I. Family Can Be Marvelous and Messy: Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were a family deeply immersed in rituals and traditions of their people. In today’s Gospel we hear how they kept the feast of Passover by traveling to Jerusalem to celebrate this holy day. In our lives we are given a family and also the family of the Church, the People of God. In both our domestic family and our Church family, life can be messy but our relationships are strengthened through the celebration of rituals (family traditions). How might we invite more “rituals” (praying together, playing together, etc.) into the life of our families? For the times our words and actions have sown discord instead of unity and peace within our own families and the family of the Church, we seek pardon and mercy.
II. Welcome Back: If you would like to reconnect or deepen your relationship with the Catholic Church, there will be an informal gathering on Tuesday, January 5 at 6:00pm in our Community Center (enter from the parking lot behind our church building: use the downstairs nearest the parish garages). Come with your questions, hurts, concerns to share with us. God works in peoples’ lives at different times and ways—when we are ready! Accompany someone to this session. Please bring a friend. Wear a mask.
III. Holy Innocents, Martyrs: On Monday, December 28, Holy Innocents Day commemorates the children slaughtered by King Herod in his attempt to destroy the infant Jesus (Matthew 2:16). When Herod heard that a child had been born who would become King of the Jews, he had every male child under the age of two in Bethlehem massacred. The slaughter of the innocents (Mt. 2:13-18) bears the witness to the blood of Jesus which cleanses us from sin (1 John1:5–2:2) and frees us from death (Psalm 124).
IV. Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat: On the Feast of the Holy Innocents we remember the innocent who have perished through abortion, starvation, and war. Often, emotional and spiritual wounds of a past abortion sap faith, love and joy from one’s life; if you dare enter the process for healing, your life will be transformed. Rachel’s Vineyard is a weekend Retreat which offers support in a confidential and nonjudgmental environment where women and men can can express, release and reconcile painful post abortion emotions to begin the process of renewal and healing. Call toll-free national hotlines: Rachel’s Vineyard: 877 HOPE 4 ME (877-467-3463); National Hotline for Abortion Recovery: 866-482-LIFE (866-482-5433). Visit the website for the next retreat. www.rachelsvineyard.org
V. Murder in the Cathedral is a verse drama by T. S. Eliot, first performed in 1935, that portrays the assassination of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral during the reign of England’s King Henry II in 1170. The action occurs between December 2 and 29, 1170, chronicling the days leading up to the martyrdom of Thomas Becket, following his absence of seven years in France. Becket’s internal struggle is a central focus of the play. The tempters arrive, three of whom parallel the Temptations of Christ. The first tempter offers the prospect of physical safety. The second offers power, riches, and fame in serving the king. The third tempter suggests a coalition with the barons and a chance to resist the king. Finally, the fourth tempter urges him to seek the glory of martyrdom! Becket responds to all the tempters and specifically addresses the immoral suggestions of the fourth: “The last temptation is the greatest treason: to do the right deed for the wrong reason.” We celebrate the Feast of Saint Thomas Becket or Saint Thomas of Canterbury on Tuesday, December 29. Become familiar with this strong man’s life. Read Murder in the Cathedral. Celebrate Mass at 7:00am or 12:05pm today.
VI. Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God: In today’s Gospel (Luke 2:16-21) there is excitement as the shepherds hurry into Bethlehem to pour out what they have heard and seen to anyone who would listen. But at the center of this movement is Mary, the still point around whom it all revolves. She says nothing, but in her heart she treasures and ponders all that is happening. With Joseph at her side and her child lying in a manger wrapped in the swaddling clothes that bind to both king and commoner (Wisdom 7:4), Mary, the contemplative woman, silently holds and “throws together” in her heart the events of divine conception and human birth, heavenly hosts in hillside shepherds. Our Mass schedule at Saint Stephen Cathedral is 7:00am and 12noon on Friday, January 1. Mass at Blessed Sacrament Chapel (Sycamore & 7th Streets) will be December 31 at 6:00pm. Why not keep this festival with Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church!