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.
Terrible affliction was upon Israel. (1 Mc 1:10-15,41-43,54-57,62-63)
Hard times indeed for Israel. The Books of the Maccabees tell the story of Israel during the time of the conquest by Alexander the Great and his generals after him, and of the revolt mounted by the Maccabee family and their followers. It’s a tragic story but with many heroic elements to inspire faith and perseverance.
"At that time there shall arise Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people;
it shall be a time unsurpassed in distress since nations began until that time.
At that time your people shall escape, everyone who is found written in the book.” (Dn 12:1-3)
Saint Michael the Archangel is a fascinating figure in Hebrew and Christian scriptures. The archangel always appears as the guardian and protector of God’s people. As we come to the end of the liturgical year and the readings focus our attention on the end (as in the purpose) of all things, we realize that God is in control and that God provides plenteous redemption. And the scripture promises that those “who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever." My favorite depiction of the Archangel Michael is by British actor Tom Wisdom in the fortunately short-lived SyFy series, Dominion.
When peaceful stillness compassed everything
and the night in its swift course was half spent,
Your all-powerful word, from heaven’s royal throne
bounded, a fierce warrior, into the doomed land,
bearing the sharp sword of your inexorable decree. (Wis 18:14-16;19:6-9)
The Christmas Carol, Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming, has the haunting refrain: When half-spent was the night. The phrase comes from this passage from the Book of Wisdom. Even though the passage is actually talking about the descent the Death Angel during the deliverance from Egypt, the church has always seen in the “all-powerful word” bounding from heaven an image of the birth of that Word in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary. Frances Xavier Cabrini was the first citizen of the United States to be canonized (1946). She is the patron saint of immigrants.
Alleluia (Lk 21:28)
R. Alleluia, alleluia. Stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand. R. Alleluia, alleluia.
As Christians we are called to stand erect, without fear, because our “redemption is at hand.” Saint Josaphat was the victim of anti-Catholic hate. He was an archbishop of the Ruthenian Greek Catholic Church that came into union with Rome. He was martyred on November 12, 1623. And as the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom invites us to pray: “And let us ask for a Christian end to our life . . . and for a good defense before the awesome judgment seat of Christ.”
Alleluia (Jn 15:5)
R. Alleluia, alleluia. I am the vine, you are the branches, says the Lord: whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit. R. Alleluia, alleluia.
To be rooted in Christ is the challenge of the Christian life. Saint Martin of Tours is very famous. He was a soldier who abandoned the military to become a Christian. He is the first non-martyr to be officially canonized by the church. His feast day marked the end of the Great War, or as it became known, the First World War. As my grandmother taught me, this day was known as Armistice Day. The peace began “at the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month,” in the year 1918. My grandmother’s favorite brother (my great-uncle) Charlie Goetting, was gassed in the trench warfare, and later died of his injuries at home. Before he died he gave his pocket watch that he carried in the war to his little sister (my grandmother). She, in turn, gave it to me to treasure. Today's photo is of my great-uncle Charles Goetting. His name appears on the Doughboy Monument in Leavenworth, KS.
And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;
and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan.
Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not?
Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”
Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” (Lk 17:11-19)
How important it is to give thanks. All ten were healed . . . but only one was saved, the one who returned to give thanks. One of the oldest parts of the Mass is the dialogue: Lift up your hearts/Let us give thanks. Saint Leo was shepherd of the church of Rome almost 1,600 years ago . . . but we still remember him. In his famous homily for Christmas Day, he said, “Christian, remember your dignity.” Today’s full readings: https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/111021.cfm. Today's picture is of Saint Leo the Great Church in Winston-Salem, NC, where I was ordained.
Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person;
for the temple of God, which you are, is holy. (1 Cor 3:9c-11,16-17)
It’s hard for us to believe that for the first 300 years of the church, Christianity was NOT a tolerated religion in the Roman Empire. When Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthian community where he had spent at least a year and a half preaching, the humble Christian community did not have a church building. They met in people’s homes. When Paul says “you are God’s temple,” he’s having a bit of a laugh. Today’s picture is of the majestic ruins of the Temple of Apollo in Corinth. Today's full readings: https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/110921.cfm.