Christmas – 2017

Christmas Eve SBC 2017

 

Christmas time has come around once more for all Christians, for all Catholics. The Church has put away it’s purple colored vestments and liturgical decorations. The Advent wreath has been taken down. In their place, the chapel sanctuary, where I worship, is strewn with red and white poinsettias, a Christmas tree, with white lights. A manger scene with Mary, Joseph, and the Baby Jesus, has been set up in front of the altar.

 
The chapel quickly fills for our 4:00PM Vigil Mass, and soon it is standing room only. Our guitar choral group leads us in song, we join in singing the old Christmas favorites. We have a guest priest as our celebrant this night, and the sacred liturgy begins. We hear the words of the prophet Isaiah spoken; telling of ancient Israel’s future vindication, and rebirth. Then we hear the Good News from St. Matthew, proclaimed by our celebrant:

 

“18
Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit.
19
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.
20
Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord* appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.
21
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
22
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
23
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means “God is with us.”
24
When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.
25
He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus. “ (Matt. 1: 18-25)

 
After hearing how Christ Jesus, though he was Son of God, willingly came into this world as a child, to begin the work of salvation; we are soon witness to another miracle. Christ is made present to us in the form of bread and wine, transformed into his Body and Blood. It was my privilege and honor to help distribute Holy Communion to those who approach. I feel something in my heart, as I hold up each host for the communicant to see, and say with conviction: “The Body of Christ.” And then place the host in the hands of the person, or on their tongue.

 
There the final prayers, and the blessing of the priest; we then sing joyful Christmas songs; celebrating the sacred event that happened in Bethlehem; the sacred moment we just experienced, and leave with the hope of Jesus’ promised return, when a new heaven and a new earth will come to be.

All peace and joy be yours this Christmas day, and God’s blessings on you for the coming year.

Pax et Bonum!

 

“Do Not Worry About Tomorrow…”

sermon-on-the-mount

“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or drink, or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?…Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?… If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you.  O you of little faith?  So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’  All these things the pagans seek.  Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.  Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.”  (Matt 6: 25, 27, 30-34)

For the past few weeks, I have been attending a bible study, sponsored by the Beverly Catholic Collaborative.  There are nine of us in the group, and we are looking at the Gospel of Matthew.  We are following a bible study program called: “The Great Adventure: Matthew,” written by Jeff Cavins, and Sarah Christmyer.  The program utilizes videos of talks by Mr. Cavins, after there has been a discussion of the material.

Last night, I was the facilitator.  The evening went well, and I got positive feedback on my efforts.  I did find it interesting that it was Chapter Six of the Gospel of Matthew, that we were discussing, especially verses 25 to 34.  I do not know of anybody, who is not at least a little anxious about his/hers personal  and family finances.  This is especially true if one has been unemployed for an extended period of time, and unemployment insurance is running out.  The anxiety can be overwhelming at times, so much so that it can distract us from our relationships; with family, with friends, and ultimately, with God.  And this the subtle threat of anxiety, of worry; it can wear us down, cause us to despair, and become depressed.  We then find ourselves in a deep dark hole.

The Gospel seems to promise that if we trust the Father, all will be provided for us.  Jesus is encouraging us to let go of the anxiety, let go the fear.  This is easier said than done, especially when the realities of life come knocking at our door.  What Jesus Christ is asking of us, is to remain focus on God, to remain faithful to the teachings he is giving.  Through the Letter of St. Paul to Philippians, Christ indicates what we can expect that will help us through trying times: “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.  Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  (Phil 4: 6-7)

If we strive to maintain that peace of Christ in our hearts and minds, then as Julian of Norwich is quoted of saying: “All will be well.”