Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Lord Let His Face Shine Upon You

The Octave Day of Christmas

Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God

January 1, 2010

By Melanie Rigney

“The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!” (Numbers 6:24-26)

May God be gracious to us and bless us; may God’s face shine upon us. (Psalms 67-2)

When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,
to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. As proof that you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then also an heir, through God.
(Galatians 4:4-7)

The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. (Luke 2:16-19)

Piety

From the depths of my heart I thank You, Dear Lord, for Your infinite kindness in coming to me. How good You are to me! With Your most holy Mother and all the angels, I praise Your mercy and generosity toward me, a poor sinner. I thank You for nourishing my soul with Your Sacred Body and Precious Blood. I will try to show my gratitude to You in the Sacrament of Your love, by obedience to Your holy commandments, by fidelity to my duties, by kindness to my neighbor and by an earnest endeavor to become more like You in my daily conduct. (Found at Catholic Online.)

Study

Ever wonder why the Bible is so repetitive? It can seem mindnumbingly so at times. Chronicles in the main summarizes Samuel and Kings. Many of the Gospels tell the same stories and parables. In today’s readings, we see an almost verbatim restating of Numbers in Psalms 67.

Logically, much of the repetition comes from people writing at different times for different audiences. But I like to think much of it also comes from God knowing we need to hear things more than once, and sometimes in different forms. The more we hear the concept, the more likely we are to absorb it. The more we absorb the concept, the more likely we are to incorporate it into our lives.

It’s the same thing with all those resolutions that we made starting today to exercise more, eat less, pray more, gossip less, give more, argue less. In some cases, we’ve made the same resolutions for years. But hopefully, But maybe each year we get a little closer to the goal, a little closer to being freed of our slavery, self-imposed or otherwise. If we don’t give into despair, practice can make perfect.

So what’s God trying to tell us with all that repetition? Maybe it’s as simple as today’s readings: We’ve been ransomed. We are adopted children of God, who loves us beyond our understanding, who wants nothing more than to shine His face upon us and bless us.

And maybe, this year, we can all come a little closer to being freed of self-doubt and suspicion and accept the Good News. Practice can make perfect.

Action

Show someone it is difficult for you to love just how God’s face can shine upon him or her.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

In the Beginning…

December 31, 2009

The Seventh Day in the Octave of Christmas

But you have the anointing that comes from the holy one, and you all have knowledge. I write to you not because you do not know the truth but because you do, and because every lie is alien to the truth. 1 John 2:20-21

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-5

Piety

Father, you have been present with us throughout this year as we have attempted to walk with you in piety, study and action. When we have been unable to keep pace with you, we know that your Son has picked us up and carried us along just like He saved St. Peter from the crashing waves of the sea and Peter’s crashing waves of doubt and denial. We welcome your Holy Spirit to continue dwelling with us in the coming year so that we may overcome any antichrist of unbelieving and darkness that descends upon our lives. Amen.

Study

Here on the last day of the year, we reflect on the beginning. Not just the beginning of the Gospel according to St. John, but also the beginning of time. John’s prose mirrors the opening passages of Genesis and also sets for some of the principal themes of the Bible -- the Word, the presence of God in our lives, creation, life, light and darkness.

Unlike Matthew and Luke, St. John does not begin his Good News by dwelling on the Christmas narrative of how Jesus literally came into the world. Instead, after a short and beautiful introduction on the being and presence of Jesus, he jumps to the ministry of John the Baptist and Jesus’ initiation as a minister in adulthood, John the Evangelizer focuses on John the Baptizer and as the precursor and announcer of the coming of the Lord to dwell among us.

Now, seven days into our season celebrating the incarnation of the Lord, we have a chance to reflect back on the beginning of our salvation history – the first hour and the role that the Lord’s presence has always had in the lives of the faithful and those who are called to be faithful.

With this special pairing of readings on this last day of the year and the last day of the first decade of the century, we are reminded that the goodness created by God does not exist in a vacuum. We are reminded in the first reading that we are now in the last hour, awaiting Jesus’ second coming. We have to live as if we are fully aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives and also the conflicting forces posed by the antichrist.

“Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that the antichrist was coming, so now many antichrists have appeared.” 1 John 2:18

Action

What is the antichrist or what are the antichrists in your life? Sometimes, bad can happen in our lives when we least expect it. One antichrist – disease – may sneak up on us and ambush us when we least expect it.

Our Cursillo sister Mary Smart is in such a fight right now. Some of you have already been contacted, for those who are hearing this news via email or the website, we appreciate your forbearance. Marty has a true gift for making and nurturing friends, too numerous to notify by phone.

Marty has been diagnosed with a brain tumor, a glioblastoma (GBM), which is incurable. She was demonstrating some confusion, had headaches and memory problems in the past couple of weeks and was admitted to Walter Reed Army Medical Center on Christmas Eve. MRIs and a biopsy confirmed a very large tumor that spans both the right and left frontal lobes and is likely spread throughout the brain.

Clearly this news is a shock and many will have questions. Marty’s friends have put together a website that you can register for that will provide updates and let you leave messages for Marty and her family at: http://www.lotsahelpinghands.com/c/621107/.

Please register and in the notes section state how you know Marty. Future e-mail updates on her condition will be sent from the website so if you want to stay in the loop, please register.

Marty will be at Walter Reed for at least another week to ten days and may be visited. Although there are no limits on how long you stay or how many people are there, we trust that you will help conserve her strength, yet liven her day with your visit. She's not allowed flowers on this ward, so if you want to do something for her, donate to the Alzheimer's Association, www.alz.org.
As we find things that the family needs help with, we will post them on the website listed above. Cards may be sent to Marty at 2917-D S. Woodstock Dr., Arlington VA 22206.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Favor of God

December 30, 2009

The Sixth Day in the Octave of Christmas

Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world. Yet the world and its enticement are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever. 1 John 2:15-17

And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him. Luke 2:38-40

Piety


Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.
Melt me.
Mold me.
Fill me.
Use me.
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.

Study

The Gospel as we have been reading in daily Mass has skipped around a bit putting the story of Jesus teaching in the temple ahead of the presentation in the temple where Mary and Joseph encounter the holy pair Anna and Simeon.

Anna and Simeon represent the kind of people described in the letter that makes up the first reading today. After becoming a widow, Anna devoted her life to the temple. She was not enticed by the world but by doing the will of God.

After her encounter with Jesus, Anna is another in the list of humble people who had the initial contact with infant and were immediately moved to take her obedience to another level by sharing the experience through her witness to “all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.”

What makes it so hard for us to act like this…immediate and constant obedience and life long humility? Were these attributes as rare then as they are today? Are the few great examples all concentrated in the Gospel stories? Or has the world gotten so pervasive and permissive, so tempting and tantalizing with almost constant overt references to sexuality. We don’t even resort to the “hidden persuaders” any longer. There is nothing subliminal about the kind of advertising that seduces us today.

Is there an obedience gene that guides behavior? Is this trait nurtured in people or is it there by nature? Jesus had it because the “favor of God” was vested in his life. How can and do we earn the favor of God?

We all are born with it. However, to help it grow, the power of our individual and collective experience of the encounter with Jesus nurtures this in us. We all have the capacity for such behavior but recognizing the experience of our encounter triggers a life of faithful obedience and humility in some people while it lays dormant in others who do not leave themselves open to this encounter.

Action

The more examples that we can study in sacred scripture along with those whom we experience and get to know in the world today will help nurture the seed of our obedience and humility.

Who are the real-life examples of such faith in your life? Who are Simeon and Anna to you? Who are Elizabeth and Zachary to you? Who are Mary and Joseph to you?

Can you nurture your faith through the power of your encounter with Jesus to become Simeon or Anna and witness the life of Christ in the world to others?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Your Word Has Been Fulfilled

December 29, 2009


The Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas


By Beth DeCristofaro


The way we may be sure that we know Jesus is to keep his commandments. … But whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him. (1 John 2:3, 5)


“Lord, now 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 people Israel. ... and you yourself a sword will pierce.” (Luke 2:29-32, 35)

Piety

Lord, help your servant to walk in peace. May I see the light of your salvation and serve you as I build your kingdom each and every day. Whether I experience the sadness of human frailty, the challenge of human limitation, the horror of human wickedness, or the poignancy of human kindness, fill my soul with your light which infuses the universe with love beyond measuring. Amen

Study

What mother or father – or for that matter what doting aunt or uncle - has not had that moment described by Simeon as he says to Mary: and you yourself a sword will pierce.” (Luke 2:35). After all, a mother, rapt in the survey of her baby girl’s perfect toes, might experience a pang as she realizes that one day this little girl will break away from her hand and run toward danger. Or a father, proud of his son leaving to drive to his first job might tremble with the thought that a cop or drunk driver might encounter his careful and peaceable son tonight – particularly if the family is African-American or other ethnic member.

But the sword that Simeon mentions, at the end of his beautiful song of praise and thanksgiving, is even more than what most families know. The footnote to the NAB states that “…Mary herself will not be untouched by the various reactions to the role of Jesus. Her blessedness as mother of the Lord will be challenged by her son who describes true blessedness as “hearing the word of God and observing it.” Mary not only has the pang of anticipation but the confirmation that her son is only temporarily hers as is each child. Every child, every adult, belongs to God before her family, before himself.

Simeon’s prayer confirms that Mary’s baby is so much more than son yet he is also fully her son to nurture, love and worry over. The call to be faithful calls for steadfastness, courage and dependence on God’s overwhelming love which knows far greater than we do what is good, what is right for us as God’s beloved children. The arrows of misfortune and sin which pierce our hearts in our lives have already pierced the hearts of God himself and his holy Mother. As John said in the reading from yesterday: we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is expiation for our sins and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2) We are brought closer to God who will never forsake us, just as Mary did not forsake her Son even at the cross, in tragedy or joy. In Jesus the Word is fulfilled and ours for the taking.

Action

In this Christmas season, spend some time with a child enjoying and encouraging the wonder and love of youth. Consider donating time to a child in need.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Search for the Child

December 28, 2009

Feast of the Holy Innocents, martyrs

But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7

When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him." Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, "Out of Egypt I called my son." Matthew 2:13-15

Piety

Pass it On

It only takes a spark, to get a fire going.
And soon all those around, can warm up it it's glowing.

Chorus:
That's how it is with God's love, once you've experienced it, you want to sing, it's fresh like spring,, you want to pass it on.

What a wondrous time is Spring when all the trees are budding.
The birds begin to sing, the flowers start their blooming.

I wish for you my friend this happiness that I've found
You can depend on him It matters not where your bound.

Last chorus:
I'll shout it from the mountain tops I want the world to know
The Lord of Life has come to me I want to pass it on.

Study

Jesus does not sit in one place while people come to him. He goes out to where the people are. Like the Magi and the shepherds, we have to seek him where he can be found. We must look for him in the stadium crowds. We must look for him in the Beltway traffic jams. We must look for him in the faces of people on the sidewalks, in the caf├ęs and in the malls. We have to look for him in the people who clean our offices, care for our yards, and check out our groceries.

Jesus has to be everywhere because he has to conquer evil everywhere and stay one step ahead if his blood will cleanse all of us.

However, we are not alone in searching out Jesus. Even though Jesus was living right under their roof, Mary and Joseph (none could be closer to him than these Holy Parents) still had to search for the child.

Evil also seeks the Lord for other reasons. Evil does not want to follow Him, but rather to overshadow Him, overtake Him, kill Him. This is a very different kind of search than Mary and Joseph undertook when Jesus stayed behind teaching in the temple.

Action

One thing makes such a search easier. While we are looking for the Lord, he is looking for us, waiting for us to come back to him just like the waiting father in the story of the Prodigal Son.

Do we do a good job of searching for Jesus?

Beyond our own personal search, when we find the Lord, our faith is not one in which we can keep it to ourselves. Jesus needs our help if he is going to stay one step ahead of evil. Just like Joseph led his family to Egypt, we have to be present and carry Jesus with us to the places we go.

Do we do a good job of carrying him to the places we go?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Look for Him

December 27, 2009

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.

“Pardon, my lord! As you live my lord, I am the woman who stood near you here, praying to the LORD. I prayed for this child, and the LORD granted my request. Now I, in turn, give him to the LORD; as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the LORD.” She left him there. 1 Samuel 1:26-28


After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Luke 2:46:49

Piety

A cold wintery night makes the warmth of the hearth special blessing. Being alone amid the cold temperatures and a swirling blizzard makes belonging and family a special grace. To be without dear ones accentuates loneliness. Belonging to God makes family an essential of life. We are called to be members of the family of God. God, loving us so much as to be willing to be one of us, makes of family the central point of love and happiness. Family is called to the unity of trinity with children important to the continuity of life and reproduction an essential of life if the world is to go on. Everything about family reflects the mystery of God. How we love family brings peace and joy into our lives. Without family the mystery of God will always be incomplete because our ultimate vocation if to be part of the family of God. Our piety is the spirituality of the family of God.

Study

Family is the school of divine life. It offers children the place to learn how to live by growing up in the love of their parents. Love is proved by actions. Children grow up learning to honor their parents. It is written on the hearts of the human race that we honor our parents. Children store up riches in heaven by the way they revere their parents. The way children serve the needs of their parents wins for them incredible graces in heaven. When we see how different families love one another, we learn to value the love in our own families. The comparison of families becomes the challenge of our hearts to love parents and children better. When we hear of child abuse the shock to our hearts is the truth of how wedded we are to the commandment of the Lord to honor our parents. The tragedy of youth running in gangs is in the destruction of family life. The need to break bread in the togetherness of family feeds our souls as well as our bodies when we eat together as family. The invitation to share with a family is the equivalency of inviting another to be part of our family. The story of Samuel reflects the reality of how vocations are family affairs. The family that prays together, stays together is a truism that has to be experienced to be believed in. Parents need to turn their children over to God by their prayers.

Action

The story of Jesus being left behind in the temple is important to every parent. The action of taking a child to Church has a counterpoint in the story of Jesus being found in the temple. Not going together as family to Church and not going often enough are two sides to the question of family spirituality. Teaching a child to see “Church” as part of his or her destiny in life and as important to his or her happiness is a lesson hard to learn. We all possess a destiny with God that our hearts become more aware of as we practice our faith. How to bring a child to want to be in Church is impossible to teach. Freedom is an absolute gift of God whose lessons are taught by example and by learning from our mistakes what truly makes us happy and is worth doing. We are not born with this lesson written on our heats. It is human relationships with good people with a church connection that brings us to be active in our churches. We are called to action by our prayer life that awakens us to the realization of how to be about the business of our Father in heaven. We all need to be needed and we find our happiness in responding to God’s need of us.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Whoever Endures Will Be Saved

December 26, 2009

Feast of Saint Stephen, first martyr

But [Stephen], filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together. Acts 7:55-57

When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved. Matthew 10:19-22

Piety

Angelus Message for Feast of St. Stephen 2003 by Pope John Paul II

1. Today, in the joyful atmosphere of Christmas, we are celebrating the Feast of St Stephen, one of the first deacons of the Church. He is also known as the “Protomartyr” because he was the first disciple of Christ to pour out his blood for him. Stephen was stoned to death because of false accusations similar to those leveled at Jesus himself and, like the Master, he died forgiving those who killed him.

2. The Church calls the day of martyrdom a dies natalis (birthday). Indeed, by virtue of Christ’s death and Resurrection, the death of the martyr is a birth in Heaven. This is why it is so meaningful to celebrate the First Martyr the day after Christmas: Jesus who was born in Bethlehem gave his life for us so that we too, reborn “from on high” through faith and Baptism, might be willing to give up our own lives for love of our brothers and sisters.

Today I would especially like to remember the Christian communities that are suffering persecution and all the faithful who suffer for the faith. May the Lord give them the strength to persevere and the ability to love even those who cause their suffering.

3. May Mary, Mother and disciple of her Son Jesus, accompany all Christians on their journey, from the baptismal font to the hour of their death. May she, Queen of the Martyrs, help us too to be “martyrs”, that is, witnesses on every occasion to the love of Christ whom we contemplate in these days as a Child in the crib.
(From http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=5459)

Study

College recruiting posters and web sites show prospective students current enrollees smiling while crouched over microscopes with jovial members of the faculty. They show victorious sports teams with a cheering student body. They do not depict the “all-nighters” with stale, cold coffee cups fueling the last-minute cramming of every ounce of knowledge possible in between the bookends of two ears.

Television commercials recruiting members of the Marine Corps focus on the creases of the red and blue dress uniform that are razor sharp, the blades of the swords shine like Aunt Marie’s silver service. They do not show the exhausted faces of new recruits at the end of a day at boot camp on Paris Island with blood and sweat and toil and tears streaming down. They do not show bunkers in Central Asia where the face of an enemy suicide bomber or improvised explosive device could lurk behind any or every valley, veil, or vehicle.

However, the liturgical calendar does not gloss over the price of friendship with Jesus. The calendar does not allow the celebration of Christmas joy to continue uninterrupted without throwing a glass of cold water in our collective faces. Although the season will continue for several weeks into the New Year, our first lesson after Christmas Day is on the price of following Jesus. By placing this feast day right after Christmas, the Church leads us to compare the Master and the disciple. Such a comparison will inevitably lead us to ponder the end result of the imitation of Christ even unto the complete gift of self.

Just yesterday, the prophecy of Isaiah came to fruition with the great song of praise: How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation, and saying to Zion, “Your God is King!” Isaiah 52:7

St. Stephen also continued to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy. With his beliefs, he also fulfilled the words. “For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her vindication shines forth like the dawn and her victory like a burning torch.” (Isaiah 61:1)

This powerful God also passed along this power to his children. “But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” John 1:12-14

St. Stephen counted himself among these children of God. He personally saw God’s only son in all his glory standing at the right hand of the father. And what did St. Stephen get for his belief? He got the same kind treatment that John the Baptist got. He got the same kind of treatment that Jesus got. In a word, he got executed.

Action

As we continue to bask in the glory of the Incarnation, the joy of the season can not be seen in isolation from the whole message of the Gospel and the life of Christ and the saints. Is it any wonder that St. Therese of Avila reflected: “If this is how you treat your friends no wonder you have so few of them!”

Let us not forget the reminder St. Matthew wrote: “…but whoever endures to the end will be saved.”

Thursday, December 24, 2009

This Life Was the Light of the Human Race

December 25, 2009


The Nativity of the Lord: Mass During Christmas Day


By Melanie Rigney


Hark! Your sentinels raise a cry, together they shout for joy, for they see directly, before their eyes, the Lord restoring Zion. Break out together in song, O ruins of Jerusalem! (Isaiah 52:8-9)


Sing praise to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and melodious song. With trumpets and the sound of the horn shout with joy to the King, the Lord. (Psalms 98:4-6)


In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he has spoken to us through the Son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe, who is the refulgence of his glory, the very imprint of his being, and who sustains all things by his mighty word. (Hebrews 1:1-3)


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race: the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-4)

Piety

Lord God, we praise you for creating man, and still more for restoring him in Christ. Your Son shared our weakness; may we share his glory, for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Concluding prayer, Office of Readings for Christmas)

Study

You’ve probably got a favorite Christmas carol or twenty, and hopefully you got to hear many of them at the Christmas Eve Vigil Mass or at a Christmas Day Mass. Lots of them talk about the sweet innocent little baby lying in a manger, or about his mother, or about the lowly folk who came to see him.


It’s easy for us to imagine the manger scene. We’ve all had babies or held infants. We know that particular smell they have, of freshly born life. But from the first, it was the promise of what Christ would do for us, reconcile us to God, more than the scene at the manger that is so mind-blowingly beautiful and amazing and difficult for us to understand, let alone accept. The birth is the promise of the shining of light through the darkness and of the resurrection—his and our own.


And that’s why, if you think about it, “O Holy Night” may resonate more deeply than some of the other carols we’ve been singing, even though it’s among the more difficult ones to do well. It describes the power of the promise in just eighteen words:


Long lay the world in sin and error pining till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.


We live in a sinful world despite the birth of Jesus. But that birth gave us the hope of redemption. So shout out the carols and happy birthdays and thanks and joy, with trumpets and horns and harps, without regard for how well you sing! As far as God is concerned, we all have perfect pitch.

Action

Tell three people about the way you see Christ in them.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

To Guide Our Feet in the Path of Peace

December 24, 2009

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Advent: Mass in the Morning

"Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent!" Nathan answered the king, "Go, do whatever you have in mind, for the LORD is with you." But that night the LORD spoke to Nathan and said: "Go, tell my servant David, 'Thus says the LORD: Should you build me a house to dwell in? 2 Samuel 7:2-5

And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God by which the daybreak from on high will visit us to shine on those who sit in darkness and death's shadow, to guide our feet into the path of peace. Luke 1:76-79

Piety

waiting while moving... by Matt Maher

can you imagine...........
waiting for hundreds of years.
for an answer.
for a solution. to all the problems we face
not one seemed to fit. or work.
and men came. spoke of one to come.
but society would reject them. kill them.
and still, we'd be waiting.
and all the while, hidden in chaos. in the middle of a census.
there they were.
A family.
set apart for an awesome task.
to raise God.
from a baby to a man.
what to do, what to say.
and all the while, waiting for freedom to come. for deliverance.
for a future.
Can you imagine being a mother, knowing every kick on the wall of your uterus was from
God?
That's waiting while moving forward. Except the moving forward is the movement of God, and not the movement of man.
so wait for Him. and move with Him.

Study

The second canticle from Luke 1 makes up our Gospel today as we complete Advent preparations for Christmas coming at midnight on December 24.

The three canticles from the Gospels, the “Magnificat,” the “Benedictus,” and the “Nunc dimittis,” are recited every day, respectively, in the hours of Vespers, Lauds, and Compline. The Canticle of Mary (“Magnificat”) is for many the more familiar of the three canticles in Luke because it also forms the lyrics of popular hymns more than the other two. The Canticle of Zechariah (“Benedictus”) is familiar to priests, nuns, monks and others who participate in Lauds (“Morning Prayer”) on a regular basis. The Benedictus also is a prayer featured in various other liturgical offices, notably at a funeral, at the moment of interment, when words of thanksgiving for the Redemption are recited as an expression of Christian hope.

What does it say? Sources tell us that the Canticle of Zechariah takes decidedly Hebrew Bible themes and retells them with a Christian premise. The Jews had borne the burdens of exile in Egypt and were then ruled by the belligerent Roman forces. They saw deliverance now at hand which makes this a fitting close to the Advent Gospels.

Zechariah first points to the coming fulfillment of God’s oath to Abraham; but the fulfillment is described as deliverance not for the sake of political, economic or even religious power, but that “we may serve [God] without fear, in holiness and justice all our days.” This theme of holiness and justice is woven throughout the Gospel of St. John.

The second part of the message is a song from a loving father to his son. Zechariah recognizes now the truth that the angel told him. John will be the fulfillment not of the Covenant of Abraham but of the prophecy of Isaiah which we considered earlier in Advent. John also applied this prophecy to his own mission. (He said: "I am 'the voice of one crying out in the desert, "Make straight the way of the Lord,"' as Isaiah the prophet said." John 1:23)

What does it mean? The allusion to Christ's coming under the figure of the rising sun had also some influence on its adoption. (“The daybreak from on high will visit us.”) As we get up to face a new day, we reflect upon Christ waking up first as a baby and then being raised up as the Son of God on the third day after his execution.

John’s ministry was about calling on us to change (“Repent! The Kingdom of God is at hand.”) Such personal change began with his father at the hour of John’s birth. This prayer was first sung by Zechariah when the birth of his son changed his life, removing the doubt that rendered him mute (a significant punishment for his lack of faith and praise) and restoring his voice to sing God praise.

What does it matter? Why was this one chosen to help start every day for the Liturgy of the Hours/Divine Office/Breviary?

First, consider the significance of Morning Prayer. Catholic sources say that St. Benedict of Nursia introduced this prayer into the Divine Office because this is a song of hope and thanksgiving. Having made it through another dark night, we rise to greet the day sharing in the rejoicing spirit of a new father.

Dr. Pius Parsh writes: “Lauds is a jubilant hour, fresh as the morning dew, perhaps the most beautiful of all the hours. Its symbolism deserves attention. It is night; nature and men are asleep. In the far east the grey of dawn appears; then the ruddy hue of morning, the harbinger of a new day, spreads across the horizon, and the world of nature begins to stir. But all this natural beauty is only a symbol and reminder of a most wonderful event in the story of salvation. It was at this beautiful hour that our Savior burst the bonds of death. Resurrection—that is the background theme of Lauds. And the two pictures together, dawn and resurrection, remind us of a third arising from slumber, the spiritual awakening of the human soul.

“There is, then, a threefold resurrection: nature awakens, the Savior rises from the dead, the human soul celebrates its spiritual resurrection. Such is the background to our prayer of Lauds. It is an explicit song of praise; praise is the hour's central theme. If we can get a feeling for these three pictures intermingling in our Lauds prayer, if we can enter into the spirit of this threefold resurrection, if we can enlist the forces of nature to pray and praise and exult along with us while reciting this hour reasonably early in the morning, perhaps even in the open air, then we are certain to be struck by the full impact of its meaning.”

Dr. Parsh goes on to explain that the climax of Lauds is the Gospel song, the Benedictus. He says that it is placed in the daily Morning Prayer as a hymn in praise of man’s redemption and as a greeting to the dawning day of salvation which is destined to be one more step toward its completion. As the members of the Church pray the Benedictus, we take Zachariah’s place so that every day is a new coming of the Redeemer, and the Church greets her Savior as the "Day-Spring from on high".

In a lecture on the Benedictus, Pope John Paul II quoted from the writings of St. Bede the Venerable who described the prayer: “The Lord ... has visited us like a doctor does his patients, because to cure the inveterate sickness of our pride, he has offered us the new example of his humility; he has redeemed his people, because he has liberated us, who had become servants of sin and slaves of the ancient enemy, at the price of his blood -- Christ found us who were lying in ‘darkness and the shadow of death,’ that is, oppressed by the long blindness of sin and ignorance. ... He has brought us the true light of his knowledge and, banishing the darkness of error, he has shown us the sure way to the heavenly homeland. He has directed the steps of our works to make us walk in the way of truth, which he has shown us, and to make us enter the home of eternal peace, which he has promised us.”

Action

Consider taking part in Morning Prayer or Lauds in the near future either as part of a group prayer (such as occurs daily at 7:10 a.m. at Missionhurst chapel before morning Mass) or as personal prayer.

In addition to web sites where you can read the Office of the day, you also can download a free application for your I-phone for Lauds, Vespers and Compline to pray with others around the world at the same time.

On the internet, learn more about the Divine Office at:

http://divineoffice.org/

http://www.breviary.net/breviary/brevintro.htm

http://www.universalis.com/index.htm

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

To Turn the Hearts

December 23, 2009

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Advent

But who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears? For he is like the refiner's fire, or like the fuller's lye. He will sit refining and purifying (silver), and he will purify the sons of Levi, Refining them like gold or like silver that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD. Malachi 3:2-3

“What, then, will this child be? For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.” Luke 1:66

Piety

“O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fire of hell, lead all souls into Heaven, especially those who are most in need of Thy Mercy!” Lead me then to the refiner’s fire of conversion so that I may turn my heart from selfish pursuits and devote my life to you. Amen.

Study

The question in today’s Gospel hangs in the air: “What then will this child be?” The question in the mind of every expectant parent hangs in the air: “What then will this child be?” Did these two poor, simple women of Nazareth, Mary and Elizabeth, ask that question? Did they have any real notion of what roles their sons would play in world history? Could they even think that people would have been reading and writing about their lives 10 years later or 2010 years later? The signs were there but would people believe it? Consider that even John’s own father doubted the message of the angel.

The angel announced to him inside the holy place that his son would “turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord.” (Luke 1:17b) To that, Zechariah says doubtfully, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”

If Zechariah was here today, he may have said, “Say what?” We live in a skeptical age and can more fully understand and identify with where Zechariah’s doubt came from than where the perfect faith of Mary and Elizabeth sprang forth.

This is one of the reasons why I love the Bible so much. It is not only filled with pure, God-loving, faithful creatures. But we encounter through its inspired and revealed Word, people just like us…with their doubts and insecurities and ambitions. People like Adam, Zechariah, Peter, Nicodemus, Matthew and more. The Bible also is filled with people who don’t even have a name, just a story or a noun clause. Yet people like the woman at the well, the man born blind, and the ten lepers allow their stories to become part of the case for our conversion.

In their conversion stories, we learn the path to our conversion. That is exactly what would become of this child…he would become a mirror of the entire Bible calling for us to change the direction in which we look for happiness in our lives, “to guide our feet on the path of peace.”

The reading from Malachi describes the role of the prophet who will announce the coming of the Messiah. “He is like the refiner's fire, or like the fuller's lye. He will sit refining and purifying (silver), and he will purify the sons of Levi, Refining them like gold or like silver that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD.”

What does fire do to anything that touches it? To some things, they improve as when we cook food or warm a home on a cold day. Other things are destroyed by fire. Whether for improvement or destruction, whatever is touched by the refiner’s fire can not be changed back into the form it was in prior to being heated and changed. You can never make your well-done steak medium rare ever again. You can not rebuild a home that burns down with the same material. You need to start over from the beginning with fresh materials.

The refiner’s fire is not the fire of destruction. It is the fire of purification, filtering and improvement. What touches the refiner’s fire comes out better in the end. The refiner gets rid of impurities in order to make things better in the end. The fire of destruction is the fire of hell taking away God’s creation. The fire of perfection is the fire of heaven polishing God’s creation so it changes for the better.

What then will this child be? John will be the refiner. Purely from the act of naming him, John’s refining ways were immediately first put to work on his very own father, Zechariah.

Action

“What then will this child be?”

After nearly four full weeks of Advent have passed, the question should be moot. However, the underlying theme remains. Listening and truly hearing still does not ring true to the neighbors of Elizabeth and Zechariah.

Are we listening any better than they are? What then will these people be? What then will we be? What then will we become? After nearly four full weeks of Advent have passed, are we ready to let this question ring out in the way we live our lives? Are we ready to turn our lives around to answer the cry in the wilderness? Are we ready to turn our hearts to obedience and faith? To get on the “path to peace,” we have to turn away from the path to all other goals.

Monday, December 21, 2009

My Soul Proclaims the Lord

December 22, 2009

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Advent

By Beth DeCristofaro

(Hannah said) I prayed for this child, and the LORD granted my request. Now I, in turn, give him to the LORD; as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the LORD.” She left Samuel there. (1 Samuel 1:27-28)

“…and Mary said, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior…” (Luke 1:46-47)

Piety

“Yahweh, my heart has no false pride; my eyes do not look too high. I am not concerned with great affairs or things far above me. It is enough for me to keep my soul still and quiet like a child in its mother’s arms, as content as a child that has been weaned. Israel, hope in Yahweh, now and for always!” (Psalm 131 from Psalms Anew)

Study

Mary’s prayer, the Magnificat, is my favorite prayer. Mary’s opening words: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior…” are without a doubt one of the most beautiful witnesses to a life in Christ ever uttered.

The prayer begins at the moment when two pious and dutiful women meet with the promise of salvation gestating between them and is linked to the heritage of God’s chosen people as Mary invokes the name of Abraham, her – our - father in faith. In a footnote, the NAB reminds us that the Magnificat sounds many of the themes that will echo within and throughout Luke’s Gospel: “joy and exultation in the Lord; the lowly being singled out for God's favor; the reversal of human fortunes; the fulfillment of Old Testament promises.” (http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/luke/luke1.htm)

I love this prayer. But today’s first reading distracts me from its jubilation. I can’t help contrast Mary’s exultant tone with Hannah’s determined willpower as she leaves her beloved son in the temple. What kind of a God would require a woman to abandon a child? It appears inconceivable and on the eve of the birth of Jesus, it appears cruel.

But even as I want to say “No,” I must remember that Hannah does not say “No.” It is her pledge to dedicate Samuel to God, her choice and her “Yes” which is carried out. And Mary’s “Yes” allowed the Word to become man. Even as she sang her canticle, I can imagine that Mary held some fear and trepidation at the unknown, devastating future which she and her son would face just as Hannah knew sorrow at returning to her childless home. But each woman trusted and placed her dedication to God first, before even her most precious heart’s desire.

The website Sacred Space speaks to this choice: “Saint John (15:1) reminds us of the meaning of suffering: ‘God prunes every branch that does bear fruit, that it may bear even more.’ We are never good judges of when God is closest to us.” (http://sacredspace.ie/)

We are so beloved by God that God came to us in the form of the Son. What God asks in return is that our souls proclaim the greatness of the Lord; and our spirits rejoice in God our savior. Can we do less?

Action

God comes as the most vulnerable among us, a baby needing our love and nurturing to survive. Can we make ourselves vulnerable to the changes that God’s overwhelming love and forgiveness can affect in our lives? How does God thrive within us? Does God grow and enlarge within our hearts and move into the world by what we think, say, and do? Are we ready to leave our old selves behind, even if it is painful, while our souls proclaim the greatness of the Lord and our Spirits rejoice each day in God our savior?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sing to Him a New Song

December 21, 2009


Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent


For see, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth,the time of pruning the vines has come, and the song of the dove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance. Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come! Song of Songs 2:11-13


When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Luke 1:41-44


Piety


http://www.origenmusic.com/ave-maria-lyrics.html

Ave Maria
Gratia plena
Dominus tecum
Benedicta tu in mulieribus
Et benedictus fructus ventris
Tui, Jesus
Sancta Maria
Mater Dei
Ora pro nobis peccatoribus
Nunc et in hora mortis nostrae
Amen.


Study


(Cue your favorite track of Ave Maria…Chris Botti, Beyonce, Charlotte Church, Michael Crawford, Celine Dion, Yo-Yo Ma, Luciano Pavarotti, Leopold Stowkowski or whoever is your favorite. If you don’t have one handy, click the link in Piety and that web page will automatically load a version for your lectio, meditatio, oratorio and contemplatio.)


Advent is a season for the senses, especially hearing. Sound plays an important part in Advent and in the Biblical narrative of Advent preparation. The sounds of Advent in scripture, in song, in dialogue and in culture help us get ready for the holy day and season.


In today’s Gospel, Elizabeth and her unborn son respond to the greeting of Mary with shouts of love and leaps of joy. They are the latest example of how the major figures in the Christmas narrative all respond to what they hear. Some like Elizabeth and her cousin Mary respond positively. Others, like Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah doubted the message of an angel. In his case, Zechariah paid a price for his skepticism and was rendered speechless. His speech was not restored until he acted out of obedience naming the leaping unborn son John. John grows up to be another sound of Advent, the voice crying in the wilderness.


Zechariah’s doubts contrast with the religious and civil obedience of Mary and Joseph. They respond to the message of an angel with humility and love. Then, they respond to the Roman census with an obedient though inconvenient journey to Bethlehem. For their faithfulness, they are blessed with the baby Jesus to round out their Holy Family.


In the coming days, we will hear of other obedient servants like the shepherds who heed the prompting of an angel to find the baby born in Bethlehem and the wise men from the east who respond in action to what they learn.


Hearing the sounds of the season and acting what is heard leads to the fulfillment of the covenant. “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”


Action


Sound continues to play a major role in our preparation for Jesus. Listening, hearing and responding are ways that we continue to participate in the ministry of John the Baptist and follow the example of Mary listening for the time when Christ comes into the world and our lives. John gives voice to the season of preparation as we await the coming of the Word. What sound is the Lord using to call you to prepare for this season?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Leaped for Joy

December 20, 2009

The Fourth Sunday of Advent

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock by the strength of the LORD, in the majestic name of the LORD, his God; And they shall remain, for now his greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth; he shall be peace. Micah 5:3-4a

And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled. Luke 1:43-45

Piety

Parents make a difference in our world. Rich parents can spoil a child. Bright parents can influence education. Athletic parents give rise to healthy children. For better or for worse parents make a difference to all of us. Children do a lot to find themselves. They try to be different than their parents often enough so that they are surprised to hear themselves sounding like their parents. There is energy at work in family relationships that would make it almost seem we have to be like our parents. Chips off the old block are too close for comfort. Show the parents and we can discover the child. Show the child and we can see a lot about parents. Parents have a right to worry about the impression their children make. It is too true for comfort that we are extensions of our parents. It almost seems we have to work at it to really be different. Children reflect more than they intend to of the piety of their parents. Saints are reflections of Christ in each age. We adjust Christ to the age we are living in without even being aware of what we are doing. Christ and Mary are parents of our Spiritual Lives. Parents give us in their goodness our first insights into who Christ is in our world today. The mutual love of parents and children are the first lessons in what it means to be part of the family of God. Piety is how we belong to the family of Jesus.

Study

We study what Christ meant when he said; “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; in holocaust and sin offerings you took no delight. Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll, behold, I come to do your will, O God.’” Christ came to do the will of his Father. It is written on the hearts of children to do the will of their parents. The fourth commandment of God is written on our hearts. Without being taught, we know it is important to honor our parents. A good parent teaches children how to share the responsibility of choices. We learn by the good example of parents what mistakes are even as we learn by our mistakes to respect the advice of parents.

Action

Mary traveled in haste to be with her cousin Elizabeth after the message of the angel. She went filled with joy to be with her elder cousin in the last trimester of the difficult birth an older woman would have. What an incredible confirmation Mary received from her cousin about the rightness of her ‘yes” to the angel. Compliments from friends affirm choices we make in our lives. When we hear good news about family and friends how quick are we to offer our congratulations? How quickly do I respond to what I see of the goodness of others?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Even from His Mother’s Womb

December 19, 2009


Saturday of the Third Week of Advent


An angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, “Though you are barren and have had no children, yet you will conceive and bear a son. Now, then, be careful to take no wine or strong drink and to eat nothing unclean. As for the son you will conceive and bear, no razor shall touch his head, for this boy is to be consecrated to God from the womb. It is he who will begin the deliverance of Israel from the power of the Philistines.” Judges 13:3-5


“Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of (the) Lord. He will drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the holy Spirit even from his mother's womb.” Luke 1:13-15


Piety


"Be Not Afraid” by John Michael Talbot

You shall cross the barren desert, but you shall not die of thirst.
You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way.
You shall speak your words in foreign lands and all will understand.
You shall see the face of God and live.


Be not afraid. I go before you always. Come follow me, and I will give you rest.


If you pass through raging waters in the sea, you shall not drown.
If you walk amid the burning flames, you shall not be harmed.
If you stand before the pow'r of hell and death is at your side, know that
I am with you through it all.


Be not afraid. I go before you always. Come follow me, and I will give you rest.


Blessed are your poor, for the kingdom shall be theirs.
Blest are you that weep and mourn, for one day you shall laugh.
And if wicked men insult and hate you all because of me, blessed, blessed are you!


Study


God uses some of the most unlikely figures to lead us to him.


First, he uses an unwed teenage mother who chooses to keep her baby conceived (by the Holy Spirit) out of wedlock. Then, he uses a carpenter-father to round out the Holy Family that guides and helps Jesus make the transition into humanity. Finally, he uses a powerless little baby homeless Jewish baby boy.


Stories in scripture today allow us to see and hear how the Lord used women and men among the Hebrews to draw people closer after they turned away. Despite the more powerful and socially acceptable role played by men in ancient Palestine, sacred scripture today shows the powerful love of two women and how their choice to believe in the message of God delivered by an angel led to lives of quiet piety and action that went far beyond the examples shown by the men in the story.


The women we study throughout Advent accepted the will of the Lord to guide their action. However, it was men who had the most difficulty accepting the Emmanuel (“God with Us”) story – Zechariah, Herod, and others. The accepting and obedient witness by the women is more powerful because Mary and Elizabeth and Manoah’s wife gave up their free will to God and immediately acted upon what was asked of them. While they have more spiritual fortitude at the outset, we see more growth and change (conversion) in some of the men.


The choice to believe makes all the difference. Joseph wants to divorce Mary but changes when he gets the message from God. When Zechariah changed and acted out of obedience by naming his son John as instructed by the angel (even though by Hebrew tradition, that name was not in his family genealogy), Zechariah got his gift of speech restored just as John will restore our soul through baptism that “guides our feet into the path to peace.”


Thus their personal conversion leads to public witness that leads to these women and men playing vital roles in leading people and us closer to the Lord.


Action


How does the Lord use people today to pull us closer and closer and closer to the Him? Who is he using in your life to pull you toward him? Who is he using you to bring into or back into the Church community of believers?


We hope to be like Mary. We want to be obedient like Mary. However, coming from a skeptical society that put primary value on individual (trivial) pursuits, we are all probably going to end up being more like Zechariah most of the time. He doubted the message and was made speechless until his son was born and named. From that conversion, Zechariah learned and communicated some powerful lessons to his family, neighbors and to us. How will you react to the Good News when it falls on your ears? Will you be like Zechariah and have doubts or will you be like Mary and accept it as soon as the words are spoken?


What role will you play in salvation history?

What role will you play in salvation history, Tim?

What role will you play in salvation history, Emily?

What role will you play in salvation history, Ken?

What role will you play in salvation history, Alina?

What role will you play in salvation history, John?

What role will you play in salvation history, Barbara?

What role will you play in salvation history, Clement?

What role will you play in salvation history, Kat?

What role will you play in salvation history, Nate?

What role will you play in salvation history, Phil?

What role will you play in salvation history?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Behold, the Days Are Coming

December 18, 2009

Friday of the Third Week in Advent

By Melanie Rigney

Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David; As king he shall reign and govern wisely, he shall do what is just and right in the land. (Jeremiah 23:5)

O God, with your judgment endow the king, and with your justice, the king’s son; He shall govern your people with justice and your afflicted ones with judgment. (Psalms 72:2)

Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:18-21)

Piety
Lord, I spend so much time planning and doing, especially in this season. Help me to be patient and present to your Word.

Study
Just one week to go! Are you ready?

Just one more weekend of holiday parties! Do you know what you’re going to wear!

Just one more weekend of shopping! Do you know what’s left on your list?

Just one more week to get the house in order for guests and returning family members! Do you have everything you need?

The days are coming, Jeremiah tells us in today’s first reading, for the Messiah. We know that by the calendar too; at least, we think we do. But all too often we spend so much time preparing for the big red date on the calendar that when it arrives, we can’t enjoy it. We’re tired and angry and fractious.

Just one more week to go! Are you ready to honor the birth of he who will save the people from their sins… or are you focused on the partying, shopping, and cleaning?

Action
Set aside at least fifteen minutes today to contemplate God’s goodness.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Save the Poor

December 17, 2009

Thursday of the Third Week in Advent

The scepter shall never depart from Judah, or the mace from between his legs, while tribute is brought to him, and he receives the people's homage. He tethers his donkey to the vine, his purebred ass to the choicest stem. In wine he washes his garments his robe in the blood of grapes. Genesis 49:10-11

O God, give your judgment to the king; your justice to the son of kings; That he may govern your people with justice, your oppressed with right judgment, that the mountains may yield their bounty for the people, and the hills great abundance, that he may defend the oppressed among the people, save the poor and crush the oppressor. Psalm 72:2-4

Piety

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.

“He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” Luke 1:46-55

Study

“The lowly and oppressed shall be saved.” From the Magnificat and throughout the seasonal readings, we hear this theme echo through the dark stillness of the December nights. Advent continues to promise fulfillment of the covenant made with Abraham and a key part of that covenant is to lift up the poor – economically, politically, spiritually and socially.

The passage from Genesis foretells the supremacy of the tribe of Judah, which found its fulfillment in the dynasty of David and ultimately in the Messiah, the Son of David, Jesus Christ. Not merely a political line or monarchy, the king descended from the House of David is expected to restore power to Israel. Justice shall flow to humanity from the rulers put in place by the Lord.

In ancient Palestine, it was the king’s duty to care for the “anawein” – the poor, the widows, the orphans and the elderly. The New Testament adds that responsibility to all of our job descriptions as Christians.

We witness how Jesus loved the Anaweim, the little ones! When Jesus came He would declare, “Unless you become as little children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Yesterday, we saw Jesus deliver love-in-action on the pledge made as part of the Nazareth manifesto (Luke 4:18-22) as he cured the sick, the lame and the blind. Today, the mantle of action passes to us…the people…because of our connections. This is not just a history lesson or family genealogy. The Gospel connects the current generation back to David and David’s generation back to Abraham in order to show that we are all children of God. The promise of this passage Matthew 1:1-17 (http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/matthew/matthew1.htm) is God’s pledge of justice and bounty delivered both first by Jesus and then, by us to each other.

Action

Jacob called his family together and told them the history of his tribe. Who knows your story? Whose story do you know?

As you gather with family and friends this holiday season, take the opportunity to learn more about your family’s story through the ages. Have older relatives talk about their life. Capture these stories so you can pass them down to your children and your children’s children. Once their minds forget, there will be no way to recover these memories, locked forever away like a buried treasure. Once their minds forget, there will be no one who can put the captions on the back of the shoebox full of photographs tucked away in the attic.

Write down your own story of your spiritual journey and struggles. My friend Debora included hers with her Christmas card and then asked people to share their story with her. Take the first step and capture your own story. Then, be like Jacob and share it when you are ready.