Commanding Presence

After 100 years of construction and the blessing of the recently finished ‘Trinity Dome’ on December 8, The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC is now complete. Walking in, one is at once struck by the towering mosaic of Christ in the north apse. One of the largest mosaics of Jesus in the world, it is titled ‘Christ in Majesty’.  The rendering depicts Christ as a muscular figure with outstretched arms and an earnest gaze – His is a commanding presence.

This is the Jesus we sing about and preach about on Christ the King Sunday and the first Sunday in Advent: He who will come and reign in glory. Lo, He comes with clouds descending!

But now we have taken a turn in Advent and await the Savior who seems far from commanding at this point. He is nestled snugly in the womb of a virgin. His breath is her breath, His meals are her meals, when she moves He goes with her. Jesus cannot live without Mary. He is protected by her, comforted by her, nurtured by her – she is the commanding presence in his young life.

All kings start in the womb, but this king is God. So not just our king, but our God becomes dependent and vulnerable. Think about that. He who was and is and is to come, He who is I Am, He who comes in majesty and glory is reliant upon a very young woman.

Advent can be too busy, too noisy. This solemn time of meditation on God’s descent can easily be eclipsed by things flashing at us. And though the lights and festivities are delightful and welcome, our souls compete for time and space and silence. The fluorescence of Advent should perhaps be more like the quiet darkness of the womb. Let all mortal flesh keep silent.

So may we all seek silence in these remaining days to ponder God’s trust in Mary and renew our own dependency on Him: To dwell in the womb of God and breathe with Him, be nourished by Him, and move with Him – to let the Christ Child be the commanding presence in our lives.

The Graciousness of Mary

An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for the Feast of the Assumption 2017


An everyday steward is called to be gracious. I read once that to be a gracious person meant to walk softly, speak with intent, and to leave those you have met feeling that their lives were better that day because they encountered you. What a way to live!

But alas, living like that each and every day is so very hard. I hate to think that some times people I have encountered are happy to see me go, but I know that it is true. As Christians we are graced people, but on some days, that grace can seem pretty hidden.

If you are looking for an example of gracious living look no further than Our Lady. She answered the call regardless of the cost and she lived her life with a great dignity in the face of horrible trials. She was a gracious host to the Incarnation in her womb and she continues to invite us to get to know her son better. She certainly embodies the definition of gracious living above.

We are called to always be ready and open to the call of her son. He will bring us to those in need, seeking light in a world of darkness. Our hope must be then that after our encounter with another, they will feel enriched by our presence. Of course, we will know, like Our Lady knew before us, that it wasn’t about us at all. It was about the Jesus in us meeting the Jesus in them.