Sunday after Christmas, The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
Dec. 28, John 2: 22-40

On this Sunday after Christmas and before New Year’s Day, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. This Feast was first inserted into the Latin Rite calendar in 1921 and it was transferred to its present date in 1969. This Feast is not just about the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph but about our own Holy Families also. Each of us is reminded of our duty to do our part in sanctifying our own family unit. A holy family is a happy family and a happy family produces happy people.

The word “holy” here is not to be understood in the sense that everyone in the family has a halo and walks around with folded hands praying all day long. A holy family is made up of ordinary people doing ordinary things to the best of their ability. A holy family means a whole, holistic, complete, fulfilled, unified family. It is a family that has mutual respect for one another, a family that works together, plays together, prays together and even sometimes fights and argues together. Unity comes from resolving differences and sometimes it takes a good argument to accomplish this. But when this does happen, it must happen non-judgmentally and respectfully, always keeping the dignity of self and the other in the forefront.

I believe that religion, any religion, is necessary in a family because it centers the family on God as we understand Him. As long as God is with a family, no one is going to stray too far away from the others. No one is really happy when a family is separated one from the other, when there is animosity and sometimes even hatred between the members of the family. As a priest, I often hear of family members who have not spoken to one another in years. And the one I am speaking with always regrets this terribly, which leads me to believe that the other one regrets the split also. They would like to see the rift mended and get things back the way they should be. And this is not as insurmountable a goal as they might think it to be. All it takes, in my experience, is for one of them to offer an amends to the other and the other will respond favorably. If a discussion follows the amends, remember to keep the discussion non-judgmental. The amends itself could go something like this: “If I have hurt you in any way, I deeply regret it. Will you forgive me?” And mark my words, if one has the courage to do this, the rift will end 99% of the time.

I sincerely hope that those of you who are reading this are part of a holy family, a unified, holistic, complete, fulfilled family. I hope you are happy and enjoy the company of one another and help one another when needed. If not, I know the Lord will give you the strength and courage to make an amends and bring the split to an end, whether you are the one who caused the rift or not.

On this Feast of the Holy Family let us all join in a prayer that all of our families may indeed be holy and happy and joy-filled the way they are intended to be.

Fr. Howard

 


Monday, the Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas 
Dec. 29, Luke 2: 22-35

“Lord, now let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled; my own eyes have seen the salvation which you prepared in the sight of every people, a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel.”

Let us read these words of Simeon quoted in today’s Gospel a couple of times and reflect on what they mean. For me, in a nutshell, Simeon is telling himself and us that now that the Messiah has come, everything has a better than ever chance of being OK. If I accept the one who has come, hold him in my arms, surrender to his way, truth and life, there will be happiness, joy and peace – the things we all desire – in our world and in our lives. Things are not in the hopeless mess they were in before the Son of God took on flesh to show us how to live, to show us where to find happiness. All things are now possible with his help.

This is a truly simple message. Why is it so difficult for the world to see this and accept it? What can I do to remedy this situation at least in my little corner of the world?

Fr. Howard

 


Tuesday, the Sixth Day in the Octave of Christmas
Dec. 30, Luke 2: 36-40

Anna, the Prophetess, the focus of today’s Gospel selection, was one of many prophetesses in the Scriptures. Like Simeon (Luke 2: 25-35), Anna speaks about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem. She represents the hopes and expectations of faithful and devout Jews who were at this time looking forward to the restoration of God’s rule in Israel. The birth of Jesus brings these hopes to fulfillment.

Hope means to look forward to something with reasonable confidence that it will take place. The Gospels in a number of places tell us that such and such is happening in order to fulfill what was prophesied about it happening before it happened. Hope provides fuel for our faith. Jesus fulfilled our hopes in one regard, giving us faith that he will do so in others. Fulfilled hopes are a basis for faith. I hoped for sobriety yesterday after praying in the morning for Jesus to help me stay sober and I had faith it would turn out that way because I had done the same thing the day before. And I did it again this morning and I know my hope for today will be fulfilled. We all hope for the best for our families, our children’s future, our work, our health. And we know that God is with us in our hopes. God provides for us. He has never and will never abandon us. We have seen that this is true and this gives way to our faith that my hopes today will be realized.

Lord Jesus, come to us, for all our hope is in you.

Fr. Howard

 


Wednesday, the Seventh Day of the Octave of Christmas 
Dec. 31, John 1:1-18

It is fitting that the Gospel choice for today’s Liturgy is the Prologue, the beginning, of the Gospel of St. John. We come to an end and look forward to a new beginning. Welcome to the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009. And we all wonder what this New Year will bring.

Yesterday we spoke of our hopes and I dare say we all have hopes for the New Year that unfolds tomorrow. Many of our hopes are material. We hope for the healing of the economy in our world. We hope for the well-being of our families and those who are dear to us. We hope for a better life for the poor and minorities, the elderly and the handicapped throughout the world. We hope for so much for so many.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.”

His own people did not accept him. That phrase jumps out at us from John’s Prologue. They did not accept him and many of their hopes went unfulfilled. Many did accept him, his way, truth and life, and they found great joy, happiness, and peace. This happened to me and to many of you. We rejected him, found him again though response to his grace, and with him came happiness, peace and joy.

Let our prayer, as we enter the year 2009, be that more of our world will accept the Word so that their hopes and desires may be fulfilled and a better world will be had for all.

Fr. Howard

 


Thursday, Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God
Jan. 1, Luke 2: 16-21
   

A Very Happy New Year 2009 to You All!

It is fitting that our New Year begins with a Feast dedicated to honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. Besides himself, Mary is Jesus’ greatest gift to all of us. She is our Mother and the Mother of our Nation.

When I write a reminder at the beginning of this New Year for us to be more mindful of our Blessed Mother in this year to come, I am writing this more for myself than for anyone else. By now you are all aware that I try to follow the 12 Steps of AA. These Steps speak of a Higher Power being an essential part of our lives. My thoughts turn to Jesus, my Higher Power, often throughout every “one day at a time.” I often forget Mary and yet I know she is part of the miracles of my life because when I do remember to use her as my Higher Power, it works and works well. Many years ago, I placed the pack of cigarettes I had in my pocket in front of a statue of the Blessed Virgin and asked her to help me stop smoking. I have not had a cigarette or wanted a cigarette since that moment. No patches, no pills, no gimmicks – just Mary.

A few minutes ago I opened my January copy of Magnificat and found a neat, durable holy card of our Blessed Mother. I’m going to use it as a bookmark this year in that volume so I see it often and am reminded to pray to her more often. A good New Year’s endeavor for us all.

Fr. Howard

 


Friday before Epiphany, Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen
Jan. 2, John 1: 19-28

On this Friday before the Feast of the Epiphany, the Church celebrates the Memorials of two Saints, Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen. Basil was born in Cappdocia c. 330 and Gregory was born in the same place c. 325. Basil died in 379 and Gregory in 389. They were not related except by their great friendship, and this friendship is the main reason for celebrating their Feast days on the same day, January 2.

Both of them studied together in Athens, both led a monastic life for a time, both were ordained to the Bishopric. Personality wise, they were totally different – Basil was an extrovert, a leader, an organizer and legislator. Gregory, on the other hand, was a poet and contemplative, a thinker. Both of them worked hard for the success of the early Church with their preaching, helping the poor, and fighting heresy. More can be read about their lives online.

St. Basil and St. Gregory, pray for us.

Fr. Howard


Saturday, the Most Holy Name of Jesus 
Jan. 3, John 1: 29-34

The Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus has been a part of the Liturgical calendar since the end of the 15th century. Since then it has been celebrated at many different times throughout the year. It is still being moved around the various feasts of the Christmas season, being celebrated most of the time on Jan. 2. This year it is on Jan. 3. One of the greatest promoters of this devotion was St. Bernardine of Siena (feast day, May 20), a Franciscan priest who lived from 1380 to 1444. The Holy Name of Jesus means Yahweh is Salvation and was promoted by Bernardine through the inscription of the monogram of the Holy Name, IHS: an abbreviation of the Greek name for Jesus, and the addition of the name of Jesus in the Hail Mary.

Our Gospel passage for today from St. John tells us, in the words of John the Baptist, that Jesus came to take away our sins. John then goes on to testify that Jesus is the Son of God. Indeed Jesus is worthy of our praise and worship.

On this Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, let us join together praying the words of St. Paul to the Philippians 2: 10-11: “At the name of Jesus every knee must bend, in heaven, on earth, and under the earth; every tongue should proclaim to the glory of God the Father: Jesus Christ is Lord.”

Fr. Howard

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