Saturday, 29 November 2014

Finding Christmas - November 30 & December 1

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

  • We are facing the challenge of a mystery. A mystery is something we can see before us, very much real, but its fullness is not immediately perceived, like the entrance to a tunnel.
  • Jesus we can plainly see, historically, as a helpless newborn baby. We know where and when he was born, some two millennium ago in Bethlehem. But the universe is billions of years old. How is he, "in the beginning?"
  • These realities are merging before our eyes, TIME/ETERNITY, DIVINITY/HUMANITY
  • God has come to teach us. Parents, think of that child resting on your lap, looking up, wondering who you are. The child is you, the parent is God.
  • All through the Old Testament we see man's efforts to understand God. Is it not a wondrous mystery how God planned long ago to come to teach us as one like us?


Set as your goal to discover a new, deeper, more personal encounter with the Christ of Christmas.

As best you can, set aside a time and place for meditation.

Tools to help you: Your Bible <> missal with the Advent Mass readings <> notebook to record new insights <> internet to connect to VOICES and its suggested links <> other persons to share your insights with <> Advent worship opportunities <> determination to persevere.

Start your day by reading the current text assigned for the two days. Memorize it and keep bringing it to mind throughout the day. Remember, you are seeking something new.

Ask for grace, ask the Spirit to lead you, guide you, inspire you, take you by the hand to lead to new and wondrous things

Remember, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you!

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Finding Christmas

A phrase often heard at this times is, "Now where did I put that Christmas ...? Something related to decorations no doubt, an annual undertaking at this time of year. Because we live in a society that celebrates Christmas, but less and less as a religious observance, finding the real Christmas can be a daunting task. But that is exactly why Advent is so important. Advent is all about finding Christmas.

Our search begins, not in the hall closet but in a book, the scripture to be exact, where the true story of Christmas begins. There mingled among the many words of scripture is The Word, the Word we are looking for, who is the Christ of true Christmas.

A good place to start looking is where we left off last Christmas, in St. John's gospel, in the prologue which makes up the gospel reading for the third mass of Christmas, the original Christmas mass.

I have broken the passage into twelve parts. My proposal is to take one of these selections and use it as the subject of our Advent meditation. It will take twenty-four days, and bring us to Christmas Eve. More to come.


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


All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.


What came to be through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;
the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.


A man named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.


He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.


The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world,
and the world came to be through him,
but the world did not know him.


He came to what was his own,
but his own people did not accept him.


But to those who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to those who believe in his name,
who were born not by natural generation
nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision
but of God.


And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only Son,
full of grace and truth.


John testified to him and cried out, saying,
“This was he of whom I said,
‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me
because he existed before me.’”


From his fullness we have all received,
grace in place of grace,
because while the law was given through Moses,
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.


No one has ever seen God.
The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side,
has revealed him.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

A Place At His Side

We live in an age that some call the Age of the Super Star. They are persons whose admirers are calculated in mega numbers, whose fame is known by everyone, every where. Super Stars emerge out of many facets of life, from the political to sports, entertainment, even religion.

When Super Stars appear in public and great crowds gather, people want to get as close to them as possible, reaching out in the faint hope of touching them. Even the pope receives a similar kind of admiration. Think of the scene when the pope arrives to greet the people in St. Peter Square, riding among the vast crowd in the "pope mobile", hands reaching out in hopes of being touched and blessed. Now Pope Francis would hardly think of himself as a Super Star, rather as an unworthy servant fulfilling a most sacred office.

As wonderful as it is to be among the vast crowd of admirers, how much more comforting it would be if you were call to share a place at his side; to be known personally, called by your first name, to feel that you are somehow special.

These thoughts arose as I was reflecting on the readings from the book of Revelation which lead up to the feast of Christ the King. We see the throne of Christ and the vast assembly of the faithful gathered before the Lord, praising and glorifying his holy name. But is this heaven, simply being one of a vast crowd?

Truly, to be numbered among the saints is to be in heaven, but there is more. As many as they are, each person in heaven will be known in a personal and intimate way. Each person will know they are loved as if they were the only person in heaven. How this will be of course is a mystery.

As you gather with others to celebrate this great feast of Christ the King, don't think of yourself as one of many in the vast congregation praising His name, rather feel His hand reach down, lifting you up to be at His side.

Friday, 14 November 2014

"I Believe In the Communion of Saints ..."

The Communion of Saints

During the month of November, we take time to reflect on one of the articles of faith we confess in the Apostles Creed, the Communion of Saints. It teaches us that physical death does not break the bond we have with one another, or God, rather it brings about a change that strengthens and intensifies the ties that unite us.

From the hands of the Creator to the arms of our Savior, our existence and life unfolds, tied together with the unbreakable cords of love.

However, the picture of this wondrous mystery is not immediately available for us to see. It must first be accessed by faith until the time we see face to face. But while our faith is in formation, the specter of physical death can cause a great deal of confusion, and this is no more true, than when we face the death of a child.

People will reconcile themselves to the inevitability of death when it is the death of someone who has lived a long life. And if their final time has been marked by a measure of suffering, death is seen as a blessing, but the death of a child can prove to be irreconcilable. We think of the words in the gospel of Mathew, recounting the slaughter of the Holy Innocence: 
 “A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.” Mtt. 2:18 (Jer 31:15)
The full answer to why God chose to design our life this way remains a mystery, hidden for now but then to be revealed. I have come to understand in part that it has to do with teaching us to trust, to know that we are loved and loved unconditionally. An image that comes to mind as an illustration is that of a child being lifted into the air and then caught again in its parent's arms; squealing with delight and absolute certainty that it will not be dropped. How could this child ever acquire such certainty unless it first experienced those brief moments out of the parent's hands? Perhaps death is meant for us to experience such moments, seemingly out of His hands.

In my family, my parents suffered the death of their first born, moments after birth. His name is John. Mother told me of the untold grief and suffering they went through at that time. But soon after, a second child was born, well and healthy. Then the unthinkable, a third child came only to die at birth, Joseph, and once again the sward of grief pierced their heart. Yet God was pleased to place three more children into their arms. 

Now their second child, born between John and Joseph was me. The way these events unfolded has brought me into a clearer understanding of the mystery of God's providence and love. Even though mother's faith had been put to the test, it was not broken, and when she learned she was to have a second child, she prayed that he would survive. Like Hannah, the mother of Samuel, she dedicated her child, yet to be born, to the Lord, promising to support him in every way to become a priest. And so I did.

What has been for me a wonderful way of gaining insight into God's hidden plan, is the personal experience I have of my two brothers, John and Joseph, standing one on each side of me and protecting me from that enemy who wills to destroy me, and indeed, all priests. My vocation continues today because of the protection that comes through my communion with these two saints, my brothers.

As a parish priest, I have ministered to people through all the stages of life, which included those times when parents suffered the death of a child. When it seemed appropriate, I would share my own family's experience and my personal experience of my two brother saints with me and protecting me. On one occasion while ministering to a mother who's baby had died just before she gave birth, and after sharing with her my experience, which she said brought her much comfort, these words came to mind. She named her baby Hope. These thoughts arose out of that experience.

Baby Hope
What should we say of this day
        How shall we describe its pain
             If grief is a word so inadequate

How shall we gather up or even measure
        So many tears now falling
             Into this garden of sorrow

Will we ask God for an answer
        Since no one can say
             Why this infant life
                   Should not come to stay
             Why we must gather this way
                   To say goodbye
                   Even before sweet welcome
             Why baby Hope is taken from us
                   Before a joyful sound is heard

Love is sorrowing for her loss
        A mother's love - arms waiting to hold
             God's gift withheld
        A father's love helpless before
             So powerful a foe as death

        A pastor's love so frail and shaken
             Who must speak for God
                   And now give answer

Who is this other one I hear weeping
        In this garden of grieving
Who is this who reaches out first
        To take up the cup of sorrow
               This chalice of tiers
Who is this who consumes it fully
        Leaving only one drop
               For each of us to taste

Is not this garden Gethsemane
        Where God came first to weep for us
               Again today that we weep
                       Not alone

Is not this garden Paradise our home
        Where Hope now lives and awaits
               Our coming too

* * * * * * 

For more on the death of a child I recommend this LINK

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

In The Potter's Hands


Who can say how long 
    this lump of clay lay waiting.
Astronomers speak of billions of years,
    far too many for me to grasp.
What I understand 
    and know for certain,
    that in a long planned moment 
        it came to pass,
    when the Potter's hands reached down
and scooped it up - I began

I was not consulted about this chosen time,
    nor shape or form for this vessel
        that I am.
What was given were eyes with which to see and marvel
    at what would unfolded in the Potter's hands,
    to watch and comprehend how perfectly
        I was made to fit into His grand design.

Each new day assigns but a single task,
that I submit to the grasp of these Hands forming me,
    sometimes firm and deliberate, shaping and reshaping,
        softening this clay when it hardens and resists,
    sometimes gentle and forgiving,
        when this clay forgets and muses that it shapes itself.

How long will it take for the Potter to complete His work
    I do not know, nor has it been told to me.
I am to look to the past as every apprentice should,
    seeking to learn the art of collaboration.

I am to look to the future with complete and unhindered trust.

I am to look upon today as the one appointed,
    to take up the task,
        to be and become, me
            in the Potter's hands.

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