Saturday, December 29, 2012


The Bible is a family history. Genesis is the story of Adam and his family.  The Old Testament is the story of Abraham's family; the New Testament, of Jesus' family.  Jesus spent the night before he died with his brothers, at the supper table.  He was not working late at the office.

Jesus came as a "brother" to Israel - in the Aramaic of the day, he was part of their family, a relation.  The word "brother" was used for all male kin, not just the sons of your mother or father.  Jesus is the hope of his family.  He is the answer to our family of origin problems. 

In the Book of Matthew we begin with Jesus' Hebrew genealogy.  In the book of Luke the genealogy of Jesus is extended back to Adam.  Jesus is kin to each of us, our "brother," and his love and justice extend to all mankind.  We are his family.  We are not mere numbers, we are not "strangers" to him.  He expresses his care for us as his deeply loved brothers, mothers and sisters. 

Our hearts are comforted by knowing that He loves us with the unconditional love, mingled with absolute honesty, that is the very best that good families offer.  It is no accident that a society who denies Jesus, who denies God, becomes uprooted, bleak, despairing, and suicidal.  We have lost our family.  We have lost the bedrock of love and acceptance that we were meant to have.

Jesus was accused of spending too much time at weddings and feasts, eating and drinking.  He spent a lot of time with family and friends, being happy together.  Jesus had this to say about his family:
“Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.”
He did not exclude or deny his biological family by this statement.  Rather, He included in his family "whoever does the will of my heavenly Father."  We see this most especially at the cross, when he joined John and Mary together as son and mother.

Remember that when Jesus speaks, it is not just an assertion of fact.  Jesus' words are acts of power.  By His word all was created.  When he says we are his family if we do the will of God, it is not just "as if," or figurative, language.  We are by His word made His family.

Christmas is the day we begin again our worship of Jesus, who came to us as a new-born baby, to show us a new life.  We are all welcome to participate in his new and perfect life, because He loves us.  We are His sisters and brothers.

We all have our "family of origin" issues, as the psychologists tell us.  Jesus is the healing of our family of origin issues.  He is our "family of destination."  And our destination is a wedding banquet.

 Banquet of the Lamb

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year! 

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Explain to me again, in simple words,
How we find ourselves, this Advent season,
weeping (once again) for children murdered 
by a young man run amok at a school?

The words and images come ceaselessly
With ads for jello, gum, Depends and cars.
The slaughter of innocents moves product.
We sure do talk a lot, to no effect.

How long until we see the substance, not
The accidents of motive, time and place,
Of opportunity, intent and act?
Maybe we could confess our ignorance?

So quick to question God, so slow to ask
Ourselves (in whom we trust, to whom we pray) - 
What have we wrought?  Why are we so broken?
Maybe we could murmur a contrite prayer?

Ah me, this glist'ning shunt, greased with the fat
dripping from the human sacrifices
We offer every day, every hour - 
Our children for our self-absorbed desires.

On we slide, a bloated, gassy torso,
Pus leaking from a dozen rotting wounds.
On we slide, a circus freak in lipstick,
Wedged in a coffin filled with our own waste.

We gorge on lust, pride, greed, and irony
And expect our children to find meaning.
We adulterate, abort and divorce
And wonder at their madness and despair.
"Ye wander, witless, in your wilderness
Refusing drink from the water of life.
Ye deaf, blind, dumb, ye lame, ye sore smitten -
Drink yet from the river of life and live."
Perhaps it is true we need a savior?
Perhaps we cannot find our way alone?
Perhaps in these tears we could kneel and pray
To the poor baby born on Christmas Day? 

Saturday, December 1, 2012


This is an optimistic time of year.  Today marks the end of "Ordinary" time, in the Catholic liturgy, and tomorrow marks the beginning of Advent, the four weeks during which we prepare for the Christmas holiday.  Or "Christ Mass" "holy day." 

Next time someone gets snarky about the Catholic Church, remember that it gave us Christmas and the concept of a "holiday." You might remind them, as well, that it is to the the Catholic Church that we owe Sundays off from work, the New Testament, the concept of universal education and health care for the poor, and the inalienable dignity and value of each human being, no matter how humble.  

None of these ideas had any currency in human society or government at the time of Christ.  It was Christ's Church in which they were nurtured and spread, in the face of extraordinary opposition.  

And to the Church we owe 2,000 years of fabulous art, music, literature, philosophy and theology.

I'm not bragging, I'm just pointing out facts for your consideration.

The liturgical readings of late have been consumed with last things, and have focused on the Book of Revelation.  

People usually think of Revelation with a certain amount of awe, since many of the visions described there are of enormously powerful alien creatures filled with malice toward the human race.  "Revelation," the movie, would far outstrip in intensity and pure terror any apocalyptic science fiction movie of recent years.

The Damned (from "The Last Judgment")
Hunter S. Thompson recognized the power of Revelation when he wrote
I have stolen more quotes and thoughts and purely elegant little starbursts of writing from the Book of Revelation than anything else in the English language.. . because l love the wild power of the language and the purity of the madness that governs it and makes it music.
Of course, as with almost anything Thompson wrote, you must separate the flares of insight from the smog of peyote fueled megalomania and self indulgence.  For Thompson, Revelation was a book of madness. 

Thompson's words have the benefit of paying the book its due, in his typically perverse way.  Counting on the book being madness is one of two options.  If the book is even one-tenth true - in any sense, physically, spiritually or allegorically - we are in for a catastrophically bad ride.  

So dismissing it all as "madness" is perfect.  Unless, of course, you are wrong.

Little known by those casually familiar with Revelation are the passages of light and hope cast liberally throughout the book.  One of the readings from today's liturgy is from the final chapter of the Book of Revelation, speaking of the end of all things:

An angel showed me the river of life-giving water,
sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God
and of the Lamb down the middle of the street,
On either side of the river grew the tree of life
that produces fruit twelve times a year, once each month;
the leaves of the trees serve as medicine for the nations.

Nothing accursed will be found anymore.
The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it,
and his servants will worship him.
They will look upon his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.
Night will be no more, nor will they need light from lamp or sun,
for the Lord God shall give them light,
and they shall reign forever and ever.  

Who are these servants?  Jesus identifies them in his first sermon: "blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven."  

The Kingdom passes not to the powerful, not to the arrogant, not to the "wise" or smart or wealthy, nor to the cunning or the ruthless.  The Kingdom passes to the "poor in spirit," to the meek, the humble, those who mourn and those who "hunger and thirst for righteousness."  It passes to those spurned by this world, insulted for having believed in a King and his eternal, just and loving Kingdom.  

This hope is mocked and dismissed by the erudite as the "opium of the people."  Quite the contrary, this hope is "medicine for the nations," as the Book of Revelation says.  And my, my, the nations - including our own - certainly seem to be in need of some medicine right now.

So it is hard not to be optimistic as we embark again on the Church-wide retelling of the story of that Eternal King's love.