Monday, January 5, 2015

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas... true love gave to me....

TWELVE drummers drumming
     eleven pipers piping
          ten Lords a-leaping
               nine ladies dancing
                    eight maids a-milking
                         seven swans a-swimming
                              six geese a-laying..
                                 FIVE golden rings
                                       four calling birds
                                            three French hens
                                                 two turtledoves
                                                      and a partridge in a pear tree

And, finally, on Day twelve, we have the twelve points in the Apostles Creed.  The Apostle's Creed is one of the oldest creeds historically, dating in its earliest form back to the second century.  Therefore its roots belong to all Christians.  I leave it to my readers to argue the finer points of translation or acceptance (perhaps a set of reflections for another day)!

In a metaphorical sense, I see the eleven pipers announcing the big drums.. (or the faithful apostles handing down these twelve points of faith. 

At any rate, the twelve points contained in the Apostles Creed are as follows:

1.  I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
2.  I believe in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord.
3.  He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary
4.  He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  He descended into hell.
5.   On the third day, he rose from the dead.  He ascended into heaven where he sits at the right hand of God the Father.
6.  He will return to judge the living and the dead.
7.  I believe in the Holy Spirit.
8.  I believe in the holy catholic church.
9.  I believe in the communion of saints.
10.  I believe in the forgiveness of sins.
11.  I believe in the resurrection of the body.
12.  I believe in life everlasting.

Dear God,

     Thank you for this statement of faith.  I find it interesting to ponder all these different statements.  I am not sure I have the capacity to even understand some of them.  But help me to grow and learn.

 Help me to keep an open mind in that I neither pray these words without thinking about them.... nor automatically reject what I do not understand.

This statement of faith has survived centuries.  It is worthy of some of my time and brain space to ponder!  Lead me to truth......  Amen.


Sunday, January 4, 2015


One of the things I love most about my Catholic tradition and observance is the season of Christmas.  We love everything about the season and have little trouble incorporating other worldly traditions within our celebration season.

Kick it off with Santa Claus (or St Nick, or Father Christmas, or Sinterklauss)?  Sure!

That doesn't really take away from the birth of the baby Jesus unless we allow it to.  Because it isn't really even about the birth - because we don't really know when that was anyway...

It's about the second coming.

It's about Jesus in our lives.. past, present and future...

The Christmas season merely begins with Christmas Day - not ends with it.

We continue to use the seasonal motifs to celebrate, to ponder, to approach life with childlike wonder.
We celebrate the Birth of Our Lord on Christmas Day, the Feast of the Holy Family on the Sunday between Christmas and New Years Day.... and the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God as we begin our new calendar year

We end the Christmas season with the Feast of the Epiphany - followed up by the Baptism of Our Lord as the first observance in Ordinary Time.  Our liturgical calendar follows the life of Jesus.

But back to Christmas season....  I love that we celebrate and think about the family as an integral part of our lives... and we meditate on how to make our families a place of health and peace the way God intended it to be.

I love that we spend the time searching.

And we end when we find the truth as the 3 (or 12) wise men (or kings) did....  it's not about the historical details.. not really.

It's about the search for Jesus in our lives.... along with the celebration that he is here... right now.

And it's about the certain knowledge that Jesus belongs to the world.. not the select few who have performed the perfect rites... or said the magic words... or followed any rule set down by humans.  He belongs to all of us.

If you are a Christian.. you know your belief and you can end your Christmas celebration with remembering what you find.

We are all children of God.  And there is nothing we can do to change that.  We are beloved by virtue of our birth.


And that is certainly worth celebrating!

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas... true love gave to me....

 ELEVEN pipers piping
     ten Lords a-leaping
          nine ladies dancing
               eight maids a-milking
                    seven swans a-swimming
                        six geese a-laying..
                             FIVE golden rings
                                  four calling birds
                                       three French hens
                                            two turtledoves
                                                 and a partridge in a pear tree

The eleven pipers piping refer to the eleven faithful apostles:

1.  Simon (or Peter)
2.  Andrew
3.  James
4.  John
5.  Philip
6.  Bartholomew
7.  Thomas
8.  Matthew
9.  James the Younger
10.  Thaddeus
11.  Simon the Zealot

I find it important to know the names of these men.. because most of us can only name one or two - and all of us know #12 - Judas.  These were ordinary men in their society... fishermen, tax collector, scribe, some related, some strangers, a revolutionary, some hot-headed and impulsive, some quiet and reflective, a teenager, a skeptic...  a good cross-section of ordinary people.  We have to wonder what it was about Jesus that brought these men together.... probably the same things that bring us together today.

But it is Judas I think about.  The traitor.  But I wonder if we can't call him the first and foremost traitor.  Because at the end of the road, only John stood with Jesus' mother at the foot of the cross.

I have read a lot about Judas and I wonder if he wasn't fully human doing what he thought was right and getting it all balled up.  Like maybe he trusted the religious establishment and felt that the safest place for Jesus that particular night was locked up and protected by his own people.  Maybe he did all the wrong things for very human and fearful reasons.  And, like we all do many times, didn't bother talking with his friends.... just blindly moved forward making decisions for somebody else..

Maybe he really was evil... but I tend to believe he was human.

So - today I will memorize the eleven because they deserve to be remembered.  But I will have compassion for the one.

Dear God,
       Whatever did you think when Jesus picked these men to stand by his side.  AND then left them behind to carry your work forward in the world?
      I am grateful that your logic is not the same as mine.  There is no way I would have chosen - specifically by name - these particular men in this particular time.  But Look!  Their efforts continue today.  Your Son walked here on the earth more than 2000 years ago - and thanks to you, of course, and these men (and their families!), the work continues.  This is nothing short of amazing!
     Please help me remember that my little efforts mean something.  Every little smile, every good and positive action, every time I do something to bring joy into the world... these efforts are like drops in the pool to build your kingdom.  Because I too was chosen.

     And have mercy on me, God.  Because like Judas, I can ball things up too... for right AND wrong reasons... that make sense to me at the time.  Help me make good choices - but again, have mercy on me when I make the wrong ones.  Amen,

Saturday, January 3, 2015

On the Tenth Day of Christmas true love gave to me....

 TEN Lords a-leaping
     nine ladies dancing
          eight maids a-milking
               seven swans a-swimming
                    six geese a-laying..
                        FIVE golden rings
                             four calling birds
                                  three French hens
                                       two turtledoves
                                            and a partridge in a pear tree

And now, the ten lords a-leaping remind us of the ten commandments that God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai (in the Book of Exodus).   

Ten specific laws to govern behavior:

1.  I am the Lord your God, you shall not have other gods before me
2.  You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain.
3.  Remember to keep holy the sabbath day.

4.  Honor your mother and your father.
5.  You shall not kill.
6.  You shall not commit adultery.
7.  You shall not steal.
8.  You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
9.  You shall not covet your neighbor's goods.
10.  you shall not covet your neighbor's wife.

Ten laws..... simple and complicated.  They are the basis of our Christian behavior... but clearly... following these to the letter is not quite enough to produce the fruits enumerated in Day 9.    
If you follow Jesus, you  know that he came to clarify the law of Moses as written in the Old Testament.  

In the sermon on the Mount (Matthew Chapter 5 - where Jesus listed the Beatitudes.. see Day 8), he also spent a good deal of time talking about the Commandments.  He explains them in the light of love, how they relate to a life of following God.

And he explains again, in Matthew Chapter 22.  Some of the church elders were trying to trick and discredit him by asking him the greatest commandment. (If the TEN were critical, how could Jesus choose ONE?)

But Jesus was clear.. and addressed all ten.  They can be summarized into TWO

Matt 22: 37-40
    "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and first commandment."   [SUMMARIZES #1-3]
      "The second is like it, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."  The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."  [SUMMARIZES #4-10] 

Dear God,
     Here I am... still asking for help!  You are the one with all the answers..... and I have all the questions.  Which to follow?  Clearly the ten commandments are important... and clearly Jesus came to make sure we understand how to follow you.  Why is daily life not clear to me?  Why am I filled with questions?    How do I know which rule to follow?

      Gifts, laws, fruits, books, virtues..... how do I know what to apply to which decision?

     My trouble with the commandments is simple.  Most of it doesn't really apply.... I never really had to worry about killing people... envy is harder but more internal.  Lying - well I always get caught so I don't do it... (bad reason, I know - but an HONEST one.)   So I struggle with them - you have to INTERPRET them to make them work for you.
      Thank you for the gift of Jesus to make it clear... love God and love my neighbor... (AND MYSELF, but that is another prayer!).

       If it isn't of LOVE, it isn't of YOU.  Help me show your love in my little everyday life.  Amen.

Friday, January 2, 2015

On the Ninth Day of Christmas true love gave to me....

NINE ladies dancing
     eight maids a-milking
          seven swans a-swimming
               six geese a-laying..
                   FIVE golden rings
                        four calling birds
                             three French hens
                                  two turtledoves
                                       and a partridge in a pear tree

The NINE ladies dancing refers to the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit mentioned in St Paul's letter to the Galatians:

 In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law."     Gal 5:22-23 NABRE

    1.  Love
    2.  Joy
    3.  Peace
    4.  Patience
    5.  Kindness
    6.  Generosity
    7.  Faithfulness
    8.  Gentleness
    9.  Self-Control

St. Paul was telling the people of Galatia how to live their lives as new Christians.  He specified these characteristics as traits by which one could recognize people filled with the Holy Spirit.  He contrasts these "fruits" with envy and greed and anger and lack of self-control.

The way of the world versus the way of the Spirit.

 St Paul was being persecuted by legal authorities.  He was also being harassed by religious ones as the new religion was coming to life.  His letter was about discerning choices:  Does the law (or conventional choice / requirement) produce one of the fruits listed?  If not.... why are you doing it?

      We can tell God's people by their fruits. 

Dear God,
    Our lives are made up of little choices.  Every minute of every day is made up of a choice.   To smile or not to smile.  To be angry or not to be angry.  To smile and help a family member or to grumble and refuse... (or to grumble and do it anyway :-)

     Help me see the FRUIT, God.  Help me make the choices that mark me as one of your own who is filled with the Holy Spirit.  Help me CHOOSE WILLINGLY the path to love... to joy.. to self-control.

     And help me discern the fruits of those around me.  The world is a tricky place and people are often not what they portray themselves to be.   Regardless of religious or political affiliation, the FRUITS of people's actions are what I need use to make judgments.

     I ask you now, God.  Help me make my life bear your fruit.  Help me live a life that will show the world your love.  Amen.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

On the Eighth Day of Christmas true love gave to me....

EIGHT maids a-milking
     seven swans a-swimming
          six geese a-laying..
              FIVE golden rings
                  four calling birds
                      three French hens
                           two turtledoves
                               and a partridge in a pear tree

Eight maids a-milking refers to the lessons Jesus gave us in the sermon on the mount.... detailed in the gospel of Matthew 5:3-10.  Eight lessons - know as the Beatitudes.  They are as follows:

1,  Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
2.  Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
3.  Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
4.  Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
5.  Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
6.  Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
7.  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
8.  Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Here is a clear example of Jesus re-framing conventional wisdom.  There is nothing here that suggests that rich people, people in power, strong people... will be blessed! 

Blessed are the humble..... Blessed are the sad and depressed.... Blessed are the innocents... Blessed are the kind and compassionate.

Jesus was a revolutionary.

Dear God,

These Beatitudes of yours - they don't feel right.  They are absolutely NOT the way this world works!  Why is it that your way isn't the way that I want it to go?  Why don't I naturally think like  you?

I need a lot of help with these.  I want to be first.  I want to be strong.  I want to be in charge.  I do NOT want to be sad or lonely or depressed or persecuted.

Yet, I want to yours.  And I want to follow Jesus.

I have heard the Beatitudes described as "BE" attitudes...  Help me take these words of Jesus to heart...  NOT to be sad as much as to be kind and compassionate with those who ARE sad.  Help me fight for justice - NOT worldly justice, but the justice that lives in the LOVE Jesus taught us... the justice rooted in compassion.

Today I will memorize the Beatitudes....  I will remember the EIGHT..  and I will remember that Jesus was a counter-cultural revolutionary. 

If conventional wisdom says one thing, I will use the Beatitudes Jesus taught us as a lens to re-think the issue.  What Jesus said will be my guide.  Amen.