The Feast of Holy Messiness

Today is the Sunday after Christmas, and as such, we celebrate the Solemnity of Holy Family of Jesus, his foster foster Joseph, and the woman of their lives, Mary.

…or as I would like to say, today we celebrate the Solemnity of Holy Messiness.index

One of my favorite families in the world lives in the Midwest.  They have three boys under the age of five.  It’s awesome.  But messy.

Three days a week, the mother has a laundry day, where sacks and sacks of dirty clothing go through the washer, the dryer, gets folded, just to get dirty again.  Then there is the kitchen floor.  Thank goodness that it is tile, right?  The middle and youngest boys are always throwing cereal, fruit, rice, meat—twice as much food ends up on the floor as opposed to their mouths.

Yet, when I would ask my friends about how their lives are going, radiant smiles shine.  When all the plates and forks and laundry are put away, and night prayers are said…they are fulfilled.

saint-joseph-the-carpenter-georges-de-la-tourMary and Joseph didn’t have the convenience of electricity or dish washers or Facebook when they were rearing Jesus.  Yet the beauty of this family of Nazareth is that they found their holiness in ordinary things.  Not in performing miracles or seeing visions—but in eating together, praying together, having arguments and resolving them.  Living with each other, finding God in the other, and thanking God for the gift.

Saint Joseph and Mary, pray for us!

Merry Christmas!

(Originally published for the bulletin.)

Mary got her son’s name wrong

Joseph and Mary got their son’s name wrong.

…or did they?

One of the things that have always made me wonder is Jesus’ name.  In Isaiah’s prophecy 2013-12-25 16.30.14about the Virgin giving birth, Isaiah is clear that the boy’s name is to be Emmanuel, God-with-us.  Yet when the Angel—we presume it’s Gabriel—appears to Joseph in a dream, he says that “you are to name him Jesus.”

So…what happened?  Did the Father get his memos confused? Did Gabriel get the wrong stack of notes to pass on?  Was he supposed to say that John was supposed to be named Jesus, and Jesus was supposed to be named Emmanuel and Abraham was supposed to be renamed Chuck?

Names are incredibly important.  And they are thought-out, purposeful, and are laden with meaning.  Why did Isaiah name the Messiah one thing and the Angel name him another?

Admittedly, I haven’t done too much research on this topic, but I would like to make this proposal:  that the two names refer to aspects of Jesus.  “Emmanuel” is who the Son of God is.  “Jesus” is what the Son of God does.

“Emmanuel” means “God-with-us”.  By his birth, God is with us in a substantial way.  Jesus laughed and cried, danced and sang.  There was not one experience that Jesus did not have.  Jesus had the full human experience.  Thus, Jesus is always with us.  We can fully relate to Jesus because he too cried, felt sad, laughed, was angry and was happy.  Moreover, Jesus is Emmanuel by virtue of the Eucharist.  We have taken him in, Emmanuel is inside us, always within us, always accompanying us on our journey.  Jesus is Emmanuel.  It is who the Son of God is.

“Jesus” is what the Son of God does.  Jesus means “God saves.”  By virtue of his passion, death and resurrection, Jesus had given us a path in which we can see our Father face to face.  Jesus had provided a road in which we can unite our very selves to God.

Moreover, we remember that “Jesus” is a derivative of “Joshua”.  Joshua was Moses’ number two in the desert.  It eventually fell on Jacob to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land.  So what did Joshua do?  He led armies that conquered the other nations that have taken over the land.  He proportioned the lands of the twelves tribes.  He was a leader of the people and effectively, saw the fulfillment of a promise made long ago.  …sound familiar?

Jesus led his new people into the new land of milk and honey, the New Jerusalem.  He had promised us land in heaven.  Not only did he fulfill the Mosaic and Davidic covenants, he provided for a new covenant, using the Blood of the Lamb.

Jesus fulfills.  Jesus saves.

“Emmanuel” is who the Son of God is.  “Jesus” is what the Son of God does.

Merry Christmas to you all.




For a child is born to us, a son is given to us;500wde_Beato-Angelico_Nativity
upon his shoulder dominion rests.
They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero,
Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.

His dominion is vast
and forever peaceful,
Upon David’s throne, and over his kingdom,
which he confirms and sustains
By judgment and justice,
both now and forever.

~from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, Chapter 9, verses 5-6a


Merry Christmas from the parish friars of St. Dominic’s Catholic Church!

May the Light of the World always light your way, through the intercessions of the Blessed Mother of God, Saint Joseph and the Mighty Choirs of Angels.

O Antiphons – December 23

We continue our reflections on the O Antiphons with the Antiphon for this evening…

O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law:
come to save us, Lord our God!

pp_emmanuel 23The most famous of the O Antiphons.  So famous, in fact, that most of us didn’t realize its origin.  I didn’t till I entered the Order.

This antiphon, more than any other, encapsulates the mission of Jesus Christ.   That first, Jesus is Emmanuel, God-with-us.  Jesus was not named Emmanuel, as such, but rather, named “God saves”.  Yet both names are still pertinent to who the Second Person of the Trinity is.  He is always with us—as he had promised in Matthew 28:20, “Behold, I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.”  Jesus is always with us, in our midst, saving us and bringing us closer to himself.

The last Sunday of Ordinary Time is Christ the King Sunday, where we reflect that Jesus does rule time and space and all within in it.  Yet, He is not a despot, but rather, is a patient ruler, always encouraging and challenging us to a deeper life of prayer and Christian service.

In His Kingship, He grants us the New Law, the Greatest Commandment.  This is a way of life—to love one with all our being so much that we cannot help love each other—to the point of giving our lives for another.  Such a radical way of living.

Finally, Jesus is our Lord and God.  Here, we harken back to the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry. We remember the story of Doubting Thomas in John 20.  Thomas was not present when Jesus appeared to the ten.  Yet when Jesus appeared—one week later—Jesus invited Thomas to touch His wounds.  Thomas, in seeing the Ressurected Lord, falls to his knees and exclaims, “My Lord and My God!”  Thomas didn’t need to touch Jesus’ wounds, he did not need any other evidence.

Within a few hours, the violet of the altars will be shed for the gold and white of Christmas Season.  Come Lord Jesus!  Tarry not!  Do not delay!

O Antiphons – December 22

We continue our reflections on the O Antiphons with the Antiphon for this evening…

pp_king 22
O King of all nations and keystone of the Church:

come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!

There is no one way to be Catholic.  Yes, of course, there are the precepts about going to Sunday Mass and on Holy Days, receiving confession twice a year, praying and tithing to your local parish community, acting out the Greatest Commandment in a radical way.

But in terms of how we connect with Jesus—that’s a completely different question.

Some are content with keeping fast to Catholic Radio and Mother Angelica.  Others are fascinated and find their spirituality rooted with the Dominican Rite.  Others are huge fans of Matt Maher.  Some with Theology of the Body.  And some—and dare I say most—are still trying to find their way.

Welcome to the Catholic Church.  Characters welcome.

The Carpenter of Nazareth is the King of all nations, the keystone of the entire church, not merely this or that part of it.  That He is the Lord of the Liberals and the Ruler of the Conservatives.  That Jesus Christ is the Prince of the Progressives and the Leader of the Orthodox.  That He is Lord and King of the entire Body of Christ—and not just the part of the Church that we would rather associate with.

The Body of Christ not united to a political construct, or a scientific theory, or a theological framework.  The Body of Christ is united to Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Mary, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity. By His Blood we are redeemed, by His Flesh we are united.

Yes, we will have our disagreements.  But let us first remember what keeps us united—the Incarnation of God.

O Antiphons – December 21

We continue our reflections on the O Antiphons with the Antiphon for this evening.  In some translations, this antiphon is translated, “O Dayspring”, but our sources translate the antiphon as “O Radiant Dawn.”

O Radiant Dawn,pp_dayspring 21
splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.

The month of December is not always fun and games.  Not only do we receive stories about people not finding the right gifts for someone.  But more sadly, we find that some of us don’t have a someone to celebrate this season with.  That life is sometimes pretty dark.

It could be anything, of course.  Cancer treatment.  Aging parents.  Financial inability to go home.  The humbling inability to buy presents.  Or the sad and real possibility of spending Christmas Day all alone.

San Francisco can be a very lonely city, if we allow it.  The hook-up scene is simply a bad remedy to put off our feelings of loneliness for a night or two.  We could put all of our time and energy into our start-up or a grant proposal or busywork, convincing ourselves that we are fulfilling our life’s goals, doing something good for the team.

But at the end…even that won’t satisfy.

As dark as the city seems—as lonely as it seems—we are never alone.  There is always hope.  There is always life.  The Radiant Dawn, The Dayspring, Jesus of Nazareth, searches to cast out the darkness of our loneliness.  He seeks fill the empty recess of our hearts.  He searches to cast out the darkness of our lives like a torch that chases away darkness from an empty chamber.

We have all been in a dark room in which we cannot see past our nose.  Then someone strikes a match and the light seduces us.  The light enchants us, brings us warmth and comfort.

O Radiant Dawn—burn among us!

O Antiphons – December 20

We continue our reflections on the O Antiphons with the Antiphon for this evening…

O Key of David,pp_key 20
opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom:
come and free the prisoners of darkness!


I remember once getting locked out of my dorm room.  I was an undergrad.  Three o’clock in the morning on a Sunday and here I am, calling the Residential Adviser to get a key to get into my room.  The RA met me at the front desk; he pulls out a shoe box overflowing with keys.

It looked less organized than it actually wasn’t.  After about fifteen minutes of rummaging through the shoe box, the RA selected four or five keys and we went to my locked room.  It took way too long, but he opened my door, and I was allowed to fall back asleep.

The way of life that Jesus illuminates is the key to heaven.  In imitating Jesus, we imitate a life of virtue.  We grow closer to Jesus and the Father, and seek a deeper relationship with Him, and we are rewarded with seeing Him face-to-face in the life to come.

But the funny thing with keys and doors is human desire.  We need to desire the key.  We need to desire to walk through the door.  In other words, it is one thing to be given the grace to act like Christ, but it is completely different to utilize the grace we have been given to follow Jesus unreservedly.

It is one thing to be given all the graces to act like a good Christian. It is another thing to act like a Christian.

The door has been opened.  But we must step through.

O Antiphons – December 19

We continue our reflections on the O Antiphons with the Antiphon for this evening…

O Root of Jesse’s stem,pp_root 19
sign of God’s love for all his people:
come to save us without delay!


History and certain types of fiction are strewn with the fact that one family may change the course of history.  The Ceasars.  The Bourges.  The Tudors.  The Kennedys.

One can say that the House of Jesse is amongst this list, for good or ill. Jesus’ family is both famous and notorious.  His relatives were amongst the great.  They built temples and sanctuaries.  United kingdoms.  Brought peace to the Holy Land.  But they also divided kingdoms because of their marital infidelity, worshipped alien gods and sent sons and daughters to war with the certainty of death.  Jesus’ family history includes prostitutes, reformers, scoundrels, singers and men of wisdom.

Then again, some of our families are much the same way.  Which family hasn’t a black sheep?  Which family hasn’t a member or two that we would rather not talk about?  Who has a relative in jail?  Has been sued for an unrighteous deed—or ought to be?

Yet in God’s amazing providence, He enters into the messy human family to show us how to live and die.  He enters into the family life to show us that we belong to our Great Father in Heaven. Jesus indeed is a great sign of love and fidelity, urging us to a deeper love and compassion of the Father and each other.

O Antiphons – December 18

We continue our reflections on the O Antiphons with the Antiphon for this evening…

O Leader of the House of Israel,pp_adonai 18
giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai:
come to rescue us with your mighty power!


Our God is a Father that keeps his promises.  He devoted Himself to the House of Israel. He promised that He will deliver His people from slavery.  After centuries of waiting, the Father had manifested his promise in the gift of His most precious possession, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity.

God never said that he would rescue us from disease or death.  He never promised that he would rescue us from suffering and sadness.  He did promise that He will give us a new life.  He did promise that He would show us a way to freedom and love.  He promised that we will flourish if we keep fast to His covenant of life.