These reflections are a result of more than 40 years of ministry as a Roman Catholic priest. Most of these years I spent in the Diocese of Charlotte which covers Western North Carolina. Now I am retired, and live in Medellín, Colombia where I continue to serve as a priest in the Archdiocese of Medellín.
There was a prophetess, Anna,
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.
She was advanced in years,
having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage,
and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.
She never left the temple,
but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.
And coming forward at that very time,
she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child
to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.
The figure of the aged prophetess, Anna, reminds me of all the wonderful women of faith in my life, but especially I’m reminded of my grandmother, Nanny. Nanny always had a large pocketbook (as she called her purse). In her pocketbook she carried a miniature photo album: S.O.G.W.P.I.P. (Silly Old Grandma With Pictures In Purse). This little album was filled with small pictures of her progeny which she would pull out whenever people were talking about their grandchildren. It was long before cell phones and Facebook—but my grandmother was prepared to talk about her grandchildren to all who would listen and show pictures too!
This is the way we may know that we are in union with him:
whoever claims to abide in him ought to walk just as he walked.
(1 Jn 2:3-11)
The Letters of John remind us of what it means to live in Christian Community. To walk as He walked is a wonderful description of discipleship and how we should treat one another. We are not forging a new path, we are simply following in His footsteps. Today is the feast of Saint Thomas Becket who followed the footsteps of Christ and gave his life for the Lord. The Christmas Carol today is from Colombia, Antón.
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.
With the Feast of the Holy Innocents we can never forget that the “powers that be” are always at work to tear down and destroy. But God has the last word, and that word is a word of Grace and Resurrection. As the Fourth Gospel says:
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.
When the days were completed for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
they took him up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord.
When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
The wonderful thing about God’s family is that everyone gets to belong. And so this feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, reminds us that even if we are all alone in this world, there’s a great big family we belong to. The picture today is Merson's Rest on the Flight into Egypt. The Christmas Carol is from Colombia, Zagalillos (Shepherds Come).
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but whoever endures to the end will be saved.
The feast of Saint Stephen coming so close to Christmas Day feels somewhat jarring until we realize that in the early church martyrdom was considered one’s “birthday” into heaven. And so Saint Stephen has the honor to celebrate his “heavenly birthday” the day after we celebrate the Birth of the Lord. It is also a good reminder that the Birth of the Lord was not welcomed by the “powers that be.” The Christmas Carol is from Ecuador, Entre Paja y el Heno (Between the Straw and the Hay).
Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.
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.
Beloved, let us give thanks to God the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Spirit, because in his great love for us he took pity on us, and when we were dead in our sins he brought us to life with Christ, so that in him we might be a new creation. Christian, remember your dignity, and now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition. Bear in mind who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Do not forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of God’s kingdom. Through the sacrament of baptism you have become a temple of the Holy Spirit.
(A Christmas Homily of Saint Leo the Great)
Today’s Christmas Carol is one of the most joyful: Los Peces en el Río.
(MASS DURING THE NIGHT)
While they were there,
the time came for her to have her child,
and she gave birth to her firstborn son.
She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn.
(MASS AT DAWN)
So the shepherds 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.
The Son of God became the Son of Man so that all men and women could become the dear Children of God.