Sunday, December 31, 2017

December 31 - The Holy Family

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph – December 31, 2017

I – Those who fear the Lord honor their parents.
R – Blessed are those who fear the Lord, and walk in his ways.
II – Family life in the Lord.
A – Let the peace of Christ control your hearts; let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.
G – Take the child and his mother and flee into Egypt.

+ On this Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I should like to focus on the person of St. Joseph. Last Monday we celebrated the feast of the Child Jesus, tomorrow we will celebrate the feast of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, 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.

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 monastic family lives resemble the Holy Family Life – with parents and children (abbots and monks) 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!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

December 30 - 6th Day Within the Octave of Christmas

+ 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 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!

May our goal and objective today, be to, like Anna, never leave the reality, beauty and inspirational focus, of the temple – the dwelling place of God within our very hearts and souls. We can retreat there any time at all, at any moment, at every circumstance in which we find ourselves, both to share the good that is happening to us, to ask help for challenging situations, and to ask forgiveness for wrongs done out of human weakness.

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.

Friday, December 29, 2017

December 29 - 4th Day within the Octave of Christmas

+ Today we have one of the most captivating and charming scenes in all of Holy Scripture, the presentation of Jesus in the Temple by his parents, Mary and Joseph, to the righteous and devout man of God who awaited with ardent longing for the consolation of Israel, the coming of the Lord and Messiah to free the people from darkness and sin: and the Holy Spirit was upon him.

Simeon was promised by God that he would not see death until he had seen Christ the Lord. And when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: “Lord, NOW you can let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled: “MY OWN EYES HAVE SEEN THE SALVATION WHICH YOU PREPARED IN THE SIGHT OF EVERY PEOPLE, a LIGHT to reveal you to the nations and the GLORY of your own people Israel.” It was one of the most touching scenes imaginable.

A simple, humble man of God – who liked very much to go to temple every day was the one chosen to receive on behalf of all mankind Jesus as the light of the world and the glory of the Father! It was Simeon’s FAITH and hope that allowed him to accomplish this wonderful task; we are assigned the task of bring “Christ the Light of the World and Glory of the Father” to all those we meet every day: we can do this better and better the more we pray each day for an increase of FAITH and HOPE and LOVE!

May we walk in the light today, because our eyes of faith are more opened right now by a simple act of belief that God fulfills all his promises!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

December 28 - The Holy Innocents

+ 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!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

December 27 - St. John the Apostle and Evangelist

+ St John the Apostle and Evangelist was a son of Zebedee and Salome, brother of St James the Greater and a fisherman; he with his brother James were called the sons of thunder, due to the enthusiasm with which they approached the work of the apostolate when they were disciples of Jesus.

John was first a disciple of John the Baptist and then a friend of St. Peter. He was called by Jesus to be a disciple (and later Apostle) during the first year of his ministry, and traveled everywhere with him, becoming so close as to be known as the beloved disciple. He took part in the Last Supper, and was given pride of place there, when Jesus allowed him to express his love for him by laying his head on his chest during the meal, and the next day was the only one of the Twelve not to forsake the Savior in the hour of his Passion, standing at the foot of the cross, with Mary the Mother of Jesus, whom he received into his home at Jesus’ request.

Upon hearing of the resurrection, John was the first to reach the tomb; when he with the Eleven met the risen Lord at the lake of Tiberias, he was the first to recognize him. During the era of the new Church, he worked in Jerusalem and at Ephesus. He wrote the fourth Gospel, three Epistles, and most likely the Book of Revelation. He was the last of the Twelve to die, as a special grace and favor of the Lord to whom he was indeed the beloved.

In fact, the Incarnation of God’s love found in Jesus was ever the theme of John’s entire life and preaching: when he was very old, and there were gatherings of Christians, John would simply say to them: “My little children, love one another.” John died in exile, most likely on the island of Patmos, the only Apostle not submitted to a martyr’s death: not that he was not willing, but by God’s favor.

May we today pray for the grace to understand fully the mystery of the Word-Made-Flesh, (as fully as he wishes to reveal it to each of us, which will be on a different depth and level for each of us, and the enormity of the Divine Love for all of Creation that is found in the manger of Bethlehem, a place which sang sweetly of the fact that now with the arrival of this Babe-Messiah, all is well, all is really well for those who want it to be: may our lives reflect the life of the one in whom we are indeed baptized and sent to tell the “good news” story of: Christ the Lord.

Rejoice in the Lord, you just.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

December 26 - St. Stephen, Proto-Martyr

+ Today in the shadow of the pinnacle of the Christmas celebration we celebrate the feast of St. Stephen, the First Martyr, the first to give his life for the truths proclaimed by the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ the Lord (as a composite whole), the first member of the Church to give his life for its founder.

All we know of Stephen is related in the Acts of the Apostles. He was one of the first deacons, and a preacher; and while preaching the Gospel in the streets, angry Jews who were angry at him for berating them, and believing his theological message to be blasphemy, dragged him outside the city, and stoned him to death. In the crowd, to the sight of the mob, who did nothing to stop the killing was a man who would later be known as St. Paul the Apostle. Before he died, Stephen asked God to forgive his attackers. This happened around the year 33.

And so, the veracity of the religion was shifted into a higher gear; and a tremendous example of martyrdom included one of Jesus’ most difficult sayings: pray for your persecutors, and even to expect to be put to death on account of his Name!

Stephen’s own wordsLord Jesus, receive my spirit, (echoing Christ’s own words on the Cross: into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit) – ought to be ours at all times – so that we live and die as members of Christ, joyfully, and as instruments of peace in his hands.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord:

 the Lord is God and has given us light.

Monday, December 25, 2017

December 24 - Christmas

Solemnity of the Birth of the Lord (Christmas Eve)
December 25, 2014

I – The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing!

R –Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord. 

II – The grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ.

A – I proclaim to you good news of great joy: today a Savior is born for us.

G - While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn… And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host… praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord!

The greatest message of Christmas is that heaven and earth have united in producing a Savior for depraved and fallen humankind. The offense must have been immense - that original sin - if the remedy had to be this spectacular. And spectacular it is! Beyond imagining! Beyond the belief of many – even still!: God becomes a man in order to save men (and women) from the situation that we had gotten ourselves into by an enormous lack of trust and an act of blatant, unmitigated disobedience!

Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord!

From time immemorial men and women had been living a double-life! A life caught in the chaos of original disordering! Everything that had been “ordered” - created to operate in a specific and certain way - was now, inescapably “disordered.” – bent, and broken. And there was no way out - at least, not that man could produce himself! Since “the order” was created by God, and “lack of trust in God keeping his promises, and disobedience” was caused by man - only a supreme act of trust and obedience by one who was both like and unlike us could save us! The God-Man Jesus Christ was the only one qualified to do this! And he did it freely, voluntarily, out of love for us!

Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord!

And he was born into this world - of a virgin - to show that this entire process is extraordinary, yet very real! He was born poor - to show the reality of his majesty, the immensity of his power, the depth of his mercy! For if the all-powerful one, the all-mighty one, the all-merciful one could be contained in a tiny, crying baby boy - then he could do anything at all! Jesus identified himself with the poor, the unwanted, the homeless, the disrespected, the neglected, the shunned, the hungry, the naked and the imprisoned from the moment of his birth - when he was turned away from the inn!

Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord!

And yet, his birth was celebrated by the animals in the manger, and the shepherds on the hillsides, and the heavenly choir of angels who sang out his praises: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests! - peace to the lowly and the humble and those who embrace a life of poverty!”

Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord!

The only appropriate response that we could possibly make this Christmas Day is to promise with all of our minds and hearts to take the spiritual empowerment that we receive from the God who also was big enough, and loving enough, and merciful enough to transform himself into ordinary bread and wine for us and for our salvation: and translate it into direct, conscious, deliberate, consistent and lasting care for all of God’s poor - which includes EVERYONE - we are all poor in the sight of God - but especially those who are visibly living a life of physical, mental, emotional or spiritual poverty - whether by choice or not!

WE OWE IT TO JESUS and HIS FATHER and the HOLY SPIRIT to use the gift of Christmas this way! We will be held accountable one day when the only question that Jesus, come as Judge will ask us is this: DID YOU LOVE AND CARE FOR THE POOR? DID YOU LOVE AND CARE FOR ME - WHO WAS BORN IN A MANGER BECAUSE NO ONE CARED TO GIVE ME WELCOME ANY OTHER PLACE?

Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

December 23 - 3rd Week of Advent - Saturday

+ 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 up your heads and see; your redemption is near at hand.

Friday, December 22, 2017

December 22 - 3rd Week of Advent - Friday

+ 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!

You will be able to live life daily now with a deep sense of hope, purpose and willingness to go outside of yourself for the good of others.

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.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

December 20 - 3rd Week of Advent - Wednesday

+ The overriding theme for today’s readings is of the seeming impossibility of the sign of a “virgin with child.” How can this be? A virginal mother?? But it could be. [For nothing will be impossible with God]. And in fact, it was so. In the same way, the seeming impossibility of the removal of Adam’s sin could in fact be a reality, because of the “child of the virgin!”  

In our series of “O Antiphons” recited as the “Alleluia Verse” before the gospel these last days of Advent, today we consider “O Key of David, opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom: come and free the prisoners of darkness!” These “O phrases” are ancient titles of the coming Messiah, they indicate some of the activity that he would initiate when once he arrived.

Today, then, we have the seeming impossibility of the release of prisoners condemned to live in darkness; this darkness and captivity was set in place by the free-will choice of our father in the flesh: Adam, and his wife Eve. Their wrong choice thrust them and all their descendants according to the flesh into an infernal place of wailing in the dark – and the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven were closed against them even if they could be freed.

But the glorious Key of David: the Lord and Messiah of David’s Royal House, Savior and Friend, Jesus Christ came to “turn on the lights” and to open the prison doors and the gates of heaven all at the same time – but by the price of his own self-sacrificial death on a cross. Praise be Him!

We thank this precious Key, we worship this Key, we adore this Key who in his infinite wisdom and love did what was required for our salvation! And we pray that we can help others use this wondrous Key, turn the lights on in their own lives, and finally end up with us in a heavenly kingdom with gates thrust open to receive us!

O Key of David, come and free us all: the prisoners of darkness

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

December 19, - 3rd Week of Advent - Tuesday

+ Today we recall once again the importance of John the Baptist in the immediate preparations for the coming birthday celebration of the Lord. The gospel gives us accounting of John’s conception, just as the first reading gives an accounting of the conception of Samuel (which really pointed to John) – each were extraordinary, due to the advanced years of the mothers involved – and each took an act of great faith for the fathers involved. For it was easier for Manoah to believe what would happen to his wife, than for priest of the temple, Zechariah to understand what would happen to his. Nothing is impossible with God, and the greatness of the Lord’s herald ought to be something special and out of the ordinary!

Today we also continue with the “O Antiphon” Series in the “Alleluia Verse” before the gospel: (O RADIX JESSE) O ROOT of Jesse’s stem, sign of God’s favor for all his people: come to save us without delay.

The Root of Jesse’s Stem, is the Holy One who would come to establish a true and lasting spiritual kingdom, a people who would be God’s specially favored, worthy of being saved from destruction and sin. 

May we believe with all our hearts that God can do anything he chooses for us, and that the Messiah he sent from Jesse’s stock, the flower of all of Israel, can decorate our own souls and preserve them for eternal life!

My mouth shall be filled with your praise, and I will sing your glory!

Monday, December 18, 2017

December 18 - 3rd Week of Advent - Monday

+ 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 – that’s all it would take, BELIEF 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 at every moment of the day!

Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace forever!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

December 17 - 3rd Sunday of Advent

3rd Sunday of Advent – December 17, 2017

I –I rejoice heartily in the Lord.
R –My soul rejoices in my God.
II – May you entirely, spirit, soul and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
A – The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.
G –There is one among you whom you do not recognize.

+ Today we celebrate the loftiness that is “Gaudete Sunday” – “Rejoice Sunday”: taken from the opening Latin word “gaudete / rejoice” of the “Introit” or as we say now the “Entrance Antiphon” of today’s mass; and we light the “Joy” candle in our Advent wreath to mark the occasion. We have arrived now past the midpoint of the Advent Season, and the intensity of our spiritual preparation increases, the desires of our hearts intensifies and the time left to finalize this year’s spiritual gift to the Lord is winding down.

It is very evident that this is a “gift giving time of the year”; but what is becoming unfortunately less and less evident is the real reason for the giving; the true motivation behind it. And that motivation originates in this:

God the Father gifted us with a Savior, a Redeemer, a Reconciler – without whom we would have suffered eternal separation, loss and pain as a result of our inherent affiliation with our sinful first parents: (and this Redeemer, his own Son) was born in a stable on Christmas Day;

in time, this babe, this child, this adolescent, this young adult, this grown man gifted us with signs and wonders, but also with the introduction of a system of morality, based on truth and justice, and self-sacrificial love and service (which was something new); this Suffering Servant Son, Christ Jesus, then put everything on the line and died for proof of his love – laying down his life for us and our salvation;

then, activated by the working of the Holy Spirit, God the Father and the Son, gifted us with the Church, to be the Presence of Jesus, his guidance and companionship” along the way” to eternal life – of this Church we are members; to this Church we invite as many as we can to join us!

This divine dynamic of self-sacrificial gift giving is the true model of gift giving at this time of the year. For what we have learned from the sermons of Jesus is true: that which we give to others, we give to him, personally. The question then is: do we remember or even realize these realities at this holiday time of the year? What is important is most assuredly the personal thought behind a gift: an object hand-made, a service rendered, some help that is given, the cheer and goodwill bestowed.

It is not about the price of  or quantity of  “things” “objects” “gadgets” or “devices” that matters – in the big picture these will fade away – in fact very quickly – but what will remain is the spirit behind truly personal gifts given, in imitation of the personal giving of God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit: gifts that bring glad tidings to the poor, healing to the broken-hearted, liberty to captives, release to prisoners, a year of favor lived in God’s presence with brothers and sisters who truly care!

Coming to understand this concept at this stage of the Advent Season can be reason for great rejoicing; and we still have time maybe to rethink some of our holiday gift list. The best rule of thumb might be: give what will be able to be taken with you when all is said and done! Think about it!; act on it!

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

December 16 - 2nd Week of Advent - Saturday

+ Today our readings speak directly about the prophet Elijah, who was used by God to spread the message of a reconciliation to be found in God alone, by the use of a flaming personality and fiery words. As a true prophet, Elijah pointed to personages beyond and ahead of him: in this sense John the Baptist would be last great prophet whose rousing call to readiness and repentance would set the stage for Jesus, the Lamb of God, to finally make his appearance.

Today we wonder at the complexity, yet the simple focus of the work of both the Law and the Prophets: the arrival of the Messiah. Taking many, many centuries and a variety of twists and turns – all eyes eventually became focused on a stable in Bethlehem; and from there the new age dawned!

It is up to us, this Advent Season, to sharpen our focus, to simplify our search and to open ourselves for all that God has intended to gift us with this Christmas, which will be so much different from any other Christmas: it will be exactly what we need, this year, as he knows us best, and wants nothing but our happiness and our residing and abiding in peace forever!

Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved!

Friday, December 15, 2017

December 15 - 2nd Week of Advent - Friday

+ 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 (or as we say in our day today “colluding”) – 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 by acting and speaking out of true love for other persons, so that prosperity can 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, his Word, sent to enflesh and demonstrate this attitude, this commandment, this love in person, the person who was named Jesus. 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, politics, in particular) – 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.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

December 13 - St. Lucy

+ St Lucy was one of the most popular saints of the first centuries of the Church. Living in the early part of the fourth century, she was born in Syracuse, Sicily, to wealthy Christian parents of Greek ancestry. Raised in a pious family, she vowed her life to Christ. Her Roman father died when she was young, and her mother arranged a marriage for her. For three years Lucy managed to keep the marriage on hold. To change her mother’s mind about her desire to give her life to Christ as a virgin, Lucy prayed at the tomb of Saint Agatha for her mother’s bleeding illness to be cured, and it was cured, and so her mother agreed with Lucy’s desire to live for God.

Now, Lucy’s rejected bridegroom, denounced Lucy as a Christian to the governor of Sicily, who sentenced her to forced prostitution; but when guards went to fetch her, they could not move her even after hitching her to a team of oxen. The governor ordered her killed instead. After torture, which included having her eyes torn out, she was surrounded by bundles of wood which were set afire, but immediately went out. She then prophesied against her persecutors with a strong voice and was finally executed by being stabbed to death with a dagger.

Legend says her eyesight was restored before her death. The removal of her eyes, and the meaning of her name “light” – led to her connection with eyes, the blind, eye trouble, and the like. Through her intercession may the eyes of our faith be enlightened this day, so that we can see clearly the marvels God is doing for us, has done and will continue to do, so long as we are faithful and persistent in our Christian beliefs. May we not be afraid to put things on the line for him and his glory, as did St. Lucy of Syracuse – for he may come again as he promised at any time, and like the wise virgins of the gospel passage today, we will then be ready to go into the wedding feast with him!

This is the wise virgin, whom the Lord found waiting; at his coming, she went in with him to the wedding feast!

Monday, December 11, 2017

December 11 - 2nd Week of Advent - Monday

+ Today our readings can speak both of the first and second comings of the Lord!  When he came the first time, so long ago, he came as Lord of the earth and he took upon himself the yoke of our captivity: he took upon himself our slavery to sin and its sentence of death, and transformed it into grace and life, life forever in a kingdom that is not of this shadowy world.

The first reading from Isaiah tells of that first coming when God himself will come to save his people, but it also prophesys the final coming of the King of Kings when all of heaven and earth will be restored to their former glory – and there shall be a land of justice and peace, a land of wellness and celebration!

Our task today is to hang on to that hope, to hang on to that promise that our God will come to save us; and we shall be saved, and he will at last and for all times take away the yoke of all the captivity that holds us down!

The gospel passage tells of how God wants to manifest his desire to save us by going to the heart of the matter: our hearts and our bodies, which transports our hearts around for us all day long: where sin abounds oftentimes in our spiritual hearts, God wants to bring about reconciliation and peace (through the birth, life, death and resurrection of his Son – his Word), he also secondarily though simultaneously wants to keep our bodies as fit as they can be (with our cooperation) and heal and restore them when they get bruised and broken.

This is our HOPE and our PEACE that God wants to make us into the best version and image of ourselves: the version and image that he always had in mind.

Let us stay poised, then, at each hour of the day, to see incredible things done in us and for us – for we are God’s beloved children!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

December 10 - Second Sunday of Advent

2nd Sunday of Advent – December 10, 2017

I –Prepare the way of the Lord.
R –Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.
II – We await new heavens and a new earth.
A – Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths; all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
G –Make straight the paths of the Lord.

+ Today, the Second Sunday of Advent is traditionally known as “Peace” Sunday, as we light (in addition to the “Hope Candle” of last week, now the “Peace Candle” - second of four candles in the Advent wreath. For as we continue our spiritual preparation for this year’s celebration of the birth of Christ, today the tenor of the readings shifts into a gear of higher excitement. The voice of John the Baptist crying out in the wilderness: PREPARE THE WAY OF THE LORD!: MAKE STRAIGHT HIS PATHS!, rouses us to action, rouses us to responsibility, rouses us to accountability. Our human lives have purpose: we are loved intimately by God: we are to welcome Him, the God of gods, into our lives and receive his kindness, his peace, his truth and his justice.

The Prophet Isaiah exquisitely crafts for us the image of God as “Bringer of Peace,” as Shepherd, as Father: Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated; indeed, she has received from the hand of the Lord double for all her sins.

A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!

Go up onto a high mountain Zion, herald of glad tidings; cry out at the top of your voice, Jerusalem…fear not to cry out and say to the cities of Judah: HERE IS YOUR GOD! Here comes with power the Lord God, who rules by his strong arm. Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care.

The second reading, however, reminds us living today, that we not only have waited for the Lord and Messiah to come the first time, but we also await the time for him to come again and establish the fruit of his promise: new heavens and a new earth: where the Kingdom of his Father will be in effect forever.  
          [What this means is the increasing unstable and potentially catastrophic and deadly consequences of the current administration of the governing bodies of the United States government – is not all there is: the True Monarch, the True King, the True Regent is most assuredly Jesus Christ – by his Father’s decree. Therefore, for those who do not clearly see that their governing authority and power derive directly from his, and his Father’s, then they will be subject to the harshest of judgments when the Monarch, King, Regent, comes first as JUDGE OF EVERYONE – who will read the true desires and aspirations of all hearts – and will assign eternal placement either in Paradise or in Hell.]

Therefore, we must conduct ourselves with holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the Day of God, May we be eager to be found without spot of blemish before God when he comes to complete his action of love and bring about eternal peace!

Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths: all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Deceember 8 - Immaculate Conception of BVM

+ Today we celebrate the fact that from the first moment of her existence in the womb of her mother, Ann, the Blessed Mother of God was preserved from the effects of original sin by means of a singular privilege and grace from God, granted in view of the merits of Jesus Christ her own future-coming Son. From the first moment of its existence, Mary’s soul was filled with sanctifying grace. She had at least the graces of the first Eve before the Fall and more. This privilege was befitting the one who was to be the mother of the Redeemer.

This doctrine was held in differing degrees by both East and West from the ninth century. The feast was originally known as the Conception of Ann, and celebrated on December 9, but finally the doctrine was defined formally and assigned a permanent feast day by Blessed Pope Pius IX, December 8, 1854, in accordance with the texts of Scripture: “I will put enmities between you (the serpent) and the woman, and your seed and her seed”; and “Hail, full of grace.”

 What is more, this doctrine is established by living tradition, by the writings of the Fathers, by feasts observed in honor of this prerogative, and by the general belief of the faithful. The apparition of Mary to Catherine Laboure in Paris in 1830 and to Bernadette Soubrious in 1834 prompted devotion to Mary as the Immaculate Conception. And at the First Council of Baltimore, held in 1846, the U.S. Catholic bishops chose Mary under her title of the Immaculate Conception as the patron saint of their (our) country.

It is Mary’s complete openness to God’s love, God’s gifts and God’s graces that we celebrate today, as well as her sublime status as “woman of absolute faith”; when we utilize fully what the Church has given us by means of life in the Body of her Son – cooperating in faith with graces freely given us - we experience with her the sublime confidence, joy and peace that she always had.

Hail, Mary, full of grace! Pray for us now and at the hour of our death
…and pray for our nation, dear Mary, please pray for our nation, which is dedicated to your patronage under this very title of Immaculate Conception, and which is in perilous danger now, as well as is the world, if swift and decisive changes for the better are not made in Washington, DC, immediately!


Thursday, December 7, 2017

December 7 - St. Ambrose

+ 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.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

December 6 - St. Nicholas

+ Today we celebrate the feast of a priest, an abbot and a bishop all found in the person we know of as St. Nicholas of Myra, Lycia (modern Turkey). This iconic figure, Nicholas of Myra, enjoyed a reputation for piety and pastoral zeal. He was imprisoned during the Diocletian persecution in 303, and was later present at the Council of Nicea (325), where he joined in the condemnation of Arianism, the heresy that denied the full divinity of Christ. Nicholas was very generous to the poor and special protector of the innocent and wronged. Many stories grew up around him prior to his becoming associated with Santa Claus. For example:
·       Upon hearing that a local man had fallen on such hard times that he was planning to sell his daughters into prostitution, Nicholas went by night to the house and threw three bags of gold in through the window, saving the girls from an evil life. These three bags of gold, generously given in time of trouble, became the three golden balls that indicate a pawn broker’s shop.
·       He raised to life three young boys who had been murdered and pickled in a barrel of brine to hide the crime. These stories led to his patronage of children.
·       During a voyage to the Holy Lands, a fierce storm blew up, threatening the ship. When Nicholas prayed about it, the storm calmed – hence the patronage of sailors and dock workers, and those who work on the sea.

Nicholas died of natural causes in 346 at Myra, but his relics were moved to Bari, where a basilica was built to honor him.

St. Nicholas was one of the willing disciples Jesus mentioned in the gospel today: both Jesus and his disciples were prophesied by Isaiah to bring release to prisoners, comfort to the afflicted and spiritual insight to those who were morally blind; a true disciple goes where he is told and does what he is specially equipped by the Spirit of God to do: Nicholas had his talents and gifts: we have ours: we must use them generously to bring love, and peace and justice to the world we find ourselves living in. May we do so this day, strengthened by this Eucharistic feast we celebrate in honor of the truly generous Nicholas of Myra!

The Lord sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor and to proclaim liberty to captives.

Monday, December 4, 2017

December 4 - First Week of Advent - Monday

+ At this first weekday Mass of the new Advent Season, our readings continue the wonderful theme of HOPE that was set yesterday as we lit the first Advent Candle in our Wreath and reflected on “the hope that light brings to darkness:” the light of Christ brings to the world.

The first reading today from the Prophet Isaiah expands the theme and assures us that for those who are faithful, the very “glory of the Lord” – the Lord of Light and Power – will be a shelter and protection: shade from the parching heat of day, refuge and cover from storm and rain.

Our conscious act of faith in the forthcoming Messiah can bring the same results. And we will be able to “go rejoicing to God’s house!” – on that grand and glorious day!

The gospel passage is a very special one and stays with the theme: Jesus is so grateful that someone, even though he was not of the religion of Israel, had real true, genuine and authentic FAITH. And the request that was made was granted because of that faith. And, of course, this scene gives us the context of those beautiful words that were restored to our Mass a few years ago, right before the reception of holy communion when we say: observing the elevated Body of Christ: “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant (my soul) will be healed.”

And so, we are off again on another Advent adventure – watching, waiting, seeking, yearning, longing – to see the Lord Christ as He really is: may we see his face when it does indeed shine on us! Amen.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

December 3 - First Sunday of Advent 2018

1st Sunday of Advent – December 3, 2018

I –Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down.
R –Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.
II – We wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
A – Show us, Lord, your love; and grant us your salvation.
G –Be watchful! You do not know when the Lord of the house is coming.

+ We begin again! This is actually “New Year’s Day” in the Church: the beginning of a brand new liturgical year of grace, with twelve months ahead of us to once again behold the great mystery of our faith: the coming as Savior of the very Son of God himself – who became for us Jesus Christ the Lord.

The Advent season is the time to look back into our Jewish history and see the great preparation that God himself made before the actual birth of the Messiah on Christmas Day. This history tells of a people, formed by God to be his family, who found themselves in situations more and more intense and even dangerous – mostly by their constant disobedience to him. God had to rescue this people over and over again; but at the same time they were always longing and yearning for a true and lasting liberator, Messiah, who would free them from all their slaveries and be their leader triumphant against all their enemies.

God had this same desire for them, but with a twist; this Messiah and King would not be of a political bent, as they thought he might be, he would instead inaugurate a spiritual kingdom that would last forever; and the slavery that he would free them from was the most deadly of all: sin – which, unless he had come to forgive it, would have kept them, and everyone else, out of that kingdom forever!

And so, when the time was right – and the hopelessness of this people was immense, and their longing was at the bursting point – “this fullness of time” produced the familiar story that we will hear about in the coming weeks: the arrival of the magnificent Lord of the universe, in the tiny body of a little baby boy! Our God is so powerful that he could do this: out of love for us!

Our readings today are magnificent: this yearning, groveling people know that they are but “bits of clay, and that God is the potter;” and as works of his hands they ask for freedom, mercy and love! And he gives it! The gospel passage encourages us to be watchful and waiting both for the second coming of Jesus, but also in a new way this year: the first. Let our hearts burst with yearning and hoping and crying out to God for his peace and his love: and he will give them – just as though we were there at the stable in Bethlehem. There is reason to have hope - God is faithful to his promises – he is devoted to those who are searching for his face: he will show it to them!

Dear Lord, show us your love; and grant us your salvation!

Sep 13 - St John Chrysostom

+ 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. ...