Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

Jesus: fully God AND fully human – reflections on the readings for January 12, 2011

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Today’s readings
Hebrews 2:14-18; Psalm 105:1-4,6-9; Mark 1:29-39

Jesus, incarnate, is Jesus fully human

The title of this post might seem obvious, but for some reason all during Christmas the whole idea of the incarnation of Jesus really hit home. He became more real to me as a man. It reminds me of something that happened over the Christmas vacation.

I blog regularly about my favorite author, Louisa May Alcott, and I happen to live near Concord, MA where her family homestead is located (and it is a year-round museum). The public library in Concord has many of her handwritten letters and I went to look at them. One letter in particular about the death of her sister really moved me so I hand copied it. In the process of doing that, I thought about the letters I had seen from my mother’s relatives who had lived during the time of Louisa May Alcott (which was throughout the 19th century) and Louisa suddenly became like one of those relatives rather than the far away (and dead) author whom I so esteemed. She became more real to me and I felt closer to her.

This is how meditating upon the incarnation of Christ has made me feel closer to Jesus. He is no less God to me, but his humanity is more real.

Hebrews 2:14-18 illustrates the meaning of a human Jesus

As a result, today’s readings really spoke to me. Do you ever have times when you’re reading the scriptures and it’s like God is chattering at you with all these insights? That’s what today was like.

The first reading from Hebrews spoke of how we as humans “share in blood and Flesh, Jesus likewise shared in them . . .” Jesus shares our flesh and blood. He felt the cold and heat, like we do. He felt the rain against his skin, like we do. He probably got sun burn living in the desert – many of us have experienced that. The body of Jesus embodies God, who cannot be contained, but He never shied away from experiencing even the most mundane things.

Hebrews goes on to say that in order to defeat the Devil, He had to defeat the power of death by dying Himself. He had to experience everything we experience to unite us to Himself and to triumph over the thing we can’t – death.

This reading ends by saying the following: “Because He Himself was tested through what He suffered, He is able to help those who are being tested.” Jesus suffered real wounds, real tears, real mental anguish, and He triumphed ultimately over it all. To me this says that as long as I cling to Jesus, there is always hope, even when life tempts me to despair. The incarnation of Jesus is one of the most profound mysteries that we can focus on.

How does the humanity of Jesus relate to the Eucharist?

The beauty of meditating upon the humanity of Jesus is that it is helping me to appreciate the Eucharist all the more. The Eucharist is a piece of bread that I can eat, that I can totally consume. And Jesus is that bread; He allows me to totally consume Him – He WANTS me to consume Him. When I think of that piece of bread being digested and flowing through my own blood . . . it’s an amazing experience of intimacy.

Jesus’ healing touch

Moving on to the Gospel reading, we read of Jesus healing Simon’s mother-in-law of her fever. What struck me here is that same theme of humanity and intimacy – Jesus only needed to say the word and she would be healed. But instead, He grasped her by the hand and helped her up, and the fever left her. He knew the power of human touch. He so totally understands our need for touch to impart intimacy. I believe this is one reason why we are asked to physically consume the Eucharist for it makes the experience of receiving Jesus more real, if we able to see Him in the bread.

Final thoughts

This weekend, while on retreat with confirmation students from our parish, I saw our pastor in a new and wonderful light. I realized through listening to him talk that every moment of his life is prayer. The Gospel tells us that Jesus got up before dawn to go to a deserted place to pray. I thought immediately of our pastor, who gets up every morning at 4am and walks 4 miles through the town. When I asked him how he was able to do that, he smiled and said it’s because he has such a rich inner life. And I knew that was true. Just like Jesus, Fr. Mike rises before dawn, walks through the deserted streets and prays to his Heavenly Father, just like Jesus did.

The spiritual life is so rich, and it becomes even richer when I connect the spiritual world with the physical one, the one that God so lovingly made.

How we can see with the eyes of God

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Here are today’s readings
1 John 2:3-11; Psalm 96:1-6; Luke 2:22-35

I received an iTouch for Christmas from my wonderful husband. At the time that I received it, I was very ungracious about it. I had made up my mind that I didn’t want touch screen technology but rather preferred an older model of the iPod and I was a little annoyed that he got me the iTouch anyway. Even my two grown children remarked about how I reacted with such ingratitude. Ouch!

Now that I have gotten acquainted with it, I am finding that it has many rich possibilities and I’m getting excited about it. My eyes have been opened, my stubbornness has fallen away. I apologized to my husband, told him he was right (not easy to do! :-) ) and asked his forgiveness.

I had made up my mind beforehand that I was not going to like it. I was stubborn, and it caused me to offend someone I love. That certainly is not seeing with the eyes of God!

In today’s Gospel reading, baby Jesus is brought to the temple by his parents to be presented to the Lord. An old man was there, Simeon. He had been patiently waiting for the Messiah to come and trusted in God’s word that he would indeed see the Christ. What if Simeon had been like me, mind made up, stubborn in his perception? What if he had set in his mind that the Messiah should come like a great king, or on a cloud, or in some other spectacular fashion? If he had done that, he would have missed everything! Instead, he was open and trusting, ready in love to receive the vision of the Messiah in the form of a helpless infant. By being open and loving, Simeon saw so much more than a great king. He saw God fully divine and fully human. He saw the unfathomable, uncontainable God incarnate as a little helpless, humble infant. Imagine what he learned about the love of God simply by beholding Jesus in this fashion! Imagine the incredible, uncontainable joy he must have felt as he held this wonder in his arms; the peace and gratitude in knowing that God had kept His promise, not only to Simeon personally, but to the whole human race!

So how do we keep our eyes open and keep our hearts trusting, as Simeon did? John tells us in the first reading: if we keep His commandments, we are in union with Him. If we love our brothers and sisters, we walk in the light, and the light allows us to see with God’s eyes.

How easy it is to be blinded by our pride! My know-it-all attitude regarding my husband’s wonderful gift blinded me to its possibilities, and worse, made me act unkindly towards my husband. I walked in darkness. This may be a small thing to be in the dark about, but it’s the totality of all these ‘small things’ that creates a larger darkness in our lives, a darkness that prevents us from seeing what God wants us to see.

Mother Teresa always said to do “small things with great love.” St. Therese the Little Flower served God with a smile for everyone she met, whether she liked them or not. These small things add up to a loving and trusting heart, able to see what Simeon saw. This is what I will strive for today and always.

p.s. It’s really cool to be able to read the Daily Readings on my iTouch! And I haven’t even begun to explore¬† Apps yet . . . :-)

I’ve already received what I want for Christmas

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Lately two dear friends have been on my mind. They both love God passionately and serve Him earnestly through their service of others. Yet their methods of service couldn’t be more opposite, and it shows the beauty and diversity of our God, and how His light shines brightly in so many different ways.

One friend serves the youth of our parish. She coordinates service projects, retreats, social outings . . . every week in the bulletin I see yet another opportunity for young people to engage with God in our parish. Her heart is as big as Texas, so warm and caring, and the kids see that. They also see (as I and many others do) this lady’s tireless efforts on behalf of Haiti. She has been involved with relief efforts in Haiti for years, spearheading fund raising for a new hospital, sending food and necessities to orphans, and even visiting Haiti on several occasions on mission trips. This year her entire family will join her on such a trip, on December 23. I am dumbfounded at her energy and commitment, especially as the needs in Haiti are so dire that just contemplating them for a moment totally overwhelms me. How brightly the light of Christ shines through her!

My other dear friend is home bound with a debilitating illness. Her love of God is equally strong and her light equally bright. Her service is in the form of prayer, meditating on God throughout the day and into the night, and praying for family and friends. She is a front line prayer warrior. She suffers in silence from her disease. But in the spirit of St. Therese The Little Flower and Mother Teresa, my friend works hard to put on a smile and a brave face, keeping her complaints to a minimum, and loving her friends with a sacrificial love that astounds me. Her sacrifices may seem small when in fact they are huge – going out to lunch with friends even though she feels ill enough to stay in bed all day; going on trips in the car with her companion even though riding in a car aggravates her condition; writing letters and Christmas cards even though her head is spinning. Her top priority is to treat people with kindness and focus on their needs even though she could so easily become self absorbed in her own.

The friend who serves the young people of our parish and the poor in Haiti challenged me to ask God for direction as to how I should serve. I felt like I needed to be ‘out there’ more, like my friend, putting myself out on the line. So far His answer has been to remember her, to bolster her in prayer as often as I could, and to remain alert and awake for opportunities. The home bound friend reminds me that kindness to even one person is what Jesus commanded us to do, for the image of God is in all of us. Kindness can be expressed in large ways, such as the service of my Haiti friend, or it can take a very small, humble, nearly invisible form, such as with my home bound friend.

Both forms of service are equally powerful, shining the light of Christ into our dark world, and both examples teach me so much about Christ and the spiritual life.

I don’t need any other presents this Christmas. Having these two special friends in my life gives me spiritual presents that could fill my house to overflowing. I only hope that I can begin to give to them what they have given to me.

Another take on gift-giving

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Yesterday’s homily by our pastor at St. Luke the Evangelist, Monsignor Mike, was wonderful. Instead of the usual “we all need to slow down from the Christmas madness” theme (which, by the way,¬† is always a good theme), he instead preached about a different take on gift-giving.

A few weeks earlier, Msgr. Mike talked about his “celebrate food” diet. This was a diet he created to help him lose weight, but better yet, also improve the relationship between himself and food. He mentioned in his homily that food is good, a creation from God. And our bodies are good, also a creation from God. The trick is bringing these two good things together and creating more good. As we know, if we don’t eat in the right way, we get fat and unhealthy. Msgr. was teaching us about a healthy spiritual balance. He used his “celebrate food” diet to teach himself to enjoy what he ate more thoroughly by eating slowly, thus reducing the amount of food taken in (and all diet experts agree that this is sound advice). As a result, he lost 25 pounds over the last several months. He introduced the diet to his brother, and he lost weight too.

Now Msgr Mike was applying the same principal to gift-giving: bringing two good things together – the gift, and the fact that we love someone enough to give them a gift.

He then gave an example about a deacon at his former parish who had been reassigned, and his wife. Msgr. was very fond of the deacon and his wife and wanted to give them something to show how he felt. He felt God urging him to give them a cross he had received as a gift from a group in Haiti, a cross that he himself was very fond of. He gave the cross to the deacon and his wife and thus gave a part of himself. Msgr. Mike admitted that he missed the cross very much, and also missed the deacon and his wife, but was very glad they had it.

As he spoke, I thought of my mother who passed away less than a year ago. I used to love buying her gifts and it saddened me to think I couldn’t do that anymore. She so embodied the thoughtfulness that Msgr. Mike spoke of which made receiving her gifts a real joy too. As I started to tear up, I remembered that over the last couple of years, I had given to her favorite charity, the Heifer Foundation, as she was too ill to receive anything else. She loved that. I realized then that I can continue to give that gift every year in her memory; I can still buy her a gift!

Msgr. Mike suggested that we pray over and discern what gifts we should give to our loved ones. What an obvious and yet novel thought! It certainly puts a whole new light on giving.

We are supposed to be living our lives sacramentally; here’s a wonderful way to weave that mentality into Christmas gift-giving.

How was your Christmas?

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Just a quick note to tell you that I had a very blessed Christmas. We ended up visiting 4 different households on Christmas day and it was wonderful seeing so many family members. My mom, who will be 90 on January 17th, caught a nasty virus that could have hospitalized her, but the Lord was good and guided us as we cared for her (my sister, brother and I). She is nearly back to health, thank the Lord! She was in good spirits on Christmas day and we had a wonderful visit with her. That was one of the best gifts of the day (along with many nice gifts from Santa!)

But by far the best gift was attending Divine Liturgy on Christmas Eve (Rich served with Fr. Paul) and receiving the True Presence. I love receiving communion at Divine Liturgy and when I received, I went into an ecstasy and prayed in tongues in response which is something I haven’t done in a long time. As our associate pastor always says at the end of his homilies, “Praise be to God.”

Christmas day mass at our parish was wonderful too – well attended but quiet – just the way it should be. Full of grace and blessings.

So tell me, how was your Christmas?