Episode 43 The 3rd Week of Ordinary Time

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Show Notes and Timeline

Well, here it is, the moment you’ve been waiting for!  The first full-length episode of DeaconCast.  What?  It’s not the moment you’ve been waiting for?  OK, it’s the moment I’ve been waiting for.  Anyway, here it is.

0:28  Does the world really need another Catholic podcast? Aren’t there already plenty of good on-line programs about the Church?”

The answer is, “Yes, there are plenty of good Catholic programs on the web.  You can find out just about anything you want to know about our faith just by searching for “Catholic” on iTunes.  Here’s the thing.  I listen to several very good programs myself and I’ll post links to them on the show notes page.  But, as far as I know, there isn’t a podcast hosted by a deacon.

Maybe the world doesn’t need another Catholic podcast but here’s what I hope to accomplish.

book of the gospels01:45  Spread the Gospel. When a deacon is ordained, he kneels before the Bishop and places his hand on the Book of the Gospels.  The Bishop says, “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you now are.  Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”

Permanent deacons aren’t ordained to be some kind of “junior priest”.  I believe my mission is to bring as many of my fellow travelers to heaven as possible.  Since most of us don’t have advanced degrees in theology or Church history, I believe in the KISS formula.  “Keep it simple, stupid.”

02:47  Bring ’em home. I especially want to focus on those who have left the Church for one reason or another.  Nothing has changed in the Church’s teachings for over 2,000 years.  We may have changed some of the bells and whistles, some of the words of the liturgy, but what we believe, what we say each Sunday at mass in the Nicene Creed, has never and will never change.

So, if you were once a Catholic and you’ve left, that’s a people problem, not a Church problem.  We’ll discuss some of the  things that might have made you angry here in future episodes.

03:40  Who are these guys called “permanent deacons?” My third goal here is to increase awareness and understanding of the order of the diaconate.  I think we’ve done a very poor job of explaining exactly who we are.

Who knows, maybe you’re being called to serve but you just don’t know it yet because you don’t know what’s involved.  We’ll talk about that too.

There you are.  That’s a very broad and very general outline of what you can expect from DeaconCast.  As time goes by, it will all become crystal clear to you and to me.  After this fairly long-winded preamble, let’s get down to business.

First the news:

04:25 Coakley Tells Catholics We’re Not Welcome to Work in the ER.

05:40 Tim Tebow Stars in Pro-Life Super Bowl Ad.

06:53 Deacon Rescued from Haiti.

07:50 The “Devil” Writes Pat Robertson a Letter.

09:55  Deacon “Oversights” As I said earlier, one of my goals with this podcast is to raise awareness of the role of deacons in the Church.  A semi-regular feature of DeaconCast will be examples of how people who should know better slight the diaconate, in word and deed.

Our first “Deacon Oversight Award” goes to the good folks at Liguori Publications, a Redemptorist ministry located right here in the metro Saint Louis area.  The document in question is the “Mother of Perpetual Help Devotions” published by Liguori.

“Grant wisdom and guidance to our Holy Father, Pope…., our Bishop……, our priests, and all the leaders of our nations, state, and community.”

Notice anything missing?  This is from the Apostolic Constitution Approving New Rites for the Ordination of Deacons, Presbyters (Priests), and Bishops.

“The divinely established ecclesiastical ministry is exercised at different levels by those who from antiquity have been called bishops, presbyters, and deacons.”

No hard feelings guys, but maybe in the next printing, you could include us, too.

11:00  Enough already! That’s about all for this time.  Just a reminder that this ministry needs your help.  Not financial help, though that would be nice, too.  But the two most important things I need from you are your prayers and your input.  If you’re hearing or reading this, I’d appreciate it if you would put in a good word for DeaconCast to the Holy Spirit.  Go ahead, I’ll wait…………

Thank you.  While you were praying, I said a prayer for you too.

Second, you can comment on DeaconCast. Enter your comments below.  If you’d prefer to communicate privately, just click on the “Click here” button under “Email DeaconCast” in the right sidebar, just under the iTunes logo.  If you’d like to make an audio comment, just attach an mp3 file to your email.  Please try to keep your comments under an hour.

I’d really love to hear your suggestions for future episodes.  Be as broad or as specific as you’d like.  I’m all ears.

Finally, you can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes by clicking the aforementioned iTunes logo or you can subscribe to the RSS feed of the show notes page by clicking on the orange RSS-Posts link.  It’s right above the iTunes logo.

Saint Timothy and Saint Titus

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“For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.” 2 Timothy: 6

“Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.” Psalm 96

“He said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” Luke 10: 2

There’s a common theme in the three readings for today, the Feast of Saint Timoth and Saint Titus.  It’s summed up in the responsorial Psalm, “Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.”  After all, that’s what we’re all called to do, isn’t it?

Whether it’s through our works, or through our words, proclaiming God’s works is our highest calling.  Our goal in life isn’t to be the only person in heaven.  Our goal is to take as many people with us as we possibly can.

Whether you’re the descendant of Peter, the Vicar of Christ, whether you run a little dog-and-pony show blog, or if you’re primary ministry is as spouse and parent, proclaiming the good news of Christ is why we’re all here.

The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

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OK, admit it. When you come to mass and you see that there’s a choice between a long reading and a short reading, you hope that we use the short one. Even though the longer reading may only take a minute more to read, there’s just something about the shorter one that makes you feel just a little better. So, I picked the shorter second reading today, just for you. The bad news is that I want to talk about the part that we didn’t read, so I’m going to have to give you the Reader’s Digest version.

Paul’s point in this particular passage is that we’re all part of one body, the Church. The part we left out is where he talks about the various parts of the body and how they all have to work together. “If a foot should say ‘Because I’m not a hand I don’t belong to the body’, that doesn’t make it any less a part of the body.” He goes on to talk about some other body parts including some that seem to be weaker and some parts that we consider less honorable, and some parts that are less presentable, that we usually cover up. At least we covered them up in Paul’s day. Today, sometimes not so much.

The thing is that when we talk about the “Body of Christ”, we’re talking about His Church. And if the Church is a body, then you and I must be parts of that body. And it takes all the parts to make the body work the way it’s supposed to. It goes without saying that Jesus is the head. He’s also the heart. We may think of ourselves as the eyes and ears of the Church. Some may think they’re the mouth. We know that some of us are the hands, but some of us are also the feet. The thing is that none of us, you and me, are more important than anyone else.

This little book is called the Ordo. The Ordo lists the readings for every day’s mass and Liturgy of the Hours. It gives a short, very short, summary of the day’s mass readings, what the color is for the day, and a lot of other stuff. On the other side, it lists all the bishops, priests, and deacons in the Archdiocese who have been called home along with the date of their death. Page after page of men who had received the sacrament of Holy Orders, who had been chosen to serve the Church in a leadership role, but in the end they’re just names in a book. Whether they were a Cardinal or a deacon, whether they served fifty years or fifty days, every listing is exactly the same.

Why do we need such a list? Because death doesn’t break up a family. Uncle Bob is still Uncle Bob, even when he leaves this world. The listing in the Ordo reminds us of our clergy who have gone on. It reminds us to pray for them, just like they’re praying for us. When we pass into the next life, all of us will have our names written in the Book of Life for our parish, which we bring out and display every November. It’s another reminder that we’re all part of the same body.

So, what’s it all mean? Remember I said a couple of weeks ago that we’re all baptized in the same water that Jesus was baptized in? It’s that common baptism, along with our sharing in the bread and wine, transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ at the Lord’s table that unites all of us. You and I are just as connected to a Catholic on the other side of the world as we are to the person sitting next to us. When one of us is cut, we all bleed. That’s just the way it is. That’s why we respond so generously when someone is in need. That’s why Catholic Charities is collecting millions of dollars to help the people of Haiti. They’re our brothers and sisters.

What Jesus is telling us today, through the words of Saint Paul, is that we share a common bond that’s not just of this world, not just for a short time, but for all eternity.

Yesterday (Friday) was the anniversary of the infamous Supreme Court ruling in the case of Roe vs. Wade in 1973. It’s an annual reminder of the millions of unborn children who have been murdered in the United States over the last thirty seven years. Roughly 1.4 million unborn babies are killed each year, just in the United States. We tend to think of abortion as an American problem, but there are at least 15 million abortions each year world wide, probably more than that.

The world was outraged, and still is outraged, over the death of six million Jewish people at the hands of the Nazis in World War II. We call it the holocaust. In the early 1930s, between three and ten million Ukranians were starved to death by Joseph Stalin. There was plenty of food available, but the Communist government was exporting it to pay their bills, leaving the people who grew the food to die of starvation. The British did something similar to the Irish in the 1840s. There aren’t very good records of births and deaths during that time, but the best guess is that a million to a million and a half Irish lost their lives. Another million uprooted their families and moved away.

During the 1960s and ’70s, something like a million and a half Chinese were killed by Mao Tse Dung’s troops during the so-called Cultural Revolution. As tragic as these four events were, all four together resulted in about the same number of deaths that take place in just one year on the abortionists’ tables worldwide. Even the most pessimistic estimates of the death toll in Haiti amounts to just a few days work for the abortionists.

Why do we care about any of this? I think you know why. We are followers of Christ and we are all one body. Each of us loses a little bit whenever one of us dies. Whether it’s a Jew executed by the Nazis, a family crushed by a falling building in Haiti, or an innocent life snuffed out by an abortion half way around the world.

Nazi Germany is long gone. The atrocities in the Ukraine happened eighty years ago. There’s nothing we can do about that. There’s also nothing we can do to prevent an earthquake. All we can do is support the victims with our money and our prayers. But we have to take a stand for all human life, right here and right now. As Catholics and as citizens of the greatest country in the world, we owe it to our brothers and sisters, our fellow body parts, to do all we can to protect their lives. None of us would just sit calmly while someone tried to cut off our leg. How can we ignore it when someone destroys a part of the Body of Christ?

There are still atrocities being committed by despotic governments all over the world. People are being killed for daring to challenge their governments. There are still wars being fought, two of them involving the United States. There are people getting on airplanes with bombs in their underpants, hoping to kill Americans and others, along with themselves. People are starving all over the world, including right here in the United States, even here in Saint Louis. And the abortions go on and on.

You and I don’t have the time, the talent, or the treasure to fix everything that’s wrong with the world. We all do the best we can with what we have. Most of us aren’t going to get on a plane and fly to Haiti, even if we’d like too. Most of us aren’t going to go to Washington DC to join the pro-life march. We won’t even protest at the local abortion clinic. We don’t have the time, or it’s just not our style.

But we do have time to pray. And we should pray, and pray hard, every day for all human life. We should flood heaven with our prayers for every one of our fellow human beings. That’s a lot to pray for, but God will hear us, and He will answer us. We just can’t let up because we ARE one body.

The First Wednesday of Ordinary Time

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“Here I am Lord.  I come to do your will.”

In the first reading Samuel is called by the Lord.  He’s confused, thinking it’s Eli that’s calling him.  After he’s been awakened three times, Eli tells Samuel that it’s the Lord calling and he should answer Him.  (Whether Eli really believed it was the Lord or if he just wanted Samuel to leave him alone, we can only guess.)

But Samuel takes Eli’s words to heart and when he’s called again, it turns out that it really was the Lord calling.  Eli was right.  Which begs the question, how many times has the Lord called you and me, only to be disappointed when we didn’t answer?  Maybe we were too busy, making too much noise ourselves to actually hear the Lord.  Or maybe we heard Him but didn’t recognize who it was.  Or worst of all, maybe we did hear Him but pretended not to.  After all, sometimes the Lord asks things of us that we don’t want to do.

Looking back with 20/20 hindsight, I can see that I was called more than once to become a deacon.  God was very persistent.  And I was very resistant.  Fortunately for me, I finally got the message.  That’s one!

Now I wonder how many other times He may have called me to do something and I didn’t respond, for one reason or another.

If we truly love God and want to do His will, the least we can do is spend some quiet time each day just listening.  We might just be surprised what we hear.

The Baptism of the Lord

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Today we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord by John the Baptist. We’ve heard the story lots of times. John’s baptizing at the river and Jesus gets in line along with everyone else. But, why? He was the Son of God. He came down from heaven and would soon go back. Why did He need to baptized? The answer is that He didn’t. Jesus didn’t need to be baptized, but you and I needed Him to be baptized. Saint Maximus of Turin, one of the Church Fathers, wrote “Christ is baptized, not to be made holy by the water, but to make the water holy.”

If you remember your grade school science you know that water evaporates, forms clouds, and returns to earth. The cycle repeats itself over and over. The wind blows the clouds so that the water that evaporates in one place comes down somewhere else. Eventually every drop of water on earth is connected to every other drop. When Jesus made the water of the Jordan holy, he made all water holy.

Obviously Jesus thought baptism was very important. In John’s Gospel He said, “Unless a man is reborn in water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” In Matthew’s Gospel he tells the Apostles, “Go, make disciples of all nations, and baptize them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Baptism is our response to Christ.

Here’s what the Church says about the three sacraments of initiation, baptism, confirmation, and first communion, straight from the baptism rite.: “Through the sacraments of Christian initiation men and women are freed from the power of darkness. With Christ they die, are buried, and rise again.” Notice it says “with Christ.” Just like Maximus said, Jesus had to be baptized first. “They receive the Spirit of adoption which makes them God’s sons and daughters and, with the entire people of God, they celebrate the memorial of the Lord’s death and resurrection.”

Here’s what the book says specifically about baptism: “Through baptism men and women are incorporated into Christ. They are formed into God’s people, and they obtain forgiveness of all their sins. They are raised from their natural human condition to the dignity of adopted children. They become a new creation through water and the Holy Spirit. Hence they are called, and are indeed, the children of God.”

Jesus died and rose from the dead to defeat death, to save all of us from our sins. But what He does today makes it possible for us individually to be one of his people. Baptism is the beginning of our journey of faith. Jesus’ seemingly unnecessary decision to be baptized by John, someone “not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals”, is actually the beginning of OUR journey of faith.

Personally I was baptized at the age of twenty so I do remember receiving the sacrament, especially how hard it was for my godfather to hold me over the baptismal font. But for most of us, christened as babies, it’s good that we celebrate today to remind us of the promises our parents made for us. This is what we ask the parents who present their child for the sacrament. “You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking? At this point the parents answer, “We do.”

Then we ask the godparents if they’re ready to help the parents in their duty as Christian parents. They answer “We do.” Then the deacon or the priest says “The Christian community welcomes you with great joy. In its name I claim you for Christ our Savior by the sign of the cross on your forehead, and invite your parents and godparents to do the same.”

Then we have a reading or two, maybe a homily, some prayers and then the actual baptism. But before we bring out the water, we ask the parents to renounce sin and to renew their own baptismal promises. We tell the parents, “On your part, you must make it your constant care to bring her up in the practice of the faith. See that the divine life which God gives her is kept safe from the poison of sin, to grow always stronger in her heart.

If your faith makes you ready to accept this responsibility, renew now the vows of your own baptism. Reject sin; profess your faith in Jesus Christ. This is the faith of the Church. This is the faith in which this child is about to be baptized.”

Then the baptism takes place, we say a couple of more prayers, the family takes a lot of pictures then everyone adjourns for a nice lunch.

Even if you don’t remember your own baptism, you probably remember your kids’ or your grandkids’. Maybe you’ve been a godparent a time or two. So you’re probably wondering why I’m giving you this baptismal instruction. As usual, I’m taking the scenic route to make a point. Also, I want to make a disclaimer. If I’ve baptized your child and you’re sitting here in church today, what I’m about to say doesn’t apply to you. You get it. You’re following up on the promises you made that day for yourself and your baby. Congratulations!

But often, too often, after the baby is baptized, after the parents and godparents have said they clearly understand what they’re undertaking; after they promise to raise him or her in the faith, after everyone has renewed their baptismal promises, WE NEVER SEE ANY OF THEM AGAIN! Like I said, there are a lot of exceptions which give all of us hope. And sometimes we baptize kids whose grandparents are in the parish but who live somewhere else. They want to have the kids baptized in their home parish. My son and daughter-in-law are in that group. I’ve baptized my two grandkids here, but their parish is in O’fallon, MO. It’s understandable that that happens sometimes. I’m not talking about them either.

The point I’m trying to make is this: Baptism is a big deal. It’s a big enough deal that Jesus had Himself baptized, even though He didn’t really need it. He did it for us. But too many of us don’t take it seriously. A lot of babies get baptized because the grandparents insist on it, even if mom and dad haven’t seen the inside of a church since their wedding day, if then.

Some parents don’t really have a clue of why they’re doing it, but they know that they were baptized, and their friends kids are getting baptized, so they’d better call the church. After all, christening pictures are always cute and they don’t want to be left out. A lot of the time they’re more interested in what the baby’s going to wear, sometimes something really old that they wore for their own baptism, what they’re going to have for lunch, and those all-important pictures.

The Church says that parents are the first and most important teachers and I agree with that 100%. It’s up to us to bring our kids up in the faith. As a lot of us know, we aren’t always successful. Sometimes they go their own way. Then it’s up to us to pray them back. But I promise, if we don’t lead them by our example, taking them to mass every Sunday, taking them to PSR or Catholic school, if we don’t pray with them and for them, then our chances of success are a big, fat zero.

But, even if they are no small people in your life, it’s good to remember our own baptismal promises. To remember that we rejected Satan and all his works and empty promises. It’s good to think about the words of the Creed that we’ll recite in just a few minutes. Not to just recite it along with everyone else, but to actually think about what we’re saying.

We’re talking about our immortal souls and the immortal souls of our children. Jesus did much more than His share to save us, but we have to do our part, too. Remember what God the Father said in today’s Gospel. “You are my beloved Son. With you I am well pleased.” I don’t know about you, bit I’d like to hear those words myself when I meet Him face to face.

Answering Jesus’ Prayers

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“But he would withdraw to deserted places to pray.

I wonder what Jesus prayed about?  He was always going off to pray, but how did He pray?  He told the Apostles to pray the Our Father.  I suppose Jesus could have prayed that.  After all it is called the Lord’s prayer.  He could have skipped over the “forgive us our trespasses” part since He was without sin.

But sometimes He went off for a long time to pray, once for forty days.  Surely He didn’t repeat the same prayer over and over or really, really slowly for such long periods of time.

Jesus had everything He needed.  After all, He was God.  He didn’t need forgiveness.  The only thing I can think of is that He was praying for us. He did come down here to save us from our sins so I’m guessing that during those times of solitary prayer, He was praying that His mission would be successful.  That we would turn away from sin.  That we might all share in eternal life.

Agony in the Garden

Agony in the Garden, Gesthemani Abbey

You and I have spent our lives asking for things and hopefully giving thanks for the things we receive.   Jesus answers our prayers just like He said He would.  But we can return the favor.  We can answer His prayers by following Him, by following His commandments, and by loving one another as we love ourselves.

Are we as dependable in answering His prayers as He is in answering ours?

January 6, 2010

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It seems like we’re in some kind of “no man’s land” today.  Yesterday was the twelfth (and last) day of Christmas.  Ordinary time doesn’t begin until next week.  So, I guess it’s time to change our focus on DeaconCast.  I will continue to post reflections two days per week and every other Sunday.  Those are the days I preach.

The main ministry of DeaconCast will be a weekly blog/podcast.  The design of the blog page will change and it will be primarily a “show notes” page for the podcast.

Thank you for visiting and/or listening to DeaconCast for the last few weeks and I hope you’ll stay with us as we proceed into the new year.  If you have any suggestions or comments, please post them here.  I’m particularly interested in your suggestions for future content.

I will be posting a daily reflection on Friday and Sunday.  If you’d prefer to comment privately, you can contact me via the email link in the right column.

The Twelfth Day of Christmas

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The Gospel for today is the story of the loaves and the fishes.  Of course this famous story is the precursor of the Eucharist.  Jesus fed the crowd with a small amount of food with enough left over for each of the disciples to have a wicker basket full of the leftovers.

Father Thomas Merton had this t0 say about the Eucharist in his book, The Living Bread:

“Now in the sacrament of the Eucharist, precisely, when we ask the question [What is this?] of the consecrated Host, we must listen to the answer of faith, which responds in the words of Christ “This is my Body.”  The words “my Body” designate the only substantial being which is now present.  There no longer remains anything of the substance of bread.  We see the accidents of bread, but they contain the substance of the Body of Christ.”

The Eucharist may be one of the greatest tests of our faith.  It looks like bread.  It tastes like bread.  Common sense tells us that it must be just that, a simple combination of flour and water.  But Jesus said it was His Body.  If he lied to us about that, how can we believe anything else He said?

But He didn’t and doesn’t lie.  It’s Jesus’ inability to tell us a falsehood that makes our faith possible and tests our faith as well.  Face it, He made some pretty outrageous claims.  Some believed His words.  Some didn’t.  As we head into the final days of Christmas, we might want to examine our faith.  Without faith how can there be life?  The answer is that there can’t.  Everyone, even atheists, have faith in something.

We have faith that we’ll wake up tomorrow morning.  We have no proof.  We have faith.  We have faith that the car coming toward us at 60 miles per hour will stay in its own lane.  The driver could be drunk or could be talking on his or her cell phone and not paying attention.  Again, no proof.  Just faith.  The examples go on and on.

But if we have faith in God and in the words of His Son, then faith in anything else is trivial at best.  If we don’t wake up tomorrow or if that other driver does crash into us head-on, we know, through faith, that God has something better waiting for us.  How do we know?  I think you know the answer.

The Eleventh Day of Christmas


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“The people who dwell in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.”

This quote from today’s Gospel is definitely applicable to 2010 as well as it was to the first century.  We live in a land overshadowed by death.  Abortion is the law of the land and it looks like you and I will soon have to pay for it with our tax dollars.  But we have seen a great light; at least those of us who are willing to see it.

As we begin a new year, it’s up to you and me to help others to see the light.  Jesus doesn’t call us to be just His followers.  He also calls us to be leaders.  There is nothing that we can do in this life that’s any greater than showing others the way.  We weren’t created to be passive Christians.  We can avoid a lot of sin by avoiding contact with others.  But as God said at the very beginning, “It’s not good for man to be alone.”

Those words, taken in context, were about the love of a man and a woman.  But they can be used just as well to tell us that we’re not on a solitary journey.  A wise person (my daughter, who was a teenager at the time) wrote in my breviary on my ordination day, “A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.”

Seeing the light is just the first step.  Sharing the light is our highest calling.

The Epiphany of the Lord

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One definition of “epiphany” from Webster’s On-Line Dictionary:

3 a (1) : a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something (2) : an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking (3) : an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure b : a revealing scene or moment.

The arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem certainly fits this definition.  The Wise Men discovered the essential nature and meaning of the Baby’s birth as soon as they laid eyes on Him.  It was an event both simple and striking.  What could be simpler than a baby born in a cattle stall and what could be more striking than the human birth of the Son of God?

As we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany we hope to have our own Epiphany, our own perception of the meaning of the birth of the Lord.  In some ways our human minds just aren’t big enough to take it all in.  But if we have the gift of faith, then we know in our hearts, if not in our minds, what it all means.  We know, but we’re constantly seeking to know more.

Hopefully our lives are a series of many epiphanies ending with the biggest one of all when we stand before God and everything will everything will be crystal clear.