Meditation is an ideal way to pray. Using God's word (Lectio Divina) allows me to hear, listen and reflect on what the Lord wants to say to me - to one of his disciples - just like He did two thousand years ago.
The best time to reflect is at the beginning of the day and for at least 15 to 30 minutes.
Prior to going to sleep, read the Mass readings for the next day and then, in the morning, reflect on the Meditation offered on this website.
I hope these daily meditations allow you to know, love and imitate the Lord in a more meaningful way.
God bless you!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Jn 1:1-18 In The End

Seventh Day within the Octave of the Nativity of the Lord
(Click here for readings)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.  What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

In the end.  This afternoon I went to visit a woman whose body is slowly coming to an end.  Her daughter spoke beautifully about her.  As I was leaving their tiny apartment, she asked me if there was anything else that needed to be done.  I told her no.  But then I added, "Stay by her side and let her know how much she means to you.  If I were dying, I would like someone to tell me I made a difference in their life, that I was a good person, and that I will be missed."

Isn't that what matters most? 

Knowing Jesus is one thing; being another Christ is another thing.  In fact, I am convinced it is the most important thing since even the devil knows who Jesus Christ is.

In the beginning.   Typically, when something comes to an end (or we complete it), something else or new begins.  Take for example a relationship.  If one ends, it is not uncommon for another to begin.  So too it is with the years. 

Goodbye 2013.  Hello 2014.

St. John's Gospel begins where the Book of Exodus ended:  "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.  What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

Life on earth is remarkable.  Its beginning and end are clearly defined.  However, what is not so well defined is who we are as individuals.  Who am I?  Do I even know?  Do I even care?  

We may think we know who we are, but we may actually find ourselves surprising ourselves from time to time, especially when we are placed under certain conditions and circumstances. 

Let's get to work.  For this reason, a new year offers everyone a wonderful opportunity to start again by chipping away at sin and putting on Christ.  As St. Paul tells us:  "Put on, a God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.  And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection" (Col 3:12-21). 

What an offer?  Who could refuse?  You might be surprised!  I, for one, find this difficult.  So I gotta get to work!

Every time (every hour and every day) I put on Christ the Lord comes back to earth! He does so through us. 

" those who did accept him he gave them power to become children of God...And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only-begotten Son, full of grace and truth."

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Lk 2:36-40 Anna, the Prophetess

Sixth Day Within The Octave of the Nativity of the Lord
(Click here for readings)

There was a prophetess, Anna,...who never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.  And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

It's that time of year again.  A day is a wonderful thing.  We wish for more when we had a good one, and are grateful it came to an end when we had a bad one. 

A year is a wonderful thing as well, and for all the same reasons as a day. 

For years the prophetess Anna fasted and prayed in the temple area.  Day in and day out she waited for the coming of the Lord.  When that day finally arrived, she did more than just pinch his little cheeks.  She let the whole world know about Him.  She openly and courageously spoke about the Lord well before John the Baptist ever said his first words. 

Advanced in age and faith.  As I approach the end of the year, I pray to God I have advanced not only in age but also in faith.  I pray to have seen not only new things but old things in a new or fresh way.  This year I can honestly say I have grown significantly in the virtues of forgiveness and compassion, especially towards sinners.  How?  By examining my own horrid sinfulness.  I have seen an old familiar face in a new way.

Anna saw the child Jesus and immediately believed.  How many more saw Him after that?  How many more came to believe after her?  Who knows.  But what we do know is that the burden of faith does not rest on God alone; it falls on the individual as well.  Ignorance of the law is not a valid excuse in a court of law.  It probably doesn't work well with God's court either.   

I need to grow.  I need to have a mind as fertile as soil if any seed of faith is to grow.  Hence, we should never end the day by being physically a day older and mentally a day younger!  Rather, we should strive to gain a day's worth of knowledge, wisdom and faith at the end of each day. 

Say a little prayer every day.  Write a little meditation every morning.  Do a little reading every night.  Examine your conscience every afternoon.  It will do the body, mind and soul a great amount of good.

Anna never left the temple, but worshipped night and day with fasting and prayer.  She lived a long life and lived happily ever after. 

Since Anna was a prophetess, I have no doubts she was trying to tell us (or teach us) something through her words and actions.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Mt 2:13-15, 19-23 Holy Family

Feast of the Holy Family
(Click here for readings)

When the Magi had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you.  Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him."

Yesterday, I had a family stop by to wish me a Merry Christmas.  I invited the family to come in and to take a look at our Christmas tree.  The children loved it.  As the children were looking around, one of them came up to me and said, "Father, I wish I had a house like yours."  Immediately I replied, "I wish I had a family like yours."

Sometimes we wish for certain things because we take for granted other things.

Examine the crèche.  Once again, the Church invites the people of God to profoundly meditate on the crèche.  Take a good look.  What do you see?  For me, I see not only a stable made out of mud and straw, but a family inside it that considers themselves blessed.  I imagine Mary saying to Joseph, "I feel so blessed to be here" and Joseph replying:  "I do too."

I wish I had a house like yours.
I wish I had a family like yours.

To me, the exterior features of this simple dwelling place are just a carefully crafted façade created to avoid capturing any dangerous person's - or VIP's - attention.   Herod was searching for the child to destroy him.  He never imagined finding a king inside a cave.

What is discernible, even if highly invisible, is the energy inside this holey house.  It is the energy that comes about when human and divine LOVE are mixed together.  It could easily be overlooked by the clumsy or materialistic observer, but never by the observant and faithful follower.   

Joseph loves Mary.  Mary loves Joseph.  They both love God.

I wish I had a house like yours.
I wish I had a family like yours.

The Holy Family.  Today is the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  Notice, the Church does not call this feast "The feast of the Perfect Family."  Thank God!  Unfortunately, far too many of us consider Joseph as being the spoiler of an otherwise perfect family.  He isn't.  Holiness has nothing to do with perfection but with replacing; that is, replacing our will with God's Will. 

Joseph is just as much a part of Christ's life as Mary is.  In fact, he is the first sinner to accept his Savior. 

What makes a family holy is not individual perfection but joining hearts and minds together to accomplish God's Holy Will.  The family that prays together sticks together. 

Our family.  Today's feast is an open invitation to all Christian families to holiness.  He wishes to invite all husbands and wives to love one another and to pray (together) for their children. If you think about it, when Jesus, Mary and Joseph spoke to and listened to one another, they were actually praying to/for/with one another!

Are you doing the same?    

From the book of Sirach:  "When [a father] prays, he is heard"  (Sir. 3:2-6).  When you speak to your spouse and children, are you praying?  Are your spouse and children listening to you?

In his beautiful letter to the Colossians, St. Paul invites all husbands and wives to "Put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another...And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection." 

I wish I had a house like yours.
I wish I had a family like yours.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Jn 20:1a, 2-8 O Come Let Us Adore Him

Feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist
(Click here for readings)

On the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, "They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we do not know where they put him."  So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb...When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there...

Yesterday we celebrated the martyrdom of St. Stephen.  Today, we celebrate the feast day of the Apostle John.  Why are we celebrating these feasts in the middle of Christmas???

St. Stephen's martyrdom is his birth.   In all honesty, St. Stephen's martyrdom is his birth into heaven.  Yesterday we did not celebrate his death; we celebrated his birth - his birth into all eternity.  Let's not forget:  the Lord came down from heaven so that we could go up to heaven.  When we die in Christ, we live with Christ.

So, the Christmas season is not interrupted; it is deepened.

St. John the Apostle.  Today's readings are just as proper to the Christmas season as they are for the Easter season.  

Peter and John ran to the tomb and found it empty.  Let's not forget what the tomb was made out of:  rock.  In other words.  The tomb is really a man made cave. 

Supposedly, the cave is where the first man was born.  "Coincidentally," it is also where the Son of Man was born.  Man encounters his master where he gave us life:  in a cave.  But the mystery runs deeper than this.  Fittingly, it is from the cave (or tomb) where the Sons of God are born into eternal life.

O come let us adore Him!

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and from his fullness we have all received" (cf. Jn 1:14, 16).

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Mt 10:17-22 Be Aware

Feast of St. Stephen, the First Martyr
(Click here for readings)

Jesus said to his disciples:  "Beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans..."

Beware.  Beware of interviews.  Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson has learned this lesson the hard way.  Or maybe he didn't. 

From what I have gathered, it sounds like GQ magazine may have intentionally set him up for "failure."  They knew before hand what his thoughts were on homosexuality.  They knew his interview would be "explosive" and "controversial" and "great for business."  He gave them what they wanted:  free publicity and a lot more money.  I wouldn't even be surprised if A&E knew about this well before the interview became public.  Money speaks, period.  And it speaks louder than anything else, including family unity.  Why haven't we heard much from Phil's family members?  I don't know. Anyways, I just read in the Huffington Post that A&E will have Phil back on the program starting in January.  Is your head spinning from all this made-up "controversy?"  Stay tuned.

A few days ago, the chiefs (not chefs) at Cracker Barrel came out strong against Phil Robertson.  They ordered the removal of some Duck Dynasty paraphernalia from all of their restaurants.  As soon as faithful customers got wind of this, they threatened a nationwide boycott of all their menu items.  Immediately, Cracker Barrel came out with the following statement:

"Dear Cracker Barrel Customer: When we made the decision to remove and evaluate certain Duck Dynasty items, we offended many of our loyal customers. Our intent was to avoid offending, but that’s just what we've done...You wrote, you called and you took to social media to express your thoughts and feelings. You flat out told us we were wrong. We listened. Today, we are putting all our Duck Dynasty products back in our stores."

Before Cracker Barrel did their about-face, employees at food chain were instructed to say the following to angry customers:  "I'm sorry you are disappointed with us.  I understand what you are saying, and I know this is important to you. What I can tell you is that we haven't recalled all of our Duck Commander merchandise and continue to offer Duck Commander products for sale." 

As the New York Daily News stated:  The talking points were boiled down to the acronym "STARS," which stands for "Sorry," "Thank you," "Action," "Recover" and "Share."

They could have simplified STAR with a dollar sign ($).  Folks, that's what it is all about.  Money speaks. 

Now if money speaks louder than values and morals, national unity and civility, then could this be the ultimate explanation for the explosive success of so many movements, including the homosexual lobby?  I think so.  Examine for example the Green Movement.  How did they become so successful?  Well, businesses are always looking for ways to differentiate themselves from others.  So now everyone is trying to be Green, including EXXON, CHEVON, SHELL and BP.  Get it?

Be aware and Beware. 

In my opinion, Phil's statements were extremely harsh and degrading.  But I don't blame him.  He's not a theologian or a minister.  He's one of two billion Christians in the world.  He is also a very wealthy business man.  Money speaks.  That's why they asked him to share his views about homosexuality. Does that make sense?  Of course not.  But money talks.   

But there is still one movement that has not caught on and most likely never will:  the Lord's movement.  Christianphobia is alive and well all around the world.  Christmas is duck season for many atheist organizations.

But what I find most disturbing about all of this is not so much the backlash surrounding Phil's comments, but the lack of a backlash from believers and non-believers on how Christianity (and Christians) are portrayed in the entertainment industry.  How do they get off insulting others without a scratch?  Turn the other cheek... Oh, that's right.

Be aware and beware.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Lk 2:1-14 The Nativity Of Our Lord

Christmas Eve 2013
Click here for readings)

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled...So all went to be enrolled...And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem...While there, the time came for Mary to have her child, and she gave birth to her first-born son.

The King of kings.  The Son's birth is as revolutionary to our understanding of God as the Copernican revolution is to our understanding of the Sun. 

I know I can be overwhelming, so today I surrender to you.  I know I can be a bit scary, so today I come to you weak and defenseless.  You are well aware I am infinite, but today I come to you small, easy to behold and to hold.  You know I am mighty; but today, I make myself vulnerable to you.

Shift happened.  And boy did it alter - jolt - our understanding of the Almighty and our relationship with Him.

What we once thought was important has changed.

"The grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us..."  (Titus 2:11-14)

Silent night.  Yesterday, Pope Francis sent out the following message:  "Christmas celebrations are often full of sound.  It would be good for us to make room for silence, to hear the voice of Love."  Where do we hear the voice of love?  In a whisper.  How do we hear it?  Intimately.  In close proximity.  Where?  In the place we first met. 

We find the Lord in a cave, where we first met.  Like the first man, the Lord too was born in a cave.  But what Jesus delivers inside the cave no man - ancient or modern - could ever deliver:  He gives us God.  Emmanuel.

The Lord was born in a time of relative stability.  Finally, there was a government - an empire - that could enroll "all the world."   The population census was what prompted Joseph to set off from Nazareth for Bethlehem.  As you can see, even the Romans had a hand in fulfilling Jewish prophecy: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel,

whose origins are from of old, from ancient times" (Micah 5:2). 

God Almighty chose a small town, a small family and a small frame.  By choosing a cave, He made Earth - his home - even smaller.

How can this be?  It is God's equivalent to Copernicus' revolution!  The Lord changed this up and made man's head spin!  God did not come from heaven to earth to make the earth spin.  He came down from heaven to earth to be a Father, a brother, a son, a friend.

Shepherds completely oblivious.  They had lots of work to do.  There was no time to waste.  Shepherds are hard working people. 

This morning I ventured out to get my haircut at Supercuts.  As I drove out there, I had a profound "awareness:"  Nothing has changed. 

Star date December 24th, 2013, Christmas Eve:  No strange activity.  All roads appear to be the same; the cars are eerily similar to those seen before.  Shops are open.  Stores are open.  Business as usual. You would never know it was Christmas! This reminds me of the first Noel. 

As I took my seat and waited to be called, I noticed there was nothing new, except for the hair stylist.  As she worked on my hair, she asked me if any family members were coming into town.  I said no.  There was a pause.  She then asked me if I was going to get together with friends over the holidays.  "I'll try," I said, "but I have to work today and tomorrow." 
"Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that.", she said.  "That's awful." 
"It's okay.", I said,  "I love what I do."  
Again, there was a pause.  Finally, she asked:
"Do you have a family?"  I replied, "No, I don't."    
That was it.  She was done.  I could sense profound sadness. 

Now her problem wasn't that she ran out of questions.  The problem was that she never imagined she was speaking to a priest.  Before I left, I told her I hoped to see her at Church today or tomorrow.  "What Church do you go to?" she asked.

"All Saints," I said, "I'm the priest." 
She smiled.

Go into the cave.  It's not enough to peek our head into the cave.  We need to throw ourselves in there to understand Him. So observe the scene.  Take it all in.  Learn from the One and only One.  Otherwise, we will miss the moment and continue doing what we have always done:  Bark up the wrong tree; live for the wrong things; chase after the wrong dreams, etc. 

St. Paul reminds us:  "Love is patient, love is kind." It is not flashy or dashy, but very simple and dignified.  It does not boast; it whispers.  It is neither pompous or arrogant, but meek and humble. 

Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those of good will.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Lk 1:57-66 The Greatest Story Ever Lived

Dec. 23rd Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent
(Click here for readings)

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son.  Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her. 

The greatest story ever lived.  "They rejoiced with her."  "All were amazed."  "Then fear came upon all..."

As we can clearly see, the unfolding of our salvation brings out a rollercoaster of emotions:  joy, amazement and fear.

Joy is a blessing.  It is not the result of a particular event or of a given moment in time.  Hence, we would be foolish to hunt for joy as we do for Easter eggs; it would be a waste of our life and time. 

Instead, we should rejoice in the Lord!  Yes, joy comes from a constant awareness of being in God's presence, a presence as normal as our daily bread.    

Today we celebrate the birth of John the Baptist, a birth as normal as any other, yet filled with God's presence and awe.  Zechariah was aware of this.  Elizabeth was too.  From the outside looking in, there is nothing to remark.  But from the inside looking out, we are overwhelmed with joy! 

How can this be?  Where there is faith, there too will be joy. 

Amazement is a blessing.  It is the acknowledgement of God's craftiness.  Every day we should be careful to be speechless (like Zechariah), in shock (like his relatives), and in wonder (like his neighbors).  There are no excuses, only pride.  From the outside looking in, there is nothing but an all too familiar scene.  But from the inside looking out, we are filled with amazement!

How can this be?  Where there is hope, there too will be amazement.

Fear is a blessing.    It is an acknowledgement of God's mighty power.  Every day we should be mindful of how we should treat our parents, our children, our brothers and sisters, our neighbors and our relatives.  There are no excuses, only sin.  From the outside looking in, there is nothing to see but a family that is powerless.  But from the inside looking out, they are only questions:  "What, them, will this child be?  For surely the hand of the Lord was with him."   

How can this be?  Where there is love, there will always be some risk.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Mt 1:18-24 Believing The Dream, Not Just The Facts.

Fourth Sunday of Advent
(Click here for readings)

When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.  Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.  Such was his intention...

T'is the Season for Reason.  They're back!!!  Our new neighbors are at it again.  Atheists around the country are inviting Christians to spend their Christmas season celebrating reason rather than the birth of the most unreasonable God, Jesus Christ!

How sad.  Imagine for a moment if everything you ever did was always for a reason.  How boring would that be?  How boring life would be!  How predictable.  How awful.  It has got to be the worst way to live life!  

Christmas can be just as awful as well, especially if it is lived as a season of reason.  Imagine for a moment if your boss gave you a Christmas gift.  Now what do you have to do?  You have to give him a gift as well!!!  T'is the season for reason!

No thanks!  If gifts are given for a reason, especially a very serious reason, then this is the worst type of Christmas EVER. 

T'is the season to be unreasonable!  At the beginning of my homily, I walked over to a gentleman and handed him a gift.  It was a rosary.  Why did I do it?  For no reason.  Why did I give it to him?  For absolutely no reason.  And when I asked the stranger if he knew why I was giving him this present, he simply shook his head and said, "I don't know."  I thought to myself, "Hm...Although there was no rhyme or reason for me to give him a rosary, maybe God had a reason."  After Mass I found out the gentleman did not know what a rosary was or even how to pray it.  So he asked a stranger if they could teach him.

For sure the congregation couldn't believe what had happened.  Even though they all saw it they never expected it.  They were definitely surprised by it.  To them it didn't make any sense.  But maybe this is what Christmas is all about.  T'is the season for being a bit unreasonable!

I have decided to give out more gifts to complete strangers.  I'm not excited about it.  It doesn't make me feel any better.  But I know this is the reason for the season. 

How can this be?  Mary couldn't believe what she was hearing, so she asked the angel, "How can this be?"  Joseph couldn't believe what he was hearing from Mary's lips.  "How can this be?" His reason told him to divorce her. But then he had a dream...and the rest is history. 

When was the last time you believed your dream?  But dreams are so crazy!  This is so unreasonable!   Yes!  And yet Joseph decided to believe more in his dream than in the brutal facts.  His decision was based on his faith in the prophets and in his experiences.  It is amazing what faith can do:  it can get us to participate in the most amazing story ever told and ever lived.

And there is nothing boring about this story or his life!

I am reminded of another person's unbelievable dream. 

Bah humbug. From A Christmas Carol...

This lunatic, in letting Scrooge's nephew out, had let two other people in.  They were portly gentlemen, pleasant to behold, and now stood, with their hats off, in Scrooge's office. 

"At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge," said the gentleman taking up his pen, "it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time.  Many thousands are in want of common comforts, sir."

"Are there no prisons?" asked Scrooge.  "Plenty of prisons," said the gentleman...
"And the Union workhouses?" demanded Scrooge.  "Are they still in operation?
"They are.  Still," returned the gentleman, "I wish I could say they were not."
..."Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course," said Scrooge.

..."A few of us are endeavoring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth.  We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices.   What shall I put you down for?"
"Nothing!" Scrooge replied.
"You wish to remain anonymous?"
"I wish to be left alone," said Scrooge.  "Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer.  I don't make merry myself at Christmas and I can't afford to make idle people merry.  I help to support the establishments I have mentioned - they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there."
"Many can't go there; and many would rather die."
"If they would rather die," said Scrooge, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.  Besides - excuse me - I don't know that."
"But you might know it," observed the gentleman.
"It is not my business," Scrooge returned.  "It's enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people's....Good afternoon, gentlemen!"....

You know what?  I hate to say it, but many people would find no fault in Scrooge's reasoning.  In fact, they would say he was being very reasonable:  I don't make merry myself at Christmas why should I make idle people merry?  "It's enough for a man to understand his own business.  Why should I interfere with other people's business?"

This is scary.  Isn't it amazing how reasonable many people can be?  Leave the poor to the poor.  They deserve what they get, especially today, with so many kids dropping out of College and getting addicted to drugs and alcohol.  The world needs a decrease in the surplus population.  Good riddance to rubbish! 

T'is the season for reason?  I don't think so.

But then Ebenezer Scrooge had a dream, and everything changed.  
So did Martin Luther King Jr. and his life and story forever changed. 

Merry Christmas, Father.  Yesterday, I went to visit a dying man who only has a few days left to live.  As I was leaving his room, he called out to me and said, "Father, if I don't see you again...Merry Christmas!"

I thought to myself:  Merry Christmas???  How can this be? 

From Pope Francis:  "The Joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus...I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty.  Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved."

All You Need Is Love.  Of course we could say that Love is the reason for the season, and that love is the ultimate reason God does what He does (and we give to others).  But if you have ever fallen in love, then you know perfectly well that lovers are crazy people who make strange faces and noises, and no sense at all. 

Which brings us back to square one. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

LK 1:39-45 I choose you.

Saturday of the Third Week of Advent
(Click here fore readings)
by Kim Elenez

Mary set out in those days and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.

Life is hard. There are so many stressful things keeping us busy and occupying our time - the commute, bills, soccer practice, ballet, work commitments, and the list goes on. We look forward to the weekend because those things tend to not effect us as much on Saturday and Sunday. On the weekend, we can decide what we want to do! Oh, but then there is the grocery shopping, soccer games, birthday parties, and the list goes on again. Before you know it, the weekend is over, and we start the week again. Step and repeat.

We don't want to admit it, but the reality is that we choose all these things. We choose to be busy. Maybe our choice is because we want a certain lifestyle or have a goal that we want to achieve. But make no mistake -- it is our choice. The Lord gave us the concept of choice for a very good reason.

Mary set out in those days and traveled to the hill country in haste

Mary knew what she was doing, and she was in a hurry to get there. Imagine it - you're this young woman, not yet married and pregnant. Oh, and an angel came to you and told you that your unborn child is God. How's that for a predicament! Mary had a lot of choices, didn't she? Get rid of the baby (the "easy" thing to do). Or keep the baby and tell your family (the "hard" thing to do.) Well, thankfully she chose the hard thing. I pray that more women will choose the hard thing. No one ever regretted having a baby. But there are thousands upon thousands who now regret not having their babies.

As for Mary, she chose purely. Then she hightailed it to her cousin's house. 

[Quick side note - those of us women who have been pregnant know that traveling "in haste" when you're pregnant is the last thing on your list. I spent 9 months getting bigger by the second (thank you, hamburgers.)]

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? 

I can imagine that when Mary walked up to Elizabeth's door and began to knock that she was nervous and scared. What will she say? Perhaps "Mary! What have you gotten yourself into?!" But, no. Elizabeth met her with joy - inside and out. For she (and John) knew that something big was happening here. 

Isn't that the case when we go to other people with our fears? We fear rejection more than anything else, because if you reject me, not only am I dealing with this challenge in my life, but now I have lost you too.

Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.

During this Advent season, think about the people you have rejected in some way over the years. Maybe even in the smallest way. Perhaps it's a friend that calls way too much, so now you avoid her calls. Or maybe it’s a co-worker who doesn't add value to the team like you want, so you have written him off. Of course, this doesn't mean you have to surround yourself with people you pity. It means you need to behave like the Lord is watching. Because He is.

The Lord calls us to love one another as we love Him.  By choosing someone who is rejected, you choose the Lord. By running to someone when you need support, you give them the opportunity to show the Lord they choose you and Him. 

This meditation was written by Kim Elenez, wife, mother and media executive in Dallas. Kim converted to Catholicism in 2012.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Lk 1:26-38 The Gifts No One Could Ever Buy

Dec. 20th (Friday of the Third Week of Advent(Click here for readings)

The angel said to Mary, "Hail, full of grace!  The Lord is with you."  But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.  Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God."

The time right before Christmas can be horrible!  Last minute shopping and shoppers can drive any sane person crazy! 

While delivering my homily this morning, I saw some pretty grumpy faces.  I thought to myself, "Boy are some people in need of some Christmas cheer or eggnog."

Why the grumpy faces?   Why the sad expressions?  Have we lost the meaning of Christmas?  If so, then it is time we put some lights not only around our Christmas trees but around our faces as well.  Lights this time of year are a reminder of the beauty within us and around us, even in times of total darkness.

Mary, you have found favor with God.  There is no doubt Mary lived in a time of great darkness: where promises looked more like dreams, and dreams turned into nightmares.  Over time, the Chosen People of God had become a dispersed and lost people.  Their nation, forsaken.

But Mary was different. 

Please do not condemn me for saying this, but there is a popular character of fiction that reminds me a lot of Mary.  Her name is Effie Trinket, the "ever-most" optimistic person in The Hunger Games saga, and the only one on earth who truly believes the odds may actually be in someone's favor!

Let me clarify something:  Mary was not ditzy.  She was brilliant.  She shined in the midst of chaos and misery.  And for this reason, she found favor with God.

But how?  What did she do?  How did she do it?  Well, we all know Mary received remarkable graces from above.  We all know she was conceived immaculately.  But for any of us to think that was all it took to explain all her glory would be a fool.  It's not enough just to win the Lottery to become famous.  It's important to do the right things with it, otherwise, we could end up infamous. 

God does not plant trees in the world.  He plants seeds.  Mary grew in God's favor. 

You have found favor with God.  Do I shine in God's eyes?  Am I pleasing to his sight?  Have I done the best I could with the graces I received?  Have I found favor with God?

While we work our way through traffic jams and red light enforced intersections, let's not forget that Christmas is all about a gift no one could ever buy:  the gift of God living among us and loving us.

This Christmas, give the gifts you can buy as well as the gifts no one could ever buy:  your faith, your hope, your love, your time, your presence, your touch, your prayers and your heart.  Give the gifts that shine in total darkness.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Lk 1:5-25 First Come, First Serve

Thursday of the Third Week of Advent
(Click here for readings)

The angel said to [Zechariah], "Do not be afraid because your prayer has been heard.  Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John.  And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord."

Your prayer has been heard.  So what exactly was Zechariah praying for?  A child?  Maybe.  But I wouldn't be surprised if most of his prayers were more like intense petitions for personal holiness.  And this is striking if we consider what is at stake.

Zechariah loved to serve the Lord.  Do I love to serve God?  Do I seek ways to please him?  Am I going out of my way to be a love gift for others? 

Do not be afraid.  What makes the Christmas season so awe-inspiring and beautiful is God's glaring lack of "reason" or sensibility in it; that is, the opposite of what most atheists demand from it.

God's descent from heaven to earth is "unreasonable," for God could easily have worked his wonders from the safe haven of heaven rather than from the frontiers of hell.  Why bother with messy humanity? 

Again, God becoming human is "unreasonable" for multiple reasons, especially the practical ones.  How more efficient the Lord would have been if he had appeared as a god rather than as a child; or appeared in the sky rather than in a manger.  How much more convincing the Lord would have been as a Roman citizen rather than a Jewish subject.

To add a few more.

The Lord could have been so much more awful and forceful if He had not have been so humble and servile.  With one finger He could have ruled the world rather than affirmed it.  With one word He could have wiped away His enemies rather than wiped their tears away.  He could have easily gone out and hunted down his enemies, one by one, rather than gone out and touched them, one by heal them.  How quickly you could have destroyed us O Lord.  Instead you chose to slowly convert us.

Oh God, you would have been just in sentencing us to death rather than dying for us.  You could have thrown the book at us, rather than opened it.  Why did you base your kingdom on love, and not on science; on ministers and not on masters?  Why not establish a court rather than a church?  Why not hand us some decrees instead of some parables?

Your prayer has been heard.  The power of prayer is found in the way it is heard:  on a first come, first serve basis: 

- "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel" (cf. Is 7:14). 
- "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Mt 11:28).   

Zechariah first came, then served, and was left speechless - surprised out of his mind.

Hence, the secret to living is found in the mystery of service and humility.  The secret to joy and success is found in the mystery of surprise. 

This Advent, come to the Lord with great humility, and experience the joy of His surprises.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Mt 1:1-17 From Advent to Christmas

Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent
(Click here for readings)

The Book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

It's a long list, with lots of weird names.  It's a struggle to read and listen to, but it is well worth it.  Do you know why?

God's graces through the ages and by name.  I laugh every time I see their commercials, but for all the reasons they don't want me to laugh.  It helps to read the small print.  Apparently, their "success" stories are made-up stories told by hired actors and actresses.  So you're telling me you couldn't find a single customer who was successful in investigating their past?  Second, their made-up stories are not so much a reflection of the past but a barrage of anachronisms.  In one commercial, a young woman finds out her great grandmother was somewhat of a black widow.  She was married once, twice, three times! 

Oh, how pathetic! 

Who are these people?  You guessed it: 

"Our mission is to help everyone discover, preserve and share their family history... We believe that most people have a fundamental desire to understand who they are and from where they came..."

Really???  I don't think so.  If Americans had a fundamental desire to know who they are and from where they came from then they have a pretty funny way of showing it.   In my opinion, rewriting history is not an appropriate manner to understand who we are and where we came from.  Calling people "medieval" when they do not agree with you is definitely not a very intellectual let alone desirable way to know who we are and where we came from.

To I say:  Good luck!   You have embarked on a Mission Impossible, for we Americans have done everything in our power to destroy and ridicule our history, our traditions and our values and morals.  Like Nazis from the past, many activists today have something like a book burning party every season.  They fan the flames of modernity by oversimplifying the past.   They keep telling us that "times are a changing" but refuse to admit it may be changing for the worse, and that maybe now might be a good place to stop or go in reverse.   

But how do you tell this to a generation of people who not only believe they come from the "greatest" nation on earth but are the "greatest" generation to ever inhabit the earth? 

If we were really interested in our past and truly had a deep appreciation for it, we would have spent more time with our grandparents and parents.  

The Jews had a deep respect and admiration for their past.  The reason for it was quite simple:  they associated it with God.  They saw history and personalities in black and white - in a state of grace or disgrace, with the Lord or against Him.

Advent is both the retelling of salvation history and the continuation of it.  The better we understand those involved in its preparation, the better we will be at continuing it.    

Monday, December 16, 2013

Mt 21:23-27 Better to Ask than to Answer

Monday of the Third Week of Advent
(Click here for readings)

The chief priests and the elders of the people approached [Jesus] as he was teaching and said, "By what authority are you doing these things?  And who gave you this authority?"

Every time I reflect upon this Gospel passage my mind goes back to 2012 and the "controversial" remarks made by Chic-Fil-A's President, Dan Cathy, regarding gay-marriage and familyYou may not remember how the whole thing started, but I do:  with a simple question.

By what authority are you doing these things?   Why are the chief priests and elders asking Jesus this question? Why isn't He giving them a straight answer?  Did the Lord lose a great opportunity to set the record straight?  Of course not! We all know there was no real interest on the part of the elders and priests to hear the honest-to-God truth about Him.  Simply put, this was all a setup; an attempt to have the Lord mocked, arrested and put to death. 

Don't fall for it.  When is it the right moment to share the Good News with others?  Always!  Where is the best place to do it? Everywhere. 

Don't be so naïve.  People will not just come up to you and say, "Baptize me!"  If they do, it means someone else got to them first, right? 

Every day is the right time and everywhere is the best place to share the Good News with others.  Don't fall for the trap of waiting for someone to "fall into the trap."  It won't happen.  It shouldn't happen.  Traps are for hunters, and Christians do not set traps.  If anything, they are often blind lovers who get hunted down by mean-spirited individuals.  Don't fall into other people's traps.  The Lord didn't.  He knew how to navigate through all sorts of people:  rough people, calm people, deceptively nice people, shallow people, deep people, transparent people, and murky people.  

I shall ask you one question, and if you answer it for me, then I shall tell you by what authority I do these things. 

Get smarter.  What's the best way to share your faith with others?  By getting to know others.  Know what others think, honestly think.  That's what the Lord did.  When asked, he asked.  And for good reason.  He thought to himself:  "Are you really ready to hear what I have to say?"  The answer was clear. 

Over the years, I have learned to ask rather than to answer.  By doing so, I have learned more about others, and earned their respect.  And I can honestly say it has made me a better man, better priest and better Christian.  We men have a tendency to never ask questions.  We tend to pull out the tool box immediately.  The result can be awful if your a car owner and devastating if your a patient. 

By reading through the Gospels, it becomes apparent the Lord asked more questions than He ever answered.  Good for Him.  He knew full well that when you ask you not only reveal what others think, you also reveal what you think as well.

That may explain how Pope Francis is not only TIME magazine's Person of the Year but also an ultra-left leaning and LGBT magazine's ( The Advocate ) as wellIn defense of their pick, they chose Pope Francis' words from a recent interview he gave:

Francis's view on how the Catholic Church should approach LGBT people was best explained in his own words during an in-depth interview with America magazine in September. He recalled, “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.”

Are you ready to give an answer for your faith and bring a heart closer to Christ?  Better to ask than to answer.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Mt 11:2-11 Take Us From Here, Lord

Third Sunday of Advent
(Click here for readings)

When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ, he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question, "Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?"

Tough Times.  Tough time can make us question everything.  They can also make us question everyone.  

John was a loyal and committed servant of the Lord.  But I have no doubt that prison may have left him feeling lonely and fearful, especially because he was innocent!

What kept him going were the words of the great prophet Isaiah:  "Be strong, fear not!  Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you.  Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing.  Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; they will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee" (Is 35:1-6a, 10).

The Lord's response must have been music to John's ears:  "Go tell John:  the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.  And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me."

Or was it? 

Take it from here.  The disciples returned to John and gave him the rundown.  And he died happily ever after.  End of story, right?  Maybe, and maybe not.  Yeah, we all like honest people and like to be surrounded by them.  But we don't always like what we hear because it may conflict with what we think needs to be said and done.  Did John like what he heard?

John was a fireball of a prophet.  He knew how to get his audience's attention.  He dressed up for the occasion.  He gave great sermons: fire and brimstone sermons.  In summary, he scared the "hell" out of a lot of people.   But his powerful "introduction" to the Lord's Mission was, well, let's say, a bit fanatical:  "Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.  Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire..."

I am sure the Lord was very much appreciative of John's "opening remarks"; but from all accounts, it appears as though the Lord set a different tone to his mission, at least for the time being.  Rather than cutting down unproductive "trees," the Lord watered them and watched them grow.

We all have our idea (or model) of what it takes to be successful.  What is yours?  Is it similar to the Lord's?  Or do you think you need to look somewhere else?   

Recently, a priest asked me if I would speak to a group of kids from his parish.  I told him I would.  But then I asked him why he asked me.  He said, "Well, you have a way of speaking to kids.  They can really relate to you."  This friend of mine overestimates me and underestimates himself.  Although he came to America as a teenager, his English is not the best.  But as he spoke softly and deliberately, I recalled a lesson I learned while I was in Rome.

Once upon a time, I was directing a retreat for a group of middle school kids.  There were so many of them I asked my superior for some additional help.  He gave me a seminarian who was very shy and extremely intellectual.  Given my audience, I thought his choice was a very poor choice.  But I didn't say anything.  When it came time to talk, I was my usual self:  I walked up and down the aisle, told lots of stories, and tried to be as humorous and lighthearted as possible.  The kids liked it.  When it came time for him to give his talk, he too was his usual self:  he got up slowly from his chair, had a faint smile on his face, looked very shy, spoke very softly and deliberately, didn't tell any stories, but I could tell he was speaking from the heart.  He said one thing that got my attention.  Very slowly he said:  "Jesus...would like be...a saint."  He got my attention and brought tears to my eyes.

When it came time for the kids to say goodbye to us; again, I noticed something remarkable.  They came up to me very informally and with big smiles on their faces.  When they said goodbye to my classmate, they were very reserved, respectful and courteous, as if they were saying goodbye to a holy man.   

John the Baptist complimented Jesus of Nazareth, but he wasn't Jesus of Nazareth.  The Lord needed John's fiery words and humble service, but he didn't need him forever.  We need Jesus' words and service forever!  We need him to take our lives from here. 

I told this story to my priest friend and told him not to fear; and that if he spoke slowly and from the heart and he would be perfectly understood and very much appreciated.  I think it surprised him.  It might not have been what he wanted to hear, but I encouraged him to try it out. 

The secret to personal success is to align oneself faithfully, honestly and wholeheartedly to the Lord.  In other words, let Him take you from here.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Mt 17:9a, 10-13 When Word Becomes Flesh and Blood

Saturday of the Second Week of Advent
(Click here for readings)

As they were coming down from the mountain, the disciples asked Jesus, "Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?"  He said in reply, "Elijah will indeed come and restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him..."

The scribes were right in their teaching and interpretation of scripture (Mal. 4:5) but wrong not to recognize John the Baptist as Elijah.  Why?

Same story, just different names.  What makes life extremely interesting is when you can get more out of it from the least of it.  Believe me, life isn't interesting for obvious reasons but for the not-so-obvious reasons.  It isn't interesting because you simply connected the dots, but because you took a closer look at what was in-between the dots.

Many of the movies we watch on the big screen are the stuff of real life dramas.  The only differences being in the names, times, dates, places.  As I mentioned briefly in a previous meditation, the Hunger Games could easily be an adaptation of the terrifying real life conditions in South Africa during Apartheid, with the "Capital" representing Johannesburg and the "Districts" representing the nearby Townships.  Or it could easily be called a modern day thriller of some well-known ancient killers known as Gladiators, who fought to the death in an arena with animals and other humans to win their long sought freedom.

Now there was no mention of God in the Hunger Games, and that was for obvious reasons:  Look here!  Look at what we have become devoid of God.  There was also no mention of God (or prayer) in the movie Captain Phillips, and again, it was for obvious reasons:  Hollywood's on-going war against religious people and religion, with Christians and Christianity in the cross-hairs.  I must admit, after watching the movie I thought to myself, "Could it be that Captain Phillips was an atheist?  That he was not a religious-kind-of-guy at all?"  I decided to do some research, and found an article in the New York Times.  It was written way back when the captain was being held hostage.  To my delight, five reporters contributed to the article.  To my surprise, there was no mention of God or Church in their story.  There was, however, a lot of wonderful insights regarding his life, family, friends and hobbies.  So I though to myself, "he must be an atheist."  But then I found a similar article written by John Curran of the Associated Press:

Always a sacred day in the Catholic faith, Easter Sunday took on special significance this time at the church where hostage sea captain Richard Phillips normally worships.

In a 7:30 a.m. Mass at St. Thomas Church, the Rev. Charles Danielson urged his flock to pray for the safe return of the 53-year-old sea captain being held by Somali pirates for a fifth day.

Drawing a parallel between the resurrection of Jesus Christ and Phillips’ predicament, the church pastor told about 170 congregants that just as Christ triumphed over evil after being crucified, Phillips was attempting to triumph over the evil of his captors.

Wow!  Human life truly is real life drama, just like in the movies; and what makes both so interesting are the dots in-between the dots that are so often brushed over or brushed out of existence, and for obvious reasons. 

The scribes may have known scripture, but they had a hard time connecting names to faces.  Elijah was John the Baptist and Emmanuel was Jesus of Nazareth.   And what made their identities obvious was what was said about them in scripture:

"In those days, like a fire there appeared the prophet Elijah whose words were as a flaming furnace.  Their staff of bread he shattered, in his zeal he reduced them to straits...How awesome are you, Elijah, in your wondrous deeds!  Whose glory is equal to yours?  ...You were destined, it is written, in time to come to put an end to wrath before the day of the Lord.  To turn back the hearts of fathers towards their sons, and to re-establish the tribes of Jacob.   Blessed is he who shall have seen you and who falls asleep in your friendship" (Sir. 48:1-4, 9-11).

Of course the revisionists and reductionists would love to make us think that God really had nothing to do with the successes and failures of the patriarchs and prophets: with Abraham, Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist and ultimately, Jesus of Nazareth; or that he had no role to play in the triumphs and defeats of the Jewish people.  When they speak of Jesus, they explain Him away by saying that He was a good man, but just a man.  Or that He was a great prophet, but just a prophet.  Or that He was a great philosopher, but just a philosopher.  Or that He was an amazing revolutionary, but just a revolutionary.

A lot could be said about John the Baptist:  how he dressed, what he said, the food he ate, the sort of friends he surrounded himself with, the type of people he attracted and attacked, the friends and enemies he made.  Yet if there were no mention of God or of his prayer life, his work and mission, his zeal and passion for souls, his demands for justice and respect for marriage, then the entire story would be bogus and down right dishonest.   

St. John the Baptist.  Pray for us!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Lk 1:26-38 Santa Claus and Our Lady

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
(Click here for readings)

The angel Gabriel was sent from a virgin...and the virgin's name was Mary.  And coming to her, he said, "Hail, full of grace!  The Lord is with you."

Last night I was watching a debate regarding (of all things) the color of Santa Claus' skin.  Apparently, a woman by the name of Aisha Harris is demanding that Santa Claus no longer be a white man.  Instead, she wants him to be...a penguin.  That's right:  white and black animal.

Megyn Kelly on FOXNEWS had a tiff about the whole thing and declared (incorrectly) that Jesus was white and so was St. Nick.  I like Megyn Kelly, but she is wrong on both accounts.  But I know her concern.  She is afraid that the race card will begin to ruin Santa Claus and Christmas.  In that, she may be right.  But I don't think there is anything to fear here.  After all, St. Nick may have been Greek in appearance, but now he is among the angels and saints.  Things change when you're no longer attached to earth.  Appearances, for one.  The others are race and nationality.  St. Nick wasn't white.  He was a saint.  And when you are a saint (and on your way to heaven), you lose your nationality and race, but not your identity. 

Have you ever gazed your eyes on some crèches from around the the world?  What do you see?  You see Mary, Joseph and Jesus.  But take a closer look and what do you see?  From Alaska you see an Eskimo looking baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  From Africa you see an African looking baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  Apparently, Aisha Harris and Megyn Kelly have never taken a close look at a crèche from somewhere other than under their tree.  Nor have they taken a close look at our Lady of Guadalupe. 

Our Lady of Guadalupe.  On December 9th, 1531, the Virgin Mary appeared to a humble native and neophyte by the name of Juan Diego.  The local Bishop, upon hearing the news, remained highly skeptical of the whole affair.  So he instructed Juan to ask our Lady for a specific sign:  flowers. 

He asked and she delivered. 

He found on the stony summit of Tepeyac Hill a marvelous garden of dew-fresh blossoms which he cut as she had asked.  Placing them in his rough cloak, or tilma, he brought the rare flowers to our Lady who arranged them and told him to take them to the Bishop; that this was the sign to persuade the bishop.

In front of the Bishop, Juan Diego unfolded his tilma.  To his surprise, he found the Bishop not focusing on the flowers but on his tilma. 

Juan was surprised!  The Bishop was surprised!  Later on, the natives were surprised!  But most importantly, the conquistadores were surprised! 

They were all surprised, but for entirely different reasons.

Juan was surprised because he never expected to see an image of what he saw with his own eyes on his very own tilma.  That must have been a shock for Juan Diego. 

The Bishop and the natives were surprised because they never imagined that the Blessed Virgin Lady would appear to a poor native like Juan Diego.  The Bishop should have known better.

But the most surprised were the conquistadores (that is, the Spaniards).  Not only had they never imagined our Lady appearing to a former "savage" native, but they never ever imagined that our Lady would take the appearance of a former "savage" native woman.

Take a look at her image.  What do you see?  The moon is below her feet (cf. Rev. 12:1).  This means she is greater than the pagan moon-god.  Behind her is the sun.  This means she is brighter than the pagan sun-god.  So if Mary is greater than the moon-god and brighter than the sun-god, then she must be a god, right?  No, for her hands are joined in prayer. Mary prays to God.  And though she is dressed in Jewish nobility (white fur around her sleeves), Mary remains the handmaid of the Lord.   

But what comes next is absolutely shocking.  Mary has the oval face of an Indian teen.  She is not a Spaniard.  She is a native.

This image must have come as a shock to all the conquistadores, who were exploiting the land and treating the natives like slaves. 

God had sent them a reminder:  Blessed are the meek and humble of heart, for they will inherit the land! 

On this day, our Lady broke down a huge barrier.  Within a year, over eight million natives converted to Catholicism.  New Spain would never be the same again. 

We have much to celebrate this Christmas.  And we still have much to learn from our Lady. 

Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Pray for us!