who seek it. How can
we best express our appreciation for God’s mercy to us? By being
Wednesday, December 27:
the life was made visible…what we have seen and heard we proclaim
now to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us…We are
writing this so that our joy may be complete.”
(1 Jn 1: 1-4)
I totally understand what John says here, of joy
being made complete through writing about what we have seen and
heard. I am blessed to share the life made visible to me with you
each week. But it’s not about one person’s joy. It’s about
fellowship. It’s about community. It’s about building relationships
in Christ with people we may never even meet. It is the essence of
Christianity and the hallmark of this season: shared joy.
When we think of joy, perhaps it’s the squeals of excited children
on Christmas morning. Heartwarming yes, but if it’s the only source
of our joy, we (and our kids) are really missing out. Here we are,
two days after Christmas, and the novelty of new toys and clothes
may have already worn off. Joy about material things doesn’t last
very long. But the joy of our Savior’s birth never gets old. Let’s
commit this coming year to keep the Christmas spirit alive all
year. Share your joy for all to see.
Thursday, December 28:
Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became
furious and ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and
its vicinity two years old and under
(Mt 2: 13-18)
the Church recognizes the Feast of the Holy Innocents. Matthew tells
of Herod’s despicable act. It’s such a distasteful story, we may be
tempted to ignore it. Just like the stories that are commonplace in
the news: hundreds of thousands of children all over the world dying
of starvation; tens of thousands of poor children sold to work as
prostitutes and slaves; almost 1,300 children killed each year by
gun violence in the US. These are stories of despicable acts.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “The test of the morality of a society
is what it does for its children.” Conversely then, the
indictment of society is found in what it does to its
Today’s provision—Save the Children:
This is a reality in our world. We are disgusted and
dismayed when we hear of children robbed of their innocence and
their very lives. We might be tempted to think there is not much we
can do. And that is precisely why Herod’s slaughter continues.
Research local programs to reach out to kids in your area—every
county, state, and country has children in need. Contribute to
charities whose track records show a strong commitment to child
health and welfare. Don’t be afraid to speak out against violence.
Work to better the lives of parents trying to improve life for their
children. And pray, pray, pray, not just for the unborn, but for
those living every day under the specter of death. Let’s start
focusing on our collective future instead of on just our own.
Friday, December 29:
claims to abide in him ought to walk just as he walked…
Whoever says he is in the light, yet hates his
brother, is still in the darkness…Whoever hates his brother walks in
Hate is a strong word we hear a lot these days. There
are people out there preaching hate, pretending to represent God or
calling themselves Christians, or deeming their own countries to be
the altar at which they worship. John tells us if we claim to abide
in Jesus, we should walk just as he walked. How did Jesus walk? He
walked, and still walks, in love. You cannot love Christ and hate
another. Period. Hate is darkness, hate is fear, and the God of love
banishes all fear. I find it oddly amusing: we also hear a lot these
days about keeping Christ in Christmas, but I think we should be
far, far more concerned about keeping Christ in Christian.
Today’s Provision—Walk in Love:
It’s easy to understand, but can be difficult to
achieve. We encounter lots of potholes, roadblocks, and detours
along the way, so it’s imperative we keep attuned to love. Each
morning, make a conscious commitment to walk in the love that day.
Take time out of your daily journey to assess your progress.
Saturday, December 30:
When they had fulfilled all the
prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee,
to their own town of Nazareth.
the hoopla is over. Mary and Joseph get to Bethlehem just in time to
fulfill the government’s requirement of registering. Their baby is
born--not in the most ideal circumstances--but he is healthy and
strong. They go to the temple in Jerusalem on the proscribed day to
offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving required by their faith. They
have named him Yeshua as per the instruction of the angel Gabriel.
By the time they get back to Nazareth, they have traveled about 160
miles. They must be just exhausted, but all the boxes on the to-do
list are checked and they settle into a normal, quieter routine with
God in their midst--just like we are called to do as this blessed,
but busy season of Christmas winds down.
Today’s Provision—Relax and Reflect:
As I write this (a week before Christmas), I hope you and I are
heeding this advice and taking some quiet time to reflect on God’s
abiding presence, not just at Christmas or Easter or in the
sanctuary, but every day and everywhere, throughout the normal ups
and downs, the ordinary but truly holy times of our lives. Don’t be
in too much of a rush to get back into routine. Give yourself time.
Use these waning days of 2017 to review the graces and challenges of
the past year: Where or when have I most felt God’s presence, and
more importantly, where and when did God experience my presence?
Were there times I felt God had abandoned me, or that I ignored
God? What did I learn from those times? And give thanks for
everything, especially for God being born anew every day, every
moment in our hearts.