The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph 2019

Version 2

“The Holy Family” Painting by: Ronald Raab, CSC 2017

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

December 29, 2019

Dear Followers of Jesus,

Family life is beautiful. Our blood relationships form us deeply. In childhood, we rely on family for food, shelter and love. Touch is key for us to survive. Being held helps us form our security, our sense of safety and attachment in the world. We are never far from our gene pool, no matter how we want to form our own identities. Love is real, imbedded in how life is passed on.

When we grow older, we instinctively want to separate from those we love. Living our own gifts, talents, and desires, is a good thing. Sometimes we make it on our own and sometimes we don’t. Family is a sure thing when we cultivate those relationships in freedom. So often getting to that point of freedom is not easy. Bickering, heartache, jealousy, and competition, are also firmly embedded in family relationships.

We also belong to a larger family. We belong to Christ Jesus because we are baptized in his suffering, death and resurrection. We call ourselves the Church. We belong to this group of people who are also human, who also make mistakes, which also cling to power rather than faith. However, we belong to this holy people who live and serve in our world, trying to unify the world and not separate it. We welcome the lost into the fold, the immigrants, the prisoner, the sick and the tired, and the child with special needs. We belong in Christ Jesus.

Sometimes we also bicker about who belongs in the Church. Sometimes we don’t want to give up our places when our decision processes are threatened. Change can be a threatening word when we think we are in control. The dynamics of Church life are just like an extended family.

Today’s celebration of the Holy Family reveals to us that water is thicker than blood. We say that because the waters of baptism wash up in our lives and allow us to be part of the miracle of the Incarnation. We become the extended family of Jesus because we are born again in baptism. We die to self and live in him. This takes us an entire lifetime to fully realize and admit. Growing up in the Church and taking responsibility for our faith is never easy.

The Holy Family is not just a tight three-unit group. The Holy Family becomes all of us who make a decision to follow Jesus through the depths of our baptism. We don’t age out of baptism. We don’t stop growing up in faith. We don’t take our relationship with Christ for granted.

The sacrament of baptism is not something that ends after a private ceremony. Baptism is the way in which we all belong in the Church and to one another. Our baptism allows us to belong, if we want to our not, to those who are different from ourselves and those who even live their faith differently. We belong to those who struggle, those who sin and those who are lost. We even belong to the dead, those who have found their way to the face of Christ. We are the Church, the People of God. We are the Church, the Holy Family here on earth…and in heaven.

Blessings to you and your household,

Fr. Ron

Feast of Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist 2019

IMG_0240

“John bent down at the tomb”  Painting: Ronald Raab, CSC

Gospel Jn 20:1a and 2-8

On the first day of the week,
Mary Magdalene ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we do not know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.

Dear John,

I have read your story hundreds of times.

Early this morning, I read it and your encounter

With Jesus began to enter me.

 

You laid your head upon his breast at dinner.

You stood at the foot of the cross with his mother.

You listened to Mary Magdalene.

You ran to find out for yourself.

You hesitated to enter the dark tomb.

 

You did not halt because you were afraid to see him dead.

You stood still because you believed the empty space would heal every place in you. 

You did not peer in because you genuinely understood his intimacy.

You stopped because you knew you would be loved into someone new.

 

You put your hand on the rock that had been rolled away.

Your watery eyes could not take in the moment in early daylight.

Your heartbeat quickened.

Your breathing shortened with delight and anticipation.

 

Then your heart led you in.

Then your eyes focused on emptiness.

Then your longing was fulfilled.

In the emptiness of the space, you understood he would never leave you.

In the empty tomb, genuine love was born and it was too much to grasp. 

 

(My letter to John today before dawn. Based on today’s gospel.)

Christmas Day 2019

fullsizeoutput_22da

“Merry Christmas” 2019 Painting by: Ronald Raab, CSC

I inherited Dad’s round shoulders

 

I inherited Dad’s round shoulders

that barely filled his army jacket

when his 117-pound body became adult.

 

Later, he shouldered our family,

Wearing a sleeveless butcher’s apron

tucked around his identity.

 

He hung up his bloodied uniform after Christmas,

wiping sawdust from his leather shoes

for an afternoon of family visits.

 

He wrapped fresh hams for his five sisters

As peace offerings, knowing he could not

bear the burden of sibling conflicts.

 

My father, my mother, and I  drove a few cold miles,

tires crunching a path on side streets.

As we pulled up to each family hearth,

the uncles welcomed us at the door,

inviting us in and receiving our heavy coats,

draping them on wooden hangers in the hall closet,

placing our damp hats and gloves on the radiator.

 

Being the youngest of twenty-four cousins,

I was the only child overhearing

my aunts and uncles recalling a wartime Christmas–

and, now, tales of broad athletic shoulders

of each of their budding adult children.

 

In each of the sisters’ homes, an aunt passed around

a white platter as fragile as parchment

that presented homemade, walnut fudge

and coconut cookies. Colored tree lights and candles

along with lipstick grins chased away

the gray of late Sunday afternoon.

 

After exchanging gifts and weaving family stories

into a warm shawl, my uncle fetched our belongings

and opened my mother’s coat, bearing the hint of Estee Lauder.

She slid one arm inside each silk-lined sleeve.

He offered my father his wool trench coat.

My uncle butlered my jacket for each arm. I punched

each sleeve. He tucked the coat up

around my small shoulders. He handed me

my stocking cap and knitted mittens

and patted my back with assurance and farewell.

 

I felt grown up, bursting out of my clothes

because of encouraging hands upon my shoulders,

belonging among my family that carried the world.

 

Merry Christmas! Blessings to you and your loved ones.

Peace on Earth,

Fr. Ron

 

 

Fourth Sunday of Advent 2019: Painting and Prayer

Version 2

“Holy Family” Painting by: Ronald Raab, CSC 2018

Prayer based on today’s gospel, Matthew 1:18-24

 

Jesus, our awaited Savior,

Your human family began in great conflict.

Mary, your mother, was pregnant out of wedlock.

Joseph bore the responsibility of divorcing her.

They were anxious about their identity in God.

They wanted to keep the law but they listened to an angel.

 

We are no different today.

Our identities have grown into political battles.

Our families carry these identities to holiday tables.

We struggle to find the meaning of brother and sister.

Help us focus on true and beautiful human connection.

Help our families not implode in fear.

 

Help us speak wisdom this week around hectic tables.

Reveal in our divisions the unity of love and faith.

Release us from worry.

Release us from intolerance and blame.

 

Joseph received an angel’s assurance that his fear was useless.

Send us an angel’s word this week as we gather around favorite foods.

Give us grace to listen to the pain of those we love.

Give us patience to enjoy our differences and our common humanity.

Help us speak with tenderness as we enjoy a newborn child and grieve a grandparent.

Send us an angel to change hatred into empathy.

 

This week reveals our greatest desires.

We come to know that God-is-with-us.

Real family love  is revealed in our humility.

Faith opens a new door to life beyond our own.

God’s love sets a new table so we may feast upon forgiveness.

 

May grace come and our divisions cease in the promise of Christ Jesus.

Amen

 

 

 

Fourth Sunday of Advent: Prayers of the Faithful

Version 2

Fourth Sunday of Advent

December 22, 2019

Let us pray for our common dreams of justice and peace within our world, our families and in our own hearts.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray for immigrants, people in prisons, families who have lost their homes, and parents who remain jobless.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray for an openness to do God’s will, for fidelity to God’s plan for integrity and hope.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray for our family reunions this coming Christmas, for the beauty of companionship and the love that is shared around our common tables.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray for our Universal Church and for our government leaders and for our common dreams to respect every human being.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray for our loved ones who rest in Christ Jesus, in the promise of Kingdom glory. In this Mass…

We pray to the Lord.

 

 

 

 

 

Fourth Sunday of Advent 2019: Bulletin Column

IMG_1520

“The Angel of the Lord” Painting by Ronald Raab, CSC 2016

December 22, 2019

Dear Believers in Hope,

Young families inspire me. I really don’t know how families make ends meet. Patience must come with the holy vocation of raising children. Overriding fear must also be part of the vows in marriage and bringing new life into our world. God-with-us is not just a pious phrase when parents are given such responsibility for a rambunctious toddler. God is so evident within young families. I see this more clearly as we get even closer to Christmas.

Christmas is near. Now the Advent liturgy takes a turn. The ancient prophets of Isaiah and John the Baptist have been quieted. The prophet that is now center stage is Mary. The focus of this very short last week of Advent is the anticipation of birth. The pregnancy of Mary and the decision making of Joseph show us how to anticipate the birth of the Savior even within our own lives.

We are all waiting to celebrate hope born within our human lives. Recently, a friend and I were speaking about the radical presence of Mary in the scriptures. My friend said that she would probably not be Mary’s friend if she met her. She said that Mary’s strength would be more than she could handle! I found her impression of Mary to be very provocative. In her strength, Mary births hope for us all. I think she might be correct because we have so taken the complex humanity out of Mary and have made her live on pedestals rather than in our hearts.

Joseph dominates this scene from Matthew 1:18-24. I can’t imagine his fear. Mary is pregnant and he is so worried about how his family and culture will view her. Joseph is the father of dreams. God speaks so clearly within him. Once again, I admire the gift of this young family to work through their fear and come to the conclusion that both are truly called to bring Jesus into the world.

“Do not be afraid.” This phrase becomes the most sacred of all Christmas greetings. This phrase should be in the front of every Hallmark greeting card for Christmas. To carry responsibilities of children, employment, food and housing are no easy tasks. Yet, this is exactly where we find Christmas. Emmanuel lies deeply within our human experiences. The Word-made-flesh opens our eyes to truly view the dignity of human life. We remain in God. We cannot be afraid to follow God’s invitation to discover the beauty and richness of God within our human experiences.

So as we celebrate Christmas, don’t be afraid to draw closer to Christ Jesus. Jesus is within us, within our human foibles and in the beauty of our children. Hearts are places in which we celebrate the Messiah. Choices and decisions for hope birth the brilliance of love in the world. Beauty speaks loudly in a dark world that God is here. Don’t be afraid to pray, to find Jesus within your fragile heart.

Continue to dream big. Dream well beyond the ordinary. Dream that wars end and violence recedes. Dream that people may raise children with compassion and tenderness and respect. Dream that lives may mend from despair and ill health. Dream that housing and food may be plentiful for all families. Dream that the every aspect of our lives may discover the presence of God-is-with-us. Dream for the old to fade away and dream for the new to emerge.

Thank you for your presence and prayer in our three parish communities here in Colorado. Thank you for your faith and your service within the Church. Thank you for believing in love. Thank you for financially supporting the mission of our churches but also the various needs throughout the year. Please know of my prayer in this sacred week of Christmas. Enjoy the family tables and all the sacred spaces of conversation and family gatherings. Love changes everything.

Peace to every household and to every heart,

Fr. Ron