Thursday, December 31, 2015
+ On this last day of the calendar year, before we celebrate the Octave of Christmas, it is fitting to read the magnificent beginning of St. John’s gospel describing Jesus as the Word of God – the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity – now made flesh – made like one of us – to dwell with us, so that we could take heart, so that we could see his glory – his glory as God’s own, full of grace and truth. Jesus came as light, with power, proclaiming truth! Those who live in truth are in the light, and the more light they get, the more truth they comprehend.
John, in another place, (in our first reading today) in his first letter, written later in his life, tells us that the age of the final hour has begun [the reality of which is stronger now than ever]; it has begun, but no one knows how long it will last; but in this hour both the truth, and many great lies will coexist in the world: there will be some who leave the flock and deliberately speak lies against the Christ, the Savior, the Messiah: they are the rightly named “antichrists:” there will be many, and their humanistic logic and earthbound wisdom will sound appealing to the basely human and earthbound souls: but to those who live the life of children of God – they will reject them, and accept only the words and wisdom of the Great Truth and the Great Light: Christ the Lord.
May we today be among the truth bearing and living, children of God, and may we reject and denounce the antichrists who are out there trying to tempt us to divert from God, to divert from the faith, to divert from the truth.
And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, we saw his glory full of grace and truth!
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
+ We have two additional beautiful readings as we celebrate the days of the Octave of Christmas. Yesterday in the first reading from St. John’s letter we read about “living in love” which is the true proof of being a Christian. Today he explains that a little bit further. John told us that if we say we say we love God, but hate our brothers and sisters then we are liars. Why? Because God is found in them – so we can’t love God in one place and not in the other – it is illogical.
It is interesting to note that for those wanting to get to know God, reaching out to be kind to others and take an interest in them may be a first step in that regard. We know what Jesus said later, that he was to be found in the poor. This is true. Let’s have a look and see!
The gospel passage today reflects yesterday’s when Simeon blessed the child Jesus who was presented to him in the temple. His life’s dream was fulfilled, and now he could die a happy man.
Today the prophetess Anna, who also came to the temple at that time, saw Jesus and told everyone about what she saw. She had lived an extraordinary life: being married for just seven years and then as a widow until she was 84. She never left the temple and worshiped day and night! May she be an example of single-sighted devotion and attention to God who ought to be everything to us!
Jesus for his part returned to Galilee with his parents, to their own town of Nazareth, where he grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
+ The two beautiful Christmas Season readings “shine the light,” if you will, on the formula for life, the formula for peace that Jesus – Messiah and Lord – came to proclaim! “The light is love” proclaims St. John in the first reading today; and love is all inclusive, including all of our brothers and sisters of the human family, including even the most lost and errant among them.
It is only when we refuse to give up on them, and we “bathe them in the light of God’s mercy and love” with our prayers and best wishes that there can be any chance of peace on earth!
Beloved Simeon in the Gospel passage was granted his heart’s desire: to take in his arms the awesome promised Messiah and King – who is a light of revelation to all the nations and the glory of Israel! His promise is to us too: to reveal a right path for the tiny nations of our own lives, and to help us give glory to his Father and ours, in heaven!
And then there will be more peace on earth this day than less, because we have taken Jesus into our arms and into our hearts, and are part of the solution and formulation of his peace, rather than the problem and cause of discord behind blocking it from entry!
Glory to God in high heaven, and on earth peace to men, women and children who really try to get it right!
Monday, December 28, 2015
+ The Holy Innocents were the boy children of Bethlehem and its vicinity who were put to death not because of Christ, but instead of Christ: thus being the first New Testament persons to give their lives for him: thus making them the first martyrs of Christendom! All male children under the age of two were put to death when Herod became infuriated at being deceived by the Magi whom he sent to ascertain the whereabouts of the Child who was born King of the Jews: for he felt that his own throne was threatened by this newborn King. Anywhere from five to twenty-five children were taken from their mother’s and killed – in one account; but other accounts and observances from other rites in the Church list the number as 14,000 (in the Greek Liturgy for today), 64,000 in the Syrian Rite, and 144,000 of the Apocalyptic interpretation: [in any and every case] thereby fulfilling the prophecy of Jeremiah regarding “Rachel weeping for her children.”
The feast has been celebrated on this day in the West since the sixth century. They are depicted in art as children playing around God’s heavenly altar with the crowns and palms that are their reward. They are also in a mosaic arch in the basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome. In England their feast was called Childermas. They are the object of special veneration in Bethlehem where the Franciscans and children of the choir visit their altar under the Church of the Nativity and sing a hymn to their memory from the Divine Office.
May we always remember the sacrifices that were made by many to establish to the one true Church of Jesus Christ, beginning with the glorious martyrdom of these dear young children; may our sacrifices today on behalf of the Church and its continued spread be significant and loving, and also deserving of heavenly reward.
Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare!
Sunday, December 27, 2015
+ On this Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I should like to focus on the person of St. Joseph. Yesterday we celebrated the feast of the Child Jesus, next Friday we will celebrate the feast of Mary, the Mother of Jesus and of God, and so today it is fitting and proper to speak for a few moments on holy, just, good and faith-filled Joseph who was chosen by God to be the husband of Mary and foster-father of Jesus the Lord.
Joseph possessed all of the virtues of a true holy man of the faith of Abraham and the house of David. And his most outstanding virtue, along with faith, would have to be TRUST! Joseph trusted God absolutely, implicitly, unquestioningly and immediately!
In the gospel passage we hear that Joseph received news from an angel in a dream to take the child and his mother and flee into Egypt for the safety of the life of the child. Joseph did not have to question the angel at all; he awoke and did what the angel told him!
Then later, when it was safe, the prophecy: out of Egypt I called my son was fulfilled, when the angel again appeared to Joseph and told him to take his family and return to Nazareth in Galilee – to fulfill yet another prophecy: he shall be called a Nazorean – this Joseph did immediately!
It was then that Joseph became the strong earthly father figure for Jesus in his formative years in the home of Nazareth. He taught him his own carpentry trade. He with Mary taught Jesus to pray and to observe all of the dictates of the Jewish religion of which they were a part. His loving example of husband and foster-father is a great role model for all men who marry and have children. And the respect and submission that Mary and Jesus had to Joseph’s God-inspired leadership in their family was equally noteworthy.
Mary was the ideal mother and wife – who trusted God that all would work out well for her family! It would not be easy later on – but with the support of Joseph for a while, and the community of disciples of Jesus after that, she would have what she needed for the remainder of her earthly life. And it is to be noted that Jesus, as a child obeyed Joseph without question or argument!
May our family lives resemble Holy Family Life – with parents and children respecting and loving and anticipating one another in deeds of kindness and helpfulness. And may the dynamic of the marriage of Mary and Joseph, be the model for all Christian marriages – which were sanctified and sacramentalized by their own Son Jesus – where the husband cherishes and cares totally for the wife and children more easily, the more they each in turn trust in and submit to his prayer inspired, Spirit aided decisions for their welfare.
Let the peace of Christ control our hearts, all of us;
let the word of Christ dwell in us richly through FAITH and the TRUST
that St. Joseph inspires!
Friday, December 25, 2015
+ Today we celebrate the birth of the impossible, the nativity of the improbable: the coming to our earth of God-as-Man. “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us!” (Jn 1:14)
You know how when we are excited about something we exclaim our joy by saying: “OH” – i.e. “O My Goodness” “O For Heavens Sake” even “O God” or when communicating to a person: “O Mary, O John” that was so nice of you! Well the same thing happened when the Great Drama of our Salvation quickened its pace and its heartbeat in this last week before Christmas:
We have just concluded the O Antiphon Series at the daily Evening Prayer of the Church for the past seven days announcing the Royal Titles of the coming Messiah: (in joy we cry out): O Sapientia, O Adonai, O Radix Jesse, O Clavis David, O Oriens, O Rex Gentium, O Emmanuel: translated: O Wisdom, O Lord, O Root of Jesse, O Key of David, O Sunrise, O Sovereign of the nations, O our God with us – and now today we extend the “O sentiment” three steps more: O Great Mystery, O Wondrous Exchange, O Come let us adore him, Christ the Lord!
The text: O Great Mystery (Magnum Mysterium) is part of the celebration of the Midnight Hour (Matins) of the Divine Office for Christmas Day: O great mystery, and wondrous sacrament, that animals should see the newborn Lord, lying in their manger! Blessed is the Virgin whose womb was worthy to bear the Lord Christ. Alleluia.
For centuries, composers have been inspired by the beautiful text depicting the birth of the new-born King amongst the lowly animals and shepherds. It is a fitting affirmation of God’s grace to the meek and the adoration of the Blessed Virgin. We will hear a majestic version sung by the Southwest Seminary Oratorio Chorus as our communion meditation at this Mass – Morten Lauridsen’s rendition soars to the height of the radiant star of Bethlehem. It is a truly stunning piece.
The central “O phrase” for our celebration today, however, and fodder for our spiritual Christmas pondering is this: O Wondrous exchange!
The Creator of human nature deigned to take on a human body and soul, and be born of the Virgin. He became man without having a human father and has bestowed on us His divine nature! O Wondrous exchange!
This, of course, is incomprehensible without faith – God’s own light-giving gift – the inner light of our souls, the warm glow of our hearts! With faith this exchange is beheld as an awesome event: God shares in our humanity, and we begin to share in his divinity! O Wondrous exchange!
God is now capable of suffering, capable of expiating (making up for) our sins by His sufferings, and of healing us by his humiliations! Blessed be God forever! O Wondrous exchange!
We must participate in this exchange through faith. And the astounding gift the Christ child has for us in this exchange is that those who receive him by believing in Him have the power to become children of God – brothers and sisters of the Lord – and coheirs with him of an everlasting Kingdom. O Wondrous exchange!
And so then, come, O come ye joyful and triumphant ones, this Jubilee Year of Mercy, come ye poor and displaced ones, come ye homeless and ye starving, come ye jobless and ye overburdened, come ye politically enslaved and ye voiceless, come ye marginalized and downtrodden; come ye young and ye old, come ye sick and infirm: come to Bethlehem and behold the King of angels; behold your Lord and your Friend, come as shepherds came, leaving their flocks, drawing nigh to gaze, with them to adore him with wonder, to embrace him with love, to reach out to him with hope – and your life will never be the same again!
May the Spirit of the lowly, tiny and o so loving Child in the Animal’s Manger permeate your heart and soul, both now, this Christmas Day, and forever! Amen.
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
+ Today we recall the birth of the herald, tomorrow night we begin the celebration of the Nativity of the One Heralded! John the Baptist was the last and greatest prophet because he was the one to point to Christ and say: Look, behold, there he is, he is the One who we have been waiting for to be our liberator, our redeemer and our friend! Tomorrow night as we place the Christ Child in our mangers we too can point and say: Look, behold, the Lamb of God, born into our world to take away our sins! Today at this Mass we revel in the fact that we are privileged to be called even daily to the supper of [that] Lamb!
May our final preparations for Christmas be done now in quiet, hopeful joy and anticipation of the tiny one will come to those who know where to look to find him – in the inner recesses of their hearts!
Lift us your heads and see; your redemption is near at hand.
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
+ We are so very close to Christmas now, and the sense of joyful expectation is found in Mary’s proclamation of the Gospel canticle: Magnificat anima mea Domino! My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord! For he who is so awesome and mighty has found favor with me, and through me will fulfill the promises he made to all previous generations, and even those yet to come: you shall be free from sin, you shall flee from death, and you shall live forever in a kingdom prepared for you!
O King of all nations and keystone of the Church: come and save the ones you formed from the dust. You save us and you exalt us to the skies – so long as we keep our priorities and perceptions in check, and place you above all things! May we do so lovingly and happily today!
And we shall not be disappointed!
My heart exults in the Lord, my Savior.
Monday, December 21, 2015
+ The joyful anticipation of the arrival of the Christmas celebration is increasing to fever pitch. The Prophet Zephaniah in the first reading encourages those waiting for the Messiah to shout for joy and sing exultantly…be glad and exult with all your heart – because God has decided to favor his people with forgiveness and mercy and to remove their guilt and their sin forever. The Lord will be Emmanuel to them - in their midst - and there will be no reason to fear again!
In the gospel passage, Elizabeth and the child of her womb, John the Baptist, revel in the exact proximity and nearness of the Lord, quite literally. The fruit of Mary’s womb – Jesus – is recognized and hailed by Mary’s kin, just inches away from each other and there is great rejoicing in that household that day. Yes, Emmanuel is here!
May rejoicing and exultation, merry making and singing be found in our households – beginning today – as we focus in now on the final few days before the great solemnity of the Lord’s Nativity!
For we know that he has already come, he comes when we call him, and he will come again when he is sent to judge us on our deeds of charity done for love of his Father and him. May we have an enormous supply of them to show him on that day.
Exult, you just in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.
Sunday, December 20, 2015
+ On this final Sunday of Advent we focus on one rather obscure phrase in the first reading today which actually summarizes everything about the Season that we are in and the one that will begin this coming Thursday evening: the phrase is: “he shall be peace!” He shall be peace refers to the shepherd who will stand firm by the strength of the Lord, in the majestic name of the Lord, his God; the shepherd King of the House of David, from the town of Bethlehem-Ephrathah (too small to be among the clans of Judah).
He shall be peace! The one who is to come to first dwell in that stable in Bethlehem will be peace-in-the-flesh. To think that peace is simply the absence of chaos, is to miss the whole concept of Christ completely. Peace is actually a human being and his name is Jesus. All else that we relate to peace derives from his person. He is the heavenly peace that he not only sleeps in, but also radiates at every moment of his existence. His is the peace that the world cannot possibly know about, understand or desire in the slightest. His is the peace, nevertheless, that all people thirst and yearn for to the depths of their beings. Yes, what we need in our lives is not just the absence of turmoil, but a personal relationship with the Prince of Peace himself; and the only way we can have that is in quiet, silent, reflection!
The gospel passage today tells us what Mary did immediately after this Prince came to live within her who consented to be his Mother, she felt the need to radiate that peace to others, she was moved to holy action, and she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was also now with child (whose name would be John, and he would be the Baptizer). John leapt for joy in his mother’s womb when Mary entered the house. He was the first to recognize the unique presence that his cousin, the Prince of Peace was. A new day was dawning and the One whose obedience would take away all of the bad of the old dispensation is now months away from making his earthly appearance. As our second reading today tells us, it would be in his “will” to do his Father’s will – that would be the cause of our salvation!
May we in these last days before Christmas take time each day to reflect in silence the great mystery of the coming into the world, coming into our lives of the Prince of Peace himself. And remember on Christmas Eve or Day (whenever you will attend Mass to celebrate his birth) that you will consume and eat in Holy Communion this “peace of God” who became a man, who became that piece of bread for you, so that you can be that bread and the peace and that Prince to others, all others, but especially the poor and needy – not only on Christmas Day, but on every other day of the year as well!
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will!
Friday, December 18, 2015
+ Today in our O Antiphons we celebrate the fact that we have a true leader of the House of Israel, Adonai, and of the spiritual descendants of that house, which by God’s design include us, the Gentiles.
The Israelites specifically needed rescuing from their slavery to the Roman Empire, but this was also symbolic of the rescuing that all humanity was in need of due to the sin that all inherit, all carry about within them – unless it is divinely removed.
Jesus came to divinely remove this sin and to open life in all its glorious aspects to all people – who, in faith would believe in Him.
O Adonai, O Leader of the House of Israel who gave the Law of Common Sense and human decency to Moses on Sinai, give to us the law of LOVE and place it in our hearts and desires so that we can carry out the loving designs that you inspire us with every day!
Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace forever!
Thursday, December 17, 2015
+ The atmosphere of the Advent Season quickens today as we begin the very focused Liturgies centered around the exclamatory “O” Antiphons (located at the Magnificat of Evening Prayer in the Divine Office) – but found again in the “Alleluia Verse” before the Gospel at Mass each day.
Today we celebrate the WISDOM of our God Most High: (O Sapientia) O Wisdom, guiding creation with power and love: come to teach us the path of knowledge.
The Wisdom is here, it is God’s essence, his reality and also his gift to any who ask for it! All we have to do is ask, all we have to do is to let it come to us, all we have to do is to let it work in us, educate us –
and we shall trod the path of knowledge, true knowledge, knowledge of the things that really matter: which are who God is, who we are, how we interrelate with him, and how we ought to interact sensibly and lovingly with one another – at all times.
May the path of knowledge and the wisdom that it takes to attain it be granted to all of us especially in our American society that is plagued with innumerable woes that only the higher wisdom and knowledge of God can deal with successfully and permanently.
Justice shall flourish in his time and fullness of peace forever!
Wednesday, December 16, 2015
+ We continue today St. Luke’s version of what we heard St. Matthew tell us about last Sunday: Jesus is asked by disciples of John the Baptist if he is the one who is to come, or should they look for another? At that point Jesus tells them in this case “seeing and hearing is believing” - the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the dear hear, the dead are raised and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them: go back and report these things to John and let him make up he own mind – let him “believe without actually seeing and hearing!”
This is how it works for all of us: believing is seeing; God, through faith, grants deep spiritual insight to those who hear about Jesus from the word preached to them, and believe in Him; and this insight causes them to see the true invisible realities of the “things of God,” as God intends them to be known.
Quite obviously there was something seriously wrong with the faith of the Pharisees and scholars of the law; perhaps familiarity breeded a dangerous amount of contempt and now that the long-awaited Messiah had truly appeared they were incapable of receiving him. It is the childlike who can convert believing in Santa Clause into seeing him; it is the childlike as well, of any age, who can convert believing in Jesus as Son of God and Son of Man into seeing him and entering into a personal and salvific relationship with him. This causes great joy in the heart – a real release and restoration and healing – as Isaiah foretold – from all that sin incapacitates and diminishes.
Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths: All flesh shall see the salvation of God.
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
+ We are reminded in our readings today that the poor, the despised, the sinners have a truer grasp of who Jesus is than those who have no need of him because of their seeming righteousness: the chief priests and elders of the people. It is these poor who went out both to see John, and then Jesus later when he told them to go. The professional religious leaders did not believe in John and therefore they could not be redirected to Jesus.
In the first reading from the Prophet Zephaniah, we see that the remnant of the house of Israel would be the small number who hung on to belief in a messiah who would redeem the people. Though highly unlikely, these people would “save the day” – and be a true link from the sinful “primitives” and the purified “futures”!
May we celebrate today our membership in the “remnant of the Lord” - in this day and age, when so many seem to be “experts in religious matters” but have “missed the boat entirely” in their fantasizing about a “plastic Jesus” who gets brought out once a year at Christmas, but at other times of the year – is packed neatly away in the closet!
Come, O Lord, do not delay; forgive the sins of your people.
Monday, December 14, 2015
+ John of the Cross was born in poverty in 1542, near Avila, Spain. One of his first jobs was to help care for the poor in the hospital in Medina del Campo. He became a Carmelite lay brother in 1563 at the age of 21, though he lived more strictly than the Rule required. He then studied at Salamanca, Spain and became a Carmelite priest, ordained in 1567 at age 25. He gave in to the persuasions of St. Teresa of Avila to begin the Discalced or barefoot reform within the Carmelite Order; he took the name John of the Cross. He soon master of novices; and spiritual director and confessor at St. Teresa’s convent. John’s reforms did not set well with some of his brothers, and he was ordered to return to Medina del Campo. He refused, and was imprisoned at Toledo, Spain, but escaped after nine months. He then became Vicar-General of Andalusia, Spain. His reforms subsequently revitalized the Order.
John was a great contemplative and spiritual writer, among his famous works being The Ascent of Mount Carmel, The Dark Night of the Soul, The Spiritual Canticle and The Living Flame of Love. After Teresa’s death in 1582, John found himself embroiled in order politics again and was sent to live in a remote place in southern Spain to live as a simple friar – which was agreeable to him. He died on December 14, 1591, was canonized in 1726 and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1926 by Pope Pius XI. He is patron of the contemplative life and mystical theology and mystics.
John of the Cross understood fully the message of the readings of today’s Mass in his honor: St. Paul told the Corinthians of the most important wisdom there is: it is the wisdom of the cross, the wisdom of weakness, the wisdom of poverty, the wisdom of littleness – this is the hidden, mysterious wisdom that is understood by little ones – and would not have ended in crucifying the Lord of glory;
and in the gospel passage, Jesus insists now that, since he did, in fact, endure the cross for us and our salvation, so must we embrace our own: as we calculate what is necessary to gain eternal life; if embracing Christ and his Cross is not paramount, then we will not get to where we want to go!
Blessed are the poor in spirit; the Kingdom of heaven is theirs.
Sunday, December 13, 2015
+ On this Third Sunday of Advent we reflect upon the reality of two “rejoicings” – as this is “Gaudete, Rejoice, Sunday”! The first rejoicing is that Advent is more than half-way over now and we shift our focus from considering the second coming of Christ, to that of his first coming, in Bethlehem, in Judea, so many years ago.
What great love prompted God the Father to send his Son; what great love prompted the Second Person of the Trinity to condescend to become one of us to save us! What an amazing God we have!
Rejoice!! I say it again, rejoice!
And so, it is not out of bounds for us to say that the second “rejoicing” has to do with God Himself: who is very excited about coming into our world, a world that was very sad and depraved back then, but in very many ways is even more sad and more depraved right now, especially in our country with all of the violence that is taking place in it – both from outside forces – but more sadly, from our own citizens, and aspiring leaders. Yes, it is very sad indeed.
It is a good thing, that in a sense, Jesus could not wait to get here to begin the work of our salvation; he knew that he was born to die – the only person with such a precise and predicted and prophesied destiny – and yet he was enthusiastic about it, he rejoiced in it – because it meant that we would be free, we would be able to be God’s children, we would be able to live in heaven forever, whenever and however he calls us to be there with him!
In all of the sadness of our world, and including our own country, we turn to God and plead his continued love, mercy, consolation and forgiveness on us all: for we are all in need of reconciliation, peace and love!
The Spirit of the Lord has anointed all of us to bring glad tidings to the poor, and sorrowing! Let us do our job and bring a sense of “rejoicing” and happiness to as many as we can today!
Friday, December 11, 2015
+ Jesus was perhaps the first to use the familiar phrase “The proof is in the pudding” although he put it in other terms: But wisdom is vindicated by her works. There can be crafty and well-intentioned arguments on both sides of any issue, but the proof is in the reality behind the arguing, the crafting, even the conniving – the proof is in the degree of resemblance any situation or person has to the love which is God. In the first reading today from the Prophet Isaiah, God tells his people to resemble his love, act and speak out of true love for one another, so that prosperity could abound for them – for this is God’s command – not a harsh or unreasonable command, but one emanating from his love and his peace which he wants everyone to experience! But the people over and over again, down to our own day, first agree, but then disagree and disobey with this commandment (this request of love); and God was forced to use his last resort card: his only Son, Jesus, sent to enflesh and demonstrate this attitude, this commandment, this love in person. And the Word became flesh and was born on Christmas Day.
May we reflect in our lives today the fact that we need not be obsessively demanding people – arguing incessantly over the theology and philosophy of religion (or anything else) – but may we simply enjoy our status as God’s loved, favored, chosen sons and daughters who belong to an incredible worldwide and heavenly family of grace and peace!
The Lord (our Brother) will come; let us go out to meet him! He is the prince of peace.
Thursday, December 10, 2015
+ Our beautiful readings today for Mass tell of the tender desire of our Father God to grasp our hands and to say to us, “Fear not, I will help you. The afflicted and the needy – I will answer them; I will not forsake them.”
This desire is not only for the ancient people of God’s love, but also for any who wish to count themselves among his family today. He will answer our prayers; he will not forsake us.
God’s mercy always come to us by way of other people.
The greatness of John the Baptist is his total obedience to Christ by which all come to “see, know, observe, and understand the hand of the Lord.
Let us be willing instruments in the hands of God today for kindness, gentleness and mercy. There are so many good people out there who need a little encouragement this day – especially in the darkened and weary world that we find ourselves in – let us not pass us by them without a smile, a word and a gesture of helping and care.
I am your redeemer, says the Lord, the Holy One of Israel.
Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Our first reading today is of renewed strength and vigor, it is about soaring on eagles’ wings; it is about walking and running and giving God the glory for it! Our God is a God of strength and power and compassion. He does not like to see his children weak, infirm and fainting – he wants to always be there to bolster them up.
And so let us go to him who is the source of power, strength, rest and refreshment – and he will renew us. The only prerequisite – as he tells us in the gospel passage – is that we be like him: “meek and humble of heart” – and our yokes, like his, will be easy, and our burdens light. They will not be taken from us, because they are our “keys to heaven” – but they will not overwhelm us or frighten us any longer.
Behold, the Lord comes to save his people;
blessed are those prepared to meet him.
Monday, December 7, 2015
+ Today we celebrate the feast of a remarkable man and servant of God. Ambrose of Milan was born of Roman nobility in Trier in 397, (two of his brothers were also saints: Marcellina and Satyrus). He was educated in the classics at Rome. He was a poet and a noted orator, a convert to Christianity and governor of Milan, Italy. When the bishop of Milan died, a dispute over his replacement led to violence. Ambrose intervened to calm both sides and impressed everyone involved so much that though he was still an unbaptized catechumen, he was chosen as the new bishop. His resistance, causing more violence, led to his assent, and on December 7, 374 he was baptized, ordained as a priest and consecrated as bishop. He immediately gave away his wealth to the Church and the poor, both for the good it did, and as an example to his flock.
Ambrose became a noted preacher and teacher, a Scripture scholar of renown, and a writer of liturgical hymns. He stood firm against paganism and Arianism. His preaching helped convert St. Augustine of Hippo, whom Ambrose baptized and brought into the Church. Ambrose’s preaching brought Emperor Theodosius to do public penance for his sins. He was proclaimed a great Doctor of the Latin Church by Pope Boniface VIII in 1298. The title Honey Tongued Doctor was initially bestowed on Ambrose because of his speaking and preaching ability; this led to the use of a beehive and bees in his iconography, symbols which also indicate wisdom. He died on Holy Saturday, April 4, 397 at Milan, Italy, of natural causes.
In the gospel passage today Jesus is portrayed as the Good Shepherd, who would live and die for the welfare of the sheep of his flock; this very much characterized the life and ministry of one of the greatest bishops of the Church, Ambrose of Milan. He did everything he did for them and for their salvation; as did Jesus. St. Paul in the first reading reminds us how important it is for any and all of us to be open to the grace of God as it tries to communicate to us and through us the very reality and power of God in our lives, giving us boldness of speech and confidence of access through faith in him to the very mysteries of God. We are so very blessed; may we live like we deeply appreciate these blessings this day!
For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
Sunday, December 6, 2015
+ On this Second Sunday of Advent we reflect for a few moments on the motivation behind the Incarnation of Jesus: and that would be, LOVE! Our God came to save us from certain doom and eternal separation from Him, by sending his Son who would make everything better, and in a big way – because they both loved us, unconditionally! And when that Messiah finally came, everything would have to be completely ready and prophesied to the last detail, the final prophesy being the straight-road by which he would be able to process into the history, into the lives of those who would never be the same because of his appearance.
This is why the mountains had to be lowered and the valleys filled in: so that the highway could be straight, smooth and inviting! “Salvation Street” could be the name of the road traveled by the Savior; a name that ought to be ever on our lips, if we are to enjoy the blessings of the one who traveled on it!
St. Paul tells the Philippians today that he is so happy with them because they are carrying out the good work that the Holy Spirit began in them with their baptisms: they became a truly loving people, truly possessing the great knowledge of the treasure they were entrusted with: life in Christ Jesus, the Divine Love-of-God-made-flesh! They were excited about the prospect of being blameless when Christ returns in glory! Can we share their excitement? What is the evidence on our behalf?
May we, in the remainder of this Advent season, contemplate often the great things that God has done for us, because his Son literally traveled down the dusty streets of a Holy Land for our benefit – so that even we today could be filled with joy and hope, knowing that God’s love for us is so large, encompassing, expansive and enduring that it will draw us safely into eternity where we belong!
Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths,
so that he can reach us, and we can reach him!
Friday, December 4, 2015
+ Our specially chosen readings today have to do with “restoring sight to the blind” – restoring balance, health and well-being to the lives of those who had suffered because of their treacherous ways. God himself will restore what was broken and afflicted: eyes, ears, the lowly and the downtrodden – there is nothing God can’t fix – with a little faith and trust on our part.
The gospel passage reiterates the ability of Jesus to cure and heal – especially because he is the light of the world; the blindness that is symbolized in the reading is that which comes with a life lived without him – it is a very dark world; but with him – “the lights are turned on” – like the decorations at this time of year – and “all is calm, all is bright”!
May we today be the brightness of the little Lord Jesus today to any who might need a “miraculous moment” of healing and care – a radiant smile on our part can go a very long way! Be a happy Christian! It’s time now to “tell people about this” – the moratorium is over!
Thursday, December 3, 2015
+ Francis Xavier – (1506-52) - was one of the greatest missionaries in the history of the Church and is the patron saint of the foreign missions. He is known as the “apostle to the Indies and Japan.” He was born to the nobility of the Basque region of Spain, and studied and taught philosophy at the University of Paris, and planned a career as a professor. But a friend, Ignatius of Loyola, convinced him to use his talents to spread the Gospel. He became one of the founding Jesuits, and the first Jesuit missionary. In Goa, India, while waiting to take ship, he preached in the street (often setting religious verse to popular tunes), worked with the sick, and taught children their catechism; he would walk through the streets ringing a bell to call the children to their studies. He is said to have converted the entire city.
Francis scolded his patron, King John of Portugal, over the slave trade: “You have no right to spread the Catholic faith while you take away all the country’s riches. It upsets me to know that at the hour of your death you may be ordered out of paradise.”
Becoming all things to all men – as encouraged by St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians - St. Francis Xavier became a tremendously successful missionary for ten years in India, the East Indies, and Japan, baptizing more than 40,000 converts. His epic finds him dining with head hunters, washing the sores of lepers in Venice, baptizing 10,000 in a single month. He tolerated the most appalling conditions on long sea voyages, enduring extremes of heat and cold.
Wherever he went he would seek out and help the poor and forgotten. He traveled thousands of miles, most on his bare feet and saw a greater part of the Far East. He had the gift of tongues, was a miracle worker, he raised people from the dead, calmed storms, was a prophet and a healer. He died on December 2, 1552 in China of a fever contracted on a missionary journey.
St. Ignatius was right in redirecting St. Francis Xavier’s vocation – focusing it more intently on what the Lord told all whom he called to do: go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. The Lord was with Francis and he will be with us as we do our part this day in spreading that same gospel to the people he puts in our path!
Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.
Wednesday, December 2, 2015
+ Our readings today are about God feeding his people with what they need to live, not necessarily with what they think they might like to have. Unless we invoke the name of God in our designing and planning then we are bound to get it wrong, we will take unnecessary steps, and will expend energy and resources wastefully.
God has already planned the menu, he has already designed the banquet hall and hired the band, he has already invited the guests – all we have to do is to willingly, cheerfully and lovingly cooperate with him – attend his feast, participate – and all will be well. This is no way limits our freedom or creativity – but it gives it a safe arena in which to work and prosper.
The mountain of the Lord of Isaiah’s reading, and the mountain on which Jesus taught the crowds in the gospel passage are virtually the same mountain, the same eternal source of God’s rich, resplendent, plentiful resources to give his people the basic elements of what they need: the bread of life, and the cup to warm their hearts and to bring good cheer upon the earth: the same elements he will change into his own Body and Blood to be the food of our everlasting life!
Thank you Lord, for the love with which you look out for us your children; thank you for the meals you provide, may we go out from them strengthened always to do your will, and your holy will alone – which is none other than to live fully this here, this now in your JOY!
Behold, the Lord comes to save his people (to give them hope); blessed are those prepared to meet him.
Tuesday, December 1, 2015
+ On this second weekday in the Advent season we are asked to behold the Lord who will come in power to enlighten the eyes of his servants. “Enlightening the eyes” refers not to the physical eyes of the body, in this context, but rather the spiritual eyes that must be as functional as possible, so to guide us safely through life. We must remember at this early point in retelling the Jesus story that Jesus fulfilled all of the prophecies and lived a very exact and profound and self-sacrificial life not for himself but for us, and as a model for us when we are asked to do as he did. And so in the first reading Isaiah prophesies that the one who has sprung from the root of Jesse will have the Spirit of the Lord rest upon him, and that he will receive seven gifts from the Spirit, noticeably the same seven that disciples and followers of Jesus receive on entering the Church and who are confirmed: the Spirit of wisdom, and of understanding; of counsel and of strength; of knowledge and of fear of the Lord and a holy reverence for all things.
The one who first receives these gifts – Jesus – will inaugurate the new kingdom where there is peace, even among the animals, with the wolf being a guest of the lamb and the leopard lying down with the kid. It will later be up to us, who possess the same gifts to continue that presence of peace and harmony by our own inner and outer attitudes and actions.
St. Luke tells us in the gospel passage that the true realities of the faith-life are comprehensible beginning with the childlike; the learned and the clever often-times get too caught up in the academic nature of things to simply believe in what cannot many times be seen. Especially at this time of the year, children can teach us all a lot about that as the Spirit of Christmas begins to manifest itself through them.
May we spend this day in wonder and awe – using the gifts of the Spirit for the benefit of others and the glory of God; he will be pleased and he will enlighten our eyes to see justice flourishing in our time!
Monday, November 30, 2015
+ We come now to the first Mass in the Liturgical Calendar year 2016. It is the feast of St. Andrew, the Apostle. There must have been something in his voice, there must have been something in the way he said things, there must have been something in his look and manner that would make these four long-time dedicated fishers of fish leave everything immediately and follow someone who has just offered to make them “fishers of men.” What could this possibly mean? But, they didn’t have to stop to figure it all out: their intuition, their instinct, their gut told them to go and find out what this new adventure was all about.
Andrew was actually the first Apostle called by Jesus as seen in another account; he was the brother of Simon Peter and led him to Jesus. He was a follower of John the Baptist; and like John, he spent his life leading people to Jesus, both before and after the Crucifixion. He was a missionary in Asia Minor and Greece and possibly areas in modern Russia and Poland. He was martyred on a saltire (x-shaped) cross and is said to have preached from it for two days before he died. There are several legendary explanations for why St. Andrew became patron of Scotland. The first being that in 345, the Emperor Constantine the Great decided to move Andrew’s bones from Patras, Greece to Constantinople. Then St. Regulus of Scotland was instructed by an angel to take these relics to the far northwest. He was eventually told to stop on the Fife coast of Scotland, where he founded the settlement of St. Andrew. And, when the Pictish King, Angus, faced a large invading army, he prayed for guidance. A white cloud in the form of a saltire cross floated across the blue sky above him. Angus won a decisive victory, and decreed that Andrew would be the patron saint of his country. The Saltire became the national flag of Scotland in 1385.
The first reading today from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans beautifully describes the mission of the apostle and evangelist. The world must hear the Good News in order to believe in it; and someone must be sent to bring that Good News to the waiting world: this would be the Apostles and their successors and helpers. “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!” Faith comes from what is heard and what is heard comes through the word of Christ. May we rejoice that their voice has gone forth to all the earth and their words to the ends of the world; and may we do our part today to spread that word, that message, that hope to at least one person, if not many!
Come after me, says the Lord, and I will make you fishers of men.
St. Andrew, pray for us!
When St. Andrew first caught sight of the gibbet on which he was to die, he greeted the precious wood with joy. "O good cross!" he cried, "made beautiful by the limbs of Christ, so long desired, now so happily found! Receive me into thy arms and present me to my Master, that He Who redeemed me through thee may now accept me from thee." Two whole days the martyr remained hanging on this cross alive, preaching, with outstretched arms from this chair of truth, to all who came near, and entreating them not to hinder his passion.
Sunday, November 29, 2015
+ Today we begin again, telling the story of “Jesus come from heaven to be our redeemer and friend”: today is New Year’s Day in the Church! What resolutions have you made for the coming days, weeks and months? In what way are you planning to open yourself more to the influence of grace, and the action of faith and love in your life?
Our readings remind us that we are all part of the great drama of salvation as active participants: the Scriptures are not just something we read in Church and occasionally at home, but have nothing really literally to do with us personally. This is wrong thinking. The Scriptures have everything to do with us as personally, individually and as families and communities. Even if we were the only person living on earth they would have been written for us because of the final page that is not yet written: the page on which the conclusion of the grand drama of salvation takes place when Christ the King comes on a cloud and call us, by name, (if just one of us) to make an accounting of our life and then to be placed where he would have us placed – on his right or left! We must be called or we will not be placed, so this is very personal indeed.
St. Paul tells the Thessalonians in the second reading (and us), that increasing in grace, love and faith is the best way to go, and the only way to be sure that we will end up in the right place and the right time at the end. He tells us to conduct ourselves so as to please God, always, just as we did at the first moment of our baptisms. If we do this at all times, then we will be ready!
Let us therefore, as the gospel urges us, stand straight and tall when some of the calamities that might signal that the end is near, do, in fact, begin to occur - (do you read the newspapers, and watch the evening news on TV?); Be brave, then, for our redemption just might be at hand: but no matter when it will be truly at hand, be ready, clear minded, sober, stress free and alert.
And so vigilance at all times, is the watchword, while rejoicing in the fact that if we are faithful to Christ, he will be faithful to us, and we will stand strong when things really get interesting on that great and Last Day!
O come, O come, Emmanuel!
Friday, November 27, 2015
+ We come now to the last Mass in the Liturgical Calendar year 2015. It has been a year of grace, a year of worship, a year of service. If we have experienced it correctly there has been an ebb and flow, an increase and a decrease, a period of joy followed by a period of sorrow: for this is how faith is tested and strengthened, this is how worship gets its flavor, this is how we get to see grace at work: God breaking into our lives, doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
The first reading today sums it all up by reminding us that all things, all kingdoms and all nations are in the end subject to the one true Lord and King – Jesus Christ: but that he is a compassionate monarch, a loving king, a doting brother who looks out for his family members: who comprise any who want to belong.
The gospel passage punctuates the whole years’ complement of scripture readings by telling us to be constantly vigilant, as the Jesus we have heard about in the scripture readings this year will come again at any time to reward everyone with what their deeds deserve: may we be among the ones deserving of eternal favor, life and bliss – as we contemplate with all the saints and angels the face of God his Father – the true source of light, warmth, happiness, knowledge, love and peace!
Give glory and eternal praise to God!
Today, November 27, is also the Feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. We recall it, and celebrate it today as members of its Association. On November 27, 1830, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Catherine Laboure, a novice in the Daughters of Charity is Paris, France, and gave her a vision of an image, with instructions to strike the image, front and back, on a medal. With this medal, Our Lady promised, “All those who wear it will receive great graces; these graces will be abundant for those who wear it with faith.” The “Miraculous Medal” as it was called, was an image of Our Lady with hands extended with graces pouring from her hands. The medal spread far and wide and became a source of many graces to its wearers. It is traditionally worn around the neck and has become a loved a treasured sacramental of the Catholic Church. Our Lady under this title is known as Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
+ On this Thanksgiving Day 2015, we pause, reflect and return to the Lord – as did the one truly grateful leper in the gospel passage – and recall and recount all the blessings and benefits that God has given us not only in this past year, but also throughout our whole lives.
We are truly a blessed people! We live in a land blessed by courageous and brave men and women who endured the hardships of colonial life to found this one nation, under God that would become indivisible, and a champion of liberty and justice for all.
We are blessed to belong among the families God has given us and the friends that he has placed in our lives to support and even challenge us to always become more and more who we are. We must never forget however that the largest and most encompassing family that we belong to is the family of God; with Him as our Father, with Jesus as our Brother, with his Mother, Mary as our Mother too – and all the holy souls who have preceded us to the festal gathering in heaven that awaits us – we offer eternal praise and thanks always.
As we feast today, let us remember and bless those who might not have enough to eat, especially those who are victims of the unspeakable violence that erupts daily in many regions of the world, and let us comfort them at least by our prayers – and our sacrificial giving during this upcoming holiday season. There is always a good cause that could use a helping hand.
Jesus, Master! Have pity on us and we shall be grateful and sing your praises among the assembly every day of our lives!
+ St John Chrysostom was born in 347 in Antioch, Asia Minor. His father died when he was young and he was raised by a very pious mother. ...
+ St. Clare of Assisi became a friend of St. Francis of the same town after hearing him preach. Her father was a count and her mother a coun...
+ We celebrate the Feast today of the Cure of Ars. John Mary Vianney was born to a farm family in Lyons, France in 1786. In his youth he tau...