For all but a few of us, most New Year's resolutions get packed away with the last of the Christmas decorations. By Epiphany our behavior and the whole New Year are just as tarnished as they were before January 1st.
The problem with most of our resolutions is that they are too safe, too sensible and too self-centered. We resolve to make tiny cosmetic changes in our lifestyles -- but refuse to consider restructuring our lives and changing the paradigms by which we live. Saint Luke's single story about the boy Jesus offers us an example of what it would mean if we were to transform our lives by making the ultimate resolution, the mother of all New Year's resolutions, the resolution that ends all resolutions -- to declare that from this day forward we will be "about our Father's business."
Joseph and Mary, their friends, neighbors and relatives, all made the required pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover feast. But as soon as the allotted time for the holiday was over, they hit the road -- anxious to get back to all the chores and responsibilities that filled their lives. Joseph, a craftsman working with stone and wood, undoubtedly had projects awaiting his attention. Mary would have had the hundreds of time-consuming tasks it took to keep her family fed and clothed. Like most of us at the end of an extended vacation, they were probably looking forward to getting back to the comfortable familiarity of their own hearth and home.
But the young Jesus refuses to let his relationship with God be regulated according to some prearranged, culturally imposed schedule. Instead of going along with the return-to-business-as-usual attitude, Jesus answered the most important call of all -- to be about his Father's business.
What would it mean if we were to act in a similar fashion? What would it mean to live, not according to human expectations or cultural patterns, but according to what God required of us? What does it mean to be about God's business, rather than other people's business, or even other people's definition of God's business? Jesus discovered at this early age that answering God's expectations can get you in trouble -- even with your own family. In fact, focusing on God's business may put an unexpected crimp in the family business."
Three more classic Catholic jokes to add to your repertoire.
A Franciscan and a Jesuit were close friends since the days in which they had both been novices. They were both smokers, and found it difficult to pray or study for more than an hour without having a “ciggie break.” Faced with such difficulty, they decided to go to their superiors and ask them for permission to smoke.
When they met again, the Franciscan was somehow conflicted: “I asked my superior if I could smoke while I pray and he said I couldn’t,” he told the Jesuit. “You asked the wrong question, my friend,” the Jesuit replied. “I asked mine if I could pray while I smoke. He said ‘of course!’”
A Franciscan, a Dominican, and a Jesuit were sitting together, studying in a room, when suddenly the lights went out.
“My brothers, let us take this opportunity to meditate on how much we owe to our sister, the light, a gift from our Lord,” the Franciscan said.
“Yes, but let us also take this opportunity to think deeply and write on the difference between light and dark,” the Dominican added.
Meanwhile, the Jesuit went to the basement, found the fuse box, and reset the breaker.
A man was having a conversation with God:
Man: What is a million years like to you, O God?
God: Like one second, my son.
Man: What is a million dollars like to you, my Lord?
The Facebook post of Jeffrey in Bowling Green, Kentucky puts it this way: My parents were married for more than 20 years, divorced, fought a lot, went to work on themselves. Years later, they started dating. And as of yesterday, this happened. Excuse me, there’s something in my eye. As one of my favorite scripture passages reminds us: “Behold, I make all things new.” God bless us, everyone.
Because even in the darkest of nights, there is light. A Savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord. He is our hope.
He didn’t come in grandeur or majesty, to intimidate us. He came as the most helpless and dependent creature of all: a baby, in a manger, in Bethlehem. He loves us so much, God came to us as someone we could not help but love.
So, do not be afraid!
Yes: on this day, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. A savior has been born.
And he continues to be born in our hearts, if only we will allow it to happen.
That, I think, is the great power of Christmas, the reason why year after year that beautiful passage from Luke resonates. Christmas is about redemption, yes. But it is also about God’s overpowering love for us – His reassurance to a troubled, frightened, war-torn world that He is with us, through everything. He dreams with us.
He struggles with us.
He grieves with us.
And: He hopes with us.
Remember his name. Emmanuel. God is with us.
So do not be afraid.
In the immortal words of that great philosopher, Linus Van Pelt: “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
As we celebrate the fourth Sunday of Advent, we're fully aware of where God's love is leading us. The love might begin in the manger, but it inevitably will lead to the noonday sun reflecting on the Cross. God knows this, of course, but does not shy away from the pain that is coming. God's extravagant love is demonstrated in God's willingness to give sacrificially. God bestows the most precious gift, God's Son, knowing that this offering will not be appreciated, honored, or at times, even recognized.
The price is great, almost beyond measure. The gift of Christmas is that God looks at the cost without blinking. God is willing to give Jesus the beloved on behalf of this fickle, unappreciative world. This is what God would do for love: God will offer that which is most precious.
In Sunday's first reading, King David laments that he lives in a palace while the Lord lives in a tent. Our first reading may seem unusual until you take a look at the selection of Saint Luke for the day. In this selection we have the story of the Annunciation. The angel Gabriel gives Mary the message that she will bear the Christ child in her womb.
While a tent housed the Ark in David's time, Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant: Christ tenting among his people by finding his first home in Mary's womb.
And set below is a video of John Collier speaking about his painting, The Annunciation.
By his own will Christ was dependent on Mary during Advent: he was absolutely helpless; he could go nowhere but where she chose to take him; he could not speak; her breathing was his breath; his heart beat in the beating of her heart. In the seasons of our Advent – waking, working, eating, sleeping, being – each breath is a breathing of Christ into the world.
The Reed of God
The story of Christ's birth has been passed down from generation to generation. As time has passed, in efforts to relay the story to others, man has perhaps taken some creative license with the events of the Nativity. Though we are unsure of many elements surrounding Jesus' birth, we do know this: Two thousand years ago, a Savior was born of a virgin in the town of Bethlehem.
“During those days, Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste in a town of Judah where she entered the house of Zachary and greeted Elizabeth.”
English author Caryll Houselander, in her book “The Reed of God”, reflects and sees the young Mary’s great love for her aging cousin, Elizabeth. Houselander writes: “Many women, if they were expecting a child, would refuse to hurry over the hills on a visit of pure kindness… The Mother of God considered no such thing. Elizabeth was going to have a child too, and although Mary’s own child was God, she could not forget Elizabeth’s need – almost incredible to us, but characteristic of her.
“She greeted her cousin Elizabeth and at the sound of her voice, John quickened in his mother’s womb and leapt for joy.
“I am come,” Christ said, “that they may have life and may have it more abundantly.” Even before He was born, his presence gave life.
Caryll Houselander goes on to ask herself how Elizabeth knew what had happened to Mary. She surmises that “She knew it by the child within herself, by the quickening into life which was a leap of joy.”
She tell us that if Christ is growing in us… if we go with eager wills “in haste” to wherever our circumstances compel us because we believe that He desires to be in that place, we shall find that we are driven more and more to act on the impulse of His love. And the answer we shall get from others to those impulses will be an awakening into life, or the leap into joy of the already wakened life with them.
And so we ask ourselves as we approach Christmas; are we especially aware of the Christ growing within us? Do we go with eager haste to where circumstances call us, believing that Christ wants to be there through our presence?
"This was her son, but now He was outside of Her: He had a separate heart: He looked at the world with the blind blue eyes of a baby, but they were His own eyes.
The description of His birth in the Gospel does not say that she held Him in her arms but that she "wrapped Him up in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger."
As if her first act was to lay Him on the Cross.
She knew that this little son of hers was God's Son and that God had not given Him to her for herself alone but for the whole world.
This is one of the greatest of all the things that we must learn from our contemplation of Our Lady.
Few mothers realize that their children are part of a whole and that the whole is the family of God, to whom every child born owes all the love and service of a brother or sister. Many mothers try to shield their children from the common life, to give them a sheltered upbringing, so to shield them from all risk of sickness or pain or poverty that they are shielded from vitality and the vast experience of living. They hate to see them grow or experience anything that will make them independent.
Next Sunday we ordinarily celebrate Mary. Mary was "ordinarily sacred."
Who was more ordinary than Mary, a simple, unassuming peasant woman from nowhere-Nazareth? But it is her very ordinariness that provides such a perfect fit for the extraordinary work of the Holy Spirit in her life. It was in her quiet, unremarkable, day-to-day life that Mary "found favor with God."
This is the true miracle of Christmas. Jesus was not some glow- in-the-dark Christ-Child. Jesus, the very God incarnate, was a real, live, ordinary, crying, cooing, sleeping, eating, wetting, pooping baby. And just as with all babies, his greatest need was to be held in human arms, touched by human hands, soothed by human words of love and reassurance.
At Christmas we are all called to birth and cradle Christ in our own lives -- to wrap our arms around our faith. When we birth and cradle Christ in our own ordinary lives by faith, we find our arms wrapping around others who need Christ birthed and cradled in their lives.
Emmanuel means "God with us." But more than that, Emmanuel means God does not keep us at arm's distance. God is with us with open arms and with hands on us.
If Christ is born in us this Christmas, we too will reach with open arms to those in need; we too will have a hands-on relationship with life and love.
If you have never read The Reed of God, by British mystic, artist, and philospher, Caryll Houselander, you have missed one of the most profoundly moving spiritual meditations I’ve ever read. I picked up the book this Advent and it has significantly helped me through the season.
The book is broken into four sections that emphasize the humanity of Jesus’ mother, Mary, through four of the major mysteries of her life: the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Birth of Jesus, and the Finding of the Child, Jesus in the Temple. In these meditations are woven poetic tributes to both the human body and soul, and the beautiful significance of the environment, nature, and art. There is also much reflection on the benefits of silence, simplicity, and patience, especially with ourselves and God through all the seasons of mood, enlightenment, and life, itself.
Most important is Houselander’s contemplation on human restlessness and unease. She attributes this to the God in us seeking its source, and emphasizes all the idols we build to fill the emptiness when there is but one way to fill it and complete ourselves.
Wandering through the darkness of daily life, we stumble and fall, hurt ourselves and others, crash into obstacles and leave a trail of debris behind us. We long for a lantern that will light our path, a beacon to guide us and lead us home. And so we light a candle -- an Advent candle. This is done on the first Sunday of the Advent season, and again on the second, third and fourth.
Each Sunday we light another candle and say, "Restore us, O God." Restore our hope. Restore our peace. Restore our joy. Restore your love.
We know we need restoration.
Psalm 85 begins with a line that was spoken by the people of Israel, back in their homeland after a time of exile in Babylon: "Lord, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob." The people are thankful that their long captivity is over, and that God has forgiven their iniquity and "pardoned all their sin."
But still, something is missing.
The emptiness they feel is very similar to the void that remains deep within us. We know how fortunate we are. We appreciate God's favor toward us. But we wonder why everything we thought we wanted still isn't enough. We wonder why good fortune in this life gives us everything but a sense of peace.
Saint Augustine had it right when he said, "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you."
True peace will escape us until our restless hearts begin to rest in God. Serenity cannot be granted by a grade, a job, a large home or a fancy car. It comes to us as a gift from God, and it includes forgiveness of sin and the restoration of our relationship with the Lord.
The insistent message of Advent is -- don't settle for less than the full power of God Emmanuel, God always with us. Don't allow Advent to be only about picture-perfect scenes or sicky-sweet, candle-lit windows. Advent is about the desperate need for forgiveness and the restoration of hope through a loving relationship with God. Anything less than that doesn't speak to the urgent, heartfelt cry of God's people.
We need God who is our hope -- in person, concrete and tangible. Not a message, not a text, not even just a star in the sky.
Advent is filled with candles, stars and lights. We don't simply want the trappings of Advent; we want a hopeful sense that we're okay, that there's a future, that God is with us, that's there's more to life than tinsel.
"Come to save us!" we cry out to God. And God does.
Defenseless as a baby, God reflects love and invites compassion.
Like Lent, Advent is a season of preparation, self-examination, repentance and restoration. The culture around us celebrates the "joy" of Easter and Christmas, but it's really more a general sense of warm and fuzzy feelings connected to holiday memories with family and friends.
Real joy, however, only comes after we've been willing to allow God to deal with the brokenness in our lives, which is what the preparatory seasons of Lent and Advent are designed to do. We can't really express the joy of being found, in other words, unless we are first able to name the fact that we've been lost, our identity compromised, and much has been squandered on things that have no ultimate value. We light the candle of "joy" during Advent because we want to recognize that the coming of Jesus is the climax of all of history and, in his life, death and resurrection, Jesus has redeemed that checkered human history not only for us, but for the whole world. That's why the babe in the manger is the ultimate discovery. When we were lost, God himself came to find us!
One of the greatest figures in the Catholic church, St. John of the Cross is also one of the greatest poets in Spanish literature.
Born near Avila, Juan de Yepes Álvarez entered the Carmelite order when he was 21 and moved to Salamanca, Spain, where he studied philosophy and theology at the university. At 25 he was ordained a priest.
Around this time he met St. Teresa of Ávila, who inspired him with her work in reforming the Carmelite order, seeking to restore its original contemplative character. St. John worked with her for the next ten years, establishing and helping administer monasteries around Spain.
A group of his superiors, trying to counter their efforts, jailed him when he was 35. Though a higher Carmelite authority approved his work, he was imprisoned for nine months and treated harshly. Out of his tiny cell came his most famous work, The Spiritual Canticle. After nine months he escaped and continued his work. He was canonized in 1726, and in 1926 he was made a Doctor of the Church.
Holy Mary, who under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe are invoked as Mother by the men and women of Mexico and of Latin America, encouraged by the love that you inspire in us, we once again place our life in your motherly hands.
May you, who are present in these Vatican Gardens, hold sway in the hearts of all the mothers of the world and in our own heart. With great hope, we turn to you and trust in you.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen. Our Lady of Guadalupe, Pray for us. His Holiness Benedict XVI Prayer before the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Vatican gardens. May 11, 2005.
HONORING OUR BICENTENNIALS – A PAGE FROM THE FAMILY ALBUM To celebrate the bicentennials of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate and the Society of Mary, FamilyOnline is featuring occasional peeks into the past.
American Marianists first arrived in the missionary field of Peru in 1939, and Fr. Robert Heil — shown in this circa 1940s photo — was among the first to serve there. The Marianists established schools and staffed parishes in Lima, Callao, Chupaca and Trujillo. Fr. Robert, a beloved teacher, pastor and basketball coach, died in Lima in 2006.
Photo from the National Archives of the Marianist Province of the United States
It was in 1907, that Baden-Powell, an English soldier, devised the Scout motto: Be Prepared. He published it in Scouting for Boys in 1908. And, two years later, in 1910, the Boy Scouts of America was founded.
In Scouting for Boys, Baden-Powell wrote that to Be Prepared means “you are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your duty.”More than a century later, preparedness is still a cornerstone of Scouting. Through its fun, values-based program, Scouting prepares young people for life. But it is the Advent calling as well. We must always be in a state of readiness in mind and body for the coming of Christ.
Saint Peter encourages us, "You should remember the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets, and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken through your apostles." When we engage in the Scriptures daily, we galvanize our memory of God's Word and more consistently live it out each day.
So, we are asked to pay attention to what it is that masters you. Saint Peter criticizes those false teachers for promising freedom while being "slaves of corruption" and then he makes a poignant statement: "People are slaves to whatever masters them." As we move through the Advent season, that's a great question to ponder: What is it that masters us? To what have we become a slave? Is it money, sex, power or something else? As Bob Dylan once sang, "It may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you're gonna have to serve somebody." Who are you serving?
Tota pulchra es, Maria. Et macula originalis non est in Te. Thou art all beautiful, Mary. And the original stain is not in Thee.
Mary is beautiful because God loves her. In love, God her Father created her. In love, God her Son redeemed her. In love, God her Spouse dwelt in her always. The Blessed Trinity delights in Mary and so granted her first the fullness of grace on earth and then in heaven the highest glory.
Mary is also beautiful because she loves God. In childlike hope she trusted the Father and clung to the promises he made to Israel. In motherly openness she conceived and brought forth the Son, the Savior of the world. And in bridal ardor she united herself to the Holy Spirit. By grace, Mary is the true burning bush and tabernacle, the creature in which God becomes present and that burns with God’s love but is not consumed.
In all this, Mary never knew sin. In view of the merits of Jesus, God preserved his Mother totally pure. But why did God choose to make the all-beautiful, the Immaculate? He did so for love of us, to prepare for himself a beautiful and worthy Temple in which to dwell among his people. Mary Immaculate was the way God chose to come to us. As such, she is also the way for us to go to him. If we contemplate and love Mary, we will ever more deeply contemplate and love her Son, Jesus Christ.
Down through the ages, Catholic hearts have loved to contemplate the beauty of Mary as a way to approach her Son. This love moved the Church from early on to celebrate her mysteries in the liturgy. It also led Christian artists to create countless works of beauty. Poets and musicians sang her praises. Painters and sculptors imagined and portrayed her gracious countenance. Love of Mary encouraged saints and theologians to meditate and understand her place in our salvation. As a result, the Catholic patrimony boasts of many rich visual, verbal, and musical meditations on the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In our own day this great inheritance of Marian piety is preserved, promoted, and developed in an exemplary way by the popular prayer aid Magnificat. This month Magnificat celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary since its foundation. To mark the occasion and to thank the Blessed Virgin for her assistance in their apostolate, the publishers have issued a lovely book of art and prayer.
In Honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary moves through the mysteries of Mary’s life. It presents forty beautiful, full-page reproductions of icons or paintings of the Madonna that have through these years graced the covers of the magazine. Reflections by Pierre-Marie Dumont, the founder of Magnificat, accompany each image. These provide insight into the images and take their inspiration from them to meditate on the divine realities they represent. In addition the book gives each “mystery” a voice through a traditional hymn from the Church’s liturgy and a brief thought or prayer from various saints and Christian authors.
The book, just like the issues of Magnificat, is attractively laid out and printed. It would make for a lovely coffee table book. More significantly, reading and looking at this book would be an excellent way to gaze on Mary and contemplate her, to get to know her and love her more. Through word and image this work could move those hearts who take it up to share the deep delight that God enjoys in beholding the Immaculate. And in drawing nearer to her, these souls would grow more desirous of that infinitely beautiful Love and Light, the Triune God, from whom she comes to us and to whom she wishes to lead us.
Br. Josemaría Guzmán-Domínguez entered the Order of Preachers in 2014. He is a graduate of Chaminade High School.
Often confused with the Birth of Jesus, the "Immaculate Conception" is how Mary was conceived in the womb of her mother, St. Anne, through sexual intercourse with Joachim BUT Mary was born without Original Sin, unlike the rest of us.
This is a brief reflection on it by Richard Rohr.
As Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters, he will always love one and ignore the other” (Matthew 6:24). Our first and final loyalty is to one kingdom: God’s, or our own. We can’t really fake it. The Big Picture is apparent when God’s work and will are central, and we are happy to take our place in the corner of the frame.
Because I am a part of the Big Picture, I do matter and substantially so. Because I am onlya part, however, I am rightly situated off to stage right—and happily so. What freedom there is in such truth! We are inherently important and included, yet not burdened with manufacturing or sustaining that private importance. Our dignity is given by God, and we are freed from ourselves!
Today’s often misunderstood feast of the Immaculate Conception is saying that even Mary’s dignity was totally given by God from the first moment of her conception, and all she could do was thank God for it. It was nothing she merited. In that she is a metaphor and archetype for every human life.
Adapted from Preparing for Christmas with Richard Rohr
Before the recitation of the Marian Prayer the Holy Father focused his attention on this first Sunday of Advent saying, it is the time “that is given to us to welcome the Lord who comes to meet us, to verify our desire for God, and to look ahead and prepare for the return of Christ. “
Referring to the Gospel readings of the day, the Pope explained, “Jesus exhorts us to pay attention and to watch, to be ready to welcome him at the moment of his return.”
The person who pays attention, he continued, is the one who, “in the noise of the world, does not let him or herself be overwhelmed by distraction or superficiality, but lives in a full and conscious way, with a concern directed above all to others.”
With this attitude, Pope Francis noted, “we become aware of the tears and needs of others”…
The attentive person, he added, tries to counter the indifference and cruelty in the world and rejoices in the treasures of beauty that also exist in it.
The Holy Father underlined that the vigilant person is the one that welcomes the invitation to watch, and is not overwhelmed by the weariness of discouragement, a lack of hope or disappointment;
Being alert and vigilant, Pope Francis concluded are the preconditions that help us to stop "wandering away from the ways of the Lord", lost in our sins and in our infidelities; “these are the conditions that allow God to break into our existence, in order to restore meaning and value to it full of goodness and tenderness.”
My dear graduates of Chaminade, Kellenberg Memorial, and St. Martin de Porres Marianist School,
God comes and, yet God is already and always here. And so, we are both waiting and welcoming God. Let us reflect on God coming in time and beyond time. God comes in time, for we largely exist in time. God has come, is coming, and will come. We speak of the past as God’s coming in history. The Scriptures, particularly the Old Testament, speak of this coming as Salvation History. God
comes, reveals Himself, in time within the culture of a time. As we read Scripture, we read a revelation that is within a Semitic culture that is three- to four-thousand years older than ours. Despite this cultural fence, the word and Word of Revelation can be heard and pondered. The limitations can be overcome, and the message heard. For God to enter any moment of human history, He must shape His message within the strengths and weaknesses of a particular culture. To speak to and with humans is to speak in and with a particular culture accent. No word is culture-free.
God comes in the present moment. He comes to each of us in the community and culture of which we are a part. He speaks to each of us in the events that make up our personal history. My father’s events are not mine. I carry the consequences of his events and decisions, as the generation after me will carry my events and decisions in all their limitations and strengths. But, the present moment is a moment in which God speaks to me and to you in the signs of the times. Historical events are, yes, the actions of humans, but in a deeper sense of the weave of time and choice, there is a divine hand that nudges all that is human towards all that is divine in design.
God comes in the present. He comes to each of us not only in the community and culture of which we are a part, but He comes to each of us beyond our culture, beyond our communities, beyond the very words we stammer in speech about the divine. The Word comes wordless in the deepest part of our heart. In the silence between the words that rattle through our minds and lives, the wordless Word seeps through. Despite all the noise, the Silence echoes down the corridors and mazes of our hurried lives. Francis Thompson’s “Hound of Heaven” catches the intensity of God’s pursuit of Thompson in the mayhem of his opium addiction and of God’s pursuit of us in the chaos of our own manufactured mazes of addiction and self-absorption. God pursues; we cannot escape.
A far greater Love chases us than all the loves that we chase in the illusions of our consumer lives.
At the moment of the phase in action, of the moment of silence, come aside and rest and listen. He
is with you every time and everywhere. Listen to the sounds of silence that sing of his love in the
depths of your heart.
If God came in the past, and He has, and if God comes in the present, and He does, God also comes in the future. God is the goal and the end and the fulfilment of all of human history, all of cosmic evolution, all of human desire, all of the secret hopes nearly still-born in our hearts. He is out there, in front of us, beckoning each of us to come, to follow, to trust. The road ahead is His road. He is that road, for He is the Way. We are called to come and to follow Him on that road.
We are called through the words of the Word of God in human words to trust and to move beyond
the limit of our own words. The future is thrown open, wide beyond the measure of the human, into
the infinity of the divine. You, I, all are called to that Way that is Christ into the Heart of His Father. All time rolls into a completion as Jesus beckons each of us to follow Him as the Way and the Truth of our lives.
Advent is the waiting time. God has come, God now comes, God will come. God makes time and completes time in the fullness of time that is Jesus. We have been drawn into Jesus and His Body in baptism. We are washed clean and born anew for all time to the completion of time.
Listen. Listen very quietly, and listen to the word of the Word that echoes though the ways of your own heart. He came, He comes, He will come.
On behalf of all my Marianist Brothers,
Bro. Mark C. Ormond, S.M.
P.S. We look forward to seeing you at Midnight Mass. Also, we hope you will consider attending our annual College-Age Retreat at Meribah. This year’s theme is “It’s Not How Your Planned It,” and it will take place on Tuesday, January 2 and Wednesday, January 3, 2018. Arrive 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday; the retreat concludes at 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday. You can register for the retreat by visiting www.provinceofmeribah.com/register, or by emailing Brother Stephen Balletta at SBalletta@chaminade-hs.org.
Jesus is the "all-time, undisputed, undefeated Champion of Love." How are his followers doing as "Champions of Love"? Can others look at us and say, as they said about Jesus, "see how he loved him"? Can Jesus say that about you? About our schools?
Alas, none of us has Jesus' power to defeat death. But we can imitate Jesus' active, engaged style of ministry in our own attempts to embody Christ's love for the world. By reaching out to others in need - physically, emotionally, spiritually - we can help so many of our loved and society's "unloved" ones. Like Jesus we can find ourselves by losing ourselves in behalf of others.
Last week our Marianist high schools collected items for the elderly who are cared for by the Little Sisters of the Poor. Over eighty volunteers traveled with the donated items to Queen of Peace Residence in Queens Village, NY to assist in organizing thousands of items.
There must have been something about Christ that attracted Andrew. Something inside his heart told him, “He is the one. He can fulfill the deepest longings of my heart. I will follow Him.” Andrew encountered the living God and his life was never the same.
Pope Francis has been talking a great deal about having an encounter with Jesus Christ. It is this personal encounter with the living Lord that changes hearts and lives forever. Saul went from persecuting Christians to being one of the greatest evangelists of all time after encountering Jesus on the road to Damascus. St. Francis of Assisi heard the voice of Jesus tell him, “Rebuild my Church.” His life was never the same. The Lord asked Mother Teresa to care for the poorest of the poor and sickest of the sick…and she did it.
How can I encounter Christ if He died over 2000 years ago? St. Paul, St. Francis and Mother Teresa all encountered Jesus after His resurrection. Jesus is alive and speaks to us in so many different ways today – through the Sacraments, through the Scriptures, through other people, through nature, through everyday events, through silent prayer, etc.
Jesus calls all in the same way He called St. Andrew, “Come and follow me.” The Andrew brought his brother Simon Peter to meet Jesus and it changed both of their lives.
Powerful words that change people's lives. “Come, follow me.”
The Solemnity of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the Year of Grace 2017. Next weekend will bring us to the First Sunday of Advent in 2017. (On the liturgical calendar, the First Sunday of Advent is a kind of New Year's Day!)
Our first scripture was from the Book of Daniel and included the title "Son of man" (which we often hear in the Gospels, though not in this week's Gospel passage). This vision in Daniel gives us an ancient reference for the kingship of Christ. The Gospel is from John and took us to the dialogue between Jesus and Pilate, a text we hear every Good Friday. Here Jesus and Pilate debated their notions of kingship.
The second scripture of the day was from Revelation: the text echoed some of the imagery from the Daniel passage and made a fleeting reference to the Passion in the words, "those who pierced him."
Kingship, dominion, kingdom, the Almighty... these scriptures draw us to consider the power of God in our lives and God's sovereignty over us. These are categories somewhat foreign to our times and culture. The question comes, then, "Who and what reign over my heart and my life?"
A famous and traditional hymn is frequently used today. A hymn has strong theology, beautiful poetry, noble and moving sentiments and a simple, worshipful and singable tune. This is not a praise song or a devotional ditty or a song which, if you changed the word ‘Jesus’ to ‘my baby’ could make it into the pop charts. Read it and maybe sing it and ask yourself if you understand all the allusions, the symbols, the Biblical references–and if you do not why not?
Crown Him with many crowns, the Lamb upon His throne.
Hark! How the heavenly anthem drowns all music but its own.
Awake, my soul, and sing of Him who died for thee,
And hail Him as thy matchless King through all eternity.
Crown Him the virgin’s Son, the God incarnate born,
Whose arm those crimson trophies won which now His brow adorn;
Fruit of the mystic rose, as of that rose the stem;
The root whence mercy ever flows, the Babe of Bethlehem.
Crown Him the Son of God, before the worlds began,
And ye who tread where He hath trod, crown Him the Son of Man;
Who every grief hath known that wrings the human breast,
And takes and bears them for His own, that all in Him may rest.
Crown Him the Lord of life, who triumphed over the grave,
And rose victorious in the strife for those He came to save.
His glories now we sing, who died, and rose on high,
Who died eternal life to bring, and lives that death may die.
Crown Him the Lord of peace, whose power a scepter sways
From pole to pole, that wars may cease, and all be prayer and praise.
His reign shall know no end, and round His piercèd feet
Fair flowers of paradise extend their fragrance ever sweet.
Crown Him the Lord of love, behold His hands and side,
Those wounds, yet visible above, in beauty glorified.
No angel in the sky can fully bear that sight,
But downward bends his burning eye at mysteries so bright.
Crown Him the Lord of Heaven, enthroned in worlds above,
Crown Him the King to Whom is given the wondrous name of Love.
Crown Him with many crowns, as thrones before Him fall;
Crown Him, ye kings, with many crowns, for He is King of all.
Crown Him the Lord of lords, who over all doth reign,
Who once on earth, the incarnate Word, for ransomed sinners slain,
Now lives in realms of light, where saints with angels sing
Their songs before Him day and night, their God, Redeemer, King.
Crown Him the Lord of years, the Potentate of time,
Creator of the rolling spheres, ineffably sublime.
All hail, Redeemer, hail! For Thou has died for me;
Thy praise and glory shall not fail throughout eternity.
Meet God who lives with the Pope Francis: “It’s all about going out and meeting God who lives with the poor”
From La Stampa:
Francis was honest from the start: “I don’t want to give a formal speech, partly because I want to be spontaneous and partly because I haven’t had time to prepare any speeches other than those for Europe and Turkey.” The Pope said this during this morning’s audience with cardinals and bishops who attended the International Pastoral Congress on the World’s Big Cities held in Barcelona from 24 to 26 November. “I want to speak to you from my own personal experience.”
Francis focused on the challenges big cities present to individuals, the world as a whole and therefore the Church as well. Calling it a real “ecclesial transformation”, a change in mentality “from receiving to going out, from waiting for people to come to us, to going out and searching for them.” Francis spoke again of the mission of the Church which must always “go out”. He suggested an ecclesial transformation, with a missionary spirit. He also encouraged the Church to adapt to the city’s times. This means “rendering the Sacrament of Baptism accessible; making sure churches are open and administrative offices have opening hours that suit the needs of people who go to work;” and ensuring “that the Catechesis be suitable in content and accessibility to the time limitations of people who live in big cities.”
“It’s all about going out and meeting God who lives in cities with the poor,” Francis said. “Meeting, listening to, blessing, walking with the people; facilitating the encounter with the Lord are his rule of thumb.”
“We find it easier to help the faith grow than to help give birth to it. I think we need to continue looking into these changes which are necessary in our various catecheses. It is essentially pedagogical methods that need to change so that contents can be understood more easily. At the same time though, we need to learn to re-awaken our audience’s curiosity and interest in Jesus Christ, so that we can then invite them to follow Him.” In a spontaneous comment, he said that there is in fact a patron saint of curiosity: St. Zacchaeus: “We pray to St. Zacchaeus that he may help us … We must learn to inspire faith,” Francis added.
It was the autumn of 1621. In Plymouth, Massachusetts, after a rich harvest, the men, women and children who had survived the first year in the New World gathered for a feast to offer thanks.
One of the pilgrims wrote at the time: “By the goodness of God, we are so far from want.”
What was it like? I did a little Googling and found that the menu for that first Thanksgiving had some surprises. It was not necessarily turkey and pumpkin pie. Historians think they probably ate fowl and venison – or deer. The pilgrims didn’t have forks, but used spoons. More likely, they ate with their hands. And the food was probably a lot more fatty than we are used to. Cholesterol was unheard of. They were more worried about plague and the pox.
They didn’t have much sugar, so sweets and deserts were probably not on the menu. So, you can forget the pumpkin pie.
Whatever it may have involved, that meal left us with an enduring tradition: a gathering around a table, giving thanks for surviving in an uncertain and difficult new place.
But a few years ago, the Unitarian minister Peter Fleck suggested we look at this differently.
Maybe, he wrote, the pilgrims weren’t thankful because they had survived.
But maybe they had survived…because they were thankful.
These were people who lived their lives in wonder and hope, grateful for everything: the hard winds and deep snows…the frightening evenings and hopeful mornings …the long journey that had taken them to a new place. They knew how to express gratitude.
Gratitude doesn’t always come easily. We all know that generosity – the giving of a gift – means thinking more about others than about yourself. It represents an act of love. But so does being thankful. To give thanks is to extend yourself. It is to remember where the gift came from.
It is to go out of your way to acknowledge that — like the one cured leper in the gospel, who changed the direction he was headed, and walked back to Jesus, all the way back from the temple, to thank him.
There is love in that. A love for the gift – and for the one who gave it.
Reverend Fleck suggested that maybe that is what enabled the pilgrims to thrive and prosper: a humble appreciation for whatever God gave them, trusting that He would give them what they would need. It’s an optimistic message, really — and gratitude, I think, carries a spirit of optimism. Maybe that spirit can teach us something, as we endure our own hard winds and deep snows – the storms of our own lives. Especially now.
Thanksgiving will be a time for family, and for celebration.
But I know it won’t be that way for everyone.
Thanksgiving isn’t about giving thanks for having a lot. It’s about giving thanks for just having. For being. For knowing that whatever we have, whether it is served on a china plate or a Styrofoam carton, it is all a gift. The prayers whispered over a Happy Meal are just as precious to God as the ones said over the turkey and stuffing.
And all of us, no matter where we find ourselves praying, will be bound together by one simple word: grace. At a few McDonald’s this Thanksgiving, I’m sure that grace will be said.
And, I am just as sure of this: that grace will be present.
The grace of gratitude. The grace of thanking God for whatever gift He gives. And in the giving, and in the receiving, and in the thanking, there is something that transcends time and place.
There is love.
Love for what we have, and love for what we have been given. And love for the God who gives it. Because no matter how fierce the winds, or how unforgiving the storm, at least on this day we all remember that God is near.
The pilgrims knew that. And so did the Samaritan. He lived a life of disfigurement and shame. But he trusted, and he listened, and he was healed — changed forever, made new.
He could have gone on his way. But he didn’t. He couldn’t. He had to thank The One who made his miracle possible.
Twenty centuries later, that anonymous figure left us a legacy, and a lesson: a beautiful example of what it means to have an “attitude of gratitude.”
It is an attitude we all need to nurture — not just today, but every day. Gratitude can open our hearts – and change our lives – if only we let it.
Or, as Reverend Fleck so beautifully put it: maybe the pilgrims weren’t thankful because they survived.
The first Thanksgiving Proclamation, from the first president
Following a resolution of Congress, President George Washington proclaimed Thursday the 26th of November 1789 a day of “public thanksgiving and prayer” devoted to “the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.” Reflecting American religious practice, Presidents and Congresses from the beginning of the republic have from time to time designated days of fasting and thanksgiving (the Thanksgiving holiday we continue to celebrate in November was established by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War and made into law by Congress in 1941).
Thanksgiving Proclamation Issued by President George Washington, at the request of Congress, on October 3, 1789
By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.
Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and—Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favor, able interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other trangressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
Today is the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
According to tradition, the Blessed Virgin Mary was consecrated to God as a young child and was given by her holy parents, St. Anne and St. Joachim, to live in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. This special feast day honoring this event appeared in the East much earlier than it did in the West. Then, in the late Middle Ages it was promoted as a feast day for the universal Church.
Much like the Old Testament story of Hannah and her son Samuel, tradition holds that Mary, as a little girl of three years old, was given to God to be educated and raised in the temple as a result of a promise made between God and St. Anne while St. Anne suffered from a long period of infertility.
Excerpts from The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary
by Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich
“Joachim went first to the Temple with Zechariah and the other men. Afterwards Mary was taken there by her mother Anna in a festal procession. First came Anna and her elder daughter Mary Heli, with the latter’s little daughter Mary Cleophas; then the holy child Mary followed in her sky-blue dress and robe, with wreaths round her arms and neck; in her hand she held a candle or torch entwined with flowers. Decorated candles like this were also carried by three maidens who walked on each side of her, wearing white dresses embroidered with gold. They, too, wore pale-blue robes; they were wreathed round with garlands of flowers, and wore little wreaths round their necks and arms as well. Next came the other maidens and little girls, all in festal dress but each different. They all wore little robes. The other women came at the end of the procession.”
. . . . .
“When Joachim’s sacrifice started to burn, Anna went, with the child Mary in her ceremonial dress and with her companions, into the outer court of the women, which is the place in the Temple set apart for women.”
. . . .
“Zechariah and Joachim came out of the court of sacrifice and went up to this altar with a priest, in front of whom stood another priest and two Levites with scrolls and writing materials. Anna led the child Mary up to them; the maidens who had accompanied Mary stood a little behind. Mary knelt on the steps, and Joachim and Anna laid their hands on her head. The priest cut off a few of her hairs and burnt them in a brazier. Her parents also said a few words, offering up their child; these were written down by two Levites. Meanwhile the maidens sang the 44th Psalm (Eructavit cor meum verbum bonum) and the priests the 49th Psalm ( Deus, deorum Dominus, locutus est ) accompanied by the boys with their instruments.
I then saw Mary being led by the hand by two priests up many steps to a raised place in the wall dividing the outer court of the Holy Place from the other court. They placed the child in a sort of niche in the middle of this wall, so that she could see into the Temple, where there were many men standing in ranks; they seemed to me to be also dedicated to the Temple. Two priests stood beside her, and still others on the steps below, singing and reading aloud from their scrolls. On the other side of the dividing wall there was an old high priest standing at an altar of incense, so high up that one could see half of his figure. I saw him offering incense and the smoke from it enveloping the child Mary. . ."\\\