Most of us celebrate our birthdays. Some among us also celebrate their feast day or patron saint day, but how many of us celebrate the day of our baptism? In his book Christianity: The Making of Christians (Kevin Mayhew Ltd., 1979), Mark Searle reminds readers that for many centuries it was the custom in the church to celebrate the pascha annotinum or the anniversary of baptism. It was a sort of class reunion for the baptized, their sponsors and the bishop, at which they celebrated the Eucharist together.
A well-circulated Hasidic tale tells the story of a rabbi quizzing his students. He asked, "How can we determine the hour of dawn, when the night ends and the day begins?"
One of the students suggested, "Day begins when, from a distance, you can distinguish between a dog and a sheep."
The Lectionary readings chosen for this cycle to celebrate the feast of the Holy Family leave us with difficult questions. By what standards do we evaluate family relationships and why? Who do we include or exclude as family members? And how do we handle family dysfunction, conflict, and abuse?
O God of delight, fill our hearts with wonder-filled stories.
Christmas: In the bustle of the holiday shopping and commercialism, it's easy to forget that Christmas doesn't end at 11:59 p.m. Dec. 25.
O God of Humor, enable us to laugh at your mischievous plans.
O God of Quiet, come! Whisper in our waiting hearts what you ask of us.
O Rising Sun, send your healing rays of love into our lives.
We tend to hear Isaiah's prediction of the birth of "Emmanuel" as a wondrous announcement, the astounding prediction of a birth to take place 700 years after it was spoken. Indeed, it is a marvelous quote, but in its original context, it had nothing at all to do with Jesus. In reality, the birth announcement was made as a serious warning to a wicked king. Facing the danger of an invasion, King Ahaz had chosen to rely on the military might of Assyria to protect him, and in the process, he abandoned his fidelity to the God of his ancestors.
O God of Patience, draw us into the mystery of your love.