With Franciscan Eyes

Whose Birthday Is It?

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I have to remind myself that Christmas is not my birthday. "Jesus Is the Reason for the Season." Jesus is loving, true, genuine, real, gentle, almighty, infinite, deep, holy, selfless … God. What does He want? You. Your love. Your belief in Him. Spend time with Him. Listen to Him. He will speak. Repent. Weep. Be patient. Be joyful. Ask and believe and you will receive. Decorate with a Christmas tree and a Christmas crib. Dwell on surprises, inspirations from out of the blue.

Gifts for Jesus

  1. Give the gift of your thoughts by writing about a recent happening in your life that strengthened, enlivened or brightened your life and share it.
  2. Thank the recipients of your Christmas cards for the joy they bring you.
  3. Cook/bake/make something as gifts.
  4. Have a tree planted in a national park in their name.
  5. Donate to a charity that means something in their lives.
  6. Give to soup kitchens, homeless shelters, etc. in their name.   
  7. Join a grass roots movement to help save our planet.

Remember that it is Jesus’ birthday. The happiness of Christmas is giving!

Beauty in the Eyes of Our God

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We are probably all familiar with the nineteenth century fairy tale “The Ugly Duckling.” It tells the story of a baby swan (cygnet) who was hatched along with who he thought were his siblings but who were actually ducklings, and so he was ridiculed and ostracized because they perceived him as ugly. 

If the “ugly ducking” had been hatched in his mother swan’s nest, he would have been seen as beautiful. So what changed?  Nothing! He was always beautiful. It was the perception of others that changed what he thought of himself. 

How many times do we find ourselves swayed by what others say about us or by how we think they feel about us? Or, what is even worse, when we let our inner criticizing voice say disparaging things about ourselves to ourselves, and then we believe what we hear?

What a challenge it is to look into a mirror and not see the false notion that we are ugly but rather the beauty each of us holds.

“For we are God’s handiwork,” God’s masterpiece.   (Ephesians 2:10)

 I am fearfully and wonderfully made.   (Ps 139:14)

God does not see as a mortal who sees the appearance.   The LORD looks into the heart.   (1 Samuel 16:7)

May we look into the mirror each day and see the beauty that God sees. 

Hidden Graces

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Hidden Graces

In front of my home, hidden in a lot filled with trees, is an abandoned and broken-down home. During the summer because of the thick foliage, I couldn’t see it. But now every day I see it and lately it has been a source of my reflections. Knowing the history of this area, I know that at one time it was a simple but adequate home for a family. People from Chicago came out to live here seeking refuge from the agitation and violence of the city and in hopes of more economic stability. They found both here. The Catholic Church here has an 81-year history and when I talk with the older folks who are still living here, they speak with sparkling eyes and nostalgia for the community dinners, the celebrations and fun times they had as a faith community.

For various reasons the source of income for the people changed drastically and the factories moved out looking for ways to make more money with less expenses and so the slow exodus began. Without jobs many people left and currently the area has an aging population. But they continue to be a people of great faith and enthusiasm in living this faith.

But that house. It continues to speak to me of mission. At times we are called to be in places and moments of strong connections and activities that nurture the body and soul. I have lived on mission and been on many mission trips and the relationship with people is one of the greatest joys of my life. In my youth, I would have said, “Now this is really mission!” Doing all those marvelous activities that express a new kin-dom of God. We are all kin!

Now already in my golden years, I can look at the abandoned home and thank God for what it was and what it did for the people who lived there. It tells a story, perhaps a melancholy one, but it is a story with a history. It speaks to me of respecting where I am now and where my people are in this faith community. It speaks of the desire to live the reality in which God has placed me.

As we are ending another extremely difficult year, we can see that the call is to live our mission embracing the reality of whatever we encounter in life. Even in the most abandoned moments of our lives, the mystery of God’s love accompanies us and raises us above the difficulties to look beyond with hope and determination. These thoughts continue to resonate with me; they return to my mind and heart because I am certain that in whatever circumstances we find ourselves, nothing can separate us from the love of God. Scripture tells us this. St. Paul lived this and Jesus is glorified in this promise.

Let us not be afraid of abandoned houses and difficult situations but instead, let us risk going deeper to seek the presence of God in all moments because there will be grace present. However, I do say with joy, Come, Lord Jesus, come Emmanuel, come soon 2022!