The Nativity

In the spring of this year, I reflected on the Stations of the Cross through my ministry as a priest. Therefore, I decided to reflect on a slightly newer devotion called the Stations of the Nativity through my ministry as a priest. I hope that these reflections will help each of you.

The First Station – The Annunciation (Lk 1:30-31, 38)

+We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your birth, death and resurrection, you have redeemed the world.

Reflection: God sent the angel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary, not to force her to do His will but to invite her to be the Mother of His Son Jesus. In a similar way, through the gift of the priesthood God has invited me to bring His Son to all I meet and, in a special way, make Him present through the Eucharist. May I always look upon my vocation as an opportunity to love and never as a burden or a source of entitlement.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, you sent the angel Gabriel to ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to be the Mother of your Son. In her “yes” she declared herself to be your “handmaid.” Lord, as I recommit myself to my vocation as a priest, may I serve you well by making every effort to make your Son present in the world today through my thoughts, words and actions, especially as I celebrate the Sacraments. I ask this through Christ our Lord.

The Second Station – The Visitation (Lk 1:39-45)

+We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your birth, death and resurrection, you have redeemed the world.

Reflection: Mary, having conceived the Son of God in her womb through the power of the Holy Spirit, was compelled to go forth to assist her cousin Elizabeth. If I am to show others that I have Christ within, I must show them that I, like Mary, have a servant’s heart in the way that I eagerly strive to help those in need, especially the poor.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Mary, being filled with the Holy Spirit, went forth to serve Elizabeth. Please help me to always have a servant heart that is modeled after the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I ask this through Christ our Lord.

The Third Station – The Magnificat (Lk 1:46-55)

+We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your birth, death and resurrection, you have redeemed the world.

Reflection: Mary’s song of praise, known as the Magnificat, is a song about revolution. The old ways of sin are to be done away with and new ways of living with God’s love as their foundation are to take hold of our lives. It is often said that joy is the surest sign of the Holy Spirit. Does my life radiate the joy of knowing that my God has come to save us?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, by sending your Son into the world, not to condemn us but to save us, You have answered the ultimate question of whether or not you love us with a resounding “yes.” This is the Good News of Jesus. Please renew your gift of the Holy Spirit within me so that I may, once again, joyfully proclaim your Son’s coming as man. I ask this through Christ our Lord.

The Fourth Station – The Birth of John the Baptist (Lk 1:57-66)

+We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your birth, death and resurrection, you have redeemed the world.

Reflection: Zechariah of all people should have trusted in the angel’s message to him. He was the high priest and he was in the Holy of Holies when he received the message and yet he doubted and failed to believe in your goodness. Now with the naming of John, Zechariah is able to make up for his wrong. There are times when I know as a priest that my human failings have caused me to reject God’s will for me. I need God’s grace to admit my wrongdoing and to follow God’s path for me.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Zechariah was slow to believe and to trust in you. Many times, unfortunately, I fail in similar ways. Please hear my prayers for mercy and forgiveness and help me to never persist in my errors or my sinfulness. I ask this through Christ our Lord.

The Fifth Station – The Prophecy of Zechariah (Lk 1:67-80)

+We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your birth, death and resurrection, you have redeemed the world.

Reflection: As a priest, I need to hear the words that Zechariah proclaimed when his lips were open, because they remind me not only that it is my duty to “prepare the way of the Lord,” but also that my vocation was not just the result of happenstance. The Father has, from the beginning of time, desired for me to be His messenger by being His priest.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Zechariah reminds us that from the beginning of time you had a plan for restoring the human race to yourself, and in this plan you call each of us to play an important role. Come to my assistance, Lord, and help me to live out this role to the best of my ability, and may I never take it for granted. I ask this through Christ our Lord.

The Sixth Station – Joseph’s Dream (Mt 1:20-23)

+We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your birth, death and resurrection, you have redeemed the world.

Reflection: Besides the Blessed Virgin Mary, there may be no better role model for a Christian than St. Joseph. St. Joseph willingly puts aside his hopes, plans and dreams in order to literally fulfill God’s dream for him. It is as if St. Joseph knows, even through the dark times, that God’s plans are always better than any plan that he could come up with.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to follow the example of St. Joseph and to willingly set aside my dreams so that I may follow your dream and your plan for my life. In good times and in dark times, may I never doubt your loving providence. I ask this through Christ our Lord.

The Seventh Station – Joseph Takes Mary into His Home (Mt 1:23-25)

+We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your birth, death and resurrection, you have redeemed the world.

Reflection: Joseph, having discerned your will for him, immediately goes about fulfilling it. He demonstrates to each of us what it means to be a good and faithful servant. There are times in which I slothfully fail to follow St. Joseph’s example because, instead of seeing God’s commandments as life-giving, I see them as life-draining. St. Joseph, though, demonstrates the importance of the virtue of zeal when it comes to our ministry.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I beg pardon for those times that I have slothfully not followed St. Joseph’s example of zeal and have slothfully done your will, dragging my feet or procrastinating. St. Joseph teaches us through his life and death that you desire us to do your will today because we are not promised tomorrow. Give me the zeal that you blessed St. Joseph with. I ask this through Christ our Lord.

The Eighth Station – The Journey to Bethlehem (Lk 2:1-5)

+We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your birth, death and resurrection, you have redeemed the world.

Reflection: The imperial edict that forced Mary and Joseph to journey to Bethlehem could not have come at a worse time for Mary and Joseph, but yet this ill-timed endeavor was somehow still a part of your divine plan. Sometimes in the busyness of my everyday life, I can fall into the temptation to see in a negative light things that do not fit into my plans or that take time away from me, despite the fact that you may be trying to use them to help reveal yourself to me in a new and extraordinary way.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to remember that nothing happens without your consent and that nothing happens that you cannot bring forth good from. Help me to challenge myself more and more to get out of my comfort zone so that I can become a better instrument of your love and mercy to the world around me. I ask this through Christ our Lord.

The Ninth Station – The Birth of Jesus (Lk 2:6-7)

+We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your birth, death and resurrection, you have redeemed the world.

Reflection: Jesus came into the world to show us what it really meant to be like God. Many people think that to be like God means to be all-powerful, always in control, and all-knowing. Jesus through His birth as an infant shows me that to be truly like God means to be all-loving, all-forgiving, and willing to give myself to others.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, please help me in my day-to-day life to come to a better understanding of the mystery of the Incarnation. Please drive away me from any desire to be all-powerful, always in control, or all-knowing. Help me instead to love you, others and myself to the best of my ability. I ask this through Christ our Lord.

The Tenth Station – The Announcement of the Angels (Lk 2:8-11)

+We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your birth, death and resurrection, you have redeemed the world.

Reflection: Humanity declared war with God by rejecting His love and introducing sin into the world. Instead of sending His army of angels to wipe out humanity, God in His infinite love for us instead sends them into the world with a message of peace and good will. Am I a messenger of God’s love and peace in my ministry as a priest and in my everyday life?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, you sent your angels into the world with tidings of peace and good news, for you took it upon yourself to be the first to offer a sign of peace to a sinful humanity. And eventually your Son became the Lamb of God that took away our sins and restored us to your friendship. Please help me to follow your examples. May my words always be words of love and peace. May I never seek out violence or have the desire to harm another. I ask this through Christ our Lord.

The Eleventh Station – The Shepherds Share the Good News (Lk 2:15-20)

+We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your birth, death and resurrection, you have redeemed the world.

Reflection: As Mary and Joseph rejoice in the birth of Jesus, they find themselves also playing host to a group of shepherds. Many commentators tell us that shepherds were considered dirty and uncivilized and were probably considered by many unwanted guests. Mary and Joseph give example to us though ministering to them and, in return, they receive the gift of learning how God had worked in the shepherds’ lives. This is something we are told that Mary treasures in her heart. As a priest, we never know where we are sent or who God will call us to minister to. May we always be like Mary and Joseph and minister to others with the best of our ability, and may we always treasure the stories of how God works in the lives of the people we are called to serve.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help your priests — especially me — to put aside all self-ambition so that we may truly present your Son to the world. May we also follow the Blessed Virgin Mary’s example and treasure the stories of others in our hearts. I ask this through Christ our Lord.

The Twelfth Station – The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (Lk 2:15-22)

+We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your birth, death and resurrection, you have redeemed the world.

Reflection: I am sure that Mary and Joseph would have wished to offer to God more than just a pair of turtledoves for the gift of Jesus, but they humbly offer what they can. Sometimes as a priest, I can paralyze myself with a desire to do great things that are beyond my ability, and so I fail to do even the little that I can. I can also waste a lot of time comparing myself to others, failing to remember that God does not desire these comparisons. All that God desires is that I give what I can.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us to remember the divine truth that Mother Teresa taught us that you do not desire us to do great things but, rather, small things with great love. Help me to know your will and give me the strength to do it. I ask this through Christ our Lord.

The Thirteenth Station – The Blessing of Simeon (Lk 2:22-24)

+We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your birth, death and resurrection, you have redeemed the world.

Reflection: One of the things that makes our God so great is that He calls all of us in some way to be His co-workers. In a special way we see that he called Simeon and Anna to proclaim His Son’s coming at His birth. Priests should be challenged by this in two ways: First, we should feel challenged to learn about God from everyone we meet. Second, we should make sure that people know that they are called to make God’s love present in the world in their own special way.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us, your priests to listen intently to each person you put into our lives so that we may never miss out on your message to us. Assist us also to inspire others to be your faithful disciples in the world today. I ask this through Christ our Lord.

The Fourteenth Station – The Wise Men Come from the East (Mt 2:1-12)

+We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your birth, death and resurrection, you have redeemed the world.

Reflection: The gifts that the magi give to the Lord proclaim their faith in who the baby Jesus is. The gift of gold declares the baby Jesus to be a king and leader. The gift of incense proclaims the newborn king to be God, and the gift of myrrh tells us that the newborn baby king will die for our sins. The overall message is that our faith demands more of us than our verbal consent. We are called to give of our very selves.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, as we celebrate the gift of your Son, we ask that, as we reflect on the birth of your Son and His manifestation as the savior of the world, you may change our hearts of stones and give us hearts that are more like you. May we discover new ways to put our faith into practice, and may we grow deeper in love with you. I ask this through Christ our Lord.

FATHER PASTORIUS, a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, is pastor of the Epiphany of Our Lord Parish in St. Louis, Missouri.