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.
CHRISTMAS EVE, December 24
Alleluia (Lk 2:10-11)
R. Alleluia, alleluia. I proclaim to you good news of great joy: today a Savior is born for us, Christ the Lord. R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Christmas is blessed with FOUR distinct Mass formulas with their proper readings. The lectionary presumes that the community would be present for all (or most) of the liturgies, which is why, even in the old days, it was possible to receive communion twice on Christmas. So Merry Christmas to all! We invite you to join in today’s Christmas carol, Noche de Paz (Silent Night).
Friday, Week IV, Advent—O EMMANUEL, December 23
Zechariah asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. (Lk 1:57-66)
With the Birth of John the Baptist, Zechariah’s tongue is loosed and he praises God in the canticle known as the Benedictus, which is sung every day at Morning Prayer. And now all is ready, and we we wait. We wait for the Lord. We wait with Mary for the birth of Emmanuel.
Thursday, Week IV, Advent—O KING OF ALL NATIONS, December 22
Responsorial Psalm (1 Sm 2)
And Hannah prayed: “My heart exults in the LORD, my horn is exalted in my God.
Gospel (Lk 1:46-56)
Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.”
The Song of Hannah, the mother of Samuel, and Mary’s Hymn of Praise mirror each other and sing the praises of the King of all nations who comes to rescue the poor.
CHRISTMAS LETTER, 2022
Dear Family and Friends,
Here it is—the annual Christmas letter for 2022. It has certainly been an exciting year for the whole world. Even though we are not yet out of the Covid Pandemic, and for the most part people have abandoned mitigation efforts, I still wear a double mask whenever I go out and especially when celebrating Mass in the local parish.
The recent death of my good friend, Father Wilbur Thomas (1947-2022) has caused me to reflect on the wonderful ministry we shared together in Western North Carolina, and especially the 14 years we worked together at the Basilica of Saint Lawrence in Asheville. Wil was at my ordination to the priesthood and joined in the Laying on of Hands. Our frequent telephone calls usually lasted an hour. Our last call, less than two weeks before he died, we talked for two hours solid. Wil had the voice of an angel, and in that last call we talked about the night when as a young priest he was invited on stage to sing with the musical group, The Platters (https://youtu.be/3FygIKsnkCw). Although I don’t have a recording of Wil singing in that event, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the choirs of angels will be jealous forever!
This year has been filled with visits with friends. Scripture says that “a faithful friend is a sturdy shelter, whoever finds one, finds a treasure” (Sirach 6:14). In early March we went to Cartagena and the Caribbean Coast of Colombia. We had a marvelous Holy Week and Easter celebration in my local parish where I help out. Afterwards, we visited Asheville for the First Communion of my godson, Emanuel Martínez, at the Basilica of Saint Lawrence. There were visits with lots of friends. From Asheville we made a quick trip to my hometown Mobile, Alabama, and visited with family there and with friends along the way. Then we headed to Detroit, Michigan, to visit with our friend, Susan Blanchard, and together with her we visited Niagara Falls and the Bavarian village of Frankenmuth, Michigan. We returned to Asheville for more visits with friends and then finally headed back to Colombia.
The longest adventure was our monthlong trip to the Middle East: Turkey, Egypt and the Holy Land. Standing in front of the pyramids and the Great Sphinx was awesome. And visiting the temples at Abu Simbel brought back memories of primary school when we raised funds to save those temples from being flooded due to the construction of the Aswan Dam. The Holy Land was a moving experience, especially the Wailing Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, bathing in the Jordan River, and sailing on the Sea of Galilee. After a month traveling together, our fellow pilgrims became new friends.
As some of you might know, my doctors have discovered that I have an Atrioventricular Block (or AV Block) which causes a slow heart rate. The solution is a pacemaker. The pacemaker will be implanted here in Colombia on Thursday, December 29th. Thank you for your prayers!
I will be covering Saint Eugene Parish in Asheville from January 14-February 2. So, I hope to see many of you at Mass, weather permitting! May your Christmas and New Year be filled with the presence of the Prince of Peace. And may the Virgin Mary, good Saint Joseph, and the Christ Child bless you and all your loved ones!
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year 2023!
Morris & Óscar
Wednesday, Week IV, Advent—O RADIANT DAWN, December 21
Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Lk 1:39-45)
The prayer we call the “Hail Mary” is formed from the words of the angel to Mary in the Annunciation and from the words of Elizabeth in today’s gospel. Ever since Mary joined in constant prayer with the first disciples (Acts 1:14), the church has consistently invoked the prayers of the Mother of God—for through her we have the received the Radiant Dawn, Christ our Lord, whose coming we await.
Tuesday, Week IV, Advent—O KEY OF DAVID, December 20
“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.” (Lk 1:26-38)
In this final part of Advent as we build up to Christmas, we hear the Infancy narratives in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Today, in the middle of the Annunciation story, the angel suddenly breaks into the Hallelujah Chorus, which appropriately comes not from the Christmas section of Händel’s Messiah, but rather from the Easter section.
Monday, Week IV, Advent—O ROOT OF JESSE, December 19
Then Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel said to him in reply, “I am Gabriel, who stand before God. I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news. But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.” (Lk 1:5-25)
Luke’s Infancy Narrative is a double experience: two annunciations (to Zechariah and to Mary), two nativities (John the Baptist and Jesus), two hymns of praise (Zechariah’s Benedictus and Mary’s Magnificat. But what a contrast in the two annunciation stories, the priest who fails to believe, and the young girl who says “Let it be done to me as you said.” And what a fitting punishment for a priest: to be mute, until the child is born! Come, Lord Jesus, come, do not delay!