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
Every year we prepare for Christmas. Our preparation includes adorning our homes and churches with beautiful decorations and Christmas trees. We also buy presents for our children, spouses, and loved ones. We send out Christmas cards to family and friends. We prepare a sumptuous meal for Christmas dinner.
But then, how much preparation is enough? How ready can we be for Christmas? Is Christmas delayed if we do not have everything on our to-do list accomplished before December 25th? Would it stop Christmas from coming? The answer is that nothing can stop Christmas from coming, not even our unpreparedness or lack of readiness. So, why prepare?READ MORE
An entire town is wiped out by fire, a tornado rips through several neighborhoods, a bomb claims a maternity hospital and a sudden heart attack takes the life of a soul mate. Life is unpredictable and dramatic. Many buy into the sad illusion that the securities and familiarities we see around us today will remain forever: our homes, our friends, our spouses, our churches, and even our health. We are stunned and shaken by a sudden change, finding ourselves bewildered, mortified, and even embittered. We do not like change, especially change driven by sources beyond our control. Are there any guarantees in life? We often live as if our lives come with lifetime warranties. When they break, they can be fixed or replaced. Such is not the case. Many things are irreplaceable and unable to be fixed. During life’s inevitable chaos, God says: “Do not be afraid.” Seriously? How can one not be afraid when things are falling apart?READ MORE
Life can leave us feeling dark and desolate. Sandy was just twenty-eight when her husband, Rob, died, leaving her to raise their two young children. She was without paid employment. Rob went to work one morning and never returned home. Sandy, though, had faith and trusted that somehow God would help her through, even though most days brought deafening, piercing loneliness. She persevered, and the darkness gave way to light.
Remarking one day to a friend hesitant to commit to a relationship, Sandy shared her wisdom. Even if she knew the outcome would be the same, she would marry Rob again. She assured her friend that she would even do this if eight years could only be eight minutes. We are being led by God and God transforms the darkness into light.READ MORE
At sixty years of age, Maria and Paul had a beautiful life. High school sweethearts, they had four children, five grandchildren, a successful business, good friends and a fabulous beach house. They felt very blessed. Their strong faith in God saw them through some difficult challenges. Without warning, Paul died suddenly. Maria was devastated. Why did God do this? Why did God allow this to happen? An indescribable depth of sadness weighed heavily upon her heart. She felt betrayed by the God she thought was looking out for her. She was overwhelmed by despair. Have you ever experienced such incredible and deafening sadness? Where is God in all of the pain?READ MORE