Monthly Archives: November 2016

Morning Thoughts: Mary’s Mother

 

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Albrecht Durer, “Virgin and Child with Saint Anne”, ca. 1519 (The Met)

 

Christmas is a time for grandmothers.

They bake and cook and decorate. Their homes become mini North Poles, diplomatic outposts of Santa’s Castle.

At its core, Christmas is of course all about Jesus. All about Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. All about the Holy Family.

The Holy Family is an extended family though. And it doesn’t stop at grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles, or even cousins and distant cousins.

Just ask Saints Joachim and Anne, Zechariah and Elizabeth, or John the Baptist—not to mention all the unknown relatives whom the child Jesus surely encountered throughout His Galilean days. Ask any one of them about the far-reaching ripple effects of family grace.

Those touched by Jesus have a tendency to appear bigger than life.

Look at Santa Claus.

Most of us are aware that he is really Saint Nick.

But do we stop to wonder who Mrs. Claus really is?

I think she’s Saint Anne.

After all, Mrs. Claus is seen as everyone’s grandmother, especially when it comes to holiday cheer. But when it comes to truly celebrating the birth of Jesus, it is through Saint Anne that we approach the gates of Christ’s Nativity.

Mary’s Mother holds a special key. She is first among grandmas, first among those who pinch chubby cheeks, who pass along one more extra sugary treat.

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Saint Anne help us. Speak to us. Show us how to be grand parents to all those around us, especially the little ones. Stir up the spirit of Advent. Bake away the holiday blues. Cook up a dish of Christmas love that only your hearth can serve.

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Come one, come all, to the home of Saint Anne. Come with me to Grandma’s house for a holiday visit. Taste and see. Enter her kitchen, where the hot chocolate can always fit a little more whipped cream, where you hear the constant refrain: “eat…eat…eat…”

At Grandma’s your plate is never empty.

Her table is continually set.

She always sees Jesus as having just been born.

She is always wrapping Him up tightly in swaddling clothes.

It is simply grand.

To Grandma, Jesus is always an innocent child.

And she can’t help but see Him deep within both you and me.


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—Howard Hain

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http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/436244

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1st Sunday of Advent: Climbing the Mountain of the Lord

Listen to the homily here:

“Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain,” the Prophet Isaiah says as we begin the season of Advent. The land where Jesus lived is a land of mountains and hills. The Mount of Olives, the temple mount, Mount Tabor, the Mount of the Beatitudes, Mount Carmel. In Jesus’ day, people climbed mountains, first of all, to see where they were going. No Google Maps then. Hardly any road signs. Yet, from a high place you could see the way ahead, the dangers as well as the rewards. A mountain gave you direction and perspective.

Advent is for looking ahead more than looking back. Jesus is he who is, who was and is to come. In Advent, we look for him on our journey of life.

In Jesus’ day, people also went up a mountain to experience God. God was in the high places, they believed. You met God when you went up high places.

Could I suggest that Advent is a time to experience God who awaits us. God is waiting for us in Jesus Christ. It’s a time to reset direction and perspective. We so easily get lost. “Let us climb the mountain of the Lord.” It’s time seek refreshment from God.

In today’s gospel, Jesus uses the phrase, “the Days of Noah.” Those days are days to beware of. The Days of Noah are days when “people are eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage.” Nothing wrong with that, you say. I

But even good things can become routine, draining life out of them.  The days of Noah are “same old, same old” days, nothing’s happening, nothing’s going on, and nothing’s there as far as we can see. Might as well turn on the television and have a beer. The days of Noah are days of blinding routine that turn us into sleep walkers. We miss out on what life brings.

So what’s my life and your life like? Are we frozen in the days of Noah?  Let’s pray that God take us out of that kind of day. Let’s pray that God lift us up and help us see the good things around us and the good things that await us.

Today the season of Advent begins. It’s a time of hope. It saves us from being trapped by routine. Stay awake.  Advent is a time that proclaims a Great Day. “Let us climb the mountain of the Lord.”

Thanksgiving’s Coming

Thanksgiving Day’s coming Thursday in the USA and many will be with family and friends. We have just come through a brutally fought election and I wonder if some Thanksgiving gatherings this year will be as peaceful as in other years. Will fights continue over the table?

Our Mass readings these days are from the Book of Revelations and Luke’s gospel where Jesus speaks of the last times. They’re frightening, upsetting times.  “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.” (Luke 21,11)

Notice, though, the promise of peace found continually through these readings announcing chaos and destruction. “Not a hair of your head will be destroyed,” Jesus says in the gospel today. (Luke 21,19) God’s with us in the chaos.

In our Reading from Revelations today people are singing songs of victory. No matter how chaotic the times, God’s there in them, working his purpose in the chaos. The battle’s won, not lost, through the abiding power of God.

“Great and wonderful are your works,
Lord God almighty.
Just and true are your ways,
O king of the nations.”  (Revelations 15, 4)

We can sit down at Thanksgiving singing a victory song and remembering that not a hair of our head will be destroyed.

I see this year on Thanksgiving Day the church celebrates the feast of the Vietnamese martyrs killed in the 18th century. Saint Andrew Dung– Lac and 117 others were put to death in a cruel persecution of Christians. One of the characteristics of Christian martyrdom is the joy of the martyr in the midst of a frightful situation. Here’s a letter of Saint Paul Le-Bao-Tinh, one of the martyrs:

“I, Paul, in chains for the name of Christ, wish to relate to you the trials besetting me daily, in order that you may be inflamed with love for God and join with me in his praises. The prison here is a true image of everlasting hell: to cruel tortures of every kind – shackles, iron chains, manacles – are added hatred, vengeance, calumnies, obscene speech, quarrels, evil acts, swearing, curses, as well as anguish and grief. But the God who once freed the three children from the fiery furnace is with me always; he has delivered me from these tribulations and made them sweet, for his mercy is for ever.

“In the midst of  torments, that usually terrify others, I am, by the grace of God, full of joy and gladness, because I am not alone – Christ is with me.”

“I am not alone–Christ is with me.”

I suppose we can say that no matter bad we see the times, we can sit down at Thanksgiving with joy.

 

 

 

Morning Thoughts: Sure and Steady

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Jusepe (Jose) de Ribera, “Tightrope Walkers”, 1634

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The brighter the light the more we squint.

The closer we get the less we see.

And if we stare we go blind.

Now what?

You have to trust.

In what?

Not in yourselves.

In total darkness the answer is clear.

All other ways disappear.

Close your eyes.

Shutter your ears.

Forget the past.

Ignore what is below.

Chin slightly elevated.

Now walk.

No need to go too slow.

Sure and steady.

Heart on the goal.

And if we slip?

Don’t worry.

I made the rope.

I hold it tight.

My Son is the way, the truth, and the life.

In Him you never fall.

In Him you know.

In Him you live.

He walks before you.

You may not see Him but He is there.

Follow close behind.

It is a tight walk.

That’s why I gave Him a pole.

I gave you one too.

And because it can get very dark.

I made them easy to identify.

They are made of thick dead wood.

Your hands know their splinters and knots.

Hold tight.

Say thank You.

Kiss in the dark what you cannot see.

For that old piece of wood.

Will get you across the gorge.

Where on the other side.

It will be planted.

Grafted into the Tree of Life.


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—Howard Hain

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Christ the King: The Power of Mercy

For an audio version see here:

Luke’s gospel for the Feast of Christ the King presents Jesus, not in a royal palace, but on a dark desolate hill. He’s not surrounded by cheering crowds, but by people cursing his name. He has no crown of gold, but a crown of thorns. His robe lies torn from him, heaped on the ground soaked in his blood. His throne is a cross, and over the cross is the inscription: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

The temptation is to see this scene as a failure. But listen to the gospel. One of the criminals calls out to the wretched figure hanging next to him: “Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom.” And power goes out from him. “This day you will be with me in paradise.

The thief is an interesting figure in the gospel. He has no name, nothing is known of his life or his crime. There he is, desperate, thinking all is gone. Powerless, no one would take a chance on him. Who would bother with him or think him worthwhile? Who would come close to him? Only a God who in the person of Jesus Christ would come so low as to share a cross with him.

The thief has no name, but we believer that he bears everyone’s name. In the thief we see ourselves, our desperate, poor, powerless selves. Yes, that is how much Christ loves us. He is close to the sinners of this world, to us..

 

Friday Thoughts: Daily Grind

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This day might perhaps be the most boring day of our life.

It might look a lot like yesterday.

A lot like last Friday.

A lot like last November.

Routine.

Monotony.

The daily grind.

Another peppercorn held in the mill.

Waiting its turn to be ground into dust.

Sprinkled on a paper plate.

Consumed by a ravenous world.

Never to be seen again.

Never to see the light of day.

Or perhaps we’re wrong.

Perhaps we’re chunks of crystal.

Salt from a dead sea.

Clear.

A tinge of pink.

When the light hits right.

To be sprinkled.

To preserve what’s sacred.

To give life.

Perhaps we are the salt of the earth.

Perhaps this day we shall meet some pepper.

Perhaps we’ll let God have His way.

Giving taste to what seems to so many just another day.


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—Howard Hain

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What Do You Do With Gold Coins?

Often when I find myself thanking God for all he has given me in this life: reasonably good health, such wonderful people to love and be loved by, such graces, such joys, his very presence, the gifts of his Holy Spirit, I find myself asking like so many, “What can I do to repay you for your love? How can I serve you? What do you want me to do with these gifts?”.

Today’s Gospel reading at Mass from Luke prompts me to ask these questions once again.

“A nobleman went off to a distant country

to obtain the kingship for himself and then to return.

He called ten of his servants and gave them ten gold coins

and told them, ‘Engage in trade with these until I return.’

The golden coins given to me by the Master, priceless gifts, consecrated hosts from a paten that come into my hands, golden seeds of wheat to be planted in a field– how can I share them? How do I begin?

I guess I must begin in humility, in gratitude, swept by praise to his Glory.

Psalm 150 ends the Book of Psalms appropriately with a trumpet blast, accompanied by the joyful noise of lyre, harp, strings, pipe, cymbals, wild dance and loud, loud praises to the Lord. Perhaps that is the best way to invest those golden coins of his, telling the world of his boundless Love and the joy that it brings, joining with the hosts, the elders, winged creatures, and countless saints.

Day and night, with our eyes on the One who sits on the throne, let us not stop exclaiming:

“Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God almighty,

Who was and Who is and Who is to come.” (RV 4:8)

 

 

Orlando M Hernández