Thursday, March 19, 2015

Walking by Faith: The Courageous Example of St. Joseph

Not much is said about St. Joseph in the Gospel.  His biographical information is extremely limited: He was a carpenter, the devoted and most chaste husband of Mary, and lawful foster father of Jesus. And, unlike most of the other figures in the Gospels, Joseph is never quoted as having spoken a single word.  What is recorded about him is his actions, and they are actions that speak volumes about the faith that he lived, and the example he can be for us as we walk our journey of faith.

For we walk by faith, not by sight ~2 Corinthians 5:7
St Joseph is the perfect model for living these words of St. Paul.  He our example par excellence of one of the most important virtues that's needed as we lead our families through the perils of the sinful world in which we live: courage.  Joseph made two very difficult choices that many men would balk at, because he trusted in what the Lord was asking him to do as it was revealed to him in a dream, for the sake of his Holy Family:

1.  He took a woman as his spouse who, during their betrothal, had conceived a child that was not naturally his.

2. He led his family out of the land that was their home, to a far-away and foriegn land, with little more than the clothes on their back and sandles on their feet, to avoid the wrath of Herod.

Think about that.  If you were asked to make decisions like these, to take such decisive and counter-intuitive actions based on what had come to you in a dream, would you have the courage to do it?  I'd like to hope that I would have the courage to do so, but often times it is difficult enough just to get the family to sit down to prayer, or to decline a request to work extra hours when it would be to the detriment of my family.  St. Joseph did exhibit this courage, and in doing so provided us all a very simple and powerful example of how we should live our lives:

1. Trust God with everything.  And I mean everything, not just the big decisions or help needed in moments of desperation.  He is certainly needed there, but he also wants to enter into the small, sometimes seemingly insignificant moments and daily issues of our lives.  Call on his help and he will provided the help that is needed (which is not always the same as what we want).

2. Love and trust Mary.  Trust her implicity, for she is the spouse of the Holy Spirit and a powerful intercessor.  St. Joseph had to trust in her and in what was revealed to about her pregnancy through the angel, though by all external appearances the situation was scandalous enough that, by Jewish law, she could have been stoned.  But Joseph, no doubt knowing her purity of heart, made the decision to remain with her.  We should do the same.

3. Remain close to Jesus. St. Joseph did this because it was entrusted to him by God.  Now that Christ has been revealed to us in the flesh, by taking on and suffering in a human body and leaving us the gift of the most Holy Eucharist, we are also entrusted with making a home for him in our hearts and in our families.  Invite him in, consecrate yourselves and your families to him, and the blessings and peace that follow will be beyond compare, both in this life and in the next.

St. Joseph, Terror of Demons, pray for us!

+AMDG+

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Courage

Do you know who Kathy Taylor is?  I didn't either until this Lifenews story profiling her courageous (and short) battle to give her unborn son, Luke, a chance at life, despite the aggressive melanoma that had spread throughout her body during her pregnancy.  She passed on New Year's Day, at the too-young age of 33, preceded by Luke, who was delivered prematurely and died at two weeks of age.  It is a tremendously sad story, and my heart breaks for her husband, Nathan, and their five older children.


Nathan has been blogging at Kathy's Miracle, both during her struggle with the terrible disease,and in the week or so since her passing.  You will have to read the blog to grasp the emotions.  Of course there is pain beyond what those of us who have not experienced the untimely loss of a spouse cannot imagine, though as he keenly points out in the January 6 post, "Perfected in Christ," all who truly share the depth of the bond of married love, as it was intended by, will one day feel.

But that is not all...

What pervades his writing is a sense of (1) hope beyond the pain, of rejoicing in the perfection of character that the pain brings about and hope in Resurrection and the future life to come, where the very real but temporary pain and struggle of this world will be a distant memory; and (2) of real courage, the kind of courage that, along with hope, pulls through the pain and fear.

Kathy's story--and Nathan's after their passing--beyond all else is one of courage.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

O Emmanuel - God With Us

On the 23rd of December, the Church prays together the last of the seven traditional O Antiphons composed in the Seventh and Eighth centuries as short, simple reflections on the Old Testament prophetic writings foretelling the coming of Christ.  They are traditionally prayed during final seven days of Advent. In more recent times, the O Antiphons have been sung in a different form in the hymn, Veni, Veni Emmanuel (O Come, O Come, Emmanuel)

The O Antiphons are perfect for a family or community to incorporate into night prayers during those final seven days, December 17-23, and hopefully can be a resource for you and your family in future Advents.

Here is the text of the O Emmanuel antiphon:

LATIN: O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, exspectatio gentium, et Salvator earum: veni ad salvandum nos Domine Deus noster.

ENGLISH: O Emmanuel, God with us, our King and lawgiver, the expected of the nations and their Savior: come to save us, O Lord our God.

Although the calendar date is passed for this year, Christmas Eve still presents wonderful opportunity to pull away from the commercialized "magic" to reflect on the profoundness of the real meaning of Christmas, as the first phrase of O Emmanuel expresses, God with us.

On this eve, the power of the incarnation comes to its full fruition, as Mary bears God himself to the world.  Stop and take a few minutes today (and tomorrow too) to think about that...

GOD IS WITH US

Yep, the God of creation, of all things visible and invisible, is here.  Not in some symbolic, ethereal way, but real, 100% in the flesh, pouring all of his divinity into all of our humanity.  Since we were (and still are) powerless to fix our own broken, pitiful state, he has come as one of us (not like one of us...as one of us) to fix it himself for eternity and to offer us our share in the work in time.

I'll leave it at that for now.  Just take a few minutes today, wherever and however you can find a quiet moment, to think about the significance of what happened in that stable in Bethlehem so many years ago.

+AMDG+

Sunday, December 21, 2014

From a Line of Sinners

Yes, yes I know, I never got around to completing the "Five W's" series started a year ago.  But, reflecting on the genealogy of Christ presented in Luke's account of the nativity, I felt it was worth re-posting this one from a year ago, December 24, 2013, reflecting on the significance of Christ choosing to count both the best and the worst of humanity among his ancestors.  Luke's genealogy of 42 generations, that is so easy to gloss over (I'm as guilty as anyone), is nonetheless no small thing.


"For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." (1 Corinthians: 22-24)

I once heard it said that, if you really want to know someone, you've got to know where they came from and where they're headed.  The only thing that could probably be added to that is the present.  Along with the past and future, you've got to know someone's here and now, to meet them in their present life circumstances.  To really enter into relationship, in particular the type of caritas or agape relationship that God calls us to, and that we are called to seek out in each other, there has to be a genuine interest in the heart, in seeking out what influences push and pull it, and a willingness to enter into the broken and ugly pieces that we all carry around with us.

This is one way I've been led to approach the the question, "Who is Christ?  Who is this man that we claim worship as God?"    We could spend an eternity exploring and reflecting on the person of the God-man, of mystery of Emmanuel (God with us) and, by his grace, one day we will...for eternity. After all, isn't that what heaven is about?  Isn't it about being immersed in the power of divine relationship, of perfect love incarnate, and of the unlimited truth, goodness, and beauty that we only catch fleeting and limited glimpses of during our walk in this valley of tears?  Isn't it living with full consciouness and perfect knowledge of the One who not only created us, but who loved us with such self-abandon that he lowered himself to give up his life, choosing mercy beyond justice so as not to leave us in the squalor and suffering of our sin?  If not I'm not sure that I would want any other idea of heaven, or any other God, at least for eternity.

As for there here and now, I'll  narrow it to the question of the Who of The Five W's: the person of Christ as One who came to enter into relationship with us and literally save us from ourselves, in the past, present, and future.  He took on a human identity without giving up his divinity so that we might know that, despite our frail humanity, we are no longer bound by the pain of our past, by our present circumstances, or by the future that we so often look into with both hope and fear because we are so powerless to control it.  By entering into our humanity, he literally bent time, condescending (lowering himself) to at once dwell with us as the fulfillment of the hope of our ancestors in faith, as leader and our constant companion on our life's journey, and to raise us to the intended dignity and show us the glorious destiny he has won for us and destined us for by his passion, death, and resurrection.

Past
In the December 16th reflection of Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas, entitled Genealogy and Grace, Gail Godwin offers a reflection on Matthew's purpose in beginning his Gospel by recounting the genealogy of Christ (Matthew 1:1-17), and particularly his inclusion of people who were "...not necessarily the noblest or most deserving person[s] to carry out divine purposes."
For reasons unknown to us, God may select the Judahs who sell their brothers into slavery, the Jacobs who cheat their way to first place, the Davids who steal wives and murder rivals - but also compose profound and beautiful psalms of praise.
And what about the five women Matthew choses to include? Not a mention of Sarah or Rebekah or Rachel, the upstanding patriarchal wives of Israel.  Instead Tamar, a Cananite, who disguised herself as a prostitute and seduced her father-in-law Judah to get a son out of him.  And Rahab, another Cananite and a real prostitute this time.  And Ruth the Moabite, another outsider.  And Bathsheba, mother of Solomon, is named only as the wife of Uriah, whom King David had killed so he could marry her himself.  Every one of these women used as God's instrument had scandal or aspersion attached to her-as does the fifth and final woman named in the genealogy: Mary, the mother of Jesus, with her unconventional pregnancy.
Matthew's intent in highlighting these women is to make the point that Christ, who as God was able to plan and choose his own lineage, did so in a way that made a bold and profound statement: that he desired to come to us not with the appearance and glory of God (as he is and will return), but in the humility of a 100% human being with very much imperfect ancestors.  In doing so, took on our sin not by sinning himself, but by assuming the sins of the past and all time onto himself. At the same time, in choosing to singularly exempt Mary from this stain of sin, he reversed our trajectory from darkness and sin to light and redemption and prepared for himself a perfect flesh-and-blood tabernacle from which to enter into the world.  Christ chose to enter the nastiness, pain, and fear, and death of a fallen humanity rather than abandon us to the fate we deserved.  He chose love and mercy beyond justice.  Only God could plan that kind of entrance.

And that is where we are arrive at Christmas.  Light has pierced the darkness.  God with us has come into the world, to take the burden of our fallen and broken state onto himself, beginning with the past, because only he as God is strong enough and wise enough to rid us of it once and for all.

+AMDG+

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Muslim Go Boom! - WND Commentary by Matt Barber

This is by far the best commentary/op-ed I've come across all week.  Matt Barber (entertainingly) argues the stark truth, that: