Mary, Mother of God title

Mary, Mother of God

The early Church struggled for how to address Mary in her most stupendous act, being the mother of the Lord’s Anointed, Jesus, Who is God.   It took the pressure of heretics and deviators from The Gospel Truth for the Church Fathers to announce that Mary had the fitting title of “Mother of God.”  This entitlement to Mary was made more to exalt Jesus than to lift up Mary.  They wanted it clear that the teaching of the True Church is how Jesus is Divine.   He is God, as the Word Incarnate– and therefore, Mary did mother a divine person through her flesh, Who is called God.  Mary a creature was given the purpose to bring in the Word made Flesh.  God fashioned her to do so, and she lived a total fiat (yes) to that calling.

God came into humanity through Mary, by the assistance of the Holy Spirit, but also to be flesh of flesh by her, whom He had made.  God thus became flesh.  This part that Mary played, to agree to bring the Word into flesh (her own), made it possible for Jesus to be True God and True Man.  The Word pre-existed (John 1:1-4 ) so God’s Son was Eternal in being with the Father.   Yet our Faith celebrates that The Word also came into time and flesh (John 1:12-14) and the Word was now man.  He used Mary in quite an amazing and startling entrance, as her baby.  The Annunciation Feast (March 25) and the Nativity Feast with its related Epiphany Feast celebrates God the Son’ s arrival into humanity.

A title was needed to show Mary’s elevated part, her necessary part, her specialness– in this cooperation with the Biggest Event in history. When people wanted to just call Mary as “the Mother of Jesus,” it came to be recognized that this title could be mistakenly applied so that her role was too reduced.  How so?  She had a child that was not only human, but also divine.   She gave birth more to a male child named Jesus. Her child was God, arrived in a divine nature ( which God included in His Person in Jesus) and on the eighth day of his presence here He was named “Savior”–meaning, “God saves” the name told by an angel, to define Him.

As the Church came out of the early persecution period from the Romans, she now held councils to define the Faith.   The Scripture Canon was chosen, the Creeds were written, traditions were made clear, and beliefs were sharply defined.  Mary’s title of Theo-tokos became important.  This God-bearer woman, forecast in Hebrew Scriptures and hopes, was mother of the Deliverer (Isaiah 7:14) even as a virgin that conceived. She would far surpass the great women and mothers of the Hebrew Faith story, like Hannah, Sarah, Rebecca, Nitzevet (David’s mother) or Jochebed (Moses’ mother).  She was the fulfillment of the dreams of all of the above.

The Very Lord’s Anointed, THE Christ Child, came into flesh, Mary’s flesh, and He arrived as God/human– two natures in one.  The Church needed to clearly teach that Jesus did not later to become divine, or semi-divine, nor did He have only a prophet’s status nor was he just a holy man who never was deity nor was a man who had divinity added on along the way in life.  The Church settled these doctrine matters and they heralded Mary as “Mother of God” because Jesus, her Son, is the eternal Son, God’s member of the Holy Trinity, to join into our human race with us.   Mary’s title of Mother of God is all about this deep effort to honor truly her Son.

Elizabeth “gets this” true knowledge, when in the Holy Spirit, she greets Mary in the Visitation (Luke 1) and addresses her as “the mother of My Lord.”

In the early heresies versus the Church, like Gnosticism, their leaders objected to Mary having a Child Who would be God in her, claiming it was not possible, since, they said, that “all matter is evil,” an idea borrowed from certain Greek philosophers.  The gnostics contradicted Genesis 1:31, “God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good.” They also denied the doctrine of the Incarnation, claiming that Christ only appeared to be a man. Since matter is evil, they conjectured, his humanity was merely an illusion. (See the work of Church Councils of Nicaea, Ephesus, Constantinople)

There are many non-Catholic Christian opinions today that, also, like the early objectors, cannot fathom Mary as a woman God made who was good.  They also cannot fathom the connection of Jesus and her, in how God provided for His Son’s necessary pure birth in this way through a woman.  Yet, without the Mother of God, Mary (mothering into human nature by her womb, God the Son)– God would not claim the avenue that He did of bringing a spotless, sin-free Savior, fellow human, while Lamb of God offering for us that would be divinely worthy.   It is a true God/ true man plan in Jesus.  We pray that in our Creed every Sunday as Catholics.   Yet many separated Christians do not, and it has a lot to do with the hang-ups they have, of a theological challenge that Catholics have accepted in their Faith.  We must love Jesus as He is.  We must love His mother as He made her to be, for Him, and for our sake.  Mary is not to be dismissed.

God once made an Eve from the side of Adam, and both started in innocent life in the Garden of Eden.  Could not Mary come forth from the side of Christ, in the Genesis plan, to be the innocent virgin to bear a Son?  Could not God choose when to introduce her and to bring forth His own coming into the world as man?  Of course, and so we have the top image of Mary as “Mother of God” and we start the calendar with it.   Isaiah 7:14   John 1:29-34    Genesis 1, Revelation 12.

End of Mother of God lesson

This Jan. 7th, the RCIA class is on Mary.  We’ll be looking at other titles of her, as well as Marian devotions.  If you want , then you may read on of 3 other related titles of Mary, in compliment to get being Mother of God.

Three Other Images of Mary  with less description than Mother of God

Mary, Ark of the Covenant:

The Old Testament ark of the Covenant was a true icon of the sacred. It was a picture of the purity and holiness God fittingly demands of those objects and/or persons most closely associated with himself and the plan of salvation. Because it would contain the very presence of God symbolized by three types of the coming Messiah—the manna, the Ten Commandments, and Aaron’s staff—it had to be most pure and untouched by sinful man (see II Sam. 6:1-9; Exodus 25:10ff; Numbers 4:15; Heb. 9:4).

In the New Testament, the new and true Ark would not be an inanimate object, but a person—the Blessed Mother. How much more pure would the new and true Ark be when we consider the old ark was a mere “shadow” in relation to it (see Heb. 10:1)? This image of Mary as the Ark of the Covenant is an indicator that Mary would fittingly be free from all contagion of sin in order for her to be a worthy vessel to bear God in her womb. And most importantly, just as the Old Covenant ark was pristine from the moment it was constructed with explicit divine instructions in Exodus 25, so would Mary be most pure from the moment of her conception. God, in a sense, prepared his own dwelling place in both the Old and New Testaments.

Mary, the “New Eve” of the New Covenant:

It is important for us to recall, as I mentioned briefly above, that New Covenant fulfillments are always more glorious and more perfect than their Old Testament types, which are “but a shadow of the good things to come” in the New Covenant (Heb. 10:1). With this New Testament truth in mind, let us consider the New Testament revelation of Mary to be the antitype of Eve, or the “New Eve.” After the fall of Adam and Eve in Gen. 3, God promised the advent of another “woman” in Gen. 3:15, or a “New Eve” who would oppose Lucifer, and whose “seed” would crush his head. This “woman” and “her seed” would reverse the curse, so to speak, that the original “man” and “woman” had brought upon humanity through their disobedience.

It is most significant here to note “Adam” and “Eve” are revealed simply as “the man” and “the woman” before the woman’s name was changed to “Eve” (Heb.—Mother of the living) after the fall (See Gen. 2:21ff). When we then look at the New Covenant, Jesus is explicitly referred to as the “last Adam,” or the “New Adam” in I Cor. 15:45. And Jesus himself indicates Mary to be the prophetic “woman” or “New Eve” of Gen. 3:15 when he refers to his mother as “woman” in John 2:5 and 19:26. Moreover, St. John refers to Mary as “woman” eight times in Rev. 12. As the first Eve brought death to all of her children through disobedience and heeding the words of the ancient Serpent, the devil, the “New Eve” of Revelation 12 brings life and salvation to all of her children through her obedience. The same “serpent” who deceived the original woman of Genesis is revealed, in Revelation 12, to fail in his attempt to overcome this New Woman. The New Eve overcomes the serpent and as a result, “The serpent is angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God, and bear testimony to Jesus” (Rev. 12:17).

If Mary is the New Eve, and New Testament fulfillments are always more glorious than their Old Testament antecedents, it would be unthinkable for Mary to be conceived in sin. If she were, she would be inferior to Eve who was created in a perfect state, free from all sin.

Mary, the Beginning of the New Creation:

Jeremiah 31:22 presents another fascinating prophecy concerning the coming of the “New Woman” and the New Covenant. In the midst of this well-known chapter famous for its prophecy concerning the coming of the New Covenant (see Jeremiah 31:31, which is quoted in Heb. 8:8), we read: “For the Lord hath created a new thing upon the earth. A WOMAN SHALL COMPASS A MAN” (DRV). St. Jerome, in the fourth century, comments on this text:

“Can a bride forget her jewels, or a virgin her girdle” (Jer. 2:32) Always in this very prophecy it is said that a great miracle occurred involving this woman: The woman will surround the man and the virgin’s womb will contain the parent of all.

In the first covenant, the man “compassed” or “encompassed” the woman. The woman came from the rib of the man. In the New Covenant, “the New Man,” or “New Adam”—Jesus—would come from the womb of “the Woman”—or “New Eve.” It is Mary that would “compass” Jesus.

Many fathers of the Church, in agreement with St. Jerome, will see from this and other biblical texts Mary as the “new earth” or “new land” out of which God would form the “New Adam.” Consider St. Jerome’s Tractus de Psalmo 66 and 96 (these are commentaries on the Psalms). When considering Psalm 66, St. Jerome sees Jesus and Mary in both the “flower and the Lily” of Song of Solomon 2:1 and the “fruits of the earth” from Psalm 66 (67):6:

Do you want to know what this fruit is? It is the virgin from the Virgin, the Lord from the handmaid, God from a human creature, the Son from a mother, the fruit from the earth.

St. Jerome here refers to Mary as “the earth.” He says something similar in his commentary on Psalm 96. He speaks of the promised land to David as being Mary:

The land of David is holy Mary, Mother of the Lord, “who was born of David’s seed according to the flesh” (Romans 1:3). What was promised to David was fulfilled in Mary’s virginity and birth, where a virgin is born from a Virgin.

Mary is the new earth out of which would be formed the New Adam. Just as God formed the first Adam from a pristine earth untouched by the curse of original sin, so God would bring the “New Adam” from a “New Land” or “New Earth” that would also most fittingly be pristine and untouched by sin. The first creation began without sin, so the New Creation would begin without sin as well. The first Eve would fall from grace; the New Eve would not.

News Flash: Merry Christmas not appropriate for God’s people of Faith

“Merry Christmas.” Leave it to the Washington Post to put in the comment that Merry Christmas isn’t Religious (12/29). Quote: “The wish for a merry holiday accentuates the jolly parting going…gift-shopping…of modern American celebrations. One is not merry at a Christmas Eve service singing O Holy Night…” and so forth the words go on the Editorial & Opinons page. Really, WP?! That’s what you want to print in Christmas time?! I would have to differ! The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines merry as “delightful” “mirthful (as in happy)” “marked by festivity” or “quick.”

In a review of Christmas here, we are quite delighted in Jesus’ Birth in our Masses and happy for a Savior and in festive celebration. Now, we weren’t quick (as in a merry old time) as we were instead savoring the time of Nativity of Our Lord Mass in each of the five liturgies of Dec. 25. Plus, we have a whole season of Christmas Masses to heap on the merriment. I don’t know where Bonnie was on Dec. 25th, or of what sour or dour place of mind she was in (the name of the WP opinion writer), or why the WP wants to pass on such print, but it IS a religious thing to be merry (and we don’t need eggnog or electronic gadget present to get us to merriment!). Jesus is Joy.

Secondly, just how is something NOT religious that has the title word of Christ in it, and the shortened word of Mass in it?! Really, some Bonnie is out of touch, and the WP is out of sorts for sharing the humbuggery. Christ’ Mass is our focus on The Lord. The World Book Encyclopedia defines “Christmas” as follows: “The word Christmas comes from “Cristes Maesse”, an early phrase that means “Mass of Christ.” Earlier, a pre-description of Dec. 25th and its vigil in churches would have been of the Nativity Christmas(s). I just can’t believe the departure of people from the Jesus of this Holy Day. We Catholics go for more than a Cool Yule’! So, Merry Christmas to you.

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pic of Holy Family

 

Christmas time of Faith Homily for Jan. 1

You got to have faith.

Christmas time is here…   and we can be changed for the better again by Faith.  Or not.
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It is with Faith that we really receive Christmas, Christ, and our Call into Christ’ Body, the Church.

 

Or not.  These good actions are not merely works of human flesh and will alone.

By the lack of faith, a person can miss much of Christmas, miss Christ, and  miss who they are as now Children of God.

I think of my need to pray Psalm 103 at Christmas, to hear my soul crying out from within: “O bless the Lord, O my soul, let my entire being bless His Name.  O bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits… Who forgives all your iniquity… who redeems…you with mercy and compassion.”

This is the Joy of Christmas.  God is come.  Mercy is here.  It can fill our soul, if we but open up in faith, and say:  Come, Lord.  I bow down to Your Majesty.  You, Who startled the world, in a Christmas Nativity coming.  I welcome You by faith.

Psalm 103 prays for a youthful soul, that can be renewed as so to fly “like the eagle.”  Well, faith is the air and wind that lifts up the soul to soar.

I took this photo at National Harbor after sundown, and it failed to give enough light to me in the image– even while the tree has enough lights on it to look alright.  Yet the photo gets across the point that the Light of Faith is so much needed to illumine our Christmas time.  WE need to get lit up; not just our Christmas trees.

Faith brings light– the light of God.  We need it at Christmas.   Can we talk faith here?

All this week I have heard a song by George Michael.  You Got To Have Faith.  They’re playing it in the media because the singer just died at 53, over in England.  Yet his song ” Faith”  is not about the soul really, but it’s just a play on words to be a little good for a little while , against his lusts and passions.

Yet anything that relies on ourselves and the flesh and will is part of our broken selves.  It will fail us.   For those put into Christ, we have a call to act in the Spirit and live in a new humanity as children of God.  THAT is the FAITH we gotta have.   Or even Christmas will pass us by.

 

We are meant to be lit up.  Not just Christmas trees . We need the light of faith .

Our first two readings mention that look on high for help.   Numbers 6 prays that The Light of God’s face shine upon us.  Psalm 67 prays for the blessing of light to fill us with praise.

It matches the happy light that the Shepherds have in Jesus’ company at the manger and of Mary’s treasuring all the things going on in Jesus’ Birth.  That was the  Gospel picture.

We got to be inspired and blessed into faith living.

Hebrews has a passage that defines faith.  It is the substance of things hoped for, of the unseen getting realized.

An Archbishop described Faith as such:  Faith is the response people make to what presents itself as a reality – a reality which makes claims on your person. Here is something so extraordinary that it interrupts our world; here is something that, like, once, Moses in the story of the Burning Bush–but now even much more, the Birth of Messiah Jesus–it just makes you ‘turn aside to see’, and it stops you short.’

One is supposed to stop and notice in these great spiritual events.  Like Christmas. We are as much soul as body or mind.   Christmas says:  Stop!  Look!  Believe!  Take it in by Faith.

‘Faith begins in that moment of stopping, when you would be prompted to say: From now on, I cannot just walk on as I once did before. I am changed!… Jesus and His Life, ever present, it just gets to you.’

So–one is challenged inside to sincerely respond.

Christmas is the calling of God, again, for a renewal of faith in us.  Are we to welcome Christ in anew?  Is He important enough?  What else is important enough– that would interfere with us not seeking the Light of Faith and renewal?   We need to freshly have the Christmas Mystery touch us.   We all need somehow to stop and be able to take it in.  Faith knocks on the soul again– hey, remember to practice me!

Faith is the active hearing of the Word Jesus, and the recognition from the soul that one needs to answer back to the Utter Reality of God. You hear and receive Jesus’ claims, and by His Spirit you know that He can be the life and central experience within you from now on.  You are willing to live upon that path now, of Faith, even with sacrifices, difficulties, loss, change, and more ahead. The prize of the upward call in Christ Jesus is worth it. You know that now. God is not outside of you, but the Kingdom of God is now to be within you and continuing to plant itself deep inside.

You are further partnering with God, becoming one in friendship and peace. You understand God forgives you, and you stand in full admission of needing Him as Savior.

How are we changed by the Christmas story? Is it in our faith experience of Jesus? In every way. In “The Journey of the Magi,” a T. S. Eliot Christmas poem, he imagined the wise men back at home after their journey to Bethlehem, ‘no longer at ease here in the old dispensation’, and wondering whether what they had witnessed was birth or death.
” … I had seen birth and death, but had thought they were different; this Birth was Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.”   Meaning–they could no longer be the same.

There is a finality in this revelation of Jesus, in His Life in our history. It is Life or Death.  An acceptance in the heart, or a cold turn of non-acceptance or half-acceptance or skepticism.  This is T.S. Eliot’s view of the Magi at Christmas.

He tells further in the poem that the wise men can’t deny that they’ve seen what they’ve seen: they really made the journey and they really saw something that persuaded them it had been worthwhile. Thus– Faith is a claim, a shock, a death, a life.   Something one must notice and respond to what’s occurred.  One cannot just move on.

‘It was, you may say, satisfactory’, says Eliot’s wise man, in a masterpiece of Eliot understatement. The wise men found what they were looking for – and it was not at all what they thought they had been looking for.

The Christian gospel firmly declares two equally necessary truths.

First, Jesus is the hope of the nations, Jesus is what the entire human race really longs to see, the person whose presence heals all wounds and griefs.

And, Second, Jesus is an utter surprise, so foreign that he is unrecognizable to those who might have been expected to welcome him. He made the world, says St John, and he spoke in its history; but the world had no room for him and the experts in revelation and religious purity turned from him in disgust (John 1.10—11).

The Magi got that.   And it was challenging, but worthwhile to respond to Jesus.

We can’t forget that the New Testament shows the early reactions to Jesus of people who don’t want to be interrupted, to stop and see.  That have their own agendas, with themselves at the center.  Even a bunch of religious leaders were like this.  They even saw Jesus as the enemy, and helped Him to get crucified.

Yet—If we can just stop and know the Truth of God in Jesus….

In John’s Gospel chapter 8 and 9, the Gospel has Jesus put it bluntly, and He says it in the context of His speech and claim to be “The Light of the World.”   He explains from there:  ‘So if the Son makes you free, then you are free indeed…. but, so then, who is your father?  God or the fallen one?… for the one who is of God hears the words of God… however, the reason some of you are not hearing is that you presently are not of God–though you claim to be people of the Hebrew covenant–yet such a person is marked chiefly by their faith.   This you are not exercising with Me…’

He says to them—-see the Light!  Be people of faith and receive Light!   He more so shows them this lesson than He uses words for it, as he takes a blind man from birth (chapter 9) and helps the man to open his eyes and see the world of light, and no longer be in darkness.  Jesus says to the skeptics and rejecters around Him:  ‘Do you see this man?  Then you see the works of God that are manifest in him.  He wanted to see, and now he sees.  Do you want to see?   And Jesus asks us– can I bring you into My Light fully?  Do you need the Light of Faith from Me?

And in John 9 at the end, Jesus asks the people, namely the resisters and rejecters:  “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”  And the healed blind man inquires:  ‘I would want to believe in the Son of Man!  Who is He, sir, that I may believe in Him?’  Jesus says:  ‘You may not have known my identity as I passed by here, since then you were blind and left by the wayside– but the Son of Man you now see, with your very eyes, now see with your heart.’   The man says:  ‘Lord, I believe, and he worshipped Him.’   The gospel lesson encourages us to stop, look, and imitate that man:  Lord, I believe!  I seek to exercise my Faith.  I want to worship You.’

The truth of God is the most comforting and joyful presence we can imagine; and also the most disorienting and demanding.  The Magi knew it and so will we.

People further down the line in faith may need some fresh faith to get through the challenges, too.  St John describes such a situation in his gospel, chapter 6, where he points out how many of Jesus’ followers are ready to walk away.  And they do, over His teaching on His Body and Blood and The Bread of Life.

Peter and the apostles say:   ‘Not us, Lord, we are here to remain with You.  Where else would we be, Jesus? You are the Everlasting One. We put our trust in You.’

Maybe you have a difficult experience going on.  Don’t quit or walk away.  Abide in Jesus.  Put your faith to work.  Believe.  Draw near to God.

He’ll make it simple.  He is the Lord in the manger.  It is easy to approach Him as the Christ Child.   Come up like a shepherd or wise man and say:  I believe.  Help me better to believe.    Yes, faith has us get stopped in our tracks.    We need to realize the immensity of God asking us for faith and for a relationship.   That’s BIG.  REAL BIG.    So, we need a solid response of faith, for the works of God to be made fully manifest in us.

Have a good 2017 seeking this out, as starting out again from Christmas.

We’ll have a great retreat in two months for the parish.  We’ve had good experiences in 2016 to build us up spiritually.

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Childhood Christmas Memory

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A Happy Memory for a Childhood Christmas.

I liked the electric train put up for Christmas time. It was just an electric choo-choo train that went around in a circle on a metal track, with locomotive (that smoked), a coal car, stock car, and a caboose.

It was nice to have that as a part of several Christmases.  I think it belonged to Dad, of which he shared it with us each Christmas season.   Since his own dad, Pop Pop, worked on the NYC Subway, there was a connection to the fondness of that, too.

One year in the 1960’s our parents got us a plastic Christmas train which would fit onto a plastic track course.  With a couple of hundred track sections, with straights, and turns, and splits–we could assemble the course in multitudes of ways.   It was fun to lay out our designs on the playroom floor.

Perhaps the only competition to the Christmas trains were the amazing auto courses we were also given as boys (Kevin and I).   One was a Motorific Auto Track bought for us that came with battery operated sports cars to run on a racing obstacle course, which even included a car jump, crazy 8 intersection, and a break-away wall to crash through.  Another similar and great toy to come in a later year was a Johnny Lightning Track with little matchbox style cars that ran on the track, and caught on a lever to grab and push along to keep spinning around the course.

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Christmas: Poll Numbers, the Mystery, Our Choice

A revised Post (from mid-December)

We need to take time to let the Christmas Mystery enter in.

That deserves more than a pause, but rather, it needs a long Christmas Pondering.

Using some words of a retired Episcopal prelate’s reflection, on a waning populace going to his church’s Christmas Masses, I rework it here for a meditation. My conclusion: What matters is how you and I truly celebrate Christ, and not if it’s with great crowds or not.

Merry Christmas 2016 to you. It’s about 2,016 years since the Original Event which inspired this Feast Day—– so where are we in this present Christmas celebration? Do more believe in it, or less this year? Do you see any evidence around Bowie, and with our world, if celebrating Christmas is in decline or on the increase?

I’d say we went down about 10 % in attendance from a few years ago.  Most of it is due to moves out of Bowie of members and new residents coming in who don’t attend church and whom we have not reached (yet).              Yet some of the different numbers is due to a societal change.   Less persons observe a Holy Christmas.

The pollsters state that less of a percentage of people (as in America or Great Britain) describe themselves as Christians now, especially as Christians celebrating Sunday Masses and a Christmas one in a church on its holy day.  The view in some communities (and places like here) is that “church” is not the chosen center of peoples’ lives, that they are not stopping to pause and worship and be together with the Lord and with His believing people in a parish or house or worship. Sunday Mass gets less than before, even does Christmas liturgy get less, all the while when people generally say that they still believe in God.

(You and I surely notice these things, but we hold to be people who “come and worship the Lord, for we have are His people, the flock He shepherds and tends.” –Psalm 100)

imag0062Perhaps as many as 90 per cent of Americans say they believe in God, though, and desire to go to Heaven. We are glad for such high hopes, but we surely know that not so high a percentage want to do the work and responsibility to enable them to one day be citizens of Heaven. Very far from 90% want likewise to surrender to the Grace of God appearing for them now, as to get the disciple’s walk of faith fully underway. Yes, though 90% of Americans may even feel entitled to get into Heaven–!– that’s likely not to happen. Why? Because Jesus said: Narrow is the Gate into Paradise. Likewise: Wide is the road/path to destruction. God’s Word says this.

Maybe people think that Heavenly Reward is like a Christmas gift that just magically appears under the tree. Maybe they think that they deserve heaven; but such an opinion is precisely an indication of a person who may not likely to be getting in. One is not entitled to Heaven on their own self accord!

In a sermon that first spoke of Heaven and getting its reward, Jesus led off talking of Beatitudes, and how the poor in spirit and the meek and the peacemaker and the hungry/ thirsty person for righteousness was the one to receive happily their heavenly reward. He spoke of persons being rewarded to Heaven who were those would had cooperated with God, making them ( then) pure of heart ( for they lived to be holy) and, that, Heaven went to those even willing to suffer for the sake of Christ’ Name and identify in Him.

Practicing Catholics know that Christmas and Christian living is all about living the Mystery of Incarnation every day.   God is come among us.  He is Alive to us.  Jesus is present as Gift to us, day by day.   Christmas started His Presence to humanity and He still gives of Himself to us.   Our calling is to live Christ and share Christ daily.  It is a privilege of God to us to even be offered His friendship.  It is not something deserved, and, as St. Paul said, this love of God we share is not something we boast of as due to us– it is all favor from God!

Thus said: Heavenly reward isn’t a self-nomination; it’s a work of graced conversion to allow The Spirit of Jesus to have you become a new person in God, fit for the kingdom.

God writes the ticket of passport , which will involve Christmas and Jesus Christ and His kingship to be over us (Matt. 6:33) .  We need to live His Kingdom come, and need it to keep growing more deeply within us.

A YEAR OF GRACE

Pope Francis calls this upcoming 2017 to be a Year of Grace, as we ponder how we live and receive God’s help and assistance to become the people we ought to be and to become ahead. God pours out grace, and we need to present ourselves with open hands and hearts to receive it.imag0654_1

To find Jesus in Glory is to have found Him here among us on earth. Jesus is Alive and He is Emmanuel, God with us. Jesus said He would be with us always, even to the end of the ages (Matt. 11, Matt. 28 chapters).Jesus is come here among us, even in liturgy, and as our Living Sacrifice and Mediator——this is all much missed by many locals, though. A Catholic church is a meeting place of grace. Is that what others see in our church and its people? I would guess that many pass by us and would not recognize St. Edward’s yet as Jesus’ local and present outpost.

Yet this parish IS Jesus’ local assembly for receiving His Word and Sacrament for communal union into Him.  In our example and faith, we each need to celebrate the Lord in a manner than some will notice how Jesus is to be met here, and how He IS indeed in the hearts of those folks going here. We need to shine some more in Grace ahead, so to help it be noticed.

‘You know?! So let Jesus brightly shine in you and His Christmas cheer of soul make it so this season. You are His loved one and He lives in you and leads you along. “I Am the Good Shepherd,” says Jesus (Jn. 10). Thusly, we need to follow and obey Him. Others will be blessed by our holy example, as we do.

DO WE SEE JESUS?

Jesus is come among us; Jesus was a public person in Israel 2000 years ago. God has visited His people (Jn. 1). Yet many missed Him and passed Him by.  John’s Gospel starts His Christmas message by commenting how Jesus “came to His own, but His own people recognized Him not.”  You know, people make the same mistake of missing the Savior’s visitation today, just as they did back in the Bible’s time.  They asked then, and they ask today:  Could this Jesus of Nazareth really be God in the flesh on earth? Can we believe in Him? Could this Jesus believed by this St. Edward’s community, really be the living Person of God who Christmas is about? Is He alive in St. Edward’s people? Can he be alive in me?

In Jesus’ time, we hear that some religious people left Jesus, when He explained His Real Presence, as told in John 6 in His Bread of Life discourse.  Then, Jesus turned to the apostles and asked them:  “And, will you also leave, like them-—over a hard teaching–that anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood will live forever?” To which Peter, speaking for all, said: “Lord, to whom or what shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We remain, Jesus. We believe.”

And here are we, recognizing God among us in Jesus, saying: “Here we are. We are with you. We believe. We are Catholic believers at St. Edward parish.”imag0688

 

 

Christmas Day Homily (revised 12/27)

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Christmas Homily    The Great LIFE come to us

Christmas is about the greatest Birth Event to happen in the history of the world. Christmas is about a life of a person to come among us on earth that just radically changed everything. This person came quietly and humbly to us, but in the end He gave us all two basic options of response: People were left to either respond to his life and stupendous challenge, OR to ignore it altogether—denying its importance and its redefinition of human life.

Jesus said challenging and striking things like: ‘I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life… Come to The Father Almighty by Me…. Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand for you…. The Kingdom of God is meant to come within you…. Pray Thy Kingdom come, God’s will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven.”
He said: “I came to seek and save the lost.”  (Which means, people are lost and need saving. Do we agree we need that of Him?)

He compared Himself to a Divine doctor come down to heal people.  ‘I come not for the well, for the sick.’   (Which means, will people acknowledge at all that they are not well, but in a fallen state of sin and out of wholeness and wellness with God?)

So, the challenge is given in Jesus to us:  Jesus says He is our Life, and that He brings a kingdom and a reign in Him, and He has a plan for His will to be done on earth, like in Heaven.   He will help people get un-lost and to become well.   Are we aboard for the challenge? Are we living it?  Are we open to Jesus’ reign?!

Even back in the time of the Book of Deuteronomy, when God was revealed as Law for Israel, it was simply posed to them: Choose life or death.

There are just the two divergent paths in the wake of the coming of Jesus Christ. There have been off-shoots of those two, as well as a so-called third option of sitting on the fence, but those do not offer the Way to Life. Jesus says He brings us salvation: Are we to live in it or not?

He poses to us who have come near Him: Who do you say that I Am? Will you listen to my Good News and will you then identify with Me?  0102141446

So we start at a crib in Bethlehem 2016 years ago. Who is this baby laying in the manger?

You and I show that we care about answering such questions. We are here at Christmas Mass. “Jesus, You are God’s Son and the Savior to us all. Your birth on earth for us is what we celebrate today.” We sing our answers, too: “What Child is this, who laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping? This, This is Christ the King. Who shepherds praise and angels sing. Haste, haste do we bring Him laud, this Babe, this son of Mary.”

So let’s consider the two paths that follow after the Christmas encounter. I should note up front, that this appeal of The Greatest Birth Even and Greatest Story ever told is all about a faith encounter. If a person won’t respond by faith, then we aren’t getting anywhere. The soul needs to act. The soul needs to show its thirst. God is to be encountered by faith.

Each human person is made of an inner core called the SOUL. This Christmas and Christ Event is only to be surely understood when it penetrates to the soul.

There are two responses to Jesus’ life come…
Either Jesus IS received as the greatest life and story ever lived and told, and embraced heartily by people, OR, His story and presentation of God to us can freely be dismissed and/or rejected, by anyone on earth. People can choose Christ and Christmas and Jesus as needed to be embraced in their souls, or they can use free choice to say: Not interested. This second camp of choosers, though, take the risk of being wrong about Jesus, that this Birth Event of Christmas truly really was the inauguration of a whole new era for humanity, with access to God and His Grace. If they reject God’s help, then it’s the only unpardonable thing. God will be freely chosen or left to be rejected. He grants us to choose either.  To spurn God is a terrible thing, and it leaves terrible consequences.

Brothers and sisters, as I look around Bowie and the area around us (Mitchellville, Upper Marlboro, Davidsonville), I notice that many people, and many children consequently, are not practicing a life of going to church and celebrating The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Greatest Life Ever Lived. It makes me sad. Some act as if they are really just ignorant or unknowing of what Catholic Christianity or any Christianity is—so we need to act in a spiritual work of Mercy and help them to know Jesus. Other people have heard about Jesus but have chosen for now a denial of the Lord and the need for Him truly as their Savior.

What is sad about the former is that it ultimately is a choice to remain alone, to be lonely, even while they don’t have to be that way, for Love came down to us at Christmas from Heaven. This Love outpoured is meant to help us rise up to good living on earth and towards a life eternal in Heaven. It is so meaningful to have Jesus in our day-to-day living. We don’t have to sustain ourselves by other gods, or leave it all up to ourselves, which we know fails in the end. All go to the grave after so many years on earth. Without Jesus, it is a dead-end. No wonder the world seems so lost and depressed. Maybe they really know the hopeless path they trod.

The path of life with Jesus is meant for blessing.

The path or walk of life does begin with things like Christmas. Do you believe God came among us, born as the baby Jesus? Is that myth, or a lie, or a true story that this Catholic Church brings along 20 centuries on the earth?

If Christmas and Christ are true, then this day of Nativity is a celebration of a Gift from Heaven.

It is THE GIFT of Christ Jesus, that asks to be received. God asks for a true response. He asks then for believers to keep affirming and growing in their response. God has a pilgrimage of faith to lead His people to Glory.

We reach out by faith and say a hearty yes for it, knowing that it means a follow-through of loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, body, will and strength—and seeing Christ in others, as He teaches us His way of love.

One cannot sit on the fence for too long about this choice. If you read the message in Revelations to a fence-sitting church, then you’d know it’s true. “To you who are lukewarm, I will spew you out of my mouth, says the Lord.” That verse says how we are not to be on the fence too long.

I would like to make another strong comment about this society and culture.  They act like they are in accord with Christmas:  Oh yes, the baby Jesus and the manger and all of that.  Yes, I accept all that.   Jesus is born and we are happy for it.  We welcome Him.

Now, this society we live in actually doesn’t welcome children in so nicely, and not so readily.  If the Messiah had been planned to come in this time, rather than in two millennia past, then could He make it through all the hundreds of thousands of annual abortions or all the child-prevention and conception blockage going on today in the name of immoral sexual unions free of responsibility of the life-giving aspect of it?

I think it would be quite the difficult thing for society today to have a safe welcome to the Lord coming as a baby.   Thus, that tells me, in translation, that we really are not so welcome of Christmas, for it is all about a Child born, Who is Christ and Lord. .

it is all so curious that God’s initial presence as a Savior among us would be unveiled in baby Jesus, as Word made flesh. It is a soft appeal for such a radical coming and radical call to us. It is as if God says to a hard-hearted world: Would you reject a beautiful child put into your arms? Are you, who claim not to be cold, not to warm reach out to my Christmas coming? I AM the Love you need to draw in–and I make it easy at first, to receive Me as a child. The Christ Child. Christmas. Then, next, let’s get to living the Gospel…

It is an interesting appeal by God, to be a child first in the manger at Bethlehem.  And Jesus makes the connection of Himself to every child.   Remember when Jesus said: As often as you do things to the least of these, my people, that you did unto Me.   Preventing children in today’s world counts as an act versus Him in it. (I am not referring to practical, conscientious family planning here, but of all the irresponsible sexual activity amuck about.)   Even as we speak, political movements work hard to fight for 2017 abortion rights, even as our nation shows a people now thinking twice about our cold, cruel practices done in clinics around America. Since the 1970′s, we have eliminated the population equivalent of five U.S. states.  Who would have been these people today?  Maybe a lost life who would have cured cancer? Maybe the next saint or hero for justice?  We’ll never know in our lifetime.   What if it were Jesus as a Child trying to get through in our time, rather than 2000 years ago?  It’s worth a thought.

We are a Church called to Revere Life, as God reveres/respects/honors Life…

The gospel for today in John chapter 1 says that “the Word came…He is the One through Whom all things in life came to be… What is come to be through Him is life, a living thing, and this is the light of the human race.” Indeed: Jesus is life.  Christmas is the God of life come to be embraced by the world.   The crib for Jesus now is an open soul of welcome.   Saying Yes to the God of Life.

So 2017 could be a year when we witness more to Life, and its sacredness, that all Catholics be pro-life people, living for the dignity of every human being, from conception to death.  2017 has been dubbed the Year of Grace by Rome, so we have a call for gracious living.   God is to be seen gracefully in the aspects of life.   God help us to please Him.  Come Holy Spirit.    O Holy Child, Jesus, make us draw near to Thee.
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12 Christmas Birds /Talk

[In honor of Walter Kraus, bird-lover, historian, who has gone home to God on his 87th birthday this week. Also in honor of my dear friend, Alex, who also has flown home to God. I'll miss our friendship, which sometimes included nature and bird-watching along the Potomac.]

THE ORIGINAL 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS SONG
I’d like to offer you a deeper meaning of singing “The 12 Days of Christmas.” It goes back to how the song’s original lyrics.

The 12 Days song has my attention this year. For Christmas Eve children’s Mass I have revised it into a song for them to sing along, recalling who is in the scene at the Christmas manger. Also, I have given a talk, as like in former Christmases, explaining how the English carol 12 Days of Christmas was sung with secret allusion to beliefs of our Catholic faith (such as that the Partridge was Jesus, the Turtle Doves were His Divine and Human Nature, the Three French Hens cited His part in the Holy Trinity, and His Life among us was called out by four birds, the Gospel Evangelists, and so forth throughout the song).

But in the first public singing of the 12 Days of Christmas song, several centuries ago, all of the dozen verses were about birds.  While I am not much of a bird-watcher myself, I take notice when some interesting winged creature flies by. This is due to the fact that a decade ago I lived in a place where I was surrounded by ornithologists/bird lovers (and birds).

Now, the original lyrics to 12 Days are a bit different to how they are sung today. In modern decades this Christmas song has been ‘updated’ to include musical drummers and pipers, golden rings (for one’s hand), maids a’milking and ladies dancing and lords a’leaping, and so forth. However, in its first English composition, all of those ‘stars’ of the 12 Days of Christmas were birds. So let us see about that, and learn what birds they were, and muse on a Catholic spin we can add to it.

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On the First Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: A Partridge in a Pear Tree. The birds known as partridges leave their flocks in Winter to form monogamous pairs (i.e. in a “pear” tree). As a pair, the two become one, and this oneness, formed from the “two” out of the “many,” is the ultimate good.
So the original carol sung of p-a-i-r-s in a tree, really, not pear fruits.

Applying it so, you could see now in the bird reference in how Jesus came from Heaven to help us join into Him and become one. He is the Partridge. He is come to attract us to be paired in a relationship with God, which is broken. ‘See? He is a Partridge, The Beautiful, One and Unique Coming of God into human history. He is at the Tree of Life beckoning us back into His Mercy and Goodness. In the Gospel of John chapter 15 Tree and Vine reference, Jesus bids us “to abide in Me, and I in you.”

What can we relate of Christ as Partridge? This mountain and rock bird is distinguished by its ringing call-note, which in the early morning in Judea echoes from cliff to cliff amidst the barrenness of the wilderness of Judea, and over the glens of the forest of Carmel.” In Hebrew, partridge means “caller.” Thus, Jesus, the Partridge, calls us, and Christmas morning brings the song: Be paired with God in love again. Christmas is a call of Emmanuel, for God to be with us.

Two Turtle Doves represent devoted love, as in male and female. Doves represent faithful love. A dove loves and a dove also cries a mournful sound. European doves make a soft “turr turr” sound. These would be the turtledoves the song’s author had heard.
Christ loves and His Love from The Cross is a mournful love song for God’s people to be back in God’s love and reconciliation. Christ says “turn, turn.” In the Song of Songs, the believer is a dove who responds to God’s call. In Genesis, the dove finds the branch of life continuing on after the Flood. So doves give hope, especially upon the fidelity of God to us. At the Cross, Christ mournfully prays for the lost people of the world, of those caught in sin and death. His Cross will offer freedom.
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threefrenchhens Three French Hens may represent the never-ending cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.

In another thought, Hens provided a food feast. Yet French Hens were very expensive during that 16th century, especially if imported by Englanders from the French. Perhaps the birds’ value can remind us of the three costly gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh given by the wise men (Matt. 2:10-11).
An alternate significance is the symbolism of the valued French Hens being like the immense value of having three virtues of Christ, that being faith, hope, and charity–as 1st Corinthians 13 mentions.

The Four Calling Birds are actually Four Colly Birds in the song, as the lyrics show dating back a few centuries. Colly birds may be any of several coal-black birds – such as crows, jackdaws, rooks, or ravens. These birds often carry the image of power and mystery. For example, the raven (a bird associated with Maryland, thanks to Edgar Allen Poe) is a bird of battle. Our local Baltimore NFL team hopes its players imitate their mascot, the raven, a colly bird. (Here am I wearing the Ravens’ jacket… Go team!)vzm-img_20161222_195709

But a little more seriously, perhaps we can take the image that the earth has been in darkness of sin and error pining (as the Christmas carol does), but along comes The Lord of Power and He will bring us to the light. The Four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John tell of His Story and Good News to bring us to come alive in power to live the new life in Jesus Christ–in Peace, Hope, Love, and Joy.0102141428a

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The Five Golden Rings are not jewelry in the ancient Christmas hymn, but rather, they are birds, too.

5 Golden Rings are a full hand of gold-ring-necked pheasants. Not native to Europe, pheasants were introduced there during Roman times, and would have been seen in Jerusalem or Rome 2000 years ago, and they were quite common throughout Europe into the time of the song’s origin, being symbols of the element of fire and sensuality.
Using the bird analogy, Christ comes as one of us, to be God hand-to-hand with us. God is in the flesh, living fully human, and in all the senses. He comes as a lover to woo us back to loving God. He shows His own passion (as one of us) to the Father. His passion brings forth to us the Holy Spirit (fire) so that we can become “human partakers of the divine.” 2nd Peter 1:4 says “By whom He hath given us most great and precious promises: that by these you may be made partakers of the divine nature: flying the corruption of that concupiscence which is in the world.” (Douay-Rheims Bible)
The Five Golden Rings might signify that God has reached out His Hand, even one of human flesh, to invite us to put our hand into His. Put your hand in the Hand of The Man from Galilee.

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Six Geese A-Laying are, of course, birds laying their eggs. The important element is the “a-laying” part. The Egg represents the creation cycle, which includes re-birth. The number six even looks like this creation image, of a line coming from above, and forming an egg-like shape. It’s the circle of life image.

God has given humanity this means of co-creating with Him in physical birth through parentage, which leads to generation after generation living on.  God has also now given us the way for spiritual re-generation, and the Church is like the geese a-laying as we do just that–helping people into the new birth (by water and the Spirit–John 3). Imagine the geese as like the many parishes spread out and making converts and new disciples in the body. Imagine mission efforts as the geese flying in to set down the gospel message.

Let’s move on to #7 in the song… Seven Swans A-Swimming are again an image of birds and on the water. It’s a visual scene to celebrate the beauty of the unknown. Swans are birds of elegance and mystery. The number seven, then, had been given to represent mystery and elegance, largely in part the 16th centuries knowledge of seven planets moving in the heavens. (More were discovered later, of course.) Planets moved unlike all the other stars and had their own intricate patterns –and  nothing was more elegant and mysterious. Oddly, although the swans are swimming they do represent Air, which as an element includes the sky and the heavens.
Perhaps we can see Christ in this image. First He is revealed at the Jordan in the water at Baptism. Lastly, His public revelation has Him ascending from the Mount into the sky. Hence: His ministry starts like one of the geese on the Water, and then ends as one of the geese taking flight to sky.

7-swansthyowr2d9p In the next phrase, Eight Maids A-Milking, here might be eight Magpies. Magpies are black birds with milky white patches. (‘Get the connection now to the song?!) Magpies are birds full of power and are portents for looking ahead (prophecy, fortune-telling, hope). The number Eight, too, has many different meanings symbolically, but one very important one is it signifies a new beginning. After all, the eighth day of Christmas is New Year’s Day. It is Mother Mary’s feast as Mother of God, too. (Mother of the Word to be incarnate– the human vehicle for the Eternal Son’s chosen entry into humanity.)
Different numbers of magpies can mean different things, “five for silver, six for gold, seven for a secret never told,” as some saying goes, but eight magpies remind us to put the old behind us as we start afresh. It seems significant but must be only a coincidence that by some reckoning that New Year’s Day is the Eighth Day of Christmas. ‘See the magpie flying by?
Magpies are referenced in culture, such as Lewis and Clarke’s report of mingling with them on their adventurous trail, or Paul McCartney singing of them in concert, or scientists telling us how greatly intelligent the bird is, as the Euroasian White Magpie even recognizes itself in a mirror, and learns things very quickly. On the eighth day, our second go-round, it is suggested that we humans catch on, and live and learn and apply our lessons well. (So, you see, Eight Maids a Milking isnt about milking cows, but wising up like the magpie. Now, moving on to #9…)

Nine Drummers Drumming is also about birds, actually. There are no drummer boys or drum sets here in the original song version, with drummers coming in early at #9, and not ladies dancing, as put in #9 in modern versions. Instead, it’s nine drummer birds who are doing their thing. You know some drumming birds, probably. A Ruffed Grouse, Woodcock or a Woodpecker each is a drummer, and familiar as birds here in the mid-Atlantic region. You can hear the thumping or tapping of these birds, which is their communication device to other members of their species. Drumming is often to announce territory or attract a mate. In England and mainland Europe, the most common drumming bird was the Snipe. Where and when snipes do their drumming is important. Snipes drum in the spring soon after fields have been plowed and are most fertile. The number nine represents harmony and eternity. Fertility coupled with both harmony and eternity creates the most powerful force we can know. woodpec

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perhaps there is a comparison to a human being when they start communication from their soul out to God and to others. We announce in that ‘drumming’ or rapping that we are interested in deeper things, as in the soul and spirit and inner self-being. Others can tell by our ‘signals’ how we have something going on, much like of their own interest in things unseen and of God. You can find harmony with another person by this communication into partaking with the Divine. We name that as desire for community or fellowship.

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Ten Pipers Piping were the original placing of the next group in the song. We sing about ten lords a-leaping in modern lyrics, but originally it was ten pipers piping, or ten cocks, and the tune was referencing birds in England. A piper among 16-17th century birds was The English Green Sandpiper, and it still has a reputation for being noisy, excitable, loud, and shrill (i.e. piping). Cocks and Sandpipers were legendary for being vain and arrogant, feisty, and sexually aggressive. It was shortly after the song’s broadside was published that the word “rooster” replaced “cock” in polite company in North America. That may help explain why we don’t hear that version today. Or it may explain how the song changed to a row of guys playing pipes or flutes.

Maybe the 10 Pipers can reference how God looks down at us and sees all our noisy, self-centered activity. We are like piping birds in all our nonsense. As the ancient religious interpretation of the number 10 referred to the 10 Commandments or God’ Law, perhaps this song verse is a happy fact that God still loves us, even while we go and break many of His Commandments, and sometimes in such a shrill or loud manner. God hopes to calm us down to abide in His ways, and to find peace and meaning in Him.

Eleven Ladies Dancing is about birds, you would now fare to guess. The dancing, of course, is a code word for passion and courtship. The dancing ladies as birds could be birds called Lapwings that wildly wheel, roll, and tumble in the air during courtship displays. When it is a group of lapwings flying, such as Eleven, then they are called a “kettle” of birds. In the world, 11 is a good number, as it is #1 twice, and a dual number. It is the number of faithful apostles. It recalls the phrase that “birds of a feather flock together.” People can be like lapwings in their forming of friendships and camaraderie– and go dancing in life in some happiness, in a fine kettle of Christians!

cuckooTwelve Lords A-Leaping: Who or what are they? By now you know it is not about odd gymnastics occurring in the UK’s House of Lords. Leapfrogging is not permitting in Parliament! These lords a-leaping are cuckoos. And the cuckoo hen notoriously lays her eggs in another bird’s nest. Because of this the cuckoo became a symbol for a bit of confusion and disorder. Cuckoos remind people that humans try to live in the world turned upside down. We try so desperately hard in our pride to make our fallen state of being work and not to call on God’s help. If that’s not cuckoo, then what is?
Yet St. Paul described his change of life and other Christians as their becoming “fools for Christ’ sake.” We choose to try to live in God’s ways, right side turned back up, even while the world chooses immorality and disfunction and disorder. We still fall for much of the lie that ‘life is ok without calling on God’s help.” Actually, it is never ok. We need a Savior, and Jesus is that Savior. As a missionary once said: “We have a great need for Christ the Savior, and we have a great Christ the Savior for our need.” If we would just be a little cuckoo (in the eyes of the world), and step out in trust of Jesus Christ, for serious—then, we would be happy. Love the One Jesus Who is met by faith, not so readily by sight. Be crazy in love and faith that way.

The 12th day brings the song to its close, its fulfillment. Amen. Now have a merry 12 Days of Christmas. thxr1ezy5o

A New 12 Days of Christmas Song [For Children's Christmas Mass]

The 12 Gifts of Christmas— Children’s Song re-written by Fr. Barry
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Originally it is thought that the 12 Days of Christmas version in England was secretly about the 12 Tenets of the Faith. Thus the Partridge was Jesus, Two turtledoves His divine and human nature, 3 French Hens was for the Holy Trinity, and so forth…

In the spirit of recovering this song to a spiritual message, and in a parish here in Bowie named after an English king-saint, we present a new version of the 12 Days song. (It is sung the same way, as a countdown son, but for the thing that we throw in some sound effects–SFX. The singing takes place near the Pageant players of Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus and shepherds and angels and magi…)

THE 12 GIFTS OF CHRISTMAS

In the first gift of Christmas The Lord God shared with us…
Baby Jesus sleeping peacefully

In the 2ND gift of Christmas The Lord God shared with us…
Mary and Joseph, (and–)

In the 3RD gift of Christmas The Lord God shared with us…
3 Wise Men
SFX(Gold! Frankincense! Myrrh Oil!)

In the 4TH gift of Christmas The Lord God shared with us…
4 Joyful Donkeys
SFX (Hee-Haw! Hee-Haw!)

In the 5TH gift of Christmas The Lord God shared with us…
5 Towns’-people in Awe
SFX (Awe! At the baby Jesus)

In the 6TH gift of Christmas The Lord God shared with us…
6 Cows a-Mooing
SFX(Moo!)

In the 7TH gift of Christmas The Lord God shared with us…
7 Birds a-Chirping
SFX(Chirp! Chirp!)

In the 8TH gift of Christmas The Lord God shared with us…
8 Angels Singing
SFX(Gloria!)

In the 9TH gift of Christmas The Lord God shared with us…
9 Shepherds Praying
SFX(“Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord!”)

In the 10TH gift of Christmas The Lord God shared with us…
10 Sheep a-gazing
SFX(Baaa!)

In the 11TH gift of Christmas The Lord God shared with us…
11 Alleluias
SPX(Alle, Alle, Alle-luia!)

[Before 12th verse: Announcer “Hey, the Baby Jesus is awake now! He liked the Alleluias!”“Ok, then when get to #1 we’ll now sing: Baby Jesus, Loving Humankind!”]

In the 12TH gift of Christmas The Lord God shared with us…
12 Stars a-Shining
“Twinkle, Twinkle Christmas lights Shining on this Christmas night!”

Ending: And Baby Jesus loving humankind. Baby Jesus Loving Humankind! Amen!

Stories of Grace & Blessing// Advent’s 5th Loaf

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Fourth Sunday of Advent (Tell your story)   Homily by Deacon David Barnes

I love today’s Old Testament reading. Ahaz was a young man and at the age of 20 became the king of the Southern Kingdom (Judea). He was highly impressed with his northern neighbor Assyria and swore allegiance to its King, forsaking the Hebrew faith for worldly power. He expected this foreign alliance to protect his kingdom from other powers, but shortly after his ascendance, Assyria turned up him, taking the 10 tribes of the Northern Kingdom and some of the his southern kingdom.
Ahaz ignored the prophet Isaiah who told him not to rely upon his neighbors but to trust in the Lord. Here is the part I love. To prove that the Lord is God, Isaiah challenged Ahaz to ask for anything, and the Lord would grant it. Ahaz refused. Instead of God bringing destruction upon this unfaithful King, Isaiah told him of the real king to come, the one they will call Emmanuel (God is with us). This true king would be born miraculously of a virgin and all the Earth would know Him as the Messiah.

It’s a great Hebrew story to lead to another greater one, in fact, its Greatest Ever.

In the Gospel, Matthew is leading in to the Birth of Christ story by trying to explain Jesus’ heritage over a long list of the generations, to climax with the list getting to Joseph, son of Jacob (and in the lineage of kings).  Today’s reading shows us something of Joseph’s significance– he was in direct line to King David of Bethlehem and Jerusalem’s fame.  It’s today’s reading–in its long form–of Matthew 1 1-24.

The story itself is miraculous. The angel and the Annunciation, Mary’s virgin state with child fulfilling Isaiah 7′s prophesy, the dream and acceptance of Joseph, and the marriage of Mary into Joseph’s home. Matthew continues the story in the next two verses, which we hear on Christmas, that Mary bore Jesus, and not in Nazareth, but back in Joseph’s ancestral town of Bethlehem.  This great story of our Catholic faith has us consider Joseph and Mary’s long and exhausting trip to Bethlehem, and the innocence of the whole event, and the humbling character of Jesus’ birth.

This key story-telling part of our Faith is what we call in theology our “kerygma.”  We live and breathe and believe upon these vital Faith stories of real events.  It is our record of God encounters and Divine guidance.  Remembering them helps us to see the path we are on, and to where, and to Whom we are going.  We are faith pilgrims.

In every Advent, we consider how to keep the spiritual life alive, to let it help us reconcile and embrace the fullness of living. The Good News is not just good news of a child being born, but of a Christ child who grew and ministered to many and willing obeyed the Father, “even to death, death on a Cross.”  We proclaim Christ crucified and His being raised from the dead by the Father. This is *the Paschal Mystery.                     (*another theological term for the dying/rising mystery of Jesus Christ, with us)

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During this Advent, we have been following the 5 loaves practices. Today, we introduce the most common practice. Did you notice that I took the time to retell the story of Ahaz and Isaiah? We just heard the reading, so why take the time to retell it? The idea is that this is the pattern that God has provided for us to spread his word. God intentionally effected individuals and they in turn told others what happened to them. And so, it went, until others wrote it down for future believers. They created the Bible because of what happened in real life. They captured the moments of blessing and struggles, and shared them with the larger community over time.
Remember, nothing happens without God’s concurrence so everything must be considered as a blessing. With the passage of time we begin to see the deeper wisdom of how God walks with us.

When you have an experience of grace and blessing, and then tell another, you are doing this principal. The Greek name is (Ker-rig-ma) Kerygma, which today we most often call “Preaching”. Not all of us have the formal gift of preaching, but all of us share the responsibility to tell the stories of God’s abundant blessings, especially in our own words, kerygma.

At the end of John’s Gospel, He talked about His testimony being truthful. But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, they could not be contained in all the books written. That is not a statement of what only happened in Biblical times, but it is telling us that the Graces and Blessing of God are continuing even today. Do you see them? Have you shared with others what you have seen?
God’s interaction with His creation has and is still having, a great effect on many people. Don’t be afraid to share with others.  Do Kerygma, the retelling of stories of grace and blessing of your lives, and share the great stories and events and beliefs of our Catholic Faith.
Let us review the 5 loaves: First there is diaconia (di-ac-o-nee-a), giving service to others out of our gratefulness to God for our gifts.

Then there is the principal related to learning and teaching, seeking the wisdom of Christ via the Holy Spirit, Didache (did-a-kay).  Didache is not static. Like all education we must periodically refresh ourselves.
Our sharing with a community is not a small thing, either. Koinonia (Koy-noh-nee-ah) is  offering radical hospitality, the godly welcome, which naturally comes through fellowship and worship together. Believing together draws us closer.
Then there is our work, “Liturgy”, our public prayer and worship directed to God, through our worship services, mostly the Mass and Adoration. To pray at all time and in all ways.
Lastly, we add the sharing with others the stories of the amazing grace and blessing we have experienced, because of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Our Kerygma comes from living and should be shared. We are all going to preach. Why not use that Kerygma to preach the Paschal Mystery?

I hope all have had a spirit-filled preparation and have availed themselves of reconciliation this Advent. God Bless.