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God’s Imagination by Henri Nouwen

So much of our energy, time, and money goes into maintaining distance from one another. Many if not most of the resources of the world are used to defend ourselves against each other, to maintain or increase our power, and to safeguard our own privileged position.

Imagine all that effort being put in the service of peace and reconciliation! Would there be any poverty? Would there be crimes and wars? Just imagine that there was no longer fear among people, no longer any rivalry, hostility, bitterness, or revenge. Just imagine all the people on this planet holding hands and forming one large circle of love. We say, “I can’t imagine.” But God says, “That’s what I imagine, a whole world not only created but also living in my image.”

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I Am Ready

O my great God, you can do all things and I can do nothing! If you wish to help me, I am ready. I promise to obey you! Accomplish your most adorable will in me and by me. –Blessed Marie de l’Incarnation

-from Sisterhood of Saints

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I feel the Lord is calling me. I feel urged, even when I don’t want to think about it.
–Blessed Maria Gabriella Sagheddu

-from Sisterhood of Saints

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Saint of the Day

Thomas Becket  Lived (1118-1170)

A strong man who wavered for a moment, but then learned one cannot come to terms with evil and so became a strong churchman, a martyr and a saint—that was Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, murdered in his cathedral on December 29, 1170.

His career had been a stormy one. While archdeacon of Canterbury, he was made chancellor of England at the age of 36 by his friend King Henry II. When Henry felt it advantageous to make his chancellor the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas gave him fair warning: he might not accept all of Henry’s intrusions into Church affairs. Nevertheless, he was made archbishop (1162), resigned his chancellorship and reformed his whole way of life!

Troubles began. Henry insisted upon usurping Church rights. At one time, supposing some conciliatory action possible, Thomas came close to compromise. He momentarily approved the Constitutions of Clarendon, which would have denied the clergy the right of trial by a Church court and prevented them from making direct appeal to Rome. But Thomas rejected the Constitutions, fled to France for safety and remained in exile for seven years. When he returned to England, he suspected it would mean certain death. Because Thomas refused to remit censures he had placed upon bishops favored by the king, Henry cried out in a rage, “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest!” Four knights, taking his words as his wish, slew Thomas in the Canterbury cathedral.

Thomas Becket remains a hero-saint down to our own times.

Comment:
No one becomes a saint without struggle, especially with himself. Thomas knew he must stand firm in defense of truth and right, even at the cost of his life. We also must take a stand in the face of pressures—against dishonesty, deceit, destruction of life—at the cost of popularity, convenience, promotion and even greater goods.

Quote:
In T.S. Eliot’s powerful drama, Murder in the Cathedral, Becket faces a final temptation to seek martyrdom for earthly glory and revenge. With real insight into his life situation, Thomas responds: “The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason.”
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Bishop Robert Barron's photo.

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from the “Prologue” to “The Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer

Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour,
Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halve cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye
(so priketh hem Nature in hir corages),
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
And specially from every shires ende
Of Engelond to Caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir* for to seke,
That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.

*The Holy Blissful Martyr was Thomas Becket.

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A Ministry That Never Ends by Henri Nouwen

Reconciliation is much more than a one-time event by which a conflict is resolved and peace established. A ministry of reconciliation goes far beyond problem solving, mediation, and peace agreements. There is not a moment in our lives without the need for reconciliation. When we dare to look at the myriad hostile feelings and thoughts in our hearts and minds, we will immediately recognize the many little and big wars in which we take part. Our enemy can be a parent, a child, a “friendly” neighbor, people with different lifestyles, people who do not think as we think, speak as we speak, or act as we act. They all can become “them.” Right there is where reconciliation is needed.

Reconciliation touches the most hidden parts of our souls. God gave reconciliation to us as a ministry that never ends.

emphasis mine

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Feast of the Holy Innocents

“The innocents were slaughtered as infants for Christ; spotless, they follow the Lamb and sing forever: Glory to you, O Lord.”

– Entrance Antiphon, Dec. 28

Bishop Robert Barron's photo.

Gospel Mt 2:13-18

When the magi had departed, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,
“Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt,
and stay there until I tell you.
Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.”
Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night
and departed for Egypt.
He stayed there until the death of Herod,
that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled,
Out of Egypt I called my son.

When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi,
he became furious.
He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity
two years old and under,
in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi.
Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet:

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.

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Herod “the Great,” king of Judea, was unpopular with his people because of his connections with the Romans and his religious indifference. Hence he was insecure and fearful of any threat to his throne. He was a master politician and a tyrant capable of extreme brutality. He killed his wife, his brother and his sister’s two husbands, to name only a few.

Matthew 2:1-18 tells this story: Herod was “greatly troubled” when astrologers from the east came asking the whereabouts of “the newborn king of the Jews,” whose star they had seen. They were told that the Jewish Scriptures named Bethlehem as the place where the Messiah would be born. Herod cunningly told them to report back to him so that he could also “do him homage.” They found Jesus, offered him their gifts and, warned by an angel, avoided Herod on their way home. Jesus escaped to Egypt.

Herod became furious and “ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under.” The horror of the massacre and the devastation of the mothers and fathers led Matthew to quote Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children…” (Matthew 2:18). Rachel was the wife of Jacob/Israel. She is pictured as weeping at the place where the Israelites were herded together by the conquering Assyrians for their march into captivity.

Comment:
The Holy Innocents are few, in comparison to the genocide and abortion of our day. But even if there had been only one, we recognize the greatest treasure God put on the earth—a human person, destined for eternity and graced by Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Quote:

“Purify us as we serve these, your mysteries, by which you grant justification even to those who lack understanding” (Prayer Over the Gifts, Feast of the Holy Innocents).

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From this moment on, anything concerning me is no longer of any interest to me. I must belong entirely to God and God alone. Never to myself.
–St. Bernadette Soubirous

-from Sisterhood of Saints

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The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Reading 1 1 Sm 1:20-22, 24-28

In those days Hannah conceived, and at the end of her term bore a son
whom she called Samuel, since she had asked the LORD for him.
The next time her husband Elkanah was going up
with the rest of his household
to offer the customary sacrifice to the LORD and to fulfill his vows,
Hannah did not go, explaining to her husband,
“Once the child is weaned,
I will take him to appear before the LORD
and to remain there forever;
I will offer him as a perpetual nazirite.”

Once Samuel was weaned, Hannah brought him up with her,
along with a three-year-old bull,
an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine,
and presented him at the temple of the LORD in Shiloh.
After the boy’s father had sacrificed the young bull,
Hannah, his mother, approached Eli and said:
“Pardon, my lord!
As you live, my lord,
I am the woman who stood near you here, praying to the LORD.
I prayed for this child, and the LORD granted my request.
Now I, in turn, give him to the LORD;
as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the LORD.”
Hannah left Samuel there.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 128:1-2, 3, 4-5

  1. (cf. 1) Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.
    Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD,
    who walks in his ways!
    For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;
    blessed shall you be, and favored.
    R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.
    Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
    in the recesses of your home;
    your children like olive plants
    around your table.
    R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.
    Behold, thus is the man blessed
    who fears the LORD.
    The LORD bless you from Zion:
    may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
    all the days of your life.
    R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.

Second Reading  1 Jn 3:1-2, 21-24

Beloved:
See what love the Father has bestowed on us
that we may be called the children of God.
And so we are.
The reason the world does not know us
is that it did not know him.
Beloved, we are God’s children now;
what we shall be has not yet been revealed.
We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.

Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us,
we have confidence in God and receive from him whatever we ask,
because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
And his commandment is this:
we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ,
and love one another just as he commanded us.
Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them,
and the way we know that he remains in us
is from the Spirit he gave us.

Alleluia Col 3:15a, 16a

  1. Alleluia, alleluia.
    Let the peace of Christ control your hearts;
    let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.
    R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Or cf. Acts 16:14b

  1. Alleluia, alleluia.
    Open our hearts, O Lord,
    to listen to the words of your Son.
    R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Lk 2:41-52

Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast
of Passover,
and when he was twelve years old,
they went up according to festival custom.
After they had completed its days, as they were returning,
the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem,
but his parents did not know it.
Thinking that he was in the caravan,
they journeyed for a day
and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances,
but not finding him,
they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.
After three days they found him in the temple,
sitting in the midst of the teachers,
listening to them and asking them questions,
and all who heard him were astounded
at his understanding and his answers.
When his parents saw him,
they were astonished,
and his mother said to him,
“Son, why have you done this to us?
Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”
And he said to them,
“Why were you looking for me?
Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
But they did not understand what he said to them.
He went down with them and came to Nazareth,
and was obedient to them;
and his mother kept all these things in her heart.
And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor
before God and man.

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Let us pray more and more that the Kingdom of God may spread everywhere in the hearts of all. The harvest is great but there are no laborers. Let us work at becoming good laborers! –St. Julie Billiart

-from Sisterhood of Saints

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Lord, gift me the strength and courage to stand up for what is true!

I Love My Catholic Faith by MyCatholicFaith.org's photo.

 

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SAINT OF THE DAY – St. Stephen

All we know of Stephen is found in Acts of the Apostles, chapters Six and Seven. It is enough to tell us what kind of man he was:

At that time, as the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenist (Greek-speaking) Christians complained about the Hebrew-speaking Christians, saying that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit… (Acts 6:1-5).

Acts says that Stephen was a man filled with grace and power, who worked great wonders among the people. Certain Jews, members of the Synagogue of Roman Freedmen, debated with Stephen but proved no match for the wisdom and spirit with which he spoke. They persuaded others to make the charge of blasphemy against him. He was seized and carried before the Sanhedrin.

In his speech, Stephen recalled God’s guidance through Israel’s history, as well as Israel’s idolatry and disobedience. He then claimed that his persecutors were showing this same spirit. “[Y]ou always oppose the holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors” (Acts 7:51b).

His speech brought anger from the crowd. “But [Stephen], filled with the holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God….’ They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him…. As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit…. Lord, do not hold this sin against them’” (Acts 7:55-56, 58a, 59, 60b).

Comment:
Stephen died as Jesus did: falsely accused, brought to unjust condemnation because he spoke the truth fearlessly. He died with his eyes trustfully fixed on God, and with a prayer of forgiveness on his lips. A “happy” death is one that finds us in the same spirit, whether our dying is as quiet as Joseph’s or as violent as Stephen’s: dying with courage, total trust and forgiving love.

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Pray for the people who have wronged you, that they may be more considerate of the feelings of others. Then forgive them, fully and sincerely.

-from Sisterhood of Saints

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Joy to the World, the Lord has come!

I Love My Catholic Faith by MyCatholicFaith.org's photo.

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Gospel Lk 2:15-20

When the angels went away from them to heaven,
the shepherds said to one another,
“Let us go, then, to Bethlehem
to see this thing that has taken place,
which the Lord has made known to us.”
So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph,
and the infant lying in the manger.
When they saw this,
they made known the message
that had been told them about this child.
All who heard it were amazed
by what had been told them by the shepherds.
And Mary kept all these things,
reflecting on them in her heart.
Then the shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God
for all they had heard and seen,
just as it had been told to them.

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In the presence of the infant Jesus, we recognize what corresponds exactly to the deepest longings of our hearts. Everything that we have been looking for has become flesh and is now lying in this manger. We were made for this presence. To Christ we say: The fullness of my being is you; my meaning is you. Every time I adore the Blessed Sacrament, Jesus attracts my heart anew.

-from A Eucharistic Christmas

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The Savior by Bishop Robert Barron

In the Gospel of Luke, we discover the Annunciation to Mary. Here is what the angel Gabriel says to the Virgin: “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:31-33).

No first-century Israelite would have missed the meaning here: this child shall be the fulfillment of the promise made to King David. He will be the king of the world, the one who would bring unity and peace to the nations.

The angel confirms this to the shepherds in the fields: “For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord: (Luke 2:11). Saviour is Soter in Greek, which means “healer.” This was rendered in Latin as Salvator, Saviour in English. In old myths and legends, the true king would bring healing to his country, just as a wicked king would make the whole country sick.

Further, this healer is “Christ and Lord.” Christos means anointed, and this has a clear Davidic overtone, for David had been anointed king by the prophet Samuel, and all of his successors had been anointed. This baby will be the point of ordering for the entire world; he’ll be the ruler and governor, the one who sets the tone.

And this is further emphasized by calling him “Lord”—Kyrios in Greek, Dominus in Latin. He is the one who should dominate us, rule over every aspect of us.

With the angel’s next words, everything is turned upside down: “And this shall be the sign to you: you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” The new David, Christ the Lord, the Dominus, the center and orderer of all things, the emperor of the universe…is a baby? And a baby wrapped up so it can’t move? And lying where? In the grubby place where the animals eat?

Here is all of the poetry and all of the drama of Christmas. Indeed, the divine power is made manifest in weakness, for the divine power is nothing other than love, giving oneself away, being bound to the other, becoming food for those around you.

Finally, alongside the single angel there appeared an entire army of angels. We should not get sentimental about these angels. These aren’t cute, chubby babies playing harps. They represent the army of heaven, which is more powerful than all of the armies of earth. The Prince of Peace has an army that is more powerful than anything that is in the world.

There are the glad tidings of Christmas. A new king has come, bringing with him an army of heavenly messengers, and he intends to bring peace and unity to the nations.

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Today, and Everyday, I Celebrate the Birth and Life of Jesus; the One who said, “Forgive them, they know not what they do”, while hanging very unjustly on the Cross – The One who died for my sins and for ALL of the Worlds sins (ref. 1 John 2:2), …..The One Who Came To Save the World (ref. John 3:17) and can not/will not fail ….The One who said, “THIS Is My Command: ‘Love Each Other’.” (John 15:17, some CAPS mine)
— ALL Have a Grateful/Peaceful/Loving Christmas and KNOW that Jesus Loves YOU More than You can comprehend (ref. Ephesians 3:19) – REJOICE 😊 !!

-Pete Laine

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“I Love Christmas,” an essay by Helen Losse (including the poem, “Destiny”)

Oh Jesus, present in the Blessed Sacrament, The heavens ring out with shouts of joy as the angels announce your coming. I join my song to that of the angels and proclaim the miracle of your birth. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased! Alleluia!

-from A Eucharistic Christmas

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Fear Not by Bishop Robert Barron

The first Christmas homily ever given was spoken on the Judean hills surrounding the little town of Bethlehem: the annunciation of the angel to the shepherds on Christmas night.

The first thing the angel said was “Fear not!” How that phrase echoes up and down the Scriptures! When a being from a higher dimension breaks into our world, he typically says, “Do not be afraid.” Paul Tillich, the great Protestant theologian, commented that fear is the fundamental problem, that fear undergirds most forms of human dysfunction. Because we are afraid, we crouch protectively around ourselves; because we’re afraid, we lash out at each other in violence. If Christmas means that God is with us, that God is one of us, that God has come close, then we no longer have to be afraid.

The angel goes on: “For behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” The angel of Bethlehem is the first great evangelist, for he tells the good news, and it’s news for all people. Later on, Jesus will tell his disciples to declare his Lordship to the ends of the earth.

Well, what precisely is the good news? The angel tells us: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” Why is David emphasized? Along with Abraham and Moses, David was the most important figure in the history of Israel. He was born, of course, in Bethlehem and thirty years later became king, first in Hebron over the southern tribes, and then in Jerusalem over the whole of the nation. He was the king who united Israel, who defeated the enemies of the people, and who brought the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem.

Over time, the conviction grew upon Israel that a mysterious descendent of David would be king, not just for a time and not just in an earthly sense, but would rule forever and for all nations.

This definitive king of the Jews would be king of the world: the Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

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Destiny by Helen Losse

Who can deny how gently
tender petals float on the wind?
Yet each day more flowers fall,

withered and dying.
Even the leaves
remain where they drop.

Is this not a sign?

Gone—
the pinks of summer.

The wind blows colder now
and hardly for the better.
Stiff brown leaves crunch,

but look—look,

a Rose of Sharon blossoms
from a Virgin’s womb.

And the wonder of it is
it happened just like that.

first published in Domicile and later in Better With Friends

Preparing for Jesus

Oh Jesus, present in the Blessed Sacrament, The Church grows silent as our attention is focused on Bethlehem. All is ready for your birth, and we wait in peace for your coming to us as a tiny baby. Prepare my heart for the wonder of your coming, both in the mystery of the Incarnation and in the mystery of the Eucharist.

-from A Eucharistic Christmas

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The Heart of Jesus by Henri Nouwen

Jesus is the vulnerable child, the humble preacher, the despised, rejected, and crucified Christ. But Jesus also is “the image of the unseen God, the first-born of all creation, … [who] exists before all things and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15,17). Jesus is the King, ridiculed on the cross and reigning from his throne in the heavenly Jerusalem. He is the Lord riding into the city on a donkey, and the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. He is cursed by the world but blessed by God.

Let’s always look at Jesus, because in his crucified and glorified heart we will see ourselves called to share in his suffering as well as in his glory.

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Oh Jesus, I believe that you are in the Blessed Sacrament. I love you above all things, and I long for you in my soul. When I cannot receive you sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace you as though you were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from you.

-from A Eucharistic Christmas

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CathNews's photo.
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