Thursday, December 13, 2018

Advent 7

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"Keep watch," "stay awake," "be prepared" is Jesus' way of saying - don't "worry," "stew," or "fret" about what you cannot control.

It seems with today's technology we almost have the world at our fingertips. We can contact someone almost anywhere with a call, a text, or even a twitter. It used to be if you were waiting for an important phone call, you had little choice but to sit by your phone all day waiting for it to ring. Then came "call forwarding," and you could program your phone to ring your anticipated call through to a different number. You could be in either of two places and still get your call. With a cordless phone, still more freedom of place was possible. You could go outside and still not miss the call you were waiting for. Finally, with the cellular phones and paging systems, spatial freedom is complete. By being properly prepared and equipped, you can go virtually anywhere and do virtually anything and still not miss that phone call. Any place can become every place.

Jesus sort of encourages the "cellular-connected" Christians of their age. The on-time man working in the field and the on-time woman grinding grain at the mill looked just like their unprepared counterparts. They were busy laboring at their daily tasks, apparently wholly focused on the jobs they were doing. But they had a "cellular connection" to the Messiah, and when the Messiah called, they received the message and gladly took the invitation.

To be cellular Christian today does not rely on any pricey piece of technology. The "cells" that must keep us attuned to Christ's frequency must be every cell of our bodies. If our bodies can become receivers, open to the vibrations of the Spirit, if our souls can amplify the signals we pick up and transmit them to all with we come in contact, then we have become cellular Christians who are living timely lives.

Every Christmas, the time is ripe for meeting Christ anew. Don't fall asleep! Keep watch for his presence among us!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

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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

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Advent 6

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Advent, therefore, is the time to prepare ourselves for this Prince of Peace by being at peace with ourselves, our soul, that is often in anxiety, anguish and without hope. For this, one needs to start with oneself.

Pope Francis recently said we should ask the Prince of Peace to pacify our souls, so we can meet Him. We are so used looking at the souls of others rather than our own.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Advent 5

I hope your advent is off to a great start. If it is not, there still time to pull yourself together and make an effort.

Today's advent meditation gives us a focus on what advent is all about. So, take a few moments and refocus your advent.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Second Sunday of Advent



The central figure for today is John the Baptist. He proclaimed, that “one who is more powerful” is on the way. So, he began to get himself ready.

He moved to the wilderness. Lived with the animals. Ate grasshoppers. Dressed in itchy clothing.

John the Baptist was hard-core. He learned there was - and is - a better way. Earnest disciples today do not consider the blood-and-guts approach of John the Baptist to be normal. Instead, we look to Jesus, the “author and perfecter of our faith,” and we “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and we run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Jesus discipleship is humbling and counterintuitive. John the Baptist felt unworthy to assume even the most humble task of removing the sandals of Jesus, as was the custom in those days when dining socially.

John teaches us that discipleship is not about us, not about the self, and that is so different. The focus is not on improving ourselves, enhancing our discernment, listening to our inner this or that. We are not traing for the gold, we are training for God.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception


The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conceptions is a significant feastday for the Marianists. To the left are Anna and Joachim, parents of Mary. Pictured with Joseph is Mary with her son, Jesus. A dove nearby reminds us that Mary conceived Jesus of the Holy Spirit. Mary is venerated as the Immaculate Conception, she who was herself conceived immaculately, preserved from original sin, in the womb of her mother, Anna. 

The Preface prayer from the Mass for this holy day gives us a short lesson in the theology of the Immaculate Conception:

Father, all-powerful and ever-living God,
we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks.You allowed no stain of Adam’s sin
to touch the Virgin Mary.
Full of grace,
she was to be a worthy mother of your Son,
your sign of favor to the Church at its beginning,

and the promise of its perfection
as the bride of Christ,radiant in beauty.
Purest of virgins, she was to bring forth your Son,
the innocent lamb who takes away our sins.
You chose her from all women
to be our advocate with you
and our pattern of holiness.
In our joy we sing to your glory
with all the choirs of angels:
Holy, holy, holy ...

Friday, December 7, 2018

Advent 4


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During this season of preparation we are flooded with images of moving from darkness to light, from slumber to awareness, but both negative and positive instructions.

On the one hand, we’re advised to be aware of the destructive behaviors that do nothing but “gratify the flesh,” rather than nurturing the spirit. The apostle Paul uses words like “darkness,” “reveling,” “drunkenness,” “debauchery,” “licentiousness,” “quarreling” and “jealousy.”

One would hope that as we prepare for the coming of the Christ child, we would understand how inappropriate these actions are for anyone who wishes to visit the manger at Bethlehem.

On the other hand, we are encouraged to “put on the Lord Jesus” — a clothing metaphor which is a favorite of the apostle Paul, who was quite aware that there are too many wardrobe malfunctions among the people of God. “Put off, therefore,” he would say, “the garments of unrighteousness.” And he says, “Put on the Lord Jesus.”

Christ Jesus is our Advent Person. He is the Advent Reminder. This season is about him. It is not about us. It is a time to “wake from sleep” and “lay aside the works of darkness” because “the day is near.”

Paul advocates a different approach — put on “the armor of light” and “the Lord Jesus Christ." In other words, Paul urges his readers to get prepared for a life lived in and for the kingdom, rather than to continue in the sins of the past. Rather than behaving in a way that sends out the signals of sin, Paul argues that we “put on the Lord Jesus” and thereby send out signals of righteousness.

So, as we go through this Advent season, let’s give some serious thought to the signals we’re sending.