Monday, December 31, 2018

Dec 31 - 7th Day of Christmas!

+ 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!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Dec 30 - Feast of the Holy Family

+ On this Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I should like to focus on the person of St. Joseph. Last Tuesday 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 28, 2018

Dec 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!

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Dec 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.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Dec 26 - St Stephen

+ 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.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas Day

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 Heaven’s 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 (Vespers)  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 usand 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, 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.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Dec 21 - Friday 3rd Week of Advent

+ Our gospel passage today speaks to us of the outgoing nature of the realization that God is present to us in an intimate way.  Immediately after Mary gives her consent and Christ becomes incarnate in her womb – her first motivational instinct is to go to her cousin Elizabeth who is also with child, and in her old age.

This is the dynamic that ought to be in play each time we receive the Lord almost as intimately, privately and personally in holy communion. While it is recommended that we pause for a few moments both right after reception or right after mass to ponder the magnitude of the Presence we now have deep in our hearts and souls, the Presence of our Creator, Sustainer, and Sanctifier, our Healer, our Lover, our Friend: Jesus, Emmanuel, God-with-us until the end of time.

But then shortly after that, we are “sent forth from the Mass” enlightened and strengthened to let our Light shine, the Light of Christ, through our words and deeds done for love of him. And once we set ourselves in motion – like Mary did in hastening to Elizabeth’s side – we will find we have all the power, stamina and grace we need to help meet the needs of others God places directly in our path this day.

God has spoken promises to us to – promises of sins forgiven, Paradise to be gained, eternal life of joy and superabundance to be enjoyed – Elizabeth can say to us today as she said to Mary so long ago – “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled!”

O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law: come to save us, Lord our God!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Dec 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!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Dec 12 - Our Lady of Guadallupe

+ Today we celebrate the four apparitions (between December 9 to 12 in 1531) of the Blessed Virgin Mary to an Amerindian, Juan Diego, on Tepeyac hill outside of Mexico City, ten years after the defeat of the Aztec Empire at the hands of the Spanish conquerors. A painted, life-size figure of the Virgin as a young, dark-skinned American Indian woman with the face of a mestizo was imprinted on Juan Diego’s cloak. The image gave Indians the assurance that Christianity was not only the faith of their European conquerors, but a faith for them also; indeed, that Mary, the Mother of God, was loving and compassionate toward them.

In 1754 Pope Benedict XIV authorized a Mass and Office to be celebrated on December 12 in Mexico, under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and he named Mary as patron saint of New Spain. She was designated patron saint of all of Latin America in 1910, and as “Queen of Mexico and Empress of the Americas” in 1945 by Pope Pius XII. Pope Benedict XVI declared this day a Holy Day of Obligation in Mexico, and extended the feast to the universal church.

Today we celebrate the simplicity and the faith of the woman who was clothed with the sun, having the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars: intercessor and friend and mother to all God’s children, including most especially we remember this day, the poor and the lowly of Latin America. Her greatness comes from her faith, her trust, her loving choices and her self-sacrificial life-style: may we imitate her today, and invoke her aid both for ourselves and our loved ones; and may we proclaim her greatness, not because we are forced to, but because we want to, because we love her – who is seated now beside the Great Intercessor Himself.

You are the highest honor of our race – Holy Virgin Mary!­­­

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Dec 11 - Tuesday 2nd Week in Advent

+ Our Advent readings today continue to reign us in on the abundant and amazing options that our God is placing before us, even this day! God wants nothing more than for us to feel the comfort and joy that he wants us to experience in the depths of our beings – even though we are sinners, even though we stray from his heart often, even though we walk  around and stumble in the dark a lot of the time. He wants to introduce us to the remedy for all our ills who will soon leap and bound from heaven to dwell among us and once and for all rectify the wrong that only he can rectify – and all will begin to be well for those who “buy into” the scenario of his redemptive love.

Like a shepherd he will feed his flock, in his arms he will carry his lambs – carrying them in his bosom and leading the ewes with care! We have an amazingly tender omnipotent God and Father! We are so very fortunate who are baptized into his life and care!

The gospel passage today confirms God’s never-failing love and desire to reign in all sheep from many pastures, especially those who are simply lost and don’t even know it! He delights in going after the weary and the lost sheep – and when the sheep surrenders to the loving gesture of God / Jesus picking it up – it will find an awesome covey of love and sweetness – as if it were the only sheep in the whole world.

This is the love God has for all of us – lost or not – and so we owe him so very much obedience, devotion, affection and love in return! and we put this into play when we ourselves seek out those in our day, in our passing by, who appear to be lonely, dejected, confused, weary or just plain lost!

Exult before the Lord, for he comes to rule the earth with power and LOVE!

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Dec 9 - Second Sunday of Advent

+ 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? My dear friends, we must share it!

And so, 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 and peace 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 7, 2018

Dec 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.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Dec 2 - First Sunday of Advent

+ Today we begin again, telling the story of “Jesus come from heaven to be our Redeemer, Our Savior and our Friend”: today, the first Sunday of Advent is New Year’s Day in the Church! It is time to make resolutions for the coming days, weeks and months.  This is a time of planning how to open ourselves more to the influence of grace, and the action of faith and love in our lives.

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. Be mindful!

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!


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. ...