Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Pope Prays for 2014 Synod of Bishops

On the feast of the Holy Family, the Pope noted that the family is the theme of the upcoming synod.

12/29/2013 Comments (1)
Kyle Burkhart / CNA
– Kyle Burkhart / CNA
VATICAN CITY — In his Angelus address given on the feast of the Holy Family, Pope Francis prayed especially for the approaching Synod of Bishops, which will discuss pastoral challenges to the family.
“The next Synod of Bishops will address the theme of the family, and the preparatory phase has already begun some time ago. For this reason, today, [on] the feast of the Holy Family, I wish to entrust this synodal work to Jesus, Mary and Joseph, praying for families around the world,” he said Dec. 29 in St. Peter’s Square.
Asking the crowds that packed St. Peter’s Square and the surrounding streets to join with him spiritually, Pope Francis prayed, “Holy Family of Nazareth, may the approaching Synod of Bishops make us once more mindful of the sacredness and inviolability of the family and its beauty in God’s plan.”
The Pope dedicated his Angelus message to considering Jesus’ own family as an example for families everywhere. “God wanted to be born in a human family; he wanted to have a mother and a father, like us,” he explained.
“It’s an example that does much good for our families, helping them to become ever more a community of love and reconciliation, in which one experiences tenderness, mutual help and mutual forgiveness.”
Jesus’ own family was not without its difficulties, the Holy Father noted.
Forced to flee to Egypt to escape being killed by Herod, “Joseph, Mary and Jesus experienced the dramatic condition of refugees, marked by fear, uncertainty, need.”
Unfortunately, Pope Francis continued, “in our day, millions of families can see themselves in this sad reality.” Refugees and immigrants do not always find “true welcome [or] respect.”
Yet “Jesus wanted to belong to a family that had experienced these difficulties,” to show that no one “is excluded from the nearness of God’s love.”
“The flight into Egypt because of Herod’s threats shows us that God is also there — there, where man is in danger; there, where man suffers; there, where he escapes, where he experiences rejection and abandonment; but he is also where man dreams, hoping to return to his homeland in freedom, designing and choosing a life of dignity for himself and his family.”
Even in families who do not face such dramatic circumstances, “exiled persons” can be found, noted the Pope — “the elderly, for example, who sometimes are treated as a burdensome presence.”
“Many times I think that one sign to know how a family is doing is to see how the children and elderly are treated in it,” he said.
Pope Francis then repeated one of his oft-used instructions on family life. “Remember the three key phrases: Excuse me; thank you; I’m sorry!” he exhorted the crowds, who cheered in response.
In a family that uses these words, “there is peace and joy,” he assured them.
“Repeat it with me, everyone together!” the Pope urged. “Excuse me; thank you; I’m sorry.”
The Holy Father closed by greeting the many pilgrim groups who had traveled to Rome and wishing everyone a happy feast day.  

Pope to Give Thanks for Graces of 2013

Will Lead Vespers, Te Deum on Last Day of Year
VATICAN CITY, December 30, 2013 (Zenit.org) - On Tuesday evening, December 31 at 5:00 p.m. local time in St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Francis will preside at a celebration of Vespers (Evening prayer of the Church) that will include the singing of the Te Deum prayer.
The Te Deum, also sometimes called the Ambrosian Hymn because of its association with St. Ambrose, is a traditional hymn of joy and thanksgiving.
First attributed to Sts.  Ambrose, Augustine, or Hilary, it is now accredited to Nicetas, Bishop of Remesiana; (4th century).
It is used at the conclusion of the Office of the Readings for the Liturgy of the Hours on Sundays outside Lent, daily during the Octaves of Christmas and Easter, and on Solemnities and Feast Days.  It is often recited in thanksgiving on the last day of the year.

Here is an English translation of the Latin prayer:

Te Deum
(Opening Latin words: Te Deum laudamus: te Dominum confitemur)

O God, we praise Thee, and acknowledge Thee to be the supreme Lord.
Everlasting Father, all the earth worships Thee.
All the Angels, the heavens and all angelic powers,
All the Cherubim and Seraphim, continuously cry to Thee:
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts!
Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty of Thy glory.
The glorious choir of the Apostles,
The wonderful company of Prophets,
The white-robed army of Martyrs, praise Thee.
Holy Church throughout the world acknowledges Thee:
The Father of infinite Majesty;
Thy adorable, true and only Son;
Also the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.
O Christ, Thou art the King of glory!
Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father.
When Thou tookest it upon Thyself to deliver man,
Thou didst not disdain the Virgin's womb.
Having overcome the sting of death, Thou opened the Kingdom of Heaven to all
believers.
Thou sitest at the right hand of God in the glory of the Father.
We believe that Thou willst come to be our Judge.
We, therefore, beg Thee to help Thy servants whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy
Precious Blood.
Let them be numbered with Thy Saints in everlasting glory.
V.  Save Thy people, O Lord, and bless Thy inheritance!
R.  Govern them, and raise them up forever.
V.  Every day we thank Thee.
R.  And we praise Thy Name forever, yes, forever and ever.
V.  O Lord, deign to keep us from sin this day.
R.  Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us.
V.  Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, for we have hoped in Thee.
R.  O Lord, in Thee I have put my trust; let me never be put to shame.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Daily Prayer

She was advanced in years…

Loving Father,

I remember reading
that when Jesus died on the cross
only some ten percent of the
population was older than he was.

If that is so, I imagine that the prophetess
Anna did not know many people her own age.

Father, I am advancing in years.
That’s hard to even admit in a culture
that so values youth.
Aging scares me, but I also know
how lucky I am to have lived at all,
and to have reached the age I have.

Thank you, God, for the gift of my life.
Thank you for all the years I have had
and for whatever lies ahead.

Father, may the prophetess Anna
inspire me to know that I am never too old
to build a relationship with you,
never too old to recognize your Son
coming into the world,
and never too old to speak to the world
about Jesus, in my words and deeds.

Like Anna, and Jesus,
help me to grow in wisdom
and in the knowledge
that you are always with me.
Amen.

Start the New Year With the Holy Family and Mary

Why the Church Focuses on the Mother of God and the Prince of Peace

Sunday, Dec 29, 2013 6:49 AM Comments (1)
On Jan. 1, the Church celebrates one of the most important feast days of the Catholic liturgical year: the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.
The feast, which shares the date with New Year’s Day, has its roots in the Council of Ephesus, in 431 A.D.
At the Council, Mary was formally given the title, Theotokos (Mother of God). The Council Fathers declared that Christ’s divinity and humanity cannot be separated and exist in one person. Therefore, Mary, as Mother of Jesus, is also Mother of God.
In 1970, Pope Paul VI instituted the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. In his encyclical on devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Marialis Cultus, he wrote, "This celebration, assigned to Jan. 1 in conformity with the ancient liturgy of the city of Rome, is meant to commemorate the part played by Mary in this mystery of salvation. It is meant also to exalt the singular dignity which this mystery brings to the ‘holy Mother … through whom we were found worthy … to receive the Author of life.’"
It is a holy day of obligation, but it still tends to be overshadowed by New Year’s festivities.
Perhaps that’s because some people don’t fully understand the solemnity’s importance.
"The Church puts the feast of this solemnity on the first day of the new year to emphasize the importance of Mary’s role in the life of Christ and of the Church," said Schoenstatt Father Gerold Langsch. "We commemorate the various saints on the different days of the year, but Mary is the most prominent of them all." 
"She has a special role and mission given to her by God. As Mother of our Redeemer and of the redeemed, she reigns as the Queen at the side of Christ the King. She is a powerful intercessor for all of our needs here on earth. In celebrating her special feast day, we acknowledge this great gift for the Church and world; we call on her to be actively involved in our daily life; we imitate her virtuous life as a great inspiration; and we cooperate with all the graces we get through her," he added.
There’s nothing wrong with celebrating the new year — but this religious holy day should not be second place to secular festivities.
Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle — a popular EWTN TV host and author of several books on Catholic motherhood and the faith — says that, growing up, Jan. 1 was a day to visit relatives or have them come visit. They kept Mary prominent as they shared each other’s company.
With her own family as a wife and mother, Cooper O’Boyle has always made an effort to bring Mary even more to the foreground on her solemnity. "Mass is most important, of course," she said. "In addition, I like to make a nice dinner and dessert to celebrate Mary’s day. I remind the family that, even though it’s New Year’s Day, it is, more importantly, Mary’s feast day."
For families who’d like to bring Mary more into the foreground this Jan. 1, Cooper O’Boyle recommends a few simple ways.
"Plan to go to Mass on either the vigil or Jan. 1. Talk to the family about Mother Mary on her feast day. Pray a Hail Mary or decade of the Rosary together at the dinner table. Make Mary a central part of your day."
There’s an underlying theme that we might also want to note in our observance of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. That’s peace.
"The solemnity shows the relationship of Jesus to Mary," said Father Bertrand Buby of the University of Dayton. "It’s a perfect example of how we should venerate Mary under all of her titles and is a good foundation for our understanding of Mary’s place in Christology."
"Pope Paul VI made the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God in order to tie Mary, Mother of God into an earlier feast that he had set up for peace," said Father Buby. "So it’s a good idea for us as Catholics to celebrate the solemnity with peace in the background."
The World Day of Peace also takes place on Jan. 1 in the Catholic liturgical calendar as part of the Christmas season. It was instituted by Pope Paul VI in 1967 upon the inspiration of Pope John XXIII’s 1963 encyclical, Pacem in Terris.
In Marialis Cultus, Pope Paul VI wrote, "It is likewise a fitting occasion for renewed adoration of the newborn Prince of Peace, for listening once more to the glad tidings of the angels and for imploring from God, through the Queen of Peace, the supreme gift of peace. For this reason … we have instituted the World Day of Peace, an observance that is gaining increasing support and is already bringing forth fruits of peace in the hearts of many."
Both of these feasts come on the heels of another major one: the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, celebrated the Sunday after Christmas (this year, Dec. 29). It’s fitting, then, that we draw a progression from one to the other. The Prince of Peace was born into the Holy Family, thus making Mary the Mother of God.
As we celebrate Mary this Jan. 1, we can pray with Pope Francis, who ended his recent exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), with the following prayer:
Mary, Virgin and Mother, you who, moved by the Holy Spirit, welcomed the Word of Life in the depths of your humble faith:
As you gave yourself completely to the Eternal One, help us to say our own "Yes" to the urgent call, as pressing as ever, to proclaim the good news of Jesus.
Filled with Christ’s presence, you brought joy to John the Baptist, making him exult in the womb of his mother.
Brimming over with joy, you sang of the great things done by God. Standing at the foot of the cross with unyielding faith, you received the joyful comfort of the Resurrection and joined the disciples in awaiting the Spirit, so that the evangelizing Church might be born.
Obtain for us now a new ardor born of the Resurrection, that we may bring to all the Gospel of life, which triumphs over death.
Give us a holy courage to seek new paths, that the gift of unfading beauty may reach every man and woman.
Virgin of listening and contemplation, Mother of love, Bride of the eternal wedding feast, pray for the Church, whose pure icon you are, that she may never be closed in on herself or lose her passion for establishing God’s Kingdom.
Star of the New Evangelization, help us to bear radiant witness to communion, service, ardent and generous faith, justice and love of the poor, that the joy of the Gospel may reach to the ends of the earth, illuminating even the fringes of our world.
Mother of the living Gospel, wellspring of happiness for God’s little ones, pray for us.
Amen. Alleluia!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Homily for Today


Welcome my brothers and sisters in Christ to today's celebration of the Holy Mass that commemorates the Feast of the Holy Family. With the closing of the year, this is an appropriate time to review the status of one's family life. And with the opening of a New year, this review provides the family with the opportunity to strive where weaknesses exist.

During the Reading from the Gospel of Matthew, we heard, "There he (Joseph) made his home." [Mt. 2:13] Accordingly, today's homily shall be centered on what it means to "make one's home." What is necessary to ensure the physical and spiritual continuity, security and stability of the family life?

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we read, "May Nazareth teach us what family life is, its communion of love, its austere and simple beauty, and its sacred and inviolable character..." (C.C.C. # 533; Paul VI at Nazareth, 5 January 1964) Elsewhere, it states, "The Christian home is the place where children receive the first proclamation of the faith. For this reason the family home is rightly called 'the domestic church,' a community of grace and prayer, a school of human virtues and of Christian charity." (C.C.C. # 1666)

Let us begin by reviewing the teachings of the Catholic Church regarding "the nature of the family." (C.C.C. # 2201-3) "The conjugal community is established upon the consent of the spouses. Marriage and the family are ordered to the good of the spouses and to the procreation and education of children. The love of the spouses and the begetting of children create among members of the same family personal relationships and primordial responsibilities." (C.C.C. # 2201)

"A man and a woman united in marriage, together with their children, form a family. This institution is prior to any recognition by public authority, which has an obligation to recognize it. It should be considered the normal reference point by which the different forms of family relationship are to be evaluated." (C.C.C. # 2202)

"In creating man and woman, God instituted the human family and endowed it with its fundamental constitution. Its members are persons equal in dignity. For the common good of its members and of society, the family necessarily has manifold responsibilities, rights, and duties." (C.C.C. # 2202)

What is a Christian family? "'The Christian family constitutes a specific revelation and realization of ecclesial communion, and for this reason it can and should be called a domestic church.' [FC 21; LG 11] It is a community of faith, hope, and charity; it assumes singular importance in the Church, as is evident in the New Testament. [Eph. 5:21-6:4; Col 3:18-21; 1 Pet. 3:1-7] (C.C.C. # 2204)

"The Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. In the procreation and education of children it reflects the Father's work of creation. It is called to partake of the prayer and sacrifice of Christ. Daily prayer and the reading of the Word of God strengthen it in charity. The Christian family has an evangelizing and missionary task." (C.C.C. # 2205)

"The relationships within the family bring an affinity of feelings, affections and interests, arising above all from the members' respect for one another. The family is a privileged community called to achieve a 'sharing of thought and common deliberation by the spouses as well as their eager cooperation as parents in the children's upbringing.' [GS 52.1] (C.C.C. # 2206)

What is the role of the family in society? "The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life. Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society. The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honour God, and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society." (C.C.C. # 2207)

"The family should live in such a way that its members learn to care and take responsibility for the young, the old, the sick, the handicapped, and the poor. There are many families who are at times incapable of providing this help. It devolves then on other persons, other families, and, in a subsidiary way, society to provide for their needs: 'Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.'" [Jas. 1:27] (C.C.C. # 2208)

"The family must be helped and defended by appropriate social measures. Where families cannot fulfill their responsibilities, other social bodies have the duty of helping them and of supporting the institution of the family. Following the principle of subsidiarity, larger communities should take care not to usurp the family's prerogatives or interfere in its life." (C.C.C. # 2209)

"The importance of the family for the life and well-being of society [GS 47.1] entails a particular responsibility for society to support and strengthen marriage and the family. Civil authority should consider it a grave duty 'to acknowledge the true nature of marriage and the family, to protect and foster them, to safeguard public morality, and promote domestic prosperity.'" [GS 52.2] (C.C.C. # 2210)

What are the duties of the political community? "The political community has a duty to honour the family, to assist it, and to ensure especially:

- the freedom to establish a family, have children, and bring them up in keeping with the family's own moral and religious convictions;

- the protection of the stability of the marriage bond and the institution of the family;

- the freedom to profess one's faith, to hand it on, and raise one's children in it, with the necessary means and institutions;

- the right to private property, to free enterprise, to obtain work and housing, and the right to emigrate;

- in keeping with the country's institutions, the right to medical care, assistance for the aged, and family benefits;

- the protection of security and health, especially with respect to dangers like drugs, pornography, alcoholism, etc.;

- the freedom to form associations with other families and so to have representation before civil authority." [FC 46] (C.C.C. # 2211)
"The fourth commandment illuminates other relationships in society. In our brothers and sisters we see the children of our parents; in our cousins, the descendants of our ancestors; in our fellow citizens, the children of our country; in the baptized, the children of our mother the Church; in every human person, a son or daughter of the One who wants to be called "our Father." In this way our relationships with our neighbors are recognized as personal in character. The neighbor is not a "unit" in the human collective; he is "someone" who by his known origins deserves particular attention and respect." (C.C.C. # 2212)

"Human communities are made up of persons. Governing them well is not limited to guaranteeing rights and fulfilling duties such as honouring contracts. Right relations between employers and employees, between those who govern and citizens, presuppose a natural good will in keeping with the dignity of human persons concerned for justice and fraternity." (C.C.C. # 2213)

Now, the duties of children in a family must not be forgotten! What are they? "The divine fatherhood is the source of human fatherhood; [Eph. 3:14] this is the foundation of the honour owed to parents. The respect of children, whether minors or adults, for their father and mother [Prov. 1:8; Tob. 4:3-4] is nourished by the natural affection born of the bond uniting them. It is required by God's commandment. [Ex. 20:12] (C.C.C. # 2214)

"Respect for parents (filial piety) derives from gratitude toward those who, by the gift of life, their love and their work, have brought their children into the world and enabled them to grow in stature, wisdom, and grace. 'With all your heart honour your father, and do not forget the birth pangs of your mother. Remember that through your parents you were born; what can you give back to them that equals their gift to you?'" [Sir. 7:27-28] (C.C.C. # 2215)

"Filial respect is shown by true docility and obedience. "My son, keep your father's commandment, and forsake not your mother's teaching... When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you." [Prov. 6:20-22] "A wise son hears his father's instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke." [Prov. 13:1] (C.C.C. # 2216)

"As long as a child lives at home with his parents, the child should obey his parents in all that they ask of him when it is for his good or that of the family. 'Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.' [Col. 3:20; Eph. 6:1] Children should also obey the reasonable directions of their teachers and all to whom their parents have entrusted them. But if a child is convinced in conscience that it would be morally wrong to obey a particular order, he must not do so. As they grow up, children should continue to respect their parents. They should anticipate their wishes, willingly seek their advice, and accept their just admonitions. Obedience toward parents ceases with the emancipation of the children; not so respect, which is always owed to them. This respect has its roots in the fear of God, one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit." (C.C.C. # 2217)

"The fourth commandment reminds grown children of their responsibilities toward their parents. As much as they can, they must give them material and moral support in old age and in times of illness, loneliness, or distress. Jesus recalls this duty of gratitude. [Mk. 7:10-12] For the Lord honoured the father above the children, and he confirmed the right of the mother over her sons. Whoever honours his father atones for sins, and whoever glorifies his mother is like one who lays up treasure. Whoever honours his father will be gladdened by his own children, and when he prays he will be heard. Whoever glorifies his father will have long life, and whoever obeys the Lord will refresh his mother. [Sir. 3:2-6] O son, help your father in his old age, and do not grieve him as long as he lives; even if he is lacking in understanding, show forbearance; in all your strength do not despise him... Whoever forsakes his father is like a blasphemer, and whoever angers his mother is cursed by the Lord. [Sir. 3:12-13, 16] (C.C.C. # 2218)

"Filial respect promotes harmony in all of family life; it also concerns relationships between brothers and sisters. Respect toward parents fills the home with light and warmth. "Grandchildren are the crown of the aged." [Prov. 17:6] "With all humility and meekness, with patience, [support] one another in charity.' [Eph. 4:2] (C.C.C. # 2219)

"For Christians a special gratitude is due to those from whom they have received the gift of faith, the grace of Baptism, and life in the Church. These may include parents, grandparents, other members of the family, pastors, catechists, and other teachers or friends. 'I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you." [2 Tim. 1:5] (C.C.C. # 2220)

And what about the duties of the parents in the family? "The fecundity of conjugal love cannot be reduced solely to the procreation of children, but must extend to their moral education and their spiritual formation. 'The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute.' [GE 3] The right and the duty of parents to educate their children are primordial and inalienable. [FC 36] (C.C.C. # 2221)

"Parents must regard their children as children of God and respect them as human persons. Showing themselves obedient to the will of the Father in heaven, they educate their children to fulfill God's law." (C.C.C. # 2222)

"Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery - the preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should teach their children to subordinate the 'material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones.' [CA 36.2] Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children. By knowing how to acknowledge their own failings to their children, parents will be better able to guide and correct them: He who loves his son will not spare the rod... He who disciplines his son will profit by him. [Sir. 30:1-2] Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." [Eph. 6:4] (C.C.C. # 2223)

"The home is the natural environment for initiating a human being into solidarity and communal responsibilities. Parents should teach children to avoid the compromising and degrading influences which threaten human societies." (C.C.C. # 2224)

"Through the grace of the sacrament of marriage, parents receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children. Parents should initiate their children at an early age into the mysteries of the faith of which they are the 'first heralds' for their children. They should associate them from their tenderest years with the life of the Church. [LG 11.2] A wholesome family life can foster interior dispositions that are a genuine preparation for a living faith and remain a support for it throughout one's life." (C.C.C. # 2225)

"Education in the faith by the parents should begin in the child's earliest years. This already happens when family members help one another to grow in faith by the witness of a Christian life in keeping with the Gospel. Family catechesis precedes, accompanies, and enriches other forms of instruction in the faith. Parents have the mission of teaching their children to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God. [LG 11] The parish is the Eucharistic community and the heart of the liturgical life of Christian families; it is a privileged place for the catechesis of children and parents." (C.C.C. # 2226)

"Children in turn contribute to the growth in holiness of their parents. [GS 48.4] Each and everyone should be generous and tireless in forgiving one another for offenses, quarrels, injustices, and neglect. Mutual affection suggests this. The charity of Christ demands it." [Mt. 18:21-22; Lk. 17:4] (C.C.C. # 2227)

"Parents' respect and affection are expressed by the care and attention they devote to bringing up their young children and providing for their physical and spiritual needs. As the children grow up, the same respect and devotion lead parents to educate them in the right use of their reason and freedom." (C.C.C. # 2228)

"As those first responsible for the education of their children, parents have the right to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own convictions. This right is fundamental. As far as possible parents have the duty of choosing schools that will best help them in their task as Christian educators. [GE 6] Public authorities have the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and of ensuring the concrete conditions for its exercise." (C.C.C. # 2229)

"When they become adults, children have the right and duty to choose their profession and state of life. They should assume their new responsibilities within a trusting relationship with their parents, willingly asking and receiving their advice and counsel. Parents should be careful not to exert pressure on their children either in the choice of a profession or in that of a spouse. This necessary restraint does not prevent them - quite the contrary from giving their children judicious advice, particularly when they are planning to start a family." (C.C.C. # 2230)

"Some forgo marriage in order to care for their parents or brothers and sisters, to give themselves more completely to a profession, or to serve other honourable ends. They can contribute greatly to the good of the human family." (C.C.C. # 2231)

This summarizes the meaning of a Holy Family that has made its home in the Lord Jesus. As we continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us ask the Heavenly Father to help us to live as the holy family, united in respect and love. Let us ask Him to bring us to the joy and peace of our eternal home.

May the peace of Christ rule in our hearts, and the fullness of His message live within us.

Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

 

Reading 1 Sir 3:2-6, 12-14

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.
Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children,
and, when he prays, is heard.
Whoever reveres his father will live a long life;
he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother.

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 of him;
revile him not all the days of his life;
kindness to a father will not be forgotten,
firmly planted against the debt of your sins
—a house raised in justice to you.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 128:1-2, 3, 4-5

R. (cf. 1) Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.
Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD,
who walks in his ways!
For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;
blessed shall you be, and favored.
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.
Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
in the recesses of your home;
your children like olive plants
around your table.
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.
Behold, thus is the man blessed
who fears the LORD.
The LORD bless you from Zion:
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life.
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.

Reading 2 Col 3:12-21

Brothers and sisters:
Put on, 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.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,
as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another,
singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
with gratitude in your hearts to God.
And whatever you do, in word or in deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Wives, be subordinate to your husbands,
as is proper in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives,
and avoid any bitterness toward them.
Children, obey your parents in everything,
for this is pleasing to the Lord.
Fathers, do not provoke your children,
so they may not become discouraged.

Or Col 3:12-17

Brothers and sisters:
Put on, 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.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,
as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another,
singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
with gratitude in your hearts to God.
And whatever you do, in word or in deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Gospel Mt 2:13-15, 19-23

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.
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.

When Herod had died, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream
to Joseph in Egypt and said,
“Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel,
for those who sought the child’s life are dead.”
He rose, took the child and his mother,
and went to the land of Israel.
But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea
in place of his father Herod,
he was afraid to go back there.
And because he had been warned in a dream,
he departed for the region of Galilee.
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.

Daily Prayer

Rise, take the child and his mother…

Heavenly Father,
as a culture,
we keep trying our best
to see Christmas as a warm,
child-centered family celebration
of gift giving and carols,
but the gospel keeps pulling us away
from the baby in the manger
and toward your Son’s
passion and resurrection.

Even today, Father, when
the focus comes back to family,
we don’t see Jesus, Mary, and Joseph
gathered around singing happy songs,
but as stressed-out, homeless refugees and
immigrants on the road, packing and repacking
their meager belongings and
setting out time and again—
Egypt, Israel, Galilee.
All the challenges Joseph and Mary
felt before Jesus’ birth are still with them,
except now they have a helpless baby to care for as well.

Father, help me to model myself and my family
after the Holy Family—
not in some simplistic ideal of holiness
in which they smile and pray all the time
and never get frustrated with one another,
But in how they survived life’s
hardships and stresses
and stayed faithful to each other
and to you.

When life is difficult for me,
Help me turn to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,
confident that
they understand what
I am going through,
and are willing to share with me
their solace, fidelity, and strength.
Amen.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Pope Francis: "Jesus is the Light Who Brightens the Darkness"

Vatican City, (Zenit.org) | 405 hits

“God loves us, he so loves us that he gave us his Son to be our brother, to be light in our darkness.” These were the words proclaimed by Pope Francis during his homily at Midnight Mass on Tuesday night. The Holy Father celebrated his first Christmas as Pope on St. Peter’s Basilica.
The Pope began his homily reflecting on the first reading from the prophet Isaiah which he said “never ceases to touch us” The reading, he explained, is not an emotional or sentimental matter but rather, it states our reality of light and darkness in our lives.
“In this night, as the spirit of darkness enfolds the world, there takes place anew the event which always amazes and surprises us: the people who walk see a great light. A light which makes us reflect on this mystery: the mystery of walking and seeing,” he said.
The Pope explained that throughout in the history of salvation, the image of walking begins with Abraham who was called by God to go to the land He would show him. From that point our identity has been related to a people on pilgrimage towards the promised land.
“This history has always been accompanied by the Lord! He is ever faithful to his covenant and to his promises. Because he is faithful, God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all,” he said. However, in our own personal history, there are moments of both light and darkness.
“If we love God and our brothers and sisters, we walk in the light; but if our heart is closed, if we are dominated by pride, deceit, self-seeking, then darkness falls within us and around us,” the Holy Father noted. The Christmas celebration reminds us that in this journey, Christ has taken on our humanity and thus, entered our history and shared our journey.
The 77 year old Pontiff noted that shepherds, the least in society, became the first to receive the news of Christ’s birth. We, as Christians, are called to keep watch as they did.
“Together with them, let us pause before the Child, let us pause in silence. Together with them, let us thank the Lord for having given Jesus to us, and with them let us raise from the depths of our hearts the praises of his fidelity: We bless you, Lord God most high, who lowered yourself for our sake. You are immense, and you made yourself small; you are rich and you made yourself poor; you are all-powerful and you made yourself vulnerable,” he said.
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to share “the joy of the Gospel” which proclaims God’s love for us in giving us his Son.
“To us the Lord repeats: "Do not be afraid!". As the angels said to the shepherds: "Do not be afraid!". And I also repeat to all of you: Do not be afraid!,” he exclaimed. “Our Father is patient, he loves us, he gives us Jesus to guide us on the way which leads to the promised land. Jesus is the light who brightens the darkness. He is mercy: our Father always forgives us. He is our peace.” (J.A.E.)

Padre Pio's Christmas Meditation

Appearing in volume four of the Italian-language edition of Padre Pio's letters, this essay was taken from Padre Pio's hand-written notebooks.
Translated by Frank M. Rega, December 2005.
"Padre Pio da Pietrelcina: Epistolario IV," Edizioni Padre Pio, San Giovanni Rotondo, 2002, pages 1007-1009.

Far into the night, at the coldest time of the year, in a chilly grotto, more suitable for a flock of beasts than for humans, the promised Messiah – Jesus – the savior of mankind, comes into the world in the fullness of time.
There are none who clamor around him: only an ox and an ass lending their warmth to the newborn infant; with a humble woman, and a poor and tired man, in adoration beside him.
Nothing can be heard except the sobs and whimpers of the infant God. And by means of his crying and weeping he offers to the Divine justice the first ransom for our redemption.
He had been expected for forty centuries; with longing sighs the ancient Fathers had implored his arrival. The sacred scriptures clearly prophesy the time and the place of his birth, and yet the world is silent and no one seems aware of the great event. Only some shepherds, who had been busy watching over their sheep in the meadows, come to visit him. Heavenly visitors had alerted them to the wondrous event, inviting them to approach his cave.
PPInfantJesus.jpg (17808 bytes)
So plentiful, O Christians, are the lessons that shine forth from the grotto of Bethlehem! Oh how our hearts should be on fire with love for the one who with such tenderness was made flesh for our sakes! Oh how we should burn with desire to lead the whole world to this lowly cave, refuge of the King of kings, greater than any worldly palace, because it is the throne and dwelling place of God! Let us ask this Divine child to clothe us with humility, because only by means of this virtue can we taste the fullness of this mystery of Divine tenderness.
Glittering were the palaces of the proud Hebrews. Yet, the light of the world did not appear in one of them. Ostentatious with worldly grandeur, swimming in gold and in delights, were the great ones of the Hebrew nation; filled with vain knowledge and pride were the priests of the sanctuary. In opposition to the true meaning of Divine revelation, they awaited an officious savoir, who would come into the world with human renown and power.
But God, always ready to confound the wisdom of the world, shatters their plans. Contrary to the expectations of those lacking in Divine wisdom, he appears among us in the greatest abjection, renouncing even birth in St. Joseph’s humble home, denying himself a modest abode among relatives and friends in a city of Palestine. Refused lodging among men, he seeks refuge and comfort among mere animals, choosing their habitation as the place of his birth, allowing their breath to give warmth to his tender body. He permits simple and rustic shepherds to be the first to pay their respects to him, after he himself informed them, by means of his angels, of the wonderful mystery.
Oh wisdom and power of God, we are constrained to exclaim – enraptured along with your Apostle – how incomprehensible are your judgments and unsearchable your ways! Poverty, humility, abjection, contempt, all surround the Word made flesh. But we, out of the darkness that envelops the incarnate Word, understand one thing, hear one voice, perceive one sublime truth: you have done everything out of love, you invite us to nothing else but love, speak of nothing except love, give us naught except proofs of love.
Padre_Pio_a_Natale.jpg (68654 bytes)
The heavenly babe suffers and cries in the crib so that for us suffering would be sweet, meritorious and accepted. He deprives himself of everything, in order that we may learn from him the renunciation of worldly goods and comforts. He is satisfied with humble and poor adorers, to encourage us to love poverty, and to prefer the company of the little and simple rather than the great ones of the world.
This celestial child, all meekness and sweetness, wishes to impress in our hearts by his example these sublime virtues, so that from a world that is torn and devastated an era of peace and love may spring forth. Even from the moment of his birth he reveals to us our mission, which is to scorn that which the world loves and seeks.
Oh let us prostrate ourselves before the manger, and along with the great St. Jerome, who was enflamed with the love of the infant Jesus, let us offer him all our hearts without reserve. Let us promise to follow the precepts which come to us from the grotto of Bethlehem, which teach us that everything here below is vanity of vanities, nothing but vanity.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Pope's Christmas Urbi et Orbi Address - Full Text

Wednesday, December 25, 2013 6:05 AM Comments (1)
Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours (Lk 2:14)
Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world, Happy Christmas!
I take up the song of the angels who appeared to the shepherds in Bethlehem on the night when Jesus was born. It is a song which unites heaven and earth, giving praise and glory to heaven, and the promise of peace to earth and all its people.
I ask everyone to share in this song: it is a song for every man or woman who keeps watch through the night, who hopes for a better world, who cares for others while humbly seeking to do his or her duty.
Glory to God!
Above all else, this is what Christmas bids us to do: give glory to God, for he is good, he is faithful, he is merciful. Today I voice my hope that everyone will come to know the true face of God, the Father who has given us Jesus. My hope is that everyone will feel God’s closeness, live in his presence, love him and adore him.
May each of us give glory to God above all by our lives, by lives spent for love of him and of all our brothers and sisters.
Peace to mankind
True peace is not a balance of opposing forces. It is not a lovely "fa├žade" which conceals conflicts and divisions. Peace calls for daily commitment, starting from God’s gift, from the grace which he has given us in Jesus Christ.
Looking at the Child in the manger, our thoughts turn to those children who are the most vulnerable victims of wars, but we think too of the elderly, to battered women, to the sick… Wars shatter and hurt so many lives!
Too many lives have been shattered in recent times by the conflict in Syria, fueling hatred and vengeance. Let us continue to ask the Lord to spare the beloved Syrian people further suffering, and to enable the parties in conflict to put an end to all violence and guarantee access to humanitarian aid. We have seen how powerful prayer is! And I am happy today too, that the followers of different religious confessions are joining us in our prayer for peace in Syria. Let us never lose the courage of prayer! The courage to say: Lord, grant your peace to Syria and to the whole world.
Grant peace to the Central African Republic, often forgotten and overlooked. Yet you, Lord, forget no one! And you also want to bring peace to that land, torn apart by a spiral of violence and poverty, where so many people are homeless, lacking water, food and the bare necessities of life. Foster social harmony in South Sudan, where current tensions have already caused numerous victims and are threatening peaceful coexistence in that young state.
Prince of Peace, in every place turn hearts aside from violence and inspire them to lay down arms and undertake the path of dialogue. Look upon Nigeria, rent by constant attacks which do not spare the innocent and defenseless. Bless the land where you chose to come into the world, and grant a favourable outcome to the peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. Heal the wounds of the beloved country of Iraq, once more struck by frequent acts of violence.
Lord of life, protect all who are persecuted for your name. Grant hope and consolation to the displaced and refugees, especially in the Horn of Africa and in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Grant that migrants in search of a dignified life may find acceptance and assistance. May tragedies like those we have witnessed this year, with so many deaths at Lampedusa, never occur again!
Child of Bethlehem, touch the hearts of all those engaged in human trafficking, that they may realize the gravity of this crime against humanity. Look upon the many children who are kidnapped, wounded and killed in armed conflicts, and all those who are robbed of their childhood and forced to become soldiers.
Lord of heaven and earth, look upon our planet, frequently exploited by human greed and rapacity. Help and protect all the victims of natural disasters, especially the beloved people of the Philippines, gravely affected by the recent typhoon.
Dear brothers and sisters, today, in this world, in this humanity, is born the Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. Let us pause before the Child of Bethlehem. Let us allow our hearts to be touched, let us allow ourselves to be warmed by the tenderness of God; we need his caress. God is full of love: to him be praise and glory forever! God is peace: let us ask him to help us to be peacemakers each day, in our life, in our families, in our cities and nations, in the whole world. Let us allow ourselves to be moved by God’s goodness.
---
The Holy Father said the following words in Italian after giving his urbi et orbi message:
"To you, dear brothers and sisters, gathered from throughout the world in this Square, and to all those from different countries who join us through the communications media, I offer my cordial best wishes for a merry Christmas!
On this day illumined by the Gospel hope which springs from the humble stable of Bethlehem, I invoke the Christmas gift of joy and peace upon all: upon children and the elderly, upon young people and families, the poor and the marginalized. May Jesus, who was born for us, console all those afflicted by illness and suffering; may he sustain those who devote themselves to serving our brothers and sisters who are most in need. Happy Christmas!"

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Jesus is 'meaning of life, history,' Pope preaches on Christmas



Pope Francis holds a statue of the Christ child for the nativity scene on December 24, 2013. Credit: Lauren Cater / CNA. 
 
Pope Francis holds a statue of the Christ child for the nativity scene on December 24, 2013. Credit: Lauren Cater / CNA.
.- Pope Francis’ homily at the vigil mass for Christmas focused on the importance of Jesus’ incarnation as a real and meaningful event.

“The grace which was revealed in our world is Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, true man and true God. He has entered our history; he has shared our journey. He came to free us from darkness and to grant us light,” said the Pope on Dec. 24 at the mass held in St. Peter’s Basilica.

“In him was revealed the grace, the mercy, and the tender love of the Father: Jesus is Love incarnate. He is not simply a teacher of wisdom, he is not an ideal for which we strive while knowing that we are hopelessly distant from it. He is the meaning of life and history, who has pitched his tent in our midst.”

Below, the full text of Pope Francis’ homily:

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:1).

This prophecy of Isaiah never ceases to touch us, especially when we hear it proclaimed in the liturgy of Christmas Night. This is not simply an emotional or sentimental matter. It moves us because it states the deep reality of what we are: a people who walk, and all around us – and within us as well – there is darkness and light. In this night, as the spirit of darkness enfolds the world, there takes place anew the event which always amazes and surprises us: the people who walk see a great light. A light which makes us reflect on this mystery: the mystery of walking and seeing.

Walking. This verb makes us reflect on the course of history, that long journey which is the history of salvation, starting with Abraham, our father in faith, whom the Lord called one day to set out, to go forth from his country towards the land which he would show him. From that time on, our identity as believers has been that of a people making its pilgrim way towards the promised land. This history has always been accompanied by the Lord! He is ever faithful to his covenant and to his promises. “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all” (1 Jn 1:5). Yet on the part of the people there are times of both light and darkness, fidelity and infidelity, obedience, and rebellion; times of being a pilgrim people and times of being a people adrift.

In our personal history too, there are both bright and dark moments, lights and shadows. If we love God and our brothers and sisters, we walk in the light; but if our heart is closed, if we are dominated by pride, deceit, self-seeking, then darkness falls within us and around us. “Whoever hates his brother – writes the Apostle John – is in the darkness; he walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (1 Jn 2:11).

On this night, like a burst of brilliant light, there rings out the proclamation of the Apostle: “God's grace has been revealed, and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race” (Tit 2:11).

The grace which was revealed in our world is Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, true man and true God. He has entered our history; he has shared our journey. He came to free us from darkness and to grant us light. In him was revealed the grace, the mercy, and the tender love of the Father: Jesus is Love incarnate. He is not simply a teacher of wisdom, he is not an ideal for which we strive while knowing that we are hopelessly distant from it. He is the meaning of life and history, who has pitched his tent in our midst.

The shepherds were the first to see this “tent”, to receive the news of Jesus’ birth. They were the first because they were among the last, the outcast. And they were the first because they were awake, keeping watch in the night, guarding their flocks. Together with them, let us pause before the Child, let us pause in silence. Together with them, let us thank the Lord for having given Jesus to us, and with them let us raise from the depths of our hearts the praises of his fidelity: We bless you, Lord God most high, who lowered yourself for our sake. You are immense, and you made yourself small; you are rich and you made yourself poor; you are all powerful and you made yourself vulnerable.

On this night let us share the joy of the Gospel: God loves us, he so loves us that he gave us his Son to be our brother, to be light in our darkness. To us the Lord repeats: “Do not be afraid!” (Lk 2:10). And I too repeat: Do not be afraid! Our Father is patient, he loves us, he gives us Jesus to guide us on the way which leads to the promised land. Jesus is the light who brightens the darkness. He is our peace. Amen.

It is Good for you!

 Just a quick update. I went to confession yesterday. I was a bit nervous but the priest was excellent and as always it was like the burden of my sins were lifted off me and I felt great. Yes a bounce in my step a clean soul! Love it! So yes Confession is good for the soul!

Merry Christmas!



 Good Morning! To those of you who follow this blog and are amused at my occasional writings and those who have reached out me when I have communicated being in a bit of disarray I wish you all a Very Merry Christmas and may our lord look down  upon you and bless you and your families!

Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)

Reading 1 Is 52:7-10

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!”

Hark! Your sentinels raise a cry,
together they shout for joy,
for they see directly, before their eyes,
the LORD restoring Zion.
Break out together in song,
O ruins of Jerusalem!
For the LORD comforts his people,
he redeems Jerusalem.
The LORD has bared his holy arm
in the sight of all the nations;
all the ends of the earth will behold
the salvation of our God.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 98:1, 2-3, 3-4, 5-6

R. (3c) All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.
Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done wondrous deeds;
his right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm.
R. All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.
The LORD has made his salvation known:
in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness
toward the house of Israel.
R. All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise.
R. All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.
Sing praise to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and melodious song.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
sing joyfully before the King, the LORD.
R. All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.

Reading 2 Heb 1:1-6

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

For to which of the angels did God ever say:
You are my son; this day I have begotten you?
Or again:
I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me?
And again, when he leads the firstborn into the world, he says:
Let all the angels of God worship him.

Gospel Jn 1:1-18

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.
A man named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world,
and the world came to be through him,
but the world did not know him.
He came to what was his own,
but his own people did not accept him.

But to those who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to those who believe in his name,
who were born not by natural generation
nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision
but of God.
And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only Son,
full of grace and truth.
John testified to him and cried out, saying,
“This was he of whom I said,
‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me
because he existed before me.’”
From his fullness we have all received,
grace in place of grace,
because while the law was given through Moses,
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God.
The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side,
has revealed him.

Or Jn 1:1-5, 9-14

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.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world,
and the world came to be through him,
but the world did not know him.
He came to what was his own,
but his own people did not accept him.

But to those who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to those who believe in his name,
who were born not by natural generation
nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision
but of God.
And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only Son,
full of grace and truth.

Daily Prayer

I proclaim to you good news of great joy….

Lord Jesus,
when I go to Mass today,
I’ll see some new faces.
O Lord, help me be welcoming!

I’ll see people who look more stressed than joyful.
O Lord, help me to be understanding!

There may be more noisy children there than usual.
O Lord, help me to be patient.

If the homily isn’t up to my standards,
O Lord, help me to realize
that someone else may be touched to their core by it.

There will be some people there
deep in grief and loss.
O Lord, help me sing the song of joy for them,
knowing that someday they will sing it for me.

There will be some people standing by choice in the back.
O Lord, help me to smile warmly
but not scare them away.

Help me, O Lord, to look around the church assembly
at all the faces reflecting your presence.
Help me to see you born anew in all of them.

Help me, Lord, to meet you in this assembly,
in the presider, in the word proclaimed,
and most of all in the Eucharist.

Help me today, O Lord, to be with you and in you,
so that, through you,
I may be a better sign to all I meet
of your good news of great joy!
Amen.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Pope: Contemplate St. Joseph’s 'greatness of soul'


Pope Francis greets pilgrims in St. Peter's Square before the Wednesday general audience Dec. 11, 2013. Credit: Kyle Burkhart / CNA.
Pope Francis greets pilgrims in St. Peter's Square before the Wednesday general audience Dec. 11, 2013. Credit: Kyle Burkhart / CNA.
.- In his Sunday Angelus, Pope Francis reflected on the Christian witness of St. Joseph, who was faithful to God’s call despite impossible circumstances.

St. Joseph “was not stubborn in following his own life plans, he did not allow resentment to poison his soul, but he was prepared to make himself disposed to the news that, in a disconcerting way, was presented to him,” said the Pope on Dec. 22.

Referring to the gospel story which recounts St. Joseph’s plans to divorce Mary quietly after learning about her pregnancy, and his subsequent dream regarding the miracle of the Incarnation, Pope Francis reflected on “the greatness of St. Joseph’s soul.”

“He was following a good life plan, but God had kept a different design for him, a greater mission. Joseph was a man who always listened to the voice of God, profoundly amenable to God’s secret will, a man attentive to the messages that came from the depths of the heart and from above,” explained Pope Francis.

St. Joseph’s faithfulness did not mean that his path was easy, however. When he became aware that Mary was pregnant, “he remained disconcerted.”

“The gospel does not explain what his thoughts were, but it tells us the essentials: that he seeks to do the will of God, and he is ready for a radical renunciation,” noted the Pontiff.

The decision to then divorce Mary quietly represents for Joseph “an enormous sacrifice,” when “we think of the love that Joseph had for Mary!” Pope Francis exclaimed.

This was “a trial similar to the sacrifice of Abraham, when God asked for his son Isaac: to renounce the most precious thing, the most loved person.”

In preparation for Christmas, “we must meditate on these words (of the gospel) in order to understand the trial that Joseph had to sustain in the days preceding the birth of Jesus,” encouraged Pope Francis.

“But as in the case of Abraham, God intervened. He found the faith that he was looking for and opened a different way, a way of love and happiness.”

The Pope continued, “accepting the Lord’s plan, Joseph fully found himself, beyond himself… his full interior openness to the will of God challenges us and shows us the way.”

“Let us thus prepare ourselves to celebrate Christmas contemplating Mary and Joseph: Mary, the woman full of grace who had the courage to entrust herself fully to the word of God; Joseph, the faithful and just man who preferred to believe the Lord rather than listen to the voices of doubt and human pride.”

“With them, let us journey together toward Bethlehem,” urged the Pontiff.

After praying the Angelus with the crowds filling St. Peter’s square, Pope Francis offered his greetings to various pilgrim groups.

Upon seeing one group holding a banner that said in Italian, “The Poor Cannot Wait!” Pope Francis noted the difficult life of the homeless, whose situation is not unlike that of Mary and Joseph who had to flee their home with the infant Jesus to seek safety in Egypt.

“I call on everyone,” said the Pope, “individuals, organs of society, authorities, to do everything possible to assure that every family has a place to live.”

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Homily for Today


"The virgin shall conceive and bear a son." [Mt. 1:23] Today, celebrating the last Sunday of Advent prior to the Feast of Christmas Day, to some extent, we can associate with the greatest joy of the Blessed Virgin Mary who awaited the coming of Baby Jesus into the world. In six days, we will commemorate the birth of her beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus, God incarnated. For some, the celebration of the incarnation shall begin on Christmas Eve through their participation at the Midnight Mass.

During today's First Reading, [Is. 7:10-14] the Lord God spoke through the great prophet Isaiah. The Lord said to Ahaz, the son of Jotham who succeeded the eleventh king of Israel around 735 B.C., "Ask for a sign of the Lord your God; let it be as far down as Hell or as far up as Heaven." [Is. 7:10-1] Ahaz answered, "I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test." [Is. 7:12]

Why did Ahaz reject God's offer to provide a sign when past signs related to Divine intervention in the history of mankind? To answer that question, it is necessary to understand a bit of the history that was taking place during those days.

The political situation in those days was that king Rezin of Aram and king Pekah of Israel (Ephraim) had joined together to invade Jerusalem. They were threatening to also invade Judah unless Ahaz joined them. Ahaz's advisers urged him to join Jerusalem against Rezin and Pekah. But Isaiah foresaw disaster in that path. Today's First Reading from the Book of Isaiah is the first of five Chapters in which Isaiah attempts to discourage Ahaz from going against Rezin and Pekah while providing him with the Lord's God's encouragement in the present situation.

So why did Ahaz reject God's offer to provide a sign? Most likely it is because Ahaz did not want Isaiah's advice. Although Ahaz would not ask for a sign, God still gave him one. Over 700 years before the event, Isaiah prophesied that through the House of David, a young woman would be with Child and she shall bear a Son, naming Him Immanuel. [Is. 7:13-4]

Did you know that the passages from Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23 have been the center of debates between theologians for centuries? Why? Because in the Old Testament, the inspired Word of God refers to a "young woman." In the New Testament, while it is supposed to be a quote of the first passage, the "young woman" has been replaced with the word "virgin." Therefore, the question is, "Was the virginity of Mary prophesied 700 years before the event?"

When reviewing Isaiah's inspired writings, he does not use the word "virgin." Rather, he uses a word that means a "young woman" of marriageable age, without reference if she would be a virgin or not. There are two possible explanations as to why a change of words may have occurred.

In the first instance, Saint Matthew may have changed the words "young woman" to "virgin" to reveal to the world that the mother of Jesus had experienced a virgin birth.

In the second instance, Saint Matthew may have used an Hebrew translation of the Old Testament that implied a "virgin" versus a "young woman." If this is the case, the hand of the Holy Spirit was at work in this situation. Sometime between the days of Isaiah and the day of the birth of the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit may have guided those who copied the Scriptures from generation to generation and the translators to change the words "young woman" to "virgin" in order to reflect more accurately the manifestation of the power of God that was about to take place through the incarnation.

No matter what the circumstances, the tradition of the Holy Catholic Church has always taught the belief that Mary experienced a virgin birth and that the faithful have joyfully embraced that belief.

Today's Second Reading from the Letter to the Romans [Rom. 1:1-7] affirmed that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, descended from king David [Rom. 1:3] as prophesied through Isaiah. This affirmation is also found in Matthew 1:1 and 2 Timothy 2:8. Furthermore, Our Lord Jesus was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead. [Rom. 1:4]

Through Christ the first disciples received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of the Most Holy Name Jesus. [Rom. 1:5] What does it mean to "bring about the obedience of faith?" That answer is found in the Letter of Paul to the Romans.

"But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!' But not all have obeyed the goodness; for Isaiah says, 'Lord, who has believed our message?' So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the Word of Christ." [Rom. 10:14-7] Faith begins by "hearing" the Word of God, this followed by a personal commitment to obey the calling of our Lord in submission.

This calling of obedience of faith is a calling to the entire human race. It is a calling to each and everyone of us to feed upon the Word of God for our spiritual growth so that we may go forward to teach and defend the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus.

Today's Reading from the Gospel of Matthew [Mt. 1:18-24] provides us with the circumstances surrounding the virgin birth of Mary. When Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. [Mt. 1:18] When reference is made to Mary being engaged to Joseph, it means that the marriage contract had been drawn up between Joseph, or his parents, and the parents of Mary. According to the Jewish custom, the marriage did not take place until such time as the groom had taken the bride into his house. When doing so, this was referred to having "come together" or "live together."

Had Joseph departed from Mary, this would not have been viewed as a "divorce" in the full sense of the word. While Mary and Joseph were engaged, they had not "come together" as of yet. Equally, pre-marital unchastity was not viewed as "adultery" in the full sense because Mary and Joseph had not "come together" as of yet. As such, Joseph could have quietly retracted the marriage agreement to dismiss Mary by signing a declaration in the presence of witnesses without having to state the reasons in public.

While Joseph was preoccupied with the pregnancy of Mary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. As we all heard, the angel of the Lord told Joseph, the son of David, not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife, for the child conceived in her was from the Holy Spirit. [Mt. 1:20] These words indirectly support that the birth of Jesus was a virgin birth.

The angel of the Lord told Joseph that the Son of Mary should be called Jesus because He will save His people. When studying the origin and development of the name Jesus, it is learned that it means "Yahweh is salvation." Therefore it was being revealed that while Jesus would be an agent of salvation for God's people, this would be salvation from their sins and not from worldly enemies or the dangers associated with nature.

All of this took place to fulfill the prophecy that had been spoken through the great prophet Isaiah. "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us." [Mt. 1:23]

"When Joseph awoke from his sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife." [Mt. 1:24] How beautiful are the virtues of obedience and trust in the Lord God! Plentiful are the graces of the Lord upon those who submit themselves to the Divine progressive plan for humanity.

The Lord has come, the Lord is here, and the Lord is coming again. In two days, we will commemorate His coming on earth in human flesh. This moment of worship, a great Feast that unites Heaven and earth, will be one of joy and praise for all the faithful who will gather around the spiritual table of the Lord to receive the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

Now is the last chance to prepare ourselves for this great moment. Now is the last chance to repent of our sins with a sincerity of heart and to receive the Sacrament of Confession.

As we continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us remember those who have not yet prepared themselves for the coming of the Lord. Let us ask the Spirit of Jesus to implant within their hearts the urgency of being and remaining in a state of grace.

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Reading 1 Is 7:10-14

The LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying:
Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God;
let it be deep as the netherworld, or high as the sky!
But Ahaz answered,
“I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!”
Then Isaiah said:
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.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6

R. (7c and 10b) Let the Lord enter; he is king of glory.
The LORD’s are the earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it.
For he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
R. Let the Lord enter; he is king of glory.
Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?
or who may stand in his holy place?
One whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,
who desires not what is vain.
R. Let the Lord enter; he is king of glory.
He shall receive a blessing from the LORD,
a reward from God his savior.
Such is the race that seeks for him,
that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.
R. Let the Lord enter; he is king of glory.

Reading 2 Rom 1:1-7

Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus,
called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God,
which he promised previously through his prophets in the holy Scriptures,
the gospel about his Son, descended from David according to the flesh,
but established as Son of God in power
according to the Spirit of holiness
through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.
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.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Gospel Mt 1:18-24

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

which means “God is with us.”
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.

Morning Prayer

Emmanuel, which means, “God is with us.”

Jesus, Emmanuel,
In the stress of the season,
help me remember: you are with us.

When my work is overwhelming,
help me remember: you are with us.

When I am fearful and plagued with worry,
help me remember: you are with us.

When prayer time is full of distractions
help me remember: you are with us.

When people, even my own loved ones,
are driving me crazy,
help me remember: you are with us.

When I think of the guy
who cut me off in traffic
or the rude sales clerks
or the rude customers
or the whiny child
or the whiny adult,
or when I whine,
help me remember: you are with us.

When I want life to be about me
and not so much about “them”
help me remember: you are with us.

When I don’t seem to be very holy,
help me remember: you are with us.

Jesus, Emmanuel, when I am having trouble
thinking of a reason to be happy,
help me remember: you are with us.
Amen.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Homily for Today


"The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them." [Mt. 11:5] Today's celebration of the Third Sunday of Advent continues to prepare us for the coming of the Lord Jesus among us. During this special time of Advent, we are called to embrace a holy mind so that we may perceive for the benefit of our spiritual growth the true spiritual meaning of the Words of God that we have just heard.

The First Reading from the Book of Isaiah [Is. 35:1-6a, 10] echoed the anticipation of God's chosen people. The people believed that God would come and save them from their worldly suffering. To them, God's coming was perceived as a second Exodus.

In their perception of the coming of the promised Messiah, the people visualized a transformation of the physical world where the entire creation would rejoice. They envisioned blooming deserts that would manifest the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. [Is. 35:1-2]

They visualized a revived people under the leadership of an eternal King who would arrive to save them and avenge them. Once more the weak hands and feeble knees would be made strong. Those who are physically blind, they would see again. Those who are deaf, they would hear again. [Is. 35:5]

Today's First Reading and the Gospel of Matthew both mention that "the blind shall see." [Is. 29:18-9, 35:5-6, 61:1; Mt. 11:5; Lk. 7:22] Among the hundreds of prophecies in the Old Testament that foretold of the coming Messiah, there was one outstanding prophecy that would distinguish the promised Messiah from the false prophets. It was His ability to give sight to the blind.

That is why when John the Baptist was in prison and he sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He was the one to come or if they had to wait for another, Jesus answered, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight..." [Mt. 11:2-5] Because the people were worldly minded, Jesus provided physical miracles as a sign that the prophecies were being fulfilled through Him. At the same time, the meaning of the blind receiving their sight did not have just a physical meaning, but also a spiritual meaning. This spiritual insight would come to the people after the glorious Resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

Returning to the First Reading, God's people waited for a Redeemer who would bring them out of their exile, something similar to what was experienced in the Exodus from Egypt. What God was revealing to them was a different Exodus, salvation through Jesus Christ.

The Second Reading from the Letter of James [Jas 5:7-10] reminds us to be patient until the coming of the Lord. In those days, it was the common belief of the people that Jesus would return anytime, "anytime" meaning during the life of the generation that lived in the days of the Lord. [1 Thess. 2:19; 4:15; 2 Thess 2:1, etc.; Mt. 24:3; 2 Pet. 1:16, 3:4, 12; 1 Jn. 2:28] Awaiting the glorious return of the Lord Jesus, some of the faithful had sold everything they owned and gave the money away. Others had quit their jobs and sat around, just waiting.

Regarding this deception, St. Paul told them, "As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. Let no one deceive you in any way: for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless on is revealed, the one destined for destruction..." [2 Thess. 2:1-3]

While we must be prepared for the coming of the Lord, at the same time, we must not allow ourselves to be deceived by false prophets. For "about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." [Mt. 24:36]

In the meantime, we must bear our crosses by persevering in our suffering, suffering through the ordinary trials of life and suffering through outrageous injustices such as the persecution of Christians. Both have their merits and bless us with graces according to our sufferings. No matter what we suffer, like the farmer who patiently awaits for the earth to produce the precious crops, we too must be extremely patient. May the Lord strengthen our hearts in holiness that we may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of Jesus with all His saints. [1 Thess. 3:13]

While awaiting the coming of the Lord, may our gentleness be known to everyone. For the Lord is near. [Phil. 4:5] May we not neglect to meet together, encourage one another, all the more as we see the Day approaching. [Heb. 10:25] "For yet 'in a very little while the one who is coming will come and will not delay.'" [Hab. 2:3; Heb. 10:37]

In the First Letter of John I read, "Children, it is the last hour! As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour." [1 Jn. 2:18] Who are the antichrists? Regarding the Antichrist deception, number 676 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us:
"The Antichrist's deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism, especially the 'intrinsically perverse' political form of a secular messianism."
In other words, when someone claims that Christ is returning to rule for a thousand years on earth, his claim is an Antichrist deception. The eternal Kingdom of God is not of this world. [Jn. 18:36]

The Second Reading reminds us not to grumble against one another, so that we may not be judged. For the Judge is standing at the doors. [Jas. 5:9] These words echo the Words of Jesus, "Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get." [Mt. 7:1-2]

While we frequently remember the saints and martyrs as our models of suffering and patience, we should not forget the prophets of the Old Testament who spoke in the Most Holy Name of the Lord and who were murdered because of it. [Jas. 5:10; Mt. 23:29-32; Acts 7:52]

Today's Reading from the Gospel of Matthew [Mt. 11:2-11] related the event when John the Baptist sent messengers to Jesus. No one is really sure as to why John the Baptist sent the messengers. Was he experiencing a moment of doubt while in prison? Was it because he too was waiting for a worldly kingdom and he was being impatient with Jesus who was taking forever to overthrow the Roman Empire? Surely, hearing in prison what the Messiah was doing, [Mt. 11:2] it must have been confusing for John the Baptist. After all, he had no reason to believe any different than the Jewish people who were awaiting a worldly kingdom.

Jesus was asked, "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?" [Mt. 11:3] To this He answered, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them." [Mt. 11:4-5]

Let us take a moment to review the spiritual meaning of each part of this response.

(1) "The blind receive their sight." When Jesus spoke of the blind receiving their sight, He was speaking of their enlightment to spiritual matters. We learn this truth from the Holy Bible when the Apostles asked Jesus how come He spoke in parables. To this, Jesus answered, "To you has been given the secret of the Kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables: in order that they may indeed look but not perceive, and may indeed listen, but not understand; so that they may not turn again and be forgiven." [Mk. 4:10-2] For those who have hardened their hearts, it is not meant for them to understand spiritual things.

(2) The lame walk. Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him." [Jn. 14:6-7] Without Jesus, we are lame. We fall in all our undertakings. We walk in the darkness. With Jesus, even though we may suffer for a while, we can still walk because we have a blessed hope.

(3) The lepers are cleansed. Leprosy is a symbol of the state of our souls when we live in sin. Covered with horrifying stains, we are not worthy of being in the presence of the Lord. But through the Sacrament of Confession, we can be cleansed. Did Jesus not say to His disciples, "'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.' When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.'" [Jn. 20:21-3]

(4) The deaf hear. As the blind see, the deaf hear. Those who have hardened their hearts, they do not hear anything. This is especially truthful of those who reject the grace of God, therefore sinning against the Holy Spirit. [Lk. 12:10] For them, it is not what God wants. It is what "I want!" They have placed their will above the Divine Will of God. Those who are sincere in their search of eternal life, they hear the voice of the Father in their hearts. And everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, they go to Jesus. [Jn. 6:45]

(5) The dead are raised. The dead are those who have no life in them. They walk the path of darkness. Jesus taught the way that one must follow to obtain the resurrection of life. It is through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. "Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." [Jn. 6:53]

(6) The poor have good news brought to them. The poor are the sincere who seek the truth, the way and the life through Jesus Christ. Jesus said to His disciples, "Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned." [Mk. 15:15-6] Therefore, the poor are also those who are baptized, the Sacrament of Baptism being their admission into the Body of Christ.

Jesus is the Good News, the Light of the world. "The true light, which enlighten everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God." [Jn. 1:9-13]

These were the teachings of Jesus. Those who embrace a spiritual mind, they understand these Words. They submit themselves to the Divine Will of the Lord in obedience and servitude. They are among the blind who have received their sight. For they know the promise of the Lord for those who persevere to the end. "See, I am coming soon; My reward is with Me, to repay according to everyone's work." [Rev. 22:12]

Homily for Today

Unto us it is given so we may blossom in Jesus! Good morning to everyone and welcome to our guests who have found their way to our humble...