Looking for a Real Christmas

 The Gospel According to Saint Luke 2:1-14

These two branches may look the same from a distance, and in some ways they are alike. But there is also a great difference between them. This is from a real Christmas tree. And this is from an artificial tree. You can see, feel, and smell the differences when you are near the two branches. One branch is wounded and will die. One never had life and came from a box.

It’s easy to tell the difference between a real and artificial Christmas tree, but can you tell the difference between a real and an artificial Christmas?

Maybe you never thought about it, but you can have an artificial Christmas. Just as the artificial tree can serve a purpose, an artificial Christmas can be fun. You can give and receive presents, go to parties, sing songs and still not have a real Christmas.

A real Christmas includes the coming of God’s Son to be a part of life with people on earth. On the first Christmas He came as the Baby at Bethlehem. But the Baby was God, and He came to be the Savior. Jesus still comes to the world as the Savior who gives new life to people who know and believe this.DSCF8609

When Jesus was here the first time, some people wanted to know for sure that He was the real Savior. They did not want an artificial Son of God. Jesus told them to look at what He did. Jesus healed the blind, deaf, and crippled. He brought a dead person back to life. He had a message of love and hope for all people. They could tell that He was real because what He did was real. His actions proved that His words were true.

Just as Jesus pointed to what He did for people to show that He was a real and not an artificial Savior, you can tell if your Christmas is real by seeing what it does for you. Jesus once said, “You will know my real followers by their fruit.” Ask yourself some questions:

Will this Christmas help me feel the presence of God?

Will I realize that God not only came to a manger but also to me?

Will I see again how much God loves me and feel that love in action?

Will I see that God came not only for me, but for all people?

Will I also produce abundant Christmas fruit of love, joy, hope and peace?

Let us celebrate a real Christmas. Recognize that many things that look like Christmas offer only an artificial Christmas. They are not wrong, but don’t use them as a substitute for the real thing.

VIRTUAL and REAL CHRIST-MASS TREE: Gifts of Holy Spirit beneath the Tree of Life… and Fruit of the Holy Spirit in the Branches. Jesus is the Light and Star radiating from the top of the Tree of Life. Jesus is asking us to be living trees of life, where people live off the fruit of the Holy Spirit God sends through us.

Christmas is real when you know Christ comes to you. Christmas is real when we ask ourselves how we fit into the Christmas Story in the living Nativity. Christmas is real when we hold the child like Joseph and accept Jesus as his real son. (Joseph is not an artificial father.) Each of us will have the best and merriest Christmas ever if we receive Jesus as God’s Christmas gift, gratefully, cultivate his love responsibly, share him lovingly with justice, and return Jesus with abundance to God! That is what we do at this Christmas Mass. That’s a real Good News and Merry Christmas!

Best Christmas Ever…still!

December 25, 2015

Today is the 10th anniversary of Mark Woods’ article, The Best Christmas Ever.

Ready for PT in Fallujah

I do tend to be nostalgic, but this does not seem like the best Christmas ever. It does not even feel like one of the top ten. Today I will be working as a counselor at a rehabilitation hospital. Many there have addictions and brain health issues. They have no idea how much I love them. Some are angry. Some are homeless. Some are far away from home like the people I served in a war zone. I will ask them, “How is this the best Christmas ever?” I expect the patients to look at me as if I was the crazy one.

My homily I gave for Christmas in Fallujah 2004 is still haunting and challenging me. It really was a terrible Christmas on the outside… the wrappings. Not only was I thrown into a crazy and horrendous war, but also I was in the middle of the worst and most devastating battle as a complaining and whining priest chaplain. I hate that I whine!

My homily was rather simple. If this is not the best Christmas ever, something is wrong. Every Christmas builds on the previous Christmas. When we realize we are loved unconditionally by anyone… nothing else is desired or needed. The birthday of Jesus in which we celebrate today reminds us of the man who forgave the people who were crucifying him. He loved us even when we didn’t have the guts to stand at the foot of his Cross. He loved us beyond the grave. Jesus was clear; “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you… Love one another.” (John 15:13-17)

The key to my book, Tear in the Desert, is that God wanted me to tell the men and women I served with that I loved them. When an Army soldier came to me, I balked. God literally asked me, “You do love him, don’t you?” With everything in my being, I loved this man whom I just met. He suffered an unexploded rocket to his abdomen. As I helped bring him into that operating room, I was confused and angry about this damn war. I had already witnessed 27 deaths and hundreds of physical casualties, not counting thousands of hidden brain and heart injuries. Yes, I loved him. That was the problem.

If I told this man that I loved him, and I don’t say things I don’t mean, it would destroy me. It would destroy me because I loved him as if he were my very own son. As a Catholic priest, the hardest choice for me was not to get married or have children of my own. So here I was with this dying man before me who calls me Father. I was like Joseph, the foster father of Jesus.

I have been told and witnessed that there is no greater pain in this world than to witness the death of one’s child who is loved no matter how old or wayward they may be. I wasn’t just being asked by God to tell this soldier I loved him. I was being asked to accept this child as my son.

I was very vulnerable.

I couldn’t pray. I couldn’t even attempt to minister the sacraments. I was numb. The surgeon was screaming at me to set up the light. I figured I helped get the man on the operating table and stretch out his arms like Jesus on the cross. They were the lifesaving surgeons. I was a token chaplain. When he told me I was standing on the huge light, I snapped out of it… at least superficially. I felt I could throw my prayers out like a 3-point swish and get the hell out of there.

But as I approached the table, the altar of healing hope, to do my professional duties, the two surgeons simply said to me, “Padre, it is up to you. We can’t do anything further.” And then they walked out of the room.

I was stunned. I thought, “How can you give up hope. God is working through you.”

Edward, my foster son, was dying at that very moment. I had sung to him as I caressed his red hair and bludgeoned body. As I sang, O Holy Night, a tear escaped his left eye at the words, a weary world rejoices. Edward spoke to me through that tear. I assured him I would let his family know of his love for them. A sword was piercing my heart.

And then God gently asked me to tell Edward that I loved him.

“O Jesus, I can’t tell him that.”

“You must Ron Moses. You do love him, don’t you?”

“Of course I do. You know I do. But if I tell him I love him, and then he dies, I will be toast. I won’t be able to function through my own grief. What about these other service men and women I love? They need this padre to be strong.”

“Trust me Ron. I love you. You can do it.”

There was my beloved son dying. I loved him. I had trouble letting him go. I have asked so many people to tell their loved ones that it is okay to die peacefully and that they will be okay. This time it was God, my Father, urging and ministering to me to love my son into heaven.

So, in a most terrifying and holy space, I leaned over and breathed these words and sealed them with a kiss on his forehead.

“I love you Edward. Go with Love.”

Flash of light. With the eyes of my soul, I saw his soul embraced by love.

Today is the best Christmas ever… because I remember and feel the embrace and kiss of Edward, my beloved son… still.


How Could it Be?

How could it Be?

Wow! This truly is the best Christmas ever for me…and it still is. Remember that there are 12 days of Christmas. The 12th day of Christmas is Epiphany and is the Feast of Lights!

Sister Carmel, Momma Nancy, Dad, Father Ron, Sister Patricia

This is a picture of some very special people in my life. We celebrated Christmas on December 23rd at my home in which I cooked. Only my dad is related to me biologically, but the others are truly my family by love. Sister Carmel was the Principle of St. Patrick’s School when I was the pastor. Sister Patricia came into my life the second year of my priesthood when I was stationed at Sacred Heart. Eventually she was my Pastoral Associate at St. Patrick’s. These two Sisters of Mercy have been an incredible support over the years and especially through my time in Iraq. I presided at the marriage of my Dad and Nancy two years after my mother died. They have been married for about 10 years and I call her, “Momma Nancy.” I am so blessed.
Now this is how the birth of Jesus came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.

Yes! Christmas is about family. God is our Father. Mary is our Mother. The people we call, “Dad” and “Mom” are like Joseph being asked to take Mary and Jesus into his home.

For my Christmas homily, I picked up a baby in the congregation and held the baby in my arms. I shared with the people that one of the greatest sacrifices for me becoming a priest is that I wouldn’t have children of my own. However, for the past twenty-one years, thousands have called me, “Father Ron” or simply “Father.” How could this be? Being a father has required some really great responsibilities. When I was in Fallujah Iraq during the war, there were times I had to let my “sons” and “daughters” depart from this life with great love. It was then that I realized I would never be the same and my grief would almost consume me. Children should never die before their parents.

Our Blessed Mother had to experience the death and torture of her Son. The sword entered her heart and never departed, even to this day. Each of us is asked to look at all people as a little child. God asks us to love them and never condemn nor judge them. I never met a person God didn’t love and would be willing to lay His life down for. So I held a little baby girl who wouldn’t stop looking at me at Christmas Eve Mass at St. Peter’s. I held a little boy who wrapped his little arms around my neck as he slept on Christmas Day at Holy Spirit Church. I sang the following song by Michael Card:

How could it be?
This baby in my arms
Sleeping now, so peacefully
The son of God, the angels said
How could it be?

He looks so small,
His face and hands so fair
And when he cries the sun just seems to disappear
And when he laughs it shines again
How could it be?

Father, show me where I fit into this plan of yours
How can a man be father to the son of God
For all my life I’ve been a simple carpenter
How can I raise a King?
How can I raise a King?

That is what Christmas is all about. We willingly accept Jesus into our lives as our child. When we become adults, we welcome Jesus as our beloved husband and the Father of our children. Let us all live knowing that one day we will see Our Father face to face and dance with all of our sisters, brothers, parents, grandparents, children and grandchildren.

Keep dancing in the Joy of Christmas.

Love, joy, peace,
Father Ron Moses +

P.S. Check out my interview on Veterans Radio that was broadcast on Ave Maria Radio. I am on at the 48th minute of the program. You can find it at:


Home for the Holy Days!

Seven years ago, I was in Iraq for the last week of the Battle for Fallujah. It was the week before Christmas when all through the desert, the troops were all longing for a house safe and still. How could we even imagine that this would be the best Christmas ever when we had no way of getting home for the holidays, for we were thousands of miles away from all that we loved?

The last U.S. troops convoyed out of Iraq and into Kuwait yesterday. The Army battalion that I said Mass for in the desert were the ones closing the gate and thus ending this almost nine-year war. There is no jubilation. But there is a sense of peace. Over 4,500 U.S. troops gave their lives. Over 200,000 Iraqi citizens lost their lives. What did we accomplish? Who profited from this fog of war? Who is still paying for the sins of our society?

These are really tough questions that I reckon have no easy or short answer. Each of us must evaluate the part we play in the wars of the world and within our families. If we truly want peace in our lives we must first be peaceful persons in our own hearts. Then we must be peaceful in our families and communities. We cannot give what we do not have. We can’t “give” democracy and peace to another country if we haven’t achieved it in our own country. It has been over 150 years since our Civil War, and yet we still have not discovered a true peace. We still bristle and balk over our unresolved issues of equality, civil rights and bi-partisan issues that seem to be the real root of our discontent and violence.

I would like to share with you just one of the amazing reflections from a book I am reviewing for the Military Writers’ Society of America. The book, Faith Deployed…Again (More Daily Encouragement for Military Wives) is composed by Jocelyn Green and 25 contributing authors from every branch of the U. S. military. Many of us agreed to the war in Iraq at first because we believed it would make our house safe. Even though Jesus, Mary and Joseph did not have a house at his birth, they did find a “home for the Holy Night of Birth.” Consider what Leeana Tankersley writes:

Safe House
God makes homes for the homeless
Psalm 68: The Message

I UNDERESTIMATED THE GRIEF I would experience when I moved home from the Middle East. We received orders back to my hometown, and I naively assumed I would be able to jump back into life with relatively little transition. I was blindsided when reeling feelings of loneliness arrived.
Back home, everyone’s life had changed while we were gone—including my own—and I felt like I was trying to jump into a game of double Dutch.
What really threw me was how isolated I felt. In Bahrain, I only had a few close friends, but somehow that felt like plenty. Back home, I was surrounded by hundreds of people I had practically grown up with, and yet I rarely felt known or understood.
Of course, everyone wanted to know, “How was Bahrain?” But every time I tried to put my experiences into words, I’d feel these unwelcome tears rising and I’d search for words. How could I ever express the breadth and depth of this strange place that had shaped me so significantly?
What is more painful than feeling like you don’t belong? Especially when what you thought was home turns out to be the most foreign place of all?
Scripture contains countless stories of those who were exiled, plagued with the gnawing sense of being foreign, wondering where they fit. The story of God is a story of reconciliation, belonging, and homemaking. In fact, isn’t that the central narrative of Scripture: Once we were not a people, but now we are a people (1 Peter 2:10)?
If you are feeling homeless today—whether you have returned home and it no longer seems to fit you, you have left home and you are lost in a sea of strangers, or you have no idea where home is anymore—don’t lose hope. God makes homes for the homeless.
Rarely does He build to our measurements, expectations, or time frames. In fact, God’s shelter for us can come in all shapes and sizes.
Shortly after we returned home from Bahrain, I happened onto a group of women who took me in. We have spent the last five years listening to each other’s lives, being a sacred shelter to each other. We make a point to listen instead of advise, pray instead of preach, hope instead of judge. Somewhere in the alchemy of validation and love, a sense of belonging has been forged.
Slowly, this group has become the hands and feet of God in my life, a place of belonging and comfort for me—a home.
May God be building a safe house for you, even today.

Do I have people in my life I can trust?
Am I willing to reach out to them when I need support?

God, please build me a home. May I find the enduring shelter of safe individuals around me, and may I be brave enough to live in the warmth and protection they provide. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

To learn more, please visit http://www.FaithDeployed.com

O Beloved, there truly is no place like home for the holy days. We are all called home to be with our true family. Our Mother will again wrap her baby in swaddling clothes and lay him in a stinking manger because there is no room for him in the many beautifully decorated homes for the holidays. I realized where my true home was back on a dreary, rainy and cold Christmas day when I was in a war torn country where Abraham almost sacrificed his son, Isaac.
After preaching at about 19 Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services among the troops that “this has to be the best Christmas ever”, I no longer believed it. But when I reluctantly trudged up the 5 flights of stairs to the 19 year old Marine who wanted Communion on Christmas, life seemed cruel and empty to me. Then I placed my a vulnerable Jesus into the battle scarred and filthy hands of this young man who probably struggled in his faith also. Like Mother Mary, I basically wrapped Jesus in swaddling clothes and laid him in a stinking manger. When the Marine began to sing O Holy Night louder and more beautifully than I could, I knew I was truly home for all eternity.

Gratitude and love filled my being. “Do not be afraid, for behold, I proclaim to you Good News of great joy that will be for all peoples. For today in the City of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Beloved. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests!”

So my Beloved, let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us. Let us enter into our very own hearts and journey into our hearts to our home. Christ Mass is where we will find our eternal home…Today!

Merry and Joyous Christmas!
Let us pray that all people of all nations will find their Way Home!
Love, joy, peace,

Father Ron Moses +

The best Gift ever!

Christmas can be a very anxious time because people that love us give us gifts. Whenever we receive a gift, it comes with a burden. Think of the last gift that you received. Did you feel like you owed something back to the person?

Sometimes, a simple “thank you” is just not enough. We sometimes try to be prepared if someone gives us a gift. We don’t want to feel cheap or inconsiderate if we don’t reciprocate with a gift that is even more thoughtful. We clamor to figure out if we have paid our debt for this generous and kind gift.

Now think of God, who gave us His beloved Son as a gift. Do we sometimes attempt to outdo God? Ouch! Even though our parents aren’t perfect, we are still so filled with gratitude for the life they sacrifice to give us. Sometimes we try to repay our parents by spoiling our children or grandchildren. We never feel satisfied in our giving.

Christmas is definitely about giving gifts. But it is so important for us to realize that the best gift ever has already been given; Jesus the Christ. We can’t reciprocate or come close to matching this gift. We receive the most awesome and amazing gift ever given or that will ever be given.

This doesn’t mean that we come to the Midnight Mass empty handed. But we do need to bring an empty heart. God cannot fill us with intimate and compassionate love unless we have the room. “Mary wrapped the infant in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.” We must bring our emptiness and longing for a love that will help us survive our death and the death of those we love.

Advent is a time to prepare our gift for our One and Only Love. We bring the only gift that God desires. What is the gift that you can bring to God for giving us Jesus? Each of us is capable of playing our drum for the babe in the stinking manger. God desires each of us, more than we desire God. We must recognize this and respond in kind. We can bring our charity and love for the poor. We can bring our studies of sacred Scripture. We can bring our contemplation. A great gift would be to simply come home to the Sacred Heart and family of the church, warts and all!

In my 52 years of life on this earth, I have celebrated Christmas (Christ Mass) in many different places and countries. Whether it was in Korea, Okinawa, Puerto Rico, or in Fallujah, Iraq during a war, I always felt I was at home at the Mass. It reminds me of when Mary and Joseph searched for Jesus for three days when he was twelve, and Jesus simply said, “Why did you search for me, didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” I am always at home at Midnight Christmas Mass.

When I returned home from my first year in college, my parents had sold and moved out of our house (a mom and pop motel in Daytona Beach), and forgot to let my brother Rick and me know where they were staying. We felt so homeless. We eventually found them and celebrated Christmas as a family of eight in a small motel inn…and at St. Brendan’s Catholic Church where I would eventually celebrate my First Mass as a priest twelve years later!

Although it is awkward and difficult for me to celebrate the revised Mass, there is one clear translation that is a tremendous help. “Pray my brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.” Our sacrifice is our gift for Christmas, Easter and every Sunday Mass of the year. We offer the gift of plain unleavened bread, wine and water. These simple gifts that were given to us by our gracious God will be transformed into the Lamb of God who suffers and dies. This brings up the second part of our gift to God: suffering.

St. Augustine, our patron saint, is quite clear:
“Whenever we suffer affliction, we should regard it both as a punishment and as a correction. Our holy Scriptures themselves do not promise us peace, security and rest. On the contrary, the Gospel makes no secret of the troubles and temptations that await us, but it also says that he who perseveres to the end will be saved.”

Another word for “saved” is “Christ”. The more accurate word for “Mass” is “Eucharist”. Therefore, the Mass is really about “the giving thanks for being saved”.

John the Baptist, Our Blessed Mother and all the apostles and saints suffered greatly. If we truly follow Jesus, we must expect suffering. And we must give thanks for our sufferings! Give thanks for your sufferings, cancers, homelessness, struggles, disappointments, broken relationships and persecutions. They all make the best Christmas gift ever if you give them to Our Father. He loves the gift of your sufferings.

And God will top that gift when you hear the priest invite us to the best Supper ever and proclaim as he holds up the Body and Blood of Jesus the Christ:

“Behold the Lamb of God,
behold him who takes away the sins of the world.
Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb!”

Love, joy, peace,

Father Ron Moses +