Across the world once again, a star is in our sky,
a gift is in our hearts: It’s Christmas.
Right here at home: our highway is our backbone, our rivers,
our arms and legs.
The forest is our clothing.
The ocean is our blood.
As a people, we have known: Struggle, Isolation,
Darkness, and Bitterness.
But more importantly, we have also found: Success,
Security, Happiness, and One another.
It’s Christmas once again: time to focus on what makes light overcome
darkness and love overcome emptiness.
It’s time to believe once more that no matter how battered our lives are,
no matter how well off we are materially, there is still someone who knows
our darkness and lights it,
who knows our hurt and heals it.
It’s a moment for healing, and we really need it this time.
Healing is the medicine that can close the wounds
between parent and child, brother and sister,
government and people.
Healing comes from God – directly or indirectly.
We must do what we can do; God does the rest.
Received from Fr. Ron Shirley,
who received it from someone else.
Used with Fr. Ron’s approval.
Christopher Hitchens went to his reward on December 15, 2011. The question of the eternal fate of such a vitriolic foe of faith and religion has received two responses. Douglas Wilson – Hitchens’ theist debating partner – in Christianity Today said that since we cannot assume that Hitchens called on God, we must assume that he is lost forever.
Eric Reitan, philosopher and author of Is God a Delusion? A Reply to Religion’s Cultured Despisersfocuses on Hitchens’ search for truth. Reitan sees Hitchens’ motto “religion poisons everything” as an exaggerated reaction to the truth that there “is much that is poisonous in the religions of the world.” As such, Hitchens’ wasn’t necessarily anti-God as much as he was repulsed by the evil practice of religion. Reitan sees salvation for Hitchens because of his dedication to truth. Reitan cites Simone Weil’s famous statement:
I still think so today, that one can never wrestle enough with God if one does so out of pure regard for the truth. Christ likes us to prefer truth to him because, before being Christ, he is truth. If one turns aside from him to go toward the truth, one will not go far before failing into his arms. – Waiting for God, Simone Weil 1951 page 69
Reitan’s view is much more Christian in the sense of Jesus own concern with truth and sincerity over the sham invocation of doctrine or religious law.
The words of the Fourth Eucharistic Prayer come to mind: “… remember now all for whom we make this sacrifice: … those who take part in this offering, those gathered here before you, your entire people, and all who seek you with a sincere heart.”
Another passage from Simone Weil comes to mind regarding death:
I always believed that the instant of death is the center and object of life. I used to think that, for those who live as they should, it is the instant when, for an infinitesimal fraction of time, pure truth, naked, certain, and eternal enters the soul. I may say that I never desired any other good for myself. I thought that the life leading to this good is not only defined by a code of morals common to all, but that for each one it consists of a succession of acts and events strictly personal to him, and so essential that he who leaves them on one side never reaches the goal.
Perhaps, those of us who feel comforted in faith and the promise of Heaven should not rely so much on dogma but on a life of truth – a life of authenticity.
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him. – Matthew 21:31-32
Image: Orion Nebula Galaxy – Courtesy of NASA In the Public Domain
Christians have only themselves and their sub-media-culture to blame when it comes to a cavalier approach to Jesus. Not that we should behave violently to a light portrayal. But when Christians started replacing the Air-Jordan logo with Air-Jesus, they are asking for massive satire. I actually think SNL’s portrayal was fun and generous..where Jesus shows patience with a highly zealous Tebow. No one…especially Jesus, was ridiculed. The point of the sketch is how American culture wastes prayers, attention and ‘God’s intervention’ on matters as trivial as a football game.
Saturday Night Live’s parody of the stellar NFL quarterback Tim Tebow and Christ has drawn criticism and condemnation in many quarters. Our friends Fidelius and Diabolus talk it out.
Diabolus: Did you catch Saturday Night Live with Tebow and Jesus?
Fidelius: I didn’t need to see it. It was a travesty. Pat Robertson blasted it.The atheists are just picking on him because he is a missionary and is very open about his faith.
Diabolus: Maybe you aren’t giving the Devil his due. The Jesus portrayed on SNL was very limited, very human.
Fidelius: How can you say that? Jesus is always with us. He hears our prayers.
Diabolus: Okay, but what happens when things don’t work out? What do you say when you fail or bad things happen to you?
Fidelius: Tebow is having a great season. He gives the praise to God and doesn’t keep it for himself. He openly witnesses to his faith in Jesus, his Lord and Savior.
Diabolus: Maybe that was the point of the parody. In our love and our enthusiasm we can simplify and distort a very complex relationship – our relationship with the Risen Christ.
Fidelius: You sound like a secular humanist or relativist playing down the reality of God in our lives.
Diabolus: Do you remember Fr. O’Flaherty’s old joke about praying to win the lottery? The one he used to tell from the pulpit.
Fidelius: You mean the one about the guy who kept begging God to win the lottery until an exasperated Voice from heaven told him that it might help if the guy bought a lottery ticket?
Diabolus: In the SNL parody, Jesus tells Tebow and his team mates to study the play book and to work harder on the first part of the game. He sounded more like a therapist than a puppet master. That’s the problem with God. He allows too much freedom.
Fidelius: So you are trying to say that there is no Providence. We just muddle through as best we can without any Divine help?
Diabolus: No. If one team wins the other must lose. Is the losing team less pleasing to God?
Fidelius: That’s what it says in many places of the Old Testament.
Diabolus: The Bible is not talking about major league sports. It is talking about submitting to God and what happens when we don’t order our lives properly. Things go better if you are right with God but that is not what happened to Jesus or to the millions killed in the holocaust.
Fidelius: So you are calling Tebow and the rest of us religious simpletons?
Diabolus: No, just humans caught up in enthusiasm in your faith. What happens when things don’t work out? Where is God then?
“If you have too much to do, with God’s help you will find time to do it all.”
St. Peter Canisius, an early Jesuit, lived during the Reformation. He was active in teaching, ministering to the sick and the poor, in addition to being entrusted with implementation of the decrees of the Council of Trent. He was assigned to work in Germany following the Council, teaching and establishing colleges and seminaries. He developed a catechism for ordinary people, one of the first of its kind. He was a popular preacher and prolific writer, who was not afraid to write to Church leaders to encourage them to live up to their calling.
As we approach Christmas, with all the busyness of the season, we could do worse than to remember St. Peter Canisius’ words and ask God to help us do the things we need to do, and to let go those that really don’t matter.
There is a Hindu concept that speaks of Non-action within Action. I believe Non-action refers to being rooted in the silent trust and understanding of Who I Am prior to any doing.
Non-Action within Action is being present to the wellness within; the Constant Harmony within the Constant Change. So when I take a step, there is a leaning into the leg that lands on the ground to provide a slight moment of rest as the other leg lifts off the ground.
Action by itself can be egocentric, chaotic, stress-filled, taxing and overwhelming. In the Breema Bodywork I practice there is a Principle of Harmony called
Single Moment, Single Activity.
Practicing this principle allows me to be present to the simple activity of my body in this moment, even if there are multiple tasks being done. Connected to this moment, my busy mind connects to my body to create a body-mind connection where I am more grounded and available to the natural feelings of life, such as acceptance and gratitude. This is, for me, the contemplative spirit within activism. The practice is to nurture and embody a contemplative silence inherently connected to the power of all things, from which we speak and act and reflect.
For those who are concerned about being overly taxed by the commitment of involvement, perhaps we can support each other in the solidarity that comes from sharing silence, and the opening of our hearts to the wisdom that unites us in service to life and love.
On this last Sunday of Advent, as excitement for Christmas builds, it’s time to listen carefully for the ways God speaks to us as we go about our daily activities. Christmas is coming, but not here yet. It’s still Advent, with the Advent imperative to wait in quite wonder as our God transforms human existence and all of creation through the Incarnation. We heard the story of the Annunciation as told by St. Luke (1:26-38) in our liturgies today. A song I learned as a teen echoed in my heart through the rest of the day. “Our Lord has come today, let us rejoice now. Our Lord has come today, let us rejoice. The whispered ‘Yes’ of a lowly maid brought life to dying world, so rejoice now, my friend, rejoice now.”
This week, as we go about our work, whether in offices, factories, fields, homes, or other locations, let us keep our ears open to hear the voice of God speaking through our family members, co-workers, friends, children, senior citizens, and strangers we meet along the way. Each person we meet can be God’s messenger to us, reminding us of who we are as God’s beloved children and calling us to be greater than we ever dreamed possible. In our dealings with other people, may we be patient, kind, thoughtful and understanding, so they too may receive the gift of peace at this time of preparation and be able to wait and listen to hear the Lord coming through all the excitement and hubbub. As we give and receive this gift of peace, our world can be transformed again, as the Lord lives through us, continuing to bring life to the world.
“Adolph Kolping gathered skilled workers and factory laborers together. Thus he overcame their isolation and defeatism. A faith society gave them the strength to go out into their everyday lives as Christ’s witnesses before God and the world. To come together, to become strengthened in the assembly, and thus to scatter again is and still remains our duty today. We are not Christians for ourselves alone, but always for others too” (Pope John Paul II, beatification homily).
Adolph Kolping was born the son of a German shepherd in 1813. As a teenager, he was apprenticed to a shoemaker and worked for 10 years at this trade. He had always been a good student, with dreams of continuing his education, and at the age of 23 he began secondary school. At 28, he entered the seminary and was ordained in 1845.
Kolping had expected to live the life of an academic, but during his first assignment he met school teacher Gragor Breuer, founder of an organization for journeymen. Influenced by Breuer, he became involved in ministering to journeymen, young men who worked in the newly industrializing cities of Germany. He served as the second president of the Catholic Association of Journeymen with the intent of providing social and religious support to these men. Through the remaining years of his life, he worked to coordinate, unite and support associations of journeymen throughout Germany, forming family-like supportive communities.
Today his work continues through the International Kolping Society, with about 5,000 Kolping families in over 60 countries around the world, including the United States. Together, members of Kolping families help each other live as Christians in professions, marriage and families, Church and society, and work to improve and humanize the world in which they live.