Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Pondering and Reflecting

By Colleen O’Sullivan
The Lord bless you and keep you!
The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!
The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!  (Numbers 6:24-26)

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.  Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen just as it had been told to them.  (Luke 2:16-20)

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.  We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell; O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel! 
(from O Little Town of Bethlehem, words by Phillips Brooks, 1835-1893)

Lord, this is the first time I’ve been alone in days.  The shepherds have departed and Joseph has gone to buy food.  My heart is full and I don’t know what any of this means.  As a young girl, whenever I thought of having children, I always pictured being at home, in my own bed, my mother at my side to comfort and help me.  Nothing about the last few months has been what I imagined.  My parents were shamed by my pregnancy.  I don’t know if they believed any of what I told them.  I think they were just relieved when Joseph took me into his home. 

I will never forget the things your messenger Gabriel said to me; your angel’s words are safe in my heart, but what do they mean?  I’ve unwrapped my child and looked him over many times in the past few days.  I’ve counted his fingers and toes, stroked his soft, downy hair.  He looks like any other baby I’ve ever seen.  He cries to be fed or to be changed.  The warmth of my body when I snuggle him settles him.  Yet your messenger said this baby will be great, that he will be called the Most High.  The angel said he will be holy and even said that he is the Son of God!  The shepherds who came this evening said angels had appeared to them, too, saying my baby is the Messiah, the long-expected One.  They came to see my newborn Jesus and referred to him as their Savior as they knelt here in the hay.  I know no one at home would believe that if I told them!

Even though I am feeling overwhelmed and confused, I put my trust in you, O Lord.  I don’t know why you asked me to be the mother of this special child, but I agreed to what you asked and I am a person of my word.  Joseph and I will be the best parents we can.  We will teach him to know you and love you, to be faithful to your Law.  I promise to reflect on these mysteries every day in my heart.  If it be your will, O Lord, I ask that one day you reveal to me their meaning.

Christ chooses to be born in each of us, to enter into our lives at the deepest level.  Spend some time, as Mary must have, pondering the wonder of God’s love, the wonder of being chosen as an object of his great affection.  A lifetime of reflection may bring us closer to understanding the mystery of Divine Love as well as the stark realization of the frequent poverty of our response.

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Word Was, Is, Will Be

Beth DeCristofaro

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)

Thank you God, Father, Son and Spirit, for your overflowing gift of life.  May I in this New Year seek your flowing peace and vitality rather than my own time-limited and dim preoccupations.  May all I do give glory to You and reflect your presence to the world.  With your help and in your name I pray, Lord Jesus, Amen.

Making New Year’s resolutions can be an exercise in sure letdown.  By week two at best, if I remember what my resolution is at all, I realize that I broke or neglected it several times.  Then I tend to just feel guilty, lacking in faith or useless.  In more recent years I have found that “resolutions” or commitments are better realized in the liturgical seasons of Lent and Advent, times of preparation, journey and seeking.  Within the prayers, community and Scripture readings of the Church, I discover guidance, support, and inspiration rather than self-recrimination.

Was it God’s NEW resolution to create?  Fr. Ed Hays’s image is splendid: 
In the beginning, Lord God,
You alone existed: eternally one
yet pregnant in the fullness of unity.
Full to overflowing,
You, Father of All Life, exploded outward
in a billion bits and pieces.
Your Words became flesh …
   (from Canticle of Creation, Prayers for the Domestic Church)

A Blessed New Year to Each and All. 

Resolve to seek God in all things and persons – what do I see each day that brings me closer to God?  If something does not, resolve to leave it behind after, with humility and love, examining it again so that I do not miss a God-presence, a bit of God, that I have over looked.   Does what I say, do, pray, give glory to God or to me?

The Will of God Remains Forever

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 a prophetess, Anna…] 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 2:37B-38

Father, help us to internalize our attraction and identity with you over the world of distractions and its silver pieces of false promises.  As we end another year, our minds and bodies are weary.  Some are overcome by the grief for lost loved ones.  Some are physically sick, emotionally spent, and aging.  Only you can refresh our spirits with newness.  Your perfect loving grace and forgiving mercy is perfected in our weaknesses.  Let us begin again as your chosen daughters and sons in the New Year as we realize that Christ is counting on us as much as we are counting on Christ. Amen.

Did you have a December to remember?  If so, what made it memorable?  Was it your time spent in the Temple or in Target?  Was it your new Lexus in the driveway with the big red bow on it or the baby in the manager in Bethlehem?
Introducing the world class prophetess Anna.  Experience her life in the cold, dark temple.  Hardly the kind of experience that a car manufacturer would tout to get you behind the wheel (and 72 months of payments) for its latest offering.
“But the will of God remains forever.”
If you did any shopping at all in department stores since Thanksgiving, you probably have heard of the theft of 40 million credit and debit card numbers from the computers of Target, the retailer owned by the Dayton-Hudson Company. 
“But the will of God remains forever.”
Of course, the Prophetess Anna never had to worry about identity theft.  There were not too many people in all of Palestine who would want to take her place in the temple from morning, noon and night. 
“But the will of God remains forever.”
With the prospect of our credit history and personal identification numbers stolen, many people are taking steps to protect themselves.  They are putting credit alerts on their files.  They are cancelling credit cards used at Target.  They are changing PIN numbers on debit cards. Over the weeks since this event took place, the company has been (I am being as polite as possible) slow to reveal how it happened or the extent of what was taken from its customers.  However, it has not been slow in offering major discounts to get people back in its stores.
“But the will of God remains forever.”
Jesus just does not work that way.  He does not make us false promises.  He does not bribe us to the Cross with 10 percent discounts.  He tells it like it is.  He adopts us as His own.  He takes away all our burdens on his back.  Just as Anna waited in the Temple for redemption, we get that saving grace freely.  All we have to do it take up our cross daily and follow Him.

What have you done lately to protect and project your Catholic Christian identity?  Are there enough threads out there that such an identity could be revealed if not outright “stolen?”

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Blessed Are All

God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.  Whoever honors his father atones for sins, and preserves himself from them.  When he prays, he is heard; he stores up riches who reveres his mother.  Sirach 3:2-4

Blessed are all who fear the LORD, and who walk in his ways.  What your hands provide you will enjoy; you will be blessed and prosper:  Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your home, your children like young olive plants around your table.  Just so will the man be blessed who fears the LORD.  Psalm 128 1-4

He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, He shall be called a Nazorean.  Matthew 2:23

Piety flows around those things, places and people that are dear in our life. Jesus, Mary and Joseph are family. They are the preeminent family because they are the meeting of the human and the divine.  Trinity as the source of the Holy Family is the home of every family. In a very loose sense of the word, Trinity is family.    The three persons of the Trinity are real persons. They are family as one God. The mystery of their unity is not family. Their unity is in the equality they have in the mystery of Goodness. God is beholden to no other. Family is the richness of history that has its meaning in the ultimate sense of Family in God as the creator of all of us. We would not know God as Trinity if God did not reveal self to us. We honor God as Trinity when we allow the mystery of God to continue. Family is not mystery. It is the mutual gift of mother and father that bring a child into the world. Mary bringing Jesus into our world brought us into the family of God.

The breakup of many families in our time is worth studying. Power, riches and glory can break up family when any one of the trio becomes more important to a spouse than the other spouse. How we commit ourselves to God in the Religious life has the same problem  The commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our mind, heart, soul, strength, in short, with all of ourselves. Intimacy with a spouse covers much more than sexuality and job. How we give our lives for one another is accepting the truth that there might be better people and jobs to tempt us, but family and spouse are the ultimate cement of intimacy and  relationship.  God is willing to share all of himself with us in his Son.  Spouses learn to share all of themselves with each other.  So a marriage will last. The goal is to be on the journey to ultimate togetherness which will be found in Christ, hopefully during life but definitely in heaven. The Son in order to belong to all of us had to give his life for all of us. We study how to belong to God realizing that the father gives us his Son to be one of us. The Son loves us to the extent that he gives his life for all people and leaves us free to accept his gift by the way we live our lives in his name.

Paul gives children the challenge to honor their fathers.  Mothers possess the same authority over their children. How we relate to our parents passes over to our children in how they will honor us. In everything we do, we must try to honor the way Christ loved his human parents and how he loved us.  We will be blessed in how we honor our parents. Family life is a God relationship that gives meaning to how we honor God.  Joseph and Mary, doing what is best for Christ in fleeing to Egypt, offer parents the challenge to bring up their children up in the safety of family love.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Walk in the Light

God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.  If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” while we continue to walk in darkness, we lie and do not act in truth.  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 1:5B-7

When the magi 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.”  Matthew 2:13-14

During this Christmas season, as we pray before the Nativity scene, may we pray in a particular way for those suffering persecution for the faith.  May the joy of Christmas always be in our hearts and we reach out, especially to those who suffer violence, discrimination and all manner of injustice because of their faithfulness to the Good News.(Based on prayers and Tweets from @Pontifex: the Twitter account of Pope Francis)

Jesus may have come in peace but his peace has been met with violence since his birth.  Maybe it is Newton’s Law of Power Politics.  Every act of peace, love and kindness will be met by an equal and opposite act of violence, hatred and aggression.

Within hours of celebrating Christmas, we have two holy days which mark how violent society was when faced with the Christian threat:  the feast of St. Stephen the first martyr and then the Feast of the Holy Innocents whose blood (although not technically Christian) was spilled while Herod sought to eliminate Jesus as a threat to his rule.  It was not until three decades later that his son Herod Antipater presided over the execution of John the Baptist and trial and crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. 

Violence against Jesus and his followers has never let up.  Last week, Michael Gerson, writing in The Washington Post, tackled the subject of the “War on Christians.”  He wrote:

In some parts of the world, Herod’s massacre of the innocents is a living tradition. On Christmas Day in Iraq, 37 people were killed in bomb attacks in Christian districts of Baghdad. Radical Islamists mark — and stain — the season with brutality and intolerance.

The violence, of course, is not restricted by the calendar. In recent months, we’ve seen Coptic Christians gunned down in Cairo and churches burned. Thousands of Syrian Christians have fled to Turkey. “Where we live,” said one refugee, “10 churches have been burned down. ... When the local priest was executed, we decided to leave.

According to Vatican radio, Pope Francis appealed on Thursday for Christians who suffer violence, discrimination and all manner of injustice because of their faithfulness to Christ and His Gospel. The Pope’s call for prayerful solidarity with persecuted faithful came on the Feast of St Stephen, the first martyr, and a day after bomb attacks on a Catholic church and a Christian neighborhood market in Baghdad, Iraq, that killed thirty-eight people. “We are close to those brothers and sisters who, like St. Stephen, are unjustly accused and subjected to violence of various kinds,” said Pope Francis. He went on to say, “This happens especially where religious freedom is still not guaranteed or not fully realized.”

Where can you take the light and spirit of Jesus to bring peace and understanding to someone who is restless and feeling darkness in their faith?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

What Was from the Beginning

By Melanie Rigney

Beloved: What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life—for the life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was made visible to us… (1 John 1:1-2)
Rejoice in the Lord, you just! (Psalm 97:12)
On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. 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 20:1, 2-8)

Lord, I offer up humble thanks for the great messengers You have used to share Your Word, among them Mark, Matthew, Luke, John, Gregory, Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, Teresa, Therese, Catherine, and Hildegard. I ask that You illumine for me as You did for them the ways in which I may serve.

And so he arrived, Emmanuel, God among us. He didn’t stride his way into Rome, kicking rears and taking names. He didn’t march into Jerusalem, at least not at first, proclaiming he was the new sheriff in town.

No, he came into the world the same way we all do, born like hundreds or thousands of other babies were born that day, some in palaces, some in caves, some in mangers. It made him accessible, a little too accessible for many to believe he could possibly be the Messiah.

We celebrated his birth two days ago, or at least attempted to amid the gifts and the parties and the family squabbles and the exhaustion. In today’s Gospel reading, we are reminded how it will all end. He will hang on a cross like common criminals of his day. But there’s a twist: When his friends get to the tomb to prepare him for burial, there’s no body. And because they saw and believed, from his lowly birth or the day at the temple or his baptism or anywhere along his public ministry, all the way to the Ascension, we believe. We believe because they were fearless in their faith and by turns precise and illuminating about the knowledge he bestowed upon them. We believe because we see his work in our lives 2,000 years later, and we know he is the truth and the light and the way.

We may not write as well as John, whose feast day we observe today. We may not be as gifted with the charism of the small ways as Therese of Lisieux. We may not be the mother Mary was, or as indifferent to worldly things as Ignatius was. And yet, in some way, there is something special in the way each of us is called to his service. Just as Jesus’s life for the first thirty-three years was for the most part unknown, so the greater world may never know what we do for him while we are here on earth. But he will. And that is all that matters.

As you take a breath in the weeks between Christmas and Lent, what can you do to keep your focus on serving the Lord?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Wisdom and the Spirit

Stephen, filled with grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people.  Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen, Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and people from Cilicia and Asia, came forward and debated with Stephen, but they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.  Acts 6:8-10

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.  Matthew 10:19-20

Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.  Psalm 31:6 and Luke 23:46

On this day after the birth of Jesus is celebrated, there is a certain irony in hearing the Psalm picking up words which were among the last words uttered by Jesus on the cross.  Words.  Words like these have been getting the prophets into trouble throughout salvation history.

Our first reading is about how the words of St. Stephen stirred the people to violence making him the first martyr of the young church after Jesus.  From the dawn breaking on the Prince of Peace as an innocent baby, we see that the more the Church challenges the status quo, the more defensive its defenders will get.

Pope Francis and the wisdom and spirit of his words provoked a similar reaction in his recent exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel: Evangelii Gaudium,” a critique that pits the Good News against the excesses of capitalism in the same way that Moses took on those who worshipped the golden calf.  In addition to seeing the prescription of the Gospel as one remedy, the Holy Father also prayed for leaders who would seek balance between the needs of the many poor and the needs of the wealthy: “I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor! It is vital that government leaders and financial leaders take heed and broaden their horizons, working to ensure that all citizens have dignified work, education and healthcare."

The title of this latest exhortation reminds us of another writing on the Good News from the Vatican:  “Gaudium et Spes,” the Vatican II Constitution on the Church in the Modern World.  More than 50 years ago, that document proposed that “strenuous efforts must be made, without disregarding the rights of persons or the natural qualities of each country, to remove as quickly as possible the immense economic inequalities, which now exist and in many cases are growing and which are connected with individual and social discrimination.” 

As a society and a Church, we have traveled long and far yet made so little progress. Maybe that is why the Holy Spirit propelled Pope Francis to restate this wisdom.  

Rather than throwing our spirits into the hands of Target or Toyota, Nike or Nestle, Gucci or the Gap, consider the direction that the Gospel points us toward. As the song says, “People Look East.  The time is near.” 

From the USCCB website, you can see further evidence that the concern about a just economy is not a new teaching.  According to the USCCB, “The most effective way to build a just economy is to make decent work at decent wages available for all those capable of working. When the economy fails to generate sufficient jobs, there is a moral obligation to protect the life and dignity of unemployed and underemployed workers and their families.”

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development has resources to keep the Church and her people focused on the plight of those whom the economy is leaving behind – the people who are unemployed, underemployed and/or poor.  Sign up today to get the Action Alerts sent out from the bishops program Poverty USA.

To keep your compass pointed in the right direction, get ready to make January Poverty Awareness Month.  http://www.povertyusa.org/get-involved/action-alerts/

The Word Became Flesh

By Colleen O’Sullivan
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…  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…  No one has ever seen God.  The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.   (John 1:1-5, 14, 18)

Mary, did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am.
(from Mary, Did You Know?, lyrics by Mark Lowry, 1984

No stable?  No baby in a manger?  No heavenly choir of angels singing?  No shepherds adoring the newborn little boy?  No, not in John’s Gospel.  We often manage to get so caught up in these details that we miss the greater meaning of Christmas.  John doesn’t want us to sentimentalize the details of that first Christmas and get stuck in Bethlehem more than two thousand years ago.  He wants us to reflect on what Jesus’ birth means for all time.

In some of the most poetic language in the Scriptures, John says the Word, which was God, became flesh.  In a literal translation from the Greek, Jesus “pitched his tent among us.”  I know that has to be Love, because when I look at my life, my sins and weaknesses, and the world around me, I don’t see an attractive, inviting campground for the Lord.  Not only did Jesus desire to come and be with us, he chose to be like us in every way but sin.  He wanted to be one of us, to experience all that you and I experience in life.  So we have a Savior who understands us from the inside out, a Savior with whom we can share anything and everything in prayer.

John says what Jesus brought to the world was Light.  No matter how dark our lives or the world may seem, this Light can never be overcome.  And maybe that’s the best news of Christmas.  If we live in the Light, we are children of God and God will deliver us from evil. 

Spend a few minutes today prayerfully reading John 1:1-18.  Imagine Mary holding the Word, the Light of the World in her arms that first Christmas.  She, like the rest of us, had much to learn about the child born in the stable in Bethlehem.

May your Christmas be filled with joy!

Monday, December 23, 2013

God’s Tender Compassion Breaks Upon Us

By Beth DeCristofaro

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? … Your house and your Kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.’” (2 Samuel 7:5, 16)

In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”  (Luke 1: 59)

Dear God, Shall I play for you?
I’ll play my drum for You, pa rum pum pum pum
I”ll play my best for You, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,
Then He’ll smile at me, pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum.
        (adapted from “The Little Drummer Boy”)

For many, many years I felt pretty dusty, fairly unable to “reach” God in prayer.  In Mass, I recited “Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but say the Word and my soul shall be healed,” with more sadness than joy.  Healing comes in many forms and today these words resonate with more hope and surety.  Advent is a special time of year wherein I generally strive to be more attentive to the movement of God within the world and the presence of Jesus around me.  However, Advent 2013 has been hectic, stressful and way too rapid for me.  It is with a sense of wonder and delight, then, that I realize through today’s readings just how much God wants me to receive Him and how much healing God has in store for me. 

In 2012, Richard Rohr’s Christmas Eve reflection included:  “In Jesus, God achieved the perfect synthesis of the divine and the human. The incarnation of Jesus demonstrates that God meets us where we are as humans. God freely and fully overcomes the gap from God’s side. The problem of redemption is already resolved once and for all, long before its dramatic illustration on the cross.  …  In a weak little child, God is both perfectly hidden and perfectly revealed—and fully loveable. Tonight we celebrate this wonderful mystery.” (http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Daily-Meditation--Incarnation----Christmas-Eve----December-24--2012.html?soid=1103098668616&aid=zeKjGnrI8rU)

Download your favorite Christmas Carol to a device you can access anytime.  Play your song for yourself and God every month or so.  Look around you and see to whom you can give a “Christmas” gift of yourself when you play your song.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

What Then Will This Child Be?

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.  Malachi 3:1B-2

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 1:66

In his Sunday homily on the Fourth Sunday of Advent at St. Mary of Sorrows, Parochial Vicar Rev. Christopher Hayes quoted this prayer by John Henry Cardinal Newman. While this applies well to the story of Joseph in Sunday’s Good News, so too does it apply to Zechariah, John the Baptizer and us.

The Mission of My Life
God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments. Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.

Suddenly, Advent is almost over (it seems before it began).  We are not ready for the birth any more than the disciples in the locked upper room were ready for the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday. 

The Bible is filled with stories of people who are not ready.  Zechariah was not ready to hear the message about his son.  In his disbelief, the angel temporarily rendered him mute.   While mute, he could neither question the Lord any further about the grand plan for his life nor could he tell his clan what happened in the temple.  Words got Zechariah into trouble but his actions – following the Lord’s plan not his own – got him out of his predicament. 

What parent has not looked with wonder down upon their child and tried to figure out what their new son or daughter would become.

What wonders did the Bergoglio family imagine for Jorge Mario?  Living in Vatican City was probably the farthest thing from their mind. 

Did the Washington’s know that little George would grow up to lead the colonies against an empire until he resigned as commander-in-chief of the Army and retired to his home at Mount Vernon, Va. on this date in 1783?

Did the Moore family would wonder what would come of little Clement, never guessing that on this date in 1823, he would publish the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas?”

The Nichols family certainly did not suspect that their little Terry would be convicted on this date in 1997 by a federal jury in Denver of involuntary manslaughter and conspiracy for his role in the Oklahoma City bombing.

Nor did the Malvo family ever consider that baby Lee would get sentenced to life in prison on this date in 2003 from a jury in Chesapeake, Va., for his role as the teen sniper.

We have a choice to find our role in His plan to go about our own way.  His role can be quite disruptive to the life we think we want to lead.  Look at Joseph.  Look at Zechariah.  Look in the mirror and rad the prayer by Cardinal Newman.

Today’s scriptures are singed with references to the “great and terrible day” that the Lord “suddenly” sends a messenger.  As you hang on the words, are you ready?  Are we ready for that messenger?  What will become of us? How can we get out of the predicament of our lives by following His way, not our own?  How will we endure the day of His coming when he starts throwing our plans into the refiner’s fire and the fuller’s lye?

What then will I be?

Saturday, December 21, 2013


By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

Listen, O house of David!  Is it not enough for you to weary people, must you also weary my God?  Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.  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 1:5-7A

When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.  Matthew 1:24

Advent is built around the coming of Jesus as our Savior.  He comes that we may have life and have it more abundantly.  We are created to the image and likeness of God.  Our piety reveals the likeness.  We have in the celebration of the birth of Christ that is soon to be upon us the statement that our humanness has a God dimension.  It is not that we have to see beyond the sign.  The sign that the baby of Nazareth is gives us our humanness as a sign of the presence of God in us.  How we put Christ into our lives by our prayer and good works that have their beginnings in the inspirations of God is what our piety is all about.  The force of God’s love that is in the interior of our lives flows to the exterior by our prayer and good works.  The truth of our piety is in the interior but the reality of our piety is seen in the sign that our good actions are.  The externals of piety are the signs that God is with us.  The truth of piety is in the relation of the externals of our piety to the truth of our loving God.  
We study how to keep our hands sinless and our hearts clean.  Paul calls himself the slave of Christ.    Our study of Christ allows us to put on his mind and his heart.  The exchange of hearts is the richness of our growing up into Christ.    We are so much more than slaves of Christ.  Our study not only allows us to welcome Christ into our lives but it also makes it possible to live an even greater presence of Christ in our lives.  We go back to our beginnings so that we may enthrone Christ in our hearts by dedicating all that we are and all that we have done to his name.  We study the Morning Offering and our personal prayers of turning over our lives over to Christ so that we can mean our prayers at a deeper level in our hearts as we grow more and more into Christ.  
We work at giving God carte blanche in our lives.  We invite God to initiate every action of our lives and we ask God to carry them out with his gracious assistance.  Thus every action of our lives can begin through him and be carried out through him.  We open wide the doors of our hearts that the Christ who made us temples of the Holy Spirit will no longer be a prisoner of our hearts.  We work at making Christ the center of our lives and hope to arrive at that day when Christ will truly be our all.  Even as Emmanuel means God is with us we take on the name of Christian so that we might be not just like Christ but real “Christs” to each other.    


Here he stands behind our wall, gazing through the windows, peering through the lattices.  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.  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.  Song of Songs 2:9B-12

“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 1:44-45

What does the presence of someone do to you?

In our reading from Songs, the lover is compared to a gazelle at the gates.  All senses come alive.  The lover speaks.  We see that winter is past.  We hear the songs of nature.  We work with our hands to prune the trees. 

We have a big window at the back of our house.  Through it, we can regularly see deer, wild turkeys and other animals passing through our yard.  They will approach the house and stand there not even noticing us inside.  When they approach, we’ll often run to get a camera to “capture” the sight of nature so up close and personal.

Think of the excitement you get waiting for a visitor either at home or arriving at Union Station or National Airport.  Maybe you have been anticipating the arrival for weeks (or even months) when the day finally arrives.  That joy is only exceeded by the energy of the surprise visitor who comes home when you least expect them.  A college student stealing home for the weekend.  A sibling showing up unannounced for the holidays.

Elizabeth experiences and exclaims how such presence affects her own emotional state and the baby growing inside her.   At the very moment her cousin Mary arrived, her heart and her baby leaped for joy.

In Cursillo, we often talk with our group reunions of the close moments we have with Christ.  Those moments occur because we make ourselves aware of how others represent Christ coming into our world. In days, we will celebrate the divine touching the human, the infinite infant touching the finite.  Yet Christmas is not only a season but can be a regular occurrence when we are open to being aware of such encounters, to such epiphanies.

These Little Christmases happen in our lives.  We must stay alert to sense when they occur.  Listen to what is being spoken to us through others.  Who will be your herald angel this week announcing Christ among you and your family?  To whom will you be the herald angel?

Friday, December 20, 2013

Nothing Will Be Impossible for God

Friday of the Third Week of Advent

By Melanie Rigney

Isaiah said: Listen, O house of David! Is it not enough for you to weary men, but you also weary my God? (Isaiah 7:13) 

Let the Lord enter; he is the king of glory. (Psalm 24:7, 10) 

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)

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

Can you think of eighteen more challenging words in the Bible?

Here’s this simple young girl, a faithful servant of God. But faithful servant or no, we have no indication that talking with angels has been a regular part of her life.

The angel promises so much: That God loves her. That she’s going to have a baby and name him Jesus. That he’s going to sit on a throne and be king forever and ever.

Mary doesn’t ask anything about this whole kingship thing or about the import of the baby’s name. No, this faithful servant zeroes in on what any woman would. She knows where babies come from. She also knows the likely reaction of her fiancĂ© and her family and neighbors if she turns up pregnant before the wedding. The angel makes a vague comment about the Holy Spirit and about her aging relative’s pregnancy, concluding with “nothing will be impossible for God.”

And Mary surrenders. She surrenders her doubts, her concerns, her will. She keeps her faith… and that’s all she will need, in the next nine months and for the rest of her life. It is everything.

What do you need to surrender? Ask Mary’s intercession in believing you have faith enough to let go.