Wednesday, December 28, 2016

That's Christmas to Me

In the words of Matthew Kelly, there is genius in Catholicism.

Catholicism recognizes that Christmas is such an incredible celebration that it throws an eight day party. The miracle and mystery of the Incarnation had been prophesied for generations. The Creator of heaven and earth left the first to inhabit the latter. Known as the Octave of Christmas, the period of time from Christmas through the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (January 1) is an extension of Christmas. Every day throughout the octave of Christmas "reflects back on the Nativity, not just the birth of Christ but the impact, the reality of the birth".


Our great Mother Church follows the Solemnity of Christmas with a series of feast days that move us out of the manger and into the journey of faith.

December 26 marks the Feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr. This reminds us about the cost of discipleship. We move out of the "serenity" of the manger scene and into the harsh reality of being a Christian.

December 27 was the Feast of St. John, Apostle and evangelist. St. John, the beloved apostle, wasn't beloved because of anything he did. Instead, he was beloved which allowed him to do the things he did - take Mary in as his own mother and compose one of the Gospels and the Book of Revelation.

Today, December 28, the feast of the Holy Innocents, once again reminds us that the "peace" of the stable was juxtaposed with danger and cruelty. Joseph and Mary, on the tail end of an exhausting journey to Bethlehem, flee to Egypt to escape Herod's wrath. While Jesus was spared in this instance, we know that many more innocent children lost their lives to the evil of the world.

December 29 is the feast of St. Thomas Becket, another martyr, another reminder of the cost of following Jesus.

We celebrate the feast of the Holy Family on December 30. Jesus came into the world as a baby. Joseph and Mary undoubtedly experienced the same challenges faced by all families. They serve as a model and example of the importance of family in the development of faith.

December 31 is the feast of Pope St. Sylvester I, the Pope who supported the Council of Nicea in 325 that proclaimed Jesus as both fully human and fully divine - giving the mystery of the Incarnation even that much more weight.

Finally, on the eighth day of Christmas, we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. On this high feast we are once again reminded of Mary's monumental "yes" that changed the world.

As we reach the half-way point of Christmas (4 days in), let us continue to find joy in the Incarnation. Let us continue to recognize that Christmas is more than a day. Let us continue to sing, dance, visit with family and friends and pray. Despite the challenges of discipleship, may Christmas remind us that the world, because of His entry into it, is forever changed.

For to me, Christmas isn't about a man dressed in red.

It's about a baby who's story is meant to be read.

It's not about the children all nestled in their beds.

It's about a family with no place to rest their heads.

To me, Christmas isn't about the presents under the tree.

It's about His presence and what He means to me.

It's about present-less Whos still singing with glee.

It's about praising God and time with family.

Silent night? No crying He makes?

Christmas is about the flesh on which our God takes.

It's a travel-worn family, giving birth in a stable.

It's about shepherds and wise men coming to Him, giving gifts as they're able.

The picture we have of this holy of days.

Is not quite the picture I think Christmas conveys.

The Greatest Story Ever Told and yet do you hear what I hear?

Our Savior was born, choirs of angels were there.

Joy came to the world, a new star shone bright.

We should seek after Him with all of our might.

The celebration's not over, the season of Christmas continues.

Fall on your knees. Hear the angel voices.

Choose.

Choose to believe in Him who is true.

Believe in the One who can make hearts grow in love.

Believe that Jesus came down from above.

From Heaven, God's only Son. The Chosen One. Redeemer. Savior. Hero. Love. Light. Truth.

Real.

A real baby. A real birth.

A real postpartum trip to Egypt because of His worth.

He came into this world to give us His Word.

Mary said yes.

Joseph recognized his life, too, was blessed.

They embraced the real hardship, real struggle, real joy, and real love of being a family.

Shepherds flocked by night. A little boy played his drum for Him, for Him the boy played his best.

Angel choirs sang out, "Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace on the earth to those on whom His favor rests."

Jesus is born. Rejoice!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

It's About Time

Admittedly, I have time on my mind. 

There are so many countdowns happening: a countdown to Christmas, a countdown to the end of school, a countdown to the end of the year. 

The decreasing amount of daylight in winter always dampens my spirit. Even in sunny Florida darkness engulfs us. 

In two days my newborn son will be six weeks old, hardly a newborn anymore.  

Tomorrow will mark the four year anniversary of my father's passing into eternal life. Four years...

All of these thoughts about time have me trying to squeeze every moment out of every day. One more moment out of work, one more moment with my family, one more moment of sleep, of recharging, of playing, of writing, of praying.

One more moment. 


When you think about it, the present is really all that we have. The past is gone. The future has not yet come. All we have is now. And just like that, this now becomes a then.


But, by the grace of God, another now appears. And another. And another. An infinite series of moments, chances, opportunities, nows. 


Except that we know that this series - that all series - have endings. 


A class period is 45 minutes. A school week has 5 days. A particular grade level has a fixed amount of time in it, and most students only spend one year there. Years only ever have 365 days. Games have time limits. Projects have deadlines. Our breaths are numbered.


Even the world, well, Christ promised that He would come again.  

So, every moment counts. Every opportunity drips with potential, hope, expectation. It arises, hangs in anticipation, and then falls away gone forever. Our response to the present, to either seize or snooze it, determines our future. 

While God hopefully blesses us with more moments, more breaths, more laughs, cries, hugs, fights, successes, and failures we do not get do-overs. There's no retake policy when it comes to moments. 


Our moments are either Incarnational or they are wasted. They are either embraced or disgraced. Maximized or scandalized. 


In the words of St. Teresa of Kolkata:

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”
Let us begin living life as a gift. Blessings abound.

Make every moment count. Embrace now as if it was the last now that you will get. Consider that every interaction with someone else could be the moment that changes the world. Be nicer than you have to be. Call your mom and then put down the phone to be with the family in front of you. Hold doors and your tongue. Forgive. Heal. Love.

Make. Every. Moment. Count. 

Laugh, cry, dance, sing, read (to your kids!), learn, teach, cook, speak, draw, create, listen, inspire, lead, follow, serve, pray. 

Every moment is Incarnational, a chance to both be Christ to others and encounter Christ in others. 

It's about time to start living like it. 

Let us begin. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Find a Way

"The world offers you comfort. But, you were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness" (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI). 

I love the grittiness of this quote. I love how it echoes the call of the apostles. I love how it draws us out of timidity and into adventure. I love believing that through hard work I can play a part - my part - in God's story. 


I love believing that I can go down in HIS-story.


Today's Gospel, the story of the healing of the paralytic (Luke 5:18-20), is one of my favorites. It is a story of friendship, ingenuity, determination and faith. 
And some men brought on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed;
they were trying to bring him in and set him in his presence.
But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd,
they went up on the roof
and lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles
into the middle in front of Jesus.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said,
“As for you, your sins are forgiven.” 
Some highlights:
  • a group of people worked together
  • they encountered what was most likely a very discouraging situation (seeing the house filled with and surrounded by people)
  • they did not give up
  • they creatively found a solution
  • they worked hard (imagine climbing on top of a house and lifting up someone who couldn't move / move well)
  • they believed that Jesus would honor their efforts and faith in His almighty power
Imagine if we approached life with a similar philosophy. 

Let us work together in intentional community. Allow the synergy between and among people to spur us to new levels of excellence. There is immense strength in being united in a common mission.

Let us work hard. Resilience is the ability to bounce back quickly from setbacks. Studies show that traits of resilient people include: they accept that life is difficult, they believe that life has meaning even in those moments when meaning is not apparent, and they choose to act even if the situation seems hopeless. Let us, like this group of friends, have unwavering faith and persistence. 

Let us creatively seek out solutions to seemingly impossible problems. When the doors are blocked try breaking through the roof. 

Let us believe that Jesus will honor our efforts to serve Him and each other. Let us lift one another up and bring each other to the feet of Jesus and let Him transform us and our lives into something AMAZING.

Let us find a way.

Let us find the Way.