Saturday, December 30, 2017

The gift of family (Pope St. John Paul II)

   To gather round the Bethlehem grotto contemplating there the Holy Family enables us to appreciate the gift of family intimacy in a special way, and spurs us to offer human warmth and concrete solidarity in those unfortunately numerous situations which, for various reasons, lack peace, harmony, in a word, lack family.

--Pope St. John Paul II
Angelus, December 29, 1996 

Image source 1:  Gerard von Honthorst, Adoration of the Child (1620)
Image source 2:  Kelly Lattimore, Refugees:  La Sagrada Familia (2017), 

Friday, December 29, 2017

We are not alone on our journey (Henri Nouwen)

   God came to us because he wanted to join us on the road, to listen to our story, and to help us realize that we are not walking in circles but moving towards the house of peace and joy.  This is the great mystery of Christmas that continues to give us comfort and consolation:  we are not alone on our journey.  The God of love who gave us life sent his only Son to be with us at all times and in all places, so that we never have to feel lost in our struggles but always can trust that he walks with us.

   The challenge is to let God be who he wants to be.  A part of us clings to our aloneness and does not allow God to touch us where we are most in pain.  Often we hide from him precisely those places in ourselves where we feel guilty, ashamed, confused, and lost.  Thus we do not give him a chance to be with us whee we feel most alone.

   Christmas is the renewed invitation not to be afraid and to let him – whose love is greater than our own hearts and minds can comprehend – be our companion.

--Henri Nouwen, ¡Gracias!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Sunday Gospel Reflection, December 31, 2017: Descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky...

What does the family of God look like?  

   When, in Luke’s Gospel, Mary and Joseph take the baby Jesus to the temple to present him to the Lord, they are reaffirming their participation in the extraordinary covenant which God has repeatedly established with God’s people.  As we know from the story of Abram (later Abraham) in Genesis, God, who created us out of love, showers blessings on those who are open to his invitation.  Abraham trusts that the Lord will make his own issue, his future son Isaac, his heir, but God’s promise is more extraordinary still:  Abraham’s descendants, the Letter to the Hebrews tells us, will be as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sands on the seashore.  Faithful to God’s covenant, Abraham is in right relationship with God; that righteousness (or right relationship) is born of God’s love for his own, a covenant love, Psalm 105 tells us, that the Lord remembers forever, even though humankind may forget it.  

   Mary and Joseph likewise trust in God's plan.  The Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph is a celebration of the covenant, of the love relationship between humankind and God, of the ties that bind us to God as well as to one another.  The Incarnation – Jesus, divine yet born in all his humanity to very human parents – is the ultimate manifestation of God’s covenant, as the prophet Simeon recognizes upon taking the child Jesus into his arms:  my eyes have seen your salvation, Simeon says.  The presence of Simeon and the prophetess Anna in this scene reinforce the familial nature of the event, as their voices reaffirm that the invitation of God to covenant creates a family, a love relationship, that goes beyond the immediately biological.  The Holy Family is our family; God’s love for us is parental, loving, compassionate.  The Feast of the Holy Family reminds us of our place in God’s family, and celebrates the love that is ours thanks to the extraordinary invitation of the Lord to join him as witnesses to the redemption available to all humankind.

Image source:  Wordle (