Sunday, January 23, 2022

Christian Unity

 

The news the past few days has been filled with violence, Covid 19 updates, and sadness.  Two NYPD officers were shot, one was killed and the other is clinging to life in the hospital.  The gunman, too, is in critical condition.  The officers were responding to a 911 call over a domestic dispute when they were shot.  In addition, an eleven-month-old girl was shot, in a separate incident while she sat in the car with her mother.  She celebrated her first birthday undergoing surgery.  While her prognosis is positive the fact that a child so young was involved in such an incident is appalling.  These incidents are a reflection of the pervasiveness of violence in our world and call for a great deal of prayer.

This week we have been celebrating the Week of Christian Unity.  The theme for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in 2022 was selected by the Middle East Council of Churches and originates from the churches in Lebanon. Present times in Lebanon are extremely difficult and economically disastrous. All this combined with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have made the situation quite stressful. The power of prayer in solidarity with those who suffer is a demonstration of Christian unity and a sign of communion.

The theme, taken from the second chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew, is the Epiphany. Each year in January, the Church recalls the visit of the Magi to Bethlehem, highlighting God’s invitation to all of humanity to a new covenant in the Incarnation of Christ. In the Eastern Churches, Epiphany is joined to the mystery of the Baptism of Christ, a baptism all Christians hold in common as testimony to their faith in the Son of God.

Jesus Christ, the Word of God, has been made manifest in human history by becoming one of us and one with us. Born in a stable, born in homelessness, he is our King and Lord. The Magi bore witness to the Light of hope coming into the world as they faithfully followed the star, coming from foreign lands in the East, until arriving in Bethlehem of Judea.

The solidarity of God with created humanity in this gift of Epiphany calls us to a life of solidarity with the homeless, the refugee, the weakest and the rejected. We are all human beings worthy of redemption and prepared by that redeeming love to the glory of your Kingdom. Help us, O gracious Lord, to do this in unity and peace.

As we who bear the name of Christian, from the days of the church at Antioch, hold a special place in our hearts for the ancient Christian communities in the land we call holy, remind us to continually respond to our baptismal promises to you, who said through your Spirit at the Jordan, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

Help your Church, merciful One, to be a light for unity within itself and a beacon of hope for all humanity. We ask this through Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit reign as One God for ever and ever. Amen.




Sunday, January 16, 2022

Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Martin Luther King, Jr., was born January 15, 1929, Atlanta, Georgia, and was assassinated on April 4, 1968.  He was an American Baptist minister and activist who became the most visible spokesman and leader in the American civil rights movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968. King advanced civil rights through nonviolence and civil disobedience, inspired by his Christian beliefs and the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi. He was the son of early civil rights activist and minister Martin Luther King Sr.

King participated in and led marches for the right to vote, desegregation, labor rights, and other basic civil rights.  King led the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott and later became the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). As president of the SCLC, he led the unsuccessful Albany Movement in Albany, Georgia, and helped organize some of the nonviolent 1963 protests in Birmingham, Alabama. King helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.  On October 14, 1964, King won the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance.

As we celebrate his life this Monday let us reflect on his I Have a Dream speech as delivered on August 28, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so, we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. **We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only."** We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,   From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!



 

 

Sunday, January 9, 2022

The Baptism of the Lord

 

The people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ.  John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.  I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”  Lk 3:15-16, 21-22

Today’s Feast of the Baptism of the Lord marks the conclusion of the Christmas Season and the beginning of Ordinary Time.  It is a feast of transition from Jesus’ hidden life to that of His public ministry.  It also echoes the theme of the Epiphany in that the Baptism of the Lord is another manifestation announcing Jesus’ divinity to all of His first followers and to the disciples of John the Baptist.

Jesus did not need the baptism of John.  John was baptizing as a call to and sign of interior repentance.  Jesus had no need to repent.  But, nonetheless, He comes to John.  John resists at first but Jesus insists.  By accepting the baptism of John, Jesus affirms all that John has said and done.

Jesus entered the waters of baptism; He was not baptized by the waters. By entering the waters, Jesus sanctified water and poured forth His grace making all water the future source of salvation.

The Baptism of Jesus was an epiphany.  It was a moment of manifestation.  As He emerged from the waters, “Heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.  And a voice came from Heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’”  His baptism was a way in which the Father introduced His Son and His Son’s mission to the world.

As we prepare to begin Ordinary Time, take some time to reflect on the words of today’s Gospel and hear our loving God saying to you, “You are my beloved, in you I am well pleased.”



Sunday, January 2, 2022

The Epiphany of the Lord

 

O God, who on this day revealed your Only Begotten Son to the nations by the guidance of a star, grant in your mercy that we, who know you already by faith, may be brought to behold the beauty of your sublime glory. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.

Today we celebrate the Epiphany.  Epiphany means manifestation. What the Church celebrates today is the manifestation of our Lord to the whole world; after being made known to the shepherds of Bethlehem He is revealed to the Magi who have come from the East to adore Him.  We recall how the Magi came to visit the infant Jesus and how Mary kept all things in her heart.  As we pray this day may we allow Christ to be revealed once more in our hearts.

We are in a rather paradoxical time.  The Christmas season has flown by, we have welcomed the new year of 2022, and continue to live with Covid-19 and its variants.  Someone shared this on social media.  It is the printed version of Harry Harrison’s famous radio message May You Always.  May 2022 be filled with many rich blessings and as Harry Harrison once said: 

May You Always 

As the holiday bells ring out the old year, and sweethearts kiss,
And cold hands touch and warm each other against the year ahead,
May I wish you not the biggest and best of life,
But the small pleasures that make living worthwhile.
Sometime during the New Year, to keep your heart in practice,
May you do someone a secret good deed and not get caught at it.
May you find a little island of time to read that book and write that letter
And to visit that lonely friend on the other side of town.

May your next do-it-yourself project not look like you did it yourself.
May the poor relatives you helped support remember you when they win the lottery.
May your best card tricks win admiring gasps and your worst puns, admiring groans.
May all those who told you so, refrain from saying, "I told you so."

May all the predictions you've made for your first-born's future come true.
May just half of those optimistic predictions that your high school annual made for you come true.
In a time of sink or swim, may you find you can walk to shore before you call the lifeguard.
May you keep at least one ideal you can pass along to your kids.

For a change, some rainy day, when you're a few minutes late,
May your train or bus be waiting for you.
May you accidentally overhear someone saying something nice about you.
If you run into an old school chum,
May you both remember each other's names for introductions.
If you order your steak medium rare, may it be so.
And, if you're on a diet,
May someone tell you, "You've lost a little weight", without knowing you're on a diet.
May that long and lonely night be brightened by the telephone call that you've been waiting for.
When you reach into the coin slot, may you find the coin that you lost on your last wrong number.
When you trip and fall, may there be no one watching to laugh at you or feel sorry for you.

And sometime soon, may you be waved to by a celebrity,
Wagged at by a puppy,
Run to by a happy child,
And counted on by someone you love.
More than this, no one can wish you.

Happy Holidays Harry Harrison



Sunday, December 26, 2021

Feast of the Holy Family

 

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. This feast takes place on the Sunday immediately following Christmas, falling within the season of Christmas fittingly to continue to call our attention to the profound reality of God becoming man. On this feast we are reminded of the humanity of Jesus as the son of Mary and Joseph. Jesus grew up in their home. The only thing we know about Jesus’ childhood, apart from His infancy, is the account we hear in today’s Gospel. We do learn quite a few things about the Holy Family from this gospel account. First, we see that they are a faithful Jewish family. Second, we learn that they traveled in a “caravan” that probably included many, many relatives and friends. Third, we see that Mary and Joseph had typical parental concerns. Not being able to find Jesus for three days caused them “great anxiety.” Fourth, Jesus’ response to Mary and Joseph when they find Him reveals that their role, although essential, was to be subordinate to the will of Jesus’ Father in Heaven. The passage does tell us that Jesus “was obedient to them,” but this obedience was always connected to His perfect obedience to God. Likewise, our families are to be reflections of our relationship with God.

In the bulletin from our parish, they had a consecration prayer to the Holy Family.  I share it below.  May the holy family continue to guide and watch over us.

O Lord Jesus, you lived in the home of Mary and Joseph in Nazareth.  There you grew in age, wisdom, and grace as you prepared to fulfill your mission as our Redeemer.  We entrust our family to you.  O Blessed Mary, you are the Mother of our Savior.  At Nazareth you cared for Jesus and nurtured him in the peace and joy of your home.

We entrust our family to you.  O Saint Joseph, you provided a secure and loving home for Jesus and Mary and gave us a model of fatherhood while showing us the dignity of work. We entrust our family to you. Holy Family, we consecrate ourselves and our family to you. May we be completely united in a love that is lasting, faithful, and open to the gift of new life.  Help us to grow in virtue, to forgive one another from our hearts, and to live in peace all our days. Keep us strong in faith, persevering in prayer, diligent in our work, and generous toward those in need.  May our home, O Holy Family, truly become a domestic church where we reflect your example in our daily life. Amen.  Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, pray for us!




 

Monday, December 20, 2021

Star of the Nativity

As we prepare for Christmas, I came across this poem in my prayer and wanted to share it with others.  Sr. Jeannie

Star of the Nativity


BY JOSEPH BRODSKY


In the cold season, in a locality accustomed to heat more than to cold, to horizontality more than to a mountain, a child was born in a cave in order to save the world; it blew as only in deserts in winter it blows, athwart.

 

To Him, all things seemed enormous: His mother’s breast, the steam out of the ox’s nostrils, Caspar, Balthazar, Melchior—the team of Magi, their presents heaped by the door, ajar.  He was but a dot, and a dot was the star.

 

Keenly, without blinking, through pallid, stray clouds, upon the child in the manger, from far away—from the depth of the universe, from its opposite end—the star

was looking into the cave. And that was the Father’s stare.

 

                                                                                                      December 1987

 

The poem caused me to remember that the child coming very soon had the love of parents as he entered the world.  Love is a very powerful feeling and something we all need. Let us remember Jesus' words -Love one another as I have loved you.  Love is what we must work to bring the word this Advent and Christmas season.

 



Sunday, December 19, 2021

Fourth Sunday of Advent

 

Today we celebrate the fourth and final Sunday of Advent in 2021. During these weeks we have eagerly anticipated the celebration of Christ’s birth.  The fourth Sunday of Advent we meditate on the peace that Jesus brings our hearts and our world.

This week we focus our hearts on the “Lord of peace” who came down from heaven in the form of a baby.  As Covid 19 cases are once again on the rise our God knows that we are in a constant battle against fear! Fear wants to cripple us, to push us to react rather than carefully respond, and fear steals our joy. God has given us the gift of peace so we can live joy-filled lives!  This year we all have faced so much chaos and uncertainty. God’s peace is something we need to grab tightly onto more than ever. May God’s spirit transform the days leading up to Christmas into a time to joyfully await our King!

The fourth candle of Advent is called the “Angel Candle” and symbolizes peace. This name comes from the fact that the angels announced that Jesus came to bring peace (Luke 2:14). This week we are reminded that Jesus came to bring peace to our hearts and to our world!

The O Antiphons of Advent began on December 17.

The Roman Catholic Church has been singing the "O" Antiphons since at least the eighth century. They are the antiphons that accompany the Magnificat canticle of Evening Prayer from December 17-23. They are a magnificent theology that uses ancient biblical imagery drawn from the messianic hopes of the Old Testament to proclaim the coming Christ as the fulfillment not only of Old Testament hopes, but present ones as well. Their repeated use of the imperative "Come!" embodies the longing of all for the Divine Messiah.

December 17

O Wisdom of our God Most High, guiding creation with power and love:  come to teach us the path of knowledge!

December 18

O Leader of the House of Israel, giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai:  come to rescue us with your mighty power!

December 19

O Root of Jesse’s stem, sign of God’s love for all his people:  come to save us without delay!

December 20

O Key of David, opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom:  come and free the prisoners of darkness!

December 21

O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:  come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.

December 22

O King of all nations and keystone of the Church:  come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!

December 23

O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law:  come to save us, Lord our God!                   

 —From Catholic Household Blessings & Prayers

Let us live this week focusing on the hope, love, joy, and peace that the Christ child promises to bring us.