A Family for us all

The Holy Family with St. John the Baptist by Lorenzo Lotto
The Holy Family with St. John the Baptist, by Lorenzo Lotto (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family. It is a bit of a liturgical oddity – the rubrics tell us that it is to be celebrated on Sunday after Christmas. However, should a liturgical celebration of a higher rank – such as the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God – land on that Sunday, the feast is to be celebrated on December 30th.

The ears of liturgy aficionados will be perking up at this point, because normally when a solemnity lands on the day of a feast, it simply trumps it but not here. In the case of the feast of the Holy Family, the Church goes to great lengths to ensure that it is always celebrated, no matter what – and that should grab the attention of us all.

In celebrating Mass today, we get to the point of this celebration quite directly:

O God, who were pleased to give us
the shining example of the Holy Family,
graciously grant that we may imitate them
in practicing the virtues of family life and in the bonds of charity,
and so, in the joy of your house,
delight one day in eternal rewards.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever

Collect for the feast of the Holy Family

That the human family – and the family as an institution – has been broken & suffering is news to exactly no one. The first family, even before they had children, involved rebellion, scapegoating, and deception. The birth of their children, inheritors of their original sin, eventually resulted in the first murder – one child against the other. Things got bleaker from there. Every single one of us is affected, with many painful wounds readily visible in our lives and others less visible, though no less impactful. This is true even in the best of families, despite the heroic virtue and genuine effort that so many families put into creating a good home.

We know that we need a savior, personally, but Jesus goes above and beyond individual healing (though that too!). Not satisfied to simply conquer sin & death, He formed an earthly model for new and renewed family life for all mankind – the Holy Family. They offer to us both an example and an invitation, an example to inspire us and an invitation to join them. This is true on the domestic and ecclesial level – individual families and the family of the Church alike are meant to look to the Holy Family for guidance.

The first step to healing is acknowledging we need it – this is sometimes the hardest step to take. With that done, however, we mustn’t simply dwell in our brokenness. All too often, we make the mistake of focusing solely or primarily on what is flawed or lost. The Holy Family offers us another way: a chance to enter into a holy relationship with Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, be transformed into the kind of family member we are meant to be, and to help others experience the same. Let us focus on Jesus, and the family He built around Himself – His earthly parents and later, the Church. It starts with spending time with them, meditating on their lives together, and responding to the call to join in their relationship with each other, through the presence & love of the Lord.

If you’re interested in further reflections on the Holy Family, you may find these helpful:

Commemorating Saint Thomas Becket

“Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” – with these words, Saint Thomas Becket was condemned by King Henry II and martyred.

Canterbury Cathedral - stained glass of the murder of Saint Thomas à Becket
Murder of Saint Thomas, stained glass at the Cathedral of Canterbury (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Prior to this, Saint Thomas had butted heads with the king by refusing to approve the his Constitutions of Clarendon, which would have removed the rights of clerics to be tried by the Church and appeal to Rome. Apparently, Saint Thomas was open to some kind of compromise as the king was, ostensibly, trying to address a real problem of corruption among clergy (conveniently grabbing power at the same time), but ultimately rejected the constitutions. This sent him into exile, fleeing to France for several years. Some time after he returned to England, he refused to lift censures he had placed on bishops that the king particularly favored – prompting the famous words above.

There is some doubt as to whether or not the king actually intended that his angry utterance to be a call for execution – both King Henry and Saint Thomas Becket were known for their fiery temperament, and willingness to express themselves freely. Despite the clashes between them in their positions of authority, they had had a friendship that had started many years prior – with the two of them even serving in war together. Nonetheless, four knights, upon hearing their king’s words, went to Canterbury and killed Saint Thomas Becket in the cathedral.

Today’s commemoration is the last of the martyrs celebrated during this octave of Christmas. Brother Cassian Derbes, O.P. at Word on Fire has a thoughtful reflection on the school of martyrdom. While we hope to never be enrolled such that we must suffer as the martyrs did, may we yet follow the martyrs example of faithfulness and commitment to Christ.

My friend Thom Ryng, having a particular love for Saint Thomas Becket, has taken a neat dive into the liturgical oddity of today’s commemoration (and has links to his reflections on the saint from prior years). I highly recommend his writing on Saint Thomas – and in general!

A wealth of Christmas feasts

Merry Christmas! I pray that these days of the nativity of the Lord are joyful, refreshing, and relaxing. After the four weeks of Advent preparation, it is wonderful to finally (!) celebrate the birthday of Christ and the beginning of His work of salvation in the world.

Like most – if not all! – of my brother priests, I spend the days immediately after Christmas recuperating from the holiday rush and visiting with family. It is a sad reflection of our current crisis of priestly vocations in the Church that this means many of our parishes simply shut down during this time. While this is understandable (priests are human too!), the vision of each parish having two, three, or even four priests is far from being realized.

Before continuing on, lets take a moment together to pray for priestly vocations and the young men who are being called to hear & answer the Lord’s invitation.

The Stoning of Saint Stephen, altarpiece of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice
Stoning of St Stephen, altarpiece of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

As a result of the shortage of priests, most parishioners will not have daily Masses this week. And this is a real shame, because the first three days after Christmas are big celebrations! December 26th is the feast of Saint Stephen the Martyr, December 27th is the feast of Saint John the Apostle, and December 28th is the feast of the Holy Innocents.

Each in their own way, according to their own call, were close to the heart of Jesus. Saint Stephen is the first Christian martyr, which is to say, the first to have been killed in the name of Christ after His death & resurrection – professing His name and Gospel even as he was stoned alive for doing so. The second reading from the Office of Readings for this day, a sermon by Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe – is an extraordinary reflection on the relationship between Jesus, Saint Stephen, and his persecutors – especially Saint Paul.

Jesus & Saint John, the art Bible (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Saint John the Evangelist – the ‘beloved disciple’ – holds special distinction for his closeness to the heart of Jesus. Alone among the Apostles in not suffering martyrdom, he is set apart in Scripture as being especially close to the Lord. This is most poignantly illustrated in the accounts of the Last Supper, where he reclines against Jesus chest – a closeness to which we are all invited.

The Virgin and Child Surrounded by the Holy Innocents, Peter Paul Rubens
The Virgin and Child Surrounded by the Holy Innocents, Peter Paul Rubens (image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Though last in the order of celebrations, the Holy Innocents were the first to share in the suffering & sorrow of Christ – without knowing His name, they nonetheless died for Him and are the first martyrs of the Church. Their feast day calls to mind the many souls whose lives have been similarly cut short by the evil of abortion. They, too, suffer without knowing the cause – though they join the Holy Innocents in being received lovingly into the arms of our heavenly Father.

There are sorrows and consolations alike to be found in each of these celebrations. All now share in the Father’s joy, together with all the saints and angels. Each entered into the suffering of Christ, albeit in different ways according to the vocation given to them by God. While they may not have chosen the suffering they endured – indeed, so many were not given that choice! – the Lord ensured that their suffering was not in vain. And through Him, they suffer no more, instead enjoying His presence forever and interceding on our behalf.

As we continue through this Christmas season, may we ask their prayers on our behalf and on behalf of all the world. May we each embrace our vocation, with all its accompanying sorrows and joys, so that we by sharing in His life, death, and resurrection, we might win eternal life for both ourselves and others.

Last Holiday (2006) – the best Christmas movie ever?

In the field of Christmas movies, competition – and the war of opinions – is fierce. From classics such as It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street to movies that fail to even mention Christ (looking at you A Christmas Story), a person can find any number of offerings to fill the holiday season. But after you’ve watched all the standard Christmas movies – yes, even Die Hard – I would like to recommend one that might have slipped past your radar when it was released some fifteen years ago.

The Last Holiday movie poster
Last Holiday movie poster (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Last Holiday is one of those movies that really shouldn’t worked. The writers basically rehashed a bunch of old tropes, added some ridiculous circumstances, and copy-pasted familiar caricatures of several types. It could easily have been a shoo-in for a Razzie Award, at least on paper.

What makes this a success, nearly single-handedly, is the pure charm and charisma of Queen Latifah in the character of Georgia Byrd, a saleswoman from Louisiana. The movie wastes little time establishing her as a caged bird, living life carefully portioned out while dreaming about possibilities that seem just beyond her reach. But after being diagnosed with a terminal illness guaranteed to take her life within weeks, she decides that there’s no time like the present to experience all that she can before the clock runs out.

I think it is fair to say that no new ground is being broken here. So well worn is this path that I can hardly blame anyone for taking a solid pass on the movie as described – as moviegoers did at the time of its release (it didn’t even recover the costs of making it, much less show a profit or gain critical acclaim). The trailer, by the way, misrepresents the movie so horribly that I found myself getting angry watching it before writing this. If you intend to watch this movie, don’t watch the trailer beforehand – or at all, frankly.

But really – and I’m not alone in my conviction – you should watch the movie

Here’s my pitch: Take a heavy dollop of the joie de vivre – particularly food-related – from Ratatouille‘s Remy1, add a generous helping of the fish-out-of-water situation of Pretty Woman‘s Vivian Ward, season with the down-home flavor of Louisiana culture & piety, and sprinkle with just a touch of the exoticness of a European Downton Abbey and you’ve got the base recipe. Set within it the fullness of the person of Queen Latifah, uncontainable but never overwhelming – embodying a person who you most want to be, or at least, want to be friends with, a person who knows who she is and what she wants even as she is held back by insecurities and limitations, though chasing them with an admirable humility and verve when finally set free from those chains.

For some, the movie may be cloyingly earnest, a touch on-the-nose, its conceit pushing just past the point of believability, and its resolution a little too neat. I would suggest that this movie is deliberately positioned to break through our cynicism. What is so delightful, so wonderful about Last Holiday is that even in addressing the most skeptical among us, it does so with the gentlest of rebukes and an easy smile – scolding not us but the insecurities & limitations that keep us from enjoying it, and life, while inviting us to rediscover the wonder of savoring the experiences and people that are right in front of us.

Last Holiday is rated PG-13. Though kept to a minimum (indeed, our hero has no patience for foul language), there are several swear words – at least one of which is a narrowly averted f-bomb. There is no nudity, though an extra-marital affair between two secondary characters is acknowledged (and satisfyingly, if belatedly, addressed).

For those looking to stream the movie, it is currently (as of December 2022) included with Amazon Prime (no ads) or to Paramount+ subscribers (with ads).

Christmas homily (2022) – ‘Nevermind all that’

Merry Christmas! May the celebration of the nativity of Christ bring you & your loved ones many blessings now and throughout the new year.

The short version of my preaching this Christmas is that I have been inspired by a parishioner’s approach to getting bogged down by the crazy of life, faith, and everything in between. Though particulars matter, very often they don’t matter at that moment, which he cuts to with a simple saying: ‘nevermind all that!’, before focusing on whatever is most important in the moment at hand.

It strikes me that Christmas may be a form of God doing the same for us. The particulars of salvation, the call to holiness, the weight of our sins and that of the glory that awaits us – all of these, though extremely important, are not the point. The point is this: God has come to us, to be in our midst, so that we might receive His friendship and – if we are willing – to offer Him ours.

There are plenty of related elements – some of which will rightly demand our attention in the near or far future – but for today, nevermind all that. The Word has been made flesh, God is with us, and He invites us to focus on Him, and what He is offering to us right now: a friendship that will buoy us up, provide for all our needs, and fulfill us. Start with that, and everything else will fall into place, with His gracious help.

Yes, I do believe

Every year, there is a question that sends a shiver down the spines of parents, teachers, priests, and any grown-up who encounters it: ‘is Santa real?’. This simple question seems fraught with danger. Fears of being complicit in the commercialism that has seeped into the Nativity of Christ, of emphasizing a myth over the Word incarnate, of advocating a lie in the midst of a season dedicated to the One who is the source of all truth – all of this, and more, weighs on the adult to whom an innocent child looks up and presents this simple inquiry.

It is by strange coincidence – I daresay providentially so – that the most famous answer to this question comes from Church – not Holy Mother Church, but a man named Francis Pharcellus Church. It is he who is the author of the now famous response published in the New York Sun in 1897, titled simply ‘Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus’ (I’ve included it in its entirety below). In five brief paragraphs, he answers this question so well that his response has become perhaps the most famous editorial of all time, and deservedly so.

I don’t know if Francis Church was inspired by the Church Herself, but he echoes – consciously or not – the language of the likes of Tolkien in his On Fairy-Stories, Lewis in his dedication to to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and even Thomas Aquinas, who famously reminds us that “Faith has to do with things that are not seen, and hope with things that are not in hand”, reminiscent of the similar words found in the Letter to the Hebrews.

We’re all assuming this is Mrs. Claus, right? (image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

If the title didn’t give it away, you’ve probably guessed by now how I answer this question – that I, too, do believe in Santa Claus. Oh, my image of him is not the one of popular culture, though the history of how Saint Nicholas came to be associated with a sleigh, reindeer, and chimneys is fascinating all in itself. But that relatively modern (1823) conceit has its roots in an actual living, breathing person – whose story is far richer and more Christ-based than secular society might care to admit.

And so, finally (!), we come to the crux of the matter: Santa Claus is in fact Saint Nicholas (from the Dutch feast of Sinterklass or Sint-Nicolaas, celebrating his name day). In the Roman Catholic tradition, Saint Nicholas has his own liturgical feast day on December 6 (or on December 19 by those who follow the Julian calendar, such as various Orthodox Churches), though the season of Advent trumps him liturgically. Nonetheless, Christians worldwide celebrate his memory with small gifts – traditionally putting out shoes the night before and filling them with tangerines or oranges overnight.

Saint Nicholas, by Jaroslav Čermák
Saint Nicholas, by Jaroslav Čermák (image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Why? I’m glad you asked! We start with with the basics: Saint Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra in the fourth century. He famously attended the Council of Nicaea – there is a story about him punching Arius, which though satisfying, was neither encouraged nor condoned. In fact, he was stripped the signs of his office and thrown into jail for the offense. It seems that divine intervention may have played a part in convincing Constantine and his brother bishops to restore him.

But the story of Saint Nicholas that most captures his character centers not around his ardent defense of the faith and its doctrine & dogma, but the charity which it inspired. The most famous story involves saving three children from a terrible fate. There are several versions of the story, but essentially a father of three girls was intending to sell them into prostitution, seeing no alternative that would save them from the poverty that afflicted the family. Saint Nicholas, apparently hearing about this, discreetly gave from his own wealth. Legend has it that he tossed in bags of gold through an open window, with them landing in the shoes that were placed to dry overnight in front of the fire.

From that simple act, not only were girls saved from a life of physical and spiritual impoverishment, but was borne a tradition of gift-giving that continues to this day. This also explains those tangerines or oranges on his feast day, representing the gold balls or coins that he gave away so generously.

I could go on and on (and so I have already!), but the point is this: we Christians have no reason to be afraid to affirm Santa Claus. If you’re struggling to find ways to celebrate the very real man behind it all, I would commend you to the wonderful St. Nicholas Center website. They’ve got a whole section on how to celebrate Saint Nicholas and the Christ to Whom he was devoted. Santa Claus is not a threat to Jesus or faith in Him – far from it! Armed with the truth of who he is, we can celebrate all the more richly the season of the Word incarnate and be inspired to to greater love of God and neighbor.

(also, if you’re looking for a bit of whimsy and fun, NORAD’s Santa Tracker is a delightful tradition, started entirely by happy accident. They have a dedicated website and apps for you & the children in your life to follow Santa Claus. It’s lovely.)

Is There a Santa Claus?

We take pleasure in answering at once and thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of THE SUN:

“DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
“Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
“Papa says ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’
“Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?
“Virginia O’Hanlon.

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, VIRGINIA, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beautify and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there was no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank GOD! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, VIRGINIA, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

“Is There a Santa Claus?” September 21, 1897. The Sun (New York, NY), Image 6. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

O Emmanuel (December 23)

Today we come to the end of the O Antiphons – perhaps the one that most people know, thanks to the Advent hymn inspired by it: “O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law: come to save us, Lord our God!”

The name ‘Emmanuel’ – meaning ‘with us is God’ – comes from the book of the prophet Isaiah. After Ahaz refuses the invitation of the Lord to ask for a sign to reassure him that God will deliver on His promise, the Isaiah makes this proclamation:

Then he said: Listen, house of David! Is it not enough that you weary human beings? Must you also weary my God? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign; the young woman, pregnant and about to bear a son, shall name him Emmanuel.

Isaiah 7:13-14

Ahaz needed reassurance that he and his people would not be torn apart by their enemies. The Lord exhorted him – and through him, his people – to stand firm, to trust in Him. But He spoke not only to Ahaz, but to all mankind. Isn’t it the case that we often need reassurance that we will not be torn apart by the Enemy, from attacks without and within? Who of us hasn’t trembled at the weight of our own sin and the pressure of temptation!

The message given through the prophet Isaiah speak more profoundly in light of this spiritual battle: “Thus says the Lord God: It shall not stand, it shall not be!” God will not permit His beloved children to stand alone.

What is required of us is neither power nor strength, but instead trust. Some two thousand years ago, our heavenly Father sent His Word to us, incarnate in the person of Christ. By the Father’s will, Jesus sent us His Holy Spirit – and assures us that where two or three are gathered in His name, He is there with them. May we confidently call on the Lord, knowing that He has already come, is with us, and will bring us through our present struggles to eternal joy & peace.

And if you’re looking for good version of that eponymous hymn, here is one of my favorite popular renditions of ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’:

O Rex Gentium (December 22)

Today is the penultimate day of the O Antiphons, and what a grand one it is: “O King of all nations and keystone of the Church: come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!”

There is a quote about when a man ceases to worship God, he will end up worshipping anything. Though attributed to G.K. Chesterton, it seems this quote is actually an amalgamation of different speeches of Chesterton’s fictional Father Brown. However it might have originated, there’s something to it: we know our hearts are missing something – and we seek to fill that gap with something greater than ourselves.

The Church warns us of seven deadly sins: “They are called ‘capital’ because they engender other sins, other vices. They are pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth or acedia.” (CCC 1866) If they take root in our lives, these sins become dominant in us – so much so that they take over (ie, ‘he’s ruled by his pride’). And what cruel rulers they prove to be, when we subject ourselves to them!

One of my favorite quotes from The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe – the first book of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia – speaks about the kind of kingship that is uniquely the Lord’s, modeled in the character of Aslan:

“Who is Aslan?” asked Susan.
“Aslan?” said Mr. Beaver, “Why, don’t you know? He’s the King.”

[. . . .]

You’ll understand when you see him.”
“But shall we see him?” asked Susan.
“Why, Daughter of Eve, that’s what I brought you here for. I’m to lead you where you shall meet him,” said Mr. Beaver.
“Is–is he a man?” asked Lucy.
“Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion–the Lion, the great Lion.”
“Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he–quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver. “If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

– C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe

Strange though it may sound, choosing deadly sins as our king often seems safer than inviting Christ to be our king. With sin, there is the illusion of control, of having power over others, the world, and ourselves. With Christ, the illusion of control is stripped away and our powerlessness laid bare. Of course this would make us nervous! But as we are reminded by the character of Mr. Beaver, our king is good. May we ask the Lord to help us trust Him, that we might recognize His kingship – and so receive the good things He is preparing for us.

O Oriens (December 21)

Throughout C.S. Lewis’ book The Great Divorce, there is the constant anticipation of the coming dawn, the morning light that will shine on a people who have been looking for illumination all their lives. Throughout the story, we are introduced to characters whose search have brought them to the edge of heaven – theirs to enter if only they’ll turn away from the darkness of sins they so treasure, allowing themselves to be brought to the eternal light, and more importantly, the One who is the source of that light.

I can’t say enough to recommend this brief story (less than 150 pages!) – it is a lovely reflection on the divide between heaven & hell. In the end, we all must choose between being swallowed up in the darkness of their sins or set free to in the light of the new day of the Lord. Perhaps C.S. Lewis was inspired by the Canticle of Zechariah, where the husband of Elizabeth – his lips finally freed at the birth of his son John the Baptist – praises the tender mercy of God and announces the dawn from on high coming to shine on us who live in darkness and the shadow of death.

In today’s antiphon, the Church invites us to turn from the darkness of the world to the light of Christ, the fifth of the O Antiphons: “Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.” May we invite the Lord to illuminate our hearts and minds such that we recognize where we need Him most, asking Him to drive away all that keeps us from eagerly turning towards the Risen Son.

O Clavis David (December 20)

Today’s fourth of the O Antiphons speaks of the Lord as the key: “O Key of David, opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom: come and free the prisoners of darkness!”

This language comes from Isaiah 22:22, alluding to the authority of the one chosen by God, according to the house of David. Keys signify authority – only those who have a right to what a key unlocks are permitted to carry them. The one with the keys can bar others from entering, or swing wide the doors to allow them in.

In Christian tradition, too, keys hold a rich symbolism. The Lord Himself used the language of keys when, in response to Peter’s confession of faith, He entrusts ‘the keys to the kingdom of heaven’ to Peter and the Apostles: whatever they bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever they loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Thus was established the sacrament of confession, in which we receive and celebrate the mercy of God.

Though the Lord has authority to enter through any doors, He respects the authority we have over our own hearts; He will not enter uninvited. Similarly, He will not force us to pass through the entrance of heaven which He has swung open on our behalf. Instead, He gently knocks at the doors of our hearts, ready to invite & welcome us into His. May we take the opportunity to respond, allowing the Lord in – especially through the celebration of the sacrament of confession – so that with Him, we might be made worthy to enter the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom.