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Contents: Volume 2 - Christmas & Holy Family -A- December 25 & 29, 2019


 

  Christmas

&

  Holy

  Family

 

1. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

2. -- Brian Gleeson CP

3. -- Deacon Russ O'Neill

4. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

 

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1.

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Christmas December 25, 2019

We have four different liturgies of the Word for the Celebration of the Coming of the Christ. Each of those liturgies are listed below with the hope that the busy-ness of the eve and day allow for time to take a look at each of the liturgies. There is so much material, thoughts, inspirations, and history captured in those four liturgies of the Word. It would be a shame to allow the day to pass without some quiet time to think about what happened to, for, and with us over the thousands of years of God’s creative and sustaining work. We are, after all, God’s dream. A little time spent in thinking about the experiences of our ancestors may get us past the noise, the distractions of sales, the whining of spoiled children, and the hurt feelings that arise when we gather. Peace, contentment, and much charity will result from reflections on the Word of God. May that be our gift to you. The reflection that follows is more cultural than it is Scripture based. It is an attempt to demonstrate that it is culture that guides our interpretation of the moments of our living. It is culture that blinds us to the depths of our own spirits, those spirits that derive from the abundance that is God. The depths of our spirits contain the goodness of God. And Christmas is a reminder to us that God came to demonstrate how to let that goodness overcome the darkness of isolation that comes from rugged individualism and a consumer focused life. Things are consumed by rust, fine linens by the moth and they become like the morning grass that springs up but withers and fertilizes the grass of the next morning. Peace and Joy from this household in Garner, North Carolina to your home no matter where or what!

Vigil Mass: Isaiah 62:1-5; Responsorial Psalm 89; Acts 13:16-17 &22-25; Matthew 1:1-25

Mass During the Night (a.k.a. Midnight Mass): Isaiah 9:1-5; Responsorial Psalm 96; Titus 2:11-14; Gospel Acclamation Luke 2:10-11; Luke 2:1-14

Mass at D awn: Isaiah 62:11-12; Responsorial Psalm 97; Titus 3:4-7; Gospel Acclamation Luke 2:14; Luke 2:15-20

Mass During the Day: Isaiah 52:7-10; Responsorial Psalm 98; Hebrews 1:1-6; John 1:1-18

Even the poorest parish will decorate their church or Sunday meeting hall to make it festive, hope filled, and inviting. Many of the Protestant traditions make great efforts to encourage fellowship on this day on which we celebrate Christmas. Catholic churches will be over flowing and insensitive pastors will comment about welcoming all the Christmas Stars and encouraging them to return in more somber times. In frantic efforts of families to meet expectations of extended families, this church time is like a brief interlude. Most will experience a sense of calm and a warmth even on the coldest of days. The choir will be well rehearsed. The presider and the ministers of word and eucharist will be careful to exactly mark their steps and their postures and their actions. It’s a day when we pay attention, a day when many come home to the faith of their childhood. We smile, sometimes laugh at the Vigil Mass where typically children present a pageant in period costume and often forgetting lines and movements. The common experience is one of peaceful joy and warmth.

In the Catholic Tradition, liturgy – of Word and of Eucharist – are central to our coming together. Liturgy follows a form of worship that pre-dates the experiences of Israel and thus most certainly that of Christianity. In those ancient times there was always a proclamation of the "mysteries" of the faith, pagan, Jewish, or Christian. There followed a "communion" sacrifice. It is as though from the earliest days of human existence there was a course of action hard-wired into the human psyche to worship in this way.

Liturgy, as it developed in Judaism, centered on high holy days. Those were times when everyone came "home" to Jerusalem to meet God in the Temple. Those were special days of remembering the events of the people in the light of God’s direction and presence. It was, however, not thought of as a remembering of a past event. Such a celebration called on and expected God to perform the interventions as when the event first occurred. We believe this when we participate at the liturgy of the Mass. This is done again in our presence – that supper nearly two thousand years ago. It is a delight that so many persons who come to the Assembly infrequently do "come home" at Christmas time. It is a time to be with family. And there are many families that come together to the greater family we join when we are baptized.

Coming to together as Family is a tradition we should embrace and do all in our power to make memorable. There should be extreme effort to avoid conflict. Issues of enmity should be left in the car. Political disagreements must never be allowed to break the connections of members of the family – both personal and communal. That should be a tradition. That should be when each comes to see and share with the others.

Christmas is the beginning – in the northern hemisphere – of lengthening of daylight hours. The ancient pagans celebrated this day we now claim as Christmas as the beginning of a return of the sun and the re-awakening of the earth. The Puritans sought to eliminate Christmas from their celebrations because of this pagan connection. There was a short time in England when Christmas was outlawed. Even Boston in the seventeenth century banned Christmas for a few years. It is said that the Puritans established and celebrated Thanksgiving as a way of forgetting about Christmas because of the Pagan rites associated with the returning of the sun. For Christians, Christmas has been celebrated as the light of God coming into the world. And so it is. Candles and festival lighting of homes and businesses are a way of celebrating that understanding. The light that Jesus brings into the world is the light of the truth of creation and humanity’s place in creation. It is the time when we recall and acclaim that Jesus came to us as the Word of God, the second person of the Trinity. Of all the readings for the Christmas masses, the prologue to the gospel of John read on Christmas during the day. Its poetry is engaging and tells the story of God working with and for humanity. That reading is John 1:1-18. Its focus is on the Word of God. Christmas is particularly defined when John writes, "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us."

The Incarnation is a really, big deal. That God could care enough about us to become one of us, to become by his life and ministry an example – but even more -- a "lamp unto our feet." Theologians in our time write and speak about how all creation is an Incarnation of God. If we look, if we seek, we will discover in every bill of creation the fingerprints of God. Creation tells us who and what God is. The more we study and learn of the complexities of creation the more we become conscious of the hugeness of God. And yet, this immense, unfathomable God thought enough of just this small part of creation that is humanity to become one of us to share and to experience what it means to be human. In that experience, we are led to experience what the life of God is.

We wish you a very peaceful, joyful, sharing Christmas. May the light of Christ brighten your day and all the days to follow. May his pathway become our highway. May we see in others the wonder and magnificence that is God. In thus seeing them, we become conscious of the image and likeness of God that we are.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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THE POWER OF CHRISTMAS

On a trip to the Holy Land, a man called James Martin bought a crib, a nativity set. All the figures were there - Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, the shepherds, the kings, and the animals. When James arrived at Tel Aviv airport for his journey home to Australia, security was extremely tight. Customs officers checked and X-rayed each figure, even the baby Jesus. 'We can't take any chances,' the officer apologized to James. ‘We have to be sure there's nothing explosive in this set.' Afterwards James thought to himself, 'If that officer only knew! That set contains the most explosive power in the world.'

It’s a power, which is far from obvious at first glance. For Jesus Christ came on earth, not as a powerful prince, living in a great mansion in the most powerful nation on earth. He came as the foster son of a poor carpenter in a dirty stable in one of the weakest nations on earth, a nation ruled by the Roman emperor, a nation paying taxes to a hated foreign occupying power.

When he arrived in the world, he was not greeted or visited by world leaders, generals, or celebrities. No, he was greeted and visited by poor shepherds, no doubt smelling somewhat of their sheep. They counted so little In their time and place that their testimony was not accepted by any law court. But it was to those shepherds, nevertheless, that God gave his good and wonderful news: 'I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people.'

The choice by God of those nobodies, as the first to receive the Christmas message, shows us that God has no special preference for the rich and famous, the movers and shakers of this world, and the manipulators of markets. On the other hand he does have a quite special care and affection for the victims, the suffering, the poor, the downtrodden, the rejected and neglected. He is clearly on their side. This truth, this fact, is illustrated by the condition of the Christ-child himself. The sign the shepherds are to look for is a baby wrapped in rags and lying in a manger, the feed box of animals. So within and beyond these signs of poverty, vulnerability and weakness, there is to be discovered the power of love, which is to say, the power of God, of Love with a capital ‘L’.

The impact and the significance of the circumstances of the birth of Jesus could not be better expressed than in two sentences from our scripture readings today. The first sentence says: 'The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light.' The second sentence says: 'Today in the town of David a saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

In fact, Jesus was born to us and among us, so that we might be born in a new way. Born to live like sons and daughters of the God who is particularly caring about the poor, the deprived, the lonely, the lost, the grieving and the broken-hearted. Born to live with the same sensitivity and compassion as Jesus - walking his way, telling his truth and living his values.

Jesus, seemingly so helpless and powerless in the manger, but whom we come to adore, is destined as the strong adult Jesus to make everything new again. He does this by inviting us to respond to some of the many needy and broken human beings not too far away, who won’t be having even a tiny fraction of the goodies you and I will be enjoying at our Christmas celebrations.

But I’m not pretending that the invitation of Jesus at Christmas to get a life, a new life, will always come to us at the most convenient time. He may e.g., come to us in our neighbour, knocking on our door for help, just as we are starting our Christmas dinner with family and friends. He may be in our co-worker dropping by for a chat when we are on some deadline over Christmas. He may be in the smile of a child gazing at her first Christmas tree, and we don't have a camera with us to capture the precious moment. He may come to us in the fund-raising letter that arrives from Caritas Australia on the very same day of our holidays that our credit card bill also arrives in the mail.

I’m not pretending either that that the invitation of Jesus at Christmas time to get a life, a new life, always happens at a time of perfect peace, tranquillity and contentment. To give an extreme example: - A newspaper reporter once said that whenever he was assigned to the Christmas shift he always did a story on how many more murders occur on this day than on any other day in the whole year. Unfortunately, what is meant to bring out the best in people when they get together to celebrate Christmas, sometimes brings out the very worst.

However, we, the People of God gathered today, have only kind and gentle thoughts for one another and for all our fellow human beings as we celebrate this feast of God's overwhelming love. My personal wish and prayer for you for both Christmas and the coming New Year, is that the God Who loves you personally, individually and dearly, and who has sent you his Son, will bless you with patience and endurance, with mercy and forgiveness, with faith, hope and love. Above all may the God, Whose power and love are one and the same thing, draw you to take Jesus Christ to your hearts with new commitment and dedication, when he gives himself to you in Holy Communion this Christmas!


FAMILY LIFE: FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY A

Pictures and statues of the holy family of Nazareth may lead us to think that the family life of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus compared with our own, was picture perfect. In their simple but immaculate home, there was a place for everything and everything in its place. Joseph, Mary and Jesus together seem so calm and peaceful and unruffled. They look like they never had an argument, a disagreement, or a misunderstanding. They didn’t seem to have any money worries or any fears for their safety or for anything else.

Fortunately the gospel stories about the childhood of Jesus tell us something quite different and bring us down to earth with a thud. This is particularly true of today’s story from Matthew about the Flight into Egypt of those three asylum seekers, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

Many of you are parents. Some of you may have been asylum seekers and homeless refugees, fleeing from murderous tyrants and threat of persecution. Some of you may have even seen members of your own family killed before your eyes. More than the rest of us, you may have shared in the anguish of the Family of Nazareth, forced to flee for fear for their lives by the actions of King Herod the murderer.

When I focus on the details of what Matthew actually tells us in his stories of the child Jesus, and when I read the bits between the lines, I can feel quite close to the Holy Family of Nazareth. They are real people, after all. They had their ups and downs as a family, just like your family and mine. They had their problems, they had their struggles, and they had their challenges. Just like your family and mine! But they survived as a family. They survived, because there was enough love, acceptance, and forgiveness left to go round, and enough respect for both God and one another.

Let me tell you about how one particular family, a long way from here, who faced a real challenge which came their way. The mother in the family is letting me quote her actual written words. She says:

Our youngest daughter became pregnant (out of wedlock) and for our family this last twelve months was make-or-break time, emotionally, physically and faith-wise. But with God’s help and grace we have all come through this crisis in one piece. From anger to acceptance! From disappointment to unconditional love! From betrayal to peace! From hurt to holding this precious baby, the joy of all our lives now! God certainly moves in mysterious ways, and while this is not how we wanted to have our grandchildren, this little child of God is loved by us all.

So even in hardship love can flourish. It will flourish when we take the advice from our Second Reading and treat each other with kindness, gentleness, patience, compassion, forgiveness and respect. In short, it will flourish when we live by the Golden Rule stressed by Jesus: Treat the others in your family, including your extended family, as you want them to treat you.

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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Holy Family - Year A

It’s often tempting for us to view the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph as the perfect, ideal family, a model that our own families can strive towards but never quite reach. But, if we look deeper, we realize that the Holy Family is not a model for us because they were perfect and never had any problems. Just consider: an unexpected pregnancy, a threat of divorce, birth in a stable, a crazy king out to kill your child. These are problems! Real problems! And that was just the beginning. Jesus, Mary and Joseph are models for us because they heard the word of God, believed the word of God, and lived the word of God. And so the unexpected pregnancy led to a revelation of God’s will; the threatened divorce led to a renewed bond of trust; the birth in the stable led to a welcoming of the poor; and the death threat led to trust in God and trust in one another.

This notion of trust continued to jump out at me as I reflected on these readings. Mary puts her complete trust in God when she finds out she’s pregnant. Joseph trust God when told to stay with Mary. And then Joseph tells Mary, "I had a dream, let’s pack up and go." I’m sure if I told my wife I had a dream and we have to pack up and move to Pittsburgh, she would laugh in my face! But Mary trusts Joseph.

How is the trust in our families, the trust between husband and wife, between parents and children? How is the trust in our families, especially when that trust is compromised? Those who are parents….if you can trust your children, you have a great gift, a gift to be treasured. We used to say to our kids that our trust will be there until they lose it. Kids, treasure your parents’ trust; don’t do anything to lose it. Being a parent is holding on and letting go, and trying to do both at the same time….not something easy to do.

Trust. Listen to some of the other words our readings use to talk about family life: honor, revere, kindness, gentleness, humility, patience forgiveness, love. Those qualities will make each of our families a more holy family.

Perhaps a couple stories can help us reflect on our family life. The people in Weinsberg, Germany tell an interesting legend about their town. The city sits on a high hill on top of which stands an ancient fortress. In the 15th century, an enemy encircled the hill and sealed off all the townspeople inside the fortress. The enemy commander sent word that he would allow the women and children to go free, and each woman could take with her the most valuable possession she had,, provided she could carry it. You can imagine the enemy’s surprise when the women marched out of the fortress each one carrying her husband on her back. Blessed is the woman whose most valuable possession is her husband. And blessed is the husband whose most valuable possession is his wife.

Then there’s the story of a man who came home from work late again, tired and irritated, to find his 5-year old son waiting for him at the door. "Daddy, may I ask you a question?"

"Yeah, sure, what is it?" replied the man. "Daddy, how much money do you make an hour?" "That's none of your business. What makes you ask such a thing?" the man said angrily. "I just want to know. Please tell me, how much do you make an hour?" pleaded the little boy. "If you must know, I make $20.00 an hour." "Oh," the little boy replied, head bowed. Looking up, he said, "Daddy, may I borrow $10.00 please?" The father was furious. "If the only reason you wanted to know how much money I make is just so you can borrow some to buy a silly toy or some other nonsense, then you march yourself straight to your room and go to bed. Think about why you're being so selfish. I work long, hard hours everyday and don't have time for such childish games."

The little boy quietly went to his room and shut the door. The man sat down and started to get even madder about the little boy's questioning. How dare he ask such questions only to get some money. After an hour or so, the man had calmed down, and started to think he may have been a little hard on his son. Maybe there was something he really needed to buy with that $10.00 and he really didn't ask for money very often. The man went to the door of the little boy's room and opened the door. "Are you asleep son?" he asked. "No daddy, I'm awake," replied the boy. "I've been thinking, may be I was too hard on you earlier," said the man. "It's been a long day and I took my aggravation out on you. Here's that $10.00 you asked for." "The little boy sat straight up, beaming. "Oh, thank you daddy" he yelled. Then, reaching under his pillow, he pulled out some more crumpled up bills. The man, seeing that the boy already had money, started to get angry again. The little boy slowly counted out his money, then looked up at the man. "Why did you want more money if you already had some?" the father grumbled. "Because I didn't have enough, but now I do," the little boy replied. "Daddy, I have $20.00 now. Can I buy an hour of your time?"

And finally, 12 year old Cindy was busy putting the final touches on a chocolate cake she was making before her parents came home. It was a little crooked, and lumpy, and the frosting was bitter because she ran out of sugar. But it was the first cake Cindy ever made from scratch, and she wanted to surprise her parents. The kitchen was a mess. . . chocolate and flour and egg shells everywhere. But Cindy wasn’t thinking about the mess. When she heard her parent s pull in, she turned off the kitchen lights and got ready. When they came in she flipped on the lights – "Ta-daaa" – and gestured toward the table.

But her mother’s eyes never made it to the table. "Just look at this mess," she moaned. "I should make you clean this up right now, but I’m too tired. You’ll do it first thing in the morning>"

"But look at the table," said Cindy’s father. "I know – it’s a mess," she said, and stormed upstairs. For a few moments Cindy and her father stood silently. Finally, she looked up at him with moist eyes. "She never saw the cake," she said.

Sometimes parents can be like this, we get blinded to issues of great importance by rules and images that get overplayed. We’re not saying that children don’t need to learn responsibility, or to occasionally suffer the painful consequence of their own bad choices. Those lessons are vital, and need to be carefully taught. But as parents, we must never forget that we’re not just teaching lessons – we’re teaching children. That means there are times when we really need to see the mess in the kitchen. And times when we only need to see the cake."

Deacon Russ O'Neill <russon2330@sbcglobal.net>

Diocese of Youngstown

 

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net. Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

-- Fr. John


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2nd SUNDAY Baptism of the Lord EPIPHANY Mary Mother of God Christmas/Holy Family ADVENT 4


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