Sunday, December 31, 2006

And Dwelt Among Us

Peace! Blessings on this feast of the Holy Family. A thought struck me in the Gospel today: Luke tells us that Jesus went back to Nazareth and was obedient to Mary and Joseph, and that Mary pondered all these things in her heart. Part of the dynamics of family is that all the members learn from each other. So Jesus, as a human being, learned from Mary and Joseph, and they, of course, learned from him.
Francis of Assisi learned from his family, in both positive and negative ways. He learned about the faith, about life, about perseverence and courage from his father and mother. He also learned about the power of greed and acquiesence to wrong. I hope, also, that his family learned from him. It's easy to think that his mother did. But perhaps Pietro di Bernardone did, too.
This feast reminds us that God is the ultimate foundation and hope of any family, and that the Holy Spirit can work within any family dynamics, both the most beautiful and the most dysfunctional. Thank God for that.
Holy Jesus, Savior, help us in our struggles to love. Mother Mary, St. Joseph, guide and help us on the way.
God bless you all. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Seeing and Not Seeing

Peace! Happy Feast of St. John the Evangelist. The readings today talk about seeing. The First Letter of John talks about what "our eyes have seen." The Word of Life made visible. Yet, the Gospel says that the beloved disciple "saw and believed." But he believed because of what he didn't see: no body, no visible presence of the Lord Jesus, only a few pieces of cloth lying around. The Lord tells us through John that the Word was God, from all eternity, yet in time became visible. That dynamic of seeing and not seeing is part of our spiritual journey. There are times when God's presence is clearly visible, clearly discernible. Then, there are times when God seems hidden, obscure, or even completely absent. Faith calls us to believe even when we do not see; to love even when we do not feel love.
This was the secret of St. Francis, to believe in God's presence even in those places where it does not seem to be, or even be possible. He learned that from his encounter with the leper. He never would have imagined that God could be present in a diseased and shunned leper. Yet, in a leper he encountered a "sweetness of body and soul" which could only come from God.
We ask St. John to help us to believe in the Word of Life made visible, that with him, with Our Lady and Francis and all the saints, we may continue to walk by faith and believe He is with us.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

When the Snow Hung Round about...

Peace! Happy Feast of St. Stephen. I pray everyone had a blessed beginning of this wonderful Christmas Feast! I recall that at the death of St. Francis the bells of the little Church of St. Stephen in Assisi began to ring. One Christlike person receving another. Thank you God for them both. God bless!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

How Small He Became

The Gospel of this Fourth Sunday of Advent (which is also the entire fourth week of Advent) recounts the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and recognized the great work that God was carrying out in Mary. An important point is how she came to know this. What was the sign that pointed it out? It wasn't anything big or spectacular. Mary was not bathed in a heavenly light, or arrayed in gold and silver, or preceded by a fanfare of angelic trumpets. Rather, Elizabeth felt the baby move within her, leap for joy at God's presence and the fulfillment of the promise. How often in the history of the world has a baby kicked within the womb? How normal, uneventful, small such a thing is in the scheme of world history. And yet, it was through such a small thing that God opened Elizabeth's heart to reveal to her the great mystery present in her young cousin coming to visit. This reveals to us so much of what the Incarnation is all about. And calls us to remember what Christmas means. I don't think we should waste our time or energy railing against the commercialism or glitter or political correctness battles. Rather, we should take time to listen to God speaking in the midst of it all in the seemingly ordinary and small things.
That, I think, was one of the great secrets of St. Francis. He looked for God in the small things of every day. In the stars and the sun, in the lepers and the poor, the prelates and the rich, in the daily joys and sorrows. And Christmas for him was a reminder that God was there in all those things.
Where did he learn that? From Mary, who teaches us to pay attention, to ponder these things in our hearts, and to proclaim the greatness of the Lord.
Merry Christmas! Blessings and Peace always!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christ our Key

The Key

Peace and Good! I love the “O” Antiphons used during these later Advent days, approaching Christmas. Sunday we hailed Christ as the Wisdom of God, Monday as Adonai, the Lord of Hosts, and yesterday as the Root of Jesse (Radix Jesse). Today we send our plea for redemption to the Clavis David, Key of David.
The preacher at mass today made a great point. He said that when we think of a key, we usually think of a door or gate, being locked or unlocked. But the word also has another meaning: that which guides interpretation, as a key to a map. And that truly applies, for it is Jesus Christ who is the key to understanding life, the universe, and everything. The universe is there before us, but we need a key, a vision and way of understanding to make it intelligible. Which is why the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, that we might see the glory of God and know what it is we are beholding.
I think this is what Francis encountered in Jesus: the one who made sense out of his world. And I pray He will help all of us as our key, opening for us the magnificent vision and teaching us the truth: God so loved the world, that He sent His only Son. God bless you!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Our Lady of Guadalupe, leading us to Jesus

Paz y Bien! I have always been moved by the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I visited the Basilica last August and was very touched in seeing both the image itself, and the faith of the people who were there with me. Our faith tells us God uses the Virgin Mary to bring Christ into this world, both in the Incarnation and in its continuation in the Church. St. Francis called Mary, "The Virgin Made Church." There is no competition between Jesus and His Mother. No one can really be devoted to her without listening to her words, "Do whatever He tells you."
One fact about the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe: she wears the symbols of a pregnant woman. Which means that when one gazes on that image, one is in fact gazing not just at her, but at her Son, Jesus. Mother, help all peoples to come to know and love your Son, and with you to serve Him in our brothers and sisters, especially those most in need.
(By the way, this image is a photo I took of the chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe that is in the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. She really is world-wide!)