Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)

December 25, 2022
Amidst the beautiful Christmas readings at today’s Masses
is a reading from a small New Testament letter from Saint
Paul to his protégé, Titus, read at Midnight Mass. Saint
Paul reminds Titus that God has given us a gift in the
person of Jesus Christ. This gift represents God’s active
presence in our lives and in our world. This gift redeems
us from evil and death. This gift purifies us as God’s
people. This is a gift that also comes with an expectation:
that we receive it with thanksgiving, allow it to transform
us into Christ’s image; and from it, learn how to live a life
“eager to do what is good.” Take time the next few days
to reflect on the marvelous gift we celebrate at Christmas,
and how we might become better stewards of this gift.

St. Stephen – Stewardship Saint for December

The day after Christmas is called “St. Stephen’s Day” to commemorate
the first Christian martyr. It is also this “Feast of Stephen” that is
mentioned in the English Christmas carol, “Good King Wenceslas.”
Stephen was a Greek-speaking Jew living in Jerusalem. He became
a follower of Jesus Christ and was one of seven individuals chosen by
the twelve apostles to serve tables, look after the distribution of the
community funds (alms), especially to widows, and assist in the ministry
of preaching.
Stephen was also a leader in the Christian group known as the
“Hellenists,” a community that had its own synagogues where the
scriptures were read in Greek. The Hellenist Christians maintained that
the new Christian faith could not grow unless it separated itself from
Judaism and specifically the Temple and the Mosaic law. The Hellenists
also urged the expansion of the Church’s mission to the Gentiles.
The elders in a number of neighboring synagogues opposed Stephen
and the Hellenists and charged him with blasphemy for saying that the
Temple would be destroyed and that Jesus had set aside the Mosaic law
even though Stephen maintained that Jesus came to fulfill the law, not
set it aside.
When dragged before the Sanhedrin, the supreme legal court of
Jewish elders, Stephen made an eloquent defense of the Hellenist
Christian teaching. He charged his accusers of trying to stifle the
movement of the Holy Spirit, of persecuting those who spoke
prophetically and of betraying and murdering Jesus. Then he looked up
to heaven and began to describe a vision he was having of the recently
executed Jesus standing on the right side of God.
The council erupted into a furor and its members began shouting,
covered their ears and ordered Stephen to be dragged outside the city and
executed. As he was being stoned to death, Stephen asked God to forgive
his attackers while the witnesses to his martyrdom placed their cloaks at
the feet of Saul of Tarsus who consented to Stephen’s death. Saul would
later undergo a conversion experience and become Saint Paul.
Saint Stephen was one of the most popular saints in the Middle Ages
and in many countries his feast day of December 26 is still a public
holiday. He is the patron saint of deacons and his name is included in
Eucharistic Prayer I of the Mass.

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Weekend of December 17/18, 2022
In today’s Gospel we hear of the coming of Emmanuel,
which means “God is with us.” We celebrate three
Advents: the birth of Christ, his Second Coming, and his
presence in the world today. Our daily lives are attended
by God’s presence. Indeed, “God is with us.” The Good
News of Christ’s Incarnation is that we are the sign, the
“sacrament,” of Christ’s presence in the world. People are
supposed to see us, see how we love one another, see
how we treat the stranger among us, see how we give
comfort to the poor and afflicted, and share the Good
News with joy. They see how good stewards are the light
of Christ. And there can be no possible response except
to say: “God is here!”

Third Sunday of Advent

Weekend of December 10/11, 2022
From the loneliness of his prison cell John the Baptist asks
of Jesus: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we
look for another?” The weeks before Christmas offer much
to be joyous about, celebrating with family and friends,
the glitter of seasonal decorations, the excitement of gift
giving and receiving. But in our midst there are the lonely
and neglected, the poor, the hospitalized, the wayward,
the shut-ins. There are those who feel that they have no
hope. To whom should they look? Discipleship in the
Lord includes being good stewards of others. Are there
those in our family, our neighborhood, our community to
whom we can reach out to show them a sign of Christ’s
presence in their midst?

Advent – A Season of Hope

Advent is a time of waiting and expectation; a season of quiet anticipation and
preparation. We are waiting for our Lord to come into the world as the baby
Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem. We are also preparing for His
return, His second coming as the shepherd-king, to restore harmony and right
relationship to all creation. Advent is a season yearning for God to come and set
the world right with perfect justice, truth and peace. It is a season of hope.
Advent is a time to emphasize preparation through prayer. While Lent
emphasizes a spirit of repentance through prayer and fasting, Advent’s prayers
are prayers of humble devotion and commitment, prayers for deliverance,
prayers of gladness and joyful expectation, prayers that await the light of Christ
coming into the world.

We do not shrink from those Advent scripture readings that reveal a strong
prophetic tone of accountability and judgment. Christ’s disciples expect the Lord
to hold them accountable for what has been entrusted to them just as a spouse,
parent, teacher or supervisor holds us accountable. And just as the steward was
found faithful in small matters by the master, we too are confident that we will
be found faithful and will enter the joy of the Master. We have absolute trust in
the Lord’s countenance.

Assuredly, during Advent we anticipate the Lord’s coming with hope. It is
that hope, however faint at times, that keeps us from despair and the darkness
of sin and its destructiveness. It is a hope that urges us to be kind, loving and
compassionate toward one another. It is a hope that encourages our faith in a
merciful God who continues to pour His grace upon us.

We don’t know when Christ will come again to bring human history to its
completion. But we celebrate with gladness the great promise of Advent and
we rekindle that positive, joyful spirit within us because we know, as Zechariah
prophesied, that the light of Christ will shine on all who sit in darkness and the
shadow of death, and He will guide our feet into the way of peace.

Second Sunday of Advent

Weekend of December 3/4, 2022
In today’s Gospel reading John the Baptist warns his
listeners: “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”
The Church’s yearly Advent herald is a call to repentance.
The season of Advent urges us to be open to a conversion
of heart. Christian stewards heed this call daily, and take
the need for conversion in their lives seriously. As a family
of faith, do we hear this call to conversion amidst the
massive holiday spending? The increase in credit card
debt? The urge to buy things that are not necessary? The
incivility on the roadways during the holidays? Are there
patterns in our own lives that need to be converted?