It was a year and a half ago that the Newman Center at Montclair State University welcomed Father Vincent Lampert as a guest lecture. Here was a parish priest from Indianapolis who for the most part is very unknown, coming to a public, state run university campus and he filled the Conference Center (over 600 students) on a Wednesday Night and had people on the edges of their seats for over 2 and a half hours.
This was no ordinary parish priest. Father Lampert is an official exorcist of the Roman Catholic Church who was trained by the Vatican at his Bishop’s request to learn how to perform this dramatic, often depicted but very rarely understood ritual of the Church. When we announced that Father Lampert was coming and what the topic was, it’s true, we had fun with the advertising and wanted it to be a bit provacative. Coming a few weeks prior to Halloween, there was already that imaginary “spooky sense” in the atmosphere with decorations of spider webs, tomb stones, witches and black cats. We billed it as “An Evening with an Exorcist” - and before we knew it, there was quite a stir about it both on and off the campus.
For the most part it seemed most people came out of curiosity. And I don’t know if I could pit a guess on what percentages this falls to, but I would say a majority came in thinking “This isn’t really real, right? We don’t actually believe the devil possesses people — That there’s evil operating in the world?”
Father Lampert would most definitely disagree with those notions, not simply because of what the Church and the scriptures teach - but by his own personal experiences. Witnessing some incredibly dramatic (and for some in the audience, terrifying) things as he has tends to make you more definitive about things like the presence and activity of evil in the world.
And while he did share these experiences with us: like seeing levitations, speaking in strange languages and super human strength – one of the major things he wanted people to walk away from the lecture wasn’t just that exorcisms aren’t simply the stuff of the movies and fiction - but that the devil is real. The evil one is real. And while “demonic possession” is very, very, very rare (I think that he said something along the lines of out of 100 calls he receives asking for advice, 99 won’t be demonic possession) the presence and activity of the evil one is much more common, much less dramatic - subtle even, as the evil one doesn’t need to do great and spectacular things. If the main goal of the evil one is to cause division among human beings, to cause division within ourselves so that we find ourselves conflicted falling short of being who we’re called to be; to ultimately desiring to cause separation from the Heavenly Father and we his sons and daughters– who became such through Jesus Christ – then the devil doesn’t need to become overly dramatic in causing such things to happen.
We can see demons all around us – Roaming our world not so much with red pitch-forks and horns, but in much more real and destructive ways:
-People who are suffering from a demonic possession by their addictions to alcohol, or drugs blinding them to the pain they are in and causing those around them. . .
- People who succumb to temptations by the demons of lust, being trapped by pornography, giving into those distorted desires causing them to have pre-marital sex or affairs...
- There are demons that mask themselves as something good but underneath reveal themselves to be quite different - like a government sponsored health-care bill which was presented on the surface as a way of helping the poor and suffering, but has revealed itself in the last couple of weeks to be attacking our very faith - demanding that Catholic health care would violate our own religious beliefs and give out contraceptives and abortifacients – or else face fines or other punishments. Sorry if this offends some, it offends me, and should offend all of us -whether you believe what our Church teaches on this issue or struggle with it...
- There are demons who in the forms of celebrity and entertainment mock our religious beliefs, mock our convictions.
- There are demons of greed and materialism that cause people, institutions even nations to have uncontrollable appetites and will do anything, mis use, abuse and trample of those who stand in the way of those pursuits...
- There are demons of laziness and boredom - the hours we can waste being lulled by the radiation screens of our TV’s, computers, phones that make us zombie like. (If you doubt this one, see how well we react when “the cable goes out” or there’s a power failure... )
- and there’s so many personal demons that people suffer from, often times in silence, afraid, embarrassed and in real pain...
The thing is we’ve gotten so cautious not to speak of these things. It’s not politically correct. People’s sensitivities might be offended. You might panic individuals and “turn them off” to religion. Yet as Father Lampert said in his lecture – if there’s no evil in the world, then there’s no need for Jesus, is there? Jesus simply becomes a nice moral teacher, a guy who said some really nice things that make for nice bumper stickers and gives us an excuse to have parties and gatherings for his birthday.
We as Catholic-Christians need to realize the reality of this evil enemy we face who comes to destroy. But not getting overwhelmed by fear (which is one of the devil’s greatest tools) but in trust, in confidence, in believing in the one who speaks with authority: this Jesus of Nazareth who even the demons know who he is – the Holy One of God.
Jesus continues to come casting those demons out who cause us to suffer. The Sacrament of Reconciliation – yes, confession – is one of the most tremendous gifts we should treasure. We have an opportunity to take responsibility for the times I’ve allowed the demons to run free in my life and hear Jesus’ words of forgiveness said directly and personally to us through a priest and those sins are instantly gone. We have an opportunity to receive Jesus body and blood, the only food that can nourish us, strengthen us in these spiritual battles... Only the devil could twist us so much that so few would utilize these Sacred gifts. Someone once said “people go and confess to Oprah or Dr. Phil, and thousands tune in to watch it... and after the show ends and the credits role, those sins and demons remain.
The day after the exorcist left our campus, there was an inter-faith conversation that one of our professors from the Religion and Philosophy department runs on a weekly basis and she asked students their perceptions - what struck them in the 2 and a half hour presentation. I was expecting that they would share some of the dramatic stories Father had shared with them or some of the interesting and various questions that were asked by the audience. But the first young lady, who wasn’t Catholic, spoke really surprised me in a good way. She said “What struck me? This guy had seen all of this crazy stuff and he just wasn’t scared. And when he said ‘What do I have to fear? Jesus is already victorious over all of this, so there’s nothing to be afraid of’ I really believed him.”
For those of us who gather here today, those same questions of faith are presented to us - “What do we have to fear?” Do we believe Jesus is victorious over evil? Even more important though is the question that precedes that, Do we recognize the evil that is in our midst... and want it driven out?
Here’s my homily for the THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - January 22, 2012 - the readings can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/012212.cfm . Thanks as always for your comments and feedback - they are really appreciated. Please keep all of us, especially our students in your prayers. I forget sometimes how hard it is for them to truly live the Gospel message in this crazy world of ours... Fr. Jim
I’ve lost track of how many people have sent me an email or facebook msg or asked if I’ve seen the You Tube Video titled “Why I hate religion but I love Jesus.” It was made by a young man named Jefferson Bethke. About a week and a half ago when I first watched it, about 3 million people had done so as well. To see how its gone “viral” with it appearing on facebook walls, twitter tweets - As of Thursday night over 15 million people had seen it – that tells you not only the power of the internet and social media, but that obviously the young man has sparked a lot of people’s interest and what he says in the video resonates for some.
In the 3-4 minutes that the video runs, with some clever editing, you hear Jefferson’s rap about his take on the difference between Jesus and religion. And it’s obvious from the tone that he’s indicting most of us Christians of falling into the category he claims is “false religion.” Jefferson argues that: In the scriptures Jesus received the most opposition from the most religious people of his day. At it’s core Jesus' gospel and the good news of the Cross is in pure opposition to self-righteousness/self-justification. Religion is man centered, Jesus is God-centered. This poem highlights my journey to discover this truth. Religion either ends in pride or despair. Pride because you make a list and can do it and act better than everyone, or despair because you can’t do your own list of rules and feel “not good enough” for God. With Jesus though you have humble confident joy because He represents you, you don’t represent yourself and His sacrifice is perfect putting us in perfect standing with God!
Reading that and seeing the video, there are things I could agree with. Are there hypocrites in the Church? Well I know I’ve been guilty of hypocrisy so there’s one... Can we be lazy about living our faith? Again, I know I’ve confessed that as well, so sadly I validate another claim of his. And that some fall into pride or despair through the words and deeds of people who claim to be “religious”- I’ve met more than a few that definitely have suffered from those conditions.
And statistically we know that combining all the different denominations, Christianity remains the overwhelming majority religion in the United States, yet for weeks we’ve witnessed that one football player - Tim Tebow makes headlines for being one of the very few who publicly gives thanks and praise to God for the gifts and blessings in His life – that’s how rare it is. And there’s plenty of other examples that you can point to debating “how Christian really is this place we call home?” So Jefferson has a point that religious Christians aren’t doing a great job in witnessing to their faith in the world.
But he’s missing the boat on a whole lot of things as he dismisses “religion” in his love for Christ. And what’s severely troubling is how many will simply buy into this “truth” because of clever rhymes and editing.
Discovering the truth takes more than just clicking a video and being swept along with the popularity it has received. We believe that “The truth” is embodied in the person of Jesus Christ. And in the Gospel we just heard, we see how this person begins forming a religion. Calling these first men to leave their nets, their jobs; leave their homes and families and make a radical decision to follow Him.
Will these men perfectly follow Christ? Not by a long shot. Would there be hypocrisy and self-righteousness among them as they journeyed along with Christ? Absolutely. James and John would be jockeying to see who Jesus liked best. Simon Peter would betray him. And the list of failures (sadly) goes on... Yet Jesus calls these imperfect men to be his first apostles. And he would go further and call Peter the “rock” on which he would build His Church. He prepared them for when he would Ascend to His Father telling the 12 to gather together in His name, eating and drinking the gift of Himself in His Body and Blood under the appearances of Bread and Wine. Empowering them with His Spirit to offer forgiveness – a gift he knew all of them, and all of us – would need over and over again throughout our lives. He would commission them to go out and spread this Good News that God has come to us and remains among us. That he remains very much present in the “Church” promising that where “two or more gather in my Name, there I am in their midst.” Commanding us at the Last Supper to come together in this way, to eat His Flesh and Drink His Blood “in remembrance of me.”
The sad thing for me watching this video and seeing the comments of many who have "liked" it is that in "throwing the baby out with the bath water" they miss a stunning reality: that the only way people have come to know Jesus from generation to generation has been through religion-- namely the Catholic Church. Even though the history of the Church has more than its share of blemishes and low points, it's in this religion being alive and in our humble submission to His call, that Jesus continues to be made known. It's in the Church that we meet Him who first loved us. It's in the Church that the voice of Christ is calling out to us today just as Jesus did over 2,000 years ago to those first imperfect men who dropped their nets that day inviting us to believe “THIS IS THE TIME OF FULFILLMENT - THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS AT HAND - REPENT & BELIEVE IN THE GOSPEL.” It's in the Church that we find direction to love Christ in both word and deed.
To be honest, it's easy for many of us to say we love someone or something without that word meaning a whole lot. For instance, we have McDonalds telling us "I'm loving it" about their Big Macs. But I wouldn't exactly lay down my life for McDonalds or the Big Mac...although I might be shortening it as I eat one! But the tangible way we show our love for Jesus is by following, to the best of our ability, the example in today's Gospel-- the example of the men who heard Jesus' words, inviting them to come after Him and followed Him. By following in their footsteps, I leave the life I knew and I thought I loved in exchange for the life He is calling me to. And, in doing so, I realize I’ve come to Love both Him and the religion He founded.
---> For a great video that was made in response to the original "Youtube" sensation, check out: http://vimeo.com/35046708
As always, thanks for stopping by and reading - your feedback and comments - for sharing the blog with others.... I’m grateful for all your support! Fr. Jim
There was a commercial on the other night for a show called “The Biggest Loser.” I’ve never seen the show, but just from the commercials you can figure out what it’s about - a reality show where a group of people chronicle their attempts to lose weight. But more than that, change their lives, themselves... Viewing the transformation of who “they are” to who “they will be.”
Television presents these various shows in neat-compact hour long 22 episode season. For most of us, we know that journey is far less scripted, or completed in one season. Whether it’s weight loss or other aspects of our lives. For example, the other day I was complaining to my spiritual director about the “state of my soul.” Here it was just a few days before the end of winter break... all of our students will be returning tonight and tomorrow. I had a few weeks – not with nothing to do as some of my friends kid me (well hopefully they’re kidding) – but some time where the pace isn’t as demanding, where the schedule is not as hectic as it is in session. It seemed an opportune time for me to accomplish some things that I always want, desire to do but in the every day, crazy pace of the “regular schedule” seems impossible:
-Like sitting down and reading - I have a stack of books that I’ve wanted to read for sometime... I pulled three or four of them off my book shelf and had them on a coffee table at the beginning of break. They got moved around a lot during these few weeks, but remained unopened and went back on the shelf till May when I’ll try again...
-Like sending Christmas cards (I actually bought the things and intended to write something meaningful to friends and family I haven’t seen in awhile – even if they weren’t done in time for Christmas, I figured I would use the “Liturgical Season” and do them by the Epiphany... here they are, still in their sealed box)...
-and – Like growing spiritually – There were a few things that I wanted to start doing that I feel the Lord has put on my heart for some time. Things I wanted to start to work on – that again, these few weeks with some more flexible time would have been an opportune time to really delve into. And sadly, like the books that remained unopened; and cards that went unsent – this wasn’t accomplished either.
There’s a whole list of reasons / excuses I can give. Some legitimate, some, not so much so... And I know I’m not being overly critical of myself when I just said to my spiritual director, completely exasperated – that it’s the same thing over and over – I feel stuck in that space between the guy that I am and the guy I want to be....
Frankly it stinks. And I know I’m not the first person to feel or experience that– whether it’s the person who made that new year’s resolution and by January 16th has already thrown in the towel on it and given up in frustration. Or the guy who leaves the confessional after avoiding it for so long and feels the power of Jesus’ love and forgiveness and the grace of that moment and sincerely believes that they will “go and sin no more” only to find those temptations re-emerging and giving into them once again. How often do we find ourselves living in that space between “who we are” and “who we want to be?” It can be discouraging.
As I was reflecting (or bemoaning) on my less than productive Christmas break - this reality jumped out in today’s Gospel. As Jesus is starting to call His first apostles, the guys who will be His “right hand” men, as He looks at the one who is to be “the Rock” of the Church; the one who will be our very first Pope - Jesus says – “You are Simon the son of John – you will be called Cephas (...Peter)” How interesting to think that Peter would find himself in the same spot as all of us – living in that space between who you are and who you will be.
Because so often we who look to Peter as “St. Peter” as that first Pope can in our minds fast forward from this scene and in a sense imagine this encounter changed everything for Simon Peter. That as Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God utters those words; that as Simon experiences this intimate, encounter where his very name has been changed, which in scriptures identifies that God has called this person to something of newer, greater, divinely charged significance to Peter – the grace, the sheer awesomeness of this would be something like that cartoon “transformers” that Simon would leave behind the “you are” of Simon and simply by Jesus’ word of “you will be” morph into this super Apostle Peter who would defend Jesus, follow Him perfectly. That Peter would be everything you’d expect from a right-hand man... from someone you count on to be that rock that you would build the Church on.
Yet that was far from the reality of things. Throughout the Gospels Peter is often emotional. We find instances where he speaks without thinking first. Incidents where his commitment, his dedication, his loyalty, his fidelity would waver – most spectacularly during Jesus’ Passion where Peter very much resorted back to Simon as he claimed I don’t know him...
Even in the Acts of the Apostles – after Peter has seen, touched, experienced Jesus being Resurrected from the dead; after He witnessed that glorious Ascension of Jesus into heaven; after he received the power of the Holy Spirit coming upon him and the others in the Upper Room at that first Pentecost – his fears would at times re emerge. His doubts and anxieties would take over and he would find that - despite all that had happened – he too was still living in that space between “you are” and “you will be.”
But the great hope for us who can relate to living in this space as well is realizing that for Simon Peter, even with his failures - the vision never disappeared. That voice calling him to become a man greater than who he was never ceased calling him to that... That voice would offer words of encouragement. That voice would speak words of forgiveness. That voice would remind him over and over that when he is “beholding the Lamb of God” THEN he can become Peter (and on the opposite is true as well, when he forgets that, he would be Simon) Jesus who knows our humanity meets Simon Peter in this “space in between” - even utilizing his weaknesses so that Simon won’t forget that the desire he has to become “Peter” can only take place when he allows Jesus to set the vision.
The same is true for us who find ourselves struggling between who we are and who we are called to be. For each of us, it can be so easy to give into the temptation to despair, to give up on ourselves, to tune out that voice of Christ believing that as frustrated as we are that we struggle, that we make mistakes, that we are stuck in this place between the men and women we are and who we want to be, who we’re called to be – that Christ must be as frustrated as well.
Yet the good news is that he meets us in this space. If we can hear the words of John the Baptist and “behold the Lamb of God” – behold Christ, we will find he’s not looking at us with disappointment that we’ve made our mistakes, that we haven’t fully taken advantage of the gifts we’ve been endowed with… He reminds us that the desire to utilize them, the vision of the men and women who we “will be” comes from Him as well. May we learn as Simon Peter did that it is in our humble submission to Jesus Christ that he can take us out of our own 'in-between' places, and transform us from who we are to who we will become.
Many thanks to all of you who visit this blog, read and “share” these homilies – and for all of your feedback, comments. It’s humbling and much appreciated - God Bless, Fr. Jim
On Friday, 12 January, 2007, a young man entered the Metro station in the heart of Washington, DC shortly before 8am. Casually dressed and carrying a violin case, he stopped took out his violin, threw a dollar into his opened case, and started playing classical music. He began with six very difficult, yet beautiful, pieces by J.S. Bach. On a normal weekday, approximately 2000 people pass through that station between 8-9am, most on their way to work. It took three minutes before anyone even noticed him. A middle-aged man stopped briefly and hurried on. 4 minutes after that a woman threw a dollar into the carrying case, but didn’t stop. Ten minutes after that a three year old boy tried to stop and listen but was dragged away by his mother.
After 45 minutes of playing, a total of six people had stopped and listened but only for a brief time. The young musician collected a total of $32. After he had been playing continuously for an hour, in which easily over 1000 people had passed by, he stopped playing. No one noticed, no one applauded and none gave any form of recognition or appreciation.
This mysterious street musician actually turned out to be a world renown concert violinist named Joshua Bell and the Bach pieces he played are some of the most intricate pieces of music ever written. He played his Metro “concert” on a Stradivarius violin which is worth $3.5 million dollars. Amazingly, three days prior, he had played a sold out concert at Boston’s Symphony Hall where the average ticket price was $100.
Bell’s gig as a street musician was part of a social experiment about concept, perception and priorities conducted and videotaped by The Washington Post. The following three questions were at the heart of the study: In a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?; Do we stop to appreciate it?; Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context? The results of that study were published by the Post in an article entitled Pearls Before Breakfast.
Today we celebrate one the last feasts of the Christmas season. It’s ironic that most of the world has already moved on and “dropped” Christmas. Yet, today’s feast is an essential part of this season (and in some parts of the world is celebrated even greater than Christmas day itself) - the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord. The very word epiphany in Greek means appearance or manifestation and refers to the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, represented by the wise-men we just heard about in the Gospel. Guided by the appearance of a star, these Magi traveled a great distance in search of the newborn baby who was foretold to be the King of the Jews. And as we just heard, after asking for King Herod’s help, they found the baby Jesus in that lowly stable with his parents. They bowed to pay Him homage and offered Him three precious gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
In some ways you can see some parallels between the Feast of the Epiphany and that that social experiment in the train station. In a common stable, at an unexpected time and in an unexpected context, Jesus Christ was born. The Word of God was made flesh, – God, the very source of all that is Good, True and Beautiful, was made manifest. And yet, very few took notice of it, let alone appreciated it. Not just in his birth and infancy, but throughout Jesus’ life. The Gospels show throughout Jesus’ ministry and teaching, even in the face of spectacular miracles how the Scribes and Pharisees along with a vast majority of people of that time and era would miss this, miss Him. In the Christmas commemorations we know that that there were some who “got it”: certainly Mary and Joseph did; the shepherds got it, as did these Wisemen. Even Herod got it to a certain extent, sadly not with appreciation but rather with fear and jealousy. But for the many, this “Glory of the Lord” that was shining was missed. Which is surprising. In the first reading we heard how Isaiah had predicted this dawn of light a few hundred years earlier, so the people should have been looking for it, expecting it, anticipating it... But for the most part, people were simply focused on their own concerns and the usual tasks of everyday life to take notice of the true beauty that was radiating right there in their midst. Kind of like thousands of people missing a world renowned musician playing beautiful music as they race to catch a subway train on a typical Friday morning.
In our celebration of the Epiphany today we are reminded of the need to seek Christ. To not take it for granted that our being here means we’ve “found him.” Because too often we can fall into that mind set and limit Jesus’ presence and activity. We can ignore His presence right here in our midst, in our own lives. We come together at Mass and know that He continues to make Himself manifest to us in the Eucharist, through the transformation of a small wafer of bread and a bit of wine into His own Body and Blood. That’s a miraculous, difficult to comprehend mystery for us to fully take in. And sadly, sometimes we don’t even fully appreciate the radiance of this beauty that we receive on a regular basis.
But what about beyond these walls, beyond this Eucharist? How often do we recognize how Jesus continues to make Himself manifest in our daily lives? In our world that’s strangely become closer in terms of communication, we’re becoming more isolated. And lump people into these categories that allows us to remain indifferent to one another. Yet what if we stopped and thought for a moment that all the people I encounter, all of the different relationships, situations and experiences are ways that Jesus is revealing his presence to us? Calling us out of ourselves, to stretch ourselves... So yes, that annoying co-worker perhaps is an opportunity for us to be charitable and patient (recognizing how Jesus is incredibly charitable and patient with us). That sick person who “yeah I’ve been meaning to reach out to,” is that face of the suffering Christ who longs for our compassion. Jesus manifests Himself in the people and circumstances of our everyday life, yet, so often we fail to see Him in those ordinary and sometimes unexpected contexts?
This past Friday, Pope Benedict in his homily for the Epiphany put it like this:
Our heart is restless for God and remains so... But not only are we restless for God: God’s heart is restless for us. God is waiting for us. He is looking for us. He knows no rest either until he finds us. God’s heart is restless, and that is why he set out on the path towards us – to Bethlehem, to Calvary, from Jerusalem to Galilee and on to the very ends of the earth. God is restless for us, he looks out for people willing to “catch” his unrest, his passion for us, people who carry within them the searching of their own hearts and at the same time open themselves to be touched by God’s search for us.” (Beautiful, huh???)
Thinking about Joshua Bell in that train station that morning, I can pretty much guarantee I would have walked past him as he performed his beautiful music (at 8 in the morning, most likely I would be searching a Dunkin Donuts for coffee than anything else). And like the thousands of others who passed by, it would have been a true loss not to take in such a gift. With the feast of the Epiphany, we reaffirm this great mystery of our faith – this glorious message that God has come to us, that God comes to seek us, that He continues to make himself manifest to us. Are we too busy to notice it?
Many thanks as always for readings and your feedback and comments. I'm astounded by the "stats" for this past year, with this past month being well over 4,000 people visiting this blogsite from all over the world. I pray that the Lord is able to use me as a tool to touch your hearts with His amazing Love. God Bless you and yours with much Health and Happiness in the year to come! Fr Jim
One of the hardest things for us as human beings to do in life can be letting go of old hurts. How often have we heard someone say, or even said ourselves "What you did to me and my family, or my friends I cannot forgive or forget ...” Usually those things aren’t over arbitrary squabbles... they come from a place of real pain and hurt. And this challenge isn’t just on a person to person level. With some distance and objectivity, sometimes you can see how groups of people, even countries can hold onto past grievances with the desire that “maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow... but someday, they will pay for this.” When it comes to our being wronged, it is amazing how memories can go back decades, even centuries, old and looking for revenge.
The anger, the bitterness, the vile that we can allow ourselves to hold onto, which at first is something unpleasant; in time becomes part of who we are and in a sense we grow comfortable to it in a sense we allow it to change who we are.
Rather than trying to conceive of another “new years resolution” the scriptures today invite us to look at New Years Day and ask ourselves an important question. What is it that we’re holding onto in our hearts?
Because, even though as you go passed Malls and see Christmas items reduced to 75% off and Valentines Day displays popping up (seriously – CVS pharmacy, Upper Montclair, December 26th, saw it myself) as trees are discarded and Christmas music disappears from airwaves, the Church is still basking in the wonder of this Feast. We are still trying to unpack the wonder of the magnitude of this great Christmas gift God the Father has bestowed on us -the gift of His Son Jesus Christ. And in the midst of this time where we contemplate his humble, meager beginnings, our gaze today goes to Mary, the Mother of God. And in this feast, one of the lines that jumps out from the Gospel is that all of these Amazing things that have been occurring in the birth of Jesus that we’ve been celebrating – we just heard that Mary kept all these things in her heart.
Notice that it was these joyous, miraculous wondrous things she kept in her heart. There’s no mention of her remembering the check-in guy at the Inn who wouldn’t let a pregnant woman ready to give birth a place to stay for the night. We don’t hear Mary complaining that the best this guy Joseph can do is find this smelly place where animals are kept for her firstborn child to be born. She’s not wondering who will get even with those who worked with diabolical fervor to try to destroy this child (and killed thousands of other innocents in the attempt to do so). Mary treasures the amazing things – she allows those memories to fill her heart and which leaves no room for the disappointments, angers and hurts. With that, Mary’s soul simply, beautifully and eternally glorifies and praises God.
What about you and I? Here on this New Year, we have yet another opportunity, another chance to start over again (it seems we get so many of them, doesn’t it?) Are we willing to let go of whatever it is that hurts, that angers, that we continue to feed? Mary, the Mother of God – and our mother gives us a parental example, a pattern to follow which can change our entire outlook of the year that has past and all that is to come. To treasure, to embrace, to keep in our hearts all of the glorious ways our God is actively blessing us. In doing that, we are called to forgive those who have "sinned" against us and not allow that to have any more space in our lives. In making her example our reality we find that we can truly give birth to Christ in our lives, in our families, in our workplace, in our world...