Friday, January 31, 2014

I would never

Today we read the sordid story of David and Bathsheba. If we strip away romanticized notions and cultural tendency to blame the woman, we are left with even more horrifying question of how willingly did she participate in this. The story tells us that she was sent for and brought to him but not much more. Regardless, the king simply took the wife of one of his soldiers. To compound the sin, when she is discovered to be pregnant, David arranges the murder of her husband.

While all of us could probably truly say "I would never" with regard to murdering someone on another level we are all capable of being David. He starts off with a comon feeling, sexual attraction. Then he rationalizies his desire for a woman who was not his. Then he engages in an extramarital affair. Then he's frightened by the discovery that she's pregnant. Then he tries to arrange to cover that up by having the husband come home and sleep with his wife. It is only when none of his attempts to cover up his sin work that he resorts to arranging to put the husband in a situation where he will probably be killed.

Does David kill Uraiah? No. 
Does David tell anyone to kill you Uraiah? No
But morally he is still responsible. 

At how many points could David have stopped the chain of events? All he would've had to do was acknowledge his sin. He was the king. Who could've punished him? He wasn't a US president that could be impeached.

Instead, like some many of us, he opted to dig the hole deeper and deeper. David was not a bad person. We go back to the beginning of the story and we remember that he was the one chosen by God.

David's downward journey began with a very ordinary human problem, lust.

Before we look at the story of David and think "I would never" think again!  My guess is that at least one of us right now is dealing with what seems to be a somewhat small and ordinary problem. We're either rationalizing it away, or simply choosing to ignore it.

David's story is a cautionary tale for all of us, a call to look into our own hearts and lives and see where we need to experience conversion, to change something while is still small. 

One of my favorite quotes from a 20th century author is from H Jackson Brown Jr, "Character is what we do when we think no one is looking."

We could all stand to perform a regular character check. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Doesn't mean what you think it means

In David's prayer we hear him thank God for the promise he has made regarding Israel and the house of David. What David could not have imagined is what God's promise actually meant. Even after almost two millennia there are some people, even some Christians, who talk as if the promise God made to Jesus were linked to the modern political state of Israel.

This weekend we will celebrate the Presentation in which Jesus is proclaimed "a light to enlighten the Gentiles and the glory of his people Israel." Jesus makes clear that his promise to David, the kingdom that would last forever was not limited to a small country in the Middle East but a kingdom that would encompass the whole world.

Especially in hard times we can wonder if God really answers prayers or if he can really be trusted to keep his promises. Today's reading reminds us that God not only keeps his promises but in keeping them he goes beyond what we can ever imagine. As we humans measure time in smaller and smaller units, and get more impatient. God continues to see, not just the big picture, but the biggest picture and act accordingly.

Can we acknowledge the smallness of our vision, and trust that God knows best?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Robbing the saints

Today I ran across one of the most powerful quotes from today's saint, Thomas Aquinas. In response to the question about what he needed, he is said to have said, "Naught but thee, O Lord."

The quote incapsulates where we should all strive to be in life, to reach the point where all we truly long for is oneness with God,

What I found disturbing was the translation. Naught but thee, O Lord. Who talks like that? Certainly never Thomas Aquinas. He was born in the 13th century Kingdom of Sicily. Italy and the Italian language wouldn't exist for another 500 years. He would have spoken Sicilian, heavily influenced by Arabs, the French, the Germans who ruled in his youth, and then the Catalan of Aragon. While he would have been well educated in Latin, and the vernacular spoken in Paris where he went to school, his mother tongue would have remained Sicilian.

I say all this because the tendency to translate the saints into an antiquated and pretentious sounding English is one more way we rob them of their humanity. We lift them so high that they hardly seem like us at all. We forget that Mary is the only saint preserved from original sin. The rest are all ordinary people like us who had to grow in fits and starts, struggle and learn, sin and ask forgiveness. They all failed. Many faced extreme rejection. Some went through profoundly dark periods in their lives.

What made them saints was not the perfect quality of their lives but the fact that through it all, the clung to the Lord. In the face of adversity instead of abandoning their faith they held on even tighter.

We think of St. Thomas Aquinas and we think of great theology. But he himself described that as "so much straw" in comparison to what he knew God to really be.

Was St. Thomas smart? Yes. But I think if he were with us today he would want to be remembered not for his intellect but for his faith, and the deep personal relationship he developed with Jesus.

And to all the Sicilians, Happy feast day. I would say it in your language but

Iu unn parru sicilianu. (I don't speak Sicilian)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

When big numbers are not a good thing

We measure our success in numbers. Even our parishes (and our bishops) measure our ministry by how many people attend and how much is in the Sunday collection.

This year we read St. Matthew, and today we are in the second half of chapter 4, when Jesus calls his first disciples. In order to understand what it means to be a disciple it is helpful to look at another important group in Matthew's gospel, the multitude.

When St. Matthew speaks of the multitude it is not a term of endearment. It is the term for all those who want to come and listen to him. They admire him, and occasionally they will even follow him. But only to a point. Ultimately they abandon him, or sometimes he sends them away.

Much fewer are those who will be disciples. The true disciple is the one who not only goes to see and listen and admire, but the one who is willing to be a true follower.

The true disciple is the one who hears the word of Jesus, steps out of the multitude, is willing to abandon his/her current way of life and follow Jesus.

How many Christians go to church Sunday after Sunday? They want to hear a stirring homily or sermon. They want the choir to sing beautiful music. They want to leave church feeling uplifted and fed. They one thing they don't really want to do is change.

How many of us go to church week after week, but if we look back we are basically the same person we were ten years ago, doing the same things we did ten years ago. If any one of us is basically the same person we were 10 years ago, we are not a disciple, we're just part of the multitude.

The gospel today tells us the story of the first four who were willing to abandon everything to follow Jesus. This abandonment is not something we do once, it has to be constant and forever.

To be a disciple means that every time we read the scriptures, receive communion, or just pray, we open ourselves to be transformed. We abandon the person we are in order to become the person God created us to be. A true disciple of Jesus is never same person from year to year.

What are you willing to abandon?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Up close and personal

Today we celebrate the conversion of St. Paul, and normally we would focus on Paul, and the road, the encounter with Jesus. Instead, there is another person without whom there would have been no ministry to the Gentiles, Ananias.

Today is also his feast day. Truth be told we know very little about St. Ananias of Damascus. What we do know is that when he was first called upon his response was simple, "Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man", and nothing he had heard was good. We human beings have changed little over the centuries. Bad news travels fast.

We know nothing about his many sources. Was it people who actually knew Saul of Tarsus or was it simply the same rumors that had been passed around so that many sources were repeating the same stories over and over.

What sets Ananias apart was that he was not locked into the image he had of Saul from the stories he had heard. Even though his natural tendency was to believe the worst, and the truth about Saul was bad, he was willing to take the next step, to move beyond second or third hand information and meet the man face to face.

It is easy for us to hate someone we only know from a distance, a face on television, a story on the internet. On some level they are not really people. It's a very different thing when we sit down and meet with them face to face. Ananias entered the house and laid hand on him. Suddenly Saul is no longer the devil that Ananias had heard about, Ananias now calls him "my brother."

Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. He got up and was baptized, and when he had eaten, he recovered his strength.

And the rest is the history of how Christianity moved beyond the tiny world of Galilean Judaism to the whole world.

Besides what this story tells about the power of forgiveness and conversion, it also tells us about human interaction. While email and text are great tools, there is a danger. When we are angry or unhappy about something it is far to easy to fire off the snarky email or text. People will email things that they would never say face to face. In person we cannot forget that the other is a person, with a family, and feeling just like us. Face to face it is hard not to acknowledge the humanity of others.

Ananias saw the person of Saul, and even touched him, and both men were changed.

Today is a time to not only remember St. Paul, but also St. Ananias and pray that we can say about every person, "my brother" or "my sister."

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

I learned Farsi,also called Persian, long before I ventured into Arabic. What most Westerners don't realize is that Persian is an Indo-European language that happens to be written with what we call the Arabic alphabet. Arabic is from a whole other language family.

One of my first surprises is that Arabic doesn't have a P. So one day I asked a Palestinian friend, "If there is on P in Arabic, where are you from?" Without missing a beat, he said "فلسطين filasitin." The light suddenly went on. and I laughingly said to him, better we call you Palestinian than Philistines, because that word has taken on a whole other meaning in English.

As a child when I heard the story of David and Golaith, I had always imagined a giant like the one in Jack and the Beanstalk. But that is a child's view of the world. We have to remember that the Bible is, more often than not, trying to describe how an experience felt, rather than get the measurements exact.

Regardless of how big the biblical Philistines were, the point of the story is God. Today's first reading reminds us of a very simple truth. When propelled by the power of God, a single person can overcome what appears to the world to be absolutely insurmountable adversity. Even when you and everyone around you can see no way for you to win, if you are doing the will of God, you will be victorious. It may be a battle. It may force you to the point you think you can't take any more. But if we hold tight to God we can win.

Today perhaps is a time for us to pray for an increase in the virtue of Hope.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

False dichotomy

As much as we like to think that we all know better than to judge by appearance, the fact is that we still do. To be elected president of the United State you not only have to be a man, but a tall man. We think we choose based on what a person stands for. More often than not we decide who we like based on appearance and the filter information that conforms to the choice we have made. We choose not to believe bad things about the ones we like, and we filter out the good about the ones we don't like.

Can a woman be both pretty and smart? Can a boy be a geek and a jock? Why do we feel the need to choose one or the other?

In today's first reading Samuel is told that God does not judge by appearance but by the heart. Then in the same passage we are told about David, that "He was ruddy, a youth handsome to behold and making a splendid appearance." So he was both chosen and handsome.

Even more to the point he will turn out to be both the greatest king in Israel's history, and one of the greatest sinners, committing adultery then murder to cover up the adultery.

Today's reading reminds us that the world and particularly human beings are complex. Composed of both a spiritual aspect and a material aspect, we are constantly in flux, constantly changing. If we are true to God's plan we are constantly being transformed by God's grace.

We want the world to be simple. We want it to be comprehensible and predictable. What we can forget is that when we try to simplify and categorize human beings we rob them of their humanity. When we reduce human beings to biochemistry or psychological models, we rob them of their freedom, the thing that separates us from the rest of creation.

Today's reading ends by telling us:
Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand, anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and from that day on, the spirit of the LORD rushed upon David.

Each of us received that same Spirit at Baptism and if we were confirmed, again at Confirmation. If we allow it that Spirit of God can be a spirit that heals, a spirit that brings us consolation, peace, and enables us to truly love.

Perhaps today is a good day to take another look at those people whom we have categorized in one way or another, and acknowledge the complexity, the mystery that is present in every human life.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Rationalization once more

So contrary to our modern Christian sensibility, we get lost in the slaughter and the point of the first reading can get lost on us.

Saul, after becoming king, goes on a killing rampage. God through Samuel says fine, but if you are going to kill you must kill everything and everybody. Saul likes the idea of killing everybody, thereby getting rid of all threats to his power, but decides not to kill everything. The best of the animals he allows to live, the spoils of war. This was precisely what God had forbidden. War may be necessary, but profiting from it was a sin.

When confronted by Samuel with his disobedience, he does what we humans all too often do. Instead of simply confessing his sin, he invents an explanation that sounds not only good but pious.

But from the spoil the men took sheep and oxen, the best of what had been banned, to sacrifice to the LORD their God in Gilgal.

Notice the multiple layers of dishonesty. First of all he distances himself from the act. He claims he had nothing to do with it "the men" did it. Then, like the cherry on top of the cupcake, he drags God into it, claiming they kept the best animals to sacrifice to God.

God's response is to declare that Saul is no longer fit to be king.

One is left to wonder how different God's response might have been if Saul had simply said, "I did it. I messed up. It's my fault."

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Walking in ignorance

One of the biggest mistakes we make is that we like to retroject knowledge onto people of the past. At the center of today's gospel is John. How often do we take what is written only in Lukw, mix it with parts of other gospel's and imagine that John had some kind of supernatural fore-knowledge of who Jesus was.

Today we hear the truth from John's own mouth, "I did not know him." He says it not once but twice, verse 31 and verse 34. And in the Gospel of John repetition always means he is telling us something important.

Like many Jews of the time, John was hoping for a Messiah. The Jewish people were dying under the weight of Roman occupation. Ritual bathing was a common part of the purification process used by many itinerant preachers like John.

What was unique was that John had been told by God, that the one on whom he saw the Spirit descend and abide, that one would baptize with the Spirit.

If we are to believe John, and I have no reason to doubt, it was not until the moment the Spirit descended on Jesus that John realized that Jesus was the one he had been hoping, waiting, and praying for. Jesus was the one, "The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world."

Had John ever laid eyes on Jesus before that moment? Probably. But he "did not know him."

Two lessons seem clear

First of all, like John we can have God working right in front of us, and not see it. Particularly in difficult times we can ask "where is God?", without realizing what a ridiculous question that is. Is there any place on earth where God isn't?

Secondly, we so often make the mistake of thinking we know a person. Of all the languages I speak English is the only one that will dare to say both, I know his address, and I know him. Truth is, I may know lots of bits of data about a person, and simultaneously not know the person hardly at all. Most of us are lucky if as we get older we can reach a point where we know ourselves.

What puts John way ahead of most of us is that he is willing to admit his ignorance. We are loathe to say we are ignorant. We forget that ignorance is a curable condition. By being disciples (students) we can move out of our ignorance. We are never too old to learn.

How many of the people who grew up around Jesus never really came to know him, precisely because they thought they knew him. They thought they already knew who he was, when in reality they had no idea.

I will say I know about Jesus. I will say I believe in Jesus and all that the Church teaches about him. But do I know him, do I know him completely? I am not arrogant enough to say yes to that.

I a still a disciple, a student. Hopefully each day I fall deeper into the love of God and each day I come to know, my Lord, my God, my savior, my brother, the Lamb of God, just a little bit more.

John knew what he did not know. And it was this knowledge of his own ignorance that left him open to be shown the truth. May we all have the courage to embrace our own ignorance so that God may fill it with his wisdom.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Hearing the voice of God

In some ways today's first reading fits easily into our image of God in the Bible. Samuel is sleeping; God comes and speaks to him. The piece that we can overlook is that without Eli, Samuel would have never understood what was happening or how to respond.

While our relationship with God is deeply personal, it cannot be isolated. The Christian faith is at its heart a communal faith. Left to our own devices we can misinterpret the messages. We can easily convince ourselves that God is calling us to whatever we want, and ignore any call from God that we don't want to hear.

God is constantly reaching our to all of his children. We all need Eli's in our life, those people who are wiser, more experienced than ourselves who can help us properly discern when and where God is calling us.

Monday, January 13, 2014

How long will we give him?

Today not surprisingly as we begin ordinary time, we begin reading, the oldest Gospel, Mark, and the beginning of Jesus's ministry. After the time in the desert, according to Mark, it was the arrest of John that set the ministry of Jesus in motion.

We like the way it happens in Mark's gospel, the speed with which it moves. John is arrested and Jesus starts. In fact all of Mark's gospel moves at lightening speed.

In contrast, today we start two weeks of reading the First Book of Samuel. We begin with the story of Elkanah and his two wives: Hannah and Penninah. While Peninnah had children, Hannah did not. No matter how much we talk about it is impossible for us to grasp how painful this was for women of that time. To make it worse Peninnah would mercilessly tease Hannah about this fact.

Year after year, they would go to Shiloh to offer sacrifice to God. Elkanah tried to do what he could by giving to Hannah a double portion. But apparently none of this was to any avail. Year after year they would go, and year after year she remained childless. One can only imagine the hours she spent praying and crying.

We like Mark's gospel. John is arrested and Jesus appears. Fortunately sometimes God does work that way. We pray for something, and God responds yes immediately.

Sometimes however we must be Hannah. We must simply be patient. We have to go through the pain, not around it. We must endure the taunting of people who take pleasure in the suffering of others.

The universe is too intricate for any human mind to grasp, and yet God sees how every piece of every life fits together in a seamless whole. Every free choice of every person and how it ripples through the lives of others.

Today as we pray, hopefully some of our prayers will be prayers of thanksgiving. Some of our prayers will surely be petition. How long are we willing to give God to respond?

It is true that sometimes the answer is no. But it is also true that sometimes the answer is "not now." Can we trust God? Can we like Hannah wait years and put up with people like Peninnah?

When the answer is not an immediate yes, can we still hold firm to what yesterday's gospel told us. We are the beloved sons and daughters of God. Can we know that whatever answer God gives, and whenever he gives it, it is the perfect answer.

Sunday, January 12, 2014


Sorry, I've been offline for a bit. I've been under the weather.

Tomorrow is Monday of the First Week in Ordinary Time, but there is no First Sunday in Ordinary Time. Today, the Baptism of the Lord marks both the end of the Christmas season and the transition to Ordinary Time. Here in the Diocese of Richmond we are also launching our Five-year plan for evangelization.

It seems to me that Ordinary Time is the best time to begin our New Evangelization. By launching this week we are reminded that evangelization is now some specialized ministry, belonging to some small group within the church. As with Jesus, each of us from the time of our baptism, were called to evangelize.

Many of you may be thinking, "But I was baptized as a baby." And I would still say that it was on that day that the seeds of your ministry were planted. On that day when you were filled with the Holy Spirit and became the adopted child of God, the Spirit began to call you to share the joy of the gospel with others.

As we celebrate the baptism of Jesus it is time for us to put into action the gifts that we received at our own baptism, to look for the opportunities we have in our own life to spread the joy of the gospel.

The first step may well be taking time to reflect on what it was we did receive at baptism, to deepen our sense of the presence of God in our own lives. It is a time to delve more deeply into the word and into the sacraments, particularly penance and Eucharist, a time to bring that bond that was formed at our baptism to the forefront of our minds. Before I can share I must know what I have.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


One of the things that we often condemn in young people is their sense of invincibility. They seem to charge forward into life oblivious to danger.

In fact fearlessness is actually a Christian virtue. As today's first reading reminds us

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear

The difference between our teenage fearlessness and Christian fearlessness is its source. When we are young, and sometimes when we are old, we are fearless because we have bought the mythology of limitless human possibility. "I can do anything I put my mind to." It is a fearlessness rooted in hubris.

Christian fearlessness is grounded not in ourselves but in God. If I believe in the omnipotence of God, and the unconditional love of God, then what should I fear? Whom should I fear?

The more we let go and allow ourselves to simply fall into the bottomless love of God, the more we realize that the only person whose judgement of us really matters is God, the freer we become from all fear. What does our human reputation really matter in the end? All we have to is turn on the television and see how mercurial the public's opinion is.

Some would say, "Be true to yourself." That's a little too narcissistic for my taste. I would say, "Be true to God." If each day we try our best to do the will of God, even if we fail, we can be absolutely fearless.

As St. Timothy reminds us, "If we are unfaithful he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself."

Monday, January 6, 2014

Could it be more simple

In the first reading today St. John reminds us of just how much Jesus has simplified what is required of us.

We receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
And his commandment is this:
we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ,
and love one another just as he commanded us.

Believe in Jesus and love one another how much simpler could it possibly get. And yet we seem to struggle.

Perhaps at least part of the problem is that we do not grasp the full meaning of the title by which we are addressed: agapetos, beloved. Love is for us Christians not a feeling but a theological virtue, it comes to us as gift from God. God's love is poured out on us, poured into us, and then we in turn share with others what we have received.

Notice that we are called agapetos, the love we receive is agape. It is not a love that yearns to possess. It is not a love fueled by our most primitive drives. It is the love that is other-centered, self-sacrificing. "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son."

It is the superabundance of God's love made most fully visible in Jesus that is given to us, and which we are in turn called each and every day to share. It is a love that constantly turns away from self, and turns outward toward others, and by this the gospel does not mean friends and family. There are other Greek words for that love.

This love turns toward, the stranger, the enemy, the person from whom we can or will receive nothing in return.

In these last days of Christmas St. John reminds in the simplest terms what it means to be a Christian
Believe in Jesus. Love one another.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

See it and be it

Today the Church celebrates the Epiphany, the manifestation of the presence of God in the world. In Matthew's gospel the world is represented by the Magi. How many are there? The Bible doesn't say. It simply says "magoi." In the west we have traditionally referred to three, one for each gift. In eastern Christianity, there are by some accounts 12, to parallel the 12 tribes of Israel. In the end it doesn't matter.

What matters is what they represent, the desire not to limit himself to one chosen people, but to spread the good news to the ends of the earth. In the words of today's psalm

Lord, every nation on earth will adore you

And in fact we have managed to spread the Christian faith to one degree or another to every corner of the earth. But this does not mean we can sit back and relax.

Everyone of us by our baptism is a missionary. We are sent out at the end of mass to proclaim the good news. The new dismissal

Go in Peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.

This is seems to me to be a two stage process.

Stage One: if I believe the promise of Jesus "and know that I am with you always", if I believe Emmanuel -God with us, If I believe "Heaven and earth are full of your glory", then no matter where I am I should be able to see with eyes of faith the manifestations of the presence of God. Kneeling in Church, driving on I-95, or sitting alone in my room with the eyes of faith there is always epiphany.

Stage Two: Along with seeing the presence of God, I must be the presence of God. From the moment we receive the Holy Spirit in baptism, we have the responsibility to be the Epiphany, to be as St. Paul calls us in the second reading "sussoma", literally the same body. We are the body parts and as such we must be that physical, manifestation of Christ to others. Our words our actions, not just sometimes when we feel like it, not just to our friends and family, but our every word and action should be a manifestation of Christ's love.

That isn't as sweet as it sounds. While most of the time this will involve even small gestures, little kindnesses, as simple as a smile. Other times it will involve the hard part.

The one gift Isaiah left out of his prophecy was the myrrh, the symbol that points forward to the crucifixion. Sometimes being the epiphany,being the manifestation of God's love, means looking your best friend right in the face and saying, "You're screwing up your life." We should always do it with love, but sometimes we must risk rejection, and anger, and even loss, it we are to be true to the gospel.

We are one week from the end of Christmas. In this last week of Christmas, I would invite you every day to look for the epiphanies, the signs of the presence of God. And every day look for an opportunity to be the epiphany, the manifestation of God's loving presence to someone else, and not just friends and family.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Name

Today we celebrate the Holy Name of Jesus. Until the 15th century in keeping with the gospel and Jewish tradition, the Church celebrated the circumcision and the naming on the same day, January 1. Later we separated it into two separate feast and in our current calendar we celebrate the name only. In Aramaic (Yeshua), Hebrew (Yehoshua), and in English (Jesus).

On one level there was nothing unique about the name. It was common among first century Jews. The gospels had to call him Jesus of Nazareth, or son of Joseph, or son of Mary to identify whom they were talking about.

What makes it unique is that it's meaning "God saves" or "God is salvation" is brought to perfection in this Jesus.

On this 10th day of Christmas we are reminded that the Holy Name of Jesus is more than a name; it is a statement of faith. When we call the name of Jesus, we are proclaiming our belief that 2000 years ago God brought the ultimate salvation into our world. Forgiveness of sin and so much more, a share in the divine life of God.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Liar, Liar

Today's first reading opens with a rather harsh question: Who is a liar? And once again it is dealing with those who deny Jesus is the Christ.

On the surface that would seem to have nothing to do with any of us except it goes on to distinguish.

Let what you heard from the beginning remain in you. If what you heard from the beginning remains in you, then you will remain in the Son and in the Father...And now, children, remain in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not be put to shame by him at his coming.

Remaining in him is not as easy as it seems. It is not simply enough to not deny Jesus directly. We must remain 24 hrs/day in Jesus and allow his word to remain in us. If we profess faith on Sundays at mass, but on Monday we walk out of the house and effectively leave Christ at home. If we allow the anxiety about life to overtake us, and not trust in God, then we are liars. Our Sunday profession of faith becomes empty words.

Will any of us do it perfectly, all the time? Of course not. We all step away from time to time. Our confidence in God's love falters. But then we must remind ourselves. Every day and often more than once a day we must remind ourselves to remain in Christ.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The eighth day

Today we celebrate the octave, the 8th day of the Christmas season. Since the time of the early Christians the number eight has represented the beginning of a new creation. The old world was created in seven days. With Christ, and eighth  day, a new world is begun.

For four centuries today was celebrated as the feast of the circumcision,recalling the moment when Jesus was circumcised and given his name.

In 1970 Pope all the sixth decided to change the name of the day. In part, his decision was based on an examination of the 20th century. Looking back over the century he recognized it to be "the most homicidal century in the history of humanity."

And so today was named the solemnity of Mary, mother of God, with the additional title world day of peace. 

Today's first reading reminds us that true peace is not something of our own creation but is a gift from God.

The priestly Blessing:
 The LORD bless you and keep you! 
The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! 
The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace! 

Like every gift, we have the choice to either accepted or rejected. While none of us would probably intentionally choose to reject the gift of peace, it is possible for us to rejected in a number of small ways. The most common way in which we reject this gift is lack of trust.

We say that we believe God loves us. We say that we believe God has a plan. But in the difficult moments of life we allow fear to overtake us.

On this first day of 2014, let us receive the gift of God's peace. Let us embrace it and hold it with two words surrender and trust. And in those cold winter moments when fear begins to creep into our bones, let us feel the light and warmth of God's face shining on us. And as St. Paul reminds us in the second reading let us with our whole heart call out to God: Abba, daddy.