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.
The LORD said to Moses: “Speak to Aaron and his sons and tell them: “This is how you shall bless the Israelites. Say to them: The LORD bless you and keep you! The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace! So shall they invoke my name upon the Israelites, and I will bless them.” (Num 6:22-27)
What a wonderful way to begin a New Year with God’s blessing! Happy New Year 2024 and may it be filled with many blessings for you and all your loved ones!
When the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, Simeon took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” (Lk 2:22-40)
Simeon´s Hymn of Praise, the Nunc Dimittis, is the gospel canticle for Night Prayer (Compline) and a fitting way to conclude the year 2023. Yesterday my Colombian family gathered to celebrate the First Communion of my godson, Jerónimo Tamayo Carvajal.
Do not love the world or the things of the world, for the world and its enticement are passing away. (1 Jn 2:12-17)
It’s amazing how perceptive the liturgy is during this Christmas Season. As we come to the end of the civil year, the liturgy gives us these “friendly” reminders that come gift-wrapped with a bow!
Simeon blessed God, saying: "Lord, now let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled: my own eyes have seen the salvation which you prepared in the sight of every people, a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel." (Lk 2:22-35)
“Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?” That was the question that Henry II of England put to his courtiers and precipitated the martyrdom of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Sometimes it's difficult to follow the Prince of Peace.
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. (Mt 2:13-18)
The slaughter of the Innocents is a bit off-putting amidst all the Christmas celebrations, but it is the sad story of the human race who worships its weapons of violence rather than saying YES to the Prince of Peace.
Then the other disciple (whom Jesus loved) also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. (Jn 20:1a, 2-8)
We celebrate today the Fourth Gospel, the one we call “according to John.” The church has always wanted to associate this anonymous gospel with the Apostle John, but the gospel itself doesn’t speak about John, rather the gospel focuses on the Beloved Disciple. As the final editor of the gospel says of the Beloved Disciple: “It is this disciple who testifies to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true” (Jn 21:24).
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." (Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59)
To say “yes” to the Prince of Peace, then, means saying “no” to war, to every war and to do so with courage, to the very mindset of war, an aimless voyage, a defeat without victors, an inexcusable folly. This is what war is: an aimless voyage, a defeat without victors, an inexcusable folly. To say “no” to war means saying “no” to weaponry. (“URBI ET ORBI" Message of Pope Francis, Christmas 2023). Today we celebrate the heavenly birthday of the first martyr for Christ, Saint Stephen.