Pope’s message to priests: A shepherd who doesn’t have the whiff of sheep about him probably needs to get better acquainted with the sheep.

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Priests, the Holy Father insisted, must “go out and give ourselves and the Gospel to others, giving what little ointment we have to those who have nothing, nothing at all.” When he shepherds his flock, the priest brings with him the fragrance of his anointing—“the fragrance of the Anointed One, of Christ.”

But that’s not all. A good priest, like a good shepherd, knows his flock. He spends time with them; he lives among them; he shares in their cares and concerns, no matter how trivial they seem. In return, he receives the love and prayers of the people. He receives the gratitude of those he enriches through his ministry. He receives the joy and peace that come from doing the work of the Lord. But there is something else he receives—the telltale sign of a man who lives among his flock, who knows “the realities of their everyday lives, their troubles, their joys, their burdens and their hopes.”

“I call you to this,” said Pope Francis to his priests, “Be shepherds with the odor of sheep!”

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The sign of swaddling clothes: A live baby wrapped up – as if for burial …

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The mystery of the newborn Christ as wrapped in swaddling clothes, that is, a live baby as wrapped up as if for burial, pre-foretells the resurrection when Christ would set aside His swaddling clothes, His burial shroud, when He awoke from the sleep of death in His glorified body.

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Seen on the web:

The Middle Eastern culture developed a way to deal with in-journey deaths. Each person would take a long, thin, gauze-like cloth and wrap it around their waist many times. This would be one of the bottom layers of clothing. This cloth would be reserved for death. If someone died during the journey, their friends or family would remove the “swaddling cloth” and wrap them from head to toe so they could compete the journey.

The baby Jesus was wrapped in Joseph’s death cloth. The sign for the shepherds wasn’t that they’d find a baby wrapped in a blanket in a manger. The sign was that they’d find a baby prepared for death. Jesus came to earth to die for our sins. That was his purpose. This was shown even from the instance of his birth.

What a God.

Lana said…

So the baby Jesus was wrapped in the death clothes of a man named Joseph, and thirty three years later was buried in the tomb of a man named Joseph?

You’re right. What a God.

Three “classes” of priests: “The shepherd is to be loved, the hireling is to be tolerated, of the robber must we beware.”

Saint Augustine

A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them.
Preaching on this verse, St. Augustine once said, “The shepherd is to be loved, the hireling is to be tolerated, of the robber must we beware.” He refers these three characters to three classes of priests.

On Good Shepherd Sunday, we do well to consider the qualities of these characters and, even more, how the faithful ought to relate to their priests and bishops. Why is it that the people should tolerate the hireling?

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Without a clearly visible Shepherd to keep them pointed in the right direction, the flock tends to get scattered and confused.

Without a clearly visible Shepherd to keep them pointed in the right direction, the flock tends to get scattered and confused. Then, one by one, they get carried off and devoured. God doesn’t want that to happen to us. Do you remember all the Old Testament figures who were shepherds? Whenever a shepherd had to leave his flock, even for a little while, he would ask a trusted friend, relative or assistant to tend it for him. So it’s no coincidence that Christ, the Good Shepherd, knowing He would soon need to leave His flock for a while (approximately 1970+ years and still counting), chose to leave it in the care of Peter, His trusted assistant and the man that both He and His Father in heaven agreed, was right for the job.

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Since Bethlehem was St. Joseph’s Home Town, Why Couldn’t the Holy Family Have Stayed With Relatives?


Luke 2:1-7  And it came to pass that in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled.  This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria.  And all went to be enrolled, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem: because he was of the house and family of David.  To be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child. And it came to pass that when they were there, her days were accomplished that she should be delivered.  And she brought forth her first born son and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger: because there was no room for them in the inn.

Q: Since Bethlehem was St. Joseph’s Home Town, Why Couldn’t the Holy Family Have Stayed With Relatives?

A: The short, simple answer is: They did stay with relatives.

Joseph and Mary were of the House of David. King David’s father Jesse, along with his whole family, were shepherds, who (about 800 years earlier) lived in and around Bethlehem. Their descendants still kept sheep on the rolling plains there, (as many still do.)

Who received the very first angelic notice of the birth of the Messiah? The shepherds … in fields … as they lay … keeping their sheep!

Who were the first to visit the Christ child? The shepherds! And compared to laying out in the exposed fields, the stable (carved out of the side of a nearby, rocky hill) was much warmer and more practical … even if it lacked certain amenities.

God is all about love and family, and it’s just like God to graciously remember these types of things, and to grant certain, special privileges to those he loves, according to his grace … and also in recognition of the merit of those who have gone before, who made a conscious, free will choice to cooperate with God’s grace, and do his will.

What greater privilege and blessing could there be for King David’s people?

Wikipedia has a good explanation of the genealogies of Mary and Joseph, as well as how and why the Blessed Virgin Mary would have married St. Joseph, even though both knew they would never consummate their marriage, in a carnal way. I generally don’t use Wiki as a source, but this explanation appears to be spot-on :

Now compare the 2 genealogies of Jesus in Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38, and you’ll discover that Mary and Joseph were both of the tribe of Judah and descendants of David. Joseph descended through Solomon, the royal but cursed line, while Mary’s line was through Solomon’s brother Nathan.

Here’s the tricky part. Mary had no brothers, and so was entitled to inherit her family’s land as long as she married someone also descended from David. Joseph fit the bill and being in the royal line had a claim to the throne, but carried the blood curse. No biological son of his could ever legally qualify as Israel’s king, but Joseph could secure Mary’s right of inheritance.

When Mary accepted Joseph’s offer of marriage she preserved her family’s land and also made good her son’s claim to the throne of Israel. Jesus was in the royal succession through Joseph but escaped the curse since he wasn’t Joseph’s biological son. But He was a biological descendant of David’s through his mother and therefore of the “house and lineage of David.”

This whole issue revolves around the facts that a) God has bound Himself to His own laws and b) He keeps His word; facts that should give you great comfort. God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should change His mind (Num. 23:19). Legally, a virgin birth was required to produce a sinless man who would be qualified and able to serve as our Kinsman Redeemer, and God longed to redeem us. A virgin birth was also required to sidestep the blood curse on the royal line, fulfilling God’s promise to David that a biological descendant of his would sit on the throne of Israel forever.

As for explaining the “big picture” … nobody did it quite as succinctly as St. Paul … in Acts of the Apostles 13:16-39:

Then Paul rising up and with his hand bespeaking silence, said: Ye men of Israel and you that fear God, give ear.  The God of the people of Israel chose our fathers and exalted the people when they were sojourners in the land of Egypt: And with an high arm brought them out from thence:  And for the space of forty years endured their manners in the desert: And, destroying seven nations in the land of Chaanan, divided their land among them by lot.

As it were, after four hundred and fifty years. And after these things, he gave unto them judges, until Samuel the prophet.  And after that they desired a king: and God gave them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, forty years.  And when he had removed him, he raised them up David to be king: to whom giving testimony, he said: I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man according to my own heart, who shall do all my wills.

Of this man’s seed, God, according to his promise, hath raised up to Israel a Saviour Jesus:  John first preaching, before his coming, the baptism of penance to all the people of Israel.  And when John was fulfilling his course, he said: I am not he whom you think me to be. But behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose.

Men, brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you fear God: to you the word of this salvation is sent.  For they that inhabited Jerusalem and the rulers thereof, not knowing him, nor the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath, judging him, have fulfilled them.  And finding no cause of death in him, they desired of Pilate that they might kill him.

And when they had fulfilled all things that were written of him, taking him down from the tree, they laid him in a sepulchre. But God raised him up from the dead the third day.  Who was seen for many days by them who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who to this present are his witnesses to the people.

And we declare unto you that the promise which was made to our fathers, This same God hath fulfilled to our children, raising up Jesus, as in the second psalm also is written: Thou art my Son: this day have I begotten thee.  And to shew that he raised him up from the dead, not to return now any more to corruption, he said thus: I will give you the holy things of David, faithful.

And therefore, in another place also, he saith: Thou shalt not suffer thy holy one to see corruption. For David, when he had served in his generation, according to the will of God, slept: and was laid unto his fathers and saw corruption. But he whom God hath raised from the dead saw no corruption.

Be it known therefore to you, men, brethren, that through him forgiveness of sins is preached to you: and from all the things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses. In him every one that believeth is justified.

Are you a Mary, a Joseph, a Wise Man, or a Shepherd?

Let’s try to recapture the riches of this lost worldview by applying the spiritual sense of the Christmas story to our lives. For that story happens not only once, in history, but also many times in each individual’s soul. Christ comes to the world — but He also comes to each of us. Advent happens over and over again.

There are two ways to connecting the historical and the spiritual senses. The Jesuit method, from St. Ignatius’ “Spiritual Exercises,” tells us to imaginatively place ourselves into the Gospel stories. The older Augustinian method tells us to look for elements of the story in our lives. We shall be using this latter method as we survey the scene in Bethlehem for the next four weeks.

Look at your Nativity set. Around the Christ Child you see four people or groups: Mary, Joseph, the wise men and the shepherds. We are all around the Christ Child, defined by our relationship to Him; we are all Marys, Josephs, wise men or shepherds.

Read more of the article by Peter Kreeft