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Monday, December 31, 2018

Poem: New Year's Eve, Alfred Tennyson, In Memoriam

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Prayer: Peter Julian Eymard

The Eucharist began at Bethlehem in Mary's arms. It was she who brought to humanity the Bread for which it was famishing, and which alone can nourish it. She it was who took care of that Bread for us. It was she who nourished the Lamb whose life-giving Flesh we feed upon

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Literature: John Donne

The whole life of Christ was a continual Passion; others die martyrs but Christ was born a martyr. He found a Golgotha even in Bethlehem, where he was born; for to his tenderness then the straws were almost as sharp as the thorns after, and the manger as uneasy at first as his cross at last. His birth and his death were but one continual act, and his Christmas day and his Good Friday are but the evening and morning of one and the same day. And as even his birth is his death, so every action and passage that manifests Christ to us is his birth, for Epiphany is manifestation.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Time at the Studio

It is Christmas break and I am spending a few days at the studio. I have begun an extensive project to paint a sailboat using pointillism as a method. It will be a series of pixillated dots to create an image and it will take a great deal of time. It is relaxing and it will be exciting (and anxiety-producing) to see if the image comes to life.

This is my third consecutive day in the studio and I was excited to get started today. I sat with another artist and we each drank a cup of coffee and then I returned to work. I started to think about putting dots on the canvas and for some reason I painted a square image of white blossoms against a blue background. I was stymied as to the reason I did not put those dots on the canvas but I became excited about painting a summer time image. The model for my painting was an image I took of a tree with white blossoms in Chatham, Cape Cod this summer. I liked the stark contrast of the white against the vibrant blue. Anyways, I went back to stippling after a while but it was with a slightly darker blue tone so the average person would not see that the color I applied was any different.

I have been using this week as prayer time. Typically, the week after Christmas I pray for those people who sent me Christmas cards and then I follow it up on Epiphany to end the season. Christmas cards are among my favorite part of Christmas, and this years I received a surprise card on Christmas Eve that was very special. I was taken aback and it was as if the whole significance of Christmas descending upon my prayer and I just gave thanks.

This week has been restful. The artists that I am meeting are quite friendly and attentive. They like that there is a priest among them and they like that I am among them. They are kind people and I like kind, happy people. They like me too. Even for those who say faith has nothing to offer them, they still like something I offer them and they hav many questions about God and the meaning of life. Something is working.

I am amazed at the range of people who pass through the SoWa (South of Washington) studios. Yesterday, my first two guests were from Norway and Orange County, respectively. Many of those who are visiting this week are from out-of-town. It is astonishing that people from the hotels and from across the country know about this place better than many Bostonians. I enjoy these interactions.

One guy yesterday asked of large portrait that I painted years ago, “Is that you? The nose is different but the eyes and the smile are warm, just like you.”

I had a nice Christmas. The parish is a lot of fun and I met some nice people. It is fun to see a packed church. My sister hosted dinner for Christmas Day and it was quite fun with tasty food and a relaxed atmosphere. My niece visited with her family as well. I enjoyed the day.

As I was returning home, I passed through the center of Worcester to see their Christmas lights. I saw about 16 young adults on the Common and we started chatting. They were Iraqi students who were studying at college in Worcester. We sang some Arabic songs and they were delighted. They could not believe an American would know those songs.

I still have a lot to do with the studio. I have to set up a website and get some business cards and posters. Simple stuff, but time consuming. I’m just enjoying painting and all these dots are giving me an opportunity to speak on the phone with friends and family and to call to mind all those people who are suffering in some way. 

Well, all these dots are keeping me focused. I’ve done about 5,000 and I probably have another 295,000 to go. I hope the person who gets this painting realizes the amount of time and attention that it took to create this. I think the person will very much appreciate it.

Anyways, back to those dots.

Literature: Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The Holy Night We sate among the stalls at Bethlehem; The dumb kine from their fodder turning them, Softened their horned faces To almost human gazes Toward the newly Born: The simple shepherds from the star-lit brooks Brought visionary looks, As yet in their astonied hearing rung The strange sweet angel-tongue: The magi of the East, in sandals worn, Knelt reverent, sweeping round, With long pale beards, their gifts upon the ground, The incense, myrrh, and gold These baby hands were impotent to hold: So let all earthlies and celestials wait Upon thy royal state. Sleep, sleep, my kingly One!

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Spirituality: Ted Dekker

The sun began to set behind Bethlehem and the beams were breaking through some white and gray clouds. There was a slight and beautiful chill from the autumn air. I gave thanks for that beautiful day and for the fact that the sun does not know Palestinian from Israeli, Christian from Muslim or Jew, and Asian from American or African, and I asked myself: If the sun shines on all of us as one, how much more does the sun's Creator see and love us all as one?

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Holy Family

The Holy Family
December 30, 2018
1 Samuel 1:20-22, 24-28; Psalm 84; 1 John 3:1-2, 21-24; Luke 2:41-52

The first reading tells us that Hannah and Elkanah were obedient to the protocols of the faith by bringing Samuel to the Temple and making the customary sacrifices. Mary and Joseph did the same when they presented Jesus with their required Temple offerings. A comparison of Mary’s story with Hannah’s shows striking similarities. Each story shows they were obedient to the faith, and that is the point of these readings. We become fascinated with the story of the young Jesus teaching in the Temple. He is precocious and he knows he has a future destiny, but the key insight from the Gospel is that he returned with them to Nazareth and learned obedience from Mary and Joseph.

Today we honor the Holy Family because they taught Jesus the obedience of faith that was needed to be obedient to God as he approached the cross. The daily, mundane lessons of practical life that his parents taught him made him capable of understanding the rigors required by his faith. Learning good manners, studying diligently, respecting the law and one’s elders, practicing patience and charity, and honoring the rituals, customs, and traditions of the community gave Jesus the discipline to handle God’s expectations for him well. His practice of prayer had to continually develop as he came to a greater understanding of who he was and of his relationship to his Father.

Our family homes are the most important teachers of the faith. The homes have to be a place where we teach each other how to pray, how to study scripture and our traditions, and how to understand the history of church teachings. The emphasis is on the discipline rather than the content. We teach our young and each other how to think and how to express our feelings. We teach the virtues by living them out: apologizing for those times we have not respected a family member well, being open to informing our consciences more fully, and speaking words the nourish the positive development of a crucial relationship. These tasks are not easy, and it often means unlearning the ways we have been formed so we can develop kingdom-centered virtues.

This obedience is not the “pray, pay, and obey” method of the church of yesterday. We do not follow a law simply because it is a law because an unjust law is not a law at all. The far majority of laws are designed to give us freedom and to care for the greater common good. We must balance respect for the law with the practice of informing our consciences and wrangling with the moral implications of our judgments. The key for a Christian is to discover how to be faithful to Christ, who was obedient to God and broke with some of the Jewish traditions and conventions. Our families, our communities of faith, have to teach us to engage in a vital relationship with Jesus so that his voice can guide us forward. Scripture, tradition, church teachings are helpful signposts, but above everything else, the wisdom and guidance of Jesus is the most important factor in making choices.

Within a complex rapidly changing society that presents us with new moral dilemmas almost daily, and with a church that is currently crippled in providing credible guidance, we have to return to basics. We have to hear the voice of Jesus as the voice of discernment, and we need to rely upon each other to help us get there by praying in common, by sharing our stories, and by mindful listening in order to understand one another. Perhaps we have to learn how to pray creatively and according to our unique styles that meets where we are as maturing individuals. We become a community of prayer as we learn from each other’s experiences and we teach each other how to be obedient to Christ and his Spirit.

We have each other in Christ. This is a great strength. It will help us navigate risky and complex moral problems, and it will give us the courage to persevere in the face of adversity and confusion. In the church, a new way forward is needed. We are relying upon you to imitate the obedience of Jesus to help to get us to new places we cannot yet imagine. You have enormous power and abilities to bring us forward and I am confident that together we will honor Christ. This is the Holy Family he is honoring today. He is honoring you, his brothers and sisters, and he is glad to be part of this family.

Scripture for Daily Mass

First Reading: 
Monday: (1 John 2) It is the last hour and the anti-Christ is coming. You have the anointing of the Holy One, and you have all knowledge.

Tuesday: (1 John 2) The liar is the one who denies Jesus is the Christ. Anyone who denies the Son also denies the Father. Let what you heard from the beginning remain with you.

Wednesday: (1 John 2) See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. The world doesn’t know us because they don’t know him.

         Thursday: (1 John 3) The person who acts in righteousness is righteous. Whoever sins belongs to the Devil. Stay in the Light as the children of God.  

Friday: (1 John 3) The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.      

Saturday (1 John 5) Who is the victor of this world? The one who believes in Jesus, who came through water and Blood, and the Spirit testifies to him.   

Monday: (John 1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things came to be through him. A light shines in the darkness.

Tuesday: (John 1) This is the testimony of John: I am the voice of one crying out in the desert: Make straight the way of the Lord.    

Wednesday: (John 1) John the Baptist saw Jesus and said, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” The Spirit will come upon him and remain with him.

Thursday (John 1) The disciples of John were asked by Jesus, “What are you looking for?” They asked, “Where are you staying?” Come and see.

Friday (John 1) In Galilee, Jesus called Philip, who found Nathaniel and brought him to Jesus. “He is a true Israelite in whom there is no guile.”

Saturday (Mark 1) John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. The heavens were torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descended upon him.

Saints of the Week

December 30: The Family of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, was a feast instituted in 1921. It was originally the 3rd Sunday after Christmas. The Holy Family is often seen in Renaissance paintings - and many of those are of the flight into Egypt.

December 31: Sylvester I, pope (d. 335), served the church shortly after Constantine issued his Edict of Milan in 313 that publicly recognized Christianity as the official religion of the empire and provided it freedom of worship. Large public churches were built by the emperor and other benefactors. Sylvester was alive during the Council of Nicaea but did not attend because of old age.

January 2: Basil the Great and Gregory Nanzianzen, bishops and doctors (fourth century), are two of the four great doctors of the Eastern Church. They are known for their preaching especially against the Arian heretics. Basil began as a hermit before he was named archbishop of Caesarea. He influenced Gregory who eventually became archbishop of Constantinople. Their teachings influenced both the Roman and Eastern Churches.

January 3: The Name of Jesus was given to the infant as the angel foretold. In the Mediterranean world, the naming of person stood for the whole person. Humans were given the power to name during the Genesis creation accounts. If one honors the name of the person, they honor the person. The name Jesus means “Yahweh saves.”

January 4: Elizabeth Ann Seton, religious (1774-1821), was born into an Episcopalian household where she married and had five children. When her husband died, she became a Catholic and founded a girls’ school in Baltimore. She then founded the Sisters of Charity and began the foundation for the parochial school system in the U.S. She is the first native-born American to be canonized.

January 5: John Neumann, bishop (1811-1860), emigrated from Bohemia to New York and joined the Redemptorists in Pittsburgh before being named bishop of Philadelphia. He built many churches in the diocese and placed great emphasis on education as the foundation of faith.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Dec 30, 1564. Letter from Pope Pius IV to Daniel, Archbishop of Mayence, deploring the malicious and scurrilous pamphlets published against the Society throughout Germany and desiring him to use his influence against the evil.
·      Dec 31, 1640. John Francis Regis died. He was a missionary to the towns and villages of the remote mountains of southern France.
·      Jan. 1, 1598: Fr. Alphonsus Barréna, surnamed the Apostle of Peru, died. He was the first to carry the faith to the Guaranis and Chiquitos in Paraguay.
·      Jan. 2, 1619: At Rome, John Berchmans and Bartholomew Penneman, his companion scholastic from Belgium, entered the Roman College.
·      Jan. 3, 1816: Fr. General Brzozowski and 25 members of the Society, guarded by soldiers, left St. Petersburg, Russia, having been banished by the civil government.
·      Jan. 4, 1619: The English mission is raised to the status of a province.
·      Jan. 5, 1548: Francis Suarez, one of the greatest theologians of the church, was born at Granada.

La sagrada familia

La sagrada familia
30 de diciembre de 2018
1 Samuel 1: 20-22, 24-28; Salmo 84; 1 Juan 3: 1-2, 21-24; Lucas 2: 41-52

La primera lectura nos dice que Hannah y Elkanah fueron obedientes a los protocolos de la fe al llevar a Samuel al Templo y hacer los sacrificios habituales. María y José hicieron lo mismo cuando presentaron a Jesús las ofrendas requeridas para el Templo. Una comparación de la historia de Mary con la de Hannah muestra sorprendentes similitudes. Cada historia muestra que fueron obedientes a la fe, y ese es el punto de estas lecturas. Nos fascinamos con la historia del joven Jesús enseñando en el Templo. Él es precoz y sabe que tiene un destino futuro, pero la idea clave del Evangelio es que regresó con ellos a Nazaret y aprendió la obediencia de María y José.

Hoy honramos a la Sagrada Familia porque le enseñaron a Jesús la obediencia a la fe que se necesitaba para ser obedientes a Dios cuando se acercaba a la cruz. Las lecciones cotidianas y mundanas de la vida práctica que sus padres le enseñaron lo hicieron capaz de comprender los rigores requeridos por su fe. Aprender las buenas costumbres, estudiar con diligencia, respetar la ley y los mayores, practicar la paciencia y la caridad, y honrar los rituales, las costumbres y las tradiciones de la comunidad le dio a Jesús la disciplina para manejar bien las expectativas de Dios para él. Su práctica de la oración tenía que desarrollarse continuamente a medida que llegaba a una mayor comprensión de quién era él y de su relación con su Padre.

Nuestros hogares familiares son los maestros más importantes de la fe. Los hogares deben ser un lugar donde nos enseñemos unos a otros cómo orar, cómo estudiar las Escrituras y nuestras tradiciones, y cómo entender la historia de las enseñanzas de la iglesia. El énfasis está en la disciplina más que en el contenido. Enseñamos a nuestros jóvenes y a los demás cómo pensar y cómo expresar nuestros sentimientos. Enseñamos las virtudes al vivirlas: disculpándonos por aquellos momentos en que no hemos respetado bien a un miembro de la familia, estamos abiertos a informar más a nuestras conciencias y, hablando las palabras, nutren el desarrollo positivo de una relación crucial. Estas tareas no son fáciles, y a menudo significa desaprender las formas en que nos formamos para que podamos desarrollar virtudes centradas en el reino.

Esta obediencia no es el método de “orar, pagar y obedecer” de la iglesia de ayer. No seguimos una ley simplemente porque es una ley porque una ley injusta no es una ley en absoluto. La gran mayoría de las leyes están diseñadas para darnos libertad y para cuidar el bien común. Debemos equilibrar el respeto por la ley con la práctica de informar nuestras conciencias y discutir con las implicaciones morales de nuestros juicios. La clave para un cristiano es descubrir cómo ser fieles a Cristo, que fue obediente a Dios y rompió con algunas de las tradiciones y convenciones judías. Nuestras familias, nuestras comunidades de fe, tienen que enseñarnos a participar en una relación vital con Jesús para que su voz pueda guiarnos hacia adelante. Las Escrituras, la tradición, las enseñanzas de la iglesia son indicadores útiles, pero por encima de todo, la sabiduría y la guía de Jesús es el factor más importante para tomar decisiones.

Dentro de una sociedad compleja que cambia rápidamente y que nos presenta nuevos dilemas morales casi a diario, y con una iglesia que actualmente está paralizada para brindar una orientación confiable, tenemos que volver a lo básico. Tenemos que escuchar la voz de Jesús como la voz del discernimiento, y debemos confiar el uno en el otro para ayudarnos a llegar allí orando en común, compartiendo nuestras historias y escuchando atentamente para poder entendernos mutuamente. Tal vez tengamos que aprender a orar creativamente y de acuerdo con nuestros estilos únicos que se encuentran donde estamos como individuos maduros. Nos convertimos en una comunidad de oración a medida que aprendemos de las experiencias de los demás y nos enseñamos a ser obedientes a Cristo y su Espíritu.

Nos tenemos el uno al otro en Cristo. Esta es una gran fuerza. Nos ayudará a sortear problemas morales riesgosos y complejos, y nos dará el valor para perseverar frente a la adversidad y la confusión. En la iglesia, se necesita un nuevo camino hacia adelante. Confiamos en usted para imitar la obediencia de Jesús para ayudarnos a llevarnos a lugares nuevos que aún no podemos imaginar. Usted tiene un enorme poder y habilidades para hacernos avanzar y confío en que juntos honraremos a Cristo. Esta es la Sagrada Familia que hoy honra. Él los está honrando a ustedes, sus hermanos y hermanas, y se alegra de ser parte de esta familia.

Escritura para la misa diaria

Primera lectura:
Lunes: (1 Juan 2) Es la última hora y el anticristo está llegando. Tienes la unción del Santo, y tienes todo el conocimiento.

Martes: (1 Juan 2) El mentiroso es el que niega que Jesús es el Cristo. Cualquiera que niega al Hijo también niega al Padre. Deja que lo que escuchaste desde el principio permanezca contigo.

Miércoles: (1 Juan 2) Vea qué amor nos ha dado el Padre para que podamos ser llamados hijos de Dios. El mundo no nos conoce porque no lo conocen a él.

Jueves: (1 Juan 3) La persona que actúa en justicia es justa. El que peca es del diablo. Permanezcan en la Luz como los hijos de Dios.

Viernes: (1 Juan 3) La forma en que llegamos a conocer el amor fue que dio su vida por nosotros; por eso debemos dar nuestras vidas por nuestros hermanos y hermanas.

Sábado (1 Juan 5) ¿Quién es el vencedor de este mundo? El que cree en Jesús, que vino a través del agua y la sangre, y el Espíritu le da testimonio.

Lunes: (Juan 1) Al principio estaba la Palabra, y la Palabra estaba con Dios, y la Palabra era Dios. Todas las cosas vinieron a ser a través de él. Una luz brilla en la oscuridad.

Martes: (Juan 1) Este es el testimonio de Juan: Soy la voz de uno que clama en el desierto: Enderezad el camino del Señor.

Miércoles: (Juan 1) Juan el Bautista vio a Jesús y dijo: "He aquí el Cordero de Dios, que quita el pecado del mundo". El Espíritu vendrá sobre él y permanecerá con él.

Jueves (Juan 1) Jesús preguntó a los discípulos de Juan: “¿Qué estás buscando?”. Preguntaron: “¿Dónde te hospedas?”. Ven y mira.

Viernes (Juan 1) En Galilea, Jesús llamó a Felipe, quien encontró a Natanael y lo llevó a Jesús. "Es un verdadero israelita en quien no hay engaño".

Sábado (Marcos 1) Juan bautizó a Jesús en el río Jordán. Los cielos se abrieron y el Espíritu, como una paloma, descendió sobre él.

Santos de la semana

30 de diciembre: La familia de José, María y Jesús fue una fiesta instituida en 1921. Era originalmente el tercer domingo después de Navidad. La Sagrada Familia se ve a menudo en las pinturas del Renacimiento, y muchas de ellas son de la huida a Egipto.

31 de diciembre: Sylvester I, papa (m. 335), sirvió en la iglesia poco después de que Constantino emitiera su Edicto de Milán en 313, que reconocía públicamente al cristianismo como la religión oficial del imperio y le proporcionaba libertad de culto. Las grandes iglesias públicas fueron construidas por el emperador y otros benefactores. Sylvester estuvo vivo durante el Concilio de Nicea, pero no asistió debido a la vejez.

2 de enero: Basilio el Grande y Gregory Nanzianzen, obispos y médicos (siglo IV), son dos de los cuatro grandes doctores de la Iglesia del Este. Son conocidos por su predicación, especialmente contra los herejes arrianos. Basilio comenzó como un ermitaño antes de ser nombrado arzobispo de Cesarea. Influyó en Gregory, quien finalmente se convirtió en arzobispo de Constantinopla. Sus enseñanzas influyeron tanto en las iglesias romanas como en las orientales.

3 de enero: El nombre de Jesús fue dado al infante como el ángel lo predijo. En el mundo mediterráneo, el nombramiento de persona representaba a toda la persona. A los humanos se les dio el poder de nombrarlos durante las cuentas de creación del Génesis. Si uno honra el nombre de la persona, honra a la persona. El nombre de Jesús significa "Yahveh salva".

4 de enero: Elizabeth Ann Seton, religiosa (1774-1821), nació en un hogar episcopal donde se casó y tuvo cinco hijos. Cuando su esposo murió, ella se convirtió en católica y fundó una escuela para niñas en Baltimore. Luego fundó las Hermanas de la Caridad y comenzó la fundación del sistema escolar parroquial en los Estados Unidos. Es la primera estadounidense nacida en Estados Unidos en ser canonizada.

5 de enero: John Neumann, obispo (1811-1860), emigró de Bohemia a Nueva York y se unió a los Redentoristas en Pittsburgh antes de ser nombrado obispo de Filadelfia. Él construyó muchas iglesias en la diócesis y puso gran énfasis en la educación como la base de la fe.

Esta semana en la historia jesuita

• 30 de diciembre de 1564. Carta del papa Pío IV a Daniel, arzobispo de Mayence, deplorando los panfletos malintencionados y malintencionados publicados contra la Sociedad en toda Alemania y deseando que use su influencia contra el mal.
• 31 de diciembre de 1640. John Francis Regis murió. Fue misionero en las ciudades y pueblos de las remotas montañas del sur de Francia.
• 1 de enero de 1598: p. Alfonso Barréna, de apellido Apóstol del Perú, murió. Fue el primero en llevar la fe a los guaraníes y chiquitos en Paraguay.
• 2 de enero de 1619: en Roma, John Berchmans y Bartholomew Penneman, su compañero escolástico de Bélgica, ingresaron en el Colegio Romano.
• 3 de enero de 1816: p. El general Brzozowski y 25 miembros de la Sociedad, custodiados por soldados, abandonaron San Petersburgo, Rusia, después de haber sido desterrados por el gobierno civil.
• 4 de enero de 1619: la misión inglesa se eleva al estado de una provincia.
• 5 de enero de 1548: Francis Suárez, uno de los más grandes teólogos de la iglesia, nació en Granada.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Spirituality: Roy Rogers

Like God, Christmas is timeless and eternal, from everlasting to everlasting. It is something even more than what happened that night in starlit little Bethlehem; it has been behind the stars forever. There was Christmas in the heart of God before the world was formed.

Merry Christmas (homily)

The nativity story, though we hear it year after year, fills us with wonder as God is born to us as a vulnerable child. We gaze upon the manger in amazement because we know deep down in our hearts that God did this personally for us. It is the great mystery and wonderful sacrament that the world should meet the new-born Lord lying in a manger. While it remains a mystery, a special quality exists that we cannot articulate that keeps us very quiet and thankful. It stops us and takes our breath away.  
Tonight, we do our best to hold onto that wonder and amazement because these memories will sustain us and feed our hope. It is a special moment to realize God really does dwell among us and that none of us is forgotten. None. No one. Even those who think they are unlovable or irredeemable. The family’s black sheep? Loved in a special way. God remembers us. We will not give up on each other. It is a moment to realize that we give the mysterious peace of Christ to others through our goodwill. Do all that is possible to lengthen the good spirit of this day. After a long year, you deserve to receive goodwill and to savor it. 
         Speaking of amazement and wonder, we are glad to see the church filled with friends and family. This very church has contained prayers for so many of you throughout this past year. Rest assured that a loved one has offered your name in prayer to God for special care this year. You have remained a part of our community. I’m very happy you are here, most importantly before Christ who wants to give himself to you as a gift.  
         For those of you who are returning, welcome home. It is good to have you back. For those who are visiting, this is your home as well. I hope you come back. This parish is fortunate to have an attentive pastor and a helpful staff, and we have a Pope who is working diligently behind the scenes to make our church a community where Christ’s love is authentically given to everyone who needs it. We all need it. Our church is going through deep challenges, and the road forward may become even darker and more confusing before it becomes a welcoming place that is known for its mercy once again, but Christ is present and is doing his work to transform it. So, please, gives us a chance. Consider making our church, wherever you live, your community of faith. We have so much to explore together. Learn to see it with positive regard and see the goodness that it is trying to bring forth. We need church to be, not a building or an administrative organization, but a community of faith of compassionate people who radically cares for each other as brother and sister. We are given to each other as gifts to enjoy.       
         As you well know, life is often a challenge with pain, suffering and disappointment. People often say that Christmas is for children, but that is only partly true. Christmas is more for adults because there comes a certain point in our life when we recognize that life is a mess and we need a Savior. Adults need Christmas more than children because we realize things are most out of control and we can’t save anyone. The illnesses and hardships that become part of our daily life are beyond our control and we are powerless before them. Only Christ can give meaning to the suffering we face. Only Christ can tend and heal our wounds. Only Christ can reconcile. Only Christ’s mercy that is shown through our actions can touch our deepest prayers, much like the reality of the Christ child who penetrates to a quiet place deep within ourselves to bring us to a calm stillness.
         Pope Francis preaches the necessity of mercy over rules and teachings. Mercy is entering into the chaos of another person, and this is precisely what the Christ child does for us. He is born into our broken human family so that we might have a brother, a God, who understands what we go through. He will teach us that being merciful is messy; that compassion heals, reconciles, and binds us together. Our isolation is over when we allow someone else to reach into our chaos and still find us lovable.
         My prayer for you is that you experience the love of God often this year as you make yourself vulnerable enough to be loved without regard for what you’ve said or done. All of that is over now. Christ has been born to us. A son has been given. Step forward onto this journey to the heart of God. We, your church, will stand here with open arms to walk on this journey with you.
         Hear our invitation. Listen to our prayer for you. You are part of our community of faith and we are enriched by your presence and the promise of your presence. The Church needs the same sort of healing and reconciliation that we as individuals do. Be a part of that change. Pope Francis is inching us forward and it is exciting. See what love God has for you. Today is God’s gift to us. He gives us his Mercy. Come. Just come! Don’t look back. Let’s go forward – onwards and upwards – to this new day with Christ growing more fully within us each day. It is more joyful when we walk forward together. With the angels we can sing out together: Gloria in excelsis Deo. Merry Christmas.