Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Bethlehem Shepherds and God’s Message to Us

One of my favorite parts of the Christmas story is the story of the Shepherds to whom the birth of the Savior was initially announced.  Even outside of the Christmas season, I have kept several statues & sculpted figures around my home that depict shepherds.  Why the attraction?  In fact, my maternal grandfather was a shepherd in Sicily more than a century ago!  Understandably, I have always been enamored by shepherds.

 There are many facets to shepherds and shepherding and I have studied them all, but when I think of the Bethlehem shepherds, I think of the humility of those men and how the message they received from God on that special holy night is so similar to the beckoning message God sends each of us.

It would be helpful to understand the shepherds of that time in context.  They worked with animals all day and consequently, they were considered ritually unclean almost all the time by the Temple elders.  They were therefore excluded from Temple worship.  At that time, worship was directly associated only with the Temple.  Not being able to go to the Temple translated into not worshiping God.  Consider the shepherds’ plight: they were physically unclean, they could not worship in the Temple, they were cut off from a relationship with  God.  They were, in fact, among  the marginalized and not worthy of God.

Leave it to God to choose lowly shepherds to be the first to hear about the birth of Jesus, God’s own Son.  The most spectacular announcement in the history of the universe was delivered by God’s own messenger angels to lowly shepherds!  It was the announcement of the most important moment in redemptive history when the Word became Flesh. 

The announcement was followed by an invitation to the shepherds to go and see the baby for themselves.  Moved by a spirit of obedience, they went to find him.  They responded to an invitation to a relationship.  It was an invitation that Jesus would echo many times in his earthly lifetime:  “Come to me,” “Come and see,” “Come and eat,” Come and rest,” “Come and follow me,” etc. – all invitations to a relationship.

The message for us in the story of these Bethlehem shepherds is twofold.  The shepherds were considered lowly and yet God chose them as the first recipients of the most joyous “news” of all time.  God chooses us, too, to hear the profoundly personal message of his love in this time and place and to make it the centerpiece of our lives.  It is a message we receive daily mediated through all those people who love us, through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and through His Word.

And God invites us to a relationship with him as he invited the shepherds.  He invites us to know and love Him; to enter into a deeply personal and fulfilling relationship that will sustain us for all eternity. 

This Christmas, like the Shepherds, let us listen attentively to the Good News that God is sending us. Even if sometimes, it all seems to be bad news, if we  listen extra carefully, I guarantee we will hear the goodness of God pouring forth His love on us.  Let us respond to God’s invitation with all our hearts and make the trek with the shepherds to the “stable,”  that “place” in our lives where we will encounter the living God and let us pay Him special homage. 

Merry Christmas, my friends. 


Monday, December 16, 2013

Blessed to be a Blessing

     When I was a child, on nights when I was having trouble getting to sleep, my mother always told me to count my blessings.  When she first gave me this advice, I was young enough that I did not know what she meant by “blessings.”  Essentially she told me that blessings were all those people who touched my life in special ways.  (In retrospect, that was quite a beautiful and profound definition.)  I guess, even then, I had many blessings, and as I was attempting to recall them, I generally fell asleep.

     Our God is a god who oozes with blessings.  We see this in a particular way when he calls Abraham in the book of Genesis.  God’s call to Abraham begins with an invitation:  “Go forth…to a land that I will show you.”  It is an invitation to walk with God, to walk in faith.  Then there is the promise:  “I will bless you…so that you will be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:1-2)

     Our call is just like Abraham’s:  God asks us to walk with Him.  If we do, he blesses us abundantly.  We then have the grace to be a blessing to others.  The blessing Abraham received from God is our promise as well:  I will bless you and make you a blessing.

     Abraham’s blessings were not about earthly pleasures like financial security, a big house in the suburbs and a six figure income.  Abraham’s blessings were about the eternal plan of God and so are ours.

     We are approaching that time of year when we celebrate the blessings of a baby boy who has come to free us from all our fears, all our worries, all our pain and from all that hinders us from having a full life.  It is a great time to reflect on those people in our lives who are a blessing to us and the ways in which we can be a blessing to others.

     In my life, I continue to discover people   whom I can identify as blessings, the “blessings” my mother taught me about on those sleepless nights.  In my eight years here at Corpus Christi, I have been showered with blessings, people who have touched me deeply from the tiniest four year old to some of our grandparents.  It is important for us to realize that these blessings sometimes come through people and in circumstances when we may never have expected it.  I had the grace during this past year to encounter someone in a professional setting who has enhanced my spiritual journey and has reflected the very face of God for me.  It has been an affirmation in my life of God’s ever-present and unceasing communion with all of us... in us, through us and between us.  This is something we sometimes miss.

     I have thanked God many times, not only for this unexpected grace mediated through this particular one of God’s messengers, but also for the gift of recognizing God’s blessing that flowed from this person to me.  I thank God daily for this surprise blessing.

     If you are a recipient of this kind of blessing, God wants to use you to bestow a blessing on someone.  Ask for God’s help to see how you can be a blessing to others.  It is a matter of receiving and claiming God’s abundant blessings in our lives and with a missionary spirit, passing these blessings on to others.  That’s the way God designed it.  It was Abraham’s story and it is ours, as well!

     Countless blessings have flooded my life from my children at Corpus Christi.  Just their presence is a blessing to me.  This holy season is a great time to take a long, deep look into your children’s eyes.  You will see the blessing; you will be warmed by it and, if you look close enough, you will catch a glimpse of God.  Count among your blessings this year, those individuals who have brought you their understanding, their support, their compassion or just their presence.

     Count your blessings.  Name them.  Write them down.  Most importantly, pass them on:  be  a blessing!  Give the gift of a blessing to someone this Christmas. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


     Just a few weeks ago, we were in the busiest time of the year, buzzing around preparing for Christmas.  It is during that time that scientists tell us that the earth experiences the darkest time of the year.  And soon after the darkest time, we experience a time of great light as we welcome the new born King, our Emmanuel, the God who is always with us.


     This year, also during this darkest of times, as a nation, we experienced another kind of darkness, an unspeakable darkness, in the aftermath of the Newtown killings.  Personally, it has been very difficult for me to separate myself from the implications of this tragedy as it involves innocent children.


     I have already assured the parents of CCCS that we are committed to student safety; we have heightened our security and will continue to take measures to ensure student safety.  However, the hardest lesson for me and maybe for all of us has been realizing that there is much over which we have no control.  But we need not despair.  Remember, we are people of the resurrection!  God is still in charge.  In a world of uncertainty and fragility, God still holds everything together.  God never changes; God never waivers from loving us.

     Let this be a new day for all of us.  Let it be a time of re-visioning; a time when we envision and work to build a world of peace.  Join me and my teachers in re-dedicating ourselves to children as we attempt to build a better future for them and in re-dedicating ourselves to a God who is Emmanuel – always with us.  Let us re-dedicate ourselves in memory of those innocent children of Newtown: 

Charlotte Bacon, 6
Daniel Barden, 7
Olivia Engel, 6
Josephine Gay, 7
Ana Marquez-Greene, 6
Dylan Hockley, 6
Madeleine Hsu, 6
Catherine Hubbard, 6
Chase Kowalski, 7
Jesse Lewis, 6
James Mattioli, 6
Grace McDonnell, 7
Emilie Parker, 6
Jack Pinto, 6
Noah Pozner, 6
Caroline Previdi, 6
Jessica Rekos, 6
Avielle Richman, 6
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Allison N. Wyatt, 6

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thanksgiving in ALL Circumstances

     This is my first attempt at a blog.  Many principals across the nation have preceded me in this endeavor, so I thought I would try it.  I want it to be a way of sharing reflections on things your children may be involved in or influenced by and hopefully, a way of provoking deeper thoughts.

     I have decided on a simple topic for this first blog that is quite appropriate during these final weeks of November:  thanksgiving.  I often examine my own depth of thanksgiving for its completeness and depth.  In St. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, he says:  “Give thanks in all circumstances (5:18).”  St. Paul reminds the Ephesians to “Give thanks to the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (5:20)  These are tough words and demanding  directives to put into action:  to give thanks in all circumstances? for everything? at all times?

     This kind of thanksgiving is far beyond thanking God for health and the necessities of life and the fun and joys of life.  St. Paul’s charge to us is quite demanding.  It means –

when I am stressed to the limits,

            I should thank God

            when I feel struck down and that no one is on my side,

                        I should thank God

            when I am consumed by my busy-ness,

I should thank God

            when I am a victim of someone’s anger,

I should thank God

            when circumstances spoiled my much desired plans,

I should thank God

     But in the end, it works because giving thanks blesses the person who is thanked and transforms the person who gives thanks.  That’s just the way God works.

     I am reminded of a great story about legendary Alabama football coach Bear Bryant.
On the first day when the freshman players arrived, Bryant greeted them with a question:
“Have you called your parents to thank them?”  Most of the young men were puzzled by the question until Bryant said:

            “No one got to this level without the help of others.  Call your parents
            and thank them.”

     All of us have someone to thank.

     Parents of Corpus Christi Catholic School, thank you for nurturing our children and for entrusting them to us.

     In all honesty, at this point in my life, I am most grateful for the gift of children; for their innocence, their joy and their wonder.  They truly are, for me, a glimpse into the very heart of God. 

     Thank you, parents for them.