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Contents: Volume 2 - CHRISTMAS (B)
- December 25, 2020


 

  Christmas

  (B)

   2020

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. --

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

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"My Christmas Reflection"

Aren't we blessed that a Savior who chose to be born in a stable still chooses to come to us again no matter what our circumstances!

Christmas Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Christmas 2020

The Vigil: Isaiah 62:1-5; Responsorial Psalm 89; Acts of Apostles 13:16-17 & 22-25’ Gospel Acclamation "Tomorrow the wickedness of the earth will be destroyed: the Savior of the world will reign over us."; Matthew 1:1-25

Mass During the Night: Isaiah 9:1-6; Responsorial Psalm 96; Titus 2:11-14; Gospel Acclamation Luke 2:10-11; Luke 1:1-14

Mass During the Day: Isaiah 52:7-10; Responsorial Psalm 98; Hebrews 1:1-6; Gospel Acclamation "A holy day has dawned upon us. Come, you nations, and adore the Lord. For today a great light has come upon the earth."; John 1:1-18


There are three individual liturgies of the Word for Christmas: Vigil of Christmas, Mass During the Night, and Mass During the Day. Each Mass proclaims the first reading from the Prophet Isaiah. The Isaiah readings for the Vigil and Mass During the Day are from the third segment of Isaiah. This third segment of Isaiah are the prophecies that celebrate the liberation of the Jews from their Babylonian Captivity. It sings about the joy of captives freed and the hope of these freed people as they began the several caravans returning to their homeland. The vast majority of these liberated people had never seen Jerusalem or the temple. The captivity has lasted more than one generation. These returnees had learned of Jerusalem and the Temple in the stories and writings of their ancestors. They looked to see with their own eyes the city resplendent on the hill of Zion. On the highest point was the Temple, the dwelling place of God among the nation. These prophecies are of hope. When these peoples entered that ancient city, they discovered ruin and a huge amount of effort, courage, and work lay before them. Pretty much like our world in this our time. We see the hope placed in our hearts and minds by the Scriptures and realize it is us who are the hands and minds that will rebuild our world.

The Mass During the Night takes the reading from Isaiah’s prophecy during the period of conflict that preceded the Babylonian siege and destruction of Jerusalem.

There is much in that reading that reflects our current experiences. Our spirits are attached by lots of darkness, violence, conspiracy stories, and social and economic conditions that rob us of hope. Conspiracies are rampant and mislead many of us to the embrace the goals of thieves and charlatans who divide us into warring partisan camps. In the days first Isaiah, three political factions divided citizens by choice Egypt, Assyria, or Babylon as their savior, their ally against the others. Isaiah as did the prophet Jeremiah insisted that only God would or could save the nation. It was as though truth, the common good of the nation, and faith in God had given way to a search for power, wealth, and a prominent place among other nations. The steady destruction of that Nation of the Jews came about through the manipulations of truth by the various factions. The disunity of the nation made it a quiet victim to the wars of Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon. We can recognize some of these same tendencies in our time, in our nation. Truth, integrity, and faith in moral principles have surrendered in our world to political intrigue, conspiracy theories, and a badly managed pandemic. These are destroying thriving economic, educational, and social life. For our nation and the world, this is truly a time of great darkness. All persons of good-will long for a great light. The heart of nations hurt for peace, unity, and a return to a normalcy encourages a thriving economy, security for the nations, a leadership that seeks first the common good which rejects the idolatry of power, wealth, and influence. For that reason, I think the liturgy of the Word for Mass During the Night is a clear choice for this reflection this Christmas. It speaks to our hearts of hope, of light to bring us to freedom, peace, joy, and unity that comes from faith.

The second readings for all three Masses are from the Christian Scriptures. The Vigil reading is from the Acts of the Apostles. It is a recounting of Paul’s preaching in Antioch. Paul speaks of God’s choice of David as king. Through the prophet Nathan, God promised David’s leadership would never cease. The birth of Jesus from the ancient house of David is the fulfillment of that promise. Jesus is the savior whose birth is in accord with God’s promise. The Mass at Night’s second reading is from Paul’s letter to Titus. He writes of repentance, a change of heart because of the appearance of the Messiah. That appearance is the beginning of deliverance from lawlessness. Law is always about relationships. Lawlessness in Paul’s writings is the opposite of the Law of Love. Repentance is a returning to the revelation made visible by the birth of the Lord. In the birth and life of Jesus, we come to know, to realize, and to practice the law of love. That law is the ultimate way of living the truth that is the Christ. In living according to that law there comes peace, joy, and harmony with the forces of nature.

The second reading in Mass during the day is from the Letter to the Hebrews. That letter is written to the Hebrews who are familiar with the rituals of Temple worship. Its images are those of the temple building and especially the Holy of Holies into which the High Priest once a year entered in with the blood of sacrifice. The Holy of Holies was God’s seat within the nation. This sacrifice was meant to be sacramental, making God present to the people and the people to God. Jesus, the God born into this world as Man, is both the sacrifice and the high priest standing in for the people. Through his blood, there is a union created between God and God’s creation that is beyond the relationship of creator to creature. It is a union of life, for blood is viewed as the source of life to the body. The new relationship, the new covenant creates a relationship of Father to Child, the child being all of us. We are drawn into the circle of God’s personal family. Perhaps that’s why Christmas is such an occasion of family interaction. We gather at table as in a communion sacrifice, sharing with one another the fruits of our labor, the caring of our love, and the hopes for life and freedom for our siblings, parents, and ancestors.

The gospel for the Vigil Mass is a listing of the credentials of Jesus as a human by naming notable ancestors. The number of progenitors listed includes three named women: Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth. Tamar was the mother of Perez and Zerah by her father-in-law Judah. Rahab was the Jericho businesswoman – dealing in flax for making of linen – who saved the spies sent to Jericho by Joshua. Ruth was the foreigner who married the Jew Boaz in the time of great drought and distress. The fourth woman listed is Mary, the mother of Jesus. The genealogy proves that Jesus is heir to the experiences, the revelations received, the Law of Moses, and the life experiences of a thousand years of Hebrew relationship with God.

The Mass at Night’s gospel is the beautiful nativity scene presented by Luke. Jesus is born of Mary in a scene of poverty. Even the very first to see him are shepherds who were keeping watch. How fitting they were watchers, those who scanned the horizons for friend and foe, beasts of prey and thieves. Each Christmas, we too are watchers, looking for the Lord among our families, church members, and communities. He is here with us through them and through us.

The gospel for the Mass During the Day is from the beginning of John’s gospel. This prologue to John’s gospel tells the whole of the story of God’s intervention in his creation. Creation is raised to new heights, to a new beginning, to the start of a new creation. The first chapters of John’s gospel are structured as seven days of a new creation – the first day being the miracle at Canna. Through Mary’s intervention Jesus gives new order to ordinary water – wash water set aside for cleansing hands and feet. No longer was this mere water after Jesus intervenes. Recall, the first verses of Genesis reference to water in a state of chaos. Before God divides the water into under the earth, on the earth, and above the earth, it is chaos, turmoil, destructive. After God’s division, the water give life to barren ground, nourishing plants. This water of Canna, through the presence and the work of Jesus, becomes the finest of wines. This new creation of the Incarnated Son of God – this God/Man – is a prophecy of sorts. This savior to us all – globally, no one, no nation, no race, no gender, no arbitrary classification is excluded – makes possible a life that is like water transformed into the finest wine. What a beautiful thought to carry us into family celebrations!! What a way to heal our brokenness in this difficult time.

Those are the readings. I have included the references in the heading for each of the masses and their alternatives. Moments stolen from family activities might be well spend in opening the Scriptures and discovering there meaning and purpose to the difficulties of our time in the light of the Light to the World.

In reflecting on the Mass during the night, we are struck by the hope in the prophecy of Isaiah. Things are really dark just now for many of us. Some deny everything and add to the darkness by rejecting what is true and real. Despite denials, very many extend helping hands – little signs of love and concern. Jesus did this to everyone he met. Anyone in need was welcomed: those hurt were his friends: anyone obsessed or addicted were encouraged and strengthened. The hungry were fed with loaves and fishes or at that last meal, with the Body and the Blood that transforms us into what we receive. We see heroes among us, offering their lives for the health and life of the disease. That is what we see from so many now, in this most dark of times. We see people wearing masks not only for their own safety, but for the safety of others. We see many bringing food to charity pantries. We see medical professionals working double and triple shifts to care for the sick. We see those same professionals holding hands of those dying alone, holding up cell phones for a last look, a last goodbye. They offer comfort in a time of terrible discomfort. They seek to heal not only the body, but also the spirits of not only those afflicted but all the rest as well. Their witness to the Birth of this child, this God/Man has the power to lift up the world in its darkness to see a dawning light of a new era, of a new chance to be saved by the Loving Kindness of our Father. The hearts of so many are full and brimming over with care and concern for others.

Of course, there still remain those living in darkness and gloom, pursuing their own false gods, rejecting the needs of others. Even the overwhelming goodness of so many does not overcome, put to an end the selfishness of some who seek power and wealth more than peace and good will. We should welcome this baby in Bethlehem as the source and energy needed to transform us in our weaknesses and to confirm us in our strengths. As Paul tells us, we must let go of the lawlessness of the world and enter into the love that is the message and the truth of the baby Jesus. Let peace and joy dwell within families and extend to neighborhoods, to work, to the halls of governance and industry. May the trumpets of angels rouse us to living vibrant, full, and loving lives. May we look upon this gift of the Father with heart overflowing with love for the other.

In all this, in all this warmth and peace seeking and good will we ought to remember that we are the living, striving, working hands of this Baby Jesus. We also, like Mary, are pregnant with this Word of God. Let this celebration of birth be a celebration also of our rebirth into the light of Emmanuel.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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THE REASON FOR THE SEASON: CHRISTMAS 2020

Houses, shops and churches all around us are telling the Christmas story, but basically in two different versions. In our parish communities, our story is about the birth of the child Jesus in the stable, because there was no room at the inn, about his mission, about the loving and caring presence of his parents Mary and Joseph, and about the visits, first by the shepherds and their animals, and later, by the three wise ones from the East. But the brightly-lit houses and shops in our streets tell the story of Santa and Mrs Claus, their reindeer and their sleigh, packed with presents for good children. Both stories of Christmas though, even if in such different ways, share some of the same message. Christmas is about being together and being for one another. It’s about caring and sharing, love, acceptance, forgiveness, peace and joy.

We are followers of Jesus. But we live in a society where many other persons have different religious beliefs or none at all. The result is that some of our nation’s schools, out of respect for non-Christians, exclude any reference to the real reason for the season in their break-up celebrations. Beth, mother of six-year-old Nicholas, recalls what happened recently at her son’s state school.

For weeks Nicholas had been memorizing songs for what his teacher called the ‘Holiday Pageant’. His mother could not get to her son’s performance on the night since she was working, but she did get to the full-dress rehearsal the same day. She reached the school gym ten minutes early, found a spot on the floor in front of the makeshift stage, and watched each class, led by their teacher, take their places around the room, until called to the stage to sing or dance or both.

Because a couple of years ago the school had stopped even using the word ‘Christmas’ – a word, incidentally, which literally means ‘Christ-Mass’ – Beth was expecting only songs about jingle bells, elves, reindeer, Santa Claus, presents, snowflakes, fun and good cheer. So, when Nicholas’ class rose to sing a song that was announced as ‘Christmas love’, Beth could hardly believe her eyes and ears.

There on the stage her son was glowing with joy, as were all his classmates, all decked out in their fur mittens, red tops, and white snow-caps. As the class was to sing ‘C is for Christmas’, a child would hold up high the letter ‘C’. The next child would hold up ‘H is for happy’ and so on, until all the cards spelt out the complete message ‘Christmas Love’.

That was the plan, but Beth reports what actually happened:

"The performance was going smoothly until suddenly we noticed her – a small shy girl in the front row holding the letter ‘M’ upside down. She was totally unaware her letter ‘M’ appeared as a ‘W’. The audience, mainly of other school children, started giggling at the little one’s mistake. But she had no idea they were laughing at her. So, she stood tall, proudly holding up her ‘W’."

Beth goes on:

"Although many teachers tried to shush the children, the laughter continued until the last letter was raised. Then we all saw it together. A hush came over the audience, and eyes began to widen. In that instant we understood the reason we were there, and why even in the chaos and confusion, there was a good reason for all our joy and fun.

For when the last letter was held up high, the message read loud and clear: ‘CHRISTWAS LOVE!’"

He still is, we believe!

God certainly works in mysterious ways. One of those ways is influencing us to make room for others in the inn of our hearts, and especially for the many today, who, like Jesus before, are excluded, rejected, and worse. Thomas Merton has addressed its challenge to us in these words:

"His place is with those who do not belong, who are rejected by power, because they are regarded as weak, with those who are discredited, who are denied their status of persons, who are tortured, bombed and exterminated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world."

Have we noticed this? Can we help? Will we help? How might we?

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

-- Fr. John Boll


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Volume II Archive

We keep up to six articles in this archive.  The latest is always listed first.

3rd SUNDAY 2nd SUNDAY Baptism of the Lord Mary (Solemnity) HOLY FAMILY CHRISTMAS


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