Sunday, January 4, 2015

Epiphany Homily: Do you have IFR training? John F. Kennedy Jr. could have lived if he did.

jfk jr plane

On July 16, 1999, John F. Kennedy, Jr.; his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy; and her sister, Lauren Bessette, die when the single-engine plane that Kennedy was piloting crashes into the Atlantic Ocean near Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jr., was born on November 25, 1960, just a few weeks after his father and namesake was elected the 35th president of the United States. On his third birthday, "John-John" attended the funeral of his assassinated father and was photographed saluting his father's coffin in a famous and searing image. Along with his sister, Caroline, he was raised in Manhattan by his mother, Jacqueline. After graduating from Brown University and a very brief acting stint, he attended New York University Law School. He passed the bar on his third try and worked in New York as an assistant district attorney, winning all six of his cases. In 1995, he founded the political magazine George,which grew to have a circulation of more than 400,000. Unlike many others in his famous family, he never sought public office himself.

Always in the media spotlight, he was celebrated for the good looks that he inherited from his parents... Known for his adventurous nature, he nonetheless took pains to separate himself from the more self-destructive behavior of some of the other men in the Kennedy clan.

On July 16, 1999, however, with about 300 hours of flying experience, Kennedy took off from Essex County airport in New Jersey and flew his single-engine plane into a hazy, moonless night. He had turned down an offer by one of his flight instructors to accompany him, saying he "wanted to do it alone." To reach his destination of Martha's Vineyard, he would have to fly 200 miles--the final phase over a dark, hazy ocean--and inexperienced pilots can lose sight of the horizon under such conditions. Unable to see shore lights or other landmarks, Kennedy would have to depend on his instruments, but he had not qualified for a license to fly with instruments only.

The Piper Saratoga aircraft never made it to Martha's Vineyard. Radar data examined later showed the plane plummeting from 2,200 feet to 1,100 feet in a span of 14 seconds, a rate far beyond the aircraft's safe maximum. It then disappeared from the radar screen.

Kennedy's plane was reported missing by friends and family members, and an intensive rescue operation was launched by the Coast Guard, the navy, the air force, and civilians. After two days of searching, the thousands of people involved gave up hope of finding survivors and turned their efforts to recovering the wreckage of the aircraft and the bodies. Americans mourned the loss of the "crown prince" of one of the country's most admired families, a sadness that was especially poignant given the relentless string of tragedies that have haunted the Kennedy family over the years.

On July 21, navy divers recovered the bodies of JFK Jr., his wife, and sister-in-law from the wreckage of the plane, which was lying under 116 feet of water about eight miles off the Vineyard's shores. The next day, the cremated remains of the three were buried at sea during a ceremony on the USS Briscoe, a navy destroyer. A private mass for JFK Jr. and Carolyn was held on July 23 at the Church of St. Thomas More in Manhattan, where the late Jackie Kennedy Onassis worshipped. President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, were among the 300 invited guests. The Kennedy family's surviving patriarch, Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, delivered a moving eulogy: "From the first day of his life, John seemed to belong not only to our family, but to the American family. He had a legacy, and he learned to treasure it. He was part of a legend, and he learned to live with it."

Investigators studying the wreckage of the Piper Saratoga found no problems with its mechanical or navigational systems. In their final report released in 2000, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the crash was caused by an inexperienced pilot who became disoriented in the dark and lost control.  -Source-

His father, John F. Kennedy, said once in a presidential speech, almost prophetically about his son:

"I really don't know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it's because in addition to the fact that the sea changes, and the light changes, and ships change, it's because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, our sweat, and in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch it, we are going back from whence we came."


But why did this tragedy happen:  "the crash was caused by an inexperienced pilot who became disoriented in the dark and lost control."

What do we do when we get disoriented?

How do we make our way through the dark?

What do we do when we lose control in life?

Most of the time we rely on what we can see.  We rely on VFR - our visual flight rules.  

But the reality that most of life is Mystery, there is this whole other side of life that we cannot see or perceive and for that we need instruments to help us and guide us.  We need IFR Training - Instrument Flight Rule. 


The Catechism of the Catholic Church 

II. THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN TRADITION AND SACRED SCRIPTURE

One common source. . .

80 "Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal."40 Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ, who promised to remain with his own "always, to the close of the age".

. . . two distinct modes of transmission

81 "Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit."

"And [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching."

82 As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, "does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence."

We read in the letter from Ephesians: 

Brothers and sisters:
You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace
that was given to me for your benefit,
namely, that the mystery was made known to me by revelation.
It was not made known to people in other generations
as it has now been revealed
to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit:


The mystery has been made known by revelation!  It has now been revealed to the Apostles and prophets by the Spirit!

From the Gospel on the Feast of Epiphany, it was the chief priests and the scribes that were consulted: 

Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people,
He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea,
for thus it has been written through the prophet:
And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
since from you shall come a ruler,
who is to shepherd my people Israel.”

The Wise Men were not only in tune with the living tradition but also sought the living Word of God.

After their audience with the king they set out.
And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them,
until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.

They were guided through the darkness, through the night, through the mystery, and ultimately to Christ.

They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The truth is we need to be well trained in the IFR, Instrument Flight Rules, for spirituality.

Most of us think VFR, Visual Flight Rules, what we can see and touch as enough to get us by in life.  But at some point or another we will be plunged into darkness, into suffering, into mystery and it is then that we must turn to the instruments of Scripture and Tradition.

For John F. Kennedy Jr. "the crash was caused by an inexperienced pilot who became disoriented in the dark and lost control."

Take every opportunity to learn about Scripture and Tradition.  Become an experienced member of our faith not only for your own good, but so that you can help navigate those you love through the dangers of life and into Eternal Life in Heaven.

----

5 Ways to do this:
1) Read your parish bulletin and take the opportunities that are offered to learn about your faith.
2) Consider teaching PSR or RCIA.  There is no greater way to learn than to actually have to teach it. 3) Make a retreat.
4) Browse my Online Sacristy (Click Here: scroll down until you see it on the right hand side)
5) Download the EXAMEN App - St. Ignatius says it's the best way we can let God guide us every day.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Kenny's Chesney: Don't Blink and the New Year

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One of my favorite Country artists is Kenny Chesney, and there's a beautiful song that he has called "Don't Blink." And that's the song I want to use to kind of look at our new year, and especially to look at how Mary is able to take in this wonderful Christmas, this birth of her son, and how she is able to take all these things in and reflect on them and ponder them in her heart. So I am going to read to you the lyrics to "Don't Blink," and I just want you to think about your new year.






I turned on the evening news

Saw a old man being interviewed

Turning a hundred and two today

Asked him what's the secret to life

He looked up from his old pipe

Laughed and said "All I can say is."




Don't blink





Just like that you're six years old and you take a nap and you

Wake up and you're twenty-five and your high school sweetheart becomes your wife.





Don't blink





You just might miss your babies growing like mine did

Turning into moms and dads next thing you know your better half

Of fifty years is there in bed

And you're praying God takes you instead

Trust me friend a hundred years goes faster than you think.





Don't blink




I was glued to my TV and it looked like he looked at me and said

"Best start putting first things first."

Cause when your hourglass runs out of sand

You can't flip it over and start again

Take every breathe God gives you for what it's worth.






Don't blink





I've been trying to slow it down

I've been trying to take it in

In this here today gone tomorrow world we're living in.






Don't blink


I think the wonderful thing about Mary is, and we celebrate this in the Feast of the Mother of God in her contemplative of stance at the world. The reality that she was able to take all of these things in and treasure them in her heart.






We hear in the Gospel today that shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem to find Mary and Joseph and the infant lying a manger. So you have to imagine. This birth is going on, shepherds are coming in. They are coming in haste. They've got their sheep there. The angels are appearing. There's all these wonderful, crazy things happening. It's wild. And Mary is able to stop for a moment and to take it all in. And we hear the phrase in the Gospel, "And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart."






The truth is life flies by. And I know already at my age every year goes faster than the next. And Father Martello, who is even older than I, says that as you get older, you know, the years go by even faster. And the truth is life does go by like that.






So don't blink.






The idea is that we can try to take in all the moments of our lives. So especially as we begin this new year, just try to appreciate our families, try to appreciate our loved ones, try to appreciate every moment we have here at the Eucharist, to try to take in the Word of God, to try to take in all the grace, all the wonderful things that happen, hold them in our hearts and treasure them because life goes so fast.






So don't blink.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Mark Wahlberg and The Secret to a Holy Family


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A few days before Christmas, Mark Wahlberg was on the Kelly and Michael Show, now Kelly and Michael. And us -- my generation know him better as Marky Mark from Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. Yeah, you got that? But he's gone on to be the professional Mark Wahlberg, and he really is. He's an outstanding actor. And believe it or not, he's an outstanding Catholic.


I'm actually going to use him and his model of family for the image of the Holy family. So for those of you who don't know who Mark Wahlberg is, you might know him when I name some of the movies. He was in Boogie Nights, Three Kings, The Perfect Storm, Planet of the Apes, Rock Star, The Italian Job. He won an Academy Award for the best supporting actor in The Departed. He was in The Other Guys, The Fighter. You might know him from Ted, that movie with the teddy bear that was really bad and obscene, and Transformers: Age of Extinction. Some of the kids might know him from Transformers.


So he was on Kelly and Michael. And as he was being interviewed, they asked him, "What are you going to do for the holidays?" And when he got on to the show, he said by the way, "Merry Christmas" to everybody, and Kelly and Michael were very quick to say, "Happy Holidays." And he said, "Merry Christmas," like three or four times, and every time they corrected him "Happy Holidays" to be politically correct.


And so they asked him, "What are you going to do for Christmas?" And he said, "We're going to spend Christmas in our house and then we're going to Barbados for vacation with my wife and family. I was thinking about somewhere cold and kind of scenic where there is snow and let the kids snowboard, and my wife said that would be the end of our marriage. My wife is from Florida and she only likes warm weather. I'm happy to take my wife wherever she wants to go."


So they had a sneak peek of their holiday picture. So you know you have the family picture everybody sends out for Christmas now, where you have all the kids and mom and dad, and everybody looks beautiful and happy. So they showed this picture, and it was beautiful. And all of a sudden you hear everybody on the set laughing, because when they showed the picture, Kelly said, "You know what? Everybody is smiling, but you look like you are in pain."


And Mark Wahlberg said, "Yes, I was in pain because trying to get these kids to sit down and pose for a picture when all they want to do is play. And of course, that's the one picture out of 500 that my wife chooses, right, the one where I'm looking like that. And of course she wants to go from one location to the other and all these different sets and costumes and dresses, and all the kids want to do is play, and they're running around like crazy. You can't make them do some organized photo shoot.


"So it's going crazy, and I'm yelling at them, and everybody is all over the place, and that's the picture that she chooses. And my wife still manages to get a smirk while all of that is going on. She loves the holidays.


"You know, I want to push the religious aspect of Christmas a little bit more, like no gifts and, hey, let's go to church."


And Kelly said, "How did that work out for you?"


He goes, "The same way as the winter vacation. I'm not suggesting anything anymore."


So he went on to talk about how he's been really changing his life. So he's removed, for the last seven years, he's been trying to remove all of his tattoos. And he, you know, as some of you may know, lived a very bad life after he was out of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. He went on to do some pretty bad things, and he actually went to jail and he did some time and he hurt some people. He did some pretty horrible things. He's had a huge conversion. And he goes on now to be famous, right? He's really made it as a famous movie star, but he says that "being Catholic is the most important aspect of my life."


He said this at an interview:


Once I focused on my faith, wonderful things started happening to me. And I don't mean professionally. That's not what that's about. These days I'll be in church and people come up to me and say -- now, remember he's Catholic, and being in a Catholic church, and people come up to him and say, "Do you mind if I sit and pray with you?" And they will start praying, and it will turn out that they're praying for their new movie to be a success or whatever. I'm like, this is not what I'm here for. For me to sit down and ask for material things is ridiculous. It's much bigger than that. I want to serve God and to be a good human being and to make up for the mistakes that I made and the pain that I put people through. That's what I am praying for, and that's what I recommend to anybody.


His whole life changed when he centered his life on prayer, on his faith and on his family. He stayed focused on what was most important in life, and his career followed that path.


Wahlberg goes on to say, "Being a good actor or good producer, that's not going to help me sleep at night, or is not going to help me get into heaven. The most important thing from where I sit is to be a good father, a good husband, and a good human being -- a man who helps his fellow man and raises his kids to be good human beings too. Every single aspect of my family life is joy."


He loves his family. Remember, this is coming from the successful actor. So often we see people when they get success, they get the fame, what happens to their married life and their families? It usually falls apart. He's got something right here.


So how does he stay so focused when he's this man of Hollywood? He's rich. He's famous. He can fly to all these places for vacation. And it goes back to his faith. He actually has a spiritual director. So Father Flavin is his parish priest. And Father Flavin has known Mark Wahlberg since he was 13 years old. He's known him for all these years. He helped him when he was in jail.


Wahlberg said, "He's been in life since I was 13. He married me and my wife and baptized all of my children," and he also helped him to lead and guide him in some of the movie choices that he makes. And, no, he's not always been in great movies, but Wahlberg says that helps show some of the humanity. One of the most powerful things about it is his daily life.


So, he begins every day in prayer and he goes to daily mass. And if he can't go to daily mass for some reason, he goes into whatever local Catholic church he can find, and he spends ten minutes in prayer and spends some quality time with Jesus.


So he said, "The first thing I do when I start my day is I get down on my hands and knees and I give thanks to God." So he gets down on his hands and knees and thanks God for his life. "If I can start my day off by saying my prayers and getting myself focused, then I know I'm doing the right thing. That ten minutes helps me in every way throughout the day." So he begins every day with ten minutes in prayer.


Mark Wahlberg and his family and his faith are witnesses to Hollywood, and I think to all of us, of what it truly means to be a holy family and how Jesus will really help and lead us and guide us through the crazy world that we live in. If he can lead and guide Mark Wahlberg through the craziness he's been through, believe me, he can lead and guide each and every one of us through whatever craziness we face.

So today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family.


When I was born, my mother, she did this with all six of us, but she kind of consecrated us to God. With each one of us, she blessed us and asked God for these three things. She said, "Please help my child to be holy, healthy and happy," in that order. To be holy, healthy and happy. That was her prayer for each one of us when we were born. And the truth is, it does need to be in that order. Holiness first, healthiness and then happiness.


Sometimes we get mixed up if we go in the opposite order and we want happiness first or healthiness first, and we kind of put holiness on the back burner. Holiness has to come first.


What does it mean to have a holy family? When we hear in the scripture today, "God sets a father in honor over his children." So think about this. Mark Wahlberg is a spiritual leader of his family. He is the one that is leading family in the faith. The truth is, in our faith tradition, it's always been the father figure that has been the teacher, the primary teacher of the faith. We even say this at baptisms, that the father, that he be not only the primary teacher, but the best teachers of the faith. The father is really supposed to be the one that leads the family in the faith. And I think the difficulty so often we've gotten our priorities mixed up.


Oftentimes, when I'll bury a father, their children will tell me about what was important to him, and they will say to me, "My father never missed a day of work in his whole life." And they think -- that's a wonderful virtue by the way. But they say that's what he prided above all. He never missed a day of work in his whole life. Now, he didn't go to church or he didn't really pray to God, or anything like that. He was a good guy, but he never missed a day of work in his whole life. Did that father help his children get into heaven? No. He missed the boat, totally. He focused his whole life thinking he was doing good, thinking that work was the most important thing. But the most important thing is not work. It's God.


Imagine if a child said to me, "My father never missed a mass a day of his whole life," or say, "He never missed a Sunday mass or Holy day a day in his whole life." You've got 52 masses a year, plus the Holy days. Let's say 60. You times that by 80. That's -- what is that? Eight times six. What is it? Somebody yell it loud that can do math.


480.


Four hundred eighty thousand. 480. Yeah, but like 80 years. Is that it? Forty-eight hundred. Thank you. None of you know math.


So imagine if 4800 times God was put first. Now, I know all of you today on Sunday, Sunday mass right now, you have given up something to be here, right? Maybe it's -- maybe you could have slept in. I don't know what it is. You've given up something to be here Sunday, and Sunday after Sundayafter Sunday after Sunday you've given up something. You have chosen holiness over something else 4800 times over your whole life.


Then we hear in the second reading, "Brothers and sisters: Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord forgives, so must you do. And over all these put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts."


That's what truly holiness is, when the peace of Christ is at the center of our lives and he controls our hearts.


"Let the word of God dwell richly in you." How does that happen? It happens by coming to mass every Sunday and hearing the word of God. And as Mark Wahlberg did, every day spending ten minutes letting the word of God dwell richly in us.


"Singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs in gratitude in your hearts to God."


So we hear, you know, Jesus made it very simple. He said if you want to get to heaven, there's only two commandments. The first is love God with all of your heart, all of your mind and all of your soul. And the second is love your neighbor as yourself. These are the two commandments, and all of the commandments fall under these.


I think the problem is we've lost the first one: Love God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul. That's what makes us holy. We just kind of focused on the second one, which is the good-guy heresy, I'd like to say. Just be a good guy and that's enough. That's wonderful, but if you are not loving God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul, you're failing, we're failing in our priorities.


So finally we hear in the Gospel, Jesus is consecrated. He's taken to the temple. So right after he is born, Mary and Joseph take Jesus to the temple and they lay him down in the altar. Now, the altar was always a symbol of sacrifice. So in the temple back in those times, 2000 years ago, they would sacrifice animals. And that's why they were taking a pair of turtle doves. They would sacrifice animals for God to make atonement for their sins.


Jesus, they actually took Jesus to the altar and laid him on the altar and they gave their son to God. And that's when we heard Simeon say, "Now you let your servant go in peace, for your word has been fulfilled."


Notice for Mary, she chose holiness first, but happiness didn't follow, because we hear in the Gospel the prophet says to her, "In your heart, Mary, a sword shall pierce." Mary would experience pain by giving her child to God. Holiness would not ultimately lead, in all cases, to happiness. I'm sure there were many happy occasions for Mary, but she's known as the sorrowful mother because holiness came first.


So the truth is, for all of us, that's the order, the priority that we ought to have with our families: Holy, healthy and happy. We want all three. And hopefully we do have all three, but they have to come in order. And sometimes healthiness and happiness don't happen, but holiness can always happen.


And just as Mark Wahlberg had been living a horrible life, and he was saved and kind of turned back to God, his whole life changed and he took once more that role of being the spiritual father of the family. He's the one that insists that Christmas really is about Christ. He's the one that insists on daily prayer and going to mass together as a family and really focusing on what Christmas is really about. He's the one that goes on a talk show and says, "Merry Christmas" when everybody else says "Happy Holidays." Something has changed in him.


So for all of us, in order for us to have holy families, we truly do need to keep our priorities in order. I think we can do that by Sunday mass, maybe even daily mass, and by at least daily prayer by taking ten minutes, getting down on our knees as we start our day and asking God to help make us and our families holy, happy and healthy.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Mike Christmas Tag 4x6

The Crippled Lamb Christmas Homily

the crippled lamb
The Crippled Lamb. By Max Lucado

Once upon a time in a sunny valley, there lived a little lamb named Joshua.
He was white with black spots, black feet, and … sad eyes.

Josh felt sad when he saw the other lambs with snow-white wool and no spots.

He felt sad when he saw the other sheep with their moms and dads because he didn’t have a mom or dad.

But he felt saddest when he saw the other lambs running and jumping, because he couldn’t.

Josh had been born with one leg that didn’t work right. He was crippled. He always limped when he walked.

That’s why he always watched while the other lambs ran and played. Josh felt sad and alone – except when Abigail was around.

Abigail was Josh’s best friend. She didn’t look like a friend for a lamb. She was an old cow.

She was brown with white blotches that looked like rain puddles on a path.

Her belly was as round as a barrel, and her voice was always kind and friendly.

Some of Josh’s Favorite hours were spent with Abigail.

They loved to pretend they were on adventures in distant lands.  Josh liked to listen to Abigail tell stories about the stars.

They would spend hours on the hill, looking into the valley. They were good friends. But even with a friend like Abigail, Josh still got sad.

It made him sad to be the only lamb who could not run and jump and play in the grass.

That’s when Abigail would turn to him and say:
"Don’t be sad, little Joshua. God has a special place for those who feel left out."

Josh wanted to believe her. But it was hard. Some days he just felt alone.  He really felt alone the day the shepherds decided to take the lambs to the next valley where there was more grass.  The sheep had been in the valley so long, the ground was nearly bare.

All the sheep were excited when the shepherd told them they were going to a new meadow.

As they prepared to leave, Josh hobbled over and took his place on the edge of the group.

But the others started laughing at him.

"You’re too slow to go all the way to the next valley."

"Go back, Slowpoke. We’ll never get there if we have to wait on you!"

"Go back Joshua, you can’t keep up with us."


That’s when Joshua looked up and saw the shepherd standing in front of him.

"They are right, my little Joshua. Go and spend the night in the stable."

Josh looked at the man for a long time. Then he turned slowly and began limping away.


When Josh got to the top of the hill, he looked down and saw all the other sheep headed toward the green grass. Never before had he felt so left out.  A big tear slipped out of his eye, rolled down his nose, and fell on a rock.

Just then he heard Abigail behind him. And Abigail said what she always said when Joshua was sad.

"Don’t be sad, little Joshua. God has a special place for those who feel left out.”

Slowly the two friends turned and walked to the stable together.
By the time they got to the little barn, the sun was setting like a big orange ball. Josh and Abigail went inside and began to eat some hay out of the feed box.

They were hungry and the hay tasted good.

For a little while, Joshua forgot he had been left behind.

"Go to sleep little friend," Abigail said, after they'd finished eating, "you’ve had a hard day."

Josh was tired. So he lay down in the corner on some straw and closed his eyes. He felt Abigail lie down beside him, and he was glad to have Abigail as a friend.

Soon Josh was asleep. At first he slept soundly, curled up against Abigail’s back.

In his sleep he dreamed. He dreamed of running and jumping just like the other sheep. He dreamed of long walks with Abigail through the valley. He dreamed of being in a place where he never felt left out.

Suddenly strange noises woke him up.

"Abigail," he whispered: "wake up. I’m scared!"

Abigail lifted her big head and looked around.  The stable was dark except for a small lamp hanging on the wall.

"Somebody is in here," Josh Whispered.

They looked across the dimly lighted stable. There, lying on some fresh hay in the feed box, was a baby. A young woman was resting on a big pile of hay beside the feed box.

Joshua looked at Abigail, thinking his friend could tell him what was going on.
But Abigail was just as surprised as Josh.

Josh looked again at the women and the child, then limped across the stable.

He stopped next to the mother and looked into the baby’s face. The baby was crying. He was cold. The women picked up the baby and put him on the hay next to her.

Josh looked around the stable for something to keep the baby warm. Usually there were blankets. But not tonight. The shepherds had taken them on their trip across the valley.

Then Josh remembered his own soft, warm wool. He walked over and curled up close to the baby.

"Thank you, little lamb," the baby's mother said softly.

Soon the little child stopped crying and went back to sleep.

About that time, a man entered the stable carrying some rags.

"So sorry Mary," he explained, "but this is all the cover I could find."

"It’s okay," she answered, "this little lamb has kept the new king warm."

Joshua looked at the baby and wondered who he might be.

"His name is Jesus," Mary spoke as if she knew Josh's Question: "God’s son. He came from heaven to teach us about God."

Just then there was a noise at the door. It was the shepherds, the ones who had left Joshua behind.

There eyes were big and they were excited: "We saw a bright light and heard the angels," they began.
Then they saw Joshua next to the baby.

"Joshua! Do you know who this baby is?"

"He does now!" It was a young mother who was speaking. She looked at Joshua and smiled.

"God has heard your prayers little one. This little baby is the answer."

Joshua looked down at the baby. Somehow he knew this was a special child, and this was a special moment.

He also understood why he had been born with a crippled leg. Had he been like the other sheep, he would have been in the valley. But since he was different, he was in the stable, among the first to welcome Jesus into the world.

He turned and walked back to Abigail and took his place beside his friend.

"You were right he told her, God does have a special place for me!"

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"Somehow he knew this was a special child, and this was a special moment."

This is a very special moment and you are in a very special place.

As the altar is prepared and the gifts of bread and wine are brought forth, we will be brought to the stable.  The the laying on of the hands and the prayers of the priest the gifts of bread and wine will be transformed into the "Real Presence" the very "Body and Blood" of Christ.

This altar becomes the Stable where Christ is born for us.

And he has a special place for you and for me, especially those who are weakest among us.

If you can relate to the crippled lamb, then especially now at this time The Baby Jesus longs to be close to you.  Your weakness, your illness, your brokenness, your sinfulness will not keep him away from you.  Rather, it is that very wound that brings Him close to you.

The Baby Jesus needs and desires your warmth, your comfort, your brokenness and uniqueness like no others.

Today on this altar He is born for you.

He came ultimately for the lost sheep.  And maybe you find yourself lost spiritually.   Maybe you have been away from the faith, or from the church or from the Sacraments.  This is a very special time and this is a very special place.  Maybe because of one reason or another you are unable to receive communion this Christmas or maybe you have been disillusioned or disappointed by the church or have felt abandoned by the church: "God has a special place for those who feel left out."

No matter what your weakness, or disability, or difference, or addiction, or sin is, He has permitted it so that He can meet you in it.  He wants to be "warmed" by you and close to you in your brokenness.  You don't have to suffer alone.

If you have been away from the Sacraments maybe now is the special time and the special place to come back.

Every church has regularly scheduled confession times and you can always call and make a special appointment to meet with the priest.  Find out how here. 

Maybe you are reading this and you aren't Catholic, but would like to be.  All are welcome into our faith and all are welcome to receive the Eucharist, but there is a process of initiation.  It's called the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation).  You can do this at any parish or with any priest.

Maybe it is just a situation you are in, a divorce, or an invalid marriage, a sexual relationship outside of marriage.  Maybe you have been abused or abandoned.  Maybe you have felt rejection by those who are supposed to love you the most... The Baby Jesus wants to be near you in your brokenness.  Your suffering becomes an entry way for Him to be born in you.

Many of us come to this Christmas Season struggling for different reasons: it could be depression, illness, grief of the loss of a loved one, a spouse or a child or a parent or a friend.  This is your "cripple"... that feeling of something being wrong, of being left behind, or left out, or in desolation.  That "cripple" is the very reason and the very place of intimacy that the Baby Jesus wants to be warmed by you and to warm you.

You are here providentially today at this special time and in this special place for a reason and for a purpose.

You are so loved by Jesus, by the Father, and by all of us.  You bring us and God warmth without realizing it and we are so grateful to have you here.

Some of you will come forward to receive communion today and in that moment as you take the Body and Blood of Christ into your mouth, as you are fed and nourished by God, Christ is born in you.  Christmas happens every time and with every person that receives communion.  You become one with Christ.  He is in you and you are in Him!  This is a very special time and a very special place.  God is taking on Flesh in and through you.  You become Christ.

You are Christ now.  And as you go out into the world you will be the one who finds the lost sheep, who is comforted and warmed by those who come to you with their wounds, their brokenness, and their sins.  Jesus makes a wonderful promise to us when he says:  "Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father."

You will do greater things than the works that Jesus did!  Can you imagine that?  What a special time and a special Season!  What a gift we are given in the Eucharist.  What a blessing that he has called you here today for a very special purpose and he wants to change the world forever through you.

Just as Joshua looked down at the baby. Somehow he knew this was a special child, and this was a special moment.

He also understood why he had been born with a crippled leg. Had he been like the other sheep, he would have been in the valley. But since he was different, he was in the stable, among the first to welcome Jesus into the world.

He turned and walked back to Abigail and took his place beside his friend.

"You were right he told her, God does have a special place for me!"

And he does for you too!



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You can purchase "The Crippled Lamb" here.