when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.
– Howard Thurman*
Now that we are at the beginning of Ordinary Time, in the space between the Christmas season and Lent, it is tempting to slip back into the routine of life outside of the holidays as if that was a time in which we somehow act differently than during the rest of the year. Yes, there is more of a sense of holiday cheer during December, and decorations everywhere are a reminder that it is a festive time, but our behaviors during that time should actually be no different than during the rest of the year. Our liturgical year began with remembrance of the birth of Christ, and therefore it should be a time of renewal in preparation for His return no matter when that is. However, sometimes we act as if we should only remember the return of Jesus during certain seasons such as Advent and Lent and their subsequent “destinations” of Christmas and Easter. This attitude is not intentional on our part, or at least I do not believe it to be so. But we do tend to act as if the only time we should prepare for His return is during those times, while during the rest of the year it is back to ‘business as usual.’ As in the above poem, we are called to live the works of mercy all year, every year, to the best of our ability. And thus, we are called to remember to “make music in the heart” whenever we can. And I might add, this music is not only for our hearts, but rather it is meant to brighten the hearts of others.
May we strive to continue on the path to holiness! May we continue to see the joy in the Christmas mysteries as we enter into Ordinary Time! May we rise to the challenges which come before us, accepting the graces offered by the Holy Spirit! May we find the courage and strength to open our hearts and minds to strangers and friends alike! May we be ardent in our prayer and faithful in our love! And may we turn to Jesus and His gospel message that we might bring peace to people and make music in the heart! Let us meet at the table of the Lord! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
* “Howard Washington Thurman (1899 –1981) was an African-American author, philosopher, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader. As a prominent religious figure, he played a leading role in many social justice movements and organizations of the twentieth century. Thurman's theology of radical nonviolence influenced and shaped a generation of civil rights activists, and he was a key mentor to leaders within the movement, including Martin Luther King, Jr.” For more information go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Thurman
Note: Next post will be January 29.
1. The first photo is one I took while on pilgrimage in the Holy Land. This is modern Bethlehem. I took this photo from the window of the guest house where we were staying. It was appropriate for the beginning of this post because this is well after Jesus was born in this city, certainly reminding us that we need to make peace a priority: in Bethlehem today only 0.5% of the population is Christian.
2. I took this photo one cold afternoon while visiting a local wine bar in my hometown. I chose to use it here because it shows ordinary people doing ordinary things, but especially because there were people enjoying the company of friend and stranger alike.
3. This painting is Jesus missioning the apostles. Its title is Maestà, altarpiece of the Sienese cathedral, back, altar coronation with Pentecost cycle, scene Apparition of Christ to the mountain of Galilee by Duccio Buoninsegna. (1308-11) I chose to use this here because I liked the rapt attention with which the apostles are listening. You can find more on this painting at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Duccio_di_Buoninsegna_016.jpg
4. This wonderful painting is L'Homme est en mer (The Man is at Sea) by Vincent van Gogh. (1889) The mother is warming herself and her small child by a hearth while her husband is away at sea, or so the title indicates. I love the peaceful expression on the face of both mother and child. I wonder if the mother was pondering over what her child's future life might be like, perhaps similar to the prayerful thoughts of Mary about her child, Jesus, when He was small. For more go to https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Van_Gogh_-_Der_Mann_ist_auf_See_(nach_Demont-Breton).jpeg
5. The last image is the Viriditas Triptych by Fr. William Hart McNichols from his larger work called Viriditas - Finding God in All Things. I chose this as a reminder that we live in a beautiful world; we must not lose sight of the opportunities given us by God to enjoy the beauty of it as well as to work toward keeping it from decay. Also, the earth surrounded by the tongues of fire is a reminder that we are never alone. The triptych can be found at