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Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Holy Family

Today is the feast of the Holy Family, and yes, that's what I want my family to be: holy. Not sanctimonious, not stuffy and ceremonial: just plain old holy. No, not perfect -- none of that this side of heaven. No, not impeccable -- we do wrong aplenty here, and will continue to do so. It is a surprising comfort that the Father both knows this to be our lot on earth and provides his grace, especially in the sacraments, to deal with those lapses.

So what makes a family holy if it isn't perfect after all? I think that, at least for the families still on earth, we just have to live consecrated lives, set apart for God our Father. It's a matter of will and action. When we fall, which we will from time to time, we get back up, acknowledge our sins (big and small), reconcile with the Father with the sacrament, and push on again. There will be times when we don't understand what's going on, when we don't understand other members of our family, when we don't feel like it, but we push on. And his grace will always be enough!

May the Holy Family - Jesus, Mary and Joseph - be our inspiration, and may they smile upon our holy families today.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Open the door for Christmas

A thought occurred to me while reading this part of Pope Benedict's Christmas message:
“If we believe”. Here we see the power of faith! God has done everything; he has done the impossible: he was made flesh. His all-powerful love has accomplished something which surpasses all human understanding: the Infinite has become a child, has entered the human family. And yet, this same God cannot enter my heart unless I open the door to him. Porta fidei! The door of faith! We could be frightened by this, our inverse omnipotence. This human ability to be closed to God can make us fearful. But see the reality which chases away this gloomy thought, the hope that conquers fear: truth has sprung up! God is born! “The earth has yielded its fruits” (Ps 67:7). Yes, there is a good earth, a healthy earth, an earth freed of all selfishness and all lack of openness. In this world there is a good soil which God has prepared, that he might come to dwell among us. A dwelling place for his presence in the world. This good earth exists, and today too, in 2012, from this earth truth has sprung up! Consequently, there is hope in the world, a hope in which we can trust, even at the most difficult times and in the most difficult situations. Truth has sprung up, bringing kindness, justice and peace.

What do we risk in turning our backs on faith? We need not imagine: look at how Christianity has influenced civilizations across the centuries. Yes, there is both good and bad, but ascribing the bad to the good, which does not make sense, will justify throwing out everything. In chopping at the root of the largely good tree that is Christian society, one will destroy the whole tree. Gardeners know enough to prune and treat spots of rot and disease, rather than chop off the root altogether. And here is the root of what we largely enjoy today: Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, who is present in the world through his Church, and whose reign persists in every Christian who practices justice in his name -- through the door of faith.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord!

Byzantine/Romanian Icon of the Nativity
From the psalm in last night's vigil:
Happy the people who acclaim such a king,
who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face,
who find their joy every day in your name,
who make your justice the source of their bliss...
‘He will say to me: “You are my father,
my God, the rock who saves me.”
I will keep my love for him always;
with him my covenant shall endure.’

And from today's psalm:
Let the heavens rejoice and earth be glad,
let the sea and all within it thunder praise,
let the land and all it bears rejoice,
all the trees of the wood shout for joy
at the presence of the Lord for he comes,
he comes to rule the earth...
With justice he will rule the world,
he will judge the peoples with his truth.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

At times of uncertainty

.. one is left wondering about tomorrow, and that is perfectly understandable. One is likely wondering about yesterday as well, at the route that led to this predicament. One might then start making plans -- a reasonable course of action. What one cannot do is to be cynical, which makes one irrational. There is tendency to withdraw, to recoil after a major setback, and that is only to be expected except in the most mature of people. But to be cynical goes too far, defending one's pride by deciding that what is still there no longer exists. Doing so reduces the sting and the humiliation, but it also reduces visibility.

In today's reading, Zechariah gets in trouble for being rather cynical. He probably didn't think he was being cynical, but his response to the angel's message about his wife's miraculous pregnancy was 'How can I be sure of this?' It's like asking for a guarantee, a written document perhaps. But cynicism is poison to faith, I guess. Upright as he was, his faith had taken a beating over the years, perhaps. His wife, Elizabeth, fares better. In reaction to her definite pregnancy in spite of her advanced years and barren state, she keeps to herself and comes to the faithful conclusion that this was a miracle from God. She had faith and optimism enough to make such an open conclusion.

Yesterday I found myself in what should not have been an unexpected predicament. Plan A to move to a more stable employment did not work out. I thought my prospects were reasonably good, but I was wrong. Plan B for another stable employment was also taken off the table. Plan C to retain my current unstable employment was compromised: an extra job on top of my primary one is no longer available. It's a financial setback, which is significant in this family of six.

Yesterday I was withdrawn. I recoiled in mild horror. But I refuse to be cynical. I have a year's employment ahead -- in theory (it may yet be taken away in six months, I think). But even six months is a considerable amount of time. I need to move on and plan ahead. Too much is at stake. Were I to be cynical, I might turn a blind eye to opportunities that exist. It is at this point that I cannot afford an impaired vision. Time to make plans and to keep my eyes open. It's time to show that I meant it when I last prayed "Thy will be done" concerning my employment situation.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The problem with evil ..

.. is that it doesn't vanish with the flick of a switch, just as it doesn't suddenly appear that way. It does not reside in one thing, or one place, that can be barricaded or banished from this world. It becomes real with our actions, but is conceived in our hearts. There is no banishing it any other way. Gun control legislation is no magic pill, because criminals won't care enough to obey them. And regardless of the weapon -- gun, knife, scissors, box cutter or an airplane -- evil that flares into violence will still take innocent lives.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Be Thankful

This morning I was growling and muttering angrily (like a lunatic) when I could not find a small item that I had dropped just as I was rushing out to catch a train. I was swearing, I banged the floor (a la Hulk), shoved several toys and pieces of furniture out of the way, to no avail. Yep, I have anger issues from time to time. I am glad I don't have the ability to use "the Force!"

As I finally sat down in the train, late and all, I acknowledged once again that I do have frustrations simmering in me, waiting for any occasion to vent. I should probably take it out on basketball or tennis instead! Given that finding time for that isn't easy, I did what I could, given where I was: I prayed. What dawned on me then, apart from the foolish and futile meltdown earlier, was, first of all, I should vent on God. He's a pretty good listener -- consider the Psalmist's vents across more than 100 Psalms, and he had some pretty awful problems!

So I started venting to God about everything I was unhappy with. It wasn't such a long list, now that I think about it, then it came to me: be thankful. Why? Because when everything is tallied up, I am blessed much more than I am wretched. Of course this is not the most novel of ideas: St. Paul probably repeats it several times in his letters. Be thankful. It puts things in perspective! And byond being thankful for one's blessings, Christians are called to be thankful as well for one's cross. How odd that seems, but again, perspective: it's part of something that goes beyond the moment, even if the problem, pain, misery, and frustration is only there as a symptom that will expose the nature of the underlying problem -- and how to solve it.