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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Sunday in the Octave of Christmas

Holy Family of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus
December 27, 2009

Ignatius of Loyola inserted two important meditations into the Second Week of his Spiritual Exercises. The first one causes us to reflect on obedience, while the second one focuses our gaze upon the person of Jesus. Today’s readings point to the historical life of Jesus (and his ancestor, Samuel) to highlight the ways in which his obedience to his parents were instrumental in setting the groundwork for his fidelity to God. We marvel at his degree of obedience because it is the faith of Jesus (not our faith in Jesus) that brings us redemption and eternal life. Our meditation of today’s readings will also show us the ways in which Jesus’ fidelity to God created conflict in his homestead. It begs us to reflect upon to whom or to what we are obedient to when our consciences, the primary arbiter of our moral decision-making, conflicts with the teachings of our faith or the church. We need to ponder the ways we resolve our conflict with authority and the conflict within ourselves when we find that we hold a position in which we dissent from a position held by the church. The key might be in what is not said in these readings.

Ignatius’ second meditation is on what happens at the conclusion of the Gospel reading. It begins with nothing. We are left to imagine the life of Jesus from age 12 to 30. While this may seem like a fruitless starting point in prayer, I am continually surprised at the abundance of images and the teeming amounts of conversations that a person in prayer can have with Jesus. It is a point in which the person begins to interact most personally - most relationally – to him and it provides a foundational experience to which the person can always return. In this meditation, we simply do not relate to Jesus as transcendent God, but as a personal friend. We meet him with curiosity, ask questions, tell our stories, and learn to trust him. He becomes a brother to us with a strong bond. He responds to us in ways that we value and cherish because of the intimate meaning that he brings to this time together.

When we come to know the Lord in such a profound way, we can return to that safe place within the confines of our prayer to once again tell our stories and to seek his advice. He always has a listening ear and most times an answer. At these times, he is near to us, accessible, concerned and he always demonstrates to us that he knows us better than we know ourselves. He calls the best out of us because he is always re-creating us in the way he intends us to be. This is the time and place to approach him with our most vexing problems or moral dilemmas. It becomes a place that we most trust and get our assurances. It is a place like Samuel and Jesus where we “advance in wisdom and age and favor before God and humans.”

Quote for the Week

Here is a quote from Thomas Beckett who was martyred in 1170.

Remember the sufferings of Christ, the storms that were weathered... the crown that came from those sufferings which gave new radiance to the faith... All saints give testimony to the truth that without real effort, no one ever wins the crown.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: Since we are in the Octave (Eight Days) of Christmas, we begin with 1 John who invites us to live in Christ, who is the light of the world, the light that has overcome the darkness. He tells us that love of neighbor is our new commandment and that fidelity to this teaching keeps us in the light of grace. John tells us that we live in a new reality while also living in this temporal world, and we have to conform our hearts to what we have heard from Christ, the Word of God, because the end of the world is on the horizon. The goodness that we have heard from Christ will endure.

Gospel: The Christmas story continues as the magic of the birth of the Lord is disturbed by Herod’s slaughter of the innocent boys of Bethlehem sending the new parents into Egypt for shelter. When the days of purification were complete, Joseph and Mary took the boy to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. Simeon and Anna bless the boy who has fulfilled the prophecy. At the time of the circumcision, the name Jesus was given to the boy, the name the angel gave him while in Mary’s womb. John’s prologue is recalled as we are reminded that many will turn against Jesus and will question his source of power and authority.

Saints of the Week

Monday: The Holy Innocents. Matthew’s scripture tells us about the horrific accounts of the slain male children because of Herod’s fear that a newborn will rise to become king. From the start, Jesus’ life will face great opposition. Matthew describes him as the new Moses who will lead the people into a new type of exodus liberation.

Tuesday: Thomas Becket, bishop and martyr, was the English Archbishop of Canterbury in the court of King Henry II. Becket clashed with the King about the autonomy of the Church, which sent Becket into exile in France. Upon his return, another clash ensued and the King set about to rid himself of this “lowborn priest.”

Thursday: Sylvester I, pope, developed positive Church-State relations after the Emperor Constantine allowed public Christian worship in the empire. Large churches could be constructed for the first time. The Council of Nicaea was held during his pontificate.

Friday: Mary, Mother of God is celebrated at the cusp of the New Year as she carefully ponders in her heart the good news that her son brings to the world. She silently treasures the great events of God in her life as she realizes that she is blessed among all women.

Jesuits celebrate The Titular Feast of the Society of Jesus on January 1st. Just as Jesus was given the holy name at the end of the octave of his birth, Jesuits receive the holy name of Jesus as our name as a religious order.

Saturday: Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, doctors, were born in Cappadocia and are two of the great doctors of the Eastern Church. Both set arguments in place against the Arians to declare the Jesus Christ was both fully human and fully divine. As bishops, both men set about a way of Christian life for the common person as well as sowing the seeds of Christian monasticism.

This Week in Jesuit History

• Dec 27, 1618. Henry Morse entered the English College at Rome.
• Dec 28, 1802. Pope Pius VII allowed Father General Gruber to affiliate the English Jesuits to the Society of Jesus in Russia.
• Dec 29, 1886. Publication of the beatification decree of the English martyrs.
• Dec 30, 1564. Letter from Pope Pius IV to Daniel, Archbishop of Mayence, deploring the malicious and scurrilous pamphlets published against the Society throughout Germany and desiring him to use his influence against the evil.
• Dec 31, 1640. John Francis Regis died. He was a missionary to the towns and villages of the remote mountains of southern France.
• Jan. 1, 1598: Fr. Alphonsus Barréna, surnamed the Apostle of Peru, died. He was the first to carry the faith to the Guaranis and Chiquitos in Paraguay.
• Jan. 2, 1619: At Rome, John Berchmans and Bartholomew Penneman, his companion scholastic from Belgium, entered the Roman College.

Christmas meditation

Let us notice the glory of God in our lives this week. Let us pay attention to the many ways in which Christ is present in ordinary ways. We continue to look for those big moments to detect God’s presence, but the story of Jesus’ birth reminds us that God will come to us in that silent still voice.

And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only-begotten Son,
full of grace and truth.

Happy New Year to you! May you know the blessings of the Lord in all you do.

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