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.

The Ninth Day of Christmas

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“I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.'”

Do you sometimes feel like John the Baptist when he spoke these words?  I know I do.  We may feel like we’re living in a spiritual desert when we turn on the television or pick up the newspaper and are faced with the reality of modern life.  It can be overwhelming.

It took the city of Saint Louis less than an hour to record the first two homicides of 2010.  We read daily of the loss of life in the Middle East.  And the abortions.  Thousands of American babies murdered every single day and it’s hardly noticed.

There is much work to be done.  So much that we do feel like “voices crying out in the desert.”  But it’s a new year and a new beginning and that always inspires hope because we know that with God anything is possible.  So rather than make a “new year’s resolution” that you may or may not be able to keep, maybe a better idea would be to resolve to make things better this year in our respective corners of the world.

I recently attended a dinner with Archbishop Robert Carlson.  He gave us a very simple challenge.  Imagine if each of us would bring one person back to the Church.  What a difference that would make!  We can do that.  Then God can take it from there.

Mary, the Mother of God

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Today we celebrate the Blessed Virgin as the Mother of God.  No, we don’t worship Mary as some of our separated brethren might think.  We worship only God.  But how can we worship Him and not hold His mother in the highest regard?  After all, even before she was born, God chose her to bear His son.

But even the Almighty Creator of the universe had to depend on Mary’s saying “yes” to a plan that must have seemed outrageous to such a young girl.  But she had the faith to submit to God’s will and bear the Son who would save us all.

One of my favorite songs at this time of year is called “Mary, Did You Know?”, especially when it says, “Mary, did you know that when you kiss your little baby that you kiss the face of God?”  What a great line.

But couldn’t you say the same thing to any mother?  Jesus is present in all of us and every little baby’s face is the face of God.  As you celebrate this special day, look at a baby, at a mother, or especially at an expectant mother and recall this simple line.  It says so much in such a few words.

God bless all mothers, and especially our Blessed Mother, whose feast we celebrate today.

[Full disclosure.  My oldest son and my youngest son both informed us on the same day that we would again become grandparents next summer.  As you might imagine, I’m especially aware of the miracle of birth during this Christmas season.  God’s face is definitely part of our Christmas celebration this year.]