2019-02-17 - Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 17, 2019

17 February 2019

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 6:17, 20-26 + Homily

17 Minutes 12 Seconds

Link to the Readings of the day:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/021719.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

   Like the optimist who sees a glass of water half-full and the pessimist who sees it half-empty, people assess the times in which they live by their personality. Each age has had its crises, but the time in which we live seems especially fit to the description with which Dickens began A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness…”

   While other generations have known philosophical and physical conflicts, ours is conspicuous for an evaporation of moral certitudes by which good and bad are judged. Our Lord warned against pessimism (Luke 17:23), but he also cautioned against the deceits of false optimists who would caricature Christ to promote evil (Matthew 24).

   The Catechism is clear: “Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the ‘mystery of iniquity’ in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth” (CCC 675).

   No cogent veteran of the last century, with its mega-villains, could deny the existence of Satan. But the Lord of Death and Prince of Lies employs his agents to kill babies, shatter families, corrupt priests, and mock the Church. Each modern economic, sexual, and artistic “liberation” has masqueraded as an “angel of Light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).

   In the fourteenth century Saint Bridget of Sweden predicted: “During the first part of (the Antichrist’s) reign, he plays more the part of sanctity; but when he gains complete control, he persecutes the Church of God and reveals all his wickedness.”

   During the bicentennial of our own nation, the future St. John Paul II said in Philadelphia to a crowd not altogether paying attention: “We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever experienced. I do not think that the wide circle of the American Society, or the whole wide circle of the Christian Community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, between the Gospel and the anti-Gospel, between Christ and the antichrist. “

   In dealing with “principalities and powers not of this world” (Ephesians 6:12), human politics and social reforms to fight them are as useless as a pea shooter. Spiritual combat begins and ends with worship of the one true God in His one true Church. The prime Antichrist hates that the most. Around the year 300, Abba Apollo said, “The Devil has no knees, . . . he cannot worship, he cannot adore.”

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2019-02-10 - Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 10, 2019

10 February 2019

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 5:1-11 + Homily

18 Minutes 29 Seconds

Link to the Readings of the Day:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/021019.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the Parish Bulletin:

   The stepbrother of William the Conqueror, Bishop Odo, was meticulous in observing canon law. Since a cleric was not allowed to “wield the sword,” he used a battle club. In the Bayeux Tapestry under the scene of him forcing his men into a hail of arrows, are the abbreviated Latin words: “Hic Odo Eps [Episcopus] Baculu[m] Tenens Confortat Pueros” which means: “Here, Bishop Odo, holding his club, comforts his boys.” Our altar servers might not find such comfort comforting, but the word—from which we get “fortress”—means to strengthen.

   Thus, the Holy Spirit, sent by God to strengthen us with the seven spiritual gifts intensified in the sacrament of Confirmation, is called the Comforter. The equivalent, Paraclete or Advocate, means “one who stands by the side of another” to plead on his behalf in a court of justice (cf. John 14:16, 14:26; 15:26; 16:7, and 1 John 2:1). Note that this teaching comes from the Beloved Disciple, the object and bestower of singular tenderness. But he was not sentimental, for sentiment is love without sacrifice. John was strong enough to stand with Our Lady when the older apostles had fled the crucifixion.

   Saint John says in his second letter, and reiterates in his third, that those who are not faithful to the truth should be separated from those who are. By so saying, he does not slip into sentimentality, and he foreshadows the dictum of Saint John Paul II in a general audience of 8 November, 1978 that “there is no love without justice.” Bishop Fulton Sheen earlier paraphrased it when he wrote: “Justice without love could become tyranny, and love without justice could become toleration of evil.”

   Few words in all literature match Saint Paul’s hymn to love (1 Corinthians 13). But to cherry-pick Paul’s mailbag to the exclusion of what he says earlier is to caricature his exaltation of sacrificial love: “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked person from among you” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13). Had Paul demurred from telling truth to Caesar in hopes of bringing him to a happier frame of mind and parading with him on days festal, he might not have been beheaded.

   These things came to mind as the Governor of Virginia was attacked from all sides for allegations of racism, an offense against human dignity, while his publicly avowed permission to kill babies born as well as unborn, has been nervously ignored. That governor, who is a pediatric neurologist, spoke with clinical detachment of “comforting” babies who have survived abortion until they are killed. He did not mean to comfort in the sense of Odo comforting his troops. Christians who are reluctant to invoke canonical disciplines against this, would not have happy conversations with the apostles Paul and John.

 

 

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2019-02-03 - Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 3, 2019

3 February 2019

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 4:21-30 + Homily

16 Minutes 7 Seconds

Link to the Readings

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/020319.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

(from the parish bulletin)

   The mayor of a French town commissioned a statue of the rationalist Emile Zola and, intent on provocation, he ordered that the bronze for it be from the bells of a church. Similarly, Governor Andrew Cuomo chose to sign into law our nation’s most offensive abortion bill on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, to ecstatic applause in the state capitol. Then he ordered that the Empire State Building, the Freedom Tower, and the Alfred E. Smith Building in Albany be lit in pink. The ancient Caesars dressed in red as the emblem of victory; Cuomo drapes himself in pink. 

   Mark the ironies: The Freedom Tower is at the site of the memorial to the dead of 9/11, and listed on it are eleven “unborn babies” killed with their mothers. And Al Smith would have resigned rather than endorse infanticide.

   In Orwellian “Newspeak,” just as a concentration camp was called a “Joycamp,” the killing of innocent unborn infants is sanctioned by a “Reproductive Health Act.” Now it is legal to destroy a fully formed baby one minute before birth and, should it survive a botched attempt to cut it up, there is no requirement to provide medical help. The abortionist does not even have to be a medical doctor.

   The legislation was deferred over years by politicians who, if not paragons of empathy, were appalled by its excess. It has only passed because the Democrats now control both houses of the New York state legislature. Politics aside, the governor teased a religious question. Not only does he mention that he once was an altar boy, but he concluded the signing celebration by telling the legislators, “God bless you.”

   Perhaps he is succumbing to the temptation that some of the senators of Rome detected as evidence of decadence: the apotheosis, or divinizing of emperors in an Imperial Cult complimentary to the traditional deities. Andrew Cuomo, over the objections of more than 100,000 petitioners, named the Tappan Zee replacement bridge in honor of his father. In the dark ages, there was a superstition that a bridge could only be safe if a sacrificial victim was buried in its foundation. There are many innocent bones that could be buried under the Mario Cuomo Bridge, and his son perpetuates the cult.

   Doctor Edward Peters, one of our nation’s most venerable canon lawyers, has written: "Penal jurisdiction in this matter rests with the bishop of Albany (as the place where some or all of the canonically criminal conduct was committed, per Canon 1412), and/or with the archbishop of New York (as the place where Cuomo apparently has canonical domicile, per Canon 1408)."

   These matters are beyond the ken or jurisdiction of a parish priest, but it is clear that it is not sufficient for Churchmen blithely to suppose that an adequate response to the massacre of innocents by the inversion of reason is nothing more than an expression of “profound sadness.”

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Note: A longer version of this article may be found here:

Governor Cuomo's Bridge

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2019-01-27 - Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 27, 2019

27 January 2019

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21 + Homily

14 Minutes 15 Seconds

Today's Readings

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/012719.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

(from the parish bulletin)

   This past Thursday was the feast of Saint Francis de Sales, whose intercession we need because he is the patron of journalists and there are those who say, with some claim to cogency, that journalism is dead because it is biased and predictable. Ironically, since he was a journalist himself, G.K. Chesterton said that writing badly is the definition of journalism.    

   That was a century ago, but in the thirteenth century B.C., long before we had moveable type, Ramesses the Great used hieroglyphics to tout his heroic victory at the Battle of Kadesh, even though he had been defeated. In 1475 A.D., Pope Sixtus IV tried unsuccessfully to expose the “blood libel” fake news of the people of Trent against Jews. Benjamin Franklin misused his printing press to accuse King George III of inciting the “Indian Savages” against the white colonists. Samuel Adams falsely claimed in print that Thomas Hutchinson supported the Stamp Tax, with the result that the beleaguered man’s house was burned to the ground in 1765. George Washington quit public life because of “a disinclination to be longer buffitted in the public prints by a set of infamous scribblers.”

   The other day, intemperate journalists accused youths from a Catholic high school in Covington, Kentucky, of making racial threats against an elderly Native American during the March for Life. Videos proved that there was no truth to it, but a flurry of “virtue signaling” berated the boys without giving them a chance to testify. One might expect that from secular bigots, but not from their own diocese with its knee-jerk condemnation of the youths. Apologies have been coming in, but probably the last to correct themselves will be the epicene Church bureaucrats. 

   Quickly, The Washington Post published a screed against “the shameful exploitation” of Native Americans by the Catholic Church. No mention was made of the Jesuit Martyrs who endured torture and death to bring the Gospel to the native peoples, or of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha who was exiled by her own Mohawks for her love of Christ, or Saint Junipero Serra who transformed the fortunes of the indigenous California “gatherer” culture, or Saint Katherine Drexel who donated her vast inheritance to establish fifty missions among the native peoples, or heroic Bishop Martin Marty of the Dakota Territory, or Father Pierre De Smet who enabled the Fort Laramie Sioux Treaty of 1868 and so befriended Chief Tatanka Iyotake (“Sitting Bull”) that the chief wore a crucifix to his dying day and encouraged his friend Buffalo Bill Cody to be baptized the day before he died. Defamation by journalists is sinful, but to detract from saints is blasphemous.

   The mental image of Pope Leo XIII applauding the Wild West Show of Buffalo Bill and Chief Sitting Bull on tour in Rome would confound The Washington Post. But that is a fact, and Catholics who do not know their history are accountable for letting it be maligned.

 

NOTE:

A longer version of this column is also available in the Crisis Magazine article "Infamous Scribblers":
https://www.crisismagazine.com/.../infamous-scribblers-virtue-signalers-on-the-warpath

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2019-01-20 - Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 20, 2019

20 January 2019

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

John 2:1-11 + Homily

20 Minutes 0 Seconds

Link to the Readings

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/012019.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

(from the parish bulletin)

   The nineteenth-century churchman John Henry Newman has shaped many of my views and how to apply them. With the credit of a second miracle to his intercession, it is likely that he will be canonized in short order.

   Our culture as a whole is conflicted about the course of events and moral failing in dealing with them, and this is glaringly so in the Church, which is made by God to be a beacon and ballast for all people. Newman reminds us in one of his letters (Vol. XXV, p. 204) not to be surprised by this, as it fits the predictable strategy of the Anti-Christ: “Where you have power, you will have the abuse of power—and the more absolute, the stronger, the more sacred the power, the greater and more certain will be its abuse.”

   For Catholics, present problems are weightier than at any time since the sixteenth century, with its political and theological upheavals. Even the assurance of a stable and centrifugal reference in Rome itself is being tested. It is helpful to recall what Newman said in another of his letters (Vol. XXVII, p. 256): “In the times of Arianism the great men of the Church thought things too bad to last. So did Pope Gregory at the end of the 7th century, St. Romuald in the 11th, afterwards St. Vincent Ferrer, and I think Savonarola—and so on to our time.”

   It would be falsely pious to sweep the scandals of our day under the rug. And it is stunningly evident that, in cases of moral abuse, bureaucratic attempts to buy silence have been a very bad investment.

   In the Historical Sketches, Newman refers to “the endemic perennial fidget which possesses us about giving scandal; facts are omitted in great histories, or glosses are put upon memorable acts, because they are thought not edifying, whereas of all scandals such omissions, such glosses, are the greatest.”

   Present experience attests to what Newman wrote in his book Via Media: “The whole course of Christianity from the first . . . is but one series of troubles and disorders. Every century is like every other, and to those who live in it seems worse than all times before it. The Church is ever ailing . . . Religion seems ever expiring, schisms dominant, the light of truth dim, its adherents scattered. The cause of Christ is ever in its last agony.”

   Scandal is “an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil” and it “takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2284-2285). Our Lord, who faulted the scribes and Pharisees for giving scandal, is the author and head of the Church, and the good news is that, despite the vicissitudes and dissembling of the Church’s mortal members, His Good News is not “fake news.”

 

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2019-01-013 - Baptism of the Lord

January 13, 2019

13 January 2019

The Baptism of the Lord

Luke 3:15-16, 21-22 + Homily

18 Minutes 6 Seconds

Link to the Readings

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/011319.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

(from the parish bulletin)

   The foundational documents of our nation were influenced by Catholic political philosophers such as Aquinas, Suárez, Báñez, Gregory of Valencia and Saint Robert Bellarmine, who wrote before theorists like Hobbes and Rousseau. This contradicts a popular impression that democracy was the invention of the Protestant Reformation. Luther and Calvin considered popular assemblies highly suspect. The concept of the Divine Right of Kings, which was a prelude to what we call “statism” and “big government,” was systematized by the Protestant counselor to King James I of England, Robert Filmer.

   For all his vague Deism, Thomas Jefferson might have acknowledged those Catholic sources, if obliquely, in his eloquent phrases. The Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of the free exercise of religion and Article VI’s prohibition of religious tests for public office were developments rooted in the Thomistic outlines of human rights and dignity declared in the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Arbraoth.

   This was lost on some senators who have violated Constitutional guarantees by subjecting judicial nominees to religious tests. One senator complained to a Catholic nominee for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals that “the dogma lives loudly within you.” Two other senators said that the President’s nominee for a federal district court in Nebraska was unsuitable because his membership in the Knights of Columbus committed him to “a number of extreme positions.” Members of their political party consider opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion “extreme.” This would characterize the Pope as an extremist, but at least he is not a judicial nominee.

   In the Statuary Hall of our nation’s Capitol are sculptures portraying heroes who represent the best of the history and culture of each state. They include Saint Junípero Serra of California, Saint Damien de Veuster of Hawaii, Declaration of Independence signer Charles Carroll of Maryland, Father Eusebio Kino of Arizona, General James Shields of Illinois, Chief Justice Edward Douglass White of Louisiana, Father Jacques Marquette of Wisconsin, Patrick McCarran of Nevada, Dennis Chavez of New Mexico, John Burke of North Dakota, John McLoughlin of Oregon, Mother Joseph of the Sacred Heart Pariseau of Washington, and John Edward Kenna of West Virginia, all of whom were Catholic. These canonized saints, statesmen, soldiers, jurists and pioneers would be extremists unworthy of public office in the estimation of some current senators for whom subscription to natural law and obedience to the Ten Commandments are violations of what they fantasize as the norm of moral being.

   The coruscating illiteracy of such senators burlesques reason. At every performance of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, audiences wait for the fifth scene of the second act, when the haunting statue of the Commendatore comes alive and knocks on the door to the sound of trombones. Would that all those statues of some of our nation’s greatest figures might come down from their pedestals and challenge the vacant minds of those inquisitorial senators to explain what constitutes extremism.

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2019-01-06 - The Epiphany

January 6, 2019

6 January 2019

The Epiphany of the Lord

Matthew 2:1-12 + Homily

16 Minutes 24 Seconds

Link to today's Readings

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/010619.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

From the parish bulletin:

   Researching the Birth Narrative of our Lord on the computer can be a source of unintentionally mordant humor. On one of the prominent encyclopedia sites, we are told in the entry for King Herod that “most scholars agree” that he was entirely capable of massacring the Holy Innocents in Bethlehem. But the same source, under the entry for Holy Innocents, says “most scholars agree” that the account was a myth, since no one would do such a thing.

   The emperor Augustus, who was content to have Herod as a client ruler, punned in Greek that he would rather be Herod’s pig (“hys”) than be his son (“huios”). Herod had murdered three of his sons along with one of his wives and a brother-in-law, not to mention three hundred military officers who were abrasive to his paranoia, even though he had 2,000 bodyguards from as far away as what now are France and Germany. Augustus was appalled by the crassness of Herod, rather as the Nazis, for all their malevolence, were taken aback by the sadism of the Soviets in the Katyn Forest and the insouciant viciousness of the Vichy leaders.

   To this day, remnant stones and bulwarks testify to the large-scale engineering wonders with which Herod impressed and intimidated the populace: the extension of the Second Temple, the Herodium and Masada fortresses, the port town of Caesarea Maritima, which was enabled by his development of hydraulic cement, and his shipbuilding industry made possible by the asphalt he dredged from the Dead Sea.

   The Wise Men from the East, whatever else they were (and we do not know precisely from where they came or how many they were) were good psychologists. They quickly seized upon the paranoia of Herod and outwitted him, provoking the massacre of male infants two years old and under. The historians Josephus and Nicholas of Damascus do not record that slaughter because the victims were babies, and for Roman chroniclers, babies were not as important as adults. Contrary to the inspired Jewish religion, the dominant protocols of the Western world permitted the killing of infants by the paterfamilias for any reason, including inconvenience, deformity and birth control. In Sparta, only a child strong enough for development into soldiery had a right to life.

   By an indult of Providence, and in contradiction to many “virtue-signaling” cynics, our current Executive branch of government has become the most pro-life since Roe v. Wade, but that is a fragile assurance and one with no promise of permanence. There are vastly more infanticides now than in Herodian Bethlehem. If our civilization lasts two thousand years more, there may be a “majority of scholars” who will say that in 2019 there were people capable of such iniquity, and another “majority of scholars” who will insist that people back in 2019 could never have been so cruel.

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2019-01-01 - Mary, Mother of God

January 1, 2019

1 January 2019

The Octave Day of Christmas
Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God

Luke 2:16-21 + Homily

6 Minutes 33 Seconds

Link to the Readings

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/010119.cfm

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

 

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2018-12-30 - Holy Family

December 30, 2018

30 January 2018

Feast of the Holy Family of

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

Luke 2:41-52 + Homily

15 Minutes 11Seconds

Link to the Readings

(New American Bible, Revised Edition)

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/123018.cfm

(from the parish bulletin)

   Christians in the Indian state of Kerala are about 20% of the population. An amateur film recorded there shows some workers struggling with a power shovel to rescue a baby elephant from a ditch. I do not know if they were Christians, Hindus, Muslims or a mix, but they succeeded. The happy juvenile dashed back to its herd, and as the adult elephants formed a line to depart, they raised their trunks in salute to the rescuers. That was one example of their enigmatic sensibility. That they have long memories is no myth: they can remember watering holes from years back; they can communicate by subsonic rumbles along the ground faster than sound can travel through air; they have rituals for mourning their dead; and they peacefully spend sixteen hours a day eating, which is more than the average New Yorker.

   Every creature has gifts that science is gradually discovering, such as the almost mathematically improbable migratory habits of penguins and the telescopic vision of hawks. These are prodigies of God’s extravagant love. The Christ Child arranged to be born in a makeshift menagerie rather than in a hotel where pets might not have been allowed. This Child “. . . is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature . . .  And he is before all things, and by him all things consist” (Colossians 1:15, 17). Animals at least could provide some body warmth, which in that fragile first moment of the Child’s exposed human nature was more important than any rhetoric, and more practical than the lofty song of angels.

   It may not be too fanciful to think that, as a donkey can live up to forty years, God’s providence might have arranged for a donkey in that stable to be the one that the Child grown into manhood rode into Jerusalem. At least it was some donkey, that with its hellish bray and flapping ears looked like the “devil’s walking parody” as Chesterton said, but equipped for that final triumph with “a shout about my ears, / And palms before my feet.” In 1898 Kaiser Wilhelm II entered Jerusalem on a white horse. In 1917 General Allenby pointedly entered on foot. A scraggly donkey was the most royal beast, for the rarest jewel of rulers is humility. “See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).

   Perhaps at Christ’s coming, with their sensory gifts we cannot yet fully understand, the animals in the stable knew more about the Holy Child than humans realize. In that first Christmas moment, they were able to do what only saints in heaven can do, for they gazed upon the face of God.

   “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them” (Isaiah 11:6).

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2018-12-23 - Fourth Sunday of Advent

December 23, 2018

23 December 2018

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Luke 1:39-45 + Homily

15 Minutes 47 Seconds

Link to the Readings - USA Version

(New American Bible Revised Edition)

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/122318.cfm

(from the parish bulletin)

  The darkening that comes with the year’s shortest hours of daylight is like the lowering of the lights in a theatre as the play is about to begin. But in the “Drama of Salvation” by which the human race is offered the promise of restoration to its original glory, “all the world’s a stage,” and the acts and actors are real. The creation of the world was not a mere myth, otherwise we would not be here. Nor are good and evil abstractions, for they always have had real consequences.  

   One of the most dramatic events in the progress of man, to which Saint Jude would later allude (Jude 1:7), was the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah about 1,700 years before the birth of Christ. He knew that the story of that destruction was not the sheer theatrics of fiction. Until recently, it was convenient for some scholars to pass it off as an instructive legend. Archeologists in a symposium this past month concluded that those cities north of the Dead Sea were utterly destroyed, and their land became uninhabitable for the next six hundred years. The substantial theory is that upwards of 60,000 inhabitants were wiped out by a meteor exploding at low altitude with the force of a ten-megaton bomb, dropping platinum and molten lava on the larger area called Middle Ghor, and unleashing a temperature the same as the sun. 

   Wise ones interpreted this as punishment for the corruption of that culture. There is a symbiosis between matter and morality. When souls are disordered, there are consequences in all creation. So it was, that at the climax of the Drama of Salvation, when Christ died on the cross, the sky grew black.  

   It has been quipped that if God does not punish our culture for its decadence and contempt for natural law, He owes Sodom and Gomorrah an apology. It was to save us from total destruction that the Word, whose utterance brought all things into being, became flesh and then appeared on a day now called Christmas. 

   Twice did our Lord speak of Sodom, saying that its fate was less severe than that of anyone who by an act of willful pride, rejects Him and all that He requires in the way of obedience to His truth (Matthew 10:15; 11:24). Such severity is the outcry of the Christ who wants that none be lost and that all be saved. This is a reminder never to infantilize the Babe of Bethlehem for, while He may whimper in the manger, this is the Voice that made all things and judges all at the end of time. And in His humility by making Himself frail and fragile in a stable, He reveals a mercy more powerful even than an exploding meteor.  

   “For their sake He remembered His covenant and showed compassion according to the abundance of His steadfast love” (Psalm 106:45).

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