Tag Archives: Angels

All Who Heard It Were Amazed

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see– I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

 Glory to God in the highest heaven,
            and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.  Luke 2:  8-19.

Reading Luke’s gospel, we find ourselves awe-struck by the events unfolding here:  heaven and earth have intersected, they have collided,  in this desolate, remote little place.  When locating his entry into human history, God chose neither Rome (the headquarters of the world’s superpower) nor Jerusalem (the seat of religious authority).  

This isn’t just an “out-of-the-way” little spot; the manger is decidedly uncomfortable.  The text makes that clear, noting that there was no room at the inn, and they found their place among the animals.  In no small way, the Holy Family’s rejection by the world (“no room at the inn”), foreshadows and points us toward the Cross, where Jesus is again rejected by the world. 

Similarly, the angels announce Jesus’ entry into human history to a meager group of shepherds.  The angels announce this collision of heaven and earth  to those who are poor, anonymous, not especially important or powerful, and probably misfits in the world.  Curiously, God’s makes Himself present first to those who just don’t seem to matter very much to anyone but the Lord of Heaven.

The angels told these shepherds, men camouflaged by their obscurity, that the Messiah, their savior and ours, lay in a manger among the beasts of the earth.  They ran to spread the news, and are still spreading it.  I’m wondering, can we be amazed at these events?  Can we set aside  our malaise and the mortification of the commonplace, and recognize that the birth of the Christ child is happening now, all around us?  I pray we can.

This Christmas day, I wish you the joy and peace of knowing that God is with us, and that Jesus has come to share God’s dreams for this world.  Love is raining down all around us.  And I’d ask that you save a few moments from your joy to pray and care for those who cannot yet feel that love, those who are broken-hearted, or hungry or alone today. 

Emmanuel, my friends,

James R. Dennis, O.P.

 © 2011 James R. Dennis

Thoughts on Stewardship and Michelangelo

The Pharisees went and plotted to entrap Jesus in what he  said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with  partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting  me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they  brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are
God’s.”   Matt. 22:15-21.

We find ourselves in the season of stewardship in most churches, and I thought we might discuss a few thoughts on the subject.  (Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a plea for you to give money to the Church or to the poor, although both are very good ideas.)  But we might discuss our stewardship over the most important asset we have been given:  our lives.

Scripture teaches that each of us were made in the image of God, and St. Paul instructs us that our lives are not our own:  we were bought with a price.  I wonder how often we treat the lives we were given with awe and reverence, and how often our lives are squandered?  We are appropriately reminded at the beginning of each Lent, “Dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return.”   Our time and lives are precious, and we are called to treat ourselves as craftsmen creating a precious work.

When asked how he sculpted a work as wonderful as David, Michelangelo supposedly said, “I looked at the stone and began to carve away everything that was not David.”  Other sources report that he said, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

It seems to me that our spiritual struggle works something like that.  As good stewards of our lives, we need to take stock of those things that stand between us and God.  Whether it’s our material possessions, a long-standing quarrel or some hell of our own making, we are called chip away those things that are not part of the authentic lives we were meant to lead.  Our lives do not belong to Caesar, to the mortgage company, to fashion, or to any addiction.  Rather we are, all of us, children of the Living God.

Reading today’s lectionary from St. Matthew, we might appropriately ask, have we given to the Lord those things that belong to Lord?  Have we welcomed his children, or fed them when they were hungry?  Have we offered our friendship to those who are outcasts?  Have we treated our time in prayer and worship as a treasured gift, or as an obligation to be met?  As good stewards, God calls each of us to look at the angels within our lives and (like Michelangelo) set them free.

Shabbat Shalom,

James R. Dennis, O.P.

© 2011 James R. Dennis