Appleton, WI

Jan. 17: In Joy & Sorrow with Father Bill

As we enter Ordinary Time, I would like to share with you a reflection by Ann Weems titled “It Is Not Over”, which concludes her book of reflections, Kneeling in Bethlehem.

It is not over,
this birthing.
There are always newer skies
into which
God can throw stars.
When we begin to think
that we can predict the Advent of God,
that we can box the Christ
in a stable in Bethlehem,
that’s just the time
that God will be born
in a place we can’t imagine and won’t believe.
Those who wait for God
watch with their hearts and not their eyes,
always listening
for angel words.

I spent one last time praying before the Nativity Scene in Church after last Sunday evening’s Mass before the good people of our parish family came in Monday morning to put all the “Christmas stuff” away for another year. That tender scene of the newborn Jesus, lying in a food trough, gazed upon by Mary and Joseph, is charged with so much hope. This Jesus would grow up to be God in our midst, moving from village to village, not shouting or crying out in the streets and, so gentle, that he would not even break a bruised reed. Even on His Cross, Jesus mustered the grace deep within Him to be about forgiveness and not vengeance. He did not call down an army of angels to lift him off of the Cross and to place a sword in His Hand, so to destroy the oppressing Roman occupiers of the Promised Land. No, Jesus was a peacemaker.

On these upsetting and unnerving days across our nation, what can we do but ask our tender and gentle Jesus to embrace our nation in His Loving Arms. With His Hands upon our lives, we can feel His peace and calm, His strength and courage. With His Hands upon our hearts, we pray to become more like Jesus. Those who bear the name of “Christian” are truly Christ-bearers. We bring Jesus to others just as Mary brought Jesus in her womb to her cousin Elizabeth. We have to pray for the grace to be Christians in name and in deed. As the song prays, “And they will know we are Christians by our love.”

God is with us! Let us place all our hope in our God. Let us be still and silent often to listen for “angel words.” Let us recall the words of President Abraham Lincoln in his first Inaugural Address on March 4, 1861: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Father Bill +