Thursday, December 18, 2014

The gifts of Advent

The Church wants us to grasp this Advent, that the greatest blessings in this world are JESUS and our FAITH IN HIM. These are the gifts we should be longing for this Christmas, because these are the ones that will truly make us happy. 

Even if we were to receive ALL the material things in the WORLD for Christmas, that would not be as valuable to us as the gift of God and the gift of increased faith in him. Mary cried out in her hymn of praise, “All generations will call her blessed.” And that prophecy came true. We still call her blessed today, for the same reasons, because “the Lord — the blessed fruit of her womb — is with her,” and because of her faith, which is the model for every disciple’s. This Christmas, the Lord is calling us to make these our priorities. The Father who gave us the gift of his Son that first Christmas wants to give us that Son anew this Christmas, to be God-with-us, Emmanuel, but he wants us to ask for him in faith and respond to him in faith, by making the time to be with God in prayer, by saying “let it be done to me according to your word” and allowing the Lord’s words to be fulfilled in us, in every moral decision we make.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Jesus is the greatest gift

One of the first lessons the Church wants us to get during Advent is: to bring joy to others this Christmas, we really have to bring them Christ. 
Jesus is the greatest gift that we can ever bring to someone we love. 

At Christmas we especially need to remember that. We can buy kids all types of clothes and toys, but if we aren't trying to give them the Lord Jesus, then we're really giving them only counterfeit goods. We can send out a thousand cards and letters, but if we're not praying for others that they come to the Lord and trying to help them to encounter Jesus with our meagre words, then, to a large degree, what we're sending is not much better than junk mail. Unless we try to bring Christ to them, we're really not giving them anything truly lasting. At the Visitation, Mary didn't bring Elizabeth ancient Hebrew pregnancy text-books; she wasn't bringing John the Baptist a cute little circumcision outfit; she was bringing Christ and, hence, she was bringing them everything.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Advent Tunes

To bring joy to others this Christmas, we really have to bring them Christ.

Jesus is the greatest gift that we can ever bring to someone we love.

At Christmas we especially need to remember that.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Marianist Monday

Mary in Advent
The real reason that the Church proposes Mary to us as Christmas nears is because she is the model of how we should be living our advent. 

Mary is, in some sense, Advent personified. 

God the Father had prepared her from the first moment of her life to be a worthy mother of his Son. Like a faithful daughter of Israel, she had prayed throughout her youth for the coming of the Messiah. When she was a young girl, she discovered that she was part of God's answer to that prayer, but in a way that would far have exceeded any Hebrew maiden's prayers: not only would the Messiah be her son, but her son would also be God. Her "yes!" to the Archangel Gabriel launched the proximate preparation for the birth of Jesus the Messiah. 

Each year we explicitly follow the footsteps Mary traced on that first Advent. We're entering into Mary's response of faith that are a guide for us along our own pilgrimage of faith. And so with the Lord, let us climb within Mary's womb and listen to the beat of her contemplative heart that was treasuring within this greatest of all mysteries, so that our Christmas may be as fruitful as that first Christmas.

Sunday, December 14, 2014


Rejoice! Today is Gaudete Sunday – which means Rejoice Sunday!

It’s called Rejoice Sunday because the word is repeated so many times today. We hear it in the opening Antiphon at Mass from Paul’s letter to the Philippians:

“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.”

Rejoice is also at the heart of today’s first reading from Isaiah.

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives

It continues:

I rejoice heartily in the LORD,
in my God is the joy of my soul;
for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation
and wrapped me in a mantle of justice,

So, why aren't we rejoicing? We have this message of joy and hope from God, but we can be distracted by our own sense of isolation. Many things get in the way of our receiving this Good News, including our own sense of unworthiness - who are we to receive that kind of love? But if we can hear what Jesus is saying and wrap ourselves in that loving freedom, then the words of Isaiah, echoed by Jesus, give us a new sense of our own mission - the mission we have as baptized Christians. Now it is our job to not only accept that healing and love but to bring glad tidings to the poor, heal the brokenhearted and proclaim liberty to captives.

There is much joy, and these readings bring to the fore that in each case it is an embodied joy, a joy which fills to capacity the human heart and soul. It is a joy which propels Isaiah and the Blessed Mother and John the Baptist and indeed Paul to proclaim God's words. The embodied joy seems to reflect the joy of the baby of Elizabeth who leaps within her at the sound of the voice of the mother of Jesus.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Pause for Prayer

It's the season, the time, to wait for the Lord...
Could it be that the Lord is waiting for me?

Are you waiting for me, Lord?

Is there something you're waiting for me to do?
something you're waiting for me to hear?
something you're waiting for me to see?
something you're waiting for me to say?

Is there a truth your waiting for me to discover?
faith you're waiting for me to grow in?
hope you're waiting for me to trust?

Is there someone you're waiting for me to love?
someone you're waiting for me to forgive?
someone you're waiting for me to help?

Are there favors you're waiting for me to receive?
gifts you're waiting for me to use?
talent you're waiting for me to share?

Have I faults you're waiting for me to acknowledge?
sins you're waiting for me to face?
pardon you're waiting for me to seek?

Is there someone you're waiting for me to let go?
a grudge or resentment I need to shake off?
habits you're waiting for me to change?

Is there a challenge you're waiting for me to accept?
a change you're waiting for me to make?
a path you're waiting for me to walk?

Are there blessings you're waiting for me to receive?
truth you're waiting for me to take in?
grace you're waiting for me grasp?

Are you waiting for me to draw closer to you?
waiting for me to be faithful in prayer
in the morning? the evening? on Sundays?

In many ways, Lord (and in some I don't know)
I'm waiting for you and your love:
help me know all the ways you're waiting for me...


                                                                                    H/T A Concord Pastor Comments

Friday, December 12, 2014

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

As Marianists we have a context for talking about Mary in many different ways and using many different images that situate her within a culture and a moment in time. But how do we as Marianists begin to share who she is for us today, beyond cultural boundaries? One source is Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Patroness of the Americas.

On December 12, 1531, ten years after the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, God sent his mother to a Nahua Indian named Juan Diego. This event marks an interruption in history that completely transforms not only one person, but also that of an entire nation. This event sparks the awakening of a new Christianity, local theology and spirituality that still captivates the religious imaginations and hearts of millions throughout the world. It is not just an event of popular religious devotion but also an official feast of the universal Church. The Guadalupe event continues to transform and evangelize five centuries later.

The story of this marvelous event centers on Our Lady of Guadalupe appearing to Juan Diego. At the moment when Juan Diego encountered the Mother of God, there are no words exchanged. The heavenly music, singing of birds, and the cosmic symbols that surrounded her beautiful mestizo image engaged Juan Diego in a divine way that was respectful of his Nahua culture.

Our Lady of Guadalupe’s indigenous beauty; the manner in which she was poised—standing before the sun and crescent moon, draped with a mantle of sky and stars, and carried by an angel—and her posture depicting her compassion, respect, and God’s love extended communication beyond mere words. The language of Juan Diego’s culture was (and still is today) symbolic.

The moment of the first miraculous apparition was one where the Dark Virgin’s symbolic vesture speaks more than any words need be spoken. The Good News of salvation is proclaimed and experienced, respecting the importance of culture at this event. The message of God’s incarnation transcends any cultural limitations and was completely understood by Juan Diego during this encounter.

Upon a small hill known as Tepeyac, near present-day Mexico City, Our Lady of Guadalupe asked Juan Diego to request that the local bishop construct a church on that apparition site. She tells Juanito that she wants to be present with all her love and compassion for “all the people of this land.”

Juanito goes to the first bishop of Mexico, Juan Zumarraga, and is kept waiting, treated with suspicion, and finally told to bring a sign from this heavenly lady. During Juan Diego’s long journey home he finds his uncle, Juan Bernardino, dying of a disease introduced by the conquistadors. This hinders his return to the Lady of Tepeyac for the requested sign. He takes a different route to locate the priest that his dying uncle had requested.

La Virgencita appears along the different route and assures him that his uncle was already healed. Juanito is to return to the top of Tepeyac, pick the flowers of all colors there, and bring them to her. He does as he is told, and La Virgencita arranged the rare flowers on Juan Diego’s maguey cactus fiber cloak—tilma—and sent him to visit the bishop with these flowers that would be the sign. Flower and Song are the two symbols that come together that express harmony, truth, and allow one to communicate with the divine. For the Nahua people, flowers were essential to understanding any truth that is of God.

When Juanito unwraps his tilma before the bishop and assistants, the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is imprinted on it. His tilma is what is enshrined at the world-renowned basilica in Mexico City, the site that honors The Blessed Mother of God’s request.

The Guadalupe event is a tradition of living faith; Mary, the Mother of God, embraces the color and symbols of a particular culture so that she can bring comfort to a people.

Rudy Vela, SM