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Monday, December 31, 2012

Song: "Auld Lang Sune" by Robert Burns in 1788

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne* ?

For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp !
and surely I’ll be mine !
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


We twa hae run about the braes,
and pu’d the gowans fine ;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl’d i' the burn,
frae morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere !
and gie's a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
for auld lang syne.

English translation

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne ?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup !
and surely I’ll buy mine !
And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine ;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.


We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine† ;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand my trusty friend !
And give us a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Poem: T.S. Eliot

Christmas may stop horror momentarily in this world, but oftentimes death and suffering are caused by others and sin can seem worse in relation to the respite of peace and the fleeting experience of harmony and hope. We are told that the family settles down, finds peace, and matures. It is a silent hidden growing in time, space, and place. Although the Word is quiet, it is sure and constant and true.

The stars and heavens know. Earth knows. Something has been set in motion. T.S. Eliot says it in this way:

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of his calling
We shall not cease from exploration
and the end of all of our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
and know the place for the first time.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Spirituality: Hebrews 4:12-13

The word of God is something alive and active: it cuts like any double-edge sword but more finely: it can slip through the place where the soul is divided from the spirit, or joints from marrow; it can judge the secret emotions and thoughts. No created thing can hide from him; everything is uncovered and open to the eyes of the one to whom we must give account of ourselves.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Song: Irish tune: Christ the Apple Tree

The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit, and always green
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared to Christ the apple tree.
For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
Tis found in Christ the apple tree.
I'm weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest awhile;
Under the shadow I will be,

Of Jesus Christ the apple tree
This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Prayer: Oscar Romero in a 1978 Christmas Eve homily

No one can celebrate a genuine Christmas without being truly poor. The self-sufficient, the proud, those who, because they have everything, look down on others, those who have no need even of God - for them there will be no Christmas. Only the poor, the hungry, those who need someone to come on their behalf, will have that someone. That someone is God, Emmanuel, God-with-us. Without poverty of spirit there can be no abundance of God.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Holy Family

The Holy Family
December 30, 2012
1 Samuel 1:20-28; Psalm 84; 1 John 3:1-2, 21-24; Luke 2:41-52

After many years of dashed hopes, Hannah is able to conceive a son that she names Samuel. She pleaded with the Lord for years and thought that her prayers were not heard. The shame, confusion, and abandonment she must have felt were heavy on her heart. Now that her son is born, her husband goes to make the sacrifice at the Temple, but she does not join him. Instead of making a small gesture to the Lord, she decides to offer her son totally – to become a servant of the Lord.  Her choice shows her great generosity and gratitude. She waited all her life to become a mother and now she gives her son away. She will always be his mother, but she will not have the chance to be a mother to him. Her sacrifice is great, but she gives freely to the Lord what is most important to her.

The Gospel tells us of the annual trip to Jerusalem of Joseph’s household during the Passover feast. This feast is ingrained in the yearly rituals of Jesus. He knows it is the feast that tells of God’s steadfast presence to the Israelites as God delivers them out of slavery in Egypt. He decides to stay in the Temple to hear more about this God with whom he feels a special relationship though his parents are distressed at his negligence. He impresses his teachers with his understanding and answers to theological questions. These conversations certainly energize him and spur his imagination, though it causes his parents worry and heartache. They must have felt like they lost their son in some way, but he goes home with them because they are his family.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, inserts this contemplation into the heart of the Spiritual Exercises. His point is to show the Jesus learns obedience from his mother and father. He cannot be faithful to God if he cannot be faithful to his parents. He cannot go to the cross in fidelity to God unless he first knows what it means to be faithful to his parents. This is the reason he returns to them where he could advance in wisdom and in age. By doing so, he finds favor before God and friends and family.

The human family is where we learn to relate to one another. We hope that we grow in holiness and develop practices where we share respect, forgiveness, love and caring. It is a place where we learn to balance our needs against the desires of others. We experience great pain from our families because we sometimes do not learn healthy traits and coping mechanisms. All too often, stories of alienation, intense unexpressed anger, irreconcilable differences, and shameful secrets tear families apart. These incomprehensible situations erode the peace and harmony within individuals and families. These tensions sneak out at certain times like funerals and weddings and despite the great drama it brings, it reveals fundamental hurt that comes from wanting to be loved more fundamentally. Everyone deep down in their hearts want to have reconciliation, but we allow certain minor incidences to distract us from reaching for our goal. It is into this world that God chose to be born to us.

Families are the places where hope is nourished. Almost everyone wants to be home for the holidays. Hallmark greeting cards and computer images reveal peaceful, serene, and happy endings and thoughtful sentiments. Classic Hollywood movies show idealized family gatherings where gifts are exchanged, warm embraces are shared, disagreements are resolved, and everyone sings a meaningful song or prays together. This is the type of family life we want. We remember the good old days and we want them again in our present time. These beautiful images stay with us as we anticipate spending time with loved ones and friends.

With wisdom, we are able to see that the good times are right now. We are able to see the wholesale affection we have for those who are placed right before us. Yes, we wish others were with us and we miss people because we love them a lot, but there is no better thing to do than to enjoy the people with whom we find ourselves. We are God’s family. Family is the people we are with. Jesus redefines family once and for all. Anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord is to be treated with an amazingly indescribable mercy. We can find joy today because that is all we have. We have to train it to let it grow and deepen within us. Allow yourself to feel the growing gladness that God loves the person beside you in the same radical way that God loves you – and we are called to love like God too.

Hannah gives away what she loves most. Joseph and Mary lose and recover and lose again their most prized possession. We might be called to give something away that we strongly cherish in order for us to see the beauty that is before us – God’s gift to us of one another. Sometimes what we give away can free us for a new life that we cannot expect. Life always has its pains and sometimes these pains make us grow wiser to God’s ways. Let’s take a great chance today. Let go of those things that separate you from one another and find a way to uphold, revere, and cherish the person who is standing in front of you. God may surprise you and take your breath away.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: John, in his first letter, is dealing with many deserters of the faith. He encourages the people to hold fast to the anointing that comes from the Holy One in the face of adversity. (On New Year’s Day): Moses blesses the people: “The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace.” (Back to 1 John) John tells the people that one who is a liar cannot be a disciple. Anyone who denies the Son does not believe in the Father. The reason that the world does not know the disciples of Jesus is that they do not know Jesus. If they did, they would recognize that the disciples imitate the life of Jesus. One’s behavior will testify to beliefs. If one is righteous, his actions will be righteous. The disciples have heard that from the beginning they are to love one another. Acts of violence, deceit, and dissension show that one does not truly believe in the commandments of Christ.

Gospel: The Prologue in John’s Gospel is read to highlight the identity of Jesus and the knowledge of God’s plan of salvation. (On New Year’s Day): We hear the story of the shepherds as they come to the manger and gaze upon the infant the angels tell them about. When the eight days since birth had pass, Jesus is circumcised and is given the name entrusted to him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. (Back to John) The Jews questions the Baptist to see if he was the Christ. He tells them that one mightier than he is coming after him. Later on, John the Baptist identifies Jesus to his disciples and tells them “Behold the Lamb of God.” The disciples leave John to follow Jesus. One of the disciples, Andrew, seeks out his brother, Simon, to bring him to Jesus, who promptly renames him Peter. Jesus then calls Philip from Bethsaida. Philip tells Nathaniel about him. Nathaniel dismisses Jesus becomes he comes from Nazareth, but Jesus seeks him out and calls him as a disciple. Nathaniel is amazed that Jesus knows much about him.

Saints of the Week

December 30: The Family of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, was a feast instituted in 1921. It was originally the 3rd Sunday after Christmas. The Holy Family is often seen in Renaissance paintings - and many of those are of the flight into Egypt.

December 31: Sylvester I, pope (d. 335), served the church shortly after Constantine issued his Edict of Milan in 313 that publicly recognized Christianity as the official religion of the empire and provided it freedom of worship. Large public churches were built by the emperor and other benefactors. Sylvester was alive during the Council of Nicaea but did not attend because of old age.

January 2: Basil the Great and Gregory Nanzianzen, bishops and doctors (fourth century), are two of the four great doctors of the Eastern Church. They are known for their preaching especially against the Arian heretics. Basil began as a hermit before he was named archbishop of Caesarea. He influenced Gregory who eventually became archbishop of Constantinople. Their teachings influenced both the Roman and Eastern Churches.

January 3: The Name of Jesus was given to the infant as the angel foretold. In the Mediterranean world, the naming of person stood for the whole person. Humans were given the power to name during the Genesis creation accounts. If one honors the name of the person, they honor the person. The name Jesus means “Yahweh saves.”

January 4: Elizabeth Ann Seton, religious (1774-1821), was born into an Episcopalian household where she married and had five children. When her husband died, she became a Catholic and founded a girls’ school in Baltimore. She then founded the Sisters of Charity and began the foundation for the parochial school system in the U.S. She is the first native-born American to be canonized.

January 5: John Neumann, bishop (1811-1860), emigrated from Bohemia to New York and joined the Redemptorists in Pittsburgh before being named bishop of Philadelphia. He built many churches in the diocese and placed great emphasis on education as the foundation of faith.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      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.
·      Jan. 3, 1816: Fr. General Brzozowski and 25 members of the Society, guarded by soldiers, left St. Petersburg, Russia, having been banished by the civil government.
·      Jan. 4, 1619: The English mission is raised to the status of a province.
·      Jan. 5, 1548: Francis Suarez, one of the greatest theologians of the church, was born at Granada.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Prayer: The First Letter of John 1:1-4

It was there from the beginning; we heard it; we have seen it with our own eyes; we looked upon it; and felt it with our own hands; and it is of this we tell. Our theme is the word of life. This life was made visible; we have seen it and bear our testimony; we here declare to you the eternal life which dwelt with the Father and was made visible to us. What we have seen and heard we declare to you, so that you and we together may share in a common life, that life which we share with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. And we write this in order that the joy of us all may be complete.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Homily

I have been listening to the words and prayers of many of you as Christmas approached. Some have said, “Christmas is a time of sorrow and sadness,” or “People here are hard on each other. Pray for kindness,” or “Christmas brings me down because I can’t be with my family.” I heard many other stories of heartache in the confessional and in personal sharing. Also, the plight of refugees and instability in neighboring countries cause concern for many. It weighed heavy on my heart and my realization of the Gospel words still need to ring true:  the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Upon those who dwelt in gloom, a light has shone.” I realized Scripture needed to come alive today as it did over 2,000 years ago.

Mysteriously, the past several days have changed people. On Friday, a woman in her 60’s was rolling on the floor, squealing with delight, as she was playing games. She forgot her role in society and she became child-like. She had so much fun with her sisters as they played and sang and danced. Last night more laughter erupted because more games were played as a crowded room gathered to win gifts. It was the largest gathering of people that I've seen for a party. Visitors to the area and friends who have returned home were welcomed as family. A teenage boy, mostly shy and silent, approached me to say that this was an awesome party. He had great fun and his face was beaming. Then he gave me a big hug. A week ago, the best Christmas play was put on with children of many backgrounds dressed as adorable sheep, angels, and the holy family.

Organizers of the parties, with a worried look on their faces, nervously gazed at empty tables before mass and wondered how three meager dishes would feed 60 people. What relief they experienced when the tables magically overflowed right after Mass. From nowhere, treats appeared in abundance – treats that were made with affection and pride. Our 80 sisters in the shelter are now receiving canned-goods and non-perishable food so they can have something more substantial to eat each day. They are grateful for the generosity of the larger community – a generosity that is incomparable.

We changed around the music for our masses and I cannot keep our choirs from singing. They rise in the middle of the night trying to remember the tunes they are learning. They have been recognized by the larger cultural Amman community and have been invited to perform carols at many gatherings. I don’t know how they do it all. They are amazing. They are remarkable, and they have learned complex songs.

A woman approached me last night to ask why we can’t have similar parties four times a year. I replied, “We can. Let’s do it. I want you to enjoy each other.” Suddenly, the heaviness that weighed people down was being lifted from them. People all over the city are able to experience glimpses of real joy.

This is the meaning of Christmas. Our lives, whether we are rich or poor or somewhere in between, have their share of difficulty but that is not what we focus our eyes upon. We are gifts given to ourselves by God to share with others – to share our goodness, just as Jesus shares himself with us.

We focus upon the goodness that is happening before us and we see the best in others. We focus upon the gladness we have for being together and for enjoying one another’s company. We can be enriched by everyone – even by the person who greatly offended us. We notice the kindness and generosity of others and we let our hearts be touched in gentle ways. It is our task to let that gentleness grow into something much greater. It takes time, but we have to let our hearts be warmed to amazing actions of others. God is nestled into those areas of growth.

We may not have everything we want for Christmas – family, friends, opportunities, peace, but we do have each other. This is God’s great gift to us. God could have found any way to bring us to salvation, but he chose to give us a newborn baby. Why? So we could pick him up and hold him, and kiss him and hug him. We are not just to stand several feet away and look at him. We are to embrace him and pull him close to our hearts so he can feel the goodness we offer him. He needs this for his growth. Without love in infancy, he cannot grow up to give his life on the cross. He can only love later on in life because we loved him first in his life. He needs to know our love for him. Don’t just stand there. Go to the crib, pick him up, and bring him to your heart. Be amazed at his smile, his response to you, his fragrance, And if you can’t bring yourself to pick him up, hold something in your hand that is sacred. I hold onto this marble heart. I can carry it around in my pocket to remind me to always be kind and to find the goodness in others in my time of stress.

I invite you to look around the church today. Go ahead. Look at people who are near you and far away. We are all here for the same reason. God has touched our hearts by giving us Jesus and we want that joy always to remain within us. God wants to give us the joy of his abiding presence. God’s love for us unique and at the same time, the special way that God loves you is the same special way God loves that other person who you might not even notice. The good news is that God has not forgotten us. We may think we are nothing special, or that we don’t matter, or that others don’t really appreciate us, that we have nothing major to contribute, but God is telling us today – as every day – that we do matter so much to God. God wants us to receive his gracious love and share it with others – even those who are our adversaries or worse yet, those people to whom we do not pay attention.

Today is the day we have to let God spoil us rotten. Today has to be a new beginning. May it be the day when we experience an end to selfishness and the beginning of genuine fraternal care for one another. May it be the end of hatred, shame, and revenge and the beginning of a new love that enriches others and pays honorable respect without regard to status or place. May it be a day when falsehoods and deceits cease and the beginning of truth that does not tear down but builds up. May it be a day when sadness comes to an end, but a beginning of joy that shares itself in freedom and generosity. May it be a day when needless divisions that tear us apart gives way to a new beginning when we stand united because we are all equal brothers and sisters in God’s family. May we come to know and see and respect and honor and cherish everyone here. As we do that, we come to see Jesus more clearly.

Look at your neighbor again and let your warm love bubble up in affection for them. The Christ child is hidden there. Let his love grow and develop within you.

Merry Christmas!

O Antiphon: ERO CRAS

If you take the last seven days of Advent, the O Antiphons, and arrange them by taking the first letter of the messianic title in Latin and placing them backwards, the letters will spell ERO CRAS, which translates to Tomorrow, I will come.

Poem: The Birth of Christ, 1912

If it weren’t for simple-mindedness, 
how else could you have grasped
that the God who raged over the nations 
has turned mild now and is born in us?

Did you imagine him thus?

What is greatness? Beyond all measure 
he reaches through it and straight across.
Even a star has no such far-reaching orbits. 
And then look at these might lords,

carrying and placing in your lap
treasures they consider precious and great, 
and perhaps you are amazed at them –
one look at your swaddling cloth already outshines

all the amber that is traded in the world, 

every gold ring and the scented air 
barely satisfies and only teases; 
these are of such brief delight 
and one wonders why one cares.

But (you’ll see): He pleases

Sunday, December 23, 2012

O Antiphon: O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, God-with-us, our king and lawgiver, the one whom the nations await and their savior: come to save us, O Lord our God.

Prayer: Psalm 2

She gave birth to a male child, who is destined to rule all nations with an iron rod.

Why are the nations so angry?
    Why do they waste their time with futile plans?
The kings of the earth prepare for battle;
    the rulers plot together
against the Lord
    and against his anointed one.
“Let us break their chains,” they cry,
    “and free ourselves from slavery to God.”

But the one who rules in heaven laughs.
    The Lord scoffs at them.
Then in anger he rebukes them,
    terrifying them with his fierce fury.
For the Lord declares, “I have placed my chosen king on the throne
    in Jerusalem, on my holy mountain.”

The king proclaims the Lord’s decree:
“The Lord said to me, ‘You are my son.
    Today I have become your Father.
Only ask, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance,
    the whole earth as your possession.
You will break them with an iron rod
    and smash them like clay pots.’”

Now then, you kings, act wisely!
    Be warned, you rulers of the earth!
Serve the Lord with reverent fear,
    and rejoice with trembling.
Submit to God’s royal son, or he will become angry,
    and you will be destroyed in the midst of all your activities—
for his anger flares up in an instant.
    But what joy for all who take refuge in him!

She gave birth to a male child, who is destined to rule all nations with an iron rod.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

O Antiphon: O King of the Nations

O King of the Nations and their desire, the cornerstone that makes both one: come, and save the human race, which you fashioned from clay.

Poem: When a child is born

A ray of hope flickers in the sky. A tiny star lights the way up high. All across the land dawns a brand new morn. This comes to pass when a child is born.

A silent wish sails the seven seas. The winds of change whisper in the trees. And the walls of doubt crumble tossed and torn. This comes to pass when a child is born

A rosy hue settles all around. You’ve got a feeling you’re on solid ground. For a spell or two no one seems forlorn. This comes to pass when a child is born.

And all this happens because the world is waiting, waiting for one child, black, white and yellow.  No one knows, but a child that will grow up and turn tears to laughter, hate to love, war to peace, and everyone to everyone’s neighbor.  And misery will be a word to be forgotten forever.

It’s all a dream, an illusion now.
It must come true, sometime soon somehow.
All across the land dawns a brand new morn.
This comes to pass when a child is born.
This comes to pass when a child is born.

Friday, December 21, 2012

O Antiphon: O Radiant Dawn

O Radiant Dawn, splendor of light eternal and sun of justice: come, and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

Song: Sweet Little Jesus Boy

Sweet little Jesus boy,
they made You be born in a manger
Sweet little Holy Child,
We didn't know who You were.
We didn't know who You were.

Didn't know You'd come to save us Lord;
To take our sins away,
Our eyes were blind we could not see,
We didn't know who You were.
We didn't know who You were.

Long time ago You were born
Born in a manger low sweet little Jesus boy.
The world treats You mean Lord, treats me mean too
But that's how it is down here;
We don't know who You are.
You have told us how, we are trying.

Master You have shown us how even when You were dying.
Just seem like we can't do right, look how we treated You.
But please Sir, forgive us Lord
We didn't know it was You.
We didn't know it was You.

Sweet little Jesus boy born long time ago
Sweet little Holy Child,
We didn't know who You were.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

O Antiphon: O Key of David

O Key of David and scepter of the house of Israel, you open so that no one else can close again, you close so that no person can open: come, and lead the captive from prison, free those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.

Song: Give us this year an adult Christmas

Give us, this year, an adult Christmas,
since among adults first you came,
not in a creche or kindergarten
you showed your face and learned your name.
Then help our adult lives attest
that childlike trust you rekoned best.

Give us, this year, a worldly Christmas,
since it was to this world you came.
Sent to redeem all worldly matter
while structured in a human frame.
Then for creation let us share
your kindly gaze, your constant care.

Give us, this year, a peaceful Christmas,
since as the Prince of Peace you came.
Still jealous Herods call for slaughter,
still Caesars play their power game.
When will earthly politics portray
peace is no prize: peace is the way?

And give us time for you this Christmas,
since into time for us you came,
bringing the voice that forged creation
where it might gently say your name.
Then let our hearts rejoice and sing,
"Glory to God for everything!"

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

O Antiphon: O Root of Jesse

O Root of Jesse, you stand as a signal for the people; before you kings shall fall silent and to you the nations shall make their prayer: come to deliver us, and do not delay.

Fourth Sunday in Advent

December 23, 2012
Micah 5:1-4; Psalm 80; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45

Mary’s visit to Elizabeth is a favorite passage of many. The enchanted encounter of two mothers-to-be stirs the imagination with real human warmth. The passage is to be read as a literary and theological statement rather than an actual account of events. When people of prayer reflect upon the passage, they fill in the blank spaces with the rest of the story that makes sense for them. It is important for us to listen to what Luke is telling us because this is a story of two women who praise the God who is active in their lives.

If the accounts were accurate, we would seriously wonder why a fourteen-year-old virgin makes a treacherous four-day trip by herself to the hill country right after she become mysteriously pregnant. A single woman just does not travel alone, presumably by foot, because she would be harassed, threatened, robbed, or physically harmed. Her finance, Joseph, would not be satisfied with her decision to travel alone. He would provide necessary protection or would make sure she is traveling in a band.

Notice the silence that pervades this scene. Has Mary told Joseph yet that she is pregnant by divine intervention? This is difficult news to hear. Fortunately, the angel comes to Joseph to inform him. Do her parents know yet and when does she intend to tell them? If they know, they would probably not let her visit Elizabeth. Surely, when she returns three months pregnant, she will begin to show that she is carrying a child. We have to suspend these questions so we can share in the joy that the women feel as they greet one another and share their stories.

Speaking of silence, Elizabeth’s husband, Zechariah, is mute. He cannot share his joy and fears with his wife because he cannot speak. He cannot tell her how he is feeling as her surprising pregnancy advances. Zechariah is not punished for doubting the angel’s word, but he is silenced so that human beings can listen and see and acknowledge that God is faithful even in the face of human impossibility. Their son John’s name means, “Yahweh has shown favor.” Zechariah, a priest of the Temple, cannot speak and therefore he is unable to complete the liturgy he began. He cannot bless the people at the conclusion of their worship service. Worships is suspended. This prepares the way for people to see that Jesus replaces the Temple as a place of worship because fulfillment comes through his own person. John is to prepare the way for him. True Temple worship temporarily ceases as the unfolding of salvation history develops. The precursor of Jesus must be born first.

Mary’s song of praise follows this passage in which she praises God who is able to do what is humanly impossible. What else did the two talk women about? I’m sure Elizabeth shared her feelings about her pregnancy. It is a story that she cannot really share with her husband easily because he cannot speak and maybe he cannot hear. Every expectant mother wants to tell her own story and speak of her hopes and excitement.  Elizabeth tells all to Mary and then Mary has a chance to break her secret to someone. Quite possibly Elizabeth is the first person with whom Mary openly shares the details of her conception. Mary still might not be able to comprehend such mysterious events. When we are in a time of shock, we need to speak about what we experience and feel. Mary’s story is heard for the first time besides that of her finance, Joseph. Mary’s isolation ends. She can share all the joys of motherhood with someone who understands. This helps her face the uncertain world that awaits her in Nazareth.

The point of Mary’s visit is not to show her great charity and social concern for her aged, pregnant relative. If it were so, Mary would have stayed to witness the birth of John. After all, this is the time of Elizabeth greatest need. Experienced mothers and friends from the neighborhood would come to help her. Luke has Mary leaving just as Elizabeth is to give birth. This focuses the story on the three main characters. After John is born, Zechariah speaks John’s name, “Yahweh has shown favor” as praise of God. Zechariah is finally able to give the Temple blessing and complete the liturgy. He blesses God first. John’s future role will be to prepare the people for the one who will bring peace, a peace that is marked by wholeness, harmony, well-being, prosperity, and security. This peace brings the promise of salvation.

Mary returns home to marry Joseph to begin their life together. She waits patiently as her son develops and forms within her. As every mother does, she spends time in silence with her growing child. She nurtures him and sings to him and rubs her belly to assure him she is with him. One day, he will do the same for her – for he has come to show the world that he is Emmanuel – God is with us.

Let’s spend these last days before Christmas pondering the ways Christ continues to develop within us. Let’s spend the time nurturing him, singing to him, assuring him we are with him. Tell him the wonders of your day. Tell him your sorrows. Let yourself be seen, and heard, and known to him. May your heart be like John’s, which leaped for joy when he recognized the Lord in his midst. Praise be to God.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: On Christmas Eve day, David pines to build the Lord a suitable house as he realizes he is in a place of splendor and comfort. Meanwhile, Nathan the prophet is telling David that his house will endure forever. On Christmas day, the angels rejoice because God has given to us a child who will become our savior. The first martyr, Stephen, gives up his life in witness to the risen Lord. The grace of Christmas gives way to the harsh realities of the world. On the feast of John the Evangelist, we hear from his first letter explaining that we have seen and experienced the Word of Life and we testify to his goodness. We have to live truthfully if we are to be a disciple. We cannot testify to the light if our moral actions are deceitful. Keeping his commandments will prove that we live in the love of Christ.

Gospel: The Canticle of Zechariah is sung. The father of John the Baptist sings his song of praise as he realizes his son will become the prophet of the Most High. On Christmas Day, John’s Prologue is read to show that Jesus was the Word of God who eternally existed, but came down from heaven to dwell among us even though he is to be rejected. On the Memorial of Stephen, Jesus tells his disciples to beware of men who will hand you over to the courts and scourge you because they testify on his behalf. On the feast of John the Evangelist, he is identified as the disciple who ran to the tomb first and came to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. On the feast of the Holy Innocents, Herod realized he was tricked by the magi and became furious. He ordered the massacre of all boy infants in Bethlehem and the vicinity because he feared the rise of an opposing king. After the days of purification were complete, Joseph and Mary took Jesus to the temple to be presented to the Lord. They met Simeon who said he could now gracefully depart from this life because he saw the salvation of Israel.

Saints of the Week

Saints are not celebrated during the octave leading up to Christmas.

December 23 - O Emmanuel, our king and giver of the Law: come to save us, Lord our God.

December 25: The Nativity of Our Lord

December 26: Stephen, the first Martyr (d. 35), was one of the seven original deacons chose to minister to the Greek-speaking Christians. The Jews accused him of blasphemy. Though he was eloquent in his defense, Saul of Tarsus condoned his death sentence.

December 27: John, Apostle and Evangelist (d. 100), was the brother of James and one of the three disciples to be in the inner circle. He left fishing to follow Jesus and was with him at the major events: the transfiguration, raising of Jairus' daughter, and the agony in the garden. He is also thought to be the author of the fourth gospel, three letters, and the Book of Revelation.

December 28: The Holy Innocents (d. 2), were the boys of Bethlehem who were under two years old to be killed by King Herod in an attempt to eliminate the rise of the newborn king as foretold by the astronomers from the east. This event is similar to the rescue of Moses from the Nile by the slaughter of the infant boys by the pharaoh.

December 29: Thomas Becket, bishop and martyr (1118-1170), was the lord chancellor and archbishop of Canterbury in England during the time of King Henry II. When he disagreed with the King over the autonomy of the church and state, he was exiled to France. When he returned, he clashed again with the king who had him murdered in Canterbury Cathedral. 

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Dec 23, 1549. Francis Xavier was appointed provincial of the newly-erected Indian Province.
·      Dec 24, 1587. Fr. Claude Matthe died at Ancona. He was a Frenchman of humble birth, highly esteemed by King Henry III and the Duke of Guise. He foretold that Fr. Acquaviva would be General and hold that office for a long period.
·      Dec 25, 1545. Isabel Roser pronounced her vows as a Jesuit together with Lucrezia di Brandine and Francisca Cruyllas in the presence of Ignatius at the church of Sta. Maria della Strada in Rome.
·      Dec 26, 1978. The assassination of Gerhard Pieper, a librarian, who was shot to death in Zimbabwe.
·      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.