Sunday, December 30, 2012

Holy Families in Solidarity

Flight to Egypt by Fritz Eichenberg
Mother Teresa spoke of seeing Jesus "in disturbing disguise" within the poor whom she served.  What if the Holy Family is mysteriously present "in disturbing disguise" within the countless families who are in dire circumstances today?

The migration of peoples has become a global phenomenon.  Whether they be political or economic refugees, hundreds of thousands of families are driven from their homes each year to seek new beginnings in far off places.  And countless other families face difficulties which leave them feeling helpless and hopeless.

Each month Pope Benedict selects two prayer intentions--one general and one focused on missions--which are promoted by the Apostleship of Prayer.  At the close of 2012, the Holy Father's intentions dovetail with the global issues faced by families and the ongoing celebration of Christmas:  "That migrants throughout the world may be welcomed with generosity and authentic love, especially by Christian communities"; and "That Christ may reveal himself to all humanity with the light that shines forth from Bethlehem and is reflected in the face of his Church."

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Four Reasons the Word Become Flesh

"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."

(Jn 1:14)

But why??  The greatest summary of the Christian faith in the last 400 years, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is over 800 pages--subdivided into four sections with dozens of chapters and over 2800 numbered paragraphs.  Though it contains countless brilliant passages from the Scripture and Tradition of the Church, one particularly beautiful section focuses on the reasons for the Incarnation of the Son of God (Paragraphs #457-460):

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Yes or No Question

Are we living in a world "beyond good or evil," as Nietzsche pronounced and modern-day nihilists insist?  In other words, is life simply defined by the "will to power"--by the strong imposing their subjective opinions, or their personal preferences, or their irrational rage upon the most vulnerable?

Or are we living in a world defined by fundamental daily decisions between good and evil?  In other words, is life itself a question of saying either "Yes" or "No" to the Good, the True and the Beautiful? 

And if we are honest enough to acknowledge the reality of good and evil, are we willing to reflect on our decisions and re-examine our deepest commitments?  As a nation, are we willing to ask whether we are building a civilization of love, or whether we have embraced--at our core--a culture of death?  Is our latest horrifying tragedy merely a deep wound in need of mending, or does it signal a festering affliction in need of radical healing and long-term rehabilitation? 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Advent Expectations, Preparations and Hope

 The Peaceable Kingdom by Edward Hicks 

Last Advent, one of my junior-high-aged Godsons sent out copies of his school photo with a caption and quote on the back.  The heading read, "Got Hope?", and then he added this line from Pope Benedict XVI: "One who has hope lives differently."

So, if you haven't already picked out your Christmas cards, what kind of message will you choose to send?  And how about the mad rush of Christmas shopping (which, thankfully, my wonderful wife handles for our family and friends!):  Do you have some go-to gifts which could help spread the true message of Hope?

Here are a couple ideas for your consideration, as we prepare to celebrate the coming of the Christ child:
  • Fr. Robert Barron's beautiful video series entitled Catholicism is simply one of the best resources for evangelizing ever created; it is dramatic, compelling and profound, as well as visually stunning.
  • Matthew Kelly's new book, The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic, is an accessible and engaging read; it provides practical tips for deepening your life of prayer, for directing your study, for guiding your generosity, and for exploring the call to evangelization.
  • The Monks of Christ in the Desert Monastery have issued a new CD entitled Blessings, Peace and Harmony; this growing Benedictine community--located outside of Abiqu, New Mexico--faithfully chants the complete Liturgy of the Hours each day on behalf of the entire Church, and they support themselves with efforts such as this.
  • A subscription to the monthly publication, Magnificat, would provide the daily Scripture readings for Mass, as well as meditations, Morning and Evening Prayer resources, and additional reflections on beautiful Christian art work.
  • A weekend retreat for a loved one might be the 40 hours of silence and reflection that makes all the difference in 2013; explore Catholic retreat centers in your area (in the Chicago area, the Jesuit's Bellarmine Hall offers an outstanding two day "short course" on the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises).
Whenever we can find ways to share messages and gifts which bring people closer to the beauty and truth of the Christmas reality, we have the chance to fulfill Advent expectations. We have a chance to help others along the path of encountering the Messiah for whom we all, at some level, await. 

One of Isaiah's prophecies we hear during the Advent season describes the Messiah and the fulfillment of God's promises this way (Is 11:1-10)--

The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him:
a Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
a Spirit of counsel and of strength,
a Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord.

Isaiah assures us that the Messiah will bring about the reign of justice for which the world longs, and he goes on to add: "Then the wolf shall be a guest of the Lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them." 

Keep on preparing the way for the One who gives us reason to live differently!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Believe 3:16

So did you pick up a ticket for the recent powerball drawing?  As a general rule I'm not a lottery player, but I found myself in a gas station the night of the big drawing with a couple extra singles in my pocket and ended up getting one. 

On my drive home, like many Americans, I started musing about what I would do if I won:  What if I suddenly received a windfall beyond all imagination--how would my life be different?  What if I had the opportunity to use millions of dollars to help make the world a better place--where would I start? 

Then it occurred to me that powerball-mania might just be a metaphor for that longing we all have for more.  At some level, we all want our lives and our world to be transformed--to be made new and truly improved.  As I drove along, my question became:  What if my life already has the potential to be completely transformed?  What if I've already been given a gift which surpasses all imagining?  What if I already have the power to make the world the better place it could and should be? 

In a verse that's sometimes referred to as the "Gospel in miniature," Jesus famously proclaims: "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life" (Jn 3:16).  What if the simple act of believing in the Incarnate Son has the power to change everything?  Rather than rushing to check whether my numbers had come in, what if all I had to do was open my heart to God's ultimate Gift?