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Contents: Volume 2 - Christmas – B –
December 25, 2017


 

 

Christmas

2017

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. --

5.. (Your reflection can be here!)

 

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Christmas 2017

"God is with us". That is what Christmas is about, that this little Baby who was fully human and fully divine, willingly became one of us so that we might have eternal life through his later life, death, and Resurrection. He came to show us the Way although his human family had to nurture and care for him especially as a helpless child.

God is with us. Where do we see God and know that God is still present among us? Will it be in the wonder shining in the eyes of a child this year as he/she looks at a display of Christmas lights or the Nativity scene? Will it be an older person barely able to sing a favorite Christmas carol but knowing every word in every verse by heart? Will it be in the smile of your pastor still looking gently at a crying baby after celebrating how many Masses this weekend? Will it be that follower of Christ who shares his/her day with the less fortunate in some way?

What a gracious and unexpected Gift this Child is!! Will we be able to appreciate the wonder of it all? I pray that each of us will know the incredible wonder of the Lord's Presence throughout the Christmas Season as we actively search for Emmanuel, God with us, in the many ways Love is still present in our world.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Christmas December 25 2017

It is an awfully difficult matter to choose a reflection from one of four distinct liturgies of the Word for this celebration of the coming of the Light of the World, the dawning of the final age of creation. In some parishes, one of the four liturgies is chosen and the other three not presented. The richness of the readings at each liturgy is so awesome that this will be an breaking-open – briefly – of each of the liturgies with the hope that what we reflect is an encouragement for all to set aside some time this wonderful celebration of God’s intervention to read and reflect in each one’s life on the beauty and depth of the Scriptures.

Vigil of Christmas Mass

Isaiah 62:1-5; Responsorial Psalm 89; Acts 13:16-17, 22-25; Gospel Acclamation – non-scriptural; Matthew 1:1-25

The beautiful poetry of Isaiah celebrates the release of the captives from Babylon and their return to the City Jerusalem. The Lord insists he will not be silent, that he will vindicate the city. No longer will the violence of kingdoms make Zion forsaken but in its place it will be called My Delight, my Espoused. God has come to the rescue of his beaten and enslaved people and will be the nation’s bridegroom. It is this joy and rejoicing as of one invited to a wedding feast which celebrates the commitment of bridegroom to his bride, the hope of a future together of family, of enterprise, and of peace and justice. This is our hope as well as we renew the coming of the Lord. The Psalm repeats God’s promise to David; no, more than a promise. This is truly a binding covenant of hope and support and peace and prosperity with justice.

The account of Paul’s journey to Antioch in Acts is a remembering for the Jews of that city’s synagogue of the great work God has wrought for his chosen people. This people was been chosen from ancient times. And after their falling prey to the slavery of Pharaoh, they were led out of Egypt to their own land. Paul speaks of David; a man of God’s own heart that carries out God’s every wish. And from the line of David God raised up a savior, Jesus whose coming was announced by John preaching a baptism of repentance. The Gospel acclamation announces with the great shout of Alleluia that "tomorrow the wickedness of the earth will be destroyed: the Savior of the world will reign over us."

The gospel from Matthew lists the genealogy of Jesus in a series of three groups of fourteen progenitors. Fourteen is a multiple of the perfect number which is seven. And the number three is a number of completion, signaling that all has been prepared for the final appearance of God’s intervention. The groups are divided from the era of Patriarchs by the foundation of the monarchy of David. The third grouping begins with the collapse of the monarchy in Judah with the Babylonian captivity. There are four women in this genealogy, going against the custom of lineage proceeding from the father only. Tamar was the mother of Perez whose father was Judah, her father-in-law. Rahab the woman of Jericho is often considered a prostitute. She saved the scouts sent by Moses and in doing so saved her family when Jericho fell to the Hebrews. Ruth, a foreigner and widow of a Jewish husband was loyal to her mother-in-law an impoverished, childless, Jewish widow. By working the fields during a devastating time in Israel she was able to provide for her mother-in-law and in that work met the landowner, Boaz. She married Boaz and her grandson was Jesse, the father of David the King. The fourth woman in this genealogy is Mary, the mother of Jesus who is called the Christ. Thus three ages, three extensive eras are identified. The closure of the third era of mankind is the birth of Jesus who is called the Christ. Thus the fourth era is begun, an era that is the completion of the work of God’s creation. Matthew signals that the Kingdom of Heaven is the fullness of God’s creative work and that this era is marked by the birth of Jesus, who in his person joins Heaven and Earth. Who can think about this in the grand, overwhelming arc of creation history and its experience by the beings responsible for the growth, ordering, and productive nature of creation and not stand in awe? This awe is what the wisdom writers of the Hebrew Scriptures name "fear of the Lord." So the scene is set and we come to a stable housing livestock, what Genesis calls "living beings", and there observe in the form of a new born infant, the creator of all that is, was, and will be. Matthew calls us to wonder at so great a God and at God’s presence among mankind!

Liturgy of the Word in the Night

Isaiah 9:1-6; Responsorial Psalm 96; Titus 2:11-14; Gospel Acclamation 2:10-11; Luke 2:1-14

Isaiah’s opening line in the first reading for this liturgy of the Word reaches into our hearts and squeezes them. "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light!" If we have listened to and reflected on the readings from Isaiah during Advent: if we have listened to the thoughts and instructions of Paul during this time: if we have placed ourselves in the gospel stories we must surely have discovered the emptiness in our hearts, the longing which Isaiah satisfies with those opening words. "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light!" The time this liturgy is used, the middle of the night, is the darkest and reflects on the darkness in which we often find ourselves. He goes on to describe the effects of the light – "great rejoicing, as they rejoice before you as at the harvest, as people make merry when dividing spoils. For the yoke that burdened them, the pole on their shoulders and the rod of their taskmaster you have smashed… For every boot that tramped in battle, every cloak rolled in blood, will be burned as fuel for flames." Isaiah sees this great light as an end to war and death of young warriors brought home wrapped in their battle cloaks. He goes on: "For a child is born to us, a son is given us…" Whose heart cannot be stirred by this vision of Isaiah? If we live in the world of today and tremble at the great evil that visits us, then these words of hope must lift up our damaged and hopeless hearts. Here is new-born hope: here is a new beginning when we can walk in the light of God’s promise and assistance.

Our Responsorial Psalm urges us to "sing a new song" for the old songs lack the strength to express our joy at the hope that has come to us.

Paul writing to his protégé Titus offers us a thought about this celebration. "The grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires." A new way of living is brought to us by God himself walking with us on paths rarely walked before. This is a time to renew our steps in living as sons and daughters of God, "eager to do what is good."

Luke’s gospel places the birth of Jesus into its historical time. It is the time of census decreed by Caesar Augustus. (The taking of census for practicing Jews was a blasphemy against God.) So Joseph took Mary, his pregnant wife, and went to Bethlehem – the ancestral home of King David – to be counted. When they arrived there they could find no place suitable, for inns were not places of privacy and often were places of vulgar and rough behavior. So they found a place in the caves around Bethlehem, a cave often used for shelter for livestock. Matthew speaks of a visitation of angels to shepherds watching their flocks during the night. Shepherds are the very poor, the excluded ones of the nation of the Chosen People. It is to these forgotten, despised, unsophisticated persons that the first announcement of the hope of all nations is given. Beyond the great joy of God’s coming to earth to lead us, instruct us, to heal us of the aches of heart and mind, there is the joy of knowing that no matter how we fit into the socio-economic strata of civilization we are welcomed to share in the joy and hope of this birth of God among men. This is the final era of creation when God himself walks with us. And no matter how sinful, how ignorant, how poor, how lacking in influence, how very inconsequential we may be, we are welcomed by Joseph and Mary and the infant just born and wrapped in swaddling clothes without the presence of a mid-wife skilled in such swaddling. Here is hope; here is redemption from what ails us. Who can come to the manger and not be lifted up?

Liturgy of the Word at Dawn

Isaiah 62:11-12; Responsorial Psalm 97; Titus 3:4-7; Gospel Acclamation Luke 2:14; Luke 2:15-20

Again the words of Isaiah rouse even the sleepiest of hearts. "See, the Lord proclaims to the ends of the earth: say to daughter Zion, your savior comes! Here is his reward with him." What is this reward and why is it a reward? What has Zion done that it should be rewarded? Zion’s history is one of failure to hear, to understand, to live the truth of their release and freedom granted by Yahweh. What is this reward and why? Perhaps it is the repeated excitement of God revealing himself to these people, their failure to comprehend and to commit to his revelation, their suffering for their failures, and again and again their God coming to them and providing them with leaders who lead them back, reenacting again and again the Exodus from the oppressing, enslaving power of nameless Pharaohs. These Pharaohs are with us still, seeking to bind us in servitude for their profit and power. The reward comes to those who continue to struggle to hear and take to heart the words and works of God.

The Responsorial Psalm insists "a light will shine on us this day: the Lord is born for us." With light we are able to discern the path that leads to happiness and completeness of our individual lives. And in that great light we see the community that walks with us, suffers with us, rejoices with us. We are a people on our way home.

Paul insists God’s visitation in his son Jesus is not because of what we’ve done to deserve his presence. The Son is born to us because of God’s loving kindness, his mercy; we become heirs in the hope of eternal life.

Luke’s gospel continues the narrative from the liturgy of the Word during the darkness of night. The shepherds have come away from the cave and return to their flocks, praising God for all that had been told them about this child. But most significant in this gospel passage is the comment about Mary. "And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart." Mary is the first disciple of the Lord. And as that first disciple she brings the savior, the Son of God to the world – just as we disciples bring the Christ to our world and time. The evangelists present Mary as the model for followers of Jesus. When we hear the gospels proclaimed, when we sing of the glory of God, we are to reflect on how these events, these works, these words spoken apply to daily living. That these events are still filled with potent power is the point. When we follow the model of Mary and keep all these events, works, and words in our hearts and reflect on them in our minds, then we too are disciples of the Lord. Then we are like the shepherds who return to their worldly work, glorifying and praising God for all we have heard and seen just as it has been told to us.

Liturgy of the Word During the Day

Isaiah 52:7-10; Responsorial Psalm 98; Hebrews 1:1-6; Gospel Acclamation—non-scriptural; John 1:1-18

Finally we come to the liturgy of the Word that sums up all that has gone before in this most awe-filled single twenty four hours. It’s amazing so much could have happened in this one day! We open again with a reading from that wonderful prophet(s) Isaiah. He speaks of the joy of the coming in terms of messengers sent from the royal palace. The messengers travel on the mountain ridges where they can be seen running, jumping in excitement against the background of a brilliant sky. Their announcement is short but oh, so powerful. "Your God is King!" In these four words, God’s presence is announced. Our God is not some ghostly presence in some far away heaven. "Our God is King!" This is no despot, no tyrant stealing the lives of his subjects! This is no warlord, stealing the lives of our sons and daughters! This is God the Shepherd who sees to the needs of the hearts and minds of his subjects. His justice is that all – from the very least to the greatest – receive what they need to thrive. Here is the role model for all political and religious leadership. That the good of all the people – from the least to the greatest – is his objective, the purpose of his work, and the delight of his efforts. "Our God is King!" His presence is assured on the highways and byways, in the market place on our streets, in our homes and in our jails, in our churches and in our schools! "Our God is King!"

The Responsorial Psalm says it well! "All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God!" What more is there to say on this day of light to mankind, this day of God walking with us as one of us.

The Letter to the Hebrews – our second reading this glorious day – is clear. In times past God spoke to us in partial and various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us though the Son. The words spoken through the Son are no mere verbalizations. What the Son has spoken to us – what the Son continually speaks to us – is his actions, his words, his healings, his preaching, and his acceptance of the pain of all persons when he ascended the Cross. His work is confirmed when he is raised from the tomb by the power of the Spirit of God.

The gospel is the John the Evangelist’s introduction to his gospel. The beauty of this poetic explanation of God’s involvement with his creation captures the hearts and minds of those who listen attentively to these words. Many scholars believe this prologue is a liturgical sung-prayer used by the church in its infancy. The poem‘s highpoint is when it tells us "And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us!" That is the summation of this day for us. We are compelled to celebrate this day together in community, singing God’s praises for the great wonder he has worked for us. Who can doubt we are loved with a divine love, a love so large that the world and the expanding universe cannot contain it. As we gather with family, we must seek out those of our families who are missing, whose hearts have been bruised, whose love’s light has diminished or perhaps been extinguished. This is a time of peace, a time of gathering together. Let all the lonely, the homeless, the forgotten, those in pain and suffering from despairing loneliness be brought in and redeemed in the light of the Word of God made flesh – for us all, every one!

In Closing

As we think of this coming feast, Carol and my hearts are filled once again with hope for each who may read our poor words and expressions of God’s love for us. We are fearful of the situation in our world in this time and hope all will be safe. We hope that families will love each other as a resistance to the hatred and division so many in power and wealth use as weapons for personal gain. We want desperately to bring our family to the manger and point out the smallness of this Son of God, this Son of Man who contains the whole universe in his creative hands: this Wonder-counselor, God-hero, Father-forever, this Prince of Peace. A most blessed and peace-filled Christmas to one and all.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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CHRISTMAS AND US

‘Today in the town of David a saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord’ (Luke 2:11)

When we look deeply into ourselves and our lives this Christmas, what do we discover? If we look deeply enough, I think we will find a longing and a desire to be better people, a longing and a desire to be whole people, genuine people, and people of integrity. We want others to think and say of us: ‘He’s genuine. She’s authentic. What you see is what you get.’ On the other hand, surely none of us wants to be ‘people of the lie’ (Scott Peck) or two-faced.

Deep down inside us we are also likely to find two other kinds of spiritual longing - a longing for meaning and purpose in life, and a longing to belong to others in family and community. Such longings are likely to intensify during our Christmas celebrations.

When we look outside ourselves at our world this Christmas, what do we see? For a start, we see a still beautiful universe that was created in love by God, and which he abundantly endowed with animals, vegetables, and minerals to serve human needs, but in sensible, sustainable and responsible ways. But we also notice that people, perhaps we too, have gradually and at times ruthlessly degraded and destroyed air, water, and soil. In the process human beings have helped extinguish hundreds and even thousands of species of animals, birds and fish, and consumed a lion’s share of earth’s mineral resources. Every day the picture grows bigger and grimmer of the harm inflicted by global warming caused by wholesale human pollution and degradation of the physical environment. We even seem to be moving to the edge of a precipice of ecological catastrophe and disaster.

That’s one view of the world we live in, the world of our physical and material environment. But within the world of human beings, what do we also see? We notice, of course, many, many wonderful people. They are persons filled with what Paul in his Letter to the Galatians calls ‘the fruit of the Spirit’ (5:22). He names them as people of ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control’ (5:23). On the other hand, as Paul notes, there are many who do not ‘live by the Spirit’ of God (5:16), but are selfish, greedy, and self-indulgent. He names their irresponsible behaviour as ‘works of the flesh’, and includes in his list impurity, having false gods, antagonism, rivalry, jealousy, bad temper, quarrels, factions, malice, drunkenness and orgies (5:19). He warns that ‘those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God’ (5:21b).

In fact, all such bad behaviour is in conflict with, and incompatible with, the good and joyful news God has spoken in our Christmas Gospel and which we echoed in our Responsorial Psalm: ‘Today is born our Saviour, Christ the Lord.’ Consider ourselves reminded, then, by the highest authority on earth that we are not completely our own masters and that we are not free therefore to live just any way we like and do just anything we want. No! The one born at Bethlehem remains the King and Lord of our lives.

Jesus, our King and Lord, then, has great expectations of us in our relationships with other people, in our relationships with all other living creatures, and in our relationship with the material universe as well. Indeed, our King and Lord is calling on you and me to become the best people we can be. He is calling on us this Christmas Day to turn away entirely from a life of selfishness, sin and self-indulgence, on the one hand, and to turn totally to a life of goodness, integrity, truth, love, justice, peace and joy, on the other. This may require a complete change of mind, heart and lifestyle.

In the here and now, our determination to follow Jesus Christ from this day forward, will mean accepting his offer of mercy and forgiveness for the wrong things we’ve done in the past, and making a brand new start with the help of his ‘amazing grace’. In fact, in our total turning away from sin and evil, and in our total turning to Jesus and his teachings, the kingdom of God will be happening among us.

All through his days on earth, Jesus our Friend, Liberator, Lord and King, made it very clear that the kingdom of God was already happening in concrete ways. It was happening in his loving service of others. It was happening when he pictured the coming of the kingdom in parables, sketches and short stories. It was happening when he healed physically sick people and restored them to their family and community. And it was happening when he delivered others from demonic forces, fear, worry and anxiety. So Jesus emphasized that ‘the kingdom is already among you’ (Lk 17:21).

But he also declared that the kingdom has not yet arrived. Its full and final phase, when God will abolish all evil and rule over everyone and everything perfectly for ever, is still to come. So Jesus told us to pray: ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come’ (Lk 11:2), and to be ready and on the alert for its arrival (Mt 25:1-13; Lk 12:35-40). But when the full reign of God does finally happen, it will be beyond all our planning and all our organising. So ultimately we must let God give us his kingdom as pure gift. Meanwhile, what we can do is to completely cooperate with God to hasten its arrival.

When the fullness of the kingdom, reign and rule of God, does finally arrive, that consoling promise which we hear tonight [today] will also be happening more strongly than ever before, the promise expressed in the song of the angels: ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to men and women who enjoy God’s favour.’

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

-- Fr. John
 


 

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