My boys are in seventh, eighth and ninth grades. The oldest and youngest are at the Prep. My middle son Davis, who has Down syndrome, is in public school. They are all being well served where they are, and we are grateful.
Davis had a friend over the other day and I heard the boy say “oh my God” which is a phrase we discourage in our house. I explained that because we believe in God, we try to use His name only when we are speaking with Him. The boy responded, “I don’t believe in God. Who is God?”
Our readings today describe God in very clear images that help us understand who He is: God is a Rock, God is a Gate, God is a House, God is a Foundation, God is a Refuge. I answered the boy with “God is in us.” How much more powerful could my response have been had I shared an image with him that conveyed God’s love.
So during this first week of Advent, let us embrace this image: a baby in a manger. God as our companion on this human journey conveyed to us in the image of Jesus, resting on straw, in a stable on the earth. Keeping this image of God’s love in our mind this Christmas, let us make this a season not only of “presents” – we are blessed – but “presence” – the companionship to which we are called.
A blessed holiday season to all.
~ Sharon Randall P'20 '22
A number of years ago I worked with a group of students to do a skit based on the scripture account of Jesus bringing sight to Bartimaeus the blind man. As we discussed the passage, the students took the account very literally and focused on the gift of sight. As our discussions continued we expanded the metaphor of sight beyond the literal interpretation.
Today’s Gospel reading recounts another miracle of Jesus providing sight to two blind men. The men profess their faith in Jesus and they are healed.
In today’s world we are often blind to needs of others, most especially the needs of those who are different from us. In the skit that the students worked on, Jesus continually asked Bartimaeus if he truly wanted to see. Jesus, in the skit pressed hard, asked Bartimaeus if he wanted to see the poor, the marginalized, the victims of violence and those generally shunned by society. As the questions grew more intense, Bartimaeus' desire to see diminished. Until he discovered the power of faith and trust in God. Once that discovery was made, much like that two men in today’s Gospel, the desire to see all increased exponentially and Bartimaeus journeyed forward to serve those in need.
In the Xaverian story we are offered a second example of the power of faith in action. St. Francis Xavier, the patron saint of the Brothers whose feast is celebrated on December 3, offered a powerful response when he was missioned to the Far East in mid 1400s. Xavier, in response to the mission from his best friend St. Ignatius Loyola, responded simply “let it be done” and set off for a perilous journey trusting in God.
Today, we can often close our eyes to the needs of others and not always respond when we are “missioned” to support the needs of others. Let us pray that we can model the faith of the blind men in today’s Gospel, St. Francis Xavier and the Xaverian Brothers as we seek to open our eyes to the needs of others and respond as compassionate up standers.
~ Headmaster Ed Hardiman, Ph.D. P'19 '21
Today is the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, the patron saint of the Xaverian Brothers who have been serving in schools in the United States for over 160 years. It's a big day for those of us who are blessed to serve in a Xaverian Brothers Sponsored School, as I have been lucky to do for 19 years – 6 at Malden Catholic and now in my 13th at St. John's. Yesterday we celebrated our Mass for the Feast of St. Francis Xavier and gave out our Ryken Award (named in honor of the founder of the Xaverian Brothers, Theodore James Ryken). The Ryken Award is given out to a faculty or staff member who, through their vocation, personifies many of the values of the Xaverian Brothers. This year the award went to Spanish teacher, Leslie Tremblay – a fantastic choice. For as long as I have known Leslie, she has exemplified the value of zeal for her dedication to her craft as a teacher, humility for consistently avoiding any recognition, compassion for the manner she has treated her colleagues and students, simplicity for her commitment to her family and students, and the trust she has placed in our community at St. John's.
Today I think back appreciatively on the many wonderful Brothers I have been blessed to know and work with over these 19 years. They have taught me so much, and made me a better teacher, husband and Catholic. I'm reluctant to name any of the Brothers, because I will inevitably leave some out. Their commitment to education and justice; their complete resistance to receiving any kind of recognition and limelight; their willingness to just work, and do what needs to be done. I think of all these fabulous Brothers, and I think nothing would make them happier than to see Leslie Tremblay receiving this award yesterday. With people like Leslie preserving and continuing their mission and legacy, the work of the Xaverian Brothers is carrying on!
~ Steve Ruemenapp is Assistant Principal of Mission and Identity, husband and father of four
I can remember, about a month ago, thinking to myself “Christmas decorations in the stores already?!?!” There is something that makes me shake my head when I see this before Halloween has even passed. I feel there is a sense of rushing through time and pushing away the present. In a consumer driven society, it makes sense to encourage people to start their Christmas shopping early, or getting their decorations put up before their neighbor. But in all the hustle and bustle, it is easy to forget the true meaning of Christmas until we are sitting in Mass on Christmas Eve.
When I read today’s second reading, Romans 15:4-9, I was reminded, through key words and phrases, on what this season is all about. “Hope,” “...think in harmony with one another,” and “sing praises to your name,” all brought me to that moment when I am standing in Church on Christmas Eve, looking around, and in amazement watching people from all over come together to “think in harmony with one another” and “sing praises to your (God’s) name.” Everyone has a sense of hope, or expectation that something great is about it happen. In our faith, it is the birth of our savior Jesus Christ. It is a symbol of good things to come and a hope for a blessed new year.
So, when you are out doing your Christmas shopping, picking out a tree, or simply enjoying a meal with your loved ones, remember the reason we come together to celebrate Christmas and believe in all the teachings he has taught us through the scriptures. It has after all, why we believe.
~ Krista Urquhart, School Counseling Office
Our family loves this time year of sharing in the fun of decorating our home and stringing lights on our tree as we listen to favorite seasonal songs on the radio. It can often get quite loud with three boys and our yellow lab all in the mix. It’s exciting to find the perfect gift for a loved one, remember cherished friends and family by sending them cards or to inhale the wonderful aroma of delicious baking cookies, all the while awaiting the much anticipated arrival of Christmas.
As wonderful as all of those things are, God wants us to prepare our hearts for the arrival of His son Jesus during this advent season. Isaiah, the prophet from the Old Testament, foretells the glorious works that Jesus will do: the eyes of the blind will see, the ears of the deaf will be cleared, the lame will leap and the mute will sing. All amazing acts and Isaiah further encourages us to be strong and fear not, saying here is your God, He comes to save you.
In our gospel reading, Jesus does exactly what Isaiah foretold thousands of years earlier, He heals a paralyzed man who was lowered down in front of Him by his friends because it was too crowded for them to enter the house. Jesus shows us both His power and authority when He heals the lame man. But I am always further impressed in this story by the faithfulness and perseverance of the lame man’s friends. They did not give up and were not deterred at the large size of the crowd. Instead they decided to save their friend by lowering him through the roof and thereby placing him directly before Jesus. How awesome is that!
In our own lives, my family and I have been humbled and amazed by the faithfulness of our friends and family who countless times we have lifted us up before Jesus by their very many prayers. Like the lame man, we “walk” because of their love and faithfulness to pray on our behalf. During this season of Advent, is there anyone whom you could lift up in prayer today before Jesus? I would encourage you to seek Him, by spending time thanking and glorifying Him, for all of your faithful friends, family and many blessings.
May you and your family have a joyful & holy holiday season. Merry Christmas!
~ Sue House, proud Mom of P’18 ’19 and ’25 (hopefully)
Today’s Gospel reading, Matthew 18:12-14, was simple and brief, yet resonated immediately for me, both in my personal life and my life as a teacher at SJP.
“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray?”
During the Advent season, this idea that our heavenly Father desires not to lose one of his sheep speaks directly to the wish I have for my extended family in the weeks leading up to Christmas (and hopefully beyond!). I want to remain focused on the family element amidst the rush and noise of the season. As my own children return home from college and their working careers, it seems so important to re-connect with each of them and provide a setting in which everyone feels the warmth and comfort of belonging to our own little “flock”. My wife and I are fortunate that none of our children are “lost”, but simply the chance to celebrate Christmas in a way that reaffirms our love for and dependence on one another is too great to pass up.
In my professional life as an SJP teacher, the Gospel reading also serves as a powerful reminder that every student in my classes must first feel a part of our group effort on a daily basis if we are to achieve success this academic year. As the school year unfolds, my students are faced with constant challenges, be they in the classroom or in their lives, which can pull them in many directions, occasionally away from our “class flock”. I need to recognize these situations and do my best to pull them back into the fold. While appropriately recognizing those who are fully engaged and performing well, I also need to seek out those who may be a bit lost and help return them to a more successful path.
Merry Christmas to all!
~ David Hennessey '83 P'16, Social Studies Department
Jesus said to the crowds: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
This time of year can get so hectic and I am thankful to have the need to sit and reflect on the daily readings. What does the yoke of Jesus refer to in the gospel? The Jews used the image of a yoke to express submission to God. They spoke of the yoke of the law, the yoke of the commandments, the yoke of the kingdom, the yoke of God. Jesus says his yoke is " We are asked to put on the "sweet yoke of Jesus" and to live the "heavenly way of life and happiness." Jesus also says his "burden is light". It brings to mind the picture of a young boy carrying a smaller crippled lad on his back. "That's a heavy load you are carrying there," the caption reads. "He ain't heavy; he's my brother!" It reminds us that no burden is too heavy when it's given in love and carried in love. Jesus offers us a new kingdom of peace, and joy, and this time of year is spent in preparation of His coming.
The passage reminds me to think about why I spend time doing what I do. When things are done in love, how much easier are they to get done! I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make this the most wonderful time of the year. Sometimes, it might be to simply sit down and linger over the dinner table a bit longer. There is always more to be done. We need to remember Jesus’ words.: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
This time of year, and with my life in general, I need to be less prideful in all that I can get done in a day, put less pressure on myself that the Christmas Cards are not yet even ordered, the lack of Christmas baked goods being distributed to neighbors. I need to put more rest in Jesus, who tells me I’m enough already.
! Jennifer Troisi P’20
Today’s gospel is a classic criticism of a spiritual leader due to their behavior. In this passage Jesus is confronting some grumblings in the crowd over his association with merriment and sinners. John the Baptist, who is currently in prison and soon to be executed, is criticized for his attraction to asceticism. For John, his spirituality was to reject the mainstream society and live a life of radical simplicity and extreme fasting. John encountered God in the deepest parts of his own suffering. For Jesus, being fully present to people in the midst of their sadness and their joy was where he encountered God. Despite these two very different approaches, it is interesting that John and Jesus are connected in scripture and in disciples.
Even though there is a clear difference between John the Baptist’s approach and Jesus’ approach, the juxtaposition between living as an ascetic and living a life fully in the world is not contradictory. Jesuit spirituality calls us to be “contemplatives in action”. We are called as Christians to withdraw from the world, enter into our own pain and suffering, and reconcile with it. This practice is deeply profound for the person who goes through that process. However, once that happens one must enter back into the world to accompany others on their journey as well, being present to them in their suffering as well as their joys.
The passage today challenges me to be more present to my students, my family, my girlfriend, and friends in the midst of their joys and sufferings. A few weeks ago I was privileged enough to celebrate the wedding of my younger brother and his now wife. They met volunteering with the poor on the south side of Chicago and now are working with middle school students in San Diego. Some students are refugees, some are undocumented, and most suffer from poverty and fear. As the best man at their wedding I commended them for practicing the value of being a contemplative in action. They come to terms with their own suffering, build a loving relationship, and then share that love with those who most need it. The two of them are the embodiment of the Christian value of love− total self-gift. We are all called to do the same.
~ James Barry, Middle School Religious Studies Teacher
About five billion people today do not believe that Jesus is God; they see Him as only a man. This heresy, Arianism, has been common for centuries. The fact that the virgin Mary conceived Jesus without sexual relations intimates that Jesus was not just a man but God, "Son of the Most High" (Lk 1:32), "Son of God" (Lk 1:35).
Other people do not believe Jesus is a man. They think that God only appeared to be born, crucified, and put to death. This heresy is called Docetism. The fact that Mary was conceived without sin helps us realize that Mary gave her human nature to Jesus. Otherwise, we would have to say that Mary gave her human nature to Jesus except for the fallen part of it. This opens the door to questioning if Mary gave any of her human nature to Christ, that is, whether Jesus is truly a human being. Because Mary was immaculately conceived before Jesus was immaculately conceived, it is more clear that Jesus received a human nature from Mary. Because Jesus is truly man, human nature has been transformed, we can relate to Him person to person, and we are saved by His sacrificial death.
As I look at the first and the third reading, I am struck by the thought that another message here is that Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last. We could see the story from the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve as the beginning of the journey to redemption, and we know that Jesus is the fulfillment of the redemption story. These two readings poignantly remind of us of this fact. Yes, Adam and Eve fell. Yes, this was the original sin that was present for all of the human race. Yes, we have redemption in Jesus, born of the virgin, and who would carry our transgressions to the cross on Calvary. Yes, as a result, we are confident that we are saved by this act.
For many years, this Feast has been one that it takes a lot to get one’s head around. The two items above make this whole feast a lot clearer. It is a landmark moment in our redemption and we should celebrate that wholeheartedly.
In the first reading, we hear of Elijah’s greatness and the prophecy that he will return at a later time in history. The Psalm for today is a plea for us to see God’s face and in the Gospel reading, the disciples tell Jesus that they are waiting for Elijah to come again and he tells them that he already did. Like the disciples, I often miss God present in my daily life. I’ve been told countless times that we witness God at work in our daily lives, it’s a belief that I also hope to convey to students. Often, I pray that I may encounter God and be open to seeing God’s face throughout my day. Inevitably, I miss many moments where I witness God at work because I get distracted by other things that are probably far less important. This advent season, we are challenged to remain ready to witness Christ present among us. Do we open our hearts to God or do we let the clutter of our daily lives, shopping deals, and to-do lists get in the way of encountering Christ in one another? Advent is a time of preparation but not of absence. We prepare ourselves for Christ’s birth at Christmas while still recognizing that Christ is already incarnate in the world around us.
~ Chris Bauer, Campus Minister
So, we're halfway through Advent...how's your Advent going? I was thinking about that question this morning myself...Today is commonly referred to as Gaudete Sunday, where we are rejoicing that Christmas is getting closer. I know when I think about Christmas getting closer, I am filled with just a little more anxiety. How many presents have I not bought? We still don't have ornaments on our tree. I still haven't put any lights outside. Are we having a Christmas Eve party or not? Can I actually buy some meaningful gifts for people this year? What am I doing about traveling to see my family back home in Michigan?
The rest of life doesn't stop as we prepare for Christmas during Advent. I still need to go to work, take my kids to all their basketball games, try to clean the house a little and appear like I am feeding my children something nutritious at least a few days during the week. Truthfully, I don't feel like I have loads of free time during the rest of the year – fitting in preparing for Christmas doesn't always bring me much joy!
On my good days I realize that this philosophy is totally counter to what God is calling me towards this Advent. What if I lived my "regular" life filled with a joy that the miracle of the incarnation is a reality. God knows the brokenness and anxiety of life because God lived it. I don't need to make time for Christmas. The joy of Christmas is within my grasp every day. If I could allow that attitude to influence my everyday "regular" life, I would probably enjoy December 25 a lot more as well!
~ Steve Ruemenapp, Assistant Principal of Mission and Identity, husband and father of four
As we enter the season of giving gifts, it is all too relevant that we have a set of readings on the gift of God’s Son to earth. Is it not that God just takes on human form and appears in our midst, however. God gives the gift of Jesus to Mary, who will bear Him as a child and raise him into our world. So, it is not that God has given us a gift, but that he has given us a gift through Mary. For without her, who knows what would have happened?
Many of us get caught up in the idea that we have to buy gifts for others because the season is all about gift-giving. We buy things during Black Friday in order to get ahead of the season, but inevitably still end up ordering something from Amazon a few days before Christmas in hopes that it arrives in time. Because we all love the smile on someone’s face when they open the gift that we found for them.
We need to focus on gift giving outside the Christmas season though. Each one of us has gifts that we bestow on one another every single day of our lives. As a teacher, I play my part in giving the gift of knowledge to my students. As friends, we give the gift of our support and kindness to each other. As humans, we give the gift of respect to one another.
I am not saying we should not give gifts on Christmas or any other holiday for that matter. What I am saying is that we should recognize that we can give gifts every day. Christmas Day celebrates the birth of Jesus. Arguably, not much happened while Jesus was an infant. As he grew into a teen and into adulthood he became the influential guide that many of us continue to follow. He needed the gifts that his parents and friends gave him in order to succeed, and these were not a new set of headphones or a comfy pair of slippers.
We need the intangible gifts that we give each other in order to succeed and live happy and fulfilling lives.
~ Evan Korol, Mathematics Teacher
There is so much in this gospel today that speaks to me. However, I will try to focus on just one thing. How often in my life am I reluctant to change my harmful behaviors? Let me answer that...a lot! I'm not just being my normal Midwestern, self-depricating self. It drives me nuts that I continue to do so many of the same things wrong day after day. I promise myself every night that when I come home from work, I will be enthusiastic and patient with my daughter while she struggles with her homework. My daughter has some learning challenges, some ADHD, and by the time we are working on homework at 6 or 7 pm, we are both tired and pretty grumpy. I also know that she has done all she can to get through the school day – it's really not her fault that she can't keep it together as she finishes this homework. She needs her father to be there with her, help her out, reassure her and calmly explain what she doesn't understand. Instead, this grumpy, sarcastic guy who looks like me shows up and is no help at all! And this seems to happen day after day!
Part of me wonders why I can't get it together and pull this off, and part of me also realizes that I am really doing my best and I need to give myself a break. Thankfully my daughter also often tells me that very thing! However, I do take today's gospel to heart. I have heard John the Baptist and Jesus. I feel pretty certain that God is calling me to be kind and patient with all my kids. What do I need to do to get myself unstuck so that I can live God's message more authentically every day? That's my Advent prayer for today.
~ Steve Ruemenapp is Assistant Principal for Mission and Identity, husband and father of four.
Both of the readings and the psalm today have a common underlying message. In a nutshell, we are told there is one God and for those who believe, peace, happiness and justice will be their reward. However, there is one phrase that jumped off the page to me: “I form the light, and create the darkness, I make well-being and create woe. “ Creating darkness and making woe don’t necessarily correlate, in my mind, with the acts of a loving God. I think it’s fairly easy for us to take comfort in the fact that God is responsible for all things “bright and beautiful” (as the hymn proclaims) but what about our pain and suffering? Is God’s hand at work in our misery? I remember reading some years back that the Franciscans actually thank God for their suffering. If I understand correctly, they believe that one of the best ways to experience God is through suffering and deprivation. I don’t think they mean you should go cut off your arm and starve yourself to death. I think what they mean is that one should be open to experiencing one’s discomforts - that experience puts you on the path to God. By our human nature, we all have internal and external suffering. The journey to God must address, accept, unpack (call it what you want) those torments first before we can bask in the pure love of God. A recent talk of Richard Rohr’s reminded me of the Gospel passage (and I paraphrase), “Jesus went into the desert and there he first encountered the wild beasts.” I don’t think I ever gave that passage much thought in the past but today, it speaks volumes. We have to face our demons first before we can face God. It’s a motif that is common in thousands of years of religious beliefs and literature – it’s nothing new. I just believe we have over-simplified and perhaps misinterpreted the teaching through the years.
This re-framing of suffering has helped me through my own difficulties. I take comfort in believing that my sufferings are inherent in my journey to a deeper experience with God. I hope you might be able to take solace in this belief too.
Peace on Earth and Merry Christmas!
~ Brian Wagner is a longtime friend of Steve Ruemenapp and SJP.
Today we continue the major theme that was established for us this past Sunday, known commonly as Gaudete Sunday, that of joy. “Gaudete” comes from the tragically rarely sung entrance antiphon: “Gaudete in Domino semper; iterum dico gaudete. Dominus enim prope est. [Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! For the Lord is near.]” According to medieval theologians, in a teaching that goes back to the ancient Stoics, joy is one of the four passions, along with sadness, hope, and fear. The passions, St. Thomas Aquinas will say, are the changes that occur within a soul – when it receives something and loses something else. Thus, it can be from better to worse (as in the case of sadness) or from worse to better (as is in the case of joy.)* Joy, according to the Angelic Doctor is caused by the reception of charity, i.e. love, in the soul: “For joy is caused by love either because of the presence of a loved good or also because the proper good of the thing loved exists and endures in it.”** One can easily name all sorts of joys: there is the joy at the birth of a child, the joy of being with family during the holidays, the joy of painting. While these can differ in intensity and emotional manifestation, what unites them is they all concern the attainment of something longed for, or we might even say a kind of rest or repose in a desired good. The birth of a child, to return to that example, causes joy because one who has been long awaited and hoped for has finally arrived after nine arduous months.
In today’s readings, the joy manifested is of a kind we have all experienced at one time: when one has been deprived of some good and then has had that good restored in an even greater abundance. To take a mundane example, you think you lost a $10 bill and then discover $20 in a coat pocket. But here, it is a super-eminent form of this joy - the joy of redemption. In the first reading, from Isaiah, Israel is compared to an immature and faithless wife (a recurring theme in the language of the Old Testament prophets) who has been cast off by her spouse, God. However, God, speaking through Isaiah looks forward to a time when, “with great tenderness I will take you back.” And this renewed marriage will be lasting and contain a deeper love: “Though the mountains leave their place and the hills be shaken, My love shall never leave you nor my covenant of peace be shaken, says the LORD, who has mercy on you.”
In the Gospel reading from St. Luke, the joy of a redeemed Israel is further foretold. Jesus speaks to the crowds who have gone out to be baptized by John, a liminal figure who represents the passage from the Old Testament to the New. John is the paranymphus, literally “the bridesman,” a sort of best man, who prepares the way for Christ, the Bridegroom, who has come to reclaim his bride. For this reason, “among those born of women, no one is greater than John,” but until Israel’s redemption is consummated through the Lord’s death and resurrection, “the least in the Kingdom of God is greater than he.” John will eventually take his rightful place, of course.
As we sojourn through this Advent season and sometimes lose our minds to the anxieties of the season, let us leave space for joy, so that we may experience it when Christ is born again in our souls on Christmas.
~ Dr. James Arinello is a religious studies and history teacher. He likes to use big words.
* Summa Theologiae, Ia-IIae, q. 22, a. 1.
**ST IIa-IIae, q. 28, a. 1: “Gaudium enim ex amore causatur vel propter praesentiam boni amati; vel etiam propter hoc quod ipsi bono amato proprium bonum inest et conservatur.”
Today's reading commences with a simple yet altruistic message: "observe what is right, do what is just." As the old adage goes, however, simple does not mean easy. Indeed, carrying out such an ideal challenges the human spirit each and every day. In considering monolithic concepts of righteousness and justice, I often think about the ideas on a very broad level. After encountering a story of microcosmic righteousness recently, I've come to realize that achieving justice starts with doing more than one has to.
Doing good and embodying generosity are integral aspects of the life of my mom's childhood friend Sean. A man of notably strong faith, worldly insightfulness, and righteous virtue, Sean decided that he and his wife wanted to do a good deed; after purchasing a new mattress for their bedroom, Sean took to Craigslist with a post explaining that whomever contacts first may have the eleven year-old mattress for free. Since neither Sean nor his wife has a way of transporting the sizable queen mattress, Sean merely requested that whomever desires the mattress also
possess a means of moving the mattress from his home.
Within minutes of his posting, Sean received a message from a woman with five children, some of whom sleep on the floor every night. The woman, however, had no way of transporting
the mattress back to her home. Nevertheless, the woman, hoping to take advantage of Sean's generosity, humbly asked for him to hold onto the mattress for her until she could find a way to
transport the much-needed mattress. Impacted significantly by the desperation of the family, Sean immediately began writing a response back to the woman.
Before he finished writing the response to the woman, another message arrived from someone
else hoping for the mattress. In the new message, a young couple that recently relocated from Australia to Nashville explained that they both gave up everything they had to move over 9,000
miles away in hopes of starting a new life. With very little, they felt that the mattress would be of great use to them. Touched by the story of the young couple, as well, Sean told them of how the
woman with the family had responded first, but that if she could not transport the mattress, they could certainly have it.
A response from the young couple arrived shortly thereafter expressing their sadness for the family's situation. In an overwhelming display of generosity, the remarkable couple explained that they own a pickup truck and that they would happily transport the mattress to the woman and her family over a half-hour away. In a follow-up message, they explained that the family with children sleeping on the floor needs the mattress far more than they. Against every human expectation of self-interest, small acts of generosity only plant the seeds for more generosity to
come to fruition; ultimately, I believe that acts like these illuminate the most certain paths to fulfillment of the duty placed upon us by God.
~ Will Poirier '17
“In him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed; all the nations shall proclaim his happiness.” (PS 72)
Amidst preparing for my first college finals, the Church prepares for Christmas in the season of Advent. On the third Sunday of Advent at Boston College, one community mass at 9 p.m. is held instead of the usual three separate masses at different chapels across campus. I went with the same group that I attend mass with weekly, but my roommate and I decided that this was the week to pull out the blazers. At the mass, I not only saw my normal “mass crew” but also friends and fellow classmates from different areas of campus. The service provided a nice conclusion to the semester as well as a much needed break from studying before the official study days that followed on Monday and Tuesday. The priest emphasized that Gaudete Sunday meant that joy, the joy that results from God choosing to come be with humanity, should be at the center of our lives. A grueling week and a half of finals did not feel like the best time to embrace joy. However, as the study days continued, I found myself truly enjoying my time. The past four months have produced many fruitful relationships. Though I look forward to seeing family and friends over winter break, my first semester has been an enjoyable one and I definitely will miss the people I have met so far. In knowing that our time is limited, my peers and I have been embracing a certain joy that is unexpectedly coinciding with finals. Though we spend hours on end studying, we also dedicate quality time for meals or other study breaks. Finals week is bringing students closer as much as it is stressing them out.
For a class, I recently read "Tuesdays with Morrie" for the first time. The short book describes a series of conversations between a sportswriter and his former sociology professor, Morrie, who is in his final months of life due to ALS. The conversations consist mostly of Morrie reflecting on his life experiences and providing any last teaching advice he can give to his former student. Mostly, Morrie speaks about the importance of relationships. When describing his perfect day, Morrie explains a simple day filled with good food and good people. As much as the past week has been filled with the studying chemistry and calculus, the past week also has been filled with good people and, well, dining hall food. I think often during the Christmas season, whether its finals or other obligations, people get too caught up in the craziness leading up to Christmas that no proper, joyful preparation for Christmas can occur. No matter what any of us face as we head towards Christmas, I pray that we can focus on what brings us joy in order to prepare for the coming of Jesus.
~ John DiBello '16
Today’s gospel from Matthew chronicles Joseph’s reaction to his discovery that Mary, whom he has not yet wed, is pregnant. Given the time period, he actually behaves rather well (the Gospel states “righteously”) by planning to quietly divorce her so to avoid exposing her to shame. His plan never plays out, as we well know, since the angel of the Lord appears to Joseph, explains the situation (his wife bears a son, conceived by the Holy Spirit, who will save all people from their sins), and thus convinces Joseph to wed Mary, call the son Jesus, (which means “God is with us”) and carry on as a family.
Can we imagine ourselves reacting similarly to Joseph? We need not create an imaginary pregnant wife since, for many of us, such a situation falls beyond our scope of reality; however, we can imagine a situation wherein we whole-heartedly want to ‘disengage’ lest we face humiliation or staining our image or reputation. Similarly, how often do we quickly judge another (as Joseph judged Mary, assuming she ‘knew’ another man and thus was now ‘tainted’) without taking the time to discover who they truly are and what led them into their current situation? Often, our previously conceived notions and judgements of who people are and why they behave as they do dictate our behaviors, clouding our ability to connect with someone as a person with a unique personality and situation worthy of our consideration. Although we may not experience a visit from an angel who reminds us of our duties towards others, we must try to keep our hearts and minds open to all people, perhaps even risking damage to our own ‘image’, so that we reveal “…in thought, word and deed…” our belief in the birth and life of Christ, “…Emmanuel…God is with us.”
~ Katy Brandin P'13 '16
The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him basically that it was ok - even though Mary was pregnant, and not with his child - that it was right for him to stay with Mary and raise their son. Babies out of wedlock are unfortunately a common occurrence in our times. In the time of Joseph and Mary, the public scorn of this was much different. But Joseph heard the call of God. He listened, and he followed. How remarkable that was!
God calls on us every day to follow Him. His word is visible all around us and in the actions, faces and words of those we see. There are opportunities to follow Him with how we interact with those in our midst, because they are all expressions of God's love here on Earth. Through prayer and action, we can take the example of Joseph to listen and to follow. Definitely not easy, but a worthy pursuit for Advent!
~ Steve Cunningham P'12 '14 '17, Assistant Head of School for Facilities
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke1:38)
In Luke’s Gospel, six months after Gabriel visited Zechariah, the angel was dispatched to Mary. Where Gabriel first visited an old man, he now visits a young woman. Where the first setting of angelic encounter was the Temple in Jerusalem, today’s encounter is in the simple town of Galilee. Where Zechariah doubted in God’s plan for him, Mary accepts it God’s plan with an openness of trust. Mary knew how to let God take over. She may not have fully understood; but she trusted enough to declare herself to be “the handmaid of the Lord” Mary’s simple consent allowed salvation to enter into history.
It’s one thing to think that God is in charge. It’s another thing to let God act. When you let God act, an exchange takes place. You surrender some freedom and offer God the gift of your trust. In turn, God uses your trust to do great and good things in our world.
Ask our Blessed Mother Mary for help to acquire and cultivate trust. Then what God did for us through Mary can continue through those of us who love and cherish her Divine Son. Because of Mary’s faith, she carried God’s Word made flesh in her womb. Because of your faith, you carry that same Word made flesh in your heart. We call him “Emmanuel” God with us!
Lord, I want to carry you throughout this day and to share you by my words, attitudes and actions. Help me to trust you.
~ Fr. Thomas Powers ’73 U’19
Hark! my lover – here he comes
springing across the mountains,
leaping across the hills.
My lover is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Here he stands behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
peering through the lattices.
My lover speaks; he says to me,
“Arise, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one,
Song of Songs is a book filled with attention grabbing imagery. Today’s first reading could be an opera, I envision the powerful voices of two performers one imploring the other to Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come! The words are inspired and speak to preparing for God’s greatest gift - the gift of love. This is fitting as we approach the end of Advent and celebrate the birth of Christ. Many gifts will be shared but we should never lose sight of the fact that the greatest gift is that which God gave us and that is the gift of love. Go forth and love one another.
A blessed Christmas to all.
~ Mike McShane P'18
We are so lucky! Today’s Gospel reflection is Mary’s song from Luke Chapter 1:46-57. I can’t think of a better story to ponder in the days before Christmas. In this scripture, Mary, pregnant with Jesus Christ goes to Elizabeth, a much older relative who is also pregnant and exclaims the good news,
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
for he has looked upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve birthed three babies and it’s no picnic even under the very best circumstances. Here we have a young unwed Jewish virgin claiming she’s been impregnated by God, as revealed by an angel. Can you imagine a relative of yours showing up at your house with that story? Oh, the comments that would surely follow.
Even without the outside chatter, pregnancy is cluttered with unknowns and can be very scary. Yet, we hear or feel none of that from Mary. Instead, Mary is overjoyed. She feels blessed. She is grateful. She speaks of a merciful God, who keeps his promises to his people.
“He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.”
Wow. Her faith humbles me. Mary connects her unborn child to God’s promise to Abraham from thousands of years prior. She is confirming that steadfast trust and love will be “blessed” by God one day. This is what God’s work sounds like.
Mary’s song is the prologue to the Christmas story. It’s the promise of a Savior, born of unwavering faith, trust, hope and love.
~ Jacqueline Potdevin P’19
I was thrilled when I saw the readings for this day; I love the story of the birth of John the Baptist. I attended Candlelight Carols at Trinity Church in Boston this past Sunday. It is always one of the highlight events of my year. If you haven't been you should put it on your calendar for 2017. Trinity Church is one of the iconic structures in Boston. It is built in the Romanesque style of architecture and it is breathtaking. Not only is it exquisitely beautiful, it feels like a very holy place because of the mosaics,stained glass windows, and, for this event, the candlelight. For Candlelight Carols, the parish combines their children and adult choirs and perform traditional among the readings of the season. Luke's gospel about Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, was one of the readings. I always enjoy this gospel for some reason -- perhaps because I believe it is a story that is not repeated anywhere else in the scriptures but deals with the recurring theme of making ourselves prepared.
After being unable to bear children, Elizabeth and her husband, Zechariah, are chosen by God to become the parents of the greatest prophet. They were a couple who "walked in all the commandments of God," and I suspect they were chosen not only because of their previous deeds but because God saw them as people who would rise to the role. As the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ is just days away, we too must remember that we were chosen, and, more importantly, must continue to rise to the role. It's been a crazy few months on this earth and I must confess the advent season has come and gone without much time for reflection on my part. I have been distracted from the essence of what really matters. So, I tell myself today, I must consciously begin to rise to the role. Elizabeth and her husband were blessed by the Holy Spirit. May we all try to make ourselves ready to receive the blessings of the Holy Spirit this advent season -- and beyond.
As Luke writes: For with God, nothing will be impossible." Luke 1:37
~ Kathy Cormier P'15 '16
The Benedictus or Canticle of Zechariah begins by reminding us that God is a God of liberation. The freedom that God brings is complete in its ontological power. On the one hand it releases and saves us from “our enemies” and in so doing shatters the chains of those things in our life that keep us enslaved, bound, beholden to something other than God. Yet this freedom would be incomplete if it were simply left to stand on its own. God’s grace and gift of freedom is richer than a mere “freedom-from.” Zechariah alludes to this richness by recalling all that God accomplished in the Exodus. God did not simply free the Israelites. God frees them in order to lead them into an encounter and a relationship with himself. They are “free to worship him without fear.” With the great feast of Christmas upon us we are reminded that God has broken into human history in the most profound and surprising of ways—as one of us. Emmanuel-- God with us. This event is one more way that God, in his “tender compassion” has reached out to free us from fear, from slavery, from sin, in order that we may encounter him more deeply; walk the paths of peace more sure-footedly, and ultimately experience the shalom that wells-up from the deepest center of one’s being, illuminates the darkest places of our lives, and restores the anawim of our humanity, in a manner that only God can accomplish.
~ Sean Sennott, Religious Studies Department
Today’s readings tell a story that we are all familiar with. I am writing this as Advent season is in full swing. The third candle was lit in mass yesterday symbolizing that our journey is getting closer and the world is a little brighter today than it was on Saturday morning. But like so many others an alarm went off in me and I felt like I needed to prepare more for Christmas day. I felt the need to prepare spiritually and of course I have a list of things to complete to make December 25th a better day for those that I share my life with. We are also preparing for my niece's wedding in Arizona the week before Christmas and of course work never slows down in December.
In the second reading today (HEB 1 1:6) we are reminded that at times he speaks directly to us: “In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he has spoken to us through the Son” The Lord spoke directly to me on Saturday through a text from my daughter that read: “BTW if it fits in to you and Moms schedule, there is a mass at BC at 4pm tomorrow for all the nurses going on service trips in Jan.”
My wife and I rearranged our Sunday schedule to attend the Mass which took place in a small room adjacent to the main cafeteria. My daughter, who just worked the 7am to 3pm shift at the hospital, was there, still in her scrubs and clearly lacking some much needed rest. Students were arranging chairs, a couple of other students were practicing the music for the event, others were rushing in from the library with backpacks and it was 3:55 pm. I thought how will they pull this off? Two minutes later my daughter brought her professor over to meet us. This is the professor who has been preparing her and seven other students all semester for the challenges she will face in the Dominican Republic. Again I thought to myself: “Shouldn’t you be getting ready?”
At 4 pm the music started and I witnessed one of the most beautiful masses ever right there in a meeting room adjacent to the cafeteria where hundreds of students were eating French fries, looking at their phones and doing homework. As my daughter's hands were anointed and blessed in preparation for the care she will offer to those less fortunate than any of us in that room I thought: “She is ready, and I will be too.”
~ Lou Chinappi P'12
As I sit and read and pray to begin this day, this reading brings to mind what would I do to proclaim my faith? The fear of these early Christians was great. As Christians then and now it may be difficult to see your Christianity. It is something you could hide if you wanted to. It is not identified by skin color or clothes we wear. We could just pray in the privacy of our homes or safety of a small community. What would I do to proclaim my Faith?
It brings to mind how Muslims may feel today. Or how Jewish people felt during WWII in Germany. They feared for their lives. What would you say during this time of upheaval. The message for me is clear. For centuries people fear what they don't understand. or fear what is different than themselves. One at a time, one person at a time, we have to reach out and smile or get to know the people of our community that are different. Whether it is the Muslim cashier at the grocery store or the Muslim children in the park, or the new family that lives next door, don't worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say, you will be given at that moment what you are to say; the spirit of your Father speaking through you.
I pray during this holy season that all the people of our community who feel persecuted or left out or judged by who they love or how they worship feel the love of God through someone they meet in their day.
~ Fran Tunnera P'17
What is remarkable about the Christmas story is how the extraordinary was injected into the ordinary. Almighty God, the Lord of Hosts, somehow made himself manifest not amidst an otherworldly cloud of heavenly hosts and angels but rather in a tiny and wholly dependent baby; and not just a baby, but a child born unto a poor refugee family from a conquered people residing in a “backwater” section of the Roman Empire. From the outset, these sorts of contradictions have confounded various members of the Christian community. There is a part of us that wants to blurt out, “this can’t possibility be the case!”
Christian adherents wrestled with the significance of Jesus’ humanity and humble earthly beginnings from the outset. In I John and the two other epistles attributed to members of this community, we have a preserved “snapshot” of a late 1st century debate / dialogue about this. There is a temptation within Christianity to “scale up” Jesus, to robe him immediately in more regal and seemingly fitting social and existential garb. In the first few centuries, this resulted in various interpretations of the Christian faith that were deemed heretical by the Early Church.
The mystery of the nativity is that the divine entered into ordinary existence, not with fanfare and pageantry, but like most of us do, amidst the tensions and challenges of an actual human family and community. Hence the writer of I John in our passage for today declares:
what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life— for the life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was made visible to us—
The power and possibility for faith begins not “on high” but “down low.” Our pilgrimage begins with a “life made visible,” in the form of a small, wholly dependent newborn child. How can we respond to this reality and opportunity? What can we do to nurture this child in the here and how? What actions can we take when we remember that our lives have real significance? What choices will we make when we remember that “the World of Life” entered into to this world amidst an all too human and humble situation very close to our own?
Venite Adoremus. Venite Adoremus. Venite Adoremus, Dominum. O Come let us adore him, Christ the Lord.
Feast of Saint John, Apostle and evangelist Lectionary: 697 Reading 1 1 Jn 1:1-4
What was from the beginning,
what we have heard,
what we have seen with our eyes,
what we looked upon and touched with our hands
concerns the Word of life—
for the life was made visible;
we have seen it and testify to it
and proclaim to you the eternal life
that was with the Father and was made visible to us—
what we have seen and heard
we proclaim now to you,
so that you too may have fellowship with us;
for our fellowship is with the Father
and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
We are writing this so that our joy may be complete.
Responsorial Psalm Ps 97:1-2, 5-6, 11-12 R. (12) Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
The LORD is king; let the earth rejoice;
let the many isles be glad.
Clouds and darkness are around him,
justice and judgment are the foundation of his throne.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
The mountains melt like wax before the LORD,
before the LORD of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim his justice,
and all peoples see his glory.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
Light dawns for the just;
and gladness, for the upright of heart.
Be glad in the LORD, you just,
and give thanks to his holy name.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
Alleluia - See Te Deum R. Alleluia, alleluia.
We praise you, O God,
we acclaim you as Lord;
the glorious company of Apostles praise you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
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.
~ Jeff Barz-Snell P'17
I’m frankly always more than a little puzzled when people say that “religion and politics shouldn’t mix.” As we see in today’s gospel, even from the start of his life, Jesus’ life had political implications. King Herod was so threatened at any possible loss of power that he orders the murder of an untold number of boys surrounding Bethlehem. Even though I feel almost immune to the horrific news I hear and read about almost every day, the evil in this act seems too much to believe.
When I was younger, I thought a great deal about the “slaughter of the innocents.” Why would God allow this tragedy to occur surrounding such a joyous act as the birth of his son? Surely, God could have made it possible for Jesus to enter the world in a more peaceful way…Then, after thinking and praying about for a while, I came to my answer—God had nothing to do with this terrible act. When confronted with uncompromising love, people with absolute power can sometimes act in truly evil ways. Jesus’ life is evidence of this, as are countless other lives that have tried to model his.
If we try to live a life like Jesus did, I think there will be political implications. There certainly were in his life, and honestly, the similarities between the United States and ancient Rome are becoming more and more abundant. On this Feast of the Holy Innocents, I pray for all of us that we have the strength to live a life following Jesus’s example, regardless of the consequences it might bring. The love that Jesus lived sought to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” If we do that in 2017, we might all find ourselves in some potentially uncomfortable situations.
~ Steve Ruemenapp is Assistant Principal for Mission and Identity, husband and father of four.
I have four children and I remember each of their baptisms. Frankly, I loved them all! Friends and family would come from out of town and surrounding neighborhoods all to see us and shower love on the new baby who had entered our family. I’m at least ten years out from our last baptism, so I’m probably forgetting the hassles that went along with these days, and I mostly remember the joy of the Mass and the party that followed. They each rank as some of my favorite days.
I thought of this as I read today’s gospel and I wonder what it was like when Mary and Joseph traveled with Jesus to Jerusalem for his presentation at the temple. The gospel today doesn’t say how old Jesus was, but I picture them bringing their baby for this religious ceremony, and Simeon appearing and saying to Mary,
“Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
This would have been about the last thing I would have want to have heard when my kids were baptized! I wanted to enjoy the day, have some laughs with my guests and just think about how much I loved this new baby. However, Simeon’s words are prophetic for Jesus, and I would maintain, perhaps for all of us. I think we need to be open to hearing them. Living the gospel can often be a “sign that will be contradicted…so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Recently, I have come to find in my life that the real joy of the gospel is often born out of the suffering of life, and I think that is part of what Simeon is saying. As I am trying to relax and enjoy this Christmas break, I may not want to hear his message. But—here it is anyway!
~ Steve Ruemenapp is Assistant Principal for Mission and Identity, husband and father of four.
On this, my last reflection for 2016, I have a confession to make. I can’t stand the Christmas carol Silent Night. The melody is pretty enough, and maybe the lyrics aren’t translated well from the original German, but every time I hear the English lyrics on the radio and in Church every year, I want to scream. I really don’t think “All was calm or bright” for the Holy Family and how was Jesus sleeping in “heavenly peace” sleeping in a barn full of animals. Everything is pictured as so calm and serene—like Mary and Joseph had everything handled and there was never an issue. Honestly, how could that be? They were far away from home, having their baby in a barn, and then we learn in today’s gospel that Joseph learns in a dream that he has to take his family and move on again—refugees heading into Egypt. None of this sounds calm or bright to me—but it does sound like life, and quite holy.
Today is the feast of the Holy Family, and I invite us all to look at the Holy Family and all their struggles and then take a look at our own family. I don’t think Mary or Joseph ever pretended to have it all together, or that they had all the answers. I think they promised to do their best to listen to God and follow God’s plan for them and their family. And really, isn’t that all we are really asked to do as well? Honestly, isn’t that enough?
As we get ready to move into 2017, I find that trying to follow the example of the Holy Family is a good resolution for me. How about if I wake up every morning, say a quick prayer of thanks to God for this new day and pray for the grace to listen to God’s voice on how to best serve God and my family that day. In today’s gospel, it sounds like what Joseph did, and that sounds good enough for me.
~ Steve Ruemenapp is Assistant Principal for Mission and Identity, husband and father of four.
The end of the year commences the beginning of the series of letters from Saint John. Saint John’s first passage talks about how God, the Word came first and created life that was able to overcome darkness. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with Go, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
This thought-provoking passage allows us to reflect on our accomplishments and failures of this year, and look forward to new beginnings of this approaching year. The mistakes and successes you may have experienced this year can pave the way to a more successful next year. As you reflect on this year, take the Gospel’s words to mind, “the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Attempt to live this year, without allowing darkness to overcome the light of your humanity, as strive to do more good than evil this year, and many to come. This New Year we must strive to come together in unity to help those less fortunate than ourselves, so we can truly allow light to out-shine the darkness.
~Alex Troisi 2020