"Joseph her husband, an upright man unwilling to expose her to the law, decided to divorce her quietly." —Matthew 1:19
Joseph planned to divorce Mary and, therefore, Jesus. This Christmas, we also may be tempted to divorce Jesus indirectly, and thereby miss out on Christmas. Throughout history, there have been more innkeepers and Herods at Christmas than wise men and shepherds. Even now, few are at the side of Jesus in the manger. Most of the world continues to ignore the Christ of Christmas.
Joseph would have rejected Jesus if he had not made a super act of faith and accepted Mary as his wife under overwhelming circumstances. Often for us, the key to Christmas is to have the faith, like Joseph, to accept a spouse, parent, child, brother, or sister in the Lord under difficult circumstances. The Lord commands us: "Accept one another, then, as Christ accepted you, for the glory of God" (Rm 15:7).
To meet Jesus this Christmas, accept:
To meet Christ this Christmas, be like Christ Who has always kept His promise: "No one who comes will I ever reject" (Jn 6:37).
Prayer: Father, thank You for accepting and convicting me by the Spirit (Jn 16:8).
Promise: "In His days Judah shall be saved, Israel shall dwell in security." —Jer 23:6
Praise: "O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, Who showed Yourself to Moses in the burning bush, Who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out Your mighty hand to set us free."
On that sacred night of nights
A barn owl watched it all
He saw the woman bending there
Then heard the angels call
He watched the shepherds bow their heads
The sheep in wonder stare
And when the star moved over all
He saw the baby there
He wondered at the scene below
As he whispered in the night
Whoo whoo whoo
And the Babe smiled with delight
He did not know just how he knew
Perhaps it was the star
Or the wisemen on their camels
Who had come so very far
But the owl knew this little child
Would change men through the years
And that the love within his words
Would comfort all their fears.
Then an angel looked upon the owl
And spoke as in a prayer
“your wisdom is a special joy
To the blest child laying there
And so dear owl through out the years
You shall be known as wise
And in the darkness of the night
You’ll see with special eyes
And every time you whisper soft
Your gentle whoo, whoo, whoo
A soul will find his way to God
Through the Babe who smiled on you.”
By: Kathleen Aparo
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
By: Richard Rohr
St. Francis illustrates this stage in many memorable ways. When he hears one day that the people of Assisi are calling him a saint, he invites Brother Juniper to join him in a walk through his old home town. Brother Juniper was the first simpleton (that is a compliment!), the holy fool of the original friars. Francis knew he could always trust him to understand what he was saying. Francis once said, “I wish I had a whole forest of such Junipers!”
Francis told Brother Juniper, “Let’s take off these robes, get down to our underwear, and just walk back and forth through Assisi. Then all these people who are thinking we are saints will know who we really are!” Now that’s a saint: someone who doesn’t need to be considered a saint, who can walk foolishly in his underwear the full length of Assisi.
A few years later, when people were again calling Francis a saint, he said, “Juniper, we’ve got to do it again.” This time they carried a plank into the piazza. They put it over some kind of a stone or maybe the fountain, and there they seesawed all day. They had no need to promote or protect any reputation or pious self-image.
That’s a rather constant spiritual tradition in the Eastern Church and in the Desert Fathers and Mothers, but it pretty much got lost after the 13th century Franciscans. We became more and more serious about this intense salvation thing, or you might say we took ourselves far too seriously. Moralism replaced mysticism. And this only increased after the in-house fighting of the 16th century reformations. We all needed to prove we were right. Have you noticed that people who need to prove they are right cannot laugh or smile?
When you are a “holy fool” you’ve stopped trying to look like something more than you really are. That’s when you know, as you eventually have to know, that we are all naked underneath our clothes, and we don’t need to pretend to be better than we are. I am who I am, who I am, who I am; and that creation, for some unbelievable reason, is who God loves, precisely in its uniqueness. My true identity and my deepest freedom comes from God’s infinite love for me, not from what people think of me or say about me. Both the people who praise me and those who hate me are usually doing it for the wrong reasons.
Adapted from Franciscan Mysticism (an unpublished talk)
Gateway to Silence:
I am who I am in the eyes of God, nothing more and nothing less.
Zephaniah 3:1-2, 9-13
By: Charlie Wester
Today’s reading from Zephaniah reminds us that no matter how highly we think of ourselves, there is something greater in the universe than humanity. I fear that we, like the inhabitants of the city in Zephaniah’s reading, seem to have lost our way and displaced God with our own version of divinity. We worship athletes, singers, actors, politicians, and business people like gods. We spend so much of our time consumed with ourselves – our appearance, our personal “brand,” our careers, etc. – it’s an easy, endless slide toward the narcissism and rebellion the Lord condemns in Zephaniah today. How can we break free from the tempting pitfall of self-obsession?
I am reminded of the Latin dictum “Ad majorem dei gloriam,” for the Greater Glory of God, adopted by the Jesuits as their guiding principle. We find the letters AMDG inscribed on the cornerstones of Jesuit churches and university buildings as a reminder that the work the Society of Jesus does is not for the glorification of themselves or some human institution, but to acknowledge that God is at the center of all they do. This motto might serve as an easy way to re-conceptualize what we are doing here on Earth and what should be at the center of our lives. Let’s see what happens when we kick out the “self” and replace it with God.
I am inspired by Zephaniah to put the spirit of AMDG at the center of my life this Advent season. When I succeed in earthly endeavors, I will remember that I am the product of a loving God and trying to do my best is simply fulfilling my part of the relationship. In my shortcomings I will turn to God and wait patiently for the coming of the baby Jesus at Christmas so that I may find strength in Christ.
Sunday, December 7, 2014
A book that for many years has been voted a must-read by spiritual directors is Jean-Pierre de Caussade’s Abandonment to Divine Providence. De Caussade was a 17th century Jesuit in France. I’d like to share some of my favorite quotes from this book.
“Every moment we live through is like an ambassador that declares the will of God to us.” There is no more infallible way to seek the will of God than moment by moment to see that what this moment offers me is the grace of God. If we did nothing more than that, de Cassaude says, we would attain the highest levels of transformation. Everything in life is to be welcomed as somehow the expression of the will of God. Your reaction to whatever happens has to be “as if” it were the will of God, or you can’t respond to it graciously. De Caussade writes, “We must accept what we very often cannot avoid, and endure with love and resignation things which could cause us weariness and disgust. This is what it means to be holy.” I think all of us shrink from his challenge because we know we can’t do it on our own. We only succeed by God’s grace now and then.
De Caussade says, “True mystics seek the real; we seek the ephemeral. They want God as God is; we want God as we imagine or would like God to be.” The greatest ally of God is what is. God can always work with what is. That is why there can be no real obstacle to union with God except our own resistance. God can and will use everything, absolutely everything, even the worst things—which is the meaning of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.
De Caussade continues, “We find all that is necessary in the present moment.” Perhaps a summary sentence in his teaching is this: “If we have abandoned ourselves to God, there is only one rule for us: the duty of the present moment.” “What does this moment ask of me?” is always the right question.
Adapted from The Eternal Now—and how to be there!
Gateway to Silence:
What this moment offers is the grace of God.
Source: Fr. Richard Rohr
Prayerful Path/Mary Maddox