My Dear People,
We read just before Christmas that familiar story of St. Joseph: his problem, his decision, and his dream that turned his world upside down.
Scholars remain perplexed by St. Luke’s text. They find it next to impossible to know what really happened. May I suggest one possible way of looking at it?
It may well be that Joseph was tapping into his unconscious, that border-place where God and man meet. He was in the twilight state between sleeping and waking: that state in which the deep fears, and the deep hopes, and the deep feelings jostle and jockey for position.
It was there that the Angel approached him, touched him, and told him what to do about Mary. His admirable response was instant obedience: no more dilemma, no more decision, just prompt obedience.
May I suggest a way of re-living the Joseph experience in this Christmas season? Get up an hour early, and go immediately go to the liturgical readings of the day. Read them slowly, once, twice, a third time. Do not struggle to decipher their meaning, just absorb the words. You are in the twilight state between sleeping and waking. Let the words you read sink into that creative swirl. Let them rest there a while, and a while-and-a-half.
Then take up your pen and begin to write about the first reading. Write whatever comes into your mind. Write quickly. Write automatically. Do the words trouble you? Write it down. Do the words charm you? Write it down. Do the words inspire you? Write it down. Write it all down.
Then take up your pen and begin to write about the Gospel. Write whatever your unconscious gives you. Write whatever comes into your mind. Can you see the Gospel scene? Write it down. Can you hear the Gospel word? Write it down. Does the Gospel touch off fears, and wonders, and hopes? Write them all down without thinking.
Do you not see that you are doing what Joseph did? You are allowing the sleeping unconscious to emerge in your waking life. You are inviting the Angel to approach you, to touch you, and to tell you what to do. We can refuse to do what we are told, we can sin, of course. But the only real answer is Joseph’s answer: instant obedience.
Repeat this exercise on each day of the Christmas season, and you will find your prayer life recharged and rejuvenated. May Joseph the Dreamer fill your twilight time, and call down the Angel to touch you.
My Dear People,
We are deep in Advent as I write this, and shimmering dawn is faintly visible in the darkened sky. The Advent end is near. The feast of Christmas is near. The child, the child, is near.
But we hardly know it. It has become politically correct to banish Christ from Christmas, to put Halloween, and Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Day, and Valentine’s Day on the same level as Christmas. We are not interested in knowing what Christmas meant.
And even in the Church it has become acceptable to banish thoughts of Christ from Christmas, to put the Commandments, and the virtues, and the demands of social justice on the same level with him. We are not interested in knowing how it came about, this Incarnation. We are not interested in the dusty, musty, battles of our ancestors at Nicea and Chalcedon. We are not interested in him.
That swaddled little child, that manger, that woman and that man held fast by wonder. What had they done? What had happened to them?
The truth is simple. She had been chosen to be the mother of the child. He had been chosen to make a home and a family for the child. And the child had been chosen to reveal his Father in heaven, to tell us everything about him, and to gather the sheep who had strayed and the sheep who had been lost.
The truth is the child is near. The truth is hungry love is near. Do we see it? Do we feel it? Do we accept it?
+ Most Rev. Ronald M. Gilmore
Bishop of Dodge City
In his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 4: 9-13), St. Paul gives us a vivid description of the life of an apostle. It is the gritty fruit of his experience.
How does it feel to be an apostle? It feels like having become a spectacle to all, a freak on the midway of an unending state fair. It feels like having become a fool on Christ’s account. It feels like having become weak. It feels like having been sneered at.
How does it feel to be an apostle? It feels like having been hungry and thirsty. If feels like having been poorly clad. It feels like having been roughly treated. It feels like having been homeless.
How does it feel to be an apostle? It feels like having been insulted. It feels like having been persecuted. It feels like having been slandered. It feels like having become garbage, the scum of the earth.
Who in the world would want such a job? Who would stand in line for it? Who would interview for it? Who would ever dream of praying for such a calling?
The only way to answer these questions is to realize that this portrait of the apostle is actually the portrait of Jesus himself. This is the way they treated him. This is what it meant for him to be sent. This was his experience of being the Messiah.
To be an apostle is to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. It is to reproduce his mind and his heart in your mind in your heart. It is to say I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me.
The apostle must be knocked from his horse. The apostle must be startled by the light of the risen Lord. The apostle must be captivated by the power of the Incarnate One. Love, and love alone, can make an apostle.
+ Most Rev. Ronald M. Gilmore
Bishop of Dodge City
The feast of the Assumption is a bright spot in a hot summer. As the opening prayer of the Mass has it: she was assumed, body and soul, into heaven.
Another response in the breviary says that he has taken her to live with him. She was with him at his birth. She was with him during his years of formation. She was with him during his public ministry. She was with him at his death. Her whole vocation seems to be summarized in those two words: she is called to be with him.
She is also called to be with his Church. She was with the Church in those fearful days after his death. She was with the Church when word first went out that he was alive. She was with the Church on that first Pentecost when the Spirit of Jesus was poured out upon them. Her whole vocation seems to be summarized in those three words: she is called to be with his Church.
And how is she called to do that? The Preface of the feast says she is the pattern that we are to follow. She is the first. We are to follow in her footsteps: to be with him and with his Church forever.The feast of the Assumption is thus a feast of Hope. It is possible for a human being to be in heaven, body and soul. She has shown us the way. It is possible. A bright spot in a hot summer. A bright, bright spot, indeed.