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Welcoming the Poor

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Christian baptism not only forgives sins, but infuses the life of God into the soul, making us God’s children. The origin of this sacrament is Jesus’ own baptism. Jesus had no need to be cleansed by the waters of baptism, for he had no sins to be washed away. Rather, he sanctified the waters by his descent into them. Jesus set for us the example to be baptized. When we are baptized there are several things that happen: we enter a new, deeper relationship with God, we become a new creation, a daughter or son of God, and we become a part of Christ’s prophetic mission. Our eyes are opened to see those in need, and we are given the ability to carry another’s burden. We become the arms, the hands, eyes, heart, and feet of Christ. This reality touched me deeply on Christmas Eve.

I was in line for coffee the other day at a fast food location when I noticed a woman who had just left the city bus and had begun to walk laboriously, with a walker, along the parking lot. Every few steps she would stop and catch her breath. A young boy was with her. It was 17 degrees outside. Her fingers were exposed. I turned my car to stop next to her and offered her a ride to her destination in my warm car. Her name was Lisa, and her son, Thomas. They hopped inside. The place of their destination was not open for 20 minutes. I abandoned everything I had to do and accomplish…and made myself totally present to them. 

She shared that her family was poor, that they only use public transportation, and her husband works two jobs to make ends meet. We started talking about faith. She told me they attend the Salvation Army church since they “welcome the poor.” When the store opened, I helped her inside and Thomas stayed back to ask if we could exchange phone numbers. I will never forget them, or this experience. 

When they left the car, tears flowed down my face—”where they welcome the poor.” Was this Jesus I encountered? What more could I have done for her and Thomas? This experience was an Epiphany moment.

This is the effect of our Baptism: we are called to welcome the refugee, feed the hungry, build bridges of trust, share our gifts, seek justice and peace, and bring Christ into the world. 

 

Epiphanies of God

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By definition, Epiphany means an appearance or manifestation, particularly of a divine being. God breaks into the everyday life of His people, manifested in the person of Jesus. 

The story of the Magi arriving in Jerusalem looking for the newborn king of the Jews is only found in the Gospel of Matthew. The term "magi" may refer to a group of astrologers from Persia or the East. They are neither referred to as kings nor being three in number. It as common belief in ancient times that a new star appeared at the birth of a great figure. We are told that the Magi brought gifts. Gold, appropriate for a king, yet given to the one who gives the kingdom "to the poor in spirit." Frankincense, an expensive perfume for the one who tells us "the meek shall inherit the earth." Myrrh, a traditional herb used in burial preparations, foretelling of Christ's suffering and death. 

Two thousand years have passed since that first Epiphany. Is the star that led the Magi still burning brightly in our lives? How does God manifest Himself to us today? We need only look to ourselves. We make God present to others. The God we cannot see shines through the love of those we can see. Sometimes that star is profound and easily recognized, while other times it may be subtle and difficult to see. In making God's love present to others, we become Epiphanies of God...shining stars that lead one another to Christ...we become Christ, each one for the sake of all.

Glory to God in the Highest

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“Do not be afraid; for behold I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” No, I’m not talking about a vaccine for the COVID virus, I am quoting from the gospel of Luke as to the pronouncement by the angel to the shepherds. The angel heralding the birth of Jesus. But the words are good ones to remember and live by.

The birth of Jesus is good news. It is THE good news and no matter what we are feeling, the recalling of God made one of us means that as we and the world are living through these times, so is Jesus. Knowing it was God’s choice to enter into the mess of humanity 2000 years ago, and still walks with us today, is the foundation of Advent and of joy.

It’s not too late to stop and enter into the mystery of Christmas. It’s not too late to find that joy which may have eluded you until the very moment you are reading this. Take this moment, right now, to ponder the reality of Jesus with us. What would it mean in your life and the life of your family if you lived each day, made each decision, knowing Jesus was at your side? Maybe, like the angel, you would become a herald of the Good News! Announcing the good news that God didn’t come to praise those high up, but to elevate the lowly, to bring comfort to those in sorrow, to quell fear to those distressed. God started life as a small vulnerable infant. Remember, as God cared for the Holy Family, you are cared for and protected.

This year may seem like one in which everything is askew, that nothing is what it was, and yet, on Christmas Day we celebrate a certainty. On Christmas Day, we celebrate that God loved us so much that He sent his only Son to be with us, and with that the world is changed forever. This year, we may need to draw this mystery out a little more. We may need to work harder at pondering the meaning of the birth of Jesus. We may have need to search deeper for joy, but it is there and it is waiting. It is not too late. Start with repeating, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Have a blessed Christmas season.

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