Gospel reading of the day:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him.
But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. John testified to him and cried out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’” From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.
Reflection on the gospel reading: Every year on the last day of the year, we read the Prologue from the gospel of John. The gospel for this day reminds us about two things. The first of those is that God is the source and unchanging, that all thing came to be through God but even to this day the darkness has not overcome God. The second of those things is that God is involved in human history, that God has made his dwelling among us. The end of the year whispers to us that time is marching on and that the end will come, but even if in the muddle of everything, our lives seem like a collection of disjointed fits and starts, God is faithful
Saint of the day: Giuseppina Nicoli was born in Italy on November 18, 1863, the fifth of ten children. Prior to her entrance of the House of San Salvario in Turin, Central House of the Daughters of Charity, Turin Province on September 24, 1883, she had received extensive education. After completing initial formation at Rue du Bac, she was sent on mission to serve the poor on the island of Sardinia, Italy, in 1884.
Sister Giuseppina worked at the Providenza Conservatory in Cagliari from 1885 to 1899. She pronounced simple vows of the Daughters of Charity for the first time on December 25, 1888. While working in Cagliari, she catechized youngsters and workers.
In June, 1899 Sister Giuseppina was named Sister Servant (local superior) of the Sassari orphanage. Sister encountered difficulties running the orphanage, difficulties caused largely by distrustful administrators. She continued her work, in time gaining recognition for her dedication, courage and good will. In Sassari she continued her work in religious education for needy people of all ages. At a time when religious education was not being included in school curricula, she arranged this for girls from wealthy families. The Associazione dei Figli di Maria (Association of the Sons of Mary) was promoted by her and she directed the Associazione delle Figlie di Maria (Association of the Daughters of Mary). She provided a model of direct service to the poor, especially orphans and the ill, and introduced other sisters to the ministry of visiting the incarcerated.
Sister was called to the motherhouse in 1910, where she worked until 1913. She first served as Province administrator and then directed education for those in formation. In January, 1913, in the belief that the Sardinian climate would be better for Sister Giuseppina’s health, the Provincial Council sent her again as Superior to Sassari. After a brief but difficult period there, she was moved to Cagliari and arrived there on August 7, 1914. She was sister servant at the Asilo della Marina (Preschool of the Marina) and remained in Cagliari until her death on December 31, 1924. She was beatified on February 3, 2008.
Spiritual reading: At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us. . . . It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely . . . I have no program for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of heaven is everywhere. (Thomas Merton)
Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.
Reflection on the gospel reading: We know very little about the life of the Holy Family. We can speculate based on the hints in the passages of scripture and on what we know about the life of a typical family in Palestine in the early first century. Mark and Matthew both suggest that Joseph was a carpenter, indeed, from the Greek, a very specialized kind of carpenter who built door sills; it was not a lucrative profession. This fact would accord with our knowledge that most people in first century Palestine just got by, if that at all. Even so, the duties of faith required that boys be literate, and Israel enjoyed one of the highest rates of literacy in the ancient world. We know Jesus could read, because the gospels refer to his reading in the synagogue. So schooling for Jesus was a part of the Holy Family’s life. This was an age when little was known about medicine and hygiene, so ill health almost certainly afflicted members of the Holy Family, attended by the typical anxiety that occurs when a member of the family grows ill. The scriptures make no reference to Joseph during Jesus’ ministry, so it would seem that Joseph must have died by the time Jesus began to preach throughout Judea, and doubtlessly, Jesus and Mary grieved and missed him.
Several passages from the scriptures show that the Holy Family maintained the piety of their people. For instance, the story we read from Luke’s gospel today tells us that they went up to Jerusalem to keep the Passover. Jesus at 12 must have been a boy on the typical developmental trajectory, beginning to spread his wings to his parents’ occasional consternation and confusion. Rather than returning with his parents to Nazareth, he remains in Jerusalem to converse with the learned men who talked and disputed at the temple.
In other words, when God entered human history, God occupied the ordinariness of human lives. The routines and sorrows and joys that attend the life of the world were blessed and exalted by God’s embrace of them. Sometimes, the sameness and the difficulties of day-to-day life may overwhelm us, and we may grow numb at the ceaseless chores, but surely it can be a comfort to us to know that even if we don’t feel it, God has made all of it great and meaningful by God’s willingness to take part in it.
Spiritual reading: I wish to invoke the protection of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Through God’s mysterious design, it was in that family that the Son of God spent long years of a hidden life. It is therefore the prototype and example for all Christian families. It was unique in the world. Its life was passed in anonymity and silence in a little town in Palestine. It underwent trials of poverty, persecution and exile. It glorified God in an incomparably exalted and pure way. And it will not fail to help Christian families-indeed, all the families in the world-to be faithful to their day-to-day duties, to bear the cares and tribulations of life, to be open and generous to the needs of others, and to fulfill with joy the plan of God in their regard. (Karol Wojtyła)
When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, the parents of Jesus took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord, and to offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:
“Lord, now let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled: my own eyes have seen the salvation which you prepared in the sight of every people, a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Mary and Joseph come to the Temple to fulfill the Mosaic Laws that applied both to Mary and the baby. During the course of their ritual duties, an old man Simeon sees the baby and utters amazing prophecies concerning the child. He foretells that the child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel. Simeon believes he cannot judge by appearances. He looks into an apparently ordinary baby from a poor and marginalized family and recognizes the messiah for whom he has waited his entire life. Simeon challenges us to look beyond the mere appearances of the poor and struggling and see the face of God, as God lies waiting for us in rough circumstances if only we train our eyes to see.
Saint of the day: Thomas à Becket was born in London, England in 1118. The son of Gilbert à Becket, an English merchant and the onetime sheriff of London, Thomas was of Norman ancestry. Educated at Merton Priory, Paris, Bologna, and Auxerre, Thomas was a civil and canon lawyer. He served as both a soldier and an officer. He became the Archdeacon of Canterbury because of his skills in administration. A friend of King Henry II, he became the Chancellor of England. When the Archbishop of Canterbury died, the King eventually chose his friend to succeed him; Thomas was ordained a priest one day, bishop the next, and later the afternoon of his episcopal ordination, he became Archbishop of Canterbury. To the King’s surprise and consternation, Thomas opposed the King’s interference in ecclesiastical matters. As a result, he went into exile several times. On December 29, 1170 in the Cathedral at Canterbury, England, he was murdered by the King’s knights, who believed they were acting at the King’s behest. Thomas was canonized three short years later in 1173. Henry came to the Cathedral in July of the next year to do public penance for Thomas’s death.
Spiritual reading: Let Jesus be nourished among us, among us let him advance in years and wisdom that at the fitting moment he may be ready for his Passion. Meanwhile he is little, he does not think of the Passion, instead he must be busy with the breast . . . . Let us live with him at Nazareth that we may be able to give forth sweet fragrance from the blossoms of a life in its springtime. (Letters by Adam of Perseigne)
When the magi had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, Out of Egypt I called my son.
When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi. Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet: A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.
Reflection on the gospel reading: Today is the feast of the Holy Innocents, a story about a powerful person who out of his self-interest commits a terrible atrocity against innocent children. It gives us an opportunity to ponder the mystery of why bad things happen to good people and, in particular, why it is that the most monstrous of things can happen to the most innocent of people. The feast comes this year not long after the nation recoiled in horror at the murder of 20 very young children in Newtown, Connecticut, so the appreciation of what happened in Bethlehem two thousand years ago has a touchstone in our own raw emotions which makes what happened to the Holy Innocents far more real this year.
We think of God as imminent, attentive, and loving, and we do so rightly, because God is all of those things: this is not just our faith but also our experience. But when we come face-to-face with something so terrible, like the Newtown massacre, that the event floods every newspaper and every news show, it challenges us to think about how it is that God is loving and imminent but still doesn’t stop so wicked a thing. All the answers to address this problem are too facile and seem to relieve us of the debt of our own suffering in the face of horror. I do not know why an imminent loving God allows such things, but we must not dismiss it out of hand with easy answers, because something which cannot be answered must be very important. The evil in Newtown and the evil in Bethlehem were crude, but the evil in both Newtown and Bethlehem was real and deep. What happened in Newtown and what happened in Bethlehem happened in the presence of a loving and imminent God, and that is scandalous.
But Christian faith is the mystery of living faithfully alongside incomprehension and suffering. When the Spirit of God led Jesus to baptism and into the desert, the path the Spirit prepared for Jesus in his baptism and the desert led to the cross. This too is a scandal: evil which is crude, real, and deep before the gaze of a loving and imminent God. But though we cannot comprehend why such things happen, we do know that in Jesus, God subjected Godself to the very thing which happened to the Holy Innocents and to the very thing which happened to the first graders in Newtown.
It is not an answer, but it is good company.
Saint of the day: Herod “the Great,” king of Judea, was unpopular with his people because of his connections with the Romans and his religious indifference. Hence he was insecure and fearful of any threat to his throne. He was a master politician and a tyrant capable of extreme brutality. He killed his wife, his brother and his sister’s two husbands, to name only a few.
Matthew 2:1-18 tells this story: Herod was “greatly troubled” when astrologers from the east came asking the whereabouts of “the newborn king of the Jews,” whose star they had seen. They were told that the Jewish Scriptures named Bethlehem as the place where the Messiah would be born. Herod cunningly told them to report back to him so that he could also “do him homage.” They found Jesus, offered him their gifts and, warned by an angel, avoided Herod on their way home. Jesus escaped to Egypt.
Herod became furious and “ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under.” The horror of the massacre and the devastation of the mothers and fathers led Matthew to quote Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children…” (Matthew 2:18). Rachel was the wife of Jacob/Israel. She is pictured as weeping at the place where the Israelites were herded together by the conquering Assyrians for their march into captivity.
Spiritual reading: In the Christian story, God descends to reascend. He comes down . . . down to the very roots and sea-bed of the Nature he has created. But he goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him. (C.S. Lewis)
“Without the perspective of the poor, we see nothing, not even an angel. When we approach the poor, our values and goals change. The child appears in many other children. Mary also seeks sanctuary among us. Because the angels sing, the shepherds rise, leave their fears behind, and set out for Bethlehem, wherever it is situated these days.”1
These words give the lie to much of what we consider to be a celebration of Christmas, even—or especially—those of us who reject the crass commercialism and rampant consumer mania of the secular marketplace. Because Christmas is not necessarily—or even—about warm gatherings of family and intimate friends, nor about the various liturgies of Christmas, as beautiful as they are. No, Christmas is about what Justo Gonzalez and other theologians have termed the Great Reversal; i.e., seeing that those things and events which so many of us see are important and of great consequence are not so much in the eyes of the Divine.
The question for each of us, then, is where is the place where we can find Jesus in our own world? Where is Bethlehem in our lives? While not discounting the wholesome joy to be found in healthy family relationships or in successfully balanced lives, the Christmas stories found in Luke’s and Matthew’s Gospels challenge us to look outside our “comfort zones,” to go to those who, like the shepherds and the Holy Family itself are living on the margins, often scorned, but just as shamefully ignored. Our Bethlehem is out there—or maybe in there as well. It only waits to be discovered through prayer, discernment and the courage required to look for it.
1-from “The Christmas Gospel,” by Dorothee Soelle, in Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas, The Plough Publishing House, 2001, entry for December 27.Rev. Larry Hansen
Cana House Portland, Oregon
In the course of many years of witnessing the marriages of many young couples and meeting many couples in committed relationships, I must admit that like the uniqueness of each one of us, each relationship is just as unique in each other as we are in ourselves. As each of us has our failures, so do relationships even to the point of breaking sometimes. What doesn’t ever break however is the relationship we have with God. No matter how broken, how guilty, how unforgiving we are of even ourselves, God forgives and he loves. Even in failure he is there for us and in Him we can go on. As I said we are unique and our relationships are also, but at the same time some things are alike. I’m sure you parents of adolescents can identify with the disappearing Jesus and the “where were you?” “what were you doing?” I’ve heard the answer “nothing!” many times myself. So you see a short glimpse even of the “Holy Family” shows even they had some foibles and only God is perfect and He gives a lot of forgiveness and love.
Therein lies the real basis of a family and relationships. To commit to each other requires love and patience and forgiveness but all that is always in God. He has to be the foundation for family. The commitment of two people requires that they give themselves freely to the other. God is discovered in this way and a couple grows and shares and spreads that love.
We see that kind of love in the gospel today. Mary and Joseph’s relationship was certainly unique and as I said last week, they had the most unique special needs child in history. Imagine their dilemma between letting go and protectiveness. His “Father’s business” and growing up. The angel told them they would have a son but they had to figure the rest out themselves. Like any of us they did their best. I suppose that today we are celebrating their best. At the same time let us celebrate ourselves. After all, we have gathered as families and shared over Christmas. Let us be glad and rejoice over what we have. God is good to us what further needs do we have?
John 20:1a, 2-8
On the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we do not know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed.
Reflection on the gospel: Early liturgical commentaries associate the Feast of John as closest among the feasts of the apostles to Christmas because of the belief that John, as the Beloved Disciple, enjoyed a special friendship with the Lord. In fact, John’s gospel claims the Beloved Disciple stood at the foot of the cross, the only male disciple to not abandon the Lord in his darkest hour. The gospel of the day is taken from John’s gospel and testifies to Peter and John’s excited run to tomb of Jesus after Mary of Magdala announces to the disciples that the Lord’s body is not in the tomb. The small details in this account truly do seem to suggest a firsthand account: Peter and the Beloved Disciple running, the younger man arriving first but waiting, perhaps deferentially, for the older man to go on in first, a commentary on the positions of the burial cloths, but perhaps most importantly, the reaction of the Beloved Disciple to what he saw: “He saw and believed.” John’s reaction to what he perceives, is belief in what he has yet to perceive: the living resurrected Lord.
In three days, we have remembered the birth of the Lord on Christmas, recalled he experienced suffering from the start of his life on the feast of Stephen the Martyr, and recollected his resurrection in the witness of the Beloved Disciple to what he saw. We cannot celebrate Christmas without remembering the reason the little Babe came to us, that is, to suffer, die, and rise.
Saint of the day: John the Apostle was the son of Zebedee and Salome. A fisherman, he was the brother of the Apostle James and called one of the Sons of Thunder. A disciple of John the Baptist and a friend of Peter the Apostle, John was called by Jesus during the first year of his ministry, and traveled everywhere with him, becoming so close as to be thought by many to be the mysterious beloved disciple of the Gospel of John. He took part in the Last Supper.
The Beloved Disciple was the only one of Jesus’ followers not to forsake the Savior in the hour of his Passion. He stood at the foot of the cross. Jesus made him the guardian of Our Lady. Upon hearing of the Resurrection, the Beloved Disciple was the first to reach the tomb; when he met the risen Lord at the lake of Tiberias, he was the first to recognize Him. In keeping that the Beloved Disciple and the Apostle John were the same person, the Church has placed John’s feast near the birth of the Lord to emphasize the ties between the birth of the Lord and his ultimate passion, death, and resurrection.
Spiritual reading of the day: When Christ saw Our Lady standing by his cross and her the boy apostle, John, he said to he, “Woman, behold your son.” There can be no doubt about his meaning. A few hours earlier, this boy had sat at table with Christ. He had leaned his head upon Christ’s breast and heard his heart beating. And that heartbeat was the music accompanying his prayer, the prayer offered on what was very nearly his last breath. He prayed that all those who loved him should be made one with him, that they should live in him, so that they would have only one life: his . . . . When he looked down from the cross, with eyes already full of death, Christ saw a huge crowd of people around him . . . . and he loved each one as if that one alone existed. It was not for a crowd that he was dying, but for each person in the crowd; not for the whole human race, but for each member of the human race. (The Reed of God by Caryll Houselander)
Jesus said to his disciples: “Beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: On the day after Christmas, we celebrate the feast of the first martyr, Stephen. There is some evidence that the juxtaposition of Christmas and Stephen’s feast might have been a coincidence, since the Church seems to have celebrated Stephen’s martyrdom on December 26 before it came to celebrate the nativity of Jesus on December 25. Whether or not Stephen’s martyrdom following promptly on the celebration of the Lord’s birth is a coincidence, this joining long has reminded believers about the point of the celebration of Christmas. We do not celebrate the birth of a baby except as a meditation on the point of the baby’s birth. This baby was born with a purpose: to die and then to rise.
Saint of the day: Saint Stephen is venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Orthodox Churches. Stephen’s name is derived from the Greek language Stephanos, meaning “crown”. Traditionally, Stephen is invested with a crown of martyrdom; he is often depicted in art with three stones and the martyrs’ palm. In Eastern Christian iconography, he is shown as a young, beardless man with a tonsure, wearing a deacon’s vestments, and often holding a miniature church building or a censer. History approximates Stephen’s story around A.D. 34-35, shortly after Jesus’ crucifixion. According to Chapter 6 of The Acts of the Apostles, Stephen was among seven men of the early church at Jerusalem appointed to serve as deacon. However, after a dispute with the members of a synagogue of Roman Freedmen, he is denounced for blasphemy against God and Moses (Acts 6:11) and speaking against the Temple and the Law. Stephen is tried before the Sanhedrin. His defense is presented as accusing the Jews of persecuting the prophets who had spoken out against the sins of the nation: “Which one of the Prophets did your fathers not persecute, and they killed the ones who prophesied the coming of the Just One, of whom now, too, you have become betrayers and murderers.” (7:52) While on trial, he experienced a theophany in which he saw both God the Father and God the Son: “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:56) This vision of Christ standing differs from other Scripture which indicates Jesus sits at the right hand of God–perhaps implying that Christ stood in honor of Stephen whose martyrdom was near. He is condemned and stoned to death by an infuriated mob, which is encouraged by Saul of Tarsus, later to be known as Saint Paul the Apostle. After his own conversion to Christianity, Paul makes reference to witnessing Stephen’s martyrdom in his writings. While Stephen is witnessing to Jesus, his hearers plugged their ears and refuse to listen to another word. They drag Stephen outside the city of Jerusalem and stone him to death. Stephen prays, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then he fell to his knees and begged God not to punish his enemies for killing him.
Spiritual reading: Jesus promised his disciples three things—that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble. (G. K. Chesterton)
Gospel reading of the day:
When the angels went away from them to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.
Reflection on the gospel reading: God has come as a baby into this troubled, wounded, and real world. God has chosen to enter our hurting world with all its messiness, injuries, and fears. Christmas is real because God really and truly has visited us in the flesh. Christmas is no myth nor a story about fairies which lodge in the garden. The good news, the gospel God invites us to carry with us, is that God became one of us, one just like us right down to an occasional bout of the runs and the regular need of a bath. He came as an infant, both vulnerable, weak, and every bit as defenseless as the children at Sandy Hook Elementary School. And yet through his defenselessness, he was able to spread his message to every corner of the world.
Christmas promises us that despite every adversity and each trial, God is with us. And that all shall be well. And that everything shall be well. And that every manner of thing shall be well. We praise God that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Spiritual reading: Be good, keep your feet dry, your eyes open, your heart at peace and your soul in the joy of Christ. (Thomas Merton)
Gospel reading of the day:
“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; for he has come to his people and set them free. He has raised up for us a mighty Savior, born of the house of his servant David. Through his prophets he promised of old that he would save us from our enemies, from the hands of all who hate us. He promised to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant. This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to set us free from the hand of our enemies, free to worship him without fear, holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life. You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way, to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins. In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Zechariah sings of the joy which comes from a visit by God’s goodness which, in Jesus, fulfills every promise God has made through the prophets. Zechariah’s Canticle is a song about God’s faithfulness in Israel’s past and the fidelity of God into the future. Zechariah in his song is like Moses standing on Mount Nebo, where he can see the road which Israel has traveled and observe the beginning of the fulfillment of the promises which God has made. For Moses, the future was for his people to enter the Promised Land. For Zechariah, it was Jesus, who is the Morning Star, the dawning of the Sun of Justice, and the rising Prince of Peace. May joy and peace be to each of you, and yours, and all of us.
Saint of the day: Saint Charbel Makhluf was born on May 8, 1828, in Lebanon, he was the son of a mule driver. He was raised by an uncle who opposed the boy’s youthful piety. The boy’s favorite book was Thomas a Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ. At age 23, he snuck away to join the Maronite monastery where he took the name Charbel in memory of a second century martyr. He professed his solemn vows in 1853 and became a priest in 1859.
He lived as a model monk but dreamed of living like the ancient desert fathers. A hermit from 1875 until his death 23 years later, he existed on the barest essentials of everything. He gained a reputation for holiness and was much sought for counsel and blessing. He had a great personal devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. He celebrated Mass at noon so he could spend the morning in preparation and the rest of the day in thanksgiving.
Spiritual reading: Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love. (Hamilton Wright Mabie)