Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Announce His Salvation Day After Day

December 31, 2010

The Seventh Day in the Octave of Christmas

By Melanie Rigney

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 2:21)

Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless his name; announce his salvation day after day. (Psalms 96:1-2)

And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only-begotten Son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)


Lord, sometimes I hide behind the dodge that Your intent, Your plan is too difficult to understand for me to put to work in my own life, much less evangelize to the world. I ask that you give me the courage to proclaim Your Truth in thought, word, and deed.


“‘What is truth?’ said jesting Pilate; and would not stay for an answer,” Francis Bacon wrote.

“Truth is meant to save you first, and the comfort comes afterward,” according to Georges Bernanos, author of the award-winning Diary of a Country Priest.

“God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose,” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote. “Take which you please—you can never have both.”

The author of 1 John didn’t have much patience for political correctness in his time. Some people who’d been part of the early Christian community now were saying that Jesus wasn’t the Messiah. Others doubted his humanity. Much like today, everyone had an opinion, a definition of the truth. And the author of the first reading wasn’t having any of it. We know the Truth, he in essence says, and if you deny it, you’re lying. Not “you may be misguided” or “we need to dialogue about this and reach a middle ground.”

Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with compromise. Here in the nation’s capital, we can certainly use more of it as we head into a new congressional session. And friends can agree to disagree on their opinions of books, movies, television shows, fashion, and many other subjects.

But when it comes to Christ, there’s not a lot of room to compromise. As Christians, we can’t believe on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays that he was fully man and fully human and that he arose from the dead so we might have everlasting life, and then on the other days of the week say those facts are open to interpretation. We can’t have it both ways. If we’re going to call ourselves followers of Christ, we must strive always to carry the Truth in our actions, words, and thoughts. For to do less, when we know better, as 1 John says, “is alien to the truth.”


As you contemplate your New Year’s resolutions, ask for God’s help to do as the psalmist says and “announce his salvation day after day.”

About the Child

December 30, 2010

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

There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. 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. Luke 2:36-38


“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has visited and brought redemption to his people. He has raised up a horn for our salvation within the house of David his servant, even as he promised through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old: salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us, to show mercy to our fathers and to be mindful of his holy covenant and of the oath he swore to Abraham our father, and to grant us that, rescued from the hand of enemies, without fear we might worship him in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.” Luke 1:68-75


Simeon and Anna were among the first to encounter the child of Mary and Joseph. They did not need to see any miracles be performed in order to believe that they were in the presence of God. They did not need the leper cleansed, the blind cured, or the lame walk.

Yet theirs was not a faith confined to the temple walls and halls. Even after that brief encounter with Jesus, she went into action – speaking about the child to all who were waiting in hope for the saving of the world as they knew it.

Sometimes I wonder why – of all the time throughout history – the Lord chose to send Jesus into ancient Palestine – poor, dusty, occupied, Palestine. Why did the Lord choose to come into the world fighting for clean water, oppressed by a foreign army, among a people skeptical of his claims?

Maybe because he knew he would find people of faith – people like Mary and Joseph, Anna and Simeon, the disciples and others who would experience true conversion and live out their faith in a way that will set an example for us in our struggles today. Imagine our world if we did not have the cornerstone of these witnesses to help us survive our challenges.

Even those who do not believe in our faith tradition flock to the sites in the world where these early chapters were written in the experience of daily, dusty joy-filled life. On a tour of Coptic Cairo sites where the Holy Family first encountered some of these people, you will encounter people of all faiths – Islam and Judaism, Hindu and Buddhist, Catholic and Protestant – touring these sites to see how this little baby encountered by Anna in the temple has changed the world. Now we must see how this little baby, encountered by us today, will change our lives.


As John’s letter reminds us, blessed are whoever does the will of God. As our new liturgical year gets into full swing following the Advent preparation and in the midst of the celebration of Christmas, we see the theme set forth outlining the struggle we will all experience between the pull of the temptations of the world and our inner self-seeking pleasure against the call from God to engage in work that seeks to help others, not ourselves.

We have just hours before we mark the changing of the calendar into a New Year. Traditionally, we make resolutions. What are you considering for your resolution in 2011? Rather than a spur of the moment decision, consider now what you will do and make a mark on every day of your calendar in January to do something to achieve it. What you can do for 30 days, you can do for 365.

No Ordinary Baby

The Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

By Colleen O’Sullivan

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, the parents of Jesus took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord, and to offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:

“Lord, now 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.”

The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:22-35)

Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice! (Psalm 96:11a)

Two of my close friends just became grandparents for the first time a few weeks ago. The other day I went over to their house for the afternoon to become acquainted with the little fellow. I’d have to say that I haven’t felt that peaceful and contented for a long time. As I held him in my arms, I noticed how sweet he smelled, how soft his skin was, how he opened his eyes and looked at me for a few seconds as if to check and see who it was who had him. He was totally relaxed with a clean, dry diaper, a stomach full of milk and someone to cuddle him. As I gazed upon him, I saw that he has his daddy’s face and his mama’s mouth.

I can picture Mary looking at her little newborn baby, Jesus, examining him in much the same way. She probably counted his fingers and toes, stroked his soft infant hair, checked to see if he had any of her features. Mary probably imagined Jesus growing up helping Joseph with his carpentry work. She also must have recalled the words of the angel Gabriel and been puzzled about how this helpless little baby, who cried when he was hungry or wet or cold, was ever going to fulfill his words, “He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:32-33)

She was likely even more perplexed when she and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple to be presented in accord with Jewish law. There, they encountered Simeon. In today’s reading, we aren’t given a lot of detail about him, but we are told that he was a devout and faithful man and that because of his righteousness, the Holy Spirit had promised him that he would see the Messiah before he departed this life.

We aren’t told whether he looked at Jesus the way I looked at my friends’ grandchild. We don’t know if he noticed his physical features or thought he was a cute baby. What we are told is that the Holy Spirit gave him a glimpse of the reality beyond all that and that he recognized in this child the Messiah, the long-awaited salvation of Israel. Finally, Simeon can die in peace, knowing that he has seen the promised one. After blessing the little family, Simeon told Mary that “this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted.” He also told Mary that she would be pierced by a sword.

Although Mary knew from the moment of conception that her son would be no ordinary child, she must have been totally perplexed at these words.

It’s a mystery to us still – how that baby Jesus who came into our world that first Christmas was both as helpless and dependent as any infant in his humanity and, at the same time, God’s Son, wholly divine, our Redeemer and Savior. And, yet, that is exactly what we celebrate at Christmas.

Take a few minutes during this week between Christmas and New Year’s to put yourself in Mary’s place as she stood in the Temple. Picture the setting as she and Joseph presented their son to the Lord. Feel her wonder and amazement at Simeon’s words and maybe that hint of dread when he told her that a sword would pierce her heart. Try to recapture the wonder of God, packaged as a helpless infant, coming to save us.

Correction: In last Wednesday’s Daily Tripod, I referenced a song that my choir sings. In the midst of pre-Christmas madness, I called it “Beloved,” but it is actually “Behold.”

Rachel Weeps for her Children

December 28 2010

Feast of the Holy Innocents, martyrs

By Beth DeCristofaro

My children, I am writing this to you so that you may not commit sin. But if anyone does sin, 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 2:1-3)

Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. … When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi. Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet: A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more. (Matthew 2: 14, 15-18)


Lord Jesus, as Rachel, mothers and fathers weep for their children even to this day, console and fill them with strength for the tragedies they face. Lord Jesus, as daily your little ones are hurt, hungry, forgotten or exploited, grace them with your presence and the hope of deliverance. Lord Jesus, ignite in me the passion to care and act in order that children know love in their lives rather than violence or hate. Lord Jesus, bless those who work for the safety and education of children.


When as a child I heard this story in Matthew read, it would make me cry. I remember asking my parents again and again – “Why? Why would the king kill all those babies?” And I distinctly remember being glad that I was a girl. Today, as an adult, I know that being a girl in those days would not have kept me safe. In fact, this story seems to be reenacted over and over to this day around the world as children are abused, abandoned, trafficked, blown up by discarded landmines or caught in the lethal altercations of war.

Rachel continues to weep for her children.

Ironically, as you read this on December 28, my family and I will be in Cairo visiting our daughter. We also will be able to stopover at The Coptic Orphans Program. This Christian organization assists orphaned and poor children in Egypt, focusing on children who have no fathers, have special out reach to girls and also disabled children. We will be visiting families, in their own homes, and I know that I will see the workings of the Holy Spirit. These little ones will have more opportunities than they did if there is not the loving efforts of their families, the staff and volunteers of Coptic Orphans. Yet I know they will never have the breaks that my daughters had – and have – as white, middle class Americans. However, they are alive and fed, unlike many millions of children in around the world who are starved or broken almost before their short lives begin. I hope to have some happy, hopeful stories to share.

Jesus came as expiation for all our sins and is Advocate for us before God. But children still die needlessly.

Rachael continues to weep for her children.


In these days following the celebration of the Nativity, do some research and contribute your prayers and perhaps time, talent and money to the wellbeing of children.

The Coptic Orphans website is http://www.copticorphans.org/about-us/programs

The USCCB on human trafficking http://www.usccb.org/mrs/trafficking/index.shtml

Catholic Relief Services https://gifts.crs.org/battling-slave-labor-in-brazil/

Campaign for Human Development http://www.usccb.org/cchd/brakethecycle/pov_usa/

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Our Joy May Be Complete

December 27, 2010
Feast of Saint John, Apostle and evangelist

“What we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; for our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing this so that our joy may be complete.” 1 John 1:3-4

When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. John 20:6-8

Father, while this Christmas season is filled with the joy of the incarnation, our joy can not be complete if we focus only on the babe the manger. Jesus, as we gaze upon you in your crib, you gaze upon us from your cross. Holy Spirit, strengthen our faith and action as you did the faith and action of John the Evangelist. Amen.

Just two days after Christmas, we celebrate the Feast of St. John the Evangelist. The babe is barely warm in his swaddling clothes, yet we focus today on one of the most important of the disciples.

Throughout Advent, we focused on John the Baptist who prepared the way for the Lord. Today’s feast allows us to focus on another significant John, the one who helped show the example of faith in action and then used that faith to proclaim the word.

John challenges us to check how deep our faith in Jesus is. John did not need to touch the wounds like Thomas. John did not retreat to his comfort zone of fishing like Peter. John did not need to be knocked off his horse and blinded like Paul. John just knew what he had witnessed. His faith -- without question -- is the cornerstone we celebrate today.

Do you need to step inside the burial chamber and inspect the empty tomb and cloth left behind? Or do you stand outside the door and know? How far will we go? What will we do with our faith to fulfill the challenge in the second reading and the example of John?

How close are you to Jesus? In this Christmas season, it is quite easy to get close to a baby and cuddle up with Him. Kiss Him. Sing to Him. It is quite another thing to stand at the foot of the cross while your friend and mentor hangs in front of you, a convicted criminal executed by the combined efforts of the government and the local church officials. It is quite another thing to hear his last words uttered while his mother weeps at your side.

For every Christmas, there must be Good Friday. For every Good Friday, there must be Easter. John the Evangelist helps us to focus on the Resurrection part of our faith and not be too blinded by our red-and-green tinted glasses and holiday cookies and decorations.

And Be Thankful

Feast of the Holy Family
December 26, 2010
Holy Family A 2010
By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ
My son, take care of your father when he is old; grieve him not as
long as he lives. Even if his mind fail, be considerate with him;
revile him not in the fullness of your strength. For kindness to a
father will not be forgotten, it will serve as a sin offering--it will
take lasting root. Sirach 3:12-14
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt
compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with
one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against
another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over
all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the
peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were
also called in one body. And be thankful. Colassians 3:12-15
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 2:14-15
I imagine the spiritual journey as the type of dive one does from a
diving board on a tower. We climb Jacob’s ladder looking for our Lord.
What we discover after our climb is an ocean of God’s love below us.
There are many types of dive. Spiritually is the dive we prefer. The
cannon ball makes a big splash and soaks a lot of others with one’s
Spirituality. It is not appreciated by most people. A clean dive goes
deep without creating much of a ripple. Spirituality takes us into an
ever deepening relationship with Christ. When we are searching out a
spirituality, we tend to imitate what we see has gone before us. The
perfect model of family spirituality is the Holy Family. They are the
counterpoint to Trinity. The Trinity touches us in the Holy Family.
The Holy Family models for us what family spirituality is all about.
When we dive into the ocean of God’s love for us, the first ripple
from our dive is our own salvation. What does it profit one to gain
the whole world and suffer the loss of one’s soul? Family relationship
is the be all and the end all of God’s love for us in Jesus and Mary.
Salvation belongs to what the Holy Family has given us in Christ. Love
and obedience ring out in the finding of Jesus in the Temple. Family
needs to be the Temple of God’s love for us. Family finds its own
Jesus in the temple. Our family blessings come from walking together
in the way of the Lord. Heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility,
gentleness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one
another in family, all birth more of the same for those outside of the
family. Family teaches us how to put on love. Family makes it
possible for us to do everything in the name of the Lord.
The challenge of good family is to do everything in the name of the
Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Christ. In the
craziness of our world today there is an incredible need to do the
best we can to protect family. Joseph protects Mary and Jesus by
leading them into exile in Egypt. Loving parents suffer anything and
everything for the sake of their children. Joseph led them back when
he knew again from an angel that they would be safe. Families can be
united in peace and love by the very dangers that threaten families.
The intimacy that arises when dangers that threaten family life are
faced together gives the motivation for the family to stick together.
The family that prays together does so when they are united against
the tidal waves of hatred that rage abroad in our world. Almost half
of the families that surround us are one parent families. Togetherness
shared unites families more than words.

Love is the bond of perfection. Christ is the Word made flesh of God’s
love for the human race. Our best actions are the fleshing out of the
words of Christ by action in our lives. If we are willing to be
homebodies in our world today, we will be somebody special in a world
that is racked by divorce and broken promises. Christ promises to
protect the homes where his love is honored. Each day it is important
to say to those we love our love. Families are holy because of the
love they share. Christ loved us as the Father loved him. Christ
challenges us to live in his love. Love shared makes a Holy Family.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Among Us

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 7:7

In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through a 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. When he had accomplished purification from sins, he took his seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high, as far superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. Hebrews 1:1-4

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

He is with us. But are we with him? O God, you have welcomed us and shown us how much you value us and love us through the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ. May we offer others the same welcome we have received through your grace, remembering that it is your amazing grace that enables us to reach out in love to others. Help us to let go of our fears and insecurities and prejudices so that we may boldly follow Jesus’ example, inviting people to the banquet of your gracious love. Teach us to be a welcoming church that practices Radical Hospitality so that we may draw more and more people into the body of Christ—not for our own selfish pride, Lord, but for your glory alone. Amen.

God, as we move forward in the days ahead, may we always remember that the birth of your Son was not just a cause to celebrate but also was a call to us not to be served but to serve in the same way Jesus came as a vulnerable baby to experience the service-love of the Holy Family and then to be a servant leader among us. Lord, may we remember that it is for your glory—not our own—that we are to welcome others just as the Holy Family welcomed you and as you wait us in heaven like the Prodigal Father to always welcome us home again.

Is this any way for a Superstar to come into the world?

Is this a world which needs a Superstar now more than in Biblical Palestine?

There are two principal parts of the Christ Mass miracle that aree awesome and inspiring. First is the willing-ness of God to express "a love supreme," that he abandoned heaven to come to live among us, with us every day, not just for the 33 or so years of life lived by Jesus of Nazareth but for all time, through all his shared creation, for all people.

Second is the faith that compelled Mary and Joesph to open their minds to the word of God that was revealed and unveiled to them, to open their hearts to the person of God entrusted to them, and to open their lives to the fullness of God encountered in their lives every day. Each day, Mary would rise and make breakfast for the person of God in her midst. Joseph would head to his workshop to make a living to support the family of God. Jesus would do his part in the daily chores to support his parents until he had to make the transition to support the work he was sent to complete.

Whose love was supreme? There is no need to choose. Today we celebrate the incarnation and the radical, extreme hospitality that made it all possible.

How do we react to the presence of God in our lives? Do we great it as an annual event when we celebrate Christmas? Or do we treat it as the Holy Family did -- as a daily event to be lived in the extraordinary times of birth and death as well as on every ordinary day in between?

We can celebrate Christmas today. But why not celebrate it everyday? Why not leave just one of your Christmas decorations out all year long so you can meditate on this love supreme whenever you gaze upon it? That item can be your icon that calls you to piety-prayer when you see it. That also can be your icon that calls you to action-service to those around you whenever you see it. and that item of Chistmas everyday can be your way to study God's presence in your present moment every moment of the year.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Tender Mercy of Our God

December 24, 2010

By Melanie Rigney

Friday of the Fourth Week of Advent

(The Lord spoke to Nathan and bade him tell David:) “I have been with you wherever you went, and I have destroyed all your enemies before you.” (2 Samuel 7:9)

The favors of the Lord I will sing forever; through all generations my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness. (Psalms 89:2)

(Zechariah prophesied of his son John:) “And you, child, will be 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 is 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


Thank You, God, for trying in innumerable ways—including the gift of Your son—to help me understand just how much You love me.


We made it! Whee! Sigh!

On this, the last day of Advent, we’ve prepared as best we could. Maybe we missed sending a card or five. Or maybe there’s a person or two for whom we failed to find the perfect gift. Maybe we weren’t as present to God the past four weeks as we’d hoped to be.

Doesn’t matter. Jesus is coming anyway.

What kind of amazing mercy is that, a God who is with us, just as He was with David, wherever we go, destroying all our enemies, internal and external, before us?

And what does He ask in exchange for this, the greatest Gift, the Gift whose coming we’ll begin celebrating tonight?

That we love Him.

That we love our neighbors as ourselves. And part of that love means being John the Baptist in our own world where we can, being a living testimony to our families, friends, and neighbors to prepare His way into their hearts and souls.

What a bargain. What an incredible bargain. Because in giving to God, we give to ourselves, and make ourselves more open to His grace.

Let Him shine—today, tonight, and always.


Let the Lord’s goodness shine through you.

Prepare the Way Before Me

December 23, 2010

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Advent

Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; And suddenly there will come to the temple the LORD whom you seek, And the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. 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 3:1-3

Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, "What, then, will this child be?" For surely the hand of the Lord was with him. Luke 1:64-66


Father, please send us your messenger and open our ears and eyes so that we will understand what you have to say to us this day. Help us to see the eyes of your Son in all those around us. Oh, Come let us adore Him! Amen.


Ready or not!

Initially, Zechariah was not as ready to hear and act upon the message from the angel of God as were Mary and Joseph. So he paid a price when he was temporarily rendered mute. However, he accepted the invitation from God and prepared a place in his home and his heart for the messenger.

Are your presents wrapped? Jesus wants something form you, too. He wants your presence. Just like Zechariah had to set aside his own doubts and customs, what are you ready to set aside for the Lord?


Our time of preparation near its end. Christmas Eve is upon us in 24 hours. Have you allowed your piety, study and action to take priority over the busy-ness of your season?

There is still time in God’s eyes for you to set aside the wrapping paper, scissors, and credit cards and make time to be with Him as he makes time to dwell with us.

God Has Looked Upon His Lowly Servant

December 22, 2010

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Advent

By Colleen O’Sullivan

In those days, Hannah brought Samuel with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and presented him at the temple of the Lord in Shiloh. After the boy’s father had sacrificed the young bull, Hannah, his mother, approached Eli and said: “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 Samuel there. (I Samuel 1:24-28)

My heart exults in the Lord, my horn is exalted in my God. I have swallowed up my enemies; I rejoice in my victory. The bows of the might are broken, while the tottering gird on strength. The well-fed hire themselves out for bread, while the hungry batten on spoil. The barren wife bears seven sons, while the mother of many languishes. The Lord puts to death and gives life; he casts down to the nether world; he raises up again. The Lord makes poor and makes rich, he humbles, he also exalts. He raises the needy from the dust; from the ash heap he lifts up the poor, To seat them with nobles and make a glorious throne their heritage. (I Samuel 2:1,4-8a)

Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has looked upon his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name. He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm, and has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever.” Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months and then returned to her home. (Luke 1:46-56)


My spirit rejoices in God my savior. (Luke 1:47)


I’ve sung with the Joyful Noise choir at St. Mary of Sorrows Church for almost 14 years. Over the years, we’ve learned many songs, but my favorite is an arrangement of the Magnificat called “Beloved.” The music reflects both the quiet beauty of Mary’s spirit as well as the soaring power of the God who does great things through her, who casts aside the proud and mighty and elevates the lowly, who fulfills his promise of mercy to all Abraham’s descendants.

And yet, the very words in the Magnificat that lift my soul in prayer are a threat to many. As I was studying the Scripture readings for today, I read in several different places that this song of Mary was considered to be so powerful and so subversive by the military in several Latin American countries in the last century that they censured the Scripture passage! Whether or not this is actually the case, I don’t know, but I can see how it could be true, because God’s ways are not the world’s ways. We are sadly often drawn to power, wealth and prestige in this life. If these attract you, it is threatening to read that God could care less about social status and accumulation of possessions; that, in fact, God will scatter the proud, cast down the mighty and lift up the lowly.

That’s exactly what Mary sings about – God lifting up the lowly. After being tipped off by the angel Gabriel about Elizabeth’s pregnancy, she goes to visit her. Elizabeth can’t believe that Mary has come to her. She says it should be the other way around, because Mary is carrying the one who will be her Lord. Mary, in turn, sees before her an older woman, past the age when she could realistically expect to bear a child. Elizabeth is just an ordinary person, yet God has chosen to give her the gift of a child in her later years, a child who will become the forerunner of the Christ. Mary then looks at herself. She is no one special in the eyes of the world. She’s a young woman of no particular renown from a nowhere place in the world betrothed to a simple carpenter. Yet, God has chosen her to bear his Son! No wonder she bursts into song.

In the reading from I Samuel, we read about Hannah, one of Elkanah’s two wives. The other wife has given her husband two sons. Hannah has no children and throughout the years has been ridiculed mercilessly by others because of her barrenness. In the temple at Shiloh, she prays to God for a son and promises to dedicate him to the Lord. God hears her fervent prayers and answers them with a son. In today’s reading, she proves faithful to her word and leaves the young boy Samuel at the temple in the care of Eli, the priest. Like Mary and Elizabeth, Hannah is no one special in the eyes of the world. She, too, sings the praises of the God who breaks the bows of the mighty and exalts the humble in the second reading today.

God can do the most extraordinary things in the lives of very ordinary people if we are open to the Spirit. Hannah, for most of her married life, was resigned to being the childless wife. Elizabeth, an older woman, never dreamed that she and Zechariah would have a son in their later years, let alone a son who would be a forerunner of the Messiah. Mary, a young virgin betrothed to a carpenter, never dreamed of becoming the Mother of God. Yet, because these three women were open to the working of the Spirit, God accomplished great things through them!


During these last few hectic days before Christmas, set aside some quiet time to reflect on your own life. Where you have been open to the Spirit, what extraordinary things has God accomplished in and through you? Keep in mind that “extraordinary” is a relative term. It doesn’t have to be something spectacular from the world’s point of view, just something that you couldn’t or wouldn’t have done without God’s intervention.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Lord, Our Hope Is In You

December 21, 2010
Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Advent

By Beth DeCristofaro

My lover speaks; he says to me, “Arise, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one, and come! “For see, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone. (Song of Songs 2:10-11)

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. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Luke1:41-45)

Our soul waits for the LORD, who is our help and shield.
For in God our hearts rejoice; in your holy name we trust.
May your kindness, LORD, be upon us; we have put our hope in you. (Psalm 33:20-22)

In a column in National Catholic Reporter, Fr. Richard McBrian wrote: “Advent is a month-long liturgical season, ending with Christmas, that focuses the Church's attention on the threefold coming of Christ: in the past, as the Christ-child of Bethlehem; in the present, as spiritual food and drink in the Eucharist; and in the future, as the One who brings history to a gloriously redemptive end.” http://ncronline.org/blogs/essays-theology/advent-meditation

Today in the readings, we have the glorious hope in Song of Songs that recognizes the triumph of Spring over the darkness of Winter. And we have Elizabeth’s exultant words which show that she, a pregnant woman of Israel greeting a beloved kinswoman, recognizes the transcendent reality and promise in that sacred moment. God is present in the truly mundane.

I wonder how much I actually understand and appreciate the presence of Christ available to me in the food and drink of the Eucharist as Elizabeth, and John in her womb, understood the presence of the yet unborn Christ. What I do know is that even without understanding, I have been given the grace to believe; my heart rejoices and in Christ’s holy name I trust that He understands even if I do not. In Mary and Elizabeth’s joyous greeting, I doubt that they truly understood the full ramifications of these births – John’s and Jesus’s – how they would change their world or what suffering all would undergo. But these two women both put their trust in God and rejoiced in the moment of joy that women or men experience who wait upon new life – the Springtime of a redeemed world.

Reread and reflect upon the passage from Luke in which Mary visits Elizabeth. Take time with the passage and put yourself into the story. Be present, through your imagination in the past coming of the Christ-child. Then, the next time you are at Mass, return to your reflection and consider the spiritual food and drink you receive at Eucharist. You can greet Christ just as Elizabeth and John did 2,000 years ago. You are invited through your Baptism and through your participation in the spiritual meal to be part of the glorious redemption at history’s end.

Nothing Will Be Impossible For God

December 20, 2010
Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent

Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God; let it be deep as the nether world, or high as the sky! But Ahaz answered, "I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!" Then he said: Listen, O house of David! Is it not enough for you to weary men, must you also weary my God? Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:11-14

Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her. Luke 1:38

God, help us to get ready for your return by welcoming Jesus into this world in the faces of the people and the places where we go this week. Send your Holy Spirit to make sure that our prayer and work is not just the “busy-ness” of the shopping season, but also that we recognize that Christmas is coming in just six days! Help us rejoice with the awesome message of this season. Amen.

Advertising experts tell us that they have to tell us a message seven times before we hear it and understand it. How much easier it was for the angel of God to communicate with Mary! One time was all it took for Mary to comprehend the full meaning of what was happening.

The people of her faith community had been waiting centuries for God to return. We have been preparing for all of four weeks. Are we as ready as Mary?

Mary must have known today’s passage from Isaiah. Surely she heard it recited often in the temple. In school. In prayer. When the voice of God spoke to her, this poor peasant girl, betrothed to the village carpenter, understood.

As we walk through the malls and drive the decorated streets of our neighborhoods, the decorations of Christmas certainly make the message of the season seem like a very happy one. But consider the pure shock value of the message sent to Mary and Joseph. To the unmarried teenager, you will become pregnant. To the betrothed husband, your wife will carry a baby not conceived with you. Their commerce in local society would be shame and humiliation. Maybe that’s another good reason God arranged for them to fly to Egypt for protection from the judgment of the town elders.

Consider then the shock value of the coming baby. Rather than marching into this world behind a legion of angels with swords and trumpets proclaiming his path in the parade, God is getting ready to come into the world as a naked, vulnerable, crying baby. There is no Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to escort him to Herald Square.

When the voice of God speaks to us, do we understand? Like Mary and Joseph, do we hear what that voice is telling us and act through faith and obedience?

God shares the vulnerability felt by Mary and Joseph. God to be humbled. God to be borne of a virgin. God to cry out in the stable.

When that voice of God cries out to us, will we comprehend the full meaning of what is being said? Look beyond the decorations of the season for the heart of the season as we complete our final week of preparation for the prophecy to be fulfilled.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Let the Lord Enter

December 19, 2010
Fourth Sunday of Advent

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

Then he said: Listen, O house of David! Is it not enough for you to weary men, must you also weary my God? Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:13-14

Through him we have received the grace of apostleship, to bring about the obedience of faith, for the sake of his name, among all the Gentiles, among whom are you also, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ; to all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy. Romans 1:5-7

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 1:19-21

Joseph trusted an angel in a dream. We are called to follow Christ as wide awake as we can be. The mystery of God’s love for the human race is revealed in the birth that is coming. We judge Christ from the vantage point of history. Joseph had only his dream to go on when he went against the common sense of the law and took Mary as his wife rather than put her away. We are called in this last week of Advent to take a close look at what Mary accomplished by saying ‘Yes” to the angel. Our piety is the “Yes” we say to be the presence of Christ to our world by the quality of our life in Christ. We let Christ direct all our decisions by his inspirations.

We study how to be sensitive to the inspirations of Christ. The joy and the consolations that accompany the inspirations of Christ are easy to recognize. Joy is the closeness of Christ that exudes out of our heart when we know we are doing the right thing. Joy is all the more remarkable when is there without any forewarning. Joy surprises us when it is comes without our working at it. Joy belongs to our closeness to Christ. We cannot make joy last any longer than Christ gives it for. Desolation comes from the evil spirit and it is his attempt to keep us from closeness to Christ by making evil attractive to us. Desolation makes it harder to do the right thing. Our doing the right thing when we know what is expected of us is the listening to the inspirations of the Spirit. We give twice as much glory to God when we do what is right when our body is screaming at us to give up. The good actions done under the duress of sadness or desolation mean we loving God for his own sake. When we do things out of love we are not doing them for what we are getting; we are doing them for what we will give.

Joseph is the patron of the hidden life. We know little about Joseph other than his being the carpenter. Joseph is the model for the way Jesus worked at what he did with his hands. How nice it would be to have something that Jesus made. The reality is that we live in his Church. We are the people of God. What the Church is flows out of the miracle of the togetherness of the People of God. The Church is the Mystical body of Christ when we live our goodness together. Whatever we do for the least persons of our life Christ takes as done for himself. We await our celebration of the birth of Christ for one more week. In the meanwhile we are the birthing of Christ in the good we do for each other. We belong to Christ by our holiness. We are called to be the Josephs of the birthing Christ of the Church.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Into Your Home

December 18, 2010
Saturday of the Third Week of Advent

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. In his days Judah shall be saved, Israel shall dwell in security. This is the name they give him: “The LORD our justice.” Jeremiah 23:5-6

“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 1:20-21

Now burn, new born to the world,
Double-natured name,
The heaven-flung, heart-fleshed, maiden-furled
Mid-numbered He in three of the thunder-throne!
Not a dooms-day dazzle in his coming nor dark as he came;
Kind, but royally reclaiming his own;
A released shower, let flash to the shire, not a Lightning of fire hard-hurled.
-- Gerard Manley Hopkins, The Wreck of the Deutschland

The weeks of Advent are now coming to their natural, cyclical conclusion as we get ready to transition into what is now only hours and days away…the re-birth of this God-son into the world.

However, allow me to interrupt these scriptures with a mixed metaphor encountered in the Safeway parking lot. Tonight, I drove past a car sporting the following on its rear bumper: “God is too big for any one religion.” The owner-driver of that vehicle is trying to do exactly what the prophets have tried to do for us throughout this season of preparation and expectation. He is using familiar concepts to describe God and God’s relationship with us. The bumper-sticker stickler uses finite concepts of space to get across the message about the importance of God.

However, God will have nothing of that sort of language. Instead of using terms that denote size and importance, God turns to action and shows us exactly how big and important He really is. To get the point across, God comes back into the world as a tiny, cold, crying, and little powerless Jewish boy in a dirty stable in the middle of nowhere. There is nothing magnificent about the way God comes into the world. Nor is there anything regal about the way He departs.

The message of God, in communion and communication with Mary and Joseph leads this Jewish carpenter-father into action. That message is directed to us as well.

“Anthony, son of Salvatore, do not be afraid to take Jesus into your life.”

“Kat, daughter of Mimi, do not be afraid to take Jesus into your life.”

Fill in your name. The angel of the Lord is bringing that same message to you this season and this week. And the rest of us are included as well.

Joseph and Mary accepted the child as their own. Are you ready to accept this child-God as your own? Are you ready to welcome the new born into your home?

Joseph’s adoption of the child models God’s request of us. God seeks our willing adoption of the child. God was in communion and communication with Mary and Joseph before the rest of us. Now, He is ready to be in communion and communication with us. Are you ready for some saving?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

May All the Nations Regard Him as Favored

December 17, 2010
Friday of the Third Week of Advent

By Melanie Rigney

(Jacob told his sons :) “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.” (Genesis 49:10)

May his name be blessed forever; as long as the sun, may his name endure. May the tribes of the earth give blessings with his name; may all the nations regard him as favored. (Psalms 72:17)

Thus the total number of generations from Abraham to David is fourteen generations; from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations; from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah, fourteen generations. (Matthew 1:17)

Lord, I remember those who have gone before me. May they rest peacefully with You.

In the days that I had spare time, I was somewhat of an amateur genealogist, serving as one of the first contributing editors to Family Tree Magazine. Relatives of my maternal grandfather or I have traced that part of the family back nearly thirty generations, to the Plantagenets in England. There’s nobody famous in our lines, mainly farmers who worked hard along with the occasional preacher, barkeep, turncoat, judge, or bear-fighter (that would be my great-great-great-grandmother Polly Bennett Smith). Some lived for days; other to be more than 100. Some became parents before they were fourteen; others, in their forties. And yet, I draw strength from them all and the challenges they faced—sometimes well, sometimes not so well.

In today’s Gospel reading, Matthew takes great pains to detail the genealogy of Jesus to show his birth as fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. That genealogy includes good people and bad, those who lived godly lives and those who didn’t. In particular, the New American Bible notes:

The women Tamar, Rahab and Ruth and the wife of Uriah, Bathsheba, bore their sons through unions that were in varying degrees strange and unexpected. These “irregularities” culminate in the supreme “irregularity” of the Messiah’s birth of a virgin mother; the age of fulfillment is inaugurated by a creative act of God.

It says so much about God—and the way in which He desires that we conduct our lives—that the Savior he sent came from humble and moneyed people, from good and bad. Jesus’s genealogy is richly tapestried. The regular and the irregular alike would inform his time on earth, healing the sick, comforting the poor, dining with tax collectors. He loved them, “irregularities” notwithstanding. He loves us all, “irregularities” notwithstanding.

Confront your own definition of “irregular” events. Where can you find God in the humanity associated with those events?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

With Great Tenderness

December 16, 2010
Thursday of the Third Week of Advent

For he who has become your husband is your Maker; his name is the LORD of hosts; Your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, called God of all the earth. The LORD calls you back, like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, A wife married in youth and then cast off, says your God. For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great tenderness I will take you back. Isaiah 54:5-7

When the messengers of John had left, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John. “What did you go out to the desert to see--a reed swayed by the wind? Then what did you go out to see? Someone dressed in fine garments? Those who dress luxuriously and live sumptuously are found in royal palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.” Luke 7:24-26

Father, we welcome your tenderness and will return that love by passing it on to others in our world. Watch over us so that we may watch over those around us whose needs exceed their means. Strengthen us so we may strengthen the lonely, the elderly, the orphaned, unemployed, the homeless and all the vulnerable sisters and brothers around us. Amen.

People always look for ways to understand the incomprehensible, to explain the mysterious. One way we do that is with the familiar and known.

So how do we explain God’s love for us? Isaiah turns to the images of the love of a wife and mother, something everyone in his audience and throughout all of time can identify. What can possibly have greater tenderness than the love of a mother for her child or a young wife for her husband? Isaiah implies that the answer is the love of God for all creation. However, just like families endure unhappiness and hardship, our actions caused the Lord to turn his back on us just like in a family squabble.

God wants to repair our relationship and he sends an ambassador to us to heal those open wounds. That ambassador is not some distant person but it is his only Son.

People, whether in ancient time or in the modern world, have common archetypes and images which help us interpret the world. To make sense of the skies, our ancestors came up with the names of the constellations. Even though history was not written down, the oral tradition in its day spread the news through stories common to different cultures and different people.

Isaiah plants in our mind images of familiar stories to come. What popular story comes to mind as you read today’s text? “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great tenderness I will take you back.” Does it call to mind an entire western literary tradition of travel narratives from the Odyssey to Huck Finn, from Don Quixote to Natty Bumpo. …heroes who abandon their homeland but return later? But these wandering heroes also recall our Biblical Prodigal family torn apart by selfishness in the brothers but knit together by the love of the forgiving father.

All of scripture presents us with this look backward, look forward dualism. And through it all, we face a choice of embracing the “AND.” The past AND the future. But we can only do that in the PRESENT. We can not look backward where we have been without also looking forward to where we are heading. We can look forward but we also need to glance in the rear-view mirror to make sure there are no dangers creping upon us.

Advent, too, is such a “between” time. Our readings in these first three weeks take us back into the richest part of the Hebrew Bible and ahead into stories of the adult life and ministry of Christ. We listen to the promise of the prophet and then we realize that John the Baptist also is in our midst announcing the one who is to come. Yet the one who is to come is here and present. Right behind John steps his loving and challenging cousin to fulfill the potential and possibilities that we have hoped for since before the days of the prophet Isaiah.

How can you fulfill the promise of love in the Gospel during the remaining days of the Advent season? How about looking to see what more you can share with the world of the poor?

The temperature outside tonight is going to be down to 18F. Our neighbors are freezing. Winter is the most difficult season of the year for so many of our homeless neighbors. You can help by donating coats, blankets, hats, scarves and gloves to a local charity in your home town.
In addition, we can help make room at the crowded inn of affordable housing by supporting Catholic for Housing. You know the obstacles: rising costs, a housing shortage, cuts in funding, and a growing number of homeless adults and children. Finding affordable housing is not easy and the problem is not going away.

Catholics for Housing gives the elderly and disabled, as well as lower income workers, a fighting chance – with rental assistance for seniors in Fairfax County, security deposit assistance for eligible households, affordable rentals in Arlington, Fairfax, and Fredericksburg, and homeownership initiatives. Can you reach out to them with great tenderness with your time, talent or treasure during this season?

Let Justice Rain Down

December 15, 2010
Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent

By Colleen O’Sullivan

I am the Lord, there is no other; I form the light, and create the darkness, I make well-being and create woe; I, the Lord, do all these things. Let justice descend, O heavens, like dew from above, like gentle rain let the skies drop it down. Let the earth open and salvation bud forth; let justice also spring up! I, the Lord, have created this. (Isaiah 45: 6c-8)

At that time, John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” When the men came to the Lord, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’” At that time Jesus cured many of their diseases, sufferings, and evil spirits; he also granted sight to many who were blind. And Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” (Luke 7:18b-23)

Let the clouds rain down the Just One, and the earth bring forth a Savior. (Isaiah 45:8)

What beautiful imagery we have in our reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah! “Justice descending like dew from above,” coming down upon us like gentle rain, coupled with the earth opening and salvation budding forth. These words come to us from the section in Isaiah known as the Book of Consolation (Is. 40-55). The Israelites have been in captivity in Babylon for many years. Now, at last, freedom is at hand. Their exile is coming to an end. King Cyrus of Persia has conquered Babylon and, through him, the Israelites will be liberated. Justice will prevail. They will be allowed to return home.

God addresses these words to King Cyrus himself, who is the only non-Israelite king in Scripture to be referred to as “anointed one of God.” God wants to remind the Persian king (and all of us as well) that ultimately everything comes from God, that even Cyrus himself is merely acting as God’s instrument in bringing salvation and justice to the Israelites.

Salvation and justice – always inextricably intertwined in Scripture. We witness that in our reading from Luke’s Gospel as well. John the Baptist, imprisoned by Herod, sends two of his disciples to see if Jesus is “the one who is to come” or if they should be expecting someone else. Jesus tells them to go back to John and report what they have witnessed. He knows that John will recognize in him the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy from Isaiah 61 as soon he hears what his disciples have witnessed: the blind have sight, the lame can walk, lepers are healed, and the deaf can hear. Good news is preached to the poor. Even the dead are raised.

Jesus comes to offer all of us salvation, but justice is also always a part of what he offers. Our Lord is always reaching out to the poorest, most vulnerable, most despised among us, because often there is no one else to care about them. That has huge implications for our actions as disciples. It isn’t enough to preach or teach the Word or pray for others. If we truly believe the Church is the Body of Christ in the world today, then we are called to move beyond words to action, to literally reach out and touch the lives of our brothers and sisters who otherwise would be forgotten and left to fend for themselves as best they can on the fringes of our society.

It is the busiest time of year, this run-up to our secular celebration of Christmas. Cards to write, cookies to bake, trees to decorate, gifts to buy, parties to attend! But make some quiet time today to reflect on the needs of those among our brothers and sisters in Christ who will receive no cards, who are worried about daily sustenance more than glittering cookies, who have nowhere to call home, let alone a space to decorate. Even among our friends with sufficient financial means, there are those who are impoverished in other ways – lonely elderly folks in nursing homes or confined to their own homes, the sick, the grieving.

Make a commitment to be the means by which God’s salvation and justice rain down on some particular individual or group today. The possibilities are endless. You could visit a nursing home or an elderly person in your neighborhood, sign up to serve Christmas dinner to the hungry or homeless at an organization like SOME, volunteer to help if your parish is hosting a week of hypothermia shelter this winter. Write a letter to your local representative advocating more funding for affordable housing. Lobby your U.S. representative or U.S. Senator to enact legislation to pave a realistic and fair way for illegal immigrants to become legal. You choose, but be the hands and feet of Christ to someone in some way today.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I Will Restore (My Bride)

December 14, 2010
Memorial of Saint John of the Cross, priest and doctor of the Church

By Beth DeCristofaro

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:
“What is your opinion? 
A man had two sons. 
He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ 
The son said in reply, ‘I will not,’
but afterwards he changed his mind and went.
 The man came to the other son and gave the same order. 
He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go. 
Which of the two did his father’s will?” 
They answered, “The first.” (Matthew 21:28-31)

The Incarnation
(from The Romances)

Now that the time had come
when it would be good
to ransom the bride
serving under the hard yoke
of that law
which Moses had given her,
the Father, with tender love,
spoke in this way:
"Now you see, Son, that your bride
was made in your image,
and so far as she is like you
she will suit you well;
yet she is different, in her flesh,
which your simple being does not have.
In perfect love
this law holds:
that the lover become
like the one he loves;
for the greater their likeness
the greater their delight.
Surely your bride's delight
would greatly increase
were she to see you like her,
in her own flesh."
"My will is yours,"
the Son replied,
"and my glory is
that your will be mine.
This is fitting, Father,
what you, the Most High, say;
for in this way
your goodness will be more
your great power will be seen
and your justice and wisdom.
I will go and tell the world,
spreading the word
of your beauty and sweetness
and of your sovereignty.
I will go seek my bride
and take upon myself
her weariness and labors
in which she suffers so;
and that she may have life,
I will die for her,
and lifting her out of that deep,
I will restore her to you."
St. John of the Cross

Which of the two sons did his father’s will? Jesus asks. I’ve been each of these sons in my life. I’ve also been the onlooker – criticizing. Isaiah and Zephaniah have been telling us that God requires us to do God’s will, not stand and criticize. But these prophets also bring the awesome truth that God’s forgiveness, mercy and love for we critical, recalcitrant, resistant, lying and deceitful people is greater, unlimited and available. In an old hymn the lyrics speak of “me” choosing not to follow Him, yet the Shepherd comes after me and gently puts me on His shoulders to bring me home. God offers more than I deserve.

John of the Cross in his lyrical, breath taking poetry attempted to capture this mystery. God loves the bride and gave the bride to the Son but also fashioned the incredible mystery that the Son becomes as the bride. When I attempt in some small way to understand this, I ask myself, how can I say “no” to the Father? And I can be only joyful that when I next say “no” or do nothing just like the sons in Jesus’ parable, God’s infinite forgiveness and welcome is there for me.

I say “no” in so many ways. I say “yes” but do not follow through. How am I not evangelizing my environment? In what ways is my model not Christ-like? Jesus took the time to look up the tree and invite the sinner, Zacchaeus down to join him in readings last week. Who am I inviting to join me in the work of the Lord? Where is my joy and anticipation as the bride, beloved of God?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Remember Me Only In Light Of Your Love

December 13, 2010
Memorial of Saint Lucy, virgin and martyr

Then Balaam gave voice to his oracle: The utterance of Balaam, son of Beor, the utterance of the man whose eye is true, the utterance of one who hears what God says, and knows what the Most High knows, Of one who sees what the Almighty sees, enraptured and with eyes unveiled. I see him, though not now; I behold him, though not near: A star shall advance from Jacob, and a staff shall rise from Israel. Numbers 24:15-17

“Where was John's baptism from? Was it of heavenly or of human origin?” They discussed this among themselves and said, “If we say ‘Of heavenly origin,’ he will say to us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we fear the crowd, for they all regard John as a prophet.” So they said to Jesus in reply, “We do not know.” Matthew 21:25-27

Make known to me your ways, LORD; teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior. For you I wait all the long day, because of your goodness, LORD. Remember your compassion and love, O LORD; for they are ages old. Remember no more the sins of my youth; remember me only in light of your love. Psalm 25:4-7

“We do not know.”

When you consider all things, we are not really much different from the chief priests and elders. We regard Jesus in his miraculous being yet still we pick and choose which parts of the Good News resonate with ourselves.

When there is an issue regarding the death penalty, the bishops of Virginia speak out and ask Catholics to take action. Some listen. Others turn a deaf ear. “We do not know.” Even when a Catholic sat in the Virginia state governor’s mansion, successful challenges to the death penalty were rare.

When there is an issue of war and the Pope and church leaders speak out against such action, some will listen and other turn a deaf ear. “We do not know.” “No more war. War never again” is not a slogan on some sign carried by a protestor outside the White House. It is a quote from Pope Paul VI in a speech delivered to the United Nations General Assembly in 1965.

Abortion. Euthanasia. Hunger. “We do not know.”

Jesus came to teach us, to make his path known to us. A star shall advance and show us the way. During this holy Advent, let us regard that star and all of its wonderfully challenging teachings.

What teaching of Jesus gives you the hardest challenge to reconcile with your personal action? Take a look at some of the issues outlined and advocated by the USCCB (http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/).

Arms Control
Death Penalty
Economic Justice
International Issues
Labor Issues
Migrants & Refugees
Social Security

Jesus came and challenged the role of the church in the ancient world. Our bishops today remain the voice now bringing the voice of the church into the modern world.

How can you use the remaining days of Advent to get ready for Jesus to come and challenge your views like he challenged the authority of the chief priests and elders?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

He Comes With Vindication

December 12, 2010
Third Sunday of Advent A 2010

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; With divine recompense he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; Then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the dumb will sing. Streams will burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the steppe. Isaiah 35:4-6

“[T]he blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” Matthew 11:5-6

Piety answers the question of the presence of the Lord. When we celebrate the birthday of the Lord, we celebrate his first coming. Every new beginning of the divine touch in our lives recalls the first coming of Christ into our world. As the farmer waits for the showing of what has been planted in the earth, the farmer is patient until it receives the early and the late rains. So our piety waits for the gentle rain of the heavens which is like the coming of Christ into our lives. Christ nourishes our lives by feeding our hunger and our thirst for the things of God. Advent is like the gentle rain that feeds our soul and triggers our desires for the coming of Christ into our lives. John’s question that he sends to Christ from the prison about whether he is the one who is to come receives the answer of the recital of the good works of Christ. What we do today for the hungry, the thirsty, the naked the imprisoned, the sick is how we welcome Christ into our lives. Christ identifies with all the above and as we feed the needs that come our way, we welcome Christ into our lives. Christ calls us to live out the answer he gave to John about how he comes. The Last Judgment scene spells it out. Whatever we do for the least person, Christ takes us done for him. When we allow our needs to be met by another, we celebrate his being one with j us. His Second Coming is a constant of his presence in each of us as we need one another. Christ identifies with our needs. (Matthew 25:40)

The glory of the Lord jumps out on our world through our charity. The best gift I ever got on a Christmas was the notification that a family visited orphans in my name. How wonderful it is to be the recipient of the good that is done by others! We enter into their lives in a special way. The desert and the parched land of our souls thus bloom with abundant flowers. The glory of the Lord shines out on our world through the charity we offer and receive. We are the hand of the Lord when we strengthen the hands that are feeble; make firm the knees that are weak. We are the voice of the Lord when we encourage one another to do the good that needs doing. Wherever there is charity, we have the coming of the Lord. Prophets are ahead the crowd and bear the brunt of the pains of the challenge of change. We are the prophets of the new age when we do something to alleviate the sufferings of our world.

Our actions need to prepare the way of the Lord. We must be the messengers that point out the coming of Christ. But our actions are meant to lay claim to what Christ said about John the Baptist: “The least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Our actions celebrate the coming of Christ in an extraordinary way when we are willing to live out what are words are saying. We will be greater than John if we preach Christ with jour lives. We need to be able to say to our world. “When you see me, you see Christ.” We need to be his presence until he comes in his glory. The words of St. Francis say it all. “Preach always and occasionally use a word.”