"Walking in the way and the love of the Lord"
Christmas reflection: Make room for Jesus in your inn
By Fr. Erik Esparza
Each Christmas we are offered so many opportunities to reflect on the meaning of Christmas. What helps you to reflect on Christmas? Is it when you put up your Christmas lights or tree? Is it through your gift giving for family, friends, or for those most in need?
Is it in your kitchen where you take the time to bake surprises for others to feast? Is it while you volunteer at a local soup kitchen to ensure all have a warm meal to eat? Is it at the celebration of Christmas Mass where God’s family comes together?
Wherever you are and in whatever you do, take the time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.
One way to more deeply reflect on Christmas is to gather around a nativity. In fact, I encourage you to spend some time during the Christmas Season with your own nativity scene at home. Take a moment to read chapter two from both the Gospel of St. Matthew and the Gospel of St. Luke to hear once more the story of Christmas. This can be done in private devotion or gathered in prayer with your family. The time to read scripture and for prayerful reflection gives you a quiet moment in the midst of the hustle and bustle of these days to reflect on the great gift of love, the Incarnation.
One part of the Christmas story that comes to mind for me can be found in the Gospel of St. Luke (2:7) when Joseph and Mary upon arrival into Bethlehem were unable to find any room for them in the inn. In response to this lack of room for the Holy Family, Jesus is born and laid in a manger. There is a deeper meaning to this part of the story besides there simply being no room in the inn. You see, there is an invitation to consider this question: is there a part of your life where there is no room for Christ? We can easily look at this scene from the Christmas story and comment on how horrible it was that no one offered a room for the arrival of the newborn King. The true meaning of Christmas includes making room in our own hearts and lives to receive the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. There is a temptation to love Jesus, yet deny his presence in certain aspects of our lives. We celebrate Jesus’ love yet we deny that love to others. We are grateful for the blessings from God yet do not share those blessings with others. We bask in the mercy of God yet do not offer the same mercy to others.
This Christmas use the time to reflect on where you might not have room in your inn for Jesus. What door needs to be opened or what space needs to welcome the newborn King? Jesus comes into the messiness of our lives just like that first Christmas to bring his presence of light and love. Do not miss out on this presence, for we are all in need of more light and love in our lives.
Now go forth and be a joyful witness!
Fr. Erik Esparza is Associate Director in the Office of Priest Personnel for the Diocese of San Bernardino.
Advent Reflection: Resting in the Womb of Mary
By: LILLA MARIE LOTTINGER AND SR. MARY CLARE WAX
Recently I found myself longing to hold baby Jesus as I was contemplating this Advent/Christmas Season; but in discipline I chose to wait till Christmas Eve to “unwrap” this great gift. And in doing so I immediately found myself turning to Mary and placing my hand on her womb, opening myself to connect with baby Jesus there.
Since then I have found myself uniting with Jesus in the womb of Mary… first from outside; but then, while spending time with Jesus in adoration I found myself imagining that the chapel I was in was Mary’s womb; and I began spending time in the womb with Jesus, opening myself to being still in His presence, resting in the love of a perfect Mother and Father (Mary and our Heavenly Father), as Jesus did… soaking in the truths of my own dignity and identity as a “child of God”.
For this is why Jesus came… to open the gates of Heaven to us, and invite us back into communion with our Heavenly Father. By His Blood we have been redeemed and drawn back into the dignity and identity that we had before the fall, if we but choose to receive.
My prayer this Advent/Christmas Season, is that we will all have the grace to rest with baby Jesus, to become one with Him in opening ourselves to the “marvel [we] were made” the truth of who we were created to be. May we enter deeply into the graces of this Advent/Christmas Season, that we may come to know the love of God, the love of Mary, in a deeply intimate and profound way.
Our God longs to bond with us as His Children. He wants us to rest in the womb of His love for us, as Jesus did throughout His life here on earth; that we may know the infinite, unconditional love and acceptance of our perfect Heavenly Father.
He wants us also to rest in the womb of Mary’s love for us as Jesus did throughout His earthly life; that we may know the love of a perfect Mother as He did; that we may experience our Heavenly Father’s unconditional love and acceptance for us also through the Maternal Heart of Mary.
Mother and father wounds are the deepest wounds we can have, because our mothers and fathers are the first to reflect and draw us into God’s love. Their ultimate purpose in loving us is meant to incline us toward receptivity to the Love of our Heavenly Father and Mother, that we may know God’s perfect, unconditional love and acceptance of us.
But our parents fall short in life to varying degrees, due to their own wounds, passed down from their own parents, tracing all the way back to Adam and Eve. And so, we can remain depleted, not realizing how deeply, unconditionally and infinitely we are loved.
May this Advent/Christmas Season be a time for all of us to go to the source from which all love and truth flows, by becoming one with Baby Jesus, in opening ourselves to receive and reclaim our true dignity and identity as “children of God.
As I shared with Sr. Mary Clare my reflection of entering into the womb of Mary with Jesus, she felt drawn to enter in as well and later shared a little taste of her own experience:
“I meditated on the utter silence of all Creation as It waited upon Mary’s ‘Yes’, when the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that She would conceive and bear a Son and His name shall be Jesus. When Mary gave her ‘Yes’, light entered into her womb and into this world! As I meditated on entering the womb of Mary, I saw a bright light and realized that I was with Jesus, the Light of the World! I then invited Mary to form me as she was forming Jesus, in her womb. In Her womb was Love personified, joy and peace. I found myself resting in this Love, Peace and Joy! I was also aware that Jesus and Mary were asking me and all of us, to make reparation for the darkness in some mother’s wombs, caused by the sin of abortion. Too many mother’s say ‘No’ to life in their wombs, and their wombs become a place of darkness, void of love, peace and joy.”
Challenge: Rest in the womb of Mary
Lilla Marie Lottinger and Sr. Mary Clare Wax are Missionaries of Our Mother of the Eucharist, stationed in Houma, LA. There website is: www.ourmotheroftheeucharist.org. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pic: (l to r) Sr. Mary Clare and Lilla Marie
"As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lords’ feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!
“Martha, Martha “ the Lord answered, “ you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." ~ Luke 10:38-41
Challenge: Simplify, are you Martha or Mary?
When we think about how Jesus came into the world that first Christmas, we must remember he was born in a stable, in poverty and simplicity. He came to us in a simple way and He lived simply. He has asked us to choose the better way. Let us remember the words he spoke to Martha, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
Lord make us smaller and more humble, help us choose the better way so that You may be glorified!
“Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind. Steady my hurried pace. Give me, amidst the day's confusion, the calmness of the everlasting hills. Break the tensions of my nerves and muscles with the soothing music of singing streams that live in my memory. Help me to know the magical, restoring power of sleep. Teach me the art of taking "minute vacations"...slowing down to look at a flower, to chat with a friend, to read a few lines from a good book. Remind me of the fable of the hare and the tortoise; that the race is not always to the swift; that there is more to life than measuring its speed. Let me look up at the branches of the towering oak and know that it grew slowly and well. Inspire me to send my own roots down deep into the soil of life's endearing values...that I may grow toward the stars of my greater destiny. Slow me down, Lord.” (~ Wilfred Arlan Peterson)
“He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none.” (Luke 3:11)
Challenge: Clothe the naked
Jesus calls us to act, not to simply talk about it. Act on this, truly clothe the naked.
I have been blessed to be a part of a mission team in Haiti. Our mission team has helped many, we have built homes, fed the hungry, visited the sick, visited prisoners, gave drink to the thirsty and yes we clothed the naked.
I will never forget this one little boy. He would visit the Rectory daily. One day he jumped up in my lap and hugged me. He continued to sit in my lap and wouldn't let my arms stop hugging him. If I reached for another child, he would grab my hand and wrap it around his belly. It was amazing as we sat together surrounded by love. God's love. We didn't speak the same language but this language was universal.
A few minutes later, he pulled his shoes off. I looked down at his feet. He was wearing shoes that were too small for his little feet. I saw blisters all over his feet. My heart was broken. I have a closet full of shoes. Some shoes I haven't worn in years and here was this little boy who needed shoes.
After he left for the evening, I gave the priest of the community some extra money. I asked him to buy that little boy shoes, and to buy shoes for anyone else who needs them. Just a little act of kindness and so easy to do. We are so blessed to be living in such an amazing country and to have what we need. So, generous followers of Jesus, do just that. Clothe the naked!
Jesus says, " when we clothe the naked, we are clothing him." As we clothe the naked, we just may see the eyes of Jesus himself. As we help others, we are not only helping that person find comfort and dignity, but we ourselves will also be transformed by the grace of God in the process.
Open your eyes and pay attention. There is probably someone near you that needs your help. Do you have extra coats in the closet, donate those to a shelter. There is always a way to help. Pray and find your way to clothe the naked. The way that works for you.
Let us Pray,
Lord Jesus guide me, inspire me to share my possessions with others. Help me to understand and be compassionate to the children of God who need my help. Help me to see the beauty in everyone. Help me to see you Lord Jesus.
If you would like to donate to clothe the naked, my mission team will be returning to Haiti Dec 27th. Please click here to donate:
Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
Challenge: Say "YES" to God!
Can you imagine yourself in Mary's place? Can you imagine being visited by an angel and being asked to follow a divine plan. On that wondrous night, Mary was asked to take on something that would change her life forever....asked to accept something that she knew would cause conflict within her world. Imagine yourself there in Mary's place. Imagine the confusion within her young heart. But still, despite her fear and her questions, she accepted God's call and guidance for her life. Picture yourself in her place.....why? Because we are in that place of accepting God's call every day. There may not be an angel we can see, but someone or something is appearing in front of us daily, encouraging us forward on our spiritual journey.
Mary's acceptance of her call teaches us what it means to live by faith. Despite her fears and uncertainty, she answered "Yes". Even though she knew it would disrupt her daily course of life, she answered "Yes". Are we able to respond to God this way? As we reflect on the Annunciation and Mary's acceptance of her call, we need to reflect on our own calling from God. Every time we say the Our Father, we pray, "thy will be done". Do we really mean those words?
"Be it done unto me according to your word."
Marys beautiful answer to her call.......Can we do the same? Think about it this way. God's gifts to us, our very own talents will be brought forward in our lives when we can receive and welcome a deeper relationship with Him. He has gifted us and we need to find the courage to say “yes.” That deep friendship with God will encourage us to come alive to the world, to be true to ourselves., to be the one he formed in our mother's womb.
We may not always understand where God is leading us. We might not understand why something is happening that tests our strengths. But God has given us Mary as an example of trust and the kind of faith that isn't afraid to be inquisitive. She wanted to understand more, and so she asked the angel, “how can this be?” She needed something to hold onto. And the angel gave her what she needed to hear. ...”The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” and then the words most important of all, for Mary and for us, ...........”.for nothing is impossible with God.”
Mary embraced and welcomed God's Word in the fullest sense. No, we most likely will not have angels appearing to us on our doorsteps, but remember, we encounter God daily. We encounter God in our prayers. We encounter God in the people we meet.......God speaks to each and everyone of us in ways we, personally, can understand. Do you hear His whispers? Are you ready to say, "Yes" and accept His invitation. Are you ready to trust in His providence, even if you can't see the path ahead? Look to Mary with your questions and your fears. She knows exactly how we feel.
Pope Benedict XVI made a pilgrimage to the Basilica of the Annunciation, this is the prayer he offered to the humble Blessed Mother.
"Mary, Mother of the "Yes," you listened to Jesus, and know the tone of his voice and the beating of his heart. Morning Star, speak to us of him, and tell us about your journey of following him on the path of faith."
“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
By: Mary Maddox and Kathleen Aparo. A mother daughter team working for Our Lord. Your fellow pilgrims on this path.
Prayerful Path/Mary Maddox
Saint James, pray for us that we may be willing to leave everything to follow Jesus as you did. Help us to become special friends of Jesus as you were. Amen