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Commit to Communion

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Do you remember the time when we were asked to refrain from eating from midnight until we received Communion the next day?

From early Christian days, “Do this in memory of me,” meant to recall and participate in Jesus’ action in which he poured himself out for us. When we come up to receive His precious body, we also commit to communion with Jesus, that we too will pour ourselves out for one another. That’s quite an oath we take each time we come forward.

Now that we are required to fast just one hour before communion, how are you preparing to make this promise of self-emptying? Too often, we are in such a rush that we don’t run our week, it runs us. When we live the work week in chaos and haste, we often cannot slow down on Saturday evening or Sunday morning and relish what we are to receive.

Preparing ourselves to receive the most precious body and blood of our Lord, is not just something on the “to do” list. St. Paul says, “As often as you eat this bread…you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes.” The only way to truly proclaim His death is your willingness to participate in it.

Every time you process up for communion, you are exchanging your promise to live as Jesus instructed in exchange for the divine gift of eternal life.

Do not waste an opportunity. Pay attention.

The Shoes of Others

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I was walking to church. It was a Saturday morning. I was to be an altar server at a wedding. I was in fifth grade. I came past our school and turned toward the church. Seeing me, one of my school mates came racing down the grassy hill in front of school where he had been playing. He came right up to me and punched me in the mouth. He said he hated me because I was a “goody two shoes”. I had no idea what he meant.

I went home after the wedding and told my mother. She said I should pray for him. I did not find that easy, but decided on praying that he would die peacefully of some fatal illness…and do it before Monday.

What does Jesus want from us when he tells us to pray for those who mistreat us? As I grew up, I knew my prayer for my enemy from fifth grade was not right, but often I traded this prayer for wishes that my offenders would change. I prayed that those who mistreated me would think more like I did. In reality, this “mature” prayer for my enemies was no improvement from fifth grade. So what are we to do?

 Jesus tells us: stop judging, stop condemning, stop closing the door to those who hurt you. Jesus calls us to radical empathy, putting ourselves in the shoes of others in every encounter we have, joyful or painful.

This is the formula for holiness and believe it or not, peace. Instead of wishing evil upon that boy who punched me in fifth grade, if I had just understood that he was having a real bad day, the incident would not have bothered me so much that I still remember it decades later.

Stop your unwillingness to love, and be healed.

in Faith, Joy

O Holy Night

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The walk from the church of my childhood to home was exactly thirteen minutes. In Illinois, because of the crowds, you don’t count distances in miles, but by how long it takes to get there. I know it was thirteen minutes because we had to come home for lunch each school day and we had exactly forty-five minutes. That gave us nineteen minutes to eat. It also helped for the many times I attended Mass or served at Mass to know exactly when I would have to leave.

But there was this one night, this one late night when the walk was different - when it was magical, when it was a special night, when the walk home lasted forever—Christmas Eve, the first year I had returned from college. It was snowing as we left to go to the still then, Mass at midnight. The snow was eight inches deep by the end of Mass. I helped a few people clean off their cars before my two sisters and I headed home, the only brave souls of my large family that chose to attend. The streets were abandoned, so we walked down the middle of the road. The moon was full so the new snow shimmered like diamonds as we passed darkened houses. All was quiet. We three spontaneously began to sing the Christmas hymn which is now my favorite, O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining, it is the night of our dear Savior’s birth. We walked into a scene of joy and laughter as my relatives were all gathered around the table for the after midnight feast. It is what was done back then.

There was no more pleasant a Christmas Eve I remember, nor a more sacred and silent night. As you gather family for this feast of the Nativity of Our Lord, share with each other your favorite Christmas story, the time you really felt the presence of Jesus and really knew that God is watching over you.

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