When momentous incidents unfold and present us with various alternatives, we must choose wisely. This became apparent when Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem before Herod the Great. King Herod had been appointed “King of the Jews” – that is, ruler of Judea – approximately thirty-six years prior to their visit. Upon hearing the Magi’s inquiry, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage,” the Matthean Gospel tells us that all of Jerusalem, as well as this King from an Edomite family, were greatly troubled. To put it differently, Herod the King felt threatened and, therefore, desired to end the threat.
A Transformative Greeting
Greetings on this blessed day!! Whether it be the initial day of the year or any other day, we overflow with joy when we are greeted with well wishes and blessings. Certainly, heartfelt salutations from new and childhood acquaintances, friends and loved ones, and from brothers and sisters in the Faith are cherished and relished greatly. In addition, certain greetings can be transformative. An encounter comes to mind that transpired a little over 2,000 years ago. The Gospel of Luke recounts the following, “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.’” (Luke 1:41-45)
What a blessed and divine moment! Mary’s transformative greeting anointed Elizabeth with the Spirit of Light and Joy. So potent was this encounter that Elizabeth recognized her cousin Mary as the mother of her Lord. She blessed Mary, who, in turn, could have blessed Elizabeth, saying, “Blessed are you, [Elizabeth]. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but [our] heavenly Father.” (Mt 16:17) Indeed, it was by the Holy Spirit’s grace, sent by the Father and the Son, that Elizabeth grasped in her being that Mary was the mother of her Lord and, similarly, comprehended that Mary believed that what was spoken to her by that same Lord would be fulfilled.
The Human Family In Crisis
The institution of the human family appears to be in crisis. Today, countless families are experiencing discord and tremendous friction, and their members are living in residences that have turned into temples of selfishness, hatred, resentment, envy, and indifference. Family members are craving for greater peace in their homes. Furthermore, numerous children are yearning to be better comprehended by their parents and these, in turn, are not feeling truly respected and honored by their children. Also, many husbands and wives are praying to be loved and valued again by their spouse. Indeed, everyone wants to feel appreciated and happy.
“God said: ‘Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness,’” (Gen 1:26) after which He created Adam and Eve and all of humanity. Sadly, this divine image, as we know, was defaced in man when humanity committed original sin by disobeying God at the beginning of human history. We recognize this story as the Fall of humanity. Yes, it seems that we had it all in the beginning, but lost it all because of original sin.
However, a late scholar named Jaroslav Pelikan offers a simple reminder in one of his books titled Jesus Through the Centuries: His Place in the History of Culture. He pointed out that Augustine of Hippo “made it clear…that the doctrine of the fall must not be interpreted ‘as though man had lost everything he had of the image of God.’” Nevertheless, this divine image in man required restoration. Therefore, God desired that a new person—in place of Adam—would begin de novo, and overcome temptation, sin, and death in obedience to God. He chose His only Begotten Son, the Word, as the New Adam to become flesh to fulfill this objective. Jesus Christ experienced the sufferings of our imperfect human nature while remaining sinless throughout His earthly life. The Son of God and Son of Mary was certainly impeccable given His divine personality. But what about the woman who carried Him in her womb and gave birth to Him?
I can’t wait for Christmas…
It is truly one of my favorite holiday seasons. I love listening to and singing traditional Christmas carols. In addition, I enjoy spending time with my family and exchanging gifts with them. However, I do not enjoy the long lines at the department stores several weeks before December 25th. I am also not a fan of Christmas carols being played on the radio soon after the (U.S.) celebration of Thanksgiving Day. As a Catholic, I am becoming increasingly concerned that the consumerism and commercialism of the final months of the year are negatively impacting the religious significance of Christmas. Hence, I believe that it is crucial that we understand and remember Christmas’ true meaning and that we adequately prepare for it. For us Catholics, the four weeks of Advent help us not only to prepare for Christmas but also provide an overall guide to living a holy life.
The Communion of Saints is an article of faith
…of the Catholic Church. The term expresses the communion in holy things shared among God’s holy people and the concept of unity and holiness among the baptized Christians in Christ. Saint Paul’s greeting in his letter to the Colossians (1:2) denotes that Christians were generally called saints or “holy ones and faithful brothers in Christ.” They were addressed as holy ones since they were baptized in Jesus Christ the Holy One, saturated with the Spirit of holiness, and adopted as children of God the Father. Their dying in Christ and rising in Him through the waters of baptism sanctified them, and their faith in Jesus the Lord and their decision to pursue Christ made them participants of the holy mystery of God.
We cherish stories that speak to our realities and to the adversities that we encounter. In numerous ways, they help us perceive life better. For this reason, Jesus told countless timely parables during His day and many of these are well-known and loved today. However, there is a parable that appears out of place in the Gospel according to Matthew (18:21-35). Peter inquired how often he must forgive a person who sins against him, but Jesus’ parable does not address the question of repeated forgiveness. It does, however, point out the significance of forgiveness, as well as of mercy and justice.
One of the most significant childhood lessons that my siblings and I learned was the duty to respect our elders. We learned the importance of remaining quiet and attentive when older people are addressing us, of speaking respectfully and honestly when we are given the opportunity to talk, and of valuing and appreciating our seniors. Our parents also encouraged us to lend a helping hand when the elderly cross the street. On numerous occasions, my siblings and I would help our older neighbors by linking arms with them to cross the street and carrying their grocery bags. These were insightful moments that began instructing me about life. I understood from early on that we must care for one another. Furthermore, I discovered that we may be strong during our younger years, but everyone begins to gradually lose their strengths as they become older.
The Strength of Paul the Apostle
Certainly, physical strength or power is a quality that we value immensely. But our society speaks about other powers as well. Individuals who have the ability to produce, purchase, and put items up for sale unreservedly are said to possess economic power. Other individuals enjoy political power and have the ability to exercise a role in shaping society’s laws and policies. And still others’ social power gives them the capability to influence and persuade other people’s activities, attitudes, or behaviors. Those in our society that possess physical, economic, political or social powers enjoy positions of leadership and are, very often, perceived as intelligent, strong and powerful.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul of Tarsus counted himself among the strongest of his day. However, he was not referring to physical, financial, political, or social strength. They were strong given that they were released from the Mosaic regulations that were still being rigidly observed when they wholeheartedly embraced the Christian life. He stated: “We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves; let each of us please our neighbor for the good, for building up. For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, “The insults of those who insult you fall upon me.” (Rom 15:1-3)
Spiritual Strength – Do We Have It?
This passage reminds us that there is another strength we must acquire, develop, and sustain: spiritual strength. Without it, we struggle to know, love, and follow God and His commandments as we ought to. This strength empowers us to glorify the Lord, accomplish His will, and work for the salvation of our souls. Nevertheless, we cannot acquire this strength through our own human efforts, but only through the graces that God offers us in His divine providence.
“Give me liberty or give me death!” With these notable words articulated in a 1775 speech, Patrick Henry expressed the immense desire he possessed for freedom. This statement summed up the plea that ultimately impelled the Virginia House of Burgesses to mobilize for military action. A few weeks later, the American Revolution marked the beginning of the intense struggle in which thirteen of Great Britain’s North American colonies eventually obtained their independence. Today, the 4th of July celebrates the United States of America’s Day of Independence as it recalls when this country declared its independence from Great Britain. Freedom is a value of great importance. Having the ability to enjoy political autonomy and to do what one pleases at will is treasured by the citizens of a nation that enjoys being a free society. Who does not cherish the power to exercise the faculty of choice in political, social, and financial matters? Nevertheless, the notions that some of us have about the essence of freedom are at times faulty or misguided.
Reflecting on the Leadership of Moses and Joshua
If we desire to see improvement as Christian leaders today, we need to return to the Old Testament. Several of its books will challenge us to revisit our notions about leadership. Let’s turn to the book of Exodus, which narrates the Hebrews’ experience of enslavement in Egypt. It was amid this era that Moses was born and that he went into exile for killing an Egyptian. Sometime later, Moses encountered God in a burning bush, discovered God’s plan to save Israel, and learned God’s name. The LORD God elected him to liberate and save Israel.
When we reflect on Moses’ leadership, we naturally think about ancient Israel’s freedom. Truly, there is a deficiency in a kind of leadership today among Christian leaders that the Exodus event suggests with urgency. Today, we need to cultivate among those in the Christian ministry field and within our parishes a Mosaic leadership that is capable of freeing and liberating our brothers and sisters from their sinful circumstances and from the oppressive structures that surround them. Indeed, true leadership frees people, empowers them to grow, and facilitates their social and spiritual advancement.