In my parents’ bedroom there were on the wall two photos of my mom and dad from their early adulthoods. The photo of my mother entranced me when I was a boy. I loved looking at it, even though I saw her in daily life. Something about that picture captured her perfectly. It was an image of the joy, wisdom, beauty, and strength that enveloped me from the start of my life. It was an icon of the woman who fed, taught, and encouraged me. I felt a deep pride that I came from such beauty.READ MORE
When I was a young seminarian, I asked a wise old priest how to pray better. He said simply, “Don’t lie when you pray.” He helped me to see how much energy I waste in trying to appear acceptable to God when I pray. For me, prayer was showing off for God and hiding what was ugly.
It’s stunning that the Gospel of Matthew tells us of Jesus, “He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulon and Naphtali…” This isn’t just the Lord’s relocation up north. It’s his moving into places of shame and defeat. This region was where the enemy invasion of Israel began centuries before. Jesus left the comfortable confines of Nazareth and sought out a place of darkness, not to bring shame, but to announce the dawning of his light.READ MORE
When I was a kid, remember the priest at Mass announcing, “The Lamb of God!” Frankly, it struck me as nonsense. I thought: Why in the world does God have a lamb? And where is this lamb? John the Baptist sees Jesus coming toward him and announces, “Behold the lamb of God.” His Jewish listeners knew what he meant. God’s lamb is the thing that is sacrificed at the Jewish Passover and consumed by the participants. For almost a thousand years, lambs were ritually slaughtered and eaten in Jerusalem at Passover. The lamb meant sacrifice, freedom from sin, and communion with God. The Baptist is saying in effect, “This man will be ritually sacrificed and consumed so that God’s people may be free from sin and united to God.”READ MORE
The story of the Wise Men bringing gifts to Jesus, the newborn King, is a great one, isn’t it? They had a great big star in the sky to lead the way. I am no Boy Scout, so I am not sure how well I would do following a star like that. But the important point here is that God led them to the manger. The manger was a place that unless God specifically showed you this was where the Christ Child was born you wouldn’t have believed it. You would have passed on by.READ MORE
We hide ourselves and our secrets from God because we are afraid. Even Mary can seem too perfect to approach. The shepherds find the strength to speak to Mary and Joseph at the moment they see the child in the manger. They open their hearts and share what they’ve experienced. Saint Luke writes of the shepherds, “When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child.”READ MORE