Saturday, December 31, 2016


Before the technological explosion I would certainly have been called a bibliophile, a lover of books. And truth be told I still am although more of the books I buy today are eBooks. Christians can rightly be called bibliophiles, lovers not just of books in general but of The Book, O βιβλίος , The Bible. We will use the phrase, People of the Book. We immerse ourselves in the Word of God. But the Word and the Book are not the same thing.

Today on this 7th day of the Octave of Christmas the Church has us reread the gospel of Christmas Day from the prologue of John's Gospel.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Ο λόγος -the Word is not just spoken by God. This Word is God. This Word is the One through whom the universe was created. And,

The Word became flesh, and lived among us.

In Jesus our relationship is radically transformed. The Word to which we cling is a person not a book. He is the second person of the Trinity, incarnate of the Virgin Mary. Present to us not only the words he spoke, but most fully present to us in the Eucharist. We consume the Word of God every time we receive communion. We consume the Word made flesh.

Many people make New Years resolutions and a common one is to read the Bible. As Christians the place to starts is with the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These are the foundation. They are the words(small w) that tells about The Word when he became flesh and dwelt among us. Only when we have immersed ourselves in the gospel can we properly understand the rest of the Bible.

Protestants tend to focus on the words of the Bible. Catholics tend to focus on the Word made flesh in the Eucharist. It is not an either/or. It should be a both/and. We need one to understand the other. They are inseparable, because they both bind us to the one reality. The Gospels and the Eucharist link us to the God who became one with us in the incarnation we celebrate at Christmas. We should strive to remain one with Him.

By all means read the Bible, most of all the Gospels. But for an even fuller experience combine that with reception of His Body and Blood. Spend time in His presence before a tabernacle in a Church or Chapel. When we combine these we go from being people of the Book to truly People of the Word.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The End of the Age

Only four days and Christians around the world will be gathering to celebrate the Birth of the Baby Jesus. And would be nice if we could pause life, and enjoy it. But life doesn't work like that.  Life continues and as the commercial says, "Life comes at you fast." Poverty, war, suffering, sickness and death do not stop for Christmas. Even the more immediate problems at work or in the family continue. Actually, the holidays tend to exacerbate some of those problems. And yet we are expected to walk around still saying, "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" (for the politically correct). It all seems kind of ridiculous. Except for one thing.

Today we hear a promise given voice through the prophet Isaiah,

the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,and shall name him Emmanuel.

God is with Us.

The new translation of the creed is more accurate. Jesus was born before all ages. He always existed. But through the Virgin Maria he became incarnate, flesh and blood, a tangible participation in our human life.  In the Old Testament you have intermittent contact through prophets, signs and wonders. Through the Virgin Mary God was now something, some one who could be seen, heard, and touched directly. 

Bur even more important are the last words of Jesus at the end of Matthew's Gospel. 

And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.

From the point of view of the world, with the Ascension Jesus disappeared.  But we know better. He promised to remain and He always keeps his promises. 

Will there be Christmas craziness?  Of course there will. There always is. But we can face it all because we know we are celebrating not the birth of a baby in Bethlehem but the Birth of a new age for the world  and age in which God is constantly with every single member of his body, the Church. From the moment of our Baptism, Emmauel, God is with us. This is the age in which we live. And this is why no matter what is going on around us we can honestly say, "Merry Christmas."

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Wisdom from on high

Today we turn and head down into the final days of preparation marked in the Liturgy by the antiphons used in evening prayer and most famous to us through the song O Come, O Come Emmanuel. Today begins with O Wisdom.

And we see that Wisdom of God in the Gospel. That long reading of the genealogy provided by St. Matthew parallels in many ways the story of creation in that it shows the order of God's plans. If seven is the number of perfection, in the Gospel the number is doubled to 14 generations. Saint Matthew tells us the story of three groups of 14 generations leading to birth of Jesus.

But this is no fairytale filled with happiness and light. In Saint Matthew's account of the genealogy there are contained examples of in but grave sin. Tucked into the folds of what it may look like simply a list of names, is the good news that even in the darkest of sin can be used, transformed, for some good purpose. Where we see only darkness, in, weakness, and frailty; God who is the only true wisdom sees hope and possibility.

Today let us pause and pray for Wisdom to see as God sees.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Bringing Light

Today's saint, St. Lucy, was just one of the Martyrs during the persecution by the emperor Diocletian. The veneration of St. Lucy, her courage and her concern for the poor spread quickly. On the older calendar Dec. 13 was the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year, and so candles became central to her feast day. Girls would dress in white, with red sashes to symbolize virginity and martyrdom and process with candles through the street.

While the processions with candles may have fallen out of practice. On this feast of St. Lucy each of us can begin this day determined to be bringer of light, the Light of Christ. For many of us this will require incredible discipline not only with our actions but with our words. Bringers of light follow the instruction of St. Paul,

- Say only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear Eph 4:29

Today may all our actions and words be actions and words of light.

St. Lucy, pray for us.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Why should I care ?

Many non-Hispanic Catholics are consciously or unconsciously asking that question today as we celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe. Despite the fact that St. John Paul II proclaimed her the Patroness of America. As he said in Ecclesia in America "the Virgin of Guadalupe is venerated as Queen of all America." The Pope's decision to refer to America in the singular is critical to understanding the importance of today.

At Tepeyac, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared with the face of an indigenous woman. In the words of St. John Paul II, "an impressive example of perfectly inculturated evangelization." Throughout the centuries each time she has been sent to appear, she has always been perfectly inculturated and so able to perfectly, by her presence, communicate God's message of love and salvation offered to all people – one Mother, many apparitions. In my home growing up it was often mom who had to serve and the great reconciler. And so,whether our nation is known for speaking English, French, Portuguese, or Spanish; today's celebration calls us to pause and pray that we can see beyond our national identities, and geographic separation and seek unity. All children of one Father, one Lord and Savior, and one Mother through whom he took on our humanity.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Happy by choice

Most of us think of happiness as a reaction. Medical experts can tell us all about the chemical responses our brain has to certain stimuli and the chemicals that are released that make us feel happy. The problem with this kind of happiness is that it locates the source outside of us. There must be a stimulus.

As many of you know for the last six months I have been wrestling with a back problem that has left me in more constant pain that ever in my life. I have a whole list of what it isn't, but we still don't know what it is. So we manage the symptom as best we can. I share that not for sympathy but for context.

In the Church's calendar today is Gaudete Sunday, from the text of Phil 4:4.

Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.

You can see the irony.

But the more I prayed over it, the more I came to understand. St. Paul can tell us to rejoice always because joy is not a reaction. It is a choice.

How many people, particularly at the holidays, look at their lives and feel themselves robbed of the people and things that once gave them joy by relocation, lost loved ones, injustice done to them or just work that seems pure drudgery? For many "Merry Christmas" seems either a distant memory or something they have never know.

The good news is that in a single verse St. Paul gives us the formula. He tells us to rejoice always but he also tells us where to find the joy — in the Lord.

To find the joy regardless of circumstance we must pray, and in that prayer we must lose ourselves, abandon ourselves completely in the Lord. Because when we abandon ourselves we also abandon our pain, our suffering, and our loss. When we abandon ourselves in this way, we are free to be enveloped in the love of Christ. Then we are able to see the world around us through His eyes. And when we do, we see the signs of His love and presence all around. Trees, lights, decorations, music, cards, presents, family and friends are nice when we have them. But even when some or all of that is taken away, a true Christian can rejoice and say "Merry Christmas."

Joy has one true source Love, and the most perfect love comes from God. So

Rejoice in the Lord always.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Light and Truth

Mark Twain is purported to have said, "A lie can travel around the world and back again while the truth is lacing up its boots." And that was long before the internet. There appears to be, in our wounded human nature, something that makes us willing, almost anxious, to hear bad things about people we don't like. It is not new. In the gospel today we hear,

John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.

Spin as we call it is as old as sin itself. 21st century technology has simply provided this evil inclination in us with new tools. Now we can all be publishers, but as Christians we have a particular responsibility to the Truth. After all, we claim to be followers of the one who is The Way, The Truth, and the Life. When the candle is given at the Rite of Baptism, the minister says, "...[he/she] is to walk always as a child of the light."

Among the titles for Satan are: Father of lies, and Prince of Darkness.

Before we post, share, tweet or retweet; we should always ask ourselves, "Am I sure this is the truth?" And then when we are sure it is true, we still need to ask, "Does it add to the light or the darkness?" Many thing can be true, and still be words of darkness. If we tear down rather than build up, if we open old wounds rather than bind them up, the we are still working for the darkness.

Social Media is a magnificent invention it can literally unite the world. And nearly a third of that world professes in some way to be Christian. As we continue to light the candles of our advent wreaths, let us also be the one who work to transform social media into places of light and truth for all people.