Thursday, December 15, 2011

God, Christmas, Prayer and Renewal {Guest Post}

Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will.
(Luke 2:14)
Christmas is one of the most beautiful seasons in the Church calendar.  It celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and our Redeemer.  Christmas is the culmination of the Incarnation of God, which is celebrated on March 25th.  God became Man.
This was made possible by the power of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity, and by Mary, our Lady, who consented to be the instrument for the birth of Christ, the second person of the Holy Trinity.
Mary’s immaculate conception, that is, her absence of original sin, made it possible for God, who hates sin, to dwell in her womb.   It became a holy sanctuary from which Christ could burst out to fill the world with His graces.  This story of Christmas must include the role of Joseph for his devotion as a caretaker and protector of both Jesus and Mary. 
Christmas is for all, because its graces fall on all men of good will.  It is meaningfully connected to the blessed Easter season, which reflects upon the murder of God, that is, His Holy Sacrifice of the Cross and His resurrection.  This opened the gates of Heaven for the many.
Christmas Blues
Unfortunately, many Christians spend much of their time before and during Christmas struggling with people who would like to eliminate Christmas and Christianity from American culture.  The threats are many:
  • Public and private institutions that coerce their people into using “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”, thus gradually making the population forget the meaning of Christmas which, by the way, is a federal holy day.
  • Governments that refuse to have Nativity scenes in public property, even though they allow the placement of symbols of other religions although the majority of the population is Christian.
  • The persecution of Christians worldwide making them the most persecuted religious group in the world.
  • The unwillingness of teachers and professors to allow their students to write homework and papers on the topic of Jesus.
  • The frequent production of Hollywood movies with anti-Christian content, which appear usually around Christmas time.
  • The intentional debasement of Christmas into a commercial enterprise.
Therefore, Christians are justified in fighting during Christmas, all these anti-Christian elements culturally, economically, legally, and politically.  And yet, they should utilize Christmas primarily to purify themselves and enter into greater communion with God. 
It is only through these acts of purification and communion with God that the graces needed to improve America can be acquired. Christians cannot allow their enemies to spoil their Christmas and make them bitter.
God and A.C.T.S.
The season of Advent which precedes the Christmas Season seeks to help us purify ourselves through a process of repentance and prayer as we await Christ the Lord. Advent makes us appreciate Christmas and allows to better seek God.
According to Jesus, the greatest commandment is to love God.  Therefore, it is essential that we communicate with Him through the four ways which could be referred to as A.C.T.S.  It was St. Thomas Aquinas who taught us that there are at least four ways to communicate with God:
  • Adoration.  He is to be worshipped because God is our Creator, our Redeemer and our Comforter.  God created us for Himself.  He is the only one worthy of adoration.

  • Contrition.  We need to recognize our faults and sins and atone for them and beg for forgiveness.  God is full of mercy, even for the worst sinner who truly repents.

  • Thanksgiving.  God is responsible for our lives, our power to reason, our power to choose, our power to love, and our power to procreate, as well as responsible for all the resources which allow our powers to work.  We need to thank Him for He is the source of all that exists.
  • Supplication.  God made the world good, but the world as it exists now is also full of evil and is often a “valley of tears”. So we are wise in asking for His support and mercy.

These are four ways through which we can communicate with God.  Christmas is a wonderful time to seek Him in Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.  These ways will bring us closer to Him and renew us so we can love our neighbors and ourselves as Jesus loved us.
Praying With the Hands
Ironically, while to love God is the greatest commandment, God will not listen to us if we have not followed his commandments, which include loving our neighbors as ourselves.  Therefore, this Christmas not only should we approach God, but we should pray for each other as suggested by the Epistle of James (5:13-16).
However, sometimes we get so distracted and tired, that we do not know for whom to pray.
A simple method is to put the hands together, palm to palm, with the two thumbs closer to the body and the two little fingers farther away. Each set of fingers will remind us of people worthy of prayer:
  • The thumbs should remind us to pray first for those closer to our hearts, that is, those we love.
  • The index fingers should remind us to pray next for those who hate us.
  • The middle fingers should remind us to pray for our leaders, including the Pope and the bishops, so that they make decisions which are wise and loving.
  • The ring fingers should remind us to pray for those who are alone, forgotten, and suffering, even in Purgatory.
  • The little fingers should remind us to pray for ourselves.
The Church is full of saints and of people of great spirituality who can teach us how to pray.  Unlike some religions which emphasize many techniques and postures to pray or meditate, for Christians the key ingredient for good prayer, whether verbal, meditative or contemplative, is to be full of love for God and for others.
Christmas is a celebration of the coming of the Prince of Peace, Christ Jesus.  Many of the things that happen to us during this wonderful season have nothing to do with Jesus himself.
However, it is never too late to disengage during Christmas from the “ways of the world”, at least temporarily, so that we can love God, our neighbors and ourselves, and help God spread His peace to all men of good will.  This will bring about the greatest personal renewal and social regeneration.
Merry Christmas!

About the Guest Blogger
Dr.Germán Muñoz was born in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, on July 13, 1950. He attended the Jesuit Colegio Dolores. Upon emigrating to the United States, he studied at the Salesian orphanage Mary Help of Christians School in Tampa, Florida, and at the Belen Jesuit Preparatory High School in Miami, Florida. Dr. Muñoz earned a B.S. in Psychology at the Jesuit Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, a Masters of Arts in International Relations, and a Doctorate in Political History at the University of Miami, Coral Gables in May 1981.

          He is the producer of the award-winning Social Science Lecture Series, of the Faculty Forum and of The Public Affairs Forum. He is the author of Background Lessons on Global Affairs (1997), of The Social Environment: A Primer on World Civics, 11th Edition, 2008, and International Relations: a Primer on Global Affairs (2004).
          Dr. Germán Muñoz is the recipient of the following awards: “John Barret Prize for Best Dissertation on Hispanic and Latin American Affairs,”, “Excellence in Curriculum and Instruction Award,” 1987, by the Florida Association of Community Colleges, “The Times Teaching Excellence Award,” 1990, by the National-American Association of Community Colleges, “The Reverend Glen C. James Endowed Teaching Chair,” 1992-1994, “The Award for Outstanding Community College Chairs Who Encourage Teaching Excellence,” 1993, by the National Community College Academy, “The David Pierce Department Chair Quality Leadership Award,” 1995, “The National Initiative for Leadership and Institutional Effectiveness,” by North Carolina State University, “The First Union Endowed Teaching Chair,” 1996-1998,  “The Excellence in the Social Sciences Award 1854-2004”, by Belen Jesuit Preparatory in 2004, The Collinfontanum Award for Professional Achievement 1831-2006, by Spring Hill College in 2006.
            Dr. Germàn Muñoz has served in the following boards: St. Kevin’s Catholic School Advisory Board; Miami Archbishop John C. Favalora’s Board of Catholic Education; the Florida Fund for Minority Teachers, Inc., and the Socio-Economic Development Council of Miami Dade County.
              Dr. German Muñoz worked at Miami Dade College, the largest college in the United States, from August 1976 through August 2011. He was the Chairperson of the Department of Social Sciences from 1983-2011. Dr. Muñoz retired on August 2011 due to ALS. The College awarded him Professor Emeritus status and has created the Dr. German Muñoz endowed teaching chair.

Contact Dr. Muñoz:  Via E-Mail  or on the Web  or co-author  Carlos H. Olaechea, P.T., D.P.T., N.C.S. via E-Mail.
Reposted with permission given to Raising {& Teaching} Little Saints.

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