Meditation is an ideal way to pray. Using God's word (Lectio Divina) allows me to hear, listen and reflect on what the Lord wants to say to me - to one of his disciples - just like He did two thousand years ago.
The best time to reflect is at the beginning of the day and for at least 15 to 30 minutes.
Prior to going to sleep, read the Mass readings for the next day and then, in the morning, reflect on the Meditation offered on this website.
I hope these daily meditations allow you to know, love and imitate the Lord in a more meaningful way.
God bless you!


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Jn 1:1-18 The Dark World of Man

Seventh Day of the Octave of Christmas
(Click here for readings)
 
By BENEDICT AUGUSTINE

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.”

For over two thousand years, Christianity has made a profound impact in the course of Western civilization. Considering the relatively slow developments occurring over so many thousand years before the birth of Christ, the last two millennia indicate a definite change in general pattern of human behavior. Practices long held in before Christ either ceased permanently or continued imperfectly without the moral sanction enjoyed by most of society. Besides the old pagan epics of Babylon, Egypt, or Greece, some of these ancient practices are recorded in the Old Testament, practices so gruesome that modern readers often recoil in horror and feel tempted to shun that part of salvation history.

Christ was the “life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light that shines in the darkness.” In most cases, Christians apply this in a moral sense to the individual: Jesus has the power to overcome the inner darkness plaguing the sinful soul. Christians can also apply this idea of a life of light to history, where the Church, for all its abuses over the centuries, more often served as a light for the world. Acknowledging this Christian enlightenmentcan help to shed light on the enemies that threaten to dim Christ’s light today.

Before Christ (BC), and in the first few centuries afterward (AD), the world was truly a dark place. The empires of Xerxes, Ramses, Hammurabi, or Caesar, might impress people with their great monuments like the Pyramids or Hanging Gardens, ortheir great exploits like subduing the Gallic tribes or the kingdoms of Mesopotamia, or their great cultural achievements like Hammurabi’s Code or Vergil’sAeneid, but all of these wonders rest on the back of slavery, injustice, and genocide. The great personages of the Ancient World only shine by a stark contrast with the vast majority of men in bondage and squalor.

In imagining a world without Christ in the last chapter of The Great HeresiesHillaire Belloc pinpoints three major factors that inevitably arise, and which figured prominently in ancient societies: slavery, cruelty, and relativism. Without a conscience formed by the teachings that command men to love God and love their neighbor, men will enslave, kill, and torture their neighbor whiledefying rational order by making themselves or something else God.

Slavery, cruelty, and relativism are on full display in the book of Exodus—and all the rest of the Old Testament books, for that matter. God’s chosen people suffered the worst kind of bondage and most horrific cruelty from a deranged pharaoh who imagined himself a god. The pharaoh did not consider whether he committed atrocities in treating his subjects this way; after all, he had the power and made the rules. So complete was their subjection that the Jews could not even imagine a better way to live, making Moses’s liberationexhausting since he has to coax them out of slavery nearly every step of the way.

The situation of Exodus reflected the universal conditions of man in the world of that time. When left to his own devices and free from God, this ancient life, which Hobbes correctly called “nasty, brutish, and short,” is the one that man will create. In those parts of the world with no religion or false religions, this wretchedness will always hold sway for the great mass of people. Goodness, beauty, and truth do not come naturally.

With God, through Jesus, man can lift the darkness. Jesus allows him to see his neighbor, or himself, as more than a mere animal or machine. Jesus commands people to love, not oppress or subdue, one’s enemies. Jesus makes God intelligible, and one might even say lovable, by acting as His Word, making life in this world knowable and meaningful. Men and women are no mere objects randomly placed in the world, but God’s children made in his image with a transcendent goal to pursue.

Looking back at the pagan past and its darkness, along with the patches of darkness threatening to grow in the secular present, the Church’s mission, articulated in John’s first chapter, becomes clear: to bring truth, beauty, and goodness to the world through Christ’s light, word, and love.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Lk 2:22-35 Holding True to the Gospel

Fifth Day of the Octave of Christmas
(Click here for readings)

by KATIE GROSS

Today’s Gospel reading is long-- usually I try to cut a portion out and only comment on one part, but I cannot bring myself to do that today! Every portion of this Gospel reading teaches us a profound and timely lesson about the dignity of the human person through life, death, and suffering.

When the days were completed for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
the parents of Jesus took him up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord,
just as it is written in the law of the Lord,
Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,
and to offer the sacrifice of
a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,
in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

It is very hard for us as humans to grasp the true sanctity oflife. The ancient Jewish ritual truly emphasized the sanctity of every new life, regardless of the circumstances under which one was born. Joseph and Mary were not rich by any means, nor was the birth of Jesus expected. Even so, the same ritual still applied for every Jewish child—a presentation and a sacrifice which showed just how much that child was worth in the eyes of God. Our culture has much to learn from this ritual. Last Friday, I was out Christmas shopping with a friend in a nice neighborhood in Dallas. We were having a great time, unbothered by anything going on around us. Then we drove a mere thirty seconds and that all ended. On the other side of an otherwise outwardly nice block began a much darker neighborhood, marked by none other than a huge abortion clinic.

Why has our society taken it upon itself to judge the worth of a human life? Jesus was the most unexpected of all pregnancies, born into troubling circumstances. By our modern definition of worth, wouldn’t He too be of little value? Pope Francis said recently, “Every unborn child, although unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of Jesus Christ, the Lord’s face.”

On the same note, if you have a Twitter account, you for sure have seen hashtags surrounding the Ferguson situation such as #BlackLivesMatter, #AllLivesMatter, and the like. The vast majority of the former hashtag comes from the African-American community and the latter from the white community, so clearly these hashtags represent a political stance of sorts instead of a sincere call to conversion. I will be the first to say that I know absolutely nothing about Ferguson and other situations. However, independent of the situation, I can clearly see a cause for upset among economically disadvantaged communities. If you are not rich in this country, you probably live within blocks of an abortion clinic. If you are not rich, you are probably inundated with the message that your life is of little value. We have stopped defending the value of every life as a culture.
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.
This man was righteous and devout,
awaiting the consolation of Israel,
and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit
that he should not see death
before he had seen the Christ of the Lord…
he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:
“Lord, now let your servant go in peace;
your word has been fulfilled:
my own eyes have seen the salvation
which you prepared in the sight of every people,
a light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.”

The next thing we do not understand is death. A very wise woman from the movie Forrest Gump once said, “Death is just another part of life.” If only all of us had this hope! Imagine if you were told by God exactly when you would die, like he did to Simeon. When that moment came, how many of us would react with grace like he did? I personally think I would complain to God that I was not ready or try to find a way out of it.Regardless of how much faith we have in our hearts, it is undeniably difficult to face our own mortality. When we age, we color our hair. When we get sick, some of us refuse to get medical help. We must pray to increase our hope that God will raise us up—that this life isn’t all there is for us: “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day” (John 6:40).

The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
(and you yourself a sword will pierce)
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

The last thing we don’t understand as a culture is suffering. The typical question that people who doubt God ask is, “why would a merciful God allow suffering?” However, in our Bible, Mary isdirectly promised by a prophet of God that she will suffer! Isn’t that cruel? No-- this is where Christians stand alone. Many world religions have the single goal of avoiding suffering, or seek to explain it away. For us, however, suffering is not only an unavoidable part of life, but the very thing that gained us our salvation. Suffering is a grace that unites us to the mystery of our own salvation through the suffering of Christ. The Catechism even says that the suffering person is “consecrated to bear fruit by configuration to the Savior's redemptive Passion” (CCC 1500).

Our faith has a view of life, death, and suffering that is challenged by the modern culture at every turn. Let us pray that we will be able to be courageous enough to hold true and witness to our vision of life, consistent with the Gospel.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Lk 2:22-40 Other Than Perfect

Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
(Click here for readings)

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.  The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

Today's meditation is divided into two parts.  I won't tell you what they are because I don't want to spoil what I have to say.  But let's begin with some practical advice.

Some practical advice.  A few years back, I received a book for Christmas entitled 30 Lessons for Living.  The author of this book, Karl Pillemer, interviewed thousands of "wise" Americans.  And who are these wise Americans?  The elderly. 

When Pillemer asked them what they thought about family, they mentioned five lessons:  

(1)  It's all about time.  Take time to be with your family.  It's not about "quality" time, it's all about taking time.  Children are like clams:  hard on the outside and soft (sensitive) on the inside.  And just like clams, you never know when they will open up to you.  So make sure you're there when they're ready.

(2) It's normal to have favorites, but never show it.  Kids are very good at picking up hypocrisies and injustices.  Be careful.  It's easy to have a favorite child - especially the one that sucks up to you - but if you let it show, then you'll end up having a child that hates you and the favored sibling.  Isn't this what we felt towards our teacher and his/her "pet"?

(3) Don't hit your kids.   The wisest Americans advise to exclude physical punishment.  I don't mind a parent spanking a child.  I do mind a parent beating a child.  There is a difference.  It's the difference between hitting a child and hurting them.

(4) Avoid a rift at all cost.    Do whatever it takes to avoid a permanent rift with your child, even if it means compromising a little bit.  Why?  Because the human family is an image and likeness of the divine family, God:  Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The unity and charity between family members is just as important as the union and indissolubility of marriage, which is an image and likeness of unity and dissolubility between Christ and His Bride, the Church. 

Finally, let's take to heart the encouraging words of St. Paul:  "Who will separate us from the love of Christ?  Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ...But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us" (Rm 8:35,37).

(5) Take a lifelong view of relationships with children.  Spend time with your children.  Allow your grown children to enjoy their time with you!  Allow them to relax in your presence.  It's simple:  the more your children enjoy being with you, the more time they will want to spend with you.  I have visited many nursing homes.  None of them are happy places, not even the most expensive ones.  They are all sad places, not so much because of who is there but because of who is not there:  children, grandchildren and relatives.  Think long term.  

This is the first part of my meditation, the part least interesting to me, for the above recommendations are worthless and useless - and possibly harmful - if there is no change of heart; that is, a desire to love, which means a desire to be holy.

As I mentioned last year, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the feast of the Holy Family, not the "Perfect Family."  Why?  In order to answer this question, we must meditate on the nativity scene.

This Christmas, I received many Christmas cards that showcased family members.  As I looked through them, I noticed how different the holy family looks compared to the "contemporary" American family.  Or are they so different? 

Looks can be deceiving.

What do you see when you look at the nativity scene?  The family in the stable is far from being the "perfect" family.  Think about it.  Joseph is not the father of Jesus.  He is His adopted father.  We could even say His "step-father."  Mary is married to Joseph, but their marriage is different from so many other marriages.  Now I have no doubt in my mind that Mary loves Joseph, and that Joseph loves Mary, but their love is more of a love between friends, not spouses.  Finally, this couple will only have one male child, not seven - the perfect family found in the Old Testament. 

If there is anyone in this family that is perfect, then it is the baby Jesus, who cries at night and cries when He is hungry.  He is the perfect - the typical - child.

Some spiritual advice.  So what's the secret to being a holy family?  If we were to ask Mary, I think she would say "Put God above all things." 

If we were to ask Joseph, I think he would say, "Things don't always go as planned.  But if we follow God's plan, then things will work out just right."  I think he might also add, "Focus your attention on others.  Stop worrying about what others think and think about what God thinks." 

If we were to ask the two of them, I think they would say, "Stop complaining about what you don't have and start appreciating everything you do have."  Nothing is going to separate this couple, not even persecution or poverty.

Finally, if we were to ask Jesus what he thinks (and if Jesus could speak), I think he would say, "Honor your mother and your father, regardless of how imperfect and weak they are" (cf. Sirach 3:2-6,12-14).

Here is the holy family. 

O Come, let us learn from them!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

1 Jn 1:1-4 One Church, One Faith, One Lord

Feast of Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist
By JENNIFER BURGIN


"Beloved: What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life — for the life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was made visible to us— "

As I flipped through The Liturgy of the Hours, looking for the proper readings for Morning Prayer, I stumbled across the words to an old hymn which brought back memories of my Protestant years:

Your heralds brought glad tidings
To greatest and to least;
They told all men to hasten
To share the great King's feast;
And this was all their teaching
In every deed and word,
To all alike proclaiming:
One Church, one Faith, one Lord.

I played the violin in a local Baptist Church throughout high school and during summers of college.  It was a fun period, during those awkward teenage years, where I hung out with  fellow orchestra dorks and shared laughter together.  Nothing more fun than getting the giggles during a boring sermon. The orchestra sat behind the preacher, so he couldn't see us snickering....  

Before Wednesday night practices, I will never forget one gifted violinist walking around the sanctuary playing the Motel 6 theme song. (Click here for the tune.) I'd go home in the evening with that song repeating over and over in my head.  At Christmas time we'd rehearse for hours preparing for the annual Singing Christmas Tree.  One year the gifted violinist and I played a duet in front of the church congregation.  It was an arrangement of "Joy to the World."  I still have a VHS tape of that performance.  Wow, I can't believe it's been over 20 years ago.

Today, we celebrate the feast day of Saint John, the apostle and evangelist.  This is the same John who Jesus chose to care for Mary after his death.  John, as well as the other apostles, took to heart the idea of One Church, One Faith, and One Lord.

In his letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul writes:  Since in God's wisdom the world did not come to know him through "wisdom," it pleased God to save those who believe through the absurdity of the preaching of the gospel.

How can the preaching of the gospel be absurd?  Saint Paul's comment is very interesting; he's got it so right though.  Preaching the gospel is quite radical and something the Jews and Gentiles were not accustom to.  Even today, a person may not know who God or Jesus Christ is.  In this instance, preaching is a necessity. Otherwise, someone ignorant of God will never learn to appreciate His tremendous grace and love.  We want all of our fellow men and women to reach heaven someday.

 As a new lay member of the Dominican family, I am called to "preach" the good news of the gospel.  I'm not an ordained minister.  Some people may think it "absurd" for a Catholic woman to even attempt to preach; however, I think writing this blog post is a form of preaching in itself. Saint Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church, was an uneducated woman who joined the Dominicans as a lay member (called the Mantellate).  By the power of the Holy Spirit, she gained incredible wisdom and knowledge.  She passed along that knowledge in the form of letters to Popes and noblemen, influencing the politics of the times.  Naturally, lay persons and clergymen alike gravitated toward her happy and peaceful disposition.  In many respects, Saint Catherine preached about One Church made manifest by Christ crucified; One Faith which pours forth tremendous grace and healing; and One Lord who loves us unconditionally.

As Catholic Christians today, how can we evangelize the concept of One Church, One Faith, and One Lord ?  Firstly, we must remember we are all one body in Christ.  This one body, the Church, is strongest when all members remain unified.  We pray for one another, care for one another, and love one another.  Secondly, as Catholic Christians we share one faith.  This one faith allows us to recognize the blessings in our lives as well as bless others we encounter on a daily basis.  Faith in Christ gives us the strength to better handle adversity.  Finally, we are called to worship One Lord.  This involves not focusing so much on worldly pleasures and possessions but focusing on living a holy and good life so we will make it to heaven some day.

We are all called to be disciples just like Saint John and Saint Paul.  In the New Year, let us accept the challenge to follow the Lord in thought, word and deed.  Preach the good news to others.  Allow Christ to transform our minds and hearts!

Through many days of darkness,
Through many scenes of strife,
The faithful few fought bravely
To guard the Christian life;
Their gospel of redemption,
Sin pardoned, man restored,
Was all in this enfolded;
One Church, one Faith, one Lord.

Saint John the Apostle, Pray for Us!



This meditation was written by Jennifer Burgin. She is a Lay Dominican associated with St. Albert the Great Dominican Priory in Irving, TX.  Please follow her blog:  Jennifer's Spectrum of Spirituality

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Mt 1:1-25 From Metaphors and Toys to Flesh and Blood

The Nativity of the Lord 2014
Midnight Mass
(Click here for readings)

By Fr. Alfonse Nazzaro

Now 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....  All of 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.' 

Do you realize what just happened?  God became like one of us so that He could be with us!  In other words (and this is important):  God does not want to avoid us. 

This is a miracle! 

I, for one, will admit that when I see a person I don't want to see walking down the hallway, I will do everything possible to avoid that person.  I'll turn my head.  I'll put my head down.  I'll stop dead in my tracks and go in a different direction.  I'll take a few steps back and tippy-toe my way out of the way.

Not God.  Today, God did the complete opposite.  He took one giant leap of love and got right into our mess!

I'm a mess!  You're a mess!  We're all a mess!  Why in heaven would the Son of God come to earth for us?  Because He knows how to love.  Do you?

Old Testament metaphors.  The Old Testament is full of wonderful metaphors.  Some examples are: "The Lord has stretched out his hand over the sea..." (Is 23:11); "O Eternal One, lend an ear to my prayer and answer me, for I am weak and wanting." (Ps 86:1) 

Throughout the Old Testament, sacred writers give God a mouth (Num. 12:8), a heart (Hos. 11:8), feet (Gen. 3:8) and human emotions like jealousy. (Ex. 20:5).

Yet we all know that God is pure Spirit, right?

YES!  But not today.

Today, everything changes. 
Today, God becomes one of us: "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." (Jn 1:14). 
Today, the metaphors took on flesh and blood.  They have become real in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

Has the Holy Spirit took on flesh and blood in you?

Toys and Christmas.  When we were kids we loved to play with toys.  Some kids played with airplanes and pretended to be pilots.  Others played with dolls and pretended to be mothers or fathers.  Still others played with stuffed animals and pretended to be  veterinarians or chefs.  

Reflecting on today's Gospel passage, I never realized how important toys are towards our psychological development.  Toys serve an important purpose:  they inspire us. 

Today, we must go back to the playroom.  We must go back to playing children's games, reading children's stories, and playing a child in adult roles.  Why?  Because we must grow up!  We must make these important people real, flesh and blood.   

This afternoon, our kids from the parish put on their annual Christmas Pageant.  It was stunningly beautiful!  Our kids played the roles of Mary, Joseph, Shepherds, Kings, angels and baby Jesus.  With the exception of baby Jesus and a few animals, the kids played the role of grown ups, and we should all know that playing a grown up plays an important part in growing up!

When we were toddlers we heard the Christmas story. In elementary school, we read it and played a part in it.  Now, as adults, we must live the part! 

Christ is calling us to be a Mary - to say yes to God and to the impossible; to be a Joseph - to follow the better angels of our nature, regardless of what others may think; to be an angel - to speak highly of others and lovingly towards others; to be a shepherd - to lead others to Christ; to be a King - to be at the service of the poor and weak. 

Christ is even calling us to be a star - to bring light to those who live in utter darkness; a manger - to help others relax and feel comfortable; to be a stable - to protect those around us.

A pumpkin turning into a carriage is nothing compared to God turning into a babe!

Not only does God love to make something out of nothing, but to take that little something and turn it into something special. 

Do you realize what just happened today?  What God did today is more than real.  It is meaningful and challenging. The Lord is inviting all of us to be another Christ, to take the baby Jesus figurine and transform it into flesh and bones.   Be another Jesus! 

Christ's birth is a challenge He makes to all of us:  When you were young you played the part.  Now live the part!

Share the gift of Christ to others.  Share his love the way he did:  unconditionally.  Don't wait for the world to change.  Give generously for no good reason, for something good may happen.  This is what Christ bet on.  He bet on it with His life.  And the fact that we are here in His name means He was right!

A pumpkin turning into a carriage is nothing compared to what we can turn into with Jesus Christ.  But like Cinderella, we have only a certain amount of time (till midnight) to make it happen!

MERRY CHRISTMAS! 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Lk 1:67-79 Laying the Foundation for Christmas

Saturday of the Fourth Week of Advent
 
By Benedict Augustine
 
You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,
to give his people knowledge of salvation
by the forgiveness of their sins.”

In the enthusiasm of Christmas, or some other religious holy day, we seldom consider preparing our souls for Christ. Most theology, mostly Protestant, assumes that Jesus will meet us where we are, and that we simply wait for him to change us. Because all of us need help overcoming our addictions, our egos, our ignorance, we come to the conclusion that we are simply helpless; but needing help is not always the same as being helpless.

All humanity needs Christ, and through His Church, Christ treats these many needs. Because these needs are primarily spiritual, relating to the heart, Christ and His Church have spiritual treatments that work with the heart of a person. We call these treatments the sacraments. They serve as a visible signs of Christ’s invisible grace. The water of baptism signifies the living water of grace; the bread and wine of communion signify the body and blood of Jesus; the words exchanged in Confession signify the spiritual grace exchanged between the penitent and Jesus.

Jesus established the Church to administer the sacraments. The sacraments are effective insofar as the receiver approaches them with humility andfaith. In other words, a person must “prepare [Jesus’] way” in their heart to allow Jesus to work a change, or else the sign will remain only a physical sign, not a spiritual reality. Christ instituted the sacraments as to initiate a process of many moments, not as a magic moment of the spirit. He does not barge into a person’s soul; he awaits welcome and the appropriate preparation from a person. Therefore, one cannot simply wait helplessly for Christ’s arrival, but must set to work on building a house for him, like Nathan commands David to do.

John the Baptist proves this point. Just as individual Christians prepare the way for Jesus in their souls, John prepares the way for Jesus in the whole community of believers. He embodies this process of repentance by leaving the corrupt city and living in the wilderness in the effort to purify and build Jesus’ future Church. Pope Benedict XVI notes that John, as the final and greatest prophet, acts as the voice for Jesus who is the Word. As the voice passes away, the Word remains in the hearts of the speaker and, more importantly, the listeners. The Church continues this activity of John the Baptist with priests who, like John, serve as the voice for Christ, the Word.

The Incarnation of Jesus, Christmas, with its elaborate narrative filled with twists and important contextual information, with the 46 books of the Old Testament prefiguring the event, suggests anything but simplicity. God does not work into history directly, but rather indirectly and gently to respect man’s free will. People might demand a simple solution to the complex problem of one’s own humanity, but this simplicity too often equates to reduction of the person while Christ demands the whole person with all its complexities. The Church works on this premise, offering to build up the people’s souls from the ground up for all time, not just adding an ornament for a season. It takes the long view, both with the people, and with its own history. It follows the pattern set out by Jesus to sidestep easy solution that work only partially and embrace the difficult but effective solution that encompasses all life from birth (Baptism) to death (Last Rites).

And what is the Church exactly? The readings today suggest three different things: a building and rituals(the temple of David), the community (John’s mission as a prophet), and the individual heart (John’s preaching). We should keep these three meanings present in our minds as we celebrate Christmas tomorrow. Celebration calls for attending Mass and receiving communion, joining in prayer and love with the people around us, and opening our hearts for Jesus. All these activities depend on the other; to remove one, whether it be the structure, other people, or our own active participation, ultimately casts out Christ into manger again and leaves us in the dark.

Today, this Christmas Eve, and for all time, we must heed the call of John and open our houses to the Holy Family so that they may do the same for us when we join them in Eternity. Like John, let us leave the corruption of consumerism and skepticism of the world behind us, and join Jesus and the shepherds in the wilderness to build our souls for heaven.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Lk 1:46-56 The Past and The Future


December 22, 2014
(Click here for readings)

By KATIE GROSS

"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has looked upon his lowly servant.  From this day all generations will call me blessed..."

Do you ever find yourself paying less attention to the Old Testament reading at Mass because it doesn't make sense to you?  The Bible talks of kings and lineages and exiles and forefathers, which can seem a little confusing to us modern Catholics.  In this Gospel, Mary uses a few words that we may "tune out" for being so antiquated - generation, thrones, Israel, our fathers, etc.  However, just because something sounds Old Testament-esque doesn't mean we should tune it out - the Old Testament is so important to our faith because it points towards the New Covenant and our salvation through Jesus.

Today's first reading comes from the first book of Samuel.  Samuel's mother, Hannah, presents him in the temple:  "I am the woman who stood near you here, praying to the Lord.  I prayed for this child, and the Lord granted my request.  Now I, in turn, give him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the Lord."  Sounds familiar, doesn't it?  Hannah's surrender of her child is a foreshadowing of Mary's surrender of Jesus.

Similarly, today's Responsorial is a prayer of Hannah:

"My heart exults in the LORD,
my horn is exalted in my God.
I have swallowed up my enemies;
I rejoice in my victory."
The bows of the mighty are broken,
while the tottering gird on strength. 
The well-fed hire themselves out for bread,
while the hungry batten on spoil. 
The barren wife bears seven sons,
while the mother of many languishes. 
The LORD puts to death and gives life;
he casts down to the nether world;
he raises up again.
The LORD makes poor and makes rich,
he humbles, he also exalts.
He raises the needy from the dust;
from the dung heap he lifts up the poor,
To seat them with nobles
and make a glorious throne their heritage."

Again, sounds familiar, doesn't it?  Hannah nearly said the same words as Mary does in today's Gospel.  There are many Old Testament figures who prefigure New Testament figures, as if their entire life were a prophecy and foreshadowing of salvation.  These pairings are called biblical types.  Some examples are Eve as a type of Mary, or even the serpent on a staff that cured Israelites as a type of Jesus on the cross.

The Mass readings from this past Friday were a prime example as well, as the mother of Samson in the book of Judges says:

"A man of God came to me; he had the appearance of an angel of God, terrible indeed. 
I did not ask him where he came from, nor did he tell me his name. 
But he said to me,
'You shall be with child and will bear a son.
So take neither wine nor strong drink, and eat nothing unclean.
For the boy shall be consecrated to God from the womb,
until the day of his death.'"

Then, the Gospel reading was about the annunciation of the conception of John the Baptist.  Again, strikingly similar stories.  The Mass readings in Advent are absolutely filled with Biblical types from the Old Testament.  They demonstrate the path and plan of our salvation from the very beginnings of our faith.

What does this mean for us today?  It is a reminder of us to be ever more watchful for the working of God in our lives.  None of these Old Testament figures were aware of how their lives would foreshadow the coming of the Messiah.  In hindsight, however, how incredible is it to see how their entire lives were prophecies!  We may not be visited by angels in our lifetime.  We may not be prophets or mothers of rulers or anything outwardly great.  However, if we surrender to God like these Biblical figures did, we will be able to look back in eternity and see how our lives were a reflection of the Son of God, the Christ.

Lk 1:26-38 Overshadowed By The Holy Spirit

https://images-blogger-opensocial.googleusercontent.com/gadgets/proxy?url=http%3A%2F%2F3.bp.blogspot.com%2F-K3ktNXfAmUM%2FVJWwyxPAUsI%2FAAAAAAAACg8%2FcImAGuPe2W4%2Fs1600%2Fovershadowing%252Bmary.jpg&container=blogger&gadget=a&rewriteMime=image%2F*Saturday of the Third Week of Advent
(Click here for readings)

By JENNIFER BURGIN

 
But Mary said to the angel "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.”

How is your Advent going this year? Has it been fruitful? With Christmas less than a week away, most Americans feel stressed out. Maybe these thoughts come to mind:  Where on earth can I find a Eliza Frozen doll sold out at every retail market in the city?.... Uh, I still have so much shopping and cooking to do before family arrives on Christmas Eve!... I hope the package I mailed to the kids makes it in time.  The post office is so unreliable these days! 

When we get stressed out, especially around the holidays, crankiness swiftly changes into scrooginess.  Nobody likes a Bah Humbug but sometimes the attitude happens, especially when commercialized Christmas wears us down.  Why is it during this season of giving people can be so irritable, impatient and downright mean? 

With the holiday hustle and bustle, we can easily forget about Advent and the preparation for the arrival of the Christ Child.  Advent's preparation is much more important than preparing gift packages, holiday cards, and fancy meals.  Yes, these gift-giving gestures are wonderful tokens of thanks.  They show how much we love and appreciate one another. However, we must always remember the true reason for the season.  

The greatest gift the Archangel Gabriel gave to Mary was the gift of life. No expensive garment, stone pottery, or valuable gold coin can match it.  Mary could have responded, "No way will I accept motherhood at such a young age. I can't do it!"  However,  despite Mary's uncertainty of God's plan, she accepted the gift with obedience and courage.   How awesome to be chosen a holy handmaid of the Lord!  

If the Holy Spirit called you to serve his Church in a special way, would you accept the invitation with humility and obedience like Mary?

I find it amazing how the Holy Spirit stirs up life's emotional pot, leaving a person confused one minute, sad the next, and joyful in the end.  Personally, this has been a roller coaster Advent season. Tensions at work left me sleepless for several nights in a row. Then, I found out an old boss passed away from cancer over two months ago.  Confusion and sadness left me asking God, "Why are you challenging me during this Advent Season?  It's never been this intense before! Help me handle this frustration, annoyance and sadness.  I place my trust in you, Dear Jesus."  In a matter of a short few days, the heavy black cloud  lifted.  Perhaps I passed God's vigilance test?!   I remained steadfast in prayer despite feeling negative emotions.  Moreover, I remained steadfast in faith knowing God would bring clarity to my situation.  Now I see peace in the horizon.  I can't wait for Christmas to arrive!

Do you wish for the Lord to bring clarity into your life? Remain steadfast in prayer and always keep the Blessed Mother close to your heart!

"If you ever feel distressed during your day — call upon our Lady — just say this simple prayer: 'Mary, Mother of Jesus, please be a mother to me now.' I must admit — this prayer has never failed me."
 --Blessed Mother Teresa


This meditation was written by Jennifer Burgin.  She is a Lay Dominican associated with St. Albert the Great Dominican Priory in Irving, TX.  Please follow her blog:  Jennifer's Spectrum of Spirituality

 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Luke 1:26-38 The Birth of Jesus Foretold

December 20th 2014
(Click here for readings)

by GABY HUNDZA

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David, The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel when to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
 
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
 
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered, “May your word to me be fulfilled.” The the angel left her.

Mary is the perfect example of how we should accept God’s plan willingly. The plan we create for ourselves and the plan He has for us are not always the same, but the Lord’s plan for us will always lead us to greater things than our own plan will. The thing is we always know what our plans for ourselves are, but the Lord’s plan is only known to Him until He chooses to reveal it to us - this is why it is so hard for us to abandon our plan for His. He blesses us with incredible opportunities, and He will always desire us to follow him. It’s up to us whether we will walk with him or walk away from him.

At times, God places us in situations that make us uneasy or anxious, but with the Holy Spirit we can find peace in where God is guiding us. We may not feel ready for what God is calling us to, but He will never give us more than we can handle. We should always let Him be our guide, because He wants what is best for us. There is nothing to be afraid of when we have such a caring and protective Father watching over us. He will always be with us no matter what.

Change can be scary; we get comfortable with the way things are, but we cannot stop moving forward. The Lord never rests. He never ceases to provide what is best for us, and sometimes that requires us to sacrifice. This sacrifice is not meant to hurt us, rather protect us and lead us to something better. We always need to put our trust in the Lord and let Him have control - He will only send us blessings. When we are called to make a change in our lives, we should never be afraid; as verse 37 says, “For no word from God will ever fail.” He will never forsake or abandon us, and He wishes the best for all of his beautiful children.

We cannot fail when we are guided by the Lord.

Gaby Hundza is a student at a local Catholic high school. She will be confirmed in the Catholic Church this coming Easter.  Gaby is wonderful young lady who loves the Lord with all her heart.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Lk 1:5-25 'Tis the Season to Give for No Reason

December 19 2014
(Click here for readings)

In the days of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah...the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard.  Your wife Elizabeth will bear a son, and you shall name him John.  And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord."

This meditation is based on this morning's school homily. 

Christ is the reason.  Christ is the reason for the season...because He taught us to give for no reason!  This is the great mystery of our faith:  to love someone for no reason.

Christmas may be old but it is forever new, 
since giving for no reason remains hard to do. 
But when someone takes a chance and gives for no reason,
then watch out boys and girls -  
get ready for some big surprises. 

This is what happened to Zechariah and to Elizabeth.  They never imagined having a baby at their advanced age! 

God loves surprises because he loves to love. 
And love always surprises.

T'is the season for great surprises. 

This is our season. 
Now is the time to surprise someone who does not love you. 
Now is the time to surprise those who expect nothing from you. 
Who is it? 
Think long and hard. 
Is it a family member? 
Is it an ex-friend? 
Is it your ex-wife?! 
Is it your mother-in-law?!!?? 
Can you think of someone you haven't spoken to in years? 
Think long and hard but do not delay. 
Don't let another Christmas Day fade away.

Christ's birth confirmed what our ancestors long ago suspected:  God had no intention whatsoever of avoiding us, not even the worst of us!  

And though Nicodemus knew of a Virgin giving birth,
never did he expect it would produce his own rebirth. 

Don't make Christmas boring by giving for a reason. 
Make it inviting, exciting and surprising by giving for no reason.
O Root of Jesse's stem, sign of God's love for all his people:  come to save us without delay!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Mt 1:18-25 Prompted By An Angel

December 18, 2014
(Click here for readings)

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...decided to divorce her quietly.  Such was his intention...

There are two points I would like to make in this reflection:  plans and promptings.

Plans.  We all have our plans for the future, and chances are they're based on quasi "mathematical" predictions, not on God's divine will.  

John Lennon once said, "Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans."  He, as well as all his fans, learned this lesson the hard way. 

I find it remarkable how most things that exist behave rather predictably.  A rock will go nowhere in life.  A mountain will stay put.  A plant will move according to the sun's rays.  A planet will follow its proper orbit.  An atom will form a chemical bond if the resulting molecule is more stable.  Etc.

But things are not so mathematical when it comes to human existence.  Love and relationships are hardly predictable.  The stock market...forget about it! We are very far from being predictable.  And I would consider that to be one of the greatest differences between human life and everything surrounding it. 

And those of us who try to make life predictable are in for a very big, well, surprise. 

Promptings.  In his first inaugural speech, Abraham Lincoln spoke of the Almighty, of Christianity, of reconciliation and of angels to a very divided nation.  Near the end of his speech, he said:

"I am loath to close.  We are not enemies, but friends.  We must not be enemies.  Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.  The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature." 

A beautiful speech and wish, but soon after he delivered it, war broke out.  So much for being touched by the better angels of our nature.  Logical - even quasi mathematical - minds won the day.  Selfish interests produced division, which produced war, which resulted in horrific deaths and terrible miseries.  Could there have been a better way?

The better angels of our nature.  Examining today's Gospel, it's clear that Joseph did what was expected of him to do:  divorce his pregnant fiancĂ© and leave it up to her to figure it out.  The Law, the culture, the traditions were clear to him and to everybody, as clear as 2+2=4.  But Joseph was a man of God.  He was open to the promptings of angels and the Holy Spirit.

Laws are set in place to make us (humans) more manageable and better governable.  And if you think about it, I think we can honestly say we love laws.  Really!  After all, we pass thousands of them every year!  It must be in our DNA.  But we can't blame ourselves too much, since we were created in the image and likeness of God, who with his physical laws and natural law seems to love laws even more than we do. 

But God seems to be more of an artist than a lawmaker.  He seems to take delight in taking the Law and being risky with it.  Maybe this is why man is so different from all of His other creatures.  Why does He do it?  Maybe it's to be different.  How does He do it?  Mostly by mixing the Law with the prompting of His angels, His Holy Spirit and man's informed conscience.  For example:

Such was his intention...to divorce her quietly, unwilling to expose her to shame. 

With this in mind, an angel appeared to Joseph and said, "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."

Angels, the Holy Spirit, and our willingness to listen and learn are what will make our lives not only complete but inviting, exciting and surprising.  Laws have their rightful place.  But love puts it all in its proper place: God and man in a stable, in a manger, underneath a star so bright...enjoying the company of better angels.